Epiphany 1 : The Recognition

epiAssuming that the wise men were real, I might wonder if they ever thought they would ever reach the place where Jesus was? Did they begin to have doubts, as their hunger increased, their animals tired, their bodies registered fatigue? Did they have creeping doubts as to what they might find when they got to the place where the star had lead them.

The mystic in me knows that the “mist” creates a refracted truth that makes it often difficult to see my way forward–that’s probably both a blessing and a curse. On this eve of Epiphany, I find myself drawn to the figures NOT traveling from a distance but rather the quiet, crouched, obedient patient ones–the ones full of stars and revelation–full of truth just waiting to be explode in all directions conveying maybe the most important good news of all—the answer lies in a million different directions, and in a million different paths, all pointing to the central source that regardless of what happens, I am enough.

 

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Advent 4 : “We’re coming in fast.”

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“…And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it…” –Bonhoeffer

True confession, this is a look back on the last week of Advent, so it’s more of a retrospective. That’s how I feel some days, that relentless battle of wondering and knowing if I am “doing” Advent right? Is there a right way, I don’t think so, but sometimes even the church wants you to think there is. I do a pretty good job of it actually, I am good at listening for the subtle shifts. About this time, I was gearing up for one last push to get to Christmas.  I was ready for the challenge. I tried not to focus on the fact that the week ahead would be full speed ahead and that I would be hurtled forward towards the 25th of December.

Fast Forward : I made it to the Nativity, I made it to the “Jesus Moment”. But I have to say, something went missing, I think that’s the part I’m soaking on now. What is that “something” that is missing. I’m hoping if anyone is reading this that your last few days up until Christmas were filled with whatever you needed to fill them with and that you were able to enter into the “big day” with love, joy and expectancy or at least knowing that regardless of how you felt that you were loved.

 

 

 

Advent 3 : Even Now..The Opposite Of Light, The Opposite of Hope

Luke 3:9 Even now the ax…

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It sneaked up on me actually, a dream so disturbing I can’t (almost) put it into words. I love words and images so it’s quite shocking when I’m not able to quantify or qualify it. It really unraveled me to the point that I paused a LONG time as to whether or not I wanted to share this — especially on this Sunday–where we are supposed to have refreshment from the long days of Advent. It’s so disturbing that I am offering up a potential trigger warning for people who are affected by violence. Please take care of yourself and do not read further.

I will be honest in saying that I am not sure how this blog post will write itself, even though I remember vividly every moment of this dream, I’m uncertain as to how it will conclude itself either. Therefore, I invite you on this brave and aweful journey as I recount my it, to sit with it’s dis-ease and maybe assist in my processing what it might mean.

The dream begins with me entering into the narthex of an Episcopal Church. I did not recognize it as one I had ever visited. I did not recognize the clergy or the people entering–it was totally unfamiliar to me. It didn’t look like your typical narthex as it resembled more of a banking lobby. I was required to go up to the window and collect something(not sure what) before entering into the nave. As I found my seat, I noticed that the church was mostly full–though not completely. For whatever reason, just before I found my seat, I went over to a room where the priest was frantically robing for the service, he seemed nervous and unhappy –maybe because he was late? I have no idea why I went to that room. I remember a brief pause, a silence, a really long silence, so long that it was an ever growing awkward silence.

Then, the priest climbed to the top of the pulpit, one that you often see in 18th century churches. It took at least 10 steps for him to reach the top. Once there, he glanced out over the congregation with a sense of expectancy, sadness, fear and anger–and with a sense of great urgency so as to not change his mind, he climbed to the top and jumped head first to his death in front of us. There was a long stunned silence, no one moved for at least a minute. In fact, I don’t think anyone moved at all. I remember not being able to breath.

Then, for reasons unknown, the deacon climbed the exact same pulpit, and as if he was mimicking the priest on purpose, jumped to his death in front of us as well. What was more strange and horrific still was that he did not immediately die. And for no reason, he grabbed an iron that was plugged in within his reach and he smashed it violently on top of his face, screaming. After several minutes, his screams subsided and he collapsed.

And then I woke up.

I’m not sure I have ever dreamed anything more violent, sad, disgusting and horrific in my life. What was even more disturbing to me was that I felt that even for a few moments after I awakened, I could smell the burning flesh, I could smell the death in the air and the dark spector that seems to still be nudging at my shoulder as if it to say “LOOK”.

I would much rather “LOOK AWAY” as this is not something I would like to dwell with today. So, here I am. What could a horrible nightmare have anything to do with Advent? Where and what is the aweful message in this. I’m not sure–at all. It is possible that the clergy are metaphors for the church and society? Are WE at the jumping off point ourselves? Have we lost our sanity? OR Are WE the clergy and the clergy is us, just standing around in shock, unable or unwilling to do anything–frozen in our seats? What is the horrible, hopeless action that took place? Why did they lose hope? What is lost and why? Does this mean anything at all? Is it senseless? I don’t know.

