My Life

Being Excellent, resistance edition

When I worked at camp, you could quickly tell the returning staff from the new staff each summer by how our boss’s wife’s requests were responded to.
New staff were often confused and uncertain of what to do when this smart and assertive woman who was not part of the staff made a request or comment. Which is very understandable. Camp is an odd workplace in that we all lived there–alongside the director’s family who lived there year round.
Experienced staff, those of us who had acclimated to how the domestic and professional rubbed against each other, depended on each other, knew that our boss’s wife was very important to us, to our work, and to how we’d live this summer.
Because her happiness was important to her husband, our boss. Because our boss’s happiness improved our lives. But mostly because community isn’t about hierarchy, it’s about everyone’s safety and happiness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

img_3581

nasty: adjective 1. highly accomplished, fierce, unwilling to be walked upon, up to the task of changing the world.  (With thanks to my tribe of clergy women)

Yesterday I walked my dog. Wrote. Knitted. Avoided Facebook. I worked on my sermon. I toasted the resistance with a nasty woman cocktail. I donated to Planned Parenthood because they’ll need the support.

How to face yesterday and the four years it inaugurated has been on my mind for awhile. And what I did, it’s remarkably similar in action, though not tone, to what I would’ve done if Mrs Clinton has won.

Yesterday I sunk into what I love about myself and my life.  I practiced being excellent at who I am and what I do.

Because the work of justice and love I was vowed to in my baptism, it continues either way. Just as it has through President Obama’s administration. It gets harder, a lot harder, but the need to proclaim and practice the equality of God’s children, all of God’s children, remains.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s never been more important to be good at what we do.”
I’ve had this line, written by Aaron Sorkin and used in The West Wing and Studio 60, running in my head since early November.

I went to bed November 8 sure that Trump would be the President Elect. I went to bed scared and woke to horror and terror with and for women, immigrants, people of colour, people with chronic illness and disability, LGBTQ+, for so many of my friends and family, for so many beloved children of God.

We who believe that the government should protect women, people of colour, people with chronic illness and disability, LGBTQ+, and immigrants have reasons to grieve. Our country voted against us and our interests.

It is hard to not be with my country right now. My privilege of living in a country where there is nearly universal access to healthcare, where we can at last begin to discuss and respond to the centuries of aggression by settlers against indigenous peoples, where I have a very good chance of remaining for the rest of my life feels amazing and sad.

The world might be scarier, might be becoming infinitely dangerous for people who have long lived on the margins of safety, but being Christian has never meant living in safety. It’s never meant living in a world with just and reasonable governments. It’s never been about seeking power or acting out of fear or anger.
I’ve been thinking about the power hungry government that crucified Jesus and martyred so many Christians. I’ve been thinking about the fruits of the spirit. Love joy peace patience kindness goodness and self-control. Paul wrote that against these things there is no law.
From Corrie Ten Boom who went to Ravensbuck Concentration Camp for loving her Jewish neighbours to those arrested for feeding the homeless a few days ago, we know Paul was occasionally wrong.
And, by their witness and the witness of the great cloud of saints, we know the importance of practicing the fruits of the spirit anyways.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~ Audre Lorde (more on the source of this quote here.)

I settled on my tasks yesterday because these next years are going to require the best of each of us. And this is who I am. A priest, a wife, an ex-pat in love with both her countries, a dog owner, a writer, a knitter. These are the things that fill my life and activate and enable my resistance. Today  I continue the work of taking care of my chronically ill female self, of all the parts of my self that my country, and sometimes my family, acquaintances, and church would prefer if they were less liberal, less ill, less female, less vocal.

These next four years matter. To country and economics, but even more to neighbours and friends. Because love and justice are defined by  those who receive our actions.
Take care of yourself. Take care of your neighbours. Practice the fruits of the spirit. Remember to look after everyone’s safety and happiness. Make space in your community and life for those our culture and politics would rather not exist.

Great and amazing things may be required of us in the years ahead. It’s okay. We’ve done them before and, yes, we can do them again.

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”
Gal 5:22-23

“It’s never been more important to be good at what we do.”

