Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ When We Die

Kate Braestrup, author of Here If You Need Me, and I were at Bangor Theological Seminary at the same time. That isn't to imply that we were friends or that we even knew each other. Yet, because of her particular story, I probably knew more about her than she knew about me. Her husband, Drew, was a Maine State Trooper who was killed in a tragic accident. He was the one who wanted to go to seminary. She went instead.

In her book Kate writes about the loss of her husband and our modern culture's view of death. In carrying out Drew's wishes she wanted to be as close to the process as possible, which goes against everything our society tells us about death. She writes:

Modern culture does not encourage us, let alone require us, to take care of the bodies of our dead, any more than we are required to take care of our loved ones as they give birth or suffer or die. Instead, we are offered the expensive illusion that through a mortician's skills the bodies of those we love will remain. There will be roses in their cheeks, chemicals in their systems, and thickly padded coffins to preserve those beloved limbs from the saprophytes that would otherwise claim them. Your loved one will never be dirt, they say.

Kate knew that Drew would want to be dirt... would want the stuff of his earthly existence to go back to the earth. I thoroughly enjoyed this courageous book by my classmate. Drew's calling became her calling and she is in the midst of very important work as chaplain to game wardens in Maine. I also thank her for pointing out what I see as the absurdity of our society's views on death. More on this later....

Friday, September 26, 2008

Suddenly September

I find myself looking at the calendar and noticing that ~ suddenly ~ September is all but gone! What happened to this month? Sure, there was Spirit Sunday, resumption of committee work, and clergy gatherings of various kinds! This was our first full month with Bady home and Katie Grace's first full month in the office. The days have gotten shorter and the nights cooler. Leaves are falling off the trees in cascading colors. Fall is fully upon us.

I like September because it means a return to the routine and ~ while a break in the routine is nice now and then ~ I am really a person who thrives on routine. For now dinner is in the crock pot and a chocolate cake is cooling on the stove. I will put an extra blanket on the bed tonight. I'm enjoying these last few days of September and my routine ~ a routine including my regular day off. May you be blessed by these warm days and cool nights and may your routine bring rest and moments of peace with cozy blankets, hot meals, and, of course, chocolate!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Daily Vows

This prayer is posted on the bulletin board above my desk so I can see it everyday. I'm not sure where it comes from, but it describes how I seek to live my life with God's help. (Needless to say, it's not an easy way to live.... that's where grace comes in!)

I vow to offer joy to one person in the morning
And to relieve the grief of one person in the afternoon.

I vow to live simply and sanely,
Content with few possessions.
I vow to keep my body healthy.
I vow to get go of all worries and anxieties
In order to be light and free.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It Must Be Love

Our trainers told us that it will take a while before we truly bond with Bady, especially since he wasn't a puppy when he came to us. But it looks like love to me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sad News

I got some sad news last night. The amazing counselor I have worked with over the past four years died. Saying that she was my counselor does not seem like enough. She was also a spiritual director, a life coach and an inspiration. She endured her own experiences of trauma and used those experiences to help many others, including me. She also shared spiritual insight from her Quaker and Native American traditions.

One of the most important things I learned from her was to look inside myself for the tools to deal with my trauma. If I said that she had given me the tools she would protest, saying that I had found the tools within myself.

One thing she did give me, though, was the idea that ultimately led to the arrival of Bady. She said that sometimes the tools come from within, and sometimes they come from outside, but they are all God given. I know that I was just one of many clients, but maybe ~ in the words of her tradition ~ a tiny bit of her spiritual energy is blessing Bady now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Saint Catherine of Genoa

I am reading a small book titled Women Mystics edited by Carol Lee Flinders. These mystics have inspired and awed me and caused me to scratch my head.... huh?? Yet their faith and devotion is unquestionable. Here is an excerpt from the writings of Saint Catherine of Genoa.

Pure love does not attach itself to pleasure or feeling, bodily or spiritual. In the same way, a spiritual attachment that seems good is dangerous. It can mislead the Soul into attaching itself not to God but to those pleasurable sentiments; he who seeks the naked love of God must flee these sentiments. Bodily sentiments, by contrast, are obviously opposed to the Spirit, and the appearance of being good is not as persuasive - that is why they are less dangerous. Spiritual pleasures, however, are something of a poison against pure love of God. They are more difficult to eradicate once we become attached to them. Not to understand this is to be barred from the one perfect Good - God pure and naked.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Grumpy Day

Today is 'one of those days.' I just feel a little bit grumpy. Nothing seems to be getting done 'right' or on time or the way I would like. I'm running late. And my allergies are acting up. I can think of more things to add to my to-do list than I could possibly cross off.

But doesn't it feel good. To just have a regular grumpy day, that is. In fact, it is refreshing. It's a gift. I know I must be emerging from my summer-time dark night of the soul when I can thank God for a regular old grumpy day!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Five on Friday

Well, this isn't the official Friday Five, but it is five things that are on my mind this Friday!

