Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I’ve been thinking about how we look at the birth of Christ as the arrival of love. I just can’t seem to settle for that narrow of a story. I think it needs to be stretched much, much further. God is love – for all time. Forgive me for stating the obvious but God has always been with us even before we could sense the mystery of something more. Love was breaking through long before the birth of Christ and will continue to pierce our barriers. Why does this matter to me so much? It matters to me terribly because the Christmas story can easily become a story about anything but love. We can claim this story as our own and before we know it find ourselves believing that God loves only Christians. That is why we must remind ourselves that the son of God has always been present in God. That love, the same love that spurred the incarnation, was available long before the notion of Christianity. Christ himself didn’t bring the notion of Christianity with him but the hope of new life. New life is birthed out of love – real love.
I hope this Christmas you can look into the eyes of those people who are very different from you and remember that God loves them. The Spirit of Christmas is a Spirit of Love that transcends time and even the Christmas story itself. This Spirit of Christmas gives us reason to never consider war as an option. As the bumper sticker says to be "against the next war before it even gets started.” Love is not limited to a religion, an ideology, or race. U2 has a song titled, “When Love Comes to Town” which describes the transformation that takes place when love moves in. If only, in the Spirit of Christmas, we can let love come into our town and our hearts.
By the way, the image is artwork by Jeff Nabors.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I took some time this morning on the day of my birth to reflect on where I stand on relationships after 54 years. I am still so insecure on where I stand with people and I find that pattern so frustrating. I know it's a pattern. This morning I was recalling my relationships with my parents and how that formed this pattern of insecurity over the first 18 years. I was never really certain where I stood with them. My parents fought as if my sister and I were not present, not really there. We could be going down the road at 60 miles an hour and mom would threaten to jump out of the car. My sister and I sitting in the back seat trapped and stunned. So many thoughts going through our young minds regarding our mother and our future. We saw enough violence that we learned relationships can turn on a dime.
Fifty four years and I am still trying to change this pattern. I am healthier in the sense that I have little or no tolerance for being treated as if I'm not present. At 54 I don't have time to be treated as if I don't exist. I am still working on finding ways to accept relationships for what they are and trying to have realistic expectations. I will be working on this the rest of my life because the old pattern is so embedded in my thoughts. The awareness of this pattern is a gift and allows me to step back and examine my responses to people. The biggest hurdle for me is accepting the fact that people are okay spending time with me. I know I have some attributes that people don't necessarily want to be around like sounding like a "know it all". I know it can also be very difficult being around a person dealing with depression and low energy. Some fun! At the same time, I know we are always extending grace to each other in one way or another. Grace allows us to truly be present in the life of each other.
Community and relationships are our most valued possessions as we get older - our most difficult and precious gifts. I still have some time and I hope some day that I will know how to receive and give these gifts.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Twenty six years ago we were married at 2:30 in the afternoon at College Hill Presbyterian by three pastors: Ron Rand, Jerry Kirk, and Chuck's father, Branson C. Wiggins. Just a bit overkill but no one could doubt that we are really married. It was slightly rainy and a little bit warmer than it is today. There was a Thanksgiving Day parade in College Hill in which Chuck was stuck for a few minutes trying to get Graeter's ice cream for the reception in order to surprise me. He continues to be thoughtful and full of surprises to this day.
I don't know why I'm so blessed with a friend, a partner, and a soulmate. Not everyone gets that privilege in this life. He has been patient with my career choice to step out of teaching. He has been sensitive to my journey with depression. He is the most talented person I know. He quietly reads and continues to expand his knowledge base. Not only is he intelligent but he is also wise which is a wonderful combination. I have the utmost respect for him. He has made me laugh until I cry. His beliefs are based in the hope that we will evolve into the better versions of ourselves. He's a geek and an artist. He is a quiet man who plays a fierce accordion.
I don't know why this good fortune has been bestowed on me. There is no apparent reason for it. But I'll gladly take it and hope for many more years with the one I love.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
At this conference I was able to find sessions where counseling and spirituality were linked. Interestingly enough, the speakers of these sessions spoke from the premise that you cannot separate counseling the person from their spiritual/religious stance. The emotional, psychological and spiritual are intertwined and getting to the root of an issue can often lie in the spiritual/religious realm. Of course, I was very excited to see a secular conference acknowledge the connection in their effort to move people toward psychological health.
I was able to attend sessions such as "Using Biblical Principles to Move Clients from Fear to Forgiveness", "Empowering Clients by Using Spirituality in Counseling", "Counseling Issues with Clients from Mainline Christian Denominations", and "Wired for Joy or Wired for Stress." Of course, I am not a counselor nor would I ever pretend to be. But I have been trained in Spiritual Direction and this renewed my passion for coming alongside people on their own spiritual journey.
