Sermons

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Help Wanted: Knight or Warrior Type, Ridiculous Outfit OK

I have this list of things to do that all seem to be way more complicated than they ought to be. The kitchen faucet, for example, sprung a leak in the pull-out hose. I obtained a replacement hose, disconnected the leaky one from the faucet head, and then discovered that I can't get the old hose out without dismantling the whole faucet. Also, there are some photographs I need to remove from an old computer, but I can't get the computer to start up - it keeps getting hung up. I need to put away a bunch of books, but the place where I need to put them needs to be cleaned out first. Etc.

Rather than spending several hours on one project only to not be able to finish it, I tried working on several things at a time, turn on computer, go put in some laundry, come back to computer, move a couple of things around in the closet, check back on computer. Not sure this is working, either. I am temped to put some really simple things on my list (shower, get dressed, eat lunch) just so I can cross them off.

So now I am tired of being Ms Fix It. I want someone else to come in and fix the things that are frustrating me. Or perhaps I need to start praying the Serenity Prayer. But then again, where I seem to be stuck on several fronts is "the wisdom to know the difference."

I did call a plumber about the kitchen faucet. Knowing I'll have to spend a couple of hundred bucks on something that appears to be a simple task of "screw this in here and screw that in there" is irksome, but there it is.

Now I will take a deep breath and look at my list to find something uncomplicated so I can just do it. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Sound of Soothing

We had a long drought over the three previous summers and by last summer most all of the fountains in parks and office complexes had been turned off. Dry fountains are to me the sign that says "life has been abandoned here." Fortunately, we have had plenty of rain in the last year and the drought was declared over this past spring, and now most of the fountains have been filled and are flowing again. (For the record, this fountain is on the campus of Georgetown University in the District of Columbia and I have no idea if they ever turned theirs off or not.)

I think the presence of working water features is of utmost importance everywhere there are people and animals. Little birds and animals bathe and drink in them, and people in schools or offices or those who live on the streets downtown can sit near them and be soothed and refreshed by the sound of falling water. Life is stressful and fountains provide some relief from that stress, and even if it's momentary relief, momentary relief is no small antidote to what would otherwose be nonstop grind.

When I spent a summer as a hospital chaplain, visiting people who were ill, sometimes dying, and their relatives who were trying to cope sometimes for weeks on end, I often retreated to the little pool and fountain on the hospital grounds with my lunch or for a beverage break. It's not as good as a trip to the beach, but it's something like a miniature version of it. A half- or quarter-hour sound of water respite. If I went on off-times, I might have the spot to myself for a half hour. But frequently others were sitting by the pool, too, looking at the water and listening to the spray. Other chaplains, hospital personnel, patients and family members. One man had been mostly living at the hospital for nearly twenty weeks while his wife was in various stages of treatment. The occasional bird would fly through the spray as well for a drink or refreshment to everyone's delight. Or maybe it was for fun.... even though I love birds, I don't really know what they do for fun.

Sometimes I'm tempted to ask, wouldn't it be nice if life were not so stressful and we didn't need things to soothe us? But then again, I suppose little things like a lovely fountain wouldn't be nearly as lovely if they didn't give us a sense of even temporary tranquility and respite. The sweet is not so sweet unless we know what's bitter.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Out There

I have been in limbo for a while. Maybe even Purgatory. I often feel that there is something "out there" that I am supposed to be doing or that will happen or that there is a place where I will arrive at some point. And meanwhile, "in here," I am treading water.

Part of this is the nature of my work: right now I am serving as a supply priest, in a different parish almost every week, filling in for various priests in small parishes who might be away for vacation or mission trip or conference. And so I do not have a regular community. But I feel that I am supposed to have a community. We're all about community with the church. Jesus had disciples, we believe God is a Trinity of Persons of one substance. And while I pay attention to the people I am with on Sundays, and I enjoy seeing familiar faces when and if I serve multiple times in a parish, I still am not part of any parish's life. I don't have a flock, nor am I a part of a flock, right now.

I'm quite busy "in here," of course. In addition to writing this blog and writing sermons, there are always things to do, both fun and drudgery. I admit to having tried to find more fun than drudge to do and have frequently neglected the mundane everyday stuff like grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning. I prefer projects. Fun projects.

I have an urgent (i.e., needs to be done pronto but would not be characterized as fun) project now - reorganizing a walk-in closet that serves as an attic as well as parking for my and my husband's clothes. Two long shelves that serve as clothing rods fell down the other day, spilling the majority of our clothes on the floor and leaving bent shelving supports and pulling the anchors out of the wall. I am taking the opportunity to change things up a bit in there, which could take some time, but time is certainly something I've got.

Organizing the closet does not, however, count as community participation/building/being in. I'm just in there by myself, with sweaters and pants and shoes and hangers (Lord, how many hangers are there in this house?) sorting things. There will be a certain satisfaction that comes with seeing things put away neatly and all that, but real life continues to feel as if it is going on "out there" but not "in here."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Padre Mickey's Dance Party: Feast of Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop

For your Sunday reading, you really ought to treat yourself to Padre Mickey's excellent blog post about Cyril of Alexandria, "another example of the fact that God uses whomsoever God wants to use to bring about the Reign of God," including jerks.

See it here:
Padre Mickey's Dance Party: Feast of Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In hoc signo

Recently I officiated at a short service of interment of ashes in a cemetery plot. The deceased had lived in one state, his children in two others, and they had all been a family together once in this metropolitan area. So there had been a memorial service in his current home town and then the body was cremated and the remains brought to be buried in the cemetery where various other relatives were also buried. A number of family members came to the interment - the wife, the children, the sisters, various cousins and all. It was, as these things usually are, a reunion of many who had not seen one another in years.

When we all arrived, the ashes had already been put in the ground and the spot had been covered up with that awful green plastic grass. It was all neat and clean with no trace of the burial visible. Just a tent with a few chairs under it and all on this vivid, ugly Astroturf with a couple of flower arrangements on top. No gash in the earth to receive the ashes, no lowering the body into the ground, no throwing clumps of earth into the hole. The people neither accompanied the body to its resting place nor did they take any action to bury it. There were no visuals to help us know that death is real (and that life is precious), that all of us go down to the dust, that a loved one is now truly gone from our sight; there were no actions to help anyone accept this or to engage in physical ritual to bring a sense of participation in the burial, in saying goodbye, in facing the reality of death. We just all drove up to this odd tableau in which it looked as if there must be some kind of secret or horrible thing we couldn't be trusted to see without being traumatized or something.

