Saturday, March 28, 2009

Willie Loberta Beasley b. March 28, 1908

I feel a bit nostalgic today. It is cold, rainy and four inches of snow predicted…just perfect to realize how far away from home I am on this late March day. Today is my grandmother's birthday. She died July 17, 1998. It messes with my mind to think it has been 10 ½ years since she left this world.

Born outside of Wainwright Oklahoma just months after Oklahoma became a state, she was an awesome person. She lived a "hard knock life" but bounced back every time. She moved into the Crazy Water Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas when she was around 85. Although she wanted to be close to family, she was sort of afraid to move there because a "bunch of old people lived there." She thought that being around young people kept her young. And she was probably right. But she never did get old. They all loved her and her being there probably made them all younger. She made people laugh.

I remember clearly the day she broke her hip. She sat down. That was all. The chair was a little bit lower than she thought it was and she plopped. I can remember the way she looked at me and then stuck out her tongue at me when I laughed. Then she laughed. But we found out a little while later that her hip was broken and that was the only time we could trace it back.

She was so funny. She told the stories about me so many times that I seriously cannot remember if the memories are mine or if these just consist of her story about the incident. They feel like mine but it is impossible to tell.

She and my poppy married when my mom was twelve, I think. He loved me unconditionally. He loved my grandmother the same way. I used to think that Mamaw loved me so much because he did.

My memories of summer are tied up with them. I don't know if it is real or not but it seems like I spent a great deal of time with them during the summer.

I still have quilts that she made. There was always a quilting frame hanging from the ceiling in the spare bedroom. I kept quilt pieces that she had cut out and ready to make into another quilt. One day, maybe I will learn how to do it and make the one she started.

A picture of her bowling (at the age of 80 something) sits on my dresser. Not long ago, Mom gave me a locket that belonged to her. I still have an old overnight case – I kept it because it smelled like her for the longest time. I haven't been able to make myself throw it away yet but I doubt it will make the next move with us. I keep my jewelry in a little case that was hers. And I have her sewing machine.

She came to me the night she died. I know she did. At two in the morning, I sat bolt upright, knowing full well that I felt someone put a hand on my leg. I sat very still, listening, scared at first. But then a feeling of peace and love came over me. I lay back down and just before I fell asleep, I thought of her. Mom called early the next morning to tell me that she had left us.

She had a hard life, as many people born in the early part of the 1900's did. But she was tough…and gentle. I loved to hear her laugh. We had a strong, strange bond between us. She always knew when I needed to hear her voice; and I always called just when she needed me to also. Or so it seemed.

I could go on about her for a while. But I will stop now with a Happy Birthday, Mamaw.


 


 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Now…See What I Mean?

Wouldn't you know that right after I post that last blog, I go to Walking with Integrity site and in the list, there is Bishop Marc Andrus. So, in all fairness to my recent gripe, check out his blog - "Pastoral on the Economy 2".

I do want to see more "economic justice" stuff acted upon - an active sense of doing rather than just saying.

Find Bishop Marc's blog here .

The Royal “We”


 

The House of Bishops…bless their hearts. I know that they mean well. I really believe that. And they do a great job for the most part, I am sure of that. But, gosh…sometimes, the things that they come up with in their pastoral statements just slap me in the face.

The line that struck me this particular time was from their most recent meeting at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center. In it, they recognize in this economic crisis "an invitation into a deeper simplicity, a tightening of the belt, an expanded Lenten fast, and a broader generosity."

Now I know what they mean. They are not necessarily talking to me (that comes in the next line). They are talking to those who have not lived in any terms deemed simple and have an ever expanding penchant for more. They are suggesting to those who give up some small excess for a short period of time that making a life change would be better. They are asking us to be more like the widow with her mites. They could be talking totally about themselves.

