Friday, April 30, 2010

The Spiritual Practice of Household Composition - 1

Just for fun: Jot down five places you've lived in your life. Anyplace, including a dorm room, counts. Do it quickly. Now write down your favorite thing about each place. See any commonalities? Any reflections in what they mean?

Observation: I did this the other night and included my childhood home, a college dorm room, and three apartments. What jumped out? That my favorite thing about four of the five was windows: big, wall-spanning windows. Some looked out onto hills and woods and water, and some onto city streets, but all of them were big and let sunlight pour into the indoors.

Reality: I have never paid the slightest attention to "window treatments." Actually, we have almost none. When we moved into this house, we had curtain panels on rods that covered the bottom halves of most of the windows, courtesy of the prior owners. Three children in three years ~ meaning that at one point their ages were five, five, and two ~ meant that said rods and curtains were quickly dismantled. And never replaced with anything. Some of the bedrooms have curtains, but not all.

Reflection: There are big windows across the front of our house, which faces sort of north. The best light in the house is the mellow yellow afternoon light that streams into the living and dining rooms from those windows. But there are big double-hung windows, lots of them, on all sides of the house. The views aren't much, but the light is wonderful.

The spiritual part: The windows and the light they offer are much more significant than I've been conscious of. What can I do, I wonder, to enhance and draw attention to the windows themselves, and to take better advantage of the light in terms of displaying artwork around the house? What might draw the windows and the light into the design of our interiors, so that the windows become integral aspects of the rooms rather then mere slots through which light is transferred?


Why I Wake Early

by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips
\and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even,
miserable and the crotchety
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens to be
where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.


That is not why I wake early. I wake early because I can't sleep more than a few hours at a stretch. But when I wake up, there is light. Or there will be, in another hour or two. And so: windows. I want to become aware of windows.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Spiritual Practice of . . .

I don't even know what to call it. Organizing? Decluttering? Ordering? Composing? Orchestrating? Integrating? Streamlining? Engineering?

Yes, I've resorted to the thesaurus. So far I kind of like composing. It sounds like it's related to music, and photography ~ to any work of art. It sounds orderly and intentional. It sounds like . . . it sounds like not my house at all.

I know I've written about this before. In fact, I could probably celebrate my blogiversaries (just passed the sixth one a few weeks ago) by pulling up at least annual entries about figuring out the house. But this time (is there a 12-step program for this?) I have a new resolve and perhaps the time to carry it out.

Here's what's at issue:

A nearly 100-year-old three story house with the accumulated memories (I mean clutter) of 26 years of family life. Shelves and shelves and shelves (remember, we have a library with 34 of them, and they represent only the tip of the iceberg) of books. Enough piles and folders of papers to reforest the entire Pacific Northwest. Files and containers of negatives and prints and videos. Clothes in ~ ahem ~ a multitude of sizes and in styles that qualify for museum status. Children's art and school work. Camping and canoeing and backpacking gear. Several rooms that need painting. At least one ceiling that needs to be replaced -- if you could call a couple of slabs of drywall jammed in place as a temporary measure a decade ago a ceiling. And no money.

Here's what's a stake:

The desire to live with simplicity and beauty.
The longing for home as a place of retreat. The wish for our to home reflect our interests and passions in a hospitable way.

I don't think this has a whole lot to do with cool containers or closet designs. I think is has to do with identity and priority and love.

OK, I should have been thinking this way 25 years ago but I wasn't, so let's let that one go.

Here's what I think now:
We have maybe 20 years of vigorous health and energy left and the chances are pretty good that we'll spend them in this house. (Although if any of you have something on a beach somewhere that you want to give away, I'm quite willing to walk out the door without looking back.) We have certain priorities for those years and I, at least, would like to focus undistractedly on those, which means I would like our arrangement of furnishings and art and storage to reflect the things we care about and are engaged in. We have a group of wonderful friends and I'd like them to feel welcomed and comfortable when they come by.

And here's what I'm banking on (I know: silly, silly me):

A summer of unemployment - no, let's call that freedom. Something like 60 days in which I could make ordering our household my top and almost singular priority.

You know how you are supposed to prep the walls before you paint? And before the prep, you need a vision. Am I leaving the wall here or knocking it out? New windows (more knocking out)? Paint or paper? And then: the destruction and the re-plastering or rebuilding and the sanding and the cleaning and the base coat? Maybe you don't know all this if your house is more youthful than ours, but I am not youthful either, so the parallel works just fine.

I think that my prep work consists of imagining how life could be and how the house could look and function before I lift a finger. A lot of interior mental and emotional work before the physical task begins.

In the house, the destruction follows the acknowledgment that water damage has rendered the remains of a wall or ceiling no longer useful, and the re-construction involves getting it to a point where it can be made beautiful in a fresh and inviting way. Same for life and how it is reflected by the space it inhabits.

So, over the next month or so, while I am finishing papers and otherwise engaged in the end of my seminary experience, I am going to be doing a lot of inner excavation and dreaming as I prepare for the destructive (I mean cleansing) phase of:

The Spiritual Practice of Household Composition.

Image (not mine): Monk Parakeets in Hyde Park (Chicago). My current model for household composition. You can see that I am faced with something of a challenge. I may have to call in Portia for an intervention.

Monday, April 26, 2010


As pleased as I am to be graduating from seminary in 39 days -- although no one commented on my countdown remark yesterday, to the effect that I had been asked whether I was thinking desert or flood -- I can't seem to decide whether I want to go to the event itself.

For a long time I thought that I wouldn't. No drama around the decision, just: celebrations are difficult. (That's, um, a bit of an understatement.)

Then I thought that I would.

Now I think: Nope. Reasons mostly unbloggable.

Those of you who have skipped your own graduations of any kind at all: thoughts?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Self Diagnosis

Last night The Lovely Daughter and I were curled up in bed reading and talking and somehow, don't ask me how, we got onto the subject of my various aches and pains. Probably because I tried to do something like move.

"Mom," she asked, "do you ever mention to your doctor how many parts of you hurt?"

"No," I said.

"You LIE to the doctor?" she demanded.

"Not exactly," I said. "It doesn't really come up."

"How can it not come up?"

"How would it? She asks whether I am healthy (other than the strep/sinus/whatever infection I'm there for), and I say that I weigh too much but my BP is fine and I walk three miles most days and I'm fine."

"Mom. Think about it. Your knees, your hips, your back, your shoulders, your elbows."

"Well, I am a little concerned about this recent problem where my shoulders and upper arms hurt when I raise my hands high to stretch. I can't understand why that is happening."

"Mom! And what about that last sickness, the one where you mostly slept for five weeks?"

"I did a lot of other things besides sleep."

"You didn't do a single thing you didn't absolutely have to do."

We started looking around online. My symptoms sound ominously like RA. Especially the symmetrical part. And my back.

Now I remember. This conversation got started because I said that I am beginning to feel like my spine is frozen in place.

Who knew you could get arthritis in your spine? Not me.

We read some more. It is all extremely disturbing. This thing does not stop with a few achy joints. This is lifelong, degenerative, all-encompassing. It involves problematic meds. It involves health insurability problems. (Maybe not anymore.) I read all of Songbird's entries. I think about my grandmother's gnarled fingers and complaints about back and joint pain. I realize that I have, very, very, very gradually gotten used to compensating for almost constant pain.

I am not a hypochondriac. Far from it. People tell me all the time about symptoms which have propelled them into a doctor's office and I think, "Really? Is that something I should be paying attention to?"

I sure hope we are completely off base about this.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

For Real!

OK, it's all for real. But yesterday I got to have an embodied meeting with Mumpastor who, it turns out, lives within a couple of miles of me, and realized that fact from a post I had written about a memorial service at which she, too, was in attendance. (We never did get to where we actually live.) She has a complex and interesting life, trying to juggle a busy family with the challenges of the United Methodist ordination and assignment system.
We should amazed, I think, by people who turn their lives upside down somewhere in the middle for ministry. The traditional path to ordination is definitely designed for the young and unencumbered. (As I told Mumpastor, I've said to one of the young men in my seminary class that when he is in his 50s, with mortgages, college tuitions, family crises at all generational levels, etc., I want him to look back at these days and think of us and say, "Those women were AWESOME.")

We did not take a shoe picture.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ordinary Grace ~ 3

It's been a little too chilly this week, but usually my favorite place to work at school in the spring and fall is outside in the small quad in front of the library.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Transforming Fire: Seminary Chapel Sermon

Jeremiah 20: 7-9
Luke 24: 13-16, 28-35

Toward the end of March, a friend of mine watched in horror as fire engulfed five of the houses across the street from his.

When he and his wife were looking, several years ago, for a home to purchase, one of the requirements on their list was a front porch. They found what they were looking for in an enclave of row houses in a small town outside Philadelphia. Every house had a porch, and so people got to know one another a bit. There was the lady who read on her porch all summer, and the family with the three kids who played on theirs. My friend teaches horticulture, and so he loves living in a place where being outdoors is important to everyone. He is also a stained glass artist, and so he knows quite a bit about fire that creates as well as fire that destroys.

The night of the neighborhood fire, he heard some commotion across the street and, when he looked out, somewhat irritated by the late night noise, he saw a scene which almost stopped his heart.

The pictures he posted on Facebook are dramatic and terrifying; you can practically feel the heat and hear the crackling flames and falling timbers.

The photos reminded me of another fire, one many years ago, when the church behind our house burned to the ground.

That event, too, happened late one spring night, and I watched from my kitchen windows, mesmerized, as flames poured out the windows of the church and burst through its roof. When the smoke began to drift through our own windows, I realized that we probably needed to get out of there. My husband was out of town on business, so I got the baby out of her crib, and sort of pushed and pulled my two sleepy boys out the front door and over to our neighbor’s on the other side. We stayed there for an hour or so, until things appeared to be under control, and then we went back home. The firefighters were starting to take some breaks and they looked completely exhausted, so I urged them to rest on my front steps when they wanted to, and began to take pitchers of water and lemonade out to them.

I didn’t do anything else.

I didn’t even write a note to the fire department later to thank them for saving the rest of our block. I was a young mother with three-year-old twins and a newborn, and a husband who traveled frequently, and so I went back to my very busy life without much thought to the ways in which other lives had been affected by the fire while ours had been left intact, even though there was a big black spot out behind our house where the church had been.

And that brings me to something that my friend wrote after his neighborhood fire.

The next day, people returned to collect what little was left of their possessions and take them back to the hotel in which the Red Cross has put them up. One woman invited him into what remains of her house, but he declined. “I’ve got this,” she said, holding up a tie rack, and as he walked back across the street, the words to a Lyle Lovett song echoed in his head:

“Step inside my house …

I'll tell you 'bout where I've been …

I’ll show you all the things I own,

My treasures you might say..”.

How might a tie rack salvaged from the rubble of a fire be a treasure? What memories are attached to it? A husband long gone? Happier times when they passed summer evenings together by reading on the porch?

My friend resolved that the next time that someone invites him to share something of her life, he will not say no.

There are fires all around us.

Some of them are not visible, not unless we know to look for the telltale signs of smoldering loss, frustration, anger, or despair.

Sometimes they erupt from the embers of disagreement, over issues in our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches.

Sometimes, they are much more apparent: the explosion in the West Virginia coal mine, for