The funeral industry does all it can to help us pretend that death is not real; and by doing so it does much to keep us from experiencing the true human emotions of grief and mourning, of surrender and release, of experiencing in our bodies that death is real and that just as God sealed the tomb of Moses with God's own hand, so we lovingly seal the tombs of our loved ones as a final physical act toward them (no matter how we felt about them). The funeral industry does not understand the importance of our experiencing these things as part of life. Life and death are in fact messy and involve dirt and sweat and tears and most of all our physical involvement.

And so as the officiant at this interment, I asked the people to pray with me a litany of commendation so that they could actually participate somehow in the burial of their loved one instead of simply sitting idly by as others did everything for them. I read the prayers from the burial rite and asked them to say at the end of each petition: "we commend to you Lord our brother (N)." I also read the various prayers and readings that we do at these occasions, using the phrases people know and expect: ashes to ashes, dust to dust; all of us go down to the dust but even at the grave we make our song alleluia, alleluia, alleluia; I am Resurrection and I am Life; I know that my redeemer lives; accept this sheep of your own fold, lamb of your own flock, and sinner of your own redeeming. And as I read them, people began to sniffle or cry. But it was abstract. We are a people who respond both to words spoken and unspoken and to physical symbols. We live in a symbolic world. At church we have an altar or a cross and bread and wine in addition to creed and prayers and scripture. But at the cemetery there was no casket or urn to cry over, no gash in the earth, not even a spot of recently shoveled dirt. Just some Astroturf smoothing it all over, covering it all up, as if it weren't really actually even there.

After the short service, after the military folks folded the flag and the trumpeter played Taps, even though it was blazing hot and the group was supposed to head off to lunch somewhere, some of the people fanned out across the grass to visit the graves of the other family members nearby. They gathered around a couple of the plaques on the ground with their loved ones names on them, and I couldn't help but wonder if they were not determined to see something before they left that made them know that this event was truly a burial and not just a surreal gathering on the Astroturf.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Exits before Entrances

How do you think we would make our decisions if we knew how things were going to come out before we started? Would everyone work on the teleological level - aiming toward an end - rather than the holy pilgrimage method - the journey itself is the thing?

More than once, I have looked back and said that if I had only known how something would end up, I'd have made a different decision. (In fact, I've done this many times. In keeping with the photo, if I saw people coming off an amusement park ride looking sick, I'd have my answer right there. But I have also spent a fair amount of time wishing I had done all kinds of more important things differently. )

But I admit that there are other times when I've been able to realize that even if things turned out badly in the end, or even if I just didn't end up where I thought I would, I am glad for all the things I learned or all the people I met or the experiences I had along the way.

At any rate, we don't have that crystal ball. We don't know how things are going to turn out and yet we have to make decisions. In many cases this is good - I remember my own mother telling me that had I been born first, I'd have been her only child (I cried for the first couple of months of my life). And there are some people who possess a spirit of adventure so that they simply are not very concerned with the outcome. Of course, there is stupidity, too, and rashness. Like most things, there is a continuum here.

Those who are pilgrims and adventurers and risk-takers possess curiosity, wonder and awe in large quantities. They operate out of those places rather than in the critical analysis zone.

Some of us cover this propensity up. It can make us look flighty or not sufficiently analytical or the type to just go off on an adventure to those (potential employers, say) who might wonder if we are reliable or will bow to the hierarchy or uphold and execute the boss's plan, etc. It looks like a weakness instead of a strength. It looks as if we weren't looking ahead with an eye toward what could go wrong.

I think all of us have an inner adventurer, though, and I think the world would greatly benefit from all of us nurturing that part of ourselves and at least occasionally let that light shine. To imagine what can go right, to relish the experience of stepping out and taking a chance on being filled with wonder and joy.


Friday Morning Collect

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 99)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Don't Need a Weatherman

Having just finished a couple of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, I find it interesting what people think about the power of observation and how it is that people think observation is being done.

It is not true that the quiet types are the ones who are just sitting back and taking it all in, noticing all the details while the flibbergidgets are oblivious. "Quiet types" may be very observant, but not necessarily. I know quiet folks who are also kind of spacey - the "absent-minded professor" and all that - who are fairly oblivious to their surroundings.

On the other hand, people with certain types of attention issues, including those who talk a lot and/or have ADD, are "scanners," both when they are at social events and when they are just driving down the street. They constantly scan the environment, picking up all kinds of information. (And, again, some - not all.)

Some of us who do this are likely to blurt out what we see in the middle of a conversation about something else (this is called, "Look! A bird!"). (I have linked before to the "serenity prayer" for each Myers-Briggs type, but here it is again. I am an ENFP myself: God, help me keep my mind on one thing - Look, a bird - at a time.) For these people (and again, I'm one of them and I have already apologized to my family numerous times for trying their patience) it is hard to have a long conversation with just one person at a party. There are too many other faces and conversations going on and the pull to scan in that environment is almost overwhelming, even when one's conversation partner is really very interesting.

[Side note: I also happen to really like birds and so I literally do say "look, a bird!" quite frequently. I did notice, however, then when we were driving down the street one day and I blurted out in the middle of another conversation, "Look, a new IHOP is being built!" that my family responded immediately, "where???" Apparently, "look, a bird!" is irritating but "look, an IHOP!" is interesting.]

I don't mind that I am a scanner. I find that my powers of observation have served me very well in my life. I can pick up on all kinds of things, of both immediate and longer term import. I can look for God working in the world and in my life and in the lives of those around me because I'm nearly always "on." I can see what's going on with the people I encounter. And as a priest, I expect to find God working in us and in the world, so my looking has a purpose beyond idle curiosity. It comes naturally.

But I also realize that that's just how I operate. I am sure that others gather information about God's work in the world, as well as the ways of hummingbirds and can spot good seashells from a distance, too, but they may gather it in different ways than I do. I'd love to hear about how other people use their powers of observance and how that fits in with their personalities and their ways of being in the world. What comes naturally to you? How and where do you observe the world and how God is working in it? And how do you communicate that to others?