It’s time to be excellent.
Yes, we can.

Categories: My Life, writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

There is a balm in Galilee

There is a balm in Galilee. 

Or at least that’s what I’m looking and hoping for, a balm in Galilee. 

The better known Balm of Gilead is only mentioned a few times in scripture and always as something with extraordinary healing properties, rare, and valuable.  The idea was later adopted and incorporated into an African American Spiritual.  “There is a balm in Gilead/to heal the sin sick soul.”

I’d take the balm of Gilead.  I’ve a chronic condition, or few, that it’d be nice to treat for the last time.  But the balm I’m looking and hoping for in Galilee, especially in Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s metaphorical Galilee, is not the mythical or magical balm of Gilead.   

I want the balm that will help the church, my well loved church, see me as a priest with chronic health issues, not as a problem to be fixed with doctors notes or only spoken of in hushed tones among trusted confidantes or endlessly suspect (“she says she has migraines, but who really knows” or worse “how can she pretend to do this demanding job if she’s in as much pain as she says”). 

It’s only been in the last year that I’ve found the courage to risk telling people I didn’t already trust about my chronic health issues.  My suspicion was well learned.  My health issues preceded my ordination and it was mentors and leaders I’d both trusted and been required to trust with my still new realities that advised me in my first job search not to mention the brain surgeries or the migraines, or suggested a doctors note certifying that I could work, and (in the same conversation) assured me that any congregation which rejected me for these reasons wasn’t worth working for.

That was a long time, several jobs, and many blogs posts ago.  And the church hasn’t changed.  I know I’ve lost jobs for alluding to my health conditions and I prefer not to think about those who may have seen the same sentences and just never responded.  I’ve received various advice from colleagues and congregants about my migraines, little of which my doctor agreed with.  And I’ve learned that I’m not alone.   

Along with friends who also live with chronic health conditions, more and less formal collegial groups who live with chronic health conditions, and friends who know how to listen, I’ve done my research and reading. 50% North Americans live with a chronic health condition, many of which we cannot see and society and the church prefer we not talk about.  Half of us. I am so far from alone.

The balm I want Galilee to hold is not a cure for me.  It is a road to Damascus falling away of the scales for my Church.  Stop pretending I’m not here.  Stop talking as though only old people were sick or in pain.  See me, hear me.  Find a way to hold both my gifts and my pain.  More concretely

  • Unlearn cliches.  (Some examples here)
  • See people not diagnoses.
  • Don’t offer treatment advice unless asked.  Not even that thing that was a miracle for your aunt/cousin/self.
  • Respect their language choices.  Some people use disability, some chronic illness.  I’ve opted for chronic health condition here.
  • Make one change every year to make your church more accessible.  Here are 50 ideas. 
  • Stop preaching in Jesus’ healing as psychological or community wholeness.  It was, but scripture says people were healed.  Some of us would love to have our pain relieved and it hasn’t happened even after, in many cases, sincere faith and years of prayer.
  • Get serious about the health benefits you provide your employees.  Copays for doctor visits, medications, limited sick days, plans that only cover the ER if you are admitted to the hospital are some of the barriers to people taking care of themselves. 
  • Stock some Empathy Cards and send those.
  • Chronic illness is long term and one day at a time.  There are good, bad, and in between days.  Trust people to judge their ability that day.
  • Educate your parishioners.  That can be serious or silly. 

Most of us live with, care for, or love someone with a chronic health condition.  May Galilee be a place where the Church can be healed of it’s blindness and ableism; a place where all of God’s children are encouraged to participate in the ways that best suit them.

Blog Force Participant

Categories: Church, My Life, Theology | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pentecost: A Poem Preached

Last year I got captivated by Josh Ritter’s “A Girl in the War” which influence my sermon.  After preaching at both services, I realized that it really had been a poem.  Over the course of the year, I’ve come back to my notes from the week and from re-listening to the sermon.  Here’s what that turned into.