Actually I agree with all of that. And I am trying to live into all of it. We have been living on an economic edge for a while now. That is not brag; it is just a fact. Some think it foolish. Hell, sometimes, I think it is extremely foolish and I can guarantee you that it is tiresome and exacting. Nonetheless, it is where we are. It isn't as though I am doing without. I have plenty of food; the bills are paid, we are clothed; gas is in the car…so what's the problem?

I am not suggesting that all people should or even could do this. But it is hard to hear the bishops inviting me into a leaner time when I view them from my position on this economic ladder.

Here is where the next line of their statement comes in to play: "God's abundant mercy and forgiveness meet and embrace us, waiting to empower us through the Holy Spirit to face the coming days."

This line speaks directly to me. "God's abundant mercy and forgiveness meet and embrace us" – me, in particular, right now as I write. God knows I need it because God knows what is in my heart but is not coming out fully onto this virtual sheet.

It is sort of like talking to a woman priest about the process of discernment and she "pastorally" states – "well, not everyone is called into the priesthood."

I know what she means. But that is not the way it comes across. And I never say, "Easy for you to say from your present position." But I think it.

It is sort of like Barbara Bush after the flooding catastrophe in NOLA from sub-par levees overtaxed by Katrina, when she attempted to find a positive note within the outpouring of guilty blood money from a negligent government by stating that this, "was working out nicely" for some. We all knew what she meant. But it sounded really crass and stupid.

A bishop who is well off, fat or sleek, driving a newer vehicle, living in a home where several could live … you catch my drift? My human element goes into hyper-mode. It hardly matters where they might have been once upon a time – it only matters about now, in this time.

I know far more "good" bishops than I do less than good ones, just people trying to live into their weird calling. And I am quite certain that most of them give abundantly from that elevated (perceived or otherwise) status. But when this group uses the royal "we" to say "we" need to live more simply, tighten the belt, take on Lent for more than just a season and give more, it is like swallowing a chunk of meat…I just can't do it. I balk even knowing that it is not me that they are speaking to particularly. Still, I want to ask belligerently – live more simply how? Give up my car? My old blankets, sheets or towels? Give up buying someone else's cast off clothes at Goodwill and just be happy with what I have? TIghten my belt more? What belt? Change my life even more than I have?

The 'me' inside that "we" wants to say – put up or shut up. Show me the money. You do it first… or after me…or beside me…just do it. Don't talk. Act.

And then…"God's abundant mercy and forgiveness meet and embrace us" scrolls across my mind's eye and I know…yes, I know…it is not about me. It is not even about them. It is about each one of us living into our own understanding of what God is calling us to do. I am where I am because of my understanding of what God was/is calling me to do. And I will continue to strive for a clearer understanding, even as the odds continue to line up against me and so many others in regards to finding work. And they are where they are because of their own understanding and part of that concept includes offering pastoral letters after they meet as a group.

These times are tough – far tougher for some than for others. Of course, it is all levels of the middle class that are affected most dramatically. For those who have nothing, little can be taken away. Those who live from paycheck to paycheck that are in danger of suddenly losing it all. Seniors and children are the at risk, as is always the case. And yes, those with larger than average incomes are being affected too. Those with the most have less now…but, jeez, sell a car or two. But, it is dangerous to play the 'my hurt is bigger than your hurt' game. Very dangerous.

It is with that I know as sure as I know my daughter's green eyes or Tucker's rapidly changing voice or my sweet Debbie's touch on my shoulder – I know that I have come this far trying to live into that understanding of God's will for me and I will not be kicked out at the corner unless there is something there for me to do. I am certain that what I need will be made available as that need comes into existence. The rest is just fluff.

Meanwhile, I will work on the human element thing – mine not theirs.

 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hildegard of Bingen, Visionary 17 September 1179

Not her day at all...nor mine either. But I think she has a message for me today.

"Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God."

I forget sometimes...the feather is nothing without the ruach.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Clouded Judgment


 

I planned to make time for reflection, meditation and silence during this Lenten Season. I thought I would try harder to listen.

Rather, to this point, it has been filled with non-stop activity. Coming out of Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper success, I headed straight into the planning of an event for May – an event for which planning began far too late and with no funds.

Then there is planning for a Fish Fry…and praying over the Stations of the Cross – a very special one written by Katie Sherrod. If you have not read it or participated in it, the book is called "Women of the Passion A Journey to the Cross." It is available through Amazon.

Plus, Integrity. I have neglected my duties as a regional vice president for Integrity terribly. So many things left undone right in this time where so much needs to be done. By the way, have you contributed to the Anaheim Appeal? It is vitally urgent.

Add to all of that, a tween soon to be teen in the throes of puberty. May God have mercy on him and us.

Sundays are rush, rush full of work. Hardly worshipful, much less reflective or meditative. Were it not for moments of Morning Prayer or the twice per week Noonday Prayer, I do not know that God would get more than a very brief offering.

Last evening, in an attempt to fulfill a commitment made, I did attend a Taize Evening Prayer, although I missed the first fifteen minutes. In that small area, with a cappella chants, candles, icons and almost quiet, the vision of anchoress, monk, hermit, recluse crept into my mind's eye. I could feel the power of renewal…almost. Had I been alone or made certain that I had that one hour devoted to prayer, where might the Spirit have led me?

Quite a few years ago, I gave up giving up stuff for Lent. It just seemed to me to be a moot point to give up chocolate, beer or tofu burgers (already a veggie) for a set period of time. If I deemed chocolate (or other things) to be sinful enough that I need to abstain from these for 40 days, then maybe I should give these up for good. If my overindulgence was harmful, why do it at all?

Instead, I have tried to find ways in which I need to make change in my life . I thought I would refrain from over indulging in anything but I have failed miserably. I thought I would make certain I took a period of time where I read or prayed or just sat still. There is so much to do – how can I sit still?

A friend asked me just this morning what in the world was I thinking when I took on this Flower Festival. Without thinking about it, I said, "I don't think anymore; I just follow."

The answer was tossed out there nonchalantly. But thinking about it, it is sort of profound.

I don't think much anymore. I just act. If I think about all this stuff I am doing and the fact that I do not have a job, I would stop everything and act on my logic. But is anything about God logical?

Another person suggested that my enthusiasm clouded my judgment. Perhaps he is right. But judging is something that I have been trying to eliminate from my life for a long time. Maybe I am being foolish in believing that through God all things are possible. That is certainly not a logical statement. Yet, I will be an enthusiastic fool for God…not that God might think me a fool. I am not here to be a judge; I am here to be a faithful witness to God's absolutely indescribably grace and love.

Having worked in event planning for 10 years and with volunteers for more than 15, I know that there is no way on earth that the Flower Festival can be pulled off. I know that having never done a Fish Fry for public and parish that we are working against all odds for a success. The "Women of the Passion" belongs solely to the Holy Spirit so I don't have to worry about that one. My good sense tells me that the church at large and parishes in general, regardless of how "gay-friendly" they may claim to be, are just not ready to see marriage as inclusive of gays and lesbians.

Yet…

All of that (except the passion part) is about people thinking they know what things are all about. It's about them relying on their own judgment. Talk about clouded judgment… as a friend just said, "I think I might have told him to not let his judgment cloud my enthusiasm." I said, "Amen."

I am working in my church, doing the work that is set before me, rejoicing in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, knowing that all things I do (deemed foolish or otherwise) I do for the Glory of God simply because I can. I CAN. I am allowed to do so. I am working in the church. And I am happy.

So, yes, as has happened to me so many times in the past and probably to many other people as well, I have failed miserably at what I set out to do in preparation for this period of reflection and radical change. But I, living in my clouds, realized that I am not thinking about worldly things…I am just doing the tasks that I see before me, realizing that the Spirit is working in me and around me and pray to God, through me.

All to God the Glory. All Praise to God. And as my grandmother would say – Thank you, Jesus.

Please, God, cloud my judgment always.