Morning Collect

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(BCP 832)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Repentance

Christianity has a lot to say about repentance. After all, this is the message of Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry. Repent, for the Kingdom of God has drawn near, he says right there in Matthew. Repent and believe in the good news, he says in Mark. Turn around and go the other way, the way toward God, the way away from darkness.

We (post)modern people are a bit leery of repentance, though - at least some of us are. We don't want to get too close to self-loathing, for instance, and self-flagellation and all. Remember poor Hazel Motes in his barbed wire shirt blinding himself with lye. And there's all that Calvinistic miserable worm stuff - we're depraved. (Yuck.) We need some self-esteem and feeling of self-worth (God made us good, after all) - and yet of course that can go over into self-importance and a blindness to our own falling short. And so we wrestle with the idea of repentance; at least I do.

But here's how it seems to work for me. There are times when I know I am wrong and I know I need to make restitution or at least admit the error of my ways and pledge to do better. And then I have to make good on that. Such is repentance. It's hard. It may take me a very long time to get to that place. It is difficult to admit fault, admit messing things up. One wants to be recognized for not having meant to do wrong. One perhaps wants to point out the speck in the eye of another (and ignore the log in one's own). Just the thought of repentance can bring on the tears, sometimes in buckets. But this is helpful in my experience. The tears help bring me away from my pride and rigidity and into a place of at least being willing to consider that I am in the wrong and must do differently. The tears are a release of the pent-up hostility that cascades into tears of helplessness. It may take a lot of tears.

First are the tears of denial and anger. Not my fault, he made me do it, I was baited, I didn't know, she's stupid and wrong or just doesn't understand. Then the tears of remorse. OK, maybe I am being too rigid which quickly slides into how could I be so wrong? How could I hurt someone I love? How could I have been so horrible? And then, one hopes, the tears of relief. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to but I see that I hurt you. I see that I am wrong. I see that I need to do differently. Thank you for giving me another chance. Oh, sweet relief.

This has, in my opinion, nothing to do with depravity or being fallen. It's being human. The move from recognizing wrong to repentant to restoration is all of a piece just as the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension is all of a piece.

We call it "repentance" but it needs all three parts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reading

My well feels dry. Therefore, I am on a reading binge. I found a couple of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries I hadn't read yet (I don't know how that happened but I am thankful nonetheless) and am on the couch with Lord Peter and his Biblical allusions.

As a related aside, when I went through the Commission on Ministry before I was made a candidate for Holy Orders, they asked me what I liked to do when I was in need of refreshment. I told them not to tell anyone but that if I wasn't feeling well, I might call in sick and spend the day with a book. I didn't say what kind of unwell I might be feeling or what kind of book. And they didn't ask.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer

Well, it's officially summer. The whole "summer begins on June 21" thing is kind of a joke here in the South where temperatures have been in the mid- to upper nineties for more than a week. It's really hot, the kind of hot that makes people's tempers flare and pets want to flop on tile floors to cool off and flowers to be really stingy with their blooms and the ones that they do put out end up burnt anyway. There are exceptions, of course. There are beautiful hot weather bloomers - the crepe myrtle trees, butterfly bushes and butterfly weed, lantana, salvias (although my black and blue salvia is not blooming well right now), portulaca (aka moss roses), black-eyed Susans, and morning glory vines (but those will take over if you're not careful).

Summer just doesn't have the appeal to me as a grownup that it did when I was growing up and was not as bothered by heat (swelling, prickly rash, fatigue, and vague stomach uneasiness) and dust (it wasn't my job to do the gardening). When I was growing up, summer was about going to the pool most days, playing a little golf or tennis in the morning and swimming all afternoon. Even on the rainy days, we'd sit in the clubhouse wrapped in our towels and play cards and listen to the radio and eat candy bars we charged to our parents' account. And in the evenings, we'd see a movie at the drive-in theater, or make ice cream in a churn or eating watermelon outside at someone's house. We'd all stay outdoors until well after dark, looking at the stars above and the fireflies in the yard. I remember looking for the Sputnik satellite moving quickly across the sky - I remember my brother explaining that Sputnik was the light that moved and the lights that didn't move were "just stars." We had a whole-house fan before we had air-conditioning and we'd crack a window open about 3 inches and stand in front it to feel the force of the air that was sucked in by the attic fan. I'd move my bed so that the air would blow across it as I slept. I do remember the occasional night when I got so hot I slept on the floor (we didn't have a sleeping porch - 50's ranch houses were not so equipped, unfortunately) but still, it was summer, and summer meant being mostly carefree and liberated from schedules and homework.

I was not sorry when school started again (because I would be with people every day and I liked school anyway) but I did enjoy summer. On this day every year (especially because school usually didn't get out until sometime in June anyway), the whole summer still stretched out before me and the fall seemed so far away. Summer sometimes even got a little boring - even going to the pool every day with the same group of people (I lived in a very small town) could get old - but we knew it was supposed to be fun and we had fun for the most part.

I like to think that God likes fun and that we are supposed to have regular fun just like regular prayer and regular sleep and regular meals and regular exercise. But there are times when it just seems like a monumental effort to do all or even any those things regularly. I'm terrible at "maintenance." Even "maintenance fun." And so like many grown-ups, I may just have to start scheduling some fun for my summer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Geresene in Chains

This is a sermon I preached today at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Atlanta, a community that serves all kinds of people including many who suffer from physical and mental disabilities. The texts are Galatians 3:23-29 and Luke 8:26-39.

++++++++

In today’s Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus gets in his boat and deliberately crosses over to the other side of the lake. For the Jews of Jesus time, this is like going over to the other side of the tracks: the people who live on the other side of the lake are Gentiles, they’re not Jews. They are the people Jews don’t associate with.


And what Jesus finds at the other side of the lake is a man whom even the Gentiles don’t associate with. A guy who doesn’t have a home - he lives in the cemetery, usually chained up except for when he gets loose. He doesn’t have a job or a family, either. He doesn’t even have clothes. This is not the kind of guy the regular people like to associate with, neither Gentiles nor Jews.


The man is so used to being outcast, so used to being naked in the cemetery instead of wearing clothes and living with a family in his own house and having a job to go to every day, that he doesn’t really know who he is. He’s living in an alternate universe from the world other people seem to live in.


Jesus asks him his name - Jesus is always polite like that, going up and talking to people other folks don’t think are normal, just having conversation with them and touching them and treating them as if they were normal even if other people don’t. Jesus asks this man his name, as any polite person would do upon meeting a stranger, but the man can’t even say what his name is.