Last time it was a dove

Remember,
Jesus and John at the river Jordan
People pressing forward,
Hoping to see, to understand
The heavens split and
The Lord God Almighty spoke,
But it was a dove
A bird of peace and promise
With words of love and support
‘This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased’
A passing of the torch
More than a beginning
John, who baptized in the wilderness,
Performing his ultimate act as forerunner
Inaugurating his cousin,
The Messiah, the one everyone was waiting for
And no one expected

And the heavens split
The Holy Spirit descended
Delighted to be a dove

Three years of dusty roads
Campfires and strange stories
Healings and promises;
Terror and threat
Ending with crucifixion
And an empty tomb
Fifty days of walking through walls
Fish on the beach and broken nets
finding Jesus in broken bread
Then the Risen Messiah
Ascended back into heaven

I wonder how many of the people
Who had pressed forward
on the banks of the Jordan that morning
Fearfully retreated in the upper room
Remembered when the heavens last split open
And looked for a dove

The Spirit which descended,
Driving disciples into the street,
Did not delight in being a dove

This morning the Spirit breathed fire

Perhaps because dragons have exist
Since before they were in our books and TV
We knew they could inspire empires;
Before we drew them in the unknown edges of maps
We knew they could entice us further than we’ve ever gone before

Today is Pentecost.
The Spirit, not a dove, not a dragon,
Breathed fire;
Breathed the Church
And passed the torch
The disciples poured out
And became a holy spectacle
Unable to hold the fire of God’s message in their bones
Unable to keep God’s love contained.

Today is Pentecost.
We are given God’s message of love
We are the torch,
Fire breathed and Spirit driven
Sent, to be the Church
To be a Holy Spectacle
Unable to do anything other than share God’s love

Categories: My Life, writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

I Choose to Stay

A recent post by Tony Jones on Theoblogy called for a schism over the question of women’s ordination.** This has kicked off some response.

I, as a woman ordained in a liberal branch of Christ’s Church, don’t agree.
You might think that I’d appreciate the solidarity for women’s ordination. After all I get quizzical looks and questions about being a nun when I’m in my collar.

I love my Church. I delight in my priesthood.
And I too choose to stay.

I stay after my weight, my marital status, my age, my health are all topics I’ve been asked about in job interviews,* and by mentors. I stay after hearing the leader of my parish label my desire to be acknowledged as a member of the parish as an inappropriate need to feel important. I stay after mentors, cornerstones of the Church made inappropriate jokes about my apparel. I stay after conversation after conversation where I have to repeat that “I’m the priest.” I stay after numerous people assume that my honesty, lauded as vulnerability in older men, is weakness. I stay after my questions are dismissed because they relate to women, pregnancy, and work. I stay after conversations where largely male colleagues left me to make the point that sexism and inequality still exist. I stay knowing I have colleagues who believe my person, my theology, and my resulting actions are an affront to the Gospel we both believe in. I stay even though my therapists ask me why I stay.
I choose to stay.

Not because I believe that unity should be stronger than our differences. Not because I know that every group of people will not perfectly agree on any issue. Not because Church isn’t suppose to be easy. Not because they let me. Not because they ordained me. Not because I fear leaving.

I’ve thought about leaving.
I have sat in the pews of Churches that make different, arguably less horrible, mistakes than mine. I learned that those Churches were not my Church.
So I stay in this Church I love, this Church which isn’t always sure it wants me, this Church which has hurt me so deeply, this Church which is frequently unsure what to do with me, this Church which still gets so much wrong.
I choose to stay.

Why?
Church should be about where people encounter Jesus.
This is where I best see Jesus.
I choose to stay.

*Questions on these subjects are illegal.

**Mr Jones has elaborated on what he was saying.  It is worth reading.  I am not trying to argue or dispute either of his posts.  I believe that some honesty about the imperfect nature of the Church and the ongoing decision we all make, in some way, to stay is worth holding up alongside reasons people leave.

Categories: Church, My Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moving Lists

In the last month almost everything has changed. I’m living in a new city and country; part of a new Diocese in a new Province, rector of a new parish, and settling into my new apartment. Everything is more than fine.  Not only is the dog still with me, but Edmonton, my parish, and the Diocese have been incredibly welcoming.
In all of these changes, there are a few things I want to be mindful of.