I have three main reasons for my passion for Spiritual Direction. First, this is what I am gifted to do. I am a listener, an empathizer, and I love to see people move toward wholeness. I have my own life experiences with depression and loss so I know the struggle of moving from the pit to standing on my own two feet. Of course, I am still moving toward wholeness and I have far to go. I believe my woundedness is the gift that I bring to others. Second, I have worked as an Adult Discipleship Coordinator in a local church. I spent much time finding and developing programs to help people in the area of spiritual transformation. Of course, some of it was very helpful to others as well as myself. I don't totally discount programming. At the same time, I firmly believe that transformation cannot be programmed. I don't believe that Bible knowledge or reading a Christian book generally changes a person. I have seen people who know much about the Bible show the least love to others and there have been times that I can include myself in the category. I do believe that Spiritual Direction forces you to identify where you are with God and what is happening in your spiritual life right now. The goal of Spiritual Direction is to help you identify the desires of your heart and to do the work that helps you move toward those goals. Spiritual Direction is about your spiritual ideology, not mine. I am there to keep the focus on that point that the Holy Spirit is moving you toward. My job is to help you find answers to questions by drawing those answers from you. You are the only one who truly knows the answers and I dance the dance of listening and asking questions and then stepping out of the way of what is happening between you and God. This is truly spiritual transforming work because you are no longer in the knowledge realm but facing the reality of where you are spiritually and how it plays out in your life. It is the joy of being actively involved with your God in the healthiest way possible. The third reason I am passionate about Spiritual Direction is because I have been on a church staff and I have been in that place where I needed a truly safe and confidential place. The reality is that this place is very difficult to find in your own church. So my heart goes out to all the people on a church staff from the custodian to the pastor(s). Most church staffs consist of wonderful people trying to do an impossible job. Their need for support is immense and absolutely necessary. I know Spiritual Direction can be that place that recharges their batteries and helps them to return to an impossible task. Of course, you don't have to be on a church staff to need Spiritual Direction. Anyone can need it at any point in their life.
I am grateful to Jeanie for asking me to go with her. I just hope I have the energy and courage to pound the pavement to make myself available as a Spiritual Director. Just email me if you are interested, what to know more, or know of someone who might be interested. And if it's counseling that you need then I'll just refer you to my friend, Jeanie.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Contrary to hurricane winds, we were invited to join our gracious friends, Yvan and Martine, on a riverboat cruise. The cruise was a thank you to musicians for playing at an event and we got to go along for the ride. As you can tell by the last two pictures, Yvan and Chuck were in their element. Yvan and a few of the other musicians who are in Lagniappe which Chuck was also in for awhile played great tunes while we coasted up and down the river. So peaceful and what seemed to be so far away from Fairfield. Our friend, Cortney, joined us and took the first two pics with my camera. Every Sunday afternoon should be so pleasant!
Tree in front of the garage - just missed it.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I have learned that forgiveness often includes the need for boundaries. I have done much examination to come to the point of forgiveness for C. Church. No doubt they have had to do much work forgiving me. My relationship with them will be forever changed yet I can pray that ministry abounds there. I can pray that their love for one another and for God grows in such a way that community abounds. I can pray that they are that city sitting on a hill shining a bright light to those in darkness. I can hope that they are blessed and, at the same time, know that it is all for the best that I am outside of that circle. The act of forgiveness has allowed me to step back and see through a more realistic lense. Of course, I prefer my own lense which prefers my own point of view. I could hold onto that point of view and never move on but that only holds me prisoner while they have moved on a long time ago. Forgiveness is as much about setting myself free as it is setting the other free.
I can pray that N. Church thrives in this area because there is no other community like it. I know there is work to be done there that can't be done in most other churches. I pray it is a center of healing and wholeness. I can have high hopes for N. Church and love the people there while living on the outside. I could hold onto something that was not meant to be or find the grace to accept things as they are.
I struggle the most with the loss of finding that place where I would have served on the staff of a church leading spiritual formation. I have to extend the same forgivess to myself for not being able to have or do whatever it takes to fulfill that dream. It is difficult to forgive yourself because you're looking at yourself through a realistic lense and owning your own barriers that you put up. But it's the only way to move on and live into a different dream that could possibly be fulfilled. Forgiveness is the freedom we need to be fully alive.