He says he is Legion but that’s not a name, that’s a number. A huge number, the number of an entire Roman army. It signifies all the things that torment and imprison this man. He doesn’t have an identity - his name is all those things that hold him captive. He is defined by what has uncontrollable power over him. He doesn’t even have a name, maybe doesn’t even know his name any more, he’s just a walking example of lots of things gone wrong.


That’s who he knows himself to be and that’s how others seem to know him, too. He’s wild. He’s scary. He’s not “normal.” But Jesus has sailed all the way across a big lake just to see this guy who doesn’t dress properly or live in a house and calls himself Legion because he has forgotten that there is anything else to him besides his torment. He has accepted the names others might call him and forgotten his own name.


And Jesus has come to this man in order to restore him to wholeness, to restore him to his community. Jesus has come to give this man a new identity, which St Paul explains to the Galatians is the identity that we all have called “Child of God.” Not simply man or woman or slave or free or Jew or Gentile or homeowner or homeless or normal or tormented. But Child of God first.


Jesus has come to restore him to who he is, to take away from him a false identity that had been forced upon him, that he had accepted, and to restore him to who he was made to be and is first of all: a child of God.


And so the word gets out (due to the issue of the pigs all jumping into the lake) and the people from the community, the ones who do wear nice clothes and live in their own houses and who are not tormented, they come out to see what’s going on and they find this man who had been living in chains in the cemetery sitting at Jesus’ feet, clean, wearing clothes, and no longer in torment.


You would think that this would be a cause for rejoicing, wouldn’t you? You would think that the people would be happy that this man was no longer in torment, no longer in chains, no longer captive to all the things that were destroying him, no longer an outcast, no longer wild, no longer scary. You would think that the people would be happy to see their neighbor freed from all his troubles and able to come back into society from his place on the margins.


But the people are not happy. They are scared. Luke says they are seized with great fear. They are so scared that they ask Jesus to leave on account of what he has done. Whatever it is that Jesus brought with him to this side of the lake, whatever it is that caused this man to be transformed from tormented to normal, they don’t want any of it. They want Jesus to get back into his boat and go back to where he came from and leave them alone.


The man wanted to go with Jesus. He wanted to follow him on the road. And you might think Jesus would be happy to have him with him. But Jesus not only gives the man his identity back, he affirms that his vocation is to stay in his community and be who he is. Be a living, breathing example and testimony to what God has done for him right there in his own community. Just be who he is, right there in his own community.


And I am thinking this scared the people even more. Now this man who used to be in chains, who used to live in the cemetery and in torment is going to come in from the cemetery, the edges, the margins, and live right there with all the rest of them. They can send Jesus away, but the work of God goes on right there in their community. The transformation has happened and will continue to happen because they will all be in community together instead of kept separated and with some of them marginalized. They are changed, forever, all of them.


The man has lost his chains, his one-issue identity and the people have lost their equilibrium. Jesus has turned things upside down and they are staggering from the aftershock. People whom they have sent out to the margins are supposed to stay there; scary people are supposed to stay in their chains outside of town; they are not supposed to come back; they are supposed to stay in their places. This man has been freed from his place of being an outcast; Jesus has freed him. He is no longer Legion but child of God just like everybody else. The line between the haves and the have-nots has been broken, smashed, thrown off just like those chains in the cemetery.


And this is scary to the people. People like to identify themselves not only positively but also over and against other people. “I am not like that,” some folks say. “I am not like that tormented man who lives naked and chained in the cemetery.” or

“I am not defined by addiction or homelessness or mental illness or poverty or hunger or humiliation like she is. I am someone else.” This is the way some of us look at ourselves, as not like the people who scare us, who are different from us, who live lives we can’t relate to.


We’d rather keep our labels and have other people keep the labels we put upon them, but Jesus comes across the lake just to see this guy and to restore him to himself, to put him back into community where he belongs, where he has a place, a home, a safety net. To show him that whatever else he may have been and may be now, he is first and foremost a beloved child of God. And yet this disorients the other people and it makes them afraid.


Every community has its tormented Geresenes in chains. People who because of mental illness or addictions or a host of other torments are unable to live what society deems a “normal” life - with a job, a home, a family, and basic necessities like food and clothing and baths and haircuts. These are the most vulnerable people in our society - those who do not have the support network and safety nets of home, job, family, of basic necessities. So long as they “stay in their places,” as far as we are concerned, we are comfortable. When they actually become part of our community, we are uncomfortable.


Because we are all transformed by being in community with people who are not like us. Other people don’t join us and become just like us. We all change because we are in relationship together. We have an effect on each other. We learn about one another, we find out that we have things in common, we find out that our ideas about others might be wrong. We find out that we don’t have all the answers or the only perspective. We find out that there are other ways of seeing things. We find out that what we think of as “normal” is only a part of what is normal in God’s world. There are other ways of being besides the way we are.


And we can choose to accept and even embrace that and grow into the fullness of humanity that Jesus came among us to embody. Jesus was a guy who had no home and was pretty scary himself because of who he ate with and and who he touched and who he loved and cared for. Some people wanted to keep Jesus on the margins too. He upset them. He wouldn’t leave the divisions in place. He wouldn’t leave the outcasts outside but brought them right in and showed both the outcasts and the in crowd that they were all first of all children of God. And then Jesus challenged everyone to deal with that. And in fact he left them to deal with it themselves.


God’s people exhibit breathtaking diversity. We have much to learn from one another. Jesus came to free all of us - those of us who are obviously in chains to illness, poverty, addiction, humiliation, and those of use who may look like we are free but are actually in bondage to our notions about how some people need to stay in their places on the outside because they scare us. Some of us are in chains because of our own fears and we are not able to be who God created us to be because of it. Some of us will set up barriers and hide behind them if we can’t get others to stay on the outside themselves.


But somehow I think that even if we try to set up barriers for others or try to hide behind barriers ourselves, the good news is that Jesus will come and find us and restore our identity to us. Jesus will take away our chains and remind us who we are - children of God, each and every one of us - and encourage us to just be who we are, in our breathtaking diversity and yet all one in Christ Jesus, together. Amen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toys Behind Bars

If you have not seen Toy Story 3, then you should stop reading right now and head out to the movie theater. Yes, I know, "the third movie is always bad." But this one is positively inspired. Not only is it the visual feast one expects from Pixar, but it is fun, funny, sad, original, familiar, heart-wrenching and joyful. And all at the same time. You do not have to have a child to take with you to the movie - I saw plenty of grownups at the theater all by themselves. And anyway, there's much for adults to chew on, as there always are in the best "family" movies.