Sermons
I work at the art of preaching. I don’t want to let those disciplines get lost in the bustle of moving, unpacking (someday, someday), settling in, and learning all the new things. The two largest parts are enough time for writing (a rule of thumb I’ve found to be true is 1 hour of prep to 1 minute of preaching) and sermon reviews.

Clergy groups
One of the most dangerous parts of ministry is the sense of isolation. Clergy groups help prevent this. Denominational, ecumenical/interfaith, age/gender, interest/focus, however the group comes together it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone.

Being part of my community
It is nearly impossible to minister to people and a community you don’t know. To be the priest I want to be, I need face to face interactions–becoming a regular at a few places, regular routes for dog walks, and the time and energy to explore a new place. (And I have a lot of new places.)
Also keeping and growing my online communities. Some of how I got here is due to Twitter; some of what keeps me happy and sane are friends spread across many (and international) borders. I need the ideas, support, and insight from this cyber-cloud of witnesses.

Reading Time
I love reading. Reading, and particularly reading with time to process, analyze, and apply, is where ideas, creativity, and informed opinions come from. Time for reading, for sitting immersed in a good book, is easily lost. In the moment it is possible to think reading isn’t more important than the crisis of the minute…and it may not be. But not reading can become the crisis of the month and year.
I will be blocking off several hours a week for reading.

Office hours
There’s office work and then there are office hours. In the past year or so, I let not having an office keep me from posting specific hours where my office door is open to people dropping by. And I plan on borrowing an idea from a friend and having office hours both in my office and at a local tea place.

Liturgical and Educational Planning
Sometimes good ideas happen at the last minute. But often advance thought and planning keep me from falling into ruts or simply reaching for the closest answer. Sitting down to think a season and a year ahead help keep me mindful of what is happening when and why.
And my inner introvert appreciates knowing what’s ahead.

Self Care
Sleep. There’s self care and then there’s sleep. A lifetime of restless sleep has taught me both the importance of sleep and that it must be a priority. When I’m not conscious of how much sleep I need vs how much sleep I’m getting, I don’t get enough. Part of this is self-policing (turn the TV off or put the book down) and part of it is scheduling (how many nights I work).
Quiet Days. One of the habits I’ve noticed in priests I admire is the habit of taking a quiet day. One day a month where nothing is scheduled but time is set apart for prayer, contemplation, and reading.

Categories: My Life, Priest's Life | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Praying My Future

I started seminary the fall after I graduated college.  I moved across the country and, as it happened, away from a Church situation that was…unhealthy…for me.  It had been difficult for more than a year before I left.  I felt I had little community at my Church; I was not being fed spiritually. I even thought about switching denominations.  I couldn’t.  I wanted and needed a better community.  And I was about to move 2,000 miles away from the support I did have.

With no way to fix the situation I was in and no control over what would come, I prayed.  I started with no idea which seminary I would attend and no information about my future classmates.  Knowing that another unhealthy community would nearly kill my life in this Church I loved and wanted to serve, I prayed.  For my classmates, for how our community would be, for who we would be and become together.  For eighteen months,  I prayed my future, in blind faith that it might be true.

There was a moment where I knew.  Knew that seminary, along with all of its challenges, would be better, would feed me.  I kept praying–to remind God and myself.

One of the most frequent questions I hear (and I suspect most priests hear) is about the purpose and efficacy of prayer.  Do we pray to a God who listens?  A God who answers?  Why are there fewer miracles?  Why are so many prayers unanswered? Our  answers are tepid at best.  Of course God listens, wants to answer.  Miracles were likely natural cures in a time without scientific understanding.  ‘No’ is an answer.  We have to trust that God knows what we need better than we do.  Prayer is a meditative exercise meant to change us.  Worst of all: Miracles are knowledge of the presence of God.

I don’t know.  My prayers are often unanswered.  I have not witnessed a miracle, God’s intervening action in the world.  It often seems that I am praying into a void or as some sort of meditative exercise not communication with the God who calls me beloved.

But I also know that my seminary class was a healthy community where I was nurtured and healed.