I wish I had a happy conclusion to neatly tie up with a christmas bow but I don’t. I see this as a reminder that we must understand and act upon our frailty. We are vulnerable in so many ways. Advent and Christmas are about embracing the light. The light is great of course, but necessary darkness is part of the journey. Those leaping from bridges and buildings and pulpits are signs that all is not well in our world. If they are not well, WE are not well. Today I seek the light but plan to look around for those who have lost hope, those off in dark corners. Hope is not everyone’s experience.

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On the other side of the equals sign is remembrance and hope. To the specters in my dream who left so violently, to those I have known in this world who have left with no hope…To wish them well on their journey..

Lux Aeterna

May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever,
for Thou art Kind.
Eternal rest
give to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

 

 

 

 

 

Advent II 2018: Fragrance

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Baruch 5:8 “The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command.”

I do not pretend to be an avid hiker in the forest. However, when I’m there, I am an avid experiencer. Maybe it’s that I am so rarely there that I see and attend to what’s around me more than ones that frequent it. Especially in the warmer months, especially the early fall, I find that I can “smell” the life there–and I’m almost always grounded there–aware of the timelessness of the place.

I love the language used in Baruch, the imagery invites me to draw a mind picture of a great forest cathedral with the stars serving as the vault and filled with the incense of the very presence of the trees. Sometimes I think I take for granted the notion that we humans are the only ones who are witness to the presence of the universe. I believe that it’s wholly possible that we are but one species that create holy spaces which acknowledge the divine in and among all around us. What can I  learn from the great forset sentinels? Maybe, most importantly that our very bodies are living breathing manifestations of the divine present among in us.

As I am lurching towards 12.25, I hope to be present with my own divinity maybe not unlike my sweet scented forest neighbors.

Advent I 2018 : Signs

 

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Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

One of the things that I love about Advent readings in the lectionary, especially the first few weeks, is the sometimes alarming imagery that comes from it. It jettisons me from my comfort of the season. I think it’s in my nature to ride into Christmas on a purple pillow expecting a soft landing in front of the manger. I have had some jarring moments in the past few months and I appreciate their necessary upsetting. Luke, in this verse, shares that we should be alert to changes, big changes and maybe changes that push us way way way out on the edge. I have gotten cozy with big change and transformation and I have to say I like it.

As I move deeper into this disrupting time, I embrace the possible and the impossible.

Not what’s behind the veil, but the veil itself.

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“It was much easier to explain the veil than to answer questions about the wounds.”
― Pawan Mishra, Coinman: An Untold Conspiracy

…maybe it’s not so much about what’s on the other side of the veil but the context and the “dna” of the veil itself. On this side of the veil, the wounds are pretty evident–long term and deeply entrenched in my journey–so that’s not what is at play here.  The veil however, that’s something to look at. In Hebrews, the author tells us of the veil that had been torn into. I often wondered what was meant by that, but as I apply it to this moment, I think there is value is deconstructing the veil, to take it a part, to study it to drink in it’s meaning.

The veil itself is tied, I believe, to my ancestry. I come from a long long line of Pre-Christian/Christian Celtic peoples–many who were mostly druid and other pagan beliefs. So the veil has woven into it, the old beliefs, the old stories and legends, the old ways of celebrating ritual when the days were shorter, colder and darker and not much was certain. This is probably why I love Brigid of Kildare so much –she serves as a bridge between the Pagan and Christian world. I find myself often seeking to recognize my earliest of ancestors with my beliefs in the present. Also enmeshed in my veil is Christian heritage which I mostly love but am often frustrated with it’s sometimes sketchy history of prejudice, empire, and bigotry.

That’s just part of the veil but that’s the fabric I am currently kneading,

Returning to the beginning: Or how (I think) I understand my journey now.

“….a more upsetting possibility is that the past has become homeless, and we are offering it a place to inhabit in the present.” ― Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life

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Flannery O’Connor once said “While The South is hardly Christ-Centered, it is mostly certainly Christ-Haunted”.  Having grow up in “The South” I can say almost without reservation that this is true. One only has to look at the overwhelming support for Donald Trump by White Southern Evangelical Christians to get this reality. While there is a LOT of talk around Jesus, it’s more of a badly xeroxed copy rather than the historic carpenter who walked the earth more than 2000 years ago. The Jesus of “The South” looks more like an apparition more than anything else.

BUT, this post is not about “The South” or it’s very muted vision of him. Rather this is about my own haunting of sorts. While my understanding of Jesus is grounded heavily in the soil of my youth, it has NOT been part of my past only. I brought all of ME to the present, my Methodist experience, my Queerness, my love of Liturgy, My Home in Cursillos, My Anxiety From The Past, My Health Issues, My Gifts of Seeing and Hearing, My Love For Silence, My Love For Peace, My Love Of Others, My Desire For Justice, My Understood Truth Of Anglican Belief, My Preference For Diversity–All of Myself. And either, fortunately or unfortunately, I have brought with me my struggle with over analysis, my insistence on feeling my way through and most importantly I bring forward my confusing, messy, angry, frustrating, aimless, crazy discernment around vocation.