At times forgiveness may go against every fiber of our being. We don't have to smooth over what happened or say it was okay. Forgiveness doesn't even mean you have to forget. It just means that at some point you have to let go of the hope that something will happen that will release the pain for you and just pull that trigger yourself. Grace is a choice and all are better when we allow ourselves to hold out hope for everyone and our own hopes and dreams.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
It was so much more difficult in a church community. In C. Church the unspoken goals were to produce the best image, numbers, and performance possible. The One we had come to be on leveling ground with was difficult to find and it was just too difficult to enjoy each other's company when image was such a concern. I was an outsider wanting to name problems and find solutions rather than pretending everything was fine. I moved further from the center because my temperament has no or little concern for image. I did not belong in this community anymore because the simple had become far too complicated for me.
I had hope in N. Church because this was certainly an open and affirming church. I had hope to find community in a church that refused to marginalize anyone. Turns out I had a better chance of not being marginalized if I were gay than hoping the Sunday worship were not so painfully traditional. I was told that it was a good thing that I was leaving because of the impact that it would have on the church as it grew and that it was my pattern to leave. I believe that if you are truly in community with a group - there is never a good time to leave. I'm certain my pattern had something to do with me leaving N. Church but I am certain that there were also patterns of other people coming into play here who weren't willing to own up.
Our small group of believers met this past Tuesday. We simply shared where we were emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Our relationships have been building for over a year now and this exercise opened us up to a deeper level. Strengths and weaknesses were shared. Goals met and goals yet to reach were shared. I shared with the group that my antidepressant had stopped working and that I appreciated their patience as I transitioned to a new one with the hope that it would lift this low level of depression. It was safe to be authentic with these people. I have received notes of encouragement and I will send them encouragement as well. Oh, the relief of not having to be someone else that I'm not. I can find Christ in the midst of that grace. Our goal is simple - to be a place of healing and encouragement to each other so we might bring some light to our families, friends, and coworkers. No performance, no numbers, no salaries, no building campaign, no one speaking for 45 minutes - just friends trying to follow Christ. We met Saturday morning at St. Raphael Social Services to do whatever needed to be done and again we enjoyed each other's company. I am done with church. If it works for you, that's wonderful but I am done with being marginalized by people who call themselves Christians.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I found this quote in a review of a concert by Chris Ska on trconnection:
Before “Man Up” Todd said something like, “You’re wondering who this is for... The men in power are crooked liars. For the past 7 years they having been lousy, corrupt, lying... been giving us a bad name.” The crowd cheered and he added, “Being a man is helping the weak” He said it twice, he meant it. The audience was attentive, and applauded and cheered, some guy yelled out “Real Man!”
In light of the political atmosphere Todd's quote "Being a man (I'm going to add that woman is implied) is helping the weak" if actually applied would change the world. I'm sure Todd's spirituality is very pluralistic but I think this quote comes so close to what Christ was trying to say to all of us... help the weak. Of course, I'm not implying that Todd is Christlike at all. As we declared often during Toddstock, Todd is Godd!
Chuck had shared with some of the tech crew for the concert that he had camera experience so he was able to act a a runner for the camera guys. He had a great front row seat for the concert. Todd had men move the stage from the hillside to the koi pond (we didn't see any koi in the pond during the concert). It was the most amazing setting in the water directly in front of the open living room/kitchen. LED lights that lined all three walls eventually were used for a special lighting effects during the concert. That band was warming up and Todd appeared around 7 pm. The band consisted of the birthday guy, Jesse Gress on guitar, Prairie Prince on drums, Rachel Haden on bass and Matt Bolton on guitar and keyboards. It was inspiring to see a woman taking her stand among these great musicians. To up Rachel's coolness factor even more, she is the daughter of Charlie Haden, jazz bassist, and the sister-in-law of Jack Black.
The concert debuted the new CD, Arena, and was old school rock 'n roll. Some words were difficult to understand since the sound was difficult to control in Todd's backyard which faces a valley. We loved the words we could understand and Todd is such a great musician who gave us all hope that at 60 you could still continue to take whatever you're passionate about to a whole new level. There was such a great energy every minute of the concert and we truly felt priviledged because we were there for the debut. The tour info for this new CD can be found on trconnection.com.