For the past eighteen months I have been again been praying my future, from long the first moment I knew my time there was coming to an end.  I prayed for my Churches as I always had.  I also prayed for the Church that was calling me as their priest.  Long before I started searching, long before I had any idea where I would be looking, I prayed.

I prayed for their discernment, for my discernment, for the palpable movement of the Holy Spirit.  As I discerned with different Churches, I added prayers for them specifically.    As I kept looking, as the months stretched out, as I heard “not you,” as friends started to delightedly announce new positions and I had nothing to announce.  I prayed.

Now, after so many prayers:

I am delighted to announce that I have been called as the next rector of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Edmonton.

Categories: Church, My Life, Priest's Life, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Leaning

I wrote the last post when I should have been packing. I haven’t written since because I’ve been trying to keep up with those things I should have and need to do. But also, I’ve feared, because right now all of the words are hard to write.

It is still easy to slip out of the now of my life and let grief about the past or anxiety about the future become too much. I’ve been and I will continue leaning.

Leaning on my friends and family. Sometimes I lean and others prop me up. Some days that’s the only way I’ve kept standing: knowing they were there, hearing their voices, conversations over Facebook and Twitter. Then there are the friends with whom we all lean into each other. Simultaneously supported and supporting.

Leaning on my God and my faith. Trusting that the time I’ve spent leaning into this holy work that I love is not lost. And leaning even more on the believe that it is part of a foundation for the marvelous things that are coming, of which I can only begin to dream and imagine.

And next?

This summer I have the privilege and joy of serving as the Director of our Diocesan Camp. This is a delightful coming home to a place and ministry I’ve worked in, with, and otherwise supported over the last 14 years. And it is an amazing place to be fed with energy, hopes, and dreams of a community.

My apartment was in an old building, with thick walls. This meant we stayed cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It also meant that our threshold was thick. It created a wonderful drop off spot for packages (books!) but crossing it was an act of deliberation. I could stand half in, leaning half out, pondering how icy it was or how badly the dog needed a walk in the rain.

Sometimes thresholds are easy to cross. Easily navigable points of transition. Other times, thresholds are a slow liminal space.

I am moving across this threshold slowly. I was there, I am here and discerning. Praying and seeking and listening. Leaning into the future.

And reminding myself of the proverb: “God draws straight with crooked lines.”

For now, for this space, here’s what I know. I will be preaching on an odd schedule of fits and starts this summer, so sermons and sermon reviews won’t happen as they have. I have found my discipline of partaking in other’s sermons too rewarding to stop. So look for more Sermon Round-ups with some regularity (hopefully but not certainly weekly). Other posts will happen as I can eke out minutes and words–much like they always have.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Alleluias, joyous and wilted

Somewhere around the 4th or 5th week of Easter, I find myself remembering my friend, classmate, and colleague the Rev Cody Unterseher. I think about Cody not because the anniversary of his death is around this time of the year (April 25). I remember Cody because of what happened on Facebook in 2010.

Cody and I were at seminary together for one year–just long enough for a couple of those stereotypical (because they really happen) late night theological (well, liturgical) conversations, long enough to share parts of our stories, long enough to hear him preach (a sermon I still remember). We graduated together in 2008–me with an MDiv, Cody with an STM. After graduation we were Facebook friends. I would read his articles around the internet as he posted about them. I like having smart friends who make me think, with whom I don’t always agree. I hope he found some level of interest or joy in the updates from my life as a parish priest.

In 2010, for the Great Fifty Days of Easter, Cody posted “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” in a different language everyday on Facebook.

For the first couple of days I thought it was interesting and a good reminder. In the second week, I thought it was a little drawn out. In the third week, I was over it. I could no longer even guess at the languages; I was no longer excited by the novelty of our yearly proclamation. But Easter and Cody weren’t over.

Just like our Easter Lilies, our Alleluias wilt–only faster. After 40 days of stifling our voices, of missing our joyous four-syllable proclamation, we can speak, shout, sing it again. At the Easter Vigil (my favorite), on Easter Sunday I can always hear the joy in people’s voices, in my voice as we proclaim our ‘Alleluias’ again.