So you could say that I was pretty steady in my journey within the context of my Methodist roots. It was not until college that I began exploring other expressions of Christianity. I will not describe all the exploration that occurred but just know I tried every faith community out there–I guess to ensure that I was TRULY where I needed to be. Honestly, this habit has continued through most of my adult life even up unto today. I have broken bread with communities that were not even Christian. So why? Well, it’s connected to my desire to truly know where I belong. Community is important to me–I have said this many times in this blog before. And WHILE I have mostly felt at home as I have visited, what I think I FINALLY “get” is that what I am looking for is a place to get grounded,where I can bring forth my past, live in my present and work in community for the future.

Along the way, I have met many wonderful, very patient clergy and lay folks who have allowed me to ask any and all questions. I am thankful for this. And along the way I have taken some of their gifts with me. At this point, I am sure you are wondering, so what now? You found some friends, you are walking with new awarenesses, you have discerned vocation through several lenses, you are a little older and maybe a little grayer, but where does this go? I think I was looking for community, learning, identity and time to stall. Time to stall because I knew and still know that my vocation is something that is very difficult for me to accept and yet, I believe it’s almost completely wrapped up in my deep feeling of unworthiness. fear of failure and shame of the past.

In the past year, I have come to grips, as Li stated above with my past being homeless and allowing it to come forth into the present. I have spent this year truly looking at the past and all that it has done to me and those I love. I brought it into my present and it almost cost me everything. I NOW know that I need to let the past rest in it’s own grave. My past has kept me from being my full authentic self and those words are not easy to write–but they are as true as anything could be in my life. So I think this means that I embrace my vocation,  and the fear that surrounds it but also the fulfillment it will bring, it’s a return to The Episcopal Church but NOT the same person that left. It’s returning with a deep appreciation for seeing all the ways the Universe touches all of us–not JUST Christians. I return NOT as conventional Jesus Follower but as one who knows that there is more we do not know about him than we do know. He is as mysterious as he is incarnate. He brings life and love but not without a wink.

So, stay tuned as I journey back to the beginning. The way out is the way in. So I go back to where I began or do I? That’s the maddening part of all this.

 

 

 

Encoded Paradox : How I’m surviving the “in-between”

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“I cannot be entirely sure… but I truly feel it again;
that I will rise, far away from the ghosts of times since past,
that the inward-shining sun will battle with the outside rain,
and, released, this once more joyful spirit will soar, to the sky, at last.” — Anonymous

It hasn’t been enough in my life that I have struggled with anxious thoughts as far back as I can EVER remember–with the result being confusion, uncertainty, lack of clarity, fear, shame, anger and wonder. I cannot ever remember a time when I didn’t wake up and think-what have I done wrong now? what will I do wrong today? When your timeline, is inhabited with these thoughts you seek for sacred and peaceful spaces–constantly. Over the decades I have been privileged to find those places where I could rest, nest and fly again afterwards. And they weren’t always the conventional spaces you might think either like the church, sunday school or childhood bedroom but also rather the hidden corner of a haunted house with only a paper witch that glowed in the dark from the black light.

I mean I couldn’t stay there long because my parents would wonder if something was wrong inside. What they didn’t know was that there was something peaceful being alone with that glowing specter alone in my secret coven. It’s also laying in the back of the station wagon as we drove all night to the beach and the only sound was the low hum of the radio, my parent’s voices and the canopy stars in the night sky above me. But this post isn’t necessarily about sacred spaces only it’s about living into the life I have been given. A life that has always seen and understood the hidden and it’s multi-faceted truth. The truth that says, there is more than way to experience love, happiness and meaning.

I have always(maybe out of necessity) understood that the equation of life and the spirit has many solutions–more than one way to get to the answer. I guess I understand that now more than ever but gosh–it’s been a difficult road to get here. Most people seek to embrace the binary nature–the black and white–it’s easier to swallow and digest. My experience has been just the opposite and when I can embrace those moments when I can say that dark and light, rain and sun, sleep and awake, Lutheran and Anglican, Pagan and Druid, Carolina and Clemson, Oregon and South Carolina, Husband and Single, Vocation and Uncertainty then I am able to take into myself the paradox of life and truly know that my path includes all of these.

Where is God in all this? I am not a theologian but my deepest innermost thoughts say that God is IN all of this. There is no right answer, no silver bullet, no well-defined Birth, Death and Resurrection–Only God. If there is any theme to my life it would be this, Love The Now, Embrace The Light and The Dark, Give Deeply to Your Husband Your Soul Friend and Lover, Travel Toward Pain, Go To Fear and Be An Icon Of The Universe every day as you walk out the door.