Chuck had been hoping that more musicians would have brought instruments out to jam during the week. He finally decided to bring out the red digital accordion (which is now autographed by Todd who had heard the story about the accordion riding in first class and asked, "How's your marriage?") People started gathering and we sang every Todd song that we could remember. Pippi led us through most of the songs with her strong energy. Sitting there with people from so many different places and countries singing the song, "One World", will forever be one of my most cherished memories from the week. We may have not been able to communicate with the Japanese women who were very loyal Todd fans but they knew every word to every Todd song so we were all on common ground in song. Just a glimpse of Utopia made us even sadder to think that we were leaving the next day.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
That evening there was a pig roast done by cooks on the island who truly knew what they were doing. The vegetarians took off to find a restaurant where there were no animal faces staring at them. Todd’s wife, Michele, was carried around on a surfboard as queen of the luau. She had a huge headdress fit only for a Hawaiian queen or Carmen Miranda. Todd, Michele and their son, Rebop, were gracious with those who wanted to take photos. Todd’s other sons were not able to make it. The Toddstockers had collected money for a sushi table for Todd's birthday and we also celebrated Todd and Michele's anniversary. Both events offically happen on Sunday, June 22nd but it was just the right time to present Todd with a gift. The food was tremendous and the conversation flowed. Prior to the dinner we had been treated with performance by Toddstockers who had learned a Hawaiian dance earlier in the week. They were good sports and gave it their best shot but should leave it to the locals.
That evening there was a Todd trivia game with extremely difficult questions. They knew these were hardcore Todd fans so easy questions would be a no brainer. These questions were so difficult that Todd may have not been able to answer some. The prize was an autographed can of Spam. Yes, Spam! Spam has been an island staple for a long time and popular among the locals. The vegetarians were not subjected to Spam as an award.
The partying carried on into the night. Most of us were realizing by now that the end was in sight and we were already talking about whose backyard to camp in next.
Some folks went tubing instead we took a boat trip to Napali coast with Joanna and Biljac Burnside. We saw several kayakers out in the ocean which made me grateful that our boat had a motor and someone else was driving. The coast has a surreal velvet cover. We could see hikers that were on the trail that Todd and the crew had taken on Wednesday.
Our favorite part of this ride was when the captain took the boat back into a cave. It was dark and you looked down into clear water. Looking back and watching the light come through the opening to the cave is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
The boat was anchored in the calmest waters that the captain could find and we were able to snorkel. This spot was not nearly as calm as Annini beach, of course, but we were able to adjust to the waves and see some very colorful fish and turtles.
This evening was an interesting Q&A time with Todd. Doug Ford of Rundgren Radio ran the Q&A with Todd at his side. The interview can be heard here. Todd told interesting stories about how Kauai came to be his home and how they acquired the property. If you want to know more about the Q&A time you have to consult Chuck. I camped out in the hotel room with the air conditioning. My apologies to Roger D. Linder - I orginally said that he ran the Q&A but Roger runs the TRConnection which keeps all of us up on any news and tour info about Todd. I told ya Chuck knows alot more about this than I do!
We were treated that evening with a concert by Ken Emerson. He made it in for Todd’s birthday and Todd sat front and center taking in the music from Ken’s guitar. I would have loved to see what would happen if Ken and Todd had played a song together
Then it was back to the martini bar and getting to know more people. Todd wandered through the crowd so if he was around people would gather and listen to his stories. If he wasn’t in the food tent or at Michele’s bar then he was at the Tiki bar making and serving martinis. Such a gracious host.
Waimea is known as the small Grand Canyon. I’ve not seen the Grand Canyon but the clouds parted long enough for us to see the Napali coast and ocean and provide a view you won't find at the Grand Canyon, of course.
We returned to the campground after buying leis to take part in the house blessing for Todd and Michele's house. It's been under construction for 3 years and when I asked the forman who happened to be sitting next to us one evening when it would be finished he looked at us and said, "Never." Truly a work of art in progress. The roof has curved lines and is covered with copper. The foreman told us that it was constructed on the ground and then attached to the house. Todd's ability to see a vision and then make it happen continued to amaze and inspire me.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
We met a beautiful lady named Mary who came to camp by herself. Her husband has an aggressive form of MS and he was gracious enough to give her the gift of this week. She struck me as a devoted caregiver in much need of this time to recharge her spirit. She has physical problems herself (as most of us did since this wasn’t a Woodstock generation) and she was so filled with energy from other people and being near Todd and Michele. Her story touched our hearts and I continue to ask the source of love to be very kind to her.
I met a lady, Mary Ann and her husband, Larry. He is 67 and I didn't catch her age. Mary Ann had only discovered Todd’s music six months ago and was consumed by it. She had printed off the words to songs and had compiled them in a notebook. It was one of the things she asked Todd to sign for her. She really resonated with his words. One of his songs, The Last Ride, came through the speakers and tears started rolling down her face. The words spoke to her at such a deep level that the only way to describe the connection is to call it spiritual. Even though our ages were not that far apart I still found that she was very inspiring to me because I hope I always look for those things that speak to my heart. The concert on Sunday was the first concert of Todd’s that she had actually seen live. She and her husband enjoyed it immensely. They were the ones who had brought Todd the walking stick which he carried during the hike. They also brought jewelry for Michele and I think it was the night of the Luau that she wore their gift.
There were so many great people – I can only name a few as I blog about this event. I just kept saying during the week – of all the places to be on the earth at this time – this was the place to be. It was simultaneously surreal and, yet, very centered. Very difficult to explain but the people who were there know what I mean.
Day 3 was the day we went looking for a different extension cord for Chuck’s sleep apnea machine that he was using in the tent. Most of us were of a mature age which required an electrical box in the tent that housed the camping tents because of the number of people using CPAP machines. Michele referred to us as a Papper colony - better than being a leper colony! Chuck discovered that the CPAP machine has a dual purpose – was great for blowing up air mattresses!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Camping in Kauai is probably under some of the best circumstances possible. Lower humidity and cool breezes at night. We just got tired of the red dirt that permeated everything. Chuck did like the red hue of the dirt on his green khaki shorts but that was about all we could tolerate. I imagine we'll be finding red dirt for quite awhile.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Biljac had cooked for a football team at Old Miss years ago and volunteered those cooking skills for breakfast and dinner times. He knew what he was doing in the kitchen and we were grateful for it. Joanna was usually at his side cleaning and organizing. They made a great team. Biljac owns two businesses - he teaches Karate and tunes pianos. Joanna teaches piano at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. They live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with their cat, Nudge. I'm so glad I didn't do anything to tick Joanna off during the week - I'm sure Biljac has earned numerous awards for his Karate skills but he also informed me that Joanna has been the state champion seven times for their particular style of Karate. Those southern women are velvet covered steel!
The cup in my hand was my cup for the week because the Rundgrens strive to be environmentally friendly. They also used biodegradable cups and utensils made out of corn. I kept watching my martini served to me by Todd himself that he had been poured into a "corn" cup and just waiting for the vodka to melt right through it!
I would show you the photo of Todd autographing the accordion but we signed an agreement that we would not post pictures or send them through the internet until Todd releases us to do so. I'm sure there is a dvd of the events around his 60th birthday that will be available for purchase and given the amount of money that was spent on that week (i.e. vodka for martinis and kegs of beer for Michele's bar), he deserves to earn every dime of it!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sunday, June 8, 2008
My lovely friend, Cyndi Nabors, was patient enough with me to actually take me to the fabric store and let me pick out this beautiful batik fabric. She then went on to amaze me with her sewing skills and made this purse and wallet by the next day. Very talented lady. I love all the pockets on the outside and all SEVEN pockets on the inside - no more digging for stuff at the bottom of the purse where most stuff lands. I love the wallet because it is light weight and can easily be picked up to run into a store instead of dragging the whole purse. She even named the design after me - the Deb bag. Now when the purse gets really old I can call it Deb, the old bag.
You can visit Cyndi's blog about her handiwork at Bluebirdswing. Her purses are well designed, durable and washable. She and I are having an open house at my house on July 12th from 11 am to 4 pm. Stop by for browsing and refreshments.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I also hate this day because I was not able to have children. I was fearful of adoption because of the unknowns. I have great respect and admiration for the people who were not as fearful as I. There have been signs of life as I have grieved the loss of the unborn over the years. I was a teacher for 23+ years and had the priviledge of mothering many children. It took me awhile to understand that there would be children in my life.... just not the way I thought. Even now at 53 I have a friend who has asked me to babysit her three boys once or twice a week this summer. What a wonderful arrangement - I get to hang out with them and then send them back! It's a gift to be trusted with someone else's children. It gives me hope that I might have been a decent mom if I had been able to have my own.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
So, for Story 20 I want to share a poem written by Solomon Lee who is ten years old. He is the first child in the pic. The pic was taken over a year ago so he's even more handsome now. Please read his poem and see if you agree with me that minds and hearts like Solomon's can revive new life in the midst of what we hear in the media. This is in his spelling, punctuation, etc. Makes my teacher heart flutter!
Why fear the bully,
Or writing from scratch
Why fear those
Who think rap isn’t crap?
Yes, you can fear the massacre,
But why fear the stupid people
The goray, grotesque facts of life
Like the old age Christans being devoured by lions
Fear can be blissful,
Like a horror movie (too freaky for me.)
But don’t be scared of hell threats,
Fatigue and cancer you shouldn’t fear
But be cautious in life
Don’t fear, you shouldn’t
For I fear humanity
It doesn’t feel good, trust me
For I’m Solomon Lee!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Of course, one could really have fun creating new rituals. I like the ritual of sharing Graeter’s strawberry chip – a most holy and reverent moment. Amen.
So we’re letting go of worship being done for us and we’re allowing ourselves to be immersed as active participants. If the evening together becomes filled with worship maybe we’ll find that we have fewer questions to discuss. Who knows? Well worth the try.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I have found in my own journey with prayer that I have no problem being in an ongoing dialogue with God. We came into the world with an open line to the I Am and we’ll move through eternity with the same organic openness. I know I am the weakest link in the conversation. Can I trust what I think I’ve heard God communicating to me? I was on a path to ordination but, obviously, I got that wrong. I thought I wasn’t retiring but moving from one career path to another. I have had to deconstruct the whole notion of prayer because of getting such crucial decisions wrong and the impact this has had on my faith. Don’t get me wrong, ultimately this has not been a bad thing.
So I have completely different expectations of prayer at this stage of my spiritual life. I may still ask for direction regarding decisions to be made but I spend much more time in listening and asking for direction regarding how to just be. I find prayer to be the place where life gets centered, focused and true. K. in our community group suggested that we sit in silence with each other. I welcome this opportunity because it is much more powerful to sit with others in a centering prayer or a guided mediation then to be filling the air with requests that we know the answers to if we are asking God to show us how to be in the world.
Prayer can take on new life if we’re learning to pray out of a servant heart. Some prayer habits need to die. It’s okay.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Obviously, I am behind in writing 40 days post resurrection stories. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been searching for those places where new life is occurring. I look for it every day. As I said at the beginning of this endeavor, Lent provides us with more than ample time to focus on dying and I find this theme is prevalent in our own lives through our own experiences/conversations and media. Post Easter is the Easter season and I find that we really have to be in the present and look with new eyes for those stories of new life, reconciliation, and, yes, even miracles.
So, I am going to play catch-up today and I know no one will read all of this because I have 11 days of the 40 to catch up on. It’s entirely for my own self-discipline. So, this is one long post for you to skim, if you’re interested.
Day 14: Resurrection Stories: The Kite Runner
This story may take up more than one post here. There are some very rich lines regarding redemption. One that really resonated with me was the line spoken by Rahim Kahn which was “There is a way to be good again.” He says this to Amir to encourage him to help Hassan’s son escape Afghanistan and finally redeem himself. Amir is the main character and had a very close relationship with Hassan. I won’t go into story details just in case you haven’t read the book or still haven’t seen the movie.
If you choose, there is a way to be good again no matter what – is that not the message of the resurrection? There is nothing beyond the work of grace. There is always available a better version of who we are. If our story gets stuck and hyper focused on death and sin then we have great difficulty moving toward that better version. The Christ story is a complete story of life, death and new life. There are times that people hurt us or that we hurt others so deeply that we have to forgive them because they truly don’t comprehend what they’re doing, they don’t understand how much pain they have caused. For some reason, they (or we) aren’t capable or choose not to read the situation through a different filter. All anyone can do is ask God to forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing. You turn the pain loose and wait for new life. Sometimes it’s three days, sometimes it’s a lifetime of waiting. But there is always a way to be good again.
Day 13 Resurrection Stories: The Kite Runner
I will continue with another quote from the movie that speaks to the redemption theme. The quote is “For you, a thousand times over." This is said by Hassan to his friend, Amir, as he retrieves the winning kite that would help Amir earn his father's praises.
A thousand times over – unconditional love that transforms. Amir was forever influenced by his friend’s words to the point that he even risked his own life in the end. I can’t say much more then that without giving too much of the story away.
I’ve never met a “Hassan” and I’ve never been a “Hassan” but I can let these words rest on my heart and pray that they take root.
Day 12 Resurrections Stories: Praying with Beads
A friend of mine, Rev. Tammy Jo Reiser, clued me into a wonderful book called “Praying with Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year” by Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens. Since I make prayer beads I was delighted to connect my work with this resource. There is a great deal of reading regarding the season of Lent and I am very grateful to find these prayers for the Easter season. At the beginning of Easter season section of this book part of the introduction states:
“During this season we celebrate the Lord’s continuing presence with us on this earth. We know that Christ has promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit and is available to us through prayer.”
There are six weeks of prayers to pray with the beads that truly do celebrate the Lord’s continuing presence with us. Of course these weeks lead up to Ascension Day and then onto Pentecost.