Then the joy of reclaiming our “Alleluia” fades into the normality of life more quickly than the shocking joy of the resurrection should. By Easter 4, the joy of being permitted the recently forbidden has faded. The idea that “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” is extraordinary starts to go over as well as another verse of “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia.”

Until Cody. Until 50 days of reminders. By holding “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” up for all of Easter, Cody moved me through the wilted Alleluia phase.

This year, most years since 2010, I remember Cody and 50 days of Alleluias I only understood through context, through what I knew those strange foreign words should mean. I remember reaching for a meaning I didn’t always understand, couldn’t prove, didn’t always feel. I remember the moment when I realized that this is what it means to be Easter-ed.

In the first moments of Easter it is easy to be over-joyed with our yearly proclamation. Then life continues. Our transformation into the people God calls us to be is slow, hard work. Sometimes I have to reach to be the person God is calling me to be, reach for what it means to be a part of Christian community when I don’t know if either can really exist. What God asks of me often feel strange and foreign in a world full of really terrible, sad things. When I act as if I have been Easter-ed, when I believe in and act on the things God asks of me, strange and foreign as they may seem, I start living into the meanings, the transformation, the faith I faithfully keep reaching towards.

So on Sunday I will remember Cody and 50 days of Alleluias. I will remember to reach for what I don’t always understand. Then, as the last strains of the processional hymn finish, as I exhale the in-between breath, I will faithfully and joyously proclaim, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”

Categories: Episcopal, My Life, Theology | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Practicing

This week has been bad.  I don’t know the adjectives to describe how bad.  It started with tragedy for too many people as the rest of the nation watched with horror, prayed in sympathy, and helped in kindness.  But the week refused to stop there.

Monday’s bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon was followed by Wednesday’s warehouse explosion in West, TX which was followed by Friday’s shooting of an MIT police officer in Watertown, MA.

Before all of this my week started with a tweet reminding us that this week included the anniversaries of the deadly end of the Waco siege (April 19, 1993), the Oklahoma city bombing (April 19, 1997), the Columbine school shooting (April 20, 1999), and the Virgina Tech shooting (April 16, 2007).  The last six months have not been kind to us.  A mass shooting in an elementary school in Sandy Hook CT on December 14, 2012. At least 2,244 gun deaths since then. (link)

We live in a violent world.  As I said on Good Friday, Incarnation was always going to end in pain, suffering, and death.  (link) I believe we are capable of not only taking measures to mitigate how much violence is possible, but to enact less pain and suffering on our brothers and sisters.  However, in the moments of this week, in the midst of  massive pain and suffering alongside the stresses of life that we already live with, I need help surviving.  Sometimes YouTube videos of kittens, pandas, and penguins are enough.  This week they are not.  This week the everything is too much.  The stress, the pain of the world is pushing my stress meter too far up.

This week I need help practicing the belief that life goes on.  I need help practicing hope.  I need help practicing gratitude.  I need help practicing joy.  I am not a person who regularly writes out lists of things I am grateful.  But the science says it works.  So, in no particular order:

  1. Friends.  In general but especially that handful of people who give me the gift of letting me be myself in their presence.  I hope you all know who you are.
  2. A job I love. I spend (a lot of) my hours doing work that I love.  People ask me into their lives, trust me with their concerns, and invite me to help represent our Church.
  3. I get to preach to Gospel and preside at Eucharist.  I know that this seems like it should be part of #2 but I really love my job.  It’s hard not to make these separate items, really.
  4. My dog has started playing.  I mean really playing.  He now steals the toy from me in tug of war.  2 1/2 years ago that didn’t happen, he was 65 lbs and I would win tug of war because he didn’t know what was going on.  We’ve also cut 4-9 minutes off our mile time for a walk.  Some of that is we’re faster, more of it is we spend less time on behavior corrections.
  5. My family.  They have never not supported me.  Whether in seeking ordination (and thus complicating weekends and holidays forever), moving across the country for seminary, or by buying me Biblical commentaries for Christmas.  They love me in all of my uber-geeky-ness.

I know this solves nothing.  But it helps me remember that we live in a violent world, but we do not live in a solely violent world.  Perhaps most importantly, we live.  We continue to muddle through our lives.  Getting up, practicing hope and love and gratitude, facing all of the things that happen.  Praying that we will make it through.

Let us pray

This is another day, O Lord, I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.  Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen. (BCP, pg 461)

There is more to be grateful for than what I have listed.  I believe we could all use some practicing  this week.  Please tell me some of things you are grateful for.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

120 Books, 40 Days

The year I bought the most (non-school) books was my senior year of college.

I was six or seven when I discovered books so I’ve spent almost a quarter century reading, buying, and accumulating books. One of the six bookshelves (yes, six) in my apartment is dedicated to books that I have found and anticipate keeping for a long period of time. Some of them are the books I’ve had since I was six or seven.

Books are full of words, ideas, places, and people that I fell in love with. All of it. From the other places and amazing character to the fascinating ideas and the words that brought me all of this. I was a bibliophile before I knew the word, with a healthy library habit and more books than my shelves could hold.

I think there is a bit of escapism in every reader. Otherwise we would find no pleasure in spending time in Shanara, Middle Earth, Pern, Narnia or more realistic but happily ending worlds of Beverly Cleary, LM Montgomery, and so many others that passed through my hands.

But my senior year of college was unique. That year I needed escape. I’d had brain surgery for the second time. Both my physical and emotional recovery were arduous. Thank God for used book stores and therapists. I relied on both.

I learned that while my therapist will help keep me sane, my book buying habits are the first bellwether of serious stress. When I start buying more books than I can read, repeatedly; when the books begin to over-pile the shelves, even by my standards; when things progress beyond the “I like five books but I only really want one” stage; it is time to worry. It has been several years since I worried myself. The upside to having a bellwether is, if you pay attention then you know what is happening.

This year I noticed, well, book creep for lack of a phrase. I wasn’t buying more books than normal. I just wasn’t also cleaning my shelves off. I like having my books in my space. I have at least nosed through nearly all of them and they are my friends. There are worlds and possibilities and things I want to know. And there was too much of it.

A combination of bookshelf contemplation and Lenten preparation led me to one conclusion: it was time for fewer books. And because I knew I would not do it without a number, I gave it one. For Lent, I would take 100 books out of my apartment. 100 of my friends, of the books I had held and read and wanted to know, gone.

The first 78 to go

The first 78 to go

There were rules, of course. I have always found it useful to be specific in my Lenten disciplines. (There is a difference between no candy and no chocolate.) Duplicate books counted. (I had a few on the theory that they would be books I would give away, eventually.) Fiction books didn’t count. (The fiction section of my library is better cultivated and edited than others so I knew it would be too easy to remove some of those books.) And all 100 books had to be out of the house or boxed by Easter. Anything else was too much wiggle room.

At the beginning of Lent I had cataloged 650 books in my library and figured there were about 50 uncatalogued books. (This should not shock you, I spent a lot of time in libraries as a child.) 100 books, my goal, was about %14 of my library. The first ten books were easy. The next ten weren’t too bad. I got to 50 without any huge difficulties. 50-75 was challenging. The last 45 (because I actually went 20 over) were a debate on every single book. But in 40 days 120 books left my apartment.

In my Ash Wednesday sermon this year, I preached that Lenten disciplines are about drawing closer to Christ. In selecting books to give away, I accepted. I accepted that I will never be an expert on the Cold War, the Holocaust, Celtic Christianity, and so many other things. I came to terms with only owning one book about many topics. I held old friends and got lost in a few. As I held books I could not part with I began to realize that this discipline wasn’t at all what I thought.

I had thought giving these books, my escapes, away would be about being more vulnerable and less armored. And that terrified me. In culling down my bookshelves, I have indeed found myself, not more vulnerable but less distracted. More aware of the things I may truly be called toward as opposed to just interested in.

Perhaps, this time, Jesus was on the bookshelf.

From I Can Has Ceezburger

From I Can Has Ceezburger

 

Categories: Church, My Life, Priest's Life | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: