Saturday, July 21, 2007
Just got back from a long bike ride (the first in six long years) with T and our friend J. The portion of the trip on bike trails was delicious and therapeutic; the part on busy roads, not so much. But I'm glad we went. There's a funny thing about exercise that I can never seem to remember when I'm considering whether or not to haul my butt into motion on a particular day: I always feel much better afterwards. More settled and happy. It needs to become part of what I do daily to stay strong and happy, like flossing (I'll have to tell my flossing conversion story later, but it's worth it!).
Monday, July 09, 2007
Terry spent last week at our priest's cabin in the foothills of the Appalachians, and I was lucky to be able to join him for a few days for a wonderful spate of sabbath rest. There's no phone, no Internet, no radio or TV, no getting or spending to lay waste our powers. Just the voice of the river and play-time and cooking and being together. The cabin itself is very cozy and well-designed, too, with lots of natural wood and deck-space.
Last night, after getting back, we went over to K&M's to hang out, have a few drinks, and process the week. We ended up watching a show K had TiVo'd called something like, America's Messiest House Contest. People send in video of their messy house, and judges pick the messiest house for a makeover. Apparently, America's Messiest House is in Pascataway, NJ. Watching is almost a little painful, as the residents get called on the carpet and badgered to get rid of things, but the degree of sheer clutter in their house was truly sobering. The family chosen also had some lingering grief issues over a husband/father's untimely death and seemed to be expressing their inability to move forward in their surroundings.
From what I could tell, there were two major motivations for the kind of hoarding exhibited, which, though extreme, was different only in degree and not in kind from the accumulation of stuff many of us are prone to:
1) "That belonged to Daddy," or "That reminds me of my husband..." Having dealt with the detritus of my mother's life, I am particularly sympathetic to this one. For a long time, I couldn't bear to throw away anything in which I could discern her hand: nothing she wrote or knit or sewed or drew. I just couldn't bring myself to throw away any evidence of her having lived for fear of extinguishing her memory. Over time, I realized that I had no special attachment to a majority of these things and that I bore her memory in my very cells. Why should I haul around this stuff like a talisman? My mother's truest life is "hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3) I don't need to keep it safe by holding on to her things. So, I've kept a few things that have special meaning for me. The rest of I've thrown away or given away to folks who can enjoy them.
2) "You never know when I might need that (whatzits)..." This is a real demon of anxiety, preying on the minds of the living. Ironically, its voice is most vociferous in a culture like ours, which is, frankly, saturated with consumer goods. My amateur pet economic theory, derived from everything we went through to clean out our house when we moved, is that we live in an economy that produces a dizzying multitude of consumer goods whose only value is their newness. In other words, for the most part, we are not paying for utility or beauty or craftsmanship usually. We are simply paying for newness. And once we have taken the product off the shelf and paid the nice cashier for it, its value depreciates almost immediately to zero (or a negative value, since it will cost something to us or to the landfill or the environment to get rid of). What I'm discovering this summer, while I'm living without the majority of my worldly goods, is that I need a good bit less than I think. And not having to store or shuffle around or keep track of stuff I don't use is liberating in a biblical sense. It is a release from slavery. Granted, I'm looking forward to getting especially my books and our kitchen stuff back, but perhaps with a clearer sense that I'm using them, rather than they using me. Look at everything around: if it is not useful or beautiful or beloved, consider getting rid of it. It's a worthy exercise, and spiritually edifying.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
These are just notes of a sermon I preached at my home church today.
I want to see an icon written that has Jesus with his back to us, walking along a road, perhaps with a star ahead of him, definitely in mid-stride. Because that's what some of the folks in our Gospel saw of Jesus after they asked him to wait, just, just, a second, *first* I have to… No. Now. The train is pulling out of the station. Are you getting on?
Can you imagine what they must've felt as they watched him walk away? The longing, the anger, the resentment? So why have an icon of it?! Well, I think it's also an icon of hope, as I hope you'll see.
The Scriptures are not, in general, full of people seeking God. The Scriptures are full of people being sought by God, being pulled up short and shaken up by God. But from what I can see, the call will come not when you are expecting it, but when you are not. Elisha was at his plow, Moses tending Jethro's flocks, Matthew at his tax collector's table, Peter and James and Andrew at their nets. It will come when you are holding on the phone, or writing an e-mail, weeding your garden, or cooking a meal. It will come while you're checking your Blackberry or changing a diaper or waiting to cross the street. But when the call comes, we have to understand that it may not come again. You will never be this person, responding to this call, at this particular time, ever again.
This gets at a concept of the ancient world that comes in handy here. There is such a thing as kairos: the right time. And the wrong time. Bakers can tell you this, and wine makers, and farmers.
'But, wait, I have to…?' Tell that to the bread in the oven or the ripe tomato hanging low on the vine. No. Now. These are not silly things these folks want to do! 'I have to bury my father.' What more fundamental moral duty is there than to bury one’s parents, if it’s possible? But Jesus said, The time for you is right now: let someone else do that. The audacity of Jesus! This is no 'Savior, meek and mild.' [NB: You'll note that 'Let the dead bury their own dead' is not a verse often used at funerals!]
'I have to say good-bye to the people I love, those that love me.' No. Now. There's another example of Jesus' famous family values for you! Even Elisha got to have a cook-out for the village before leaving to follow Elijah, but not so the followers of Jesus.
Jesus says 'No,' not because these are bad things to do, but because putting my to-do list before the life-giving Dominion of God is a pernicious habit of mind that is difficult to escape and spiritually dissipating. A life spent paying attention to what’s crying out for attention rather than what’s most important wakes up one day to find the credits rolling and no time left to do what most needed doing.
From a translation of the poetry of Sufi mystic Rumi by Coleman Barks: “There is one thing in this world that you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there's nothing to worry about; but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing with your life. It's as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human beings come into this world to do a particular work… If you don't do it, it's as though a priceless Indian sword were used to slice rotten meat. It's a golden bowl being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots. It's a knife of the finest tempering nailed into a wall to hang things on.”
Here's the truth we all know at some level but need to be reminded of when we get drowsy or distracted. We have a finite number of days in this life; no one knows how many. Is there always a reason to put off commitment, to be prudent in investing your life? Of course. If there weren't, we might not be so prone to doing it. Don't put off following Jesus. When the call comes, no matter what the cost, say ‘Yes.’
This same Jesus that demands so much is also offering us a gift: single-mindedness. Plow a straight row; prepare the earth for fruitfulness by keeping your eyes on Jesus and following where he leads. Looking back means the furrows will be crooked and shallow. No time for nostalgia, that delicious longing for a past that never was. No time for regrets or wishing things had been different: they weren't. Keep your eye on that strong back in motion. See how the icon of Christ's back can be empowering? As Buckminster Fuller said, God is a verb! As you pay attention to the task and follow his lead, the plow will break up the ground under your feet. Understand that this is what comes first. You're not even ready to plant yet!! First you have to prepare the ground, plow faithfully and carefully, to break up the dry clods at the surface of your life and release the loamy moist interior. Then perhaps the seed can take root.
What does following Jesus look like? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t look like: calling down fire to rain from heaven on your enemies or those you fear.. The days of those pyrotechnics are long over. Jesus is asking for something greater, something much closer to the heart of God.
Think of the icon of Jesus walking away. I love it because it tells us that this act of adoration is not a picture show, a movie we can behold passively. There’s a reason why the early Jesus movement was called People of the Way. We've got to move! Follow that man! Go where you think he would be. Listen. Spend time in the wilderness wrestling with our demons. Travel light. Tell the good news of God's love for each and all. Feed the hungry. Eat with all kinds of people. Heal the sick. Bind up the broken-hearted. Seek out the lost. Answer questions with more questions. And don't forget: following Jesus leads to
Following Jesus might lead to overturning the tables in the
It’s tempting to think – first, I have to be a better person – first, I have to get my act together – first, I have to have a firmer faith – first, I have to be sure –first, I have to be able to say the creed without smirking or grimacing – No. When the chance comes, take the first step. Follow that back. Go!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Friday, May 18, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
I've just learned that I've been admitted to the next step of the ordination process in the Episcopal Church. I'm now a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of North Carolina. (translation: we've grilled you enough for now. we like you! go on to seminary and have some fun.) The Bishop and I have agreed that I'll go to General Theological Seminary in New York. I am incalculably grateful for the grace that has brought me to this moment.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam shehecheyanu v'kiyemanu v'higiyanu laz'man ha-zeh.
"“Blessed art thou, Lord our God, Master of the universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and has enabled us to see this day."
Suddenly the waiting is over and there's lots to do. I ask your prayers and continued good thoughts as I move into the next phase of formation. And move to the Big Apple!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Terry and I have gone to their large main Eucharist the past couple of Sundays, and I already like how different from my usual experience it is. I'm used to small, come-as-you-are churches that are a little impromptu and lumpy and where a lot depends on individuals. CotC is large, affluent, and formal, which made me a little apprhensive at first, but the folks I've met are very kind and warm. I'm looking foward to finding my place in this large, thriving community with such a long history.
For those who might be interested in moot points, I got a very respectable score on the April MCAT: 33 (10 Physical Sciences, 11 Biological Sciences, 12 Verbal Reasoning). All together, I scored around the 87th percentile, though my VR was a good bit better than the other sub-tests. My essay was graded a Q, which is definitely respectable but not stellar. It was the best I could do in thirty minutes! My best writing most often requires editing. For now, I'm happy just sticking that experience in my pocket and wondering what I'll do with it. Still, it gives me a nice shot of self-confidence to know that I sat for such a grueling test and was able to perform well.
Why does the summer seem so long to me? Terry and I had a great time last weekend, though, at a swimming hole on the Eno River in Durham. The water was high and cool and delicious. Next time, we have to remember to bring floating devices and lunchables. Still, it was an intoxicatingly fun day. I'm not good at playing, so I rarely make time for it. I'd forgotten how delightful and restful a day of playful activity can be. I've got to make room for more!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The key, I think, is to remember that I'm doing what I'm doing to accompany and imitate Jesus in his fasting in the desert, preparing himself to face "our ancient foe." (Matthew 4:1-11) That's one of my guiding texts as I consider. I think Jesus was led by the Spirit to fast in the desert because he needed to master the force of craving. But not as an exercise in denying or loathing the created world. I think he wanted to face two essential questions:
Will my desire for the cucumbers, melons, and leeks of Egypt lead me back into slavery? (Numbers 11:5)
What if Israel had gone back into slavery for some nice soup instead of this manna, day in, day out? What if Abraham had waved off God's "Go!" to stay in the green land between the rivers? What if Ruth had gone back to her people and left Naomi to fend for herself? What if Mary had said, "I'll be the laughing-stock of the village. Find some other maiden. I just want a nice marriage and some normal children with my husband?" What if Jesus had turned back from his ministry and the cross at the end of it because it's much more comfortable to have somewhere to lay your head and to avoid pissing off powerful people? Following where God leads will probably involve discomfort (at the very least). Might as well train for it while you can.
When I am presented with what I want, will I be able to say "no" if I know that someone will be hurt by my getting it?
It doesn't have to be anything major. Maybe it's casually interrupting someone in order to be heard. Maybe it's eating chocolate made from cocoa picked by people suffering outside my realm of concern. Maybe it's enjoying inexpensive consumer goods without worrying about why they're so cheap. Many religious traditions, not just the monotheistic ones, teach that craving messes with the ability to choose with integrity: it makes us double-hearted. I don't think I can purge that kind of double-heartedness entirely, but maybe I can train myself to become compassionately aware of it so I can put off what I want in the moment for the sake of allowing more love into the world, for the flowering of God's gift of freedom.
I'm also aware, though, of another guiding text from the Gospel, excerpted from a paraphrase of the Bible I like, The Message:
When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint. If you "go into training" inwardly, act normal outwardly.
So there will be no blogging about my Lenten discipline! ;) Still, it's always heartening to be assured of company on the journey, so I welcome encouragement and support.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Just two things today. Lots of change has been roiling in the depths of my life and is now breaking the surface. Though my decision is provisional (as any), I have decided not to apply to medical school. I have had misgivings about a career in medicine for a long time, the most salient being that I don't think it's my vocation. I know it's strange to talk about vocation, but it's the best way I can describe it. As I took classes and got deeper and deeper in to the pre-med world, my original vocation to the ministry began flashing insistently, like a warning light, impossible to ignore. But not threatening. Attractive, incredibly attractive. I began to have serendipitous experiences of joy in liturgy and teaching (e.g. spontaneous weeping for joy--understand, please, I'm not an emotional person--at the end of a St. Gregory's style Morning Prayer at a conference in January). So, I'll be entering the Diocesan Discernment process in the Diocese of North Carolina in the coming months. I know how grueling and unpredictable the ordination process can be, so I'm not putting too many eggs in that basket. But I have positively located what the eggs are in my life: my love for the disciplines and community of faith simply cannot be ignored.
Last word for the day: a sketch of my daily blog-crawl. First, I usually go to Real Live Preacher, whose writing I love. Then, a blast through Dylan Breuer's blog Sarah Laughed. Through RLP, I have also discovered Don't Eat Alone, which I'm really enjoying, especially the recent conversation about chocolate (who knew there are de facto slaves picking cocoa beans in Ivory Coast to make my Hershey's Kisses!?!). As for me and my house, only Fair Trade Chocolate from now on.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
1. Gabe needs them real!
2. Gabe needs to show more power and vastly improved plate discipline.
3. Gabe needs his own forum at this point.
4. Gabe needs work.
5. Gabe needs Gel.
6. Gabe needs presents, too.
7. Gabe needs a black, brown or similar color of 5 1/2 school shoes and sneakers.
8. Gabe needs to be quite effeminate.
9. Gabe needs his trusty old air taser.
10. Gabe needs to do it more for kicks.