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27 April 2011

Resurrection Season

The North American spring makes it easy to believe in resurrection. Death has given birth to life. The readings from the Easter vigil romp across the bible declaring that the God of creation in Genesis is the God who delivers in Exodus, guides (whether anyone follows or not) in the monarchy, calls for justice and righteousness in the Prophets, accompanies in the exile and promises hope and restoration at the end of the (first) canon. The Gospels proclaim that the same God is the God of Jesus of Nazareth who raised him from the dead, bringing new life to all who follow his life and teachings. Though it may lead to our death, it will lead to our resurrection.
Even without the vigil readings, the Easter message proclaims the power of God in and through Jesus, his life, his teaching, his example, his execution, his resurrection. The alleluias are still ringing, the lilies are still blooming.
Many priests, pastors and preachers will follow their resurrection sermons with sermons on doubt. The story of Thomas forever known as the doubter because he wanted to be sure, to see for himself that the impossible was possible, is the next story in the designated lessons for churches that follow the lectionary.
While I am not preaching Thomas this year, I find myself reflecting on him. More, what he represents. The world in which Christ is risen looks a lot like the world in which Christ was executed. With very few exceptions. A few women saw conflicting and perhaps unconvincing evidence (on its own). God sent beings of power and light to proclaim the resurrection, interpret and exegete the evidence of the empty tomb, because there was room for doubt. We who believe, must believe them who we have never seen.
And we have learned to look for signs of resurrection in the world, like signs of spring in the midst of winter. And for too many, it is still winter. Those who were hungry before Easter are hungry still. Those who were lonely before Easter are lonely still. Those who were homeless before Easter are homeless still. Those who were broken before Easter are broken still. Some, perhaps not all.
We who say we have seen the signs of resurrection and believe live in a crucified and crucifying world. I don't blame Thomas for asking for proof. I want more than proof. I want to see the resurrection of the whole world. I want to see the power of Pentecost transform church and society. I want to see the reign of God in our midst, with liberty and justice for all. I'm waiting for the world to change. Call me Thomasina.

25 April 2011

A Lenten Journey on the Road

This year I walked the way of the cross a long way from home. I found it easier to keep my Lenten commitments so far from my ordinary life. It's not that there were not temptations in my journeying-place. Perhaps it was that they were different temptations, ones that did not call me from my practices in the same ways as did the old familiar temptations.
I did struggle with the austerity of Lent in a place bursting with life and color and sun for which winter was only a brief series of passing rainstorms. I did not know how much I associated my North American winter with Lent.
On Palm Sunday I found myself in a place that could have supplied its own palms for that first Palm Sunday. I imagined the children and young men skinnying up those palm trees and pulling down branches, throwing them to the rest of us. In fact we walked on them on our way into the church. That moved me in a way none of my winter-turned-spring Palm Sundays at home ever have.
Then came the dark days of Triduum. Yet the days were not dark. The sun shone and the flowers bloomed and the birds sang. And the skies were blue. And the ocean lapped softly (and not so softly as the waves crashed on the rocks). I burned bundles of frankincense to remind myself of the sacrifice I was commemorating. I dressed in black. I entered the most austere phase of my Lenten fast. And still felt the joy of this beautiful place and I felt guilt for feeling that joy.
I remember walking the Way of Sorrows last year in Jerusalem. We walked through a busy market place, buying and selling, people everywhere, children running, men drinking coffee, women shopping - it was an outdoor mall. Stopping to touch the stones pray and remember while all around us life went on - very much as I imagine it had on that Friday two thousand years ago - was dizzying and somber. I felt like a spectacle and a tourist and a pilgrim. (I took the photo of the cross on top of the Golgotha church from the place where it is said Jesus would have first seen the place of his execution with the cross-stake implanted in the ground.) I draw on that experience for these days.
Here we walked around the church and on the holy ground of the burying place, finishing our prayers in the columbarium chapel among the cremains of the faithful. The walls were draped with living-and-dying flowers, witnesses to and promises of the Resurrection that will be located partially in that holy space, the footstep of heaven. There was something so powerful about proclaiming the death of Jesus while surrounded by the holy dead.
The life and death of Jesus took place in the midst of a world of living and dying, rejoicing and suffering. The world went on after his death and still it goes on...

23 April 2011

Sitting Shiva for Yeshua (Jesus)

We came home, to an empty home
to sit shiva for my son
my daughters and I, my sons and 
the ghost of the man who promised to raise him as his own son.

The rabbis say that shiva does not begin until after the burial
but we could not even bury him.

Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat of Pesach
means that I am anointing a lamb shank with spices
when I were that it was the body of my son.

I think back on the seder plate my daughters set last night
and all I taste is the marror, the bitterness.
The haroset, the sweetness has turned to dust in my mouth.
I can no longer remember its taste.

Sitting on this earthen floor
looking at my bare feet in the light of the shiva candle
I remember his tiny feet and curled toes
and I remember the hammering, hammering, hammering - 
his beautiful feet!

People come and go, bringing food, covering the mirrors
sitting with us.
I see them and then they are gone
a sea of faces
a blur of words
I know they mean well.

Was there a second seder tonight? 
I can't remember.
There are eggs. The Pesach eggs have become shiva eggs.

No one has to remind us not to bathe or dress 
or comb our hair or change our clothes.
I will sit in this place until havdalah
when the sun sets on Shabbat.

Then I will go to him, my child, and bathe him again.
They tell me that I can not, that I should not,
that it will be too hard for me to see him, smell him.
I cannot bear to never see him again.
I cannot bear seven days of this...

22 April 2011

Leavetaking

I am preparing to leave a place that I love. And  it is sad. Even though I plan to return. I am so grateful for this time of rest, reflection, lenten observance and sabbatical. And I am looking forward to what lies ahead. Yet there is sorrow.
My mind races ahead to all that lies before me. I am looking forward to returning home and then going on the next leg of my journey. Sometimes I get so caught up in what lies ahead that I neglect the present diminishing joy. It is so hard to live in the present. The future looms so large.

After the Execution

The world has changed. And it has not. So many executions murders and martyrdoms. How long after Jesus died was the next poor soul executed on that hill?

19 April 2011

Reflections on an Uneven (Unleavened?) Lenten Practice

The best way to ensure that I will not do something everyday is apparently for me to vow or even plan that I will do it every day. This is especially true for Lenten disciplines, even with Sundays off. This Lenten season was as those before, a fully incarnational experience. While it was not an intentional part of my practice (to fail or be unable to fully complete or preform the observances I had set), I did benefit from an increased awareness of my frailties and failings, my shared humanity. And, I did not beat myself up this year, (or at least not as much as in other years).
There were other benefits as well, even though I go to the gym several days a week, I had (and am having) a wonderful time walking almost every day, twice some days. I am seeing some slight but welcome changes in my body. I hope to keep walking when I return home, even though the scenery isn't as compelling. And at some point the weather back home will call that commitment into question. There is always the gym.
I even ate a little bit better. And that is so hard for a woman who doesn't cook much or well. I shall try to extend my commitment to eating at least one fresh, preferably raw, fruit, vegetable or serving of nuts a day. Sounds pitifully inadequate, doesn't it? Yet some days I couldn't even manage that. I'll also continue to give myself a day off. That helped with the guilt cycle.
On the other hand, I found a new way of praying that blesses my soul. And for that I am truly grateful.

18 April 2011

Maya Angelou's Letter to Me

Today I sat down and read Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter.
She wrote it to me. And you.
Here are the pieces I know she wrote for me:

I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you. 

We must call the ravening act of rape, the bloody, heart-stopping, breath-snatching, bone-crushing act of violence, which it is.

Each time my search for true love
leads me to the gates of hell
where Satan waits with open arms
I imagine...

I am a builder
Sometimes I have built well, but often
I have built without researching the ground
upon which I put my building
I raised a beautiful house
and I lived in it for a year
Then it slowly drifted away with the tides
for I had laid the foundation
upon shifting sand

Another time I erected a
mansion, the windows shining
like mirrors
and the walls were hung
with rich tapestry, but the earth shook with a
slight tremor, and the walls gave way, the floors opened
and my castle fell into pieces around my feet...

I have found that the platonic affection
in friendships and the familial

love for children can be relied upon
with certainty to lift the bruised soul
and repair the wounded spirit
and I am finished with
erotic romance.

Until...





17 April 2011

Fragrant Prayer


Rivers of smoke wafting heavenwards
more than bear my prayer in visible form;
are prayer, my prayer, prayer for me.
When I cannot, know not, what or how to pray
holy scents cross from earth to heaven.
Clearing, calming, soothing,
fragrant prayer.

15 April 2011

Unanswered Prayers

There are so many unanswered prayers in the world.
I hesitate to add mine to them.
Do I have the right to ask for what I want
when so many do not have what they need?