The inevitable losses associated with growing up/growing older and the idea of usefulness are at the center of the movie. The toys have been languishing in their toy box as their owner has grown older, and now that he is about to leave home for college, they have to go somewhere, too. They are not masters of their own fate, however. Mom, doing what moms do, sets out the possibilities: take them to college, put them in the attic, donate them to a daycare center, or throw them in the trash. It appears the toys do not have a say in their fates. But of course, because of plot twists and turns, they end up having a say after all, and that's where the part about "usefulness" also comes in. But I'll not tell more about the plot; you need to see it for yourself.

But here's a question the movie raises: what are toys for, anyway? They're props for the playing out of a child's imagination, of course. And then at some point they become touchstones for another time that lives on only in memories. Who hasn't unpacked a box and discovered items long forgotten (even if they are cheap plastic things) that have unleashed a whole 'nother world in their day and at the time of rediscovery unleash a torrent of memories? My last trip a year or so ago into the attic of my childhood home yielded a stash that was exactly in the place where I put it when I was eighteen and left for college myself. Among the jumble of toys, books, mementos, and room decorations were things I had truly forgotten even existed, and yet upon seeing them, I remembered parts of my past with sudden clarity, including the day that I tromped up the steps with those very things in hand to stack on a shelf that itself was a thing of memory - the bookshelf from my room when I was a toddler, complete with baby-room animal decals. Seeing those items even brought back the memory of putting them there in the first place, even if I had forgotten about them in the meantime.

Usefulness, place, loss, death, and recognition of the reality of said usefulness, loss, etc. The movie was permeated with these themes - and yet it was hilariously funny. There was crying at the end (on the part of grownups in the audience, not the movie characters). As I watched through my own tears, I remembered the awkwardness of putting aside childish things when I knew it was time (although I'm not sure I knew whether I was ready) and I was also keenly aware that my two sons sitting beside me are growing up and going away, just like Andy in the movie. (I planned to see the movie alone, as no one seemed interested when I mentioned it, but when I announced I was actually leaving, one son said it was pathetic for an old lady to go to a kids' movie alone and so they insisted on going with me. It was nice of them.)

In life as in the movie, there come times of letting go - letting go of childhood, letting go of children, putting the markers of our memories in their proper places, and (here's the hard part) being ok with that. Letting go of "times that were" in order to embrace and grow into the "times that are" and the "times that will be." Making room for new adventures still comes with the twinge (or heartache) of loss. I imagine my kids mostly see things to come but now I am beginning to be acutely more aware of things that were.

I'm trying to be ok with the losses and the changes and the memories and the possibilities. Some days I do better than other days. But I am grateful to the Toy Story people for reminding me that life is full of hard decisions and is changed by accidents; and life is fun and funny and painful and surprising and familiar and an adventure, all at the same time. And that love of all kinds, including the love that compels us to let go, is what makes life worth living.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Noise

There's too much noise in my world. I can't hear anything.

Actually, at the moment, there is a lull, and I am listening to birds sing outside my window. They get started before five in the morning when it's truly quiet and they sing most of the day, but their songs are soon drowned out by the sounds of increasing vehicular traffic and the train that goes by early in the morning and then by the roar of leaf blowers and lawn mowers and big trucks, punctuated by the occasional siren from a police car or fire truck on a nearby street or an airplane overhead. The lull is nice; it gives my ears and brain a break. Summer is so hot and noisy.

A friend recently told me about the joys of a silent retreat. I am afraid of silent retreats. My head makes more noise than all the things noted above, even the beautiful birds. Being on silent retreat with my noisy head seems counterproductive - hardly restful at all. Sometimes I can't even read without veering off into active remembering and recrimination; the voices in my head clamoring for me to remember that time I messed this up, remember that time I was humiliated. This is why I prefer the ocean - the pounding pushes the noise out of my head with every wave that washes up on the shore, washing away not only the footprints and detritus on the sand but also washing away my noisy thoughts and inner voices that accuse and jeer at me. It's like baptism that washes away my sins, having the ocean wash away the consternation and fear and frustration with both the world and myself again and again with a reliable rhythm that says, "I know these things will return to haunt you, to clamor for your attention; and I will likewise return to soothe you again and again."

Some of my discomfort is just part of city life. I drive my son to day camp on six-lane surface streets (not to mention the interstate highway that comes into play several times a week and used to be part of my daily commute); neighbors mowing their lawns in the early morning sound as if they are right outside my window (because they are!); huge trucks that go over the speed bump in front of our house make the entire house rattle. It's hot in town - steam rises from the streets when a hit and run shower does little to cool things off and heat rises from the streets the rest of the time. There's visual noise, too - the many lanes of traffic full of cars, all the road signs and billboards, the nonstop buildings. The city is exciting and there's always something fun going on but it can be overwhelming even for an extrovert like me.

I think the ideal life combines noise and quiet, fun and downtime, simplicity and complexity, people time and alone time. Time to soak up the sun, to smell the flowers, to feel cool breezes; to read, to think, to talk; to be entertained and stimulated; to listen to the birds and the lapping of water. Most of us don't have the resources to have the ideal life - house in the city, place in the country, stimulating jobs and plenty of time away for rest and rejuvenation, time to spend with family, time to tend one's spiritual life, time to go all out and time to just do nothing.

For whatever reason, it's the noise that distresses me the most. Especially the noise inside my head. I'm trying to listen for God and I'm having trouble hearing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Outgo

Do you ever feel as if all of your energy is going out and there is not any new energy coming in? As if there's lots of stuff going on "out there" but not much going on right here? As if what energy you have is being sucked out and going into something else outside of you so that you're left feeling empty?

If this were a commercial, the next line would be about the product one can buy to restore the energy to "incoming" and fix this situation by bringing things back into balance. And people certainly do "self-medicate" when they find themselves in this situation. Up the caffeine intake, add some sugar, take to one's bed or hammock, book a vacation, pull out whatever tried-and-true pepper-upper product, activity or plan has worked in the past. Because of course this is part of the life-cycle. Here in the South it often coincides with periods of excessive heat and humidity.

