Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking Stock

It's not just the rich and famous that make you take stock of your own life. I just found out that RC, a high school classmate and Facebook friend, is battling a serious illness. I don't know what he has, but it is life-threatening, according to his girlfriend T, another Facebook friend.

I am keeping them both in my prayers. I know they will appreciate it if you would pray for them too. May God give both RC and T strength and comfort. May RC be healed from his illness.

Life is too short to dwell on the negative.

Life is too short.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Excerpts from an Email to My Priest (Father X)

Hi,
I wanted to add that, besides having a delightful visit with your mom and brother, I was glad I came to (church) because the Gospel and your sermon today had a most excellent message for me: "Do not fear, only believe." It’s in line with what I have already been exploring in my blog...

...I hadn’t noticed before how much I had distanced myself from my fellow congregants. I realize there has been a vicious cycle of having nothing to give, because I haven’t been spiritually fed, and not being fed because I’ve not given anything...

You posed the challenge of living what I profess to believe. You know me well enough that I will take that challenge and run with it, hopefully with not too many stumbles.

Oh Gee, I Guess I AM That Transparent!

I'm guessing some of my friends did take me up on my invitation and actually read this blog.

Tonight while visiting friends I haven't seen for a while, one told me "I thought you were leaving (home church)." I never said this directly, but evidently people who know me are smart enough to put two and two together and realize that I was considering the possibility.

Fortunately, that's no longer the case. But it does mean that I have some repair work to do, since if folks who aren't around me could figure it out, just think what those who were around me saw.

I guess my priest was right after all (Darn! I hate it when that happens!). I need to reconcile with my church as well as with certain individuals within it.

Can't I just wave a hand and make it all better? Why does reconciling have to take so long?!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Man in the Mirror -- MJ

I love this song...I'm starting with the (wo) man in the mirror.

You Can't Always Get What You Want

From the Rolling Stones -- The chorus says it all:

MJ, Farrah and Ed McMahon

Well, there it is -- the set of three that's supposed to happen with deaths and disasters.

As a young girl, I was a huge fan of the Jackson 5 and Michael in particular. I liked his music through the '80s, before MJ became better known for his weirdness than his talent. After the sexual abuse allegations, and MJ's own strange statements about sharing his bed with boys (nonsexual, he claimed), listening to his music became more of a guilty pleasure. Was I somehow condoning his behavior by listening to and enjoying his music?

Of course, I knew better, but the thought still nagged at me. I worked around it by choosing to think of him only as he was before the weirdness took control of the headlines.

I had a mild panic attack as I drove home, hearing about MJ and Farrah. Both were icons of my youth, and MJ was only a few years older than me. I got short of breath thinking about my own mortality.

I'm not so sure as I used to be about everything happening for a reason. I'm sure the loved ones of these people are not thinking in those terms as they grieve. However, I am increasingly sure that God gives reason to everything that happens. That even the sad or bad times are redeemed by His grace, and He will help us make sense of things if we let Him.

One of my favorite Bible verses is this from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians:
"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
From this verse, I draw much strength. God gives reason to whatever happens, and He will equip me to deal with it, if I allow Him.

I believe these deaths, as others often do, remind me to live my life to the fullest now. I don't know how much time I have left, and I'm often guilty of letting myself be mired in the past or daydreaming about some unrealized future. My family, my friendships, my church, my career, and so on...and most of all, my Lord and Savior, deserve my full presence right now.

I can't let regret or fear render me inactive. My love, my devotion, my diligence are necessary NOW.

I can't waste time on needless anger or selfish pride. My focus on Christ, and living what I profess to believe is imperative NOW.

Amen!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Romans 12:9-18

I'm making this my Rule of Life. God, help me.

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Oh, Poor Neglected Blog

Well, just finished watching the train wreck that was Jon and Kate tonight. It's just so sad to see what was once a loving relationship (at least on some level) fall apart. Jon spoke of "being friends" with Kate. Personally, I don't get it. I guess one could be friendly, but friends after an intimate relationship has been destroyed? Not for a long, long time, if ever.

For me, there's a lesson to be learned from their tragic mess. While my personality is not quite so strong as Kate's, I've been known to push and push for something in a relationship, only to find that I've pushed the relationship away. I've lost and nearly lost relationships (friendships now, hubby and I are OK, thank God!) by pushing too hard.

I'll share some advice I gave a young friend recently, since I nearly lost a friend by "standing up for myself." You see, it's not the standing up, but how it's done that makes all the difference.