12 April 2011

I'm Also Having an Affair

I didn't mean to, but I fell in love with my sabbatical parish. It's the same old story - the one I have at home doesn't treat me like the new one. The one at home takes me for granted; the passion is gone. And this new one is so good to me and makes me so very happy.
Here, I am reveling in my vocation: the teaching and preaching is a gift and a calling. It's working; I'm appreciated. My colleague and I work well together. I feel valued, wanted, welcome. All of which throws into sharp relief how used and taken for granted I feel at home sometimes.
Why can't it always be like this? Why can't it be like this with one to whom I'm committed? Why can't I stay here? Is this just the hormonal flush of new love? If it is, I don't care!
I know this love won't last forever. I know I'll have to go home eventually. I know I'll have to go back to that other relationship. I'm not looking forward to that.
So what happens after an affair? Do you go back to your old situation with your new knowledge of how it can be? Do you leave your old love for a (another) new love in hopes of having the kind of love you had in your affair?
I'm having an affair and I intend to savor every sweet moment until we have to say goodbye.

I'm Having Twins! [Update to "Writing Through"]

In Writing Through I wrote about the anxiety I was experiencing writing this next book. It felt like it was too much, too big, much more than the publisher and I had agreed upon and I was concerned. I called my midwife/editor and he (midhusband?) diagnosed: twins! I am now writing a two-volume production. I feel much better. And I promise, no triplets!

09 April 2011

An Unhealed Hurt

A ghost from my past found me today.
I was in the sun and did not think I could be shadow-cast.
I can neither drive you out nor lay you to rest.
Why do you haunt me?
Or am I haunting myself?

07 April 2011

Writing Through...

I'm writing my next book. It's the one that I feel I was born to write. All of my teaching and preaching have come out of this unwritten book - or perhaps I write another page each time I teach or preach. Sometimes it feels to big. How can I get it all down in the time I have allotted? My sabbatical is ticking away!
As of today I have 26 pages of introduction, 99 pages of text, 9 pages of topics/subjects - I just got an idea, I'll list each subject as a cloud to shorten the table of contents, and a couple of pages of glossary. I am clearly no slacker. I have been at this full time since January plus three weeks last summer.
But it still feels like it is too big and much too much! I have never missed a publishing deadline, but this feels different. My last book was rather savagely edited by my dissertation editor so it was already vetted when I submitted it. I've written countless essays, articles and chapters - yet this feels different. I keep telling myself that this book is a collection of essays, articles and chapters. But I still feel overwhelmed at times.
The project is becoming something that I did not envision and I fear losing control. I like - I love - the project that I first envisioned. It has already gone through one major change which I received as refiner's fire. Is it - am I - flexible enough to endure more change? What if the book now writing itself is not the one I thought I was writing? (And not exactly the one I promised my publisher?)
This is my generative gift. I don't have children and will never give birth. This is the thing I bring forth from myself and see taking on a life of its own and it is frightening and exhilarating. This is no mere writer's block!

03 April 2011

Rose Sunday

In honor of the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary on this Rose Sunday:


01 April 2011

More on the Jihad of Lent

I have previously blogged on the Jihad of Lent.
Today's struggle was occasioned by leaving the cocoon of my retreat space. As soon as I hit the city streets I thought of all the things I could eat! I didn't. Nor did I buy the piece of jewelry. I did pick up a few extra provisions that were permissible if I eat them appropriately - not all at once and having eaten what I was supposed to beforehand.
I am puzzled why being indoors here doesn't push me to mindless eating as it does at home. I am still surrounded by easy and less healthy choices. (And the last time I was here I certainly availed myself of them.)
Something is different now. Perhaps my intentionality, prayer and study are having a cumulative effect on my ability to practice self-denial. That would be nice.

OK, So I'm Not A Complete (Lenten) Failure

I am doing ever so much better with my Lenten resolutions. It seem that my recent change of scenery helped. I have fewer excuses for not exercising. (But if it were about making excuses, it shouldn't matter where I am.) I stocked up on fresh fruit and other healthy goodies (I did at home too, but here I'm eating them). I wonder if it's because I don't have a routine here and everything is new. I know exactly where to go for burgers and BBQ (which aren't off limits but greatly reduced and to be preceded by healthy "-ier" food). I wonder how much of it is simply being in a new place. As before, my prayer practices are rich and nurturing. And I am grateful. I am extra grateful that I no longer feel like a failure with regard to my sacrificial discipline. (And how sad is it that eating healthier is "sacrificial"!)