In the second week in Easter this was the prayer for the invitatory bead:
“Everlasting God, you established the new covenant of reconciliation; grant that we who are reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s body may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith. Amen”
Truly a challenge and yet the hope of all Christ followers.
Day 11: Resurrection Stories: Naked Pastor
David Hayward has a very sharp wit through which he teaches. He is also an artist and this particular work spoke volumes to me.
Day 10: Resurrection Stories: Bob Carlton Post
Bob is one of the most amazing bloggers out there. He provides new and challenging perspectives. This post challenges our vision of post Easter days.
Day 9: Resurrection Stories: Manipulation
The resurrection story was used to manipulate me into accepting Christ as my “Lord and Savior.” I responded to the Christ story out of pure guilt. I went forward during an altar call and my sins were washed away. Apparently, that was all I needed to know. It wasn’t until years later that I began to discover the Christ story of grace…the grace that actually moves us forward toward compassion, justice and mercy.
I don’t believe the purpose of the crucifixion was to manipulate anyone emotionally. I don’t believe that we are to live with the horrendous burden of evangelism. I think the message is conveyed by how we live out the resurrection story one day at a time – one act of grace at a time.
Day 8: Resurrection Stories: The Easter Message
This is an Easter sermon by one of my favorite theologians/authors/women, Joan Chittister.
Day 7: Resurrection Stories: Reconciliation
I’ve been thinking about how much resurrection is reconciliation. Christ reconciled us to God and us to ourselves and to each other. It’s crossing those bridges that have been broken. The bridge doesn’t get crossed by being judgmental, unforgiving, or by being in denial. I don’t see this as such a personal issue as I see it much more about building the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I know it happens one person at a time but the ultimate goal is not to reconcile me to God but the world to God…. a much bigger picture then my little world. If we don’t get the big picture then we don’t grasp how crucial the work of reconciliation is in our lives.
If we raised the level of reconciliation to that of how much we focus on sin or self preservation then we might just stumble onto the path of Christ. I am a stumbler who has wrestled with the work of reconciliation. I know there’s something much more powerful about this work than any of our own needs…. as modeled to us by Christ.
Day 6: Resurrection Stories: Spiritual Direction
In the required reading for the training I am using a highlighter like mad. In the book, Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls, by Gary W. Moon and David G. Benner I found this wonderful quote about the difference between psychotherapy and spiritual direction.
“Psychotherapy is about normal making. Spiritual direction, however, is about abnormal making. For the most part, spiritual directors work with individuals who are already living close to the middle of the normal curve but desire to become abnormal – abnormally loving, peaceful, joyful, abnormally aware of God and the loving presence. In spiritual direction the goal is accompany directees on a journey toward normal kingdom living – far from the center of the world’s normal curve.”
We can look at the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and see that normal was changed forever. Cultural norms, politics, relationships were leveled and a new playing field was established. Normal is not such a good goal anymore.
Day 5: Resurrection Stories: Spiritual Direction
On March 27th and 28th Dave walked us through the steps of discernment process called a clearness committee. A Quaker technique that is very simple, of course, yet very powerful. One person talks about the area in their life where they need discernment. No one else can speak until that person feels they have adequately shared their story. We began with a centering silence. Then each person could ask just one question. This really makes you sort through your list of questions. You can’t give advice, counsel, or instructions which is tough for someone of my temperament type. I know this about myself and will always struggle with it in any discernment situation. After the questions, the person reflects verbally to the group. Then we shared our hopes for this individual.
What I was most impressed with was the movement of heaviness regarding the burden this person was carrying. I felt the heaviness move from the one person carrying it out into the group and the weight of it was diffused. In this particular situation I felt that we were there to help carry the burden for a moment in order to help this person step back and see the situation more clearly. The questions were very helpful and the person had the right to not answer the question. No decisions were made which is very difficult in this age of fast food everything. But for a moment this person was embraced, empowered and heard. That’s all most of us want in any given situation. Please pray for that this person finds new life in this situation - new life that will bless them in the now and the forever.
Day 4: Resurrection Stories: Spiritual Direction
March 27th was the day that I started back into training for three days at the School of Spiritual Direction under the umbrella of Sustainable Faith under the direction of David Nixon. It was good to be back with others on this journey. We have two more sessions between now and June 21st and I already know that I am going to miss this community.
I am beginning to see the parallels between the resurrection story and spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is simply a discernment process in finding new life. It’s finding God’s aim and following that aim toward health and wholeness. It’s finding life and living it to the full. Most people seek a spiritual director because they sense a change is on its way. Something is coming to an end because a new way of being is going to be birthed. A spiritual director is often compared to a midwife. I’ve never known the joy of birthing a child but I find great joy in being part of the soul’s birthing process.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Jesus is raised from the dead
The finding of the empty tomb
Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
Jesus is known in the breaking of bread
Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
Jesus strengthens the faith of Thomas
Jesus appears by the Sea of Tiberias
Jesus forgives Peter and commands him to
feed his sheep
Jesus commissions the disciples upon the mountain
The Ascension of Jesus
Mary and the disciples wait in prayer
The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost
Other sources, however, including some recent ones, replace some of these
Stations with others, such as:
The angel appears to the women
Jesus meets the women
Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the disciples
Jesus and the beloved disciple
Jesus appears to over five hundred at once
Jesus appears to Saul
I share this because I find the power of the resurrection released in these moments. I find this side of Easter amazingly bright and hopeful. I hope there are others (and I know a few) who would like to take part in creating these incredible moments in experiential worship. Via Crucis leads us through the stations of the cross but Via Lucis (Way of Light) is where Christ intended us to live - in the light.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
It is my prayer that new life will come from this great tragedy. Many of us remember Vietnam and most remember the Desert Storm. Now we have turned to war again. We have enough experience with war that we have witnessed that no one wins when the loss is so great.
I have hope that we’ll insist on a leader who will set us on a new path toward using our minds and hearts instead of our fists. Then the death will not be in vain because we will have moved closer toward the kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There will be a new way of life out of the pit of war.
Look at this photo made up of faces of soldiers and then choose your leader.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Yesterday, Chuck and I sat at a table with friends who are family. While death has touched all of our lives we have still found a way to come to the table with each other and find new life. The evidence of that new life was laughter.
We laughed at how the Wiggins’ are verbally challenged. I asked them in all seriousness if they wanted tofu nut coffee to which the silent reaction and looks on their faces should have told me something. Then I realized that we actually had toffee nut coffee which sounded much more appetizing. Chuck shared his story of reading that Lara Flynn Boyle is dyslexic and then thinking that must be why she’s so thin. We laughed at the South Park episode explaining the connection between the Easter Bunny and Jesus dying on the cross. Jeff brought colored eggs so he must have already known about the secret Hare Club for Men. We tried to watch the movie Enchanted and laughed at how each of us struggled to stay awake after enjoying all that wonderful food together.
Laughter is my mother’s legacy. The most laughter I’ve ever heard was at her funeral. The thing that made her happy was making others laugh. She had found a way to bring balance to all the pain in her life. It was her coping mechanism and how she found beauty in the ashes. As I spoke to individuals in the receiving line at the visitation for her, I could also hear people down the line telling stories of something funny that she had done or said. Even at her own funeral she gifted all of us with the experience of laughing in the midst of our great loss. We could go on because she had shown us how to laugh in the face of death. Life wins.
I imagine there was some laughter after Jesus returned from the dead. Laughter is the result of an unexpected outcome. There must have been laughter that gave way to joy because the unexpected outcome of life after death, resurrection not resuscitation, had been held up, for once and all, as truth.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I didn’t grow up with the practice of Lent. It has been in the past few years that I have come to understand the spiritual significance of Mardi Gras (who would with the emphasis on parades and beads), the ashes on the forehead, the stations of the cross or Maundy Thursday services. These traditions and more were new to me and rich in meaning because I didn’t have years of practice that could have possibly desensitized me to these traditions. My contemplative nature felt perfectly comfortable with the reflection and confession focus of Lent. I helped others experience the darkness leading up to Easter in the different ways that I prepared the altar/stage area for Easter services. I remember winding branches filled with thorns to make a crown of thorns that would hang on the cross. I wept as I made the crown wondering what it was like for the person who had actually made the crown of thorns for Christ. What was their experience? Did they ever come to the full realization of what they had taken part in? Did that person ever experience the message of grace?
Even with the depth that experiencing Lent carried me to it still didn’t take many years before I began to not look forward to it. It was in theology class that I began to understand why. My professor, Ty Inbody, tried to keep his own views to himself but when pushed to share his own theology he did it in two words: death and resurrection. I understood then why 40 days of Lent were too much for me because the focus was significantly on death. The joy and celebration of the resurrection was given one day and then Easter was gone in a moment.
I want and I need 40 days post Easter filled with resurrection stories. I want to think about how my time with my grandfather will be resurrected one day. I want to remember how my grandfather was consumed with his faith and how my grandmother had to keep an eye on him or he would give away everything they owned. I want to figure out how to give eggs filled with prize money to the children who need it. I want to know that a crown of thorns can be a catalyst for transformation.
I want to hear all the ways that death is not the end – but the beginning.