Still, I don't find being in this place good for the body or soul or outlook on life. Knowing that it has happened before and will happen again offers some comfort. But empty is empty.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Today

Today is both Bloomsday (the day in which Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce's novel Ulysses, walks around in Dublin - the whole novel takes place on this day) and my wedding anniversary. In Dublin, people gather in various places featured in the novel every June 16 (and have done so since 1954, the year before I was born). People do this in New York and other cities as well, but somehow that seems kind of silly to me. There are bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalks in Dublin at Bloomsday locations. (The photo for today's morning collect is one of them.)

In 2005, my family and I arrived in Dublin on Bloomsday at the beginning of a vacation in Ireland. We did not participate in the festivities (we were jet lagged and the boys would not have appreciated it, I think) but did see some groups gathered around here and there. And although I was an English major in college, I admit to never having read Ulysses. I wondered how many of the people who participated in the Dublin Bloomsday had read it; my experience is that more people claim to have done so than have actually done so - not only for Ulysses but for Thomas Pynchon novels or Virginia Woolfe or Shakespeare or The Bridges of Madison County. We like to sound as if we are in the know and will cheat on those online tests to check off all the books we've read to include those we wish we'd read or want other people to think we have read.

At any rate, I think Bloomsday is a nice day to have for a wedding anniversary, even if one has not read the novel. After all, it features reading, drama, costumes, walking in Dublin, traditional Irish music; it takes place on the day that Joyce himself chose to use in the novel for Bloom's day in Dublin because it was the date Joyce and his wife to be had their first date walking about in that city; and the novel's famous last line is Molly Bloom's "yes I said yes I will Yes."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ouch

This is a Portugese Man of War. It looks like a jellyfish, and it is related to both jellyfish and corals and sea anemones, but is actually a compound marine invertebrate - a siphonophore - of four different specialized individuals. They live all over the world and have been seen in Hawaii and Wales and all sorts of place in-between. The name comes from the fact that the jelly-like part that sits above water looks like a crested sail on a Portugese boat. Its tentacles carry a sharp venom and an encounter with one is very painful. These creatures often live in huge communities and travel by wind and currents, which is why after a storm some will wash up on the shore. A group of them together in the water can close a beach. And they are a favorite food of loggerhead turtles, which may explain why I saw several of these on the beach one evening while I was walking and the next day encountered a loggerhead turtle nearby.

These beautiful, fascinating creatures swim in the beautiful, fascinating ocean, the life-giving salt water that feeds and waters the earth, and yet an encounter with one in that water hurts really badly (some folks have reactions to contact with the tentacles that require immediate medical treatment).

I guess life is like that. Even when beautiful things are happening, even when one is in a beautiful place, there are painful experiences embedded within. It all goes together. And yet it's no surprise that sometimes people don't want to get back into the water after such an experience. This goes for horseback riding, driving cars, being in a relationship, and a whole lot of other stuff in life as well. We can intellectualize it all we want (it IS cool that the PMofW is made up of four creatures), but it still hurts like hell when one of them stings you.

But you know what is the best thing to put on the welts or lesions the tentacles leave on the skin (the part that hurts like hell) to begin to take the sting out and promote healing?

Seawater.




Monday, June 14, 2010

Stepping Out

I have been thinking about courage and risk-taking lately. For one thing, I recently attended a conference about leadership and there was considerable talk about the need for leaders who are willing to take risks when faced with issues of church growth and development, including new starts and reversing decline.

For another, I generally think of myself as a risk-taker and yet I have found many times in my adult life (from my mid-thirties on, which coincides with my becoming a parent) when I have backed away from that aspect of my personality. (I am not talking about jumping out of airplanes and such - I don't even do roller coasters because they make me nauseous. Rather, I am the kind of risk-taker that can move to a new place, take on a new thing, let go, dream and imagine and put into action, rearrange, a lover of the life adventure.) Maybe I'm just distractable and love a "new shiny." But that has been me, for good or for ill, for most of my life.

In these last years, though, I have let, and with good reasons (family mostly), preservation and safety occupy a higher place than risk-taking. Not that having a family wasn't taking a huge risk, because it was. And it took me a long time to actually be able to do that. And so I don't take it lightly.

It was also a huge risk to allow myself to listen and act upon what I felt God was calling me to. Becoming a priest was certainly not without risk.

But still, I often have felt that I hold myself back, I hold my imagination back, instead of opening myself and my imagination to the possibility of risk. I find myself feeling that I am sometimes just plodding - and that I actually do this to myself. I think I should be plodding and responsible.

I do find that adversity or closed doors increase my risk-taking potential. This is probably true for most people. At any rate, now, as my children mature and I mature as well, I am thinking it's time to get back into risk-taking mode as a way of being and not just something I pull out occasionally when the time seems right.

Of course risk taking at 55 is not the same as risk taking at 20. Let's all thank God for that. I hope I am wiser. But I also hope I can shake free of whatever it is I feel is binding me at this time and know that God is with me as I think about stepping out and where that might lead.

Morning Prayer - St Basil

Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church
your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love
as one God in Trinity of Persons:
Give us grace that, like your bishop Basil of Caesarea,
we may continue steadfast in the confession of faith,
and constant in our worship of you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
for you live and reign for ever and ever.
Amen

(Lesser Feasts and Fasts)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Collect for St Columba

O God, you called your servant Columba from among princes to be a herald and evangelist of your kingdom: Grant that your Church, remembering his faith and courage, may so proclaim the splendor of your grace that people everywhere will come to know your Son as their savior and serve him as their king, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Rescuers

Most of us secretly (or maybe not so secretly) would like for someone to come and rescue us when we are stuck. I remember when I was in my very early twenties, about to graduate college, and my car broke down about three hours from home one night when I was driving from Florida to North Carolina for a holiday weekend.

This being well before the age of cell phones, I had to wait by the side of the road for the state trooper to arrive, and he arranged for the car towed to the repair shop and drove me and my cat to a nearby all-night coffee and donuts tent some local citizens had set up for truckers (because it was night and the car repair place was closed). Some folks at the coffee stand let me use their phone to call my parents to let them know where I was and offered to let me spend the night on a cot in the back room.

I called my dad and told him what was going on. He said, OK, see you tomorrow when you get here.