Here's what I shared with my friend:
"Hi, been trying to formulate a response because I've recently gone through something like this. When I was younger, I often thought I let people walk all over me. As I've gotten older, sometimes I've overcompensated by being overly aggressive in my self-defense. My take on this is first and foremost -- pray for God's wisdom and guidance. Second...pick your battles carefully. And third, if at all possible, stand up for yourself in a way that preserves the relationship with the other person. Heh, if you learn these things now, you won't be 40-something trying to find that right balance. Blessings to you!"
It's not being a doormat to be caring towards the other person with whom you have a conflict, especially if you want to keep the relationship. That's tough for me, since I had been so timid as a child and young adult.

By the way, I'm attending my home church now. Reconciliation is the order of the day. Can't say it's "all better" now, but the process has begun. And that is a Very Good Thing.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Don Piper

Just read his book, 90 Minutes in Heaven. I read it in one night and part of the morning. I couldn't put it down.

Here's a link to his Facebook page: Don Piper

And here's a quote from the bio on his webpage: "His goal is to help bitter people become better, to turn disappointments into divine appointments. He calls it “finding a new normal” and he’s made it his life’s work."

A new normal.

That's what I'm looking at in my church and some of the relationships within it.

What divine appointment is within my current disappointment?

Returning Home

So, the request to return home (my church home) was granted with some conditions. I guess my previous post on "time out" could apply here as well. I'm no longer heading a certain ministry.

I could choose to look at this as a time to regroup, and get my spiritual act together, so to speak. Too often the busyness of church life can take away from one's real purpose for being at church -- to worship God.

That's not to say that I didn't feel shocked, angry and disappointed at first. I still feel disappointed, but not so much shocked or angry.

I feel much like the Prodigal, who said "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son (child)."

Well, I have a meeting tomorrow at noon. Prayers would be much appreciated.


Monday, June 8, 2009

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

“I should have called it, something you somehow haven't to deserve.”
-- from "Death of the Hired Man" by Robert Frost

I have taken a first step towards returning home. I pray that I'll be taken in.

Surrender

Here's a poem I wrote a few years ago that seems appropriate for what I'm experiencing now:

Looking for You

I climb a ladder to reach you,
Deep inside my spirit.

The night stars twinkle,
Dazzling light illumines the way.

I reach out my hand,
My fist grasps only air.

You can’t live long without it.

Empty rooms beckon,
I fill them with comfortable words.

Hold me close by your side,
Hold me in your light.

I eat and drink.
You fill me with nourishing hope,
Fill me with delight.

I flounder in the darkness,
Why won’t I remove the blindfold?

I Search.
And you cannot be found.

I Surrender.
And your presence surrounds me.

2006

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Time Out

Back in the day, the discipline method in vogue was the "time out". Theoretically (I say this because I'd rarely seen it actually go this way), a child who was having behavior problems was encouraged to go to another area of the classroom and take a "time out". When the child and the situation cooled off, the teacher would talk with the child and the child would rejoin the rest of the class and activities.

[Hmmm...it just occurred to me that this was the intent of excommunication as well.]

Usually it seemed more like being sent to the corner, except that the child faced the room instead of the wall.

This church situation I'm dealing with is giving me a new appreciation of the time out in its intended sense. Since going to my home church was giving me so much stress (and increasing the risk of snarky and otherwise uncivil behavior), I needed to have some time away. A friend I talked with recommended not skipping church altogether, but perhaps visiting a church or several churches to fill the void for now.

That was an important distinction, because I couldn't allow my emotional state to push God -- and my worship of Him -- away. Today, as I posted earlier, I visited another church. I left worship not only renewed, but with a renewed sense of appreciation of what I have at my home church.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to leave my time out yet. But when I do, I expect that I'll be better equipped to deal with the challenges of worshiping and living in community.

Have a blessed week!

There's No Place Like Home

Time to click those ruby red slippers.

I visited another church this morning. It was nice to have the option of an early service, even though I understand why my church doesn't. (It tends to split the congregation into sub-congregations.) There were things I liked about the service, but I missed my "home."

I look at churches as families -- especially for those who really connect and get involved. In a hierarchical structure that is the Episcopal Church, there is a clear "Father" (or "Mother" for a female priest) figure. In our church it would be our priest. I also see in our church a "Mother" figure in my friend P, a longtime member of the church and mother figure to many. She's the one people tend to call when they need information or help that the priest can't give.

Anyway, I felt like I was visiting a relative's home today. It was another Episcopal Church, and we're all Christians. It was nice, but not home.

The problem with having a clear parent figure is that when there's a falling out, it's really hard to just attend services and ignore that person. It feels like when a kid has an OK relationship with "Mom" but has a conflict with "Dad". I guess I'm seeing some old family dynamics after all; although I had a more conflicted relationship with my mom, if I had a problem with my dad, it was so hard to feel worthy enough to reconcile.

Well, got to go shopping with the family. More on this later.