1. Yesterday I gave the invocation at a Community 9-11 "Hero's Tribute." I was a well planned and very well attended event. In my prayer I spoke of peace and compassion and remembrance. My question, though, is how do we balance remembering the victims and honoring our heroes with continued calls for retribution and revenge? After seven years and over 4,000 military deaths we still, in some ways, seem consumed with anger. How do we.... can we even... move past this anger to embody peace in our world community?

2. While I was at the 9-11 remembrance, my amazing and daring husband took both dogs (Nicky and Bady) for a walk... by himself... at the same time. Wow! I couldn't believe it!

3. I am all about Obama, but I still find myself oddly drawn to and curious about Sarah Palin. I can't stop reading about her, even though much of what I read I find appalling. Has anyone else had this experience?

4. I actually put "Visit the Farmer's Market" on my calendar for tomorrow. If we are going to start eating locally, we better be willing to get our butts out of bed to see what is actually available locally!

5. How did it get to be September? Is Sunday School actually starting THIS WEEK? Is our Consecration Sunday REALLY only six weeks away? And, most importantly, when will the new season of Grey's Anatomy begin?? If you know, please clue me in!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Challenge for The Challenge

Our church newsletter is called The Challenge. Here is the article I wrote for the October edition. I took a risk and, after much thought, decided to disclose some of my personal struggles as a way to draw attention to the seriousness of violence in our communities and in our world. I would be interested to read your thoughts.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Two statistics always catch me off guard. It does not seem possible that:

~ One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

~ An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year.

While I do not know the particular trauma of domestic violence, I do know the trauma of assault. Several years before I came to South Church, I was the victim of a violent assault. It took me many weeks to recover physically from the assault. It has been a process of years to come to terms with it emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. I thank God each day that I am surrounded by loving friends, family, pastors, and counselors and am blessed to serve a loving congregation.

Yet, like many survivors of violence, I continue to deal with the post-traumatic effects of the assault. Several months may go by without a triggering event, but then something can happen that causes me to re-experience the trauma as if it were happening for the first time. I don’t write this so you will feel sorry for me. That is not my intention at all. My intention is to underscore the effects of violence and affirm that it can happen to anyone. I would not be surprised if someone reading this letter has had a similar experience.

While I completely support Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wonder if every month shouldn’t be “Violence Awareness Month”? As Christians we need to take a stand against the many ways people perpetrate violence against each other. The effects of violence are long lasting and shape not just ourselves but our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world.

A favorite verse of mine reads:

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.
~ 2 Timothy 1:7

Violence begets fear, but love is more powerful than fear. Let us not be afraid to stand up against violence in our homes, in our communities and in our world. Let us use our best thinking and our best loving, along with the power of the Holy Spirit, to spread peace.

On a somewhat related topic, several of you have met my new companion, Bady. Bady is a 14 month old German Shepherd Dog. After experiencing several triggering events this summer, it was suggested to me that some sufferers of post-traumatic stress do well with companion dogs. These dogs are trained to accompany their owners in their daily life and work, providing companionship and peace of mind. It is my hope that Bady may some day be certified as a therapy dog and accompany me to hospitals and nursing homes, but that would be down the road. At this point Bady is still in training ~learning what it means to be a pastor’s dog and companion at home and at church!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Job versus Work

I am still (slowly) making my way through Belden C. Lane's The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. I'm enjoying it greatly, even as I read it in bits and pieces. Here is something to ponder from the chapter "A Reflection on Work."

The jobs of people in ministry suggest their being "in control" of sacred things. Yet the monk, the priest, the teacher never do more than skirt the truth. They mask as much as they reveal. For them, the need to distinguish their jobs from their work is absolutely necessary; otherwise they run the risk of idolatry. I love my job, but I do it well only so long as it remains secondary to something else.

So, regardless of your vocation, what is that 'something else' for you?

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Survivor's Journey

I learned of this amazing story while listening to "On Point" on NPR the other day. As a fellow survivor, I honor the courage and strength it took Joanna Connors to write this piece more than 20 years after she was assaulted. It is a long story, but powerful and I would encourage anyone to read it. At the bottom of the first screen there is a box titled "In this Package" that will guide you through this feature.

My story is different than hers, but resonates with much of what she writes ~ the feelings of pain, the wanting to forget, the fear, the sense of shame. I pray that as my journey continues I can be as strong and brave as Connors. In Part 1 she writes about her story:

When I decided to tell it publicly, I decided I would have to tell the raw, uncomfortable and sometimes painful truth. All of it, including things that I never spoke of before, the feelings that make me look bad. If I held back, then telling wouldn't help anyone. Including me.

Click here to read it in its entirety.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Being on God's Side

Despite doing a fair amount of reading this week, I wasn't particularly inspired to share anything here until a parishioner passed me this quote written on an index card:

I do not boast that God is on my side, I humbly pray that I am on God's side.
~ Abraham Lincoln

May we all ~ Democrats, Republicans, Independents ~ do the same this election season.