And I was furious. I wanted him to come and get me. I wanted him to drive three hours down I-95 to South Carolina and help me handle this situation and take me home. He just said, see you tomorrow.

Now if this were an Anne Lamott story, I would be telling you how I'd prayed "Help me, help me, help me" to God when the car broke down and how I'd recognized the trooper and those nice people at the coffee stand as those God had sent to help me in answer to my prayer. I like to think, though, that when Anne Lamott was 22 she might have done the same thing as I did - ignore the help I did get and be mad about my dad not coming to rescue me.

We want someone to come and get us when we are stuck, someone else to handle the details, someone else to fix and arrange and smooth over, someone else to come up with the ideas when if we're fresh out of ideas, which is often what stuck means. And if things don't go right, we can blame them, too. (During the car breakdown episode, my cat got loose and ran away. I was mad at my dad about that, too.)

And sometimes - many times - we need someone to help us, absolutely. I needed that state trooper and those nice people at the coffee stand. They were my community that rallied around me in my trouble. Really, this was about community coming together - even a temporary community - to support someone who was alone and in trouble. I was treated as if I were a guest, not a helpless lump who couldn't think for herself, who couldn't deal with a setback, a bump in the road, adversity.

Still, there are times when I just want someone to come along and fix it. Like that guy on Saturday Night Live, the "financial expert" Oscar Rodgers, who just wants somebody to "FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX!!! IT!!! These people need to FIX IT - when I wake up tomorrow morning, I want IT to be FIXED!"

Most of us certainly feel that way about many things - we want not just the economy but the oil gusher to be fixed by somebody. We want Haiti to be fixed. We want someone to just fix the problem of terrorism. But we also often want someone to fix us, too. To fix our personal problems - to fix our addictions, our children, our loneliness; to get us jobs, to rescue us when the door is shut in our face again. When we are frustrated and defeated and hopeless, we just want someone to just fix it.

Well, Jesus saves, but also we have to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. Which is fabulously liberating, actually. We have it in us, ourselves, to be creative, to know what we want, to have vision about how to get there, to partner with others in all sorts of communities temporary and long-term, to partner with God in creative thought and vision and activity and to become unstuck not by being rescued, but by the power of being fully alive ourselves. The human fully alive - creative, hopeful, adventurous, trusting in God and partnering with neighbor: such is the glory of God.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Practicing Reconciliation

Michael Battle, an Episcopal priest who was ordained in South Africa by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is currently a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles, is one of the church's prominent voices on the subject of reconciliation. He has written a book called "Practicing Reconciliation in a Violent World," and you can find an excerpt of that book here.

I also commend to you a short interview with Michael Battle on the explorefaith.org website about peace, loving one's enemy, why reconciliation is not capitulation, and more. That interview is here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Digital Detox

The New York Times ran a fascinating piece about the issue of electronic gadget multi-tasking and the impact it has on people, particularly a single family, the Campbells, and the toll their e-mails, iPods, iPads, chats etc are taking on each family member as well as the family as a whole - inability to focus, feelings of overload, etc., even when they are not online.

You can read that article here, or just skip over to the Room for Debate running commentary blog (also at the Times) on that subject. Various folks discuss the pros and cons of our new age of multitasking and the fact that most of us are unable to disconnect even if we wanted to. Read the fascinating discussion at Room for Debate about this timely topic here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Classical Education


I am away at a conference for a few days. So I'll be posting some links for your reading pleasure elsewhere.

This is an excellent article by Stanley Fish in the New York Times about the value of a classical education - not only his opinion but what he reads in three new books in praise of an education steeped in the humanities, the stuff of what is still known as "a liberal arts education" that is rapidly becoming seen as obsolete or not child centered or too much about rote memorization and the reading of moldy classics. Fish and others opine that this kind of education, rather than being out of style and old fashioned, is what our country desperately needs now - an education that teaches young people how to think, to reason, to converse with others in other languages and to understand the "grammar" of all subjects. Read it here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Moving On

Life is a journey - I've written about that before. Sometimes the path forward seems clear, sometimes murky; sometimes one feels anticipation and excitement about what might be just around the next bend, and sometimes one feels a sense of dread about what might be lurking around the corner. But whatever one feels, one has to keep moving on or risk all sorts of negatives: stagnation, rust, being stuck in a rut, stunting one's growth, rotting in place, being bored and boring. Life goes on and so must we.

Obviously, it is easier to move on when excitement and adventure beckon from the road ahead. But I used to dream regularly about going into a tunnel and in order to come out on the other side, I would have to keep going forward, even though the tunnel seemed to get smaller and smaller and I began to have trouble breathing. I would wake up panicked and literally out of breath. The dreams stopped when I began a regimen of daily asthma medication; apparently my difficulty breathing was real even as it was playing out in my dreams.

I am at another of those places in the journey where I don't know where I'm going but I'm trying to enjoy the view as I wander along anyway. I would like to feel purposeful, but that seems kind of false, not real, maybe even being in denial. (I worry about being in denial fairly often. One can read that two ways - I worry often or I might be in denial often - and probably I mean both of them.) Maybe my purpose is to try to keep moving and take the scenic route as much as possible. Which is actually the way I would like to "be purposeful" at all times, even when I've got a schedule and an agenda and a real sense of where I am headed. To keep moving and take the scenic route whenever possible seems a good plan all the time.

At any rate, I'd like to give my self permission to go slowly as I wander so as to be able to keep my bearings, to hear and see the markers that are familiar to me. The sound of the birds in the mornings and the tree frogs in the evenings, laughter, music, prayer, a smile and a touch from loved ones, reliable noises and feelings and emotional locations to serve as signposts and trail marks, to remind me of my humanity and my connectedness to the world, to family, to God.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Organization

Sometimes I am very organized. I like to have organization projects where I spread stuff out and decide how it ought to go. I especially like this kind of project when it entails going to The Container Store or some such place to get spiffy new organizational equipment.

I am, on the other hand, abysmal at maintenance. Keeping things organized. Especially when there is so much that needs to be and stay organized. Books and DVDs and CDs. Papers. Photographs. All the mail that comes in. Stuff people give you. Art objects. The kids' stuff. Clothes, linens, dishes, food. Gardening stuff. Lots and lots of Stuff of all kinds. It's overwhelming.

My mother used to say that if one spent five minutes a day on (fill in the blank - often she meant pushing back one's cuticles with an orange stick or putting away the dishes or using face cream), one could stay on top of most things without letting them pile up. Right. Five minutes each day on 100 things that seem to need daily maintenance comes out to a lot of time. And yes, I know, one can spend the time today or one can spend more of it tomorrow or next week or next month. (Or never, in the case of just letting some things slide permanently, whether on purpose or not.)

But then it seems as if one is simply supposed to go through the day pinging and bouncing from one little task to another, constantly, in order to keep on top of everything. This doesn't seem right, either.

Life can get overwhelming. Often life is emotionally overwhelming. But I am finding that life is physically overwhelming, too. I often feel simply overwhelmed by stuff. Mail, things that come into the house, junk, things. Even things I like and want (dishes, food, a certain amount of clothing, linens, books and music). It just feels like too much.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: How papers feed bigotry about Islam

As someone who considers herself a consumer of news and information of all sorts as well as someone who believes that each of us views life through a series of lenses, some from our own backgrounds and some we adopt from the world around us (friends, schools, church, etc.), I commend to you this post from Bishop Alan Wilson (Buckinghamshire, Church of England) giving us an example of how the newspapers distort information that ultimately feeds bigotry. You can find his excellent post here:

Bishop Alan’s Blog: How papers feed bigotry about Islam

Morning Prayer: Benedicite Aotearoa

O give thanks to our God who is good:
Whose love endures forever.
You sun and moon, you stars of the southern sky
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Sunrise and sunset, night and day:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All mountains and valleys, grassland and scree,
glacier, avalanche, mist and snow:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
You kauri and pine, rata and kowhai, mosses and ferns:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Dolphins and kahawai, sealion and crab,
coral, anemone, pipi and shrimp:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Rabbits and cattle, moths and dogs,
kiwi and sparrow and tui and hawk:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
You Maori and Pakeha, women and men,
all who inhabit the long white cloud:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All you saints and martyrs of the South Pacific:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All prophets and priests, all cleaners and clerks,
professors, shop workers, typists and teachers,
job-seekers, invalids, drivers and doctors:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All sweepers and diplomats, writers and artists,
grocers, carpenters, students and stock-agents,
seafarers, farmers, bakers and mystics:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All children and infants, all people who play:
give to our God your thanks and praise.


(A New Zealand Prayer Book, 64)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Reading

Here is a review and excerpt at NPR from a book called "Globish: How the English language became the world's language" (by Robert McCrumb). Mr. McCrumb makes interesting points about how English is a democratic language with a highly interactive character, having been born of four invasions and a cultural revolution to people who live on an island and have a penchant for going all over the world. Read about it here.

And for you grammar geeks, here is the New York Times Magazine's column "On Language" for this week, in which we discover that the word "revert" has different meanings in Asia and with kids from the Bahamas. Check that out here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back to Real Life

Vacation is now over. It was wonderful. The weather was warm, the beach was beautiful, the skies were beautiful and so interesting with storms often in the area but not close enough to chase people indoors - watching the rain falling elsewhere from the clouds, sometimes way high up, and all the colors of the sky and sea and clouds was like having a special window into other worlds. I loved seeing the rays and the people and the turtle and the birds. I loved the walks and the books I read.

Now I'm back home It's still summer - in fact, summer is just beginning. I don't exactly have a daily grind; I have a lack of structure that is both freeing and not conducive to a feeling of normalcy. Creating my own structure is a challenge and I frequently fail in that endeavor.

That's actually what I like about vacation. One is not supposed to be doing anything. So not doing anything is the appropriate and correct thing to do, not something to feel guilty about or castigate myself for. Sitting on the porch looking at the waves, reading for hours at a time, not having a checklist of things done and left undone, not juggling obligations and necessaries and chores - this is what vacation is made of. Looking for and seeing the gifts life has out there just waiting for me to discover them - fresh air, sunshine, marine life to be viewed, walks to be taken with pleasure, sand castles.

Not so, real life. Chores seem boring - do I have to go to the grocery store again and buy the same stuff all over again? My unfinished projects stare at me accusingly from the to-do list: is there any reason why I haven't rehung the art I took down to repaint the downstairs? What about that list of calls I need to make? Is my finger broken so I can't dial? Do I not remember that mulching the flower beds will keep down the weeds? For some reason the list seems daunting and I become paralyzed trying to decide what I ought to tackle next. Distractions abound and I seem prone to follow every one of them, and then I feel bad that I haven't been productive.

Apparently I am unable to look for and see gifts out there in my real life right now. This is a season that will pass, I know. Sitting with the discomfort can be life-giving, too, if I can be patient and look for God in the ambiguity and unfocusedness of a summer of unstructured days. God is there. I have to look and wonder and accept.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beach Report - Friday

Today was a short day at the beach - only time for an hour's walk before heading back home. But it was a great walk. I saw a sea turtle swimming in the surf. Despite all my beach time over the years, including two trips to St Croix, I've never seen a sea turtle actually swimming in the water. Well, maybe when we were in a boat once we may have passed one. But this felt like a real first, and very special.

It was an adolescent, I guess - only about two feet long, and I think a loggerhead, although I didn't get to watch it long enough to be sure. It was swimming in the surf headed toward the shore, and at first I thought it might be another ray, except the shape was wrong - the rays are triangles, and this was an oval. With arms. A turtle!

At just about 8 feet from me, it stuck it's head out of the water to breathe. It had a beaky nose. Then it went back under and swam parallel to the shore before heading back out to sea - coming up for air a few more times. There had been storms during the night and conditions were not too rough but rolling waves close together - which might have pushed the turtle toward the shore. Normally they land at night, and then to lay eggs. So I don't think it meant to be where it was, and it moved on fairly soon. The whole episode, from the time I noticed it until I couldn't see it any more, took about ten minutes.

I think what I like best about the whole wildlife at the beach experience is that I am reminded again and again that there is a whole world out there that I (we) don't know about. We're not experiencing it, that world doesn't show up on our newsfeeds or CNN (the oil gusher notwithstanding). Every day all sorts of creatures are living and doing their thing and we're not part of it. It happens without us, and even in spite of us sometimes. I think that's good.

I am back home now. And glad to be with my family and my cat and my rabbit and to sleep in my bed and all that. It's good to get away and it's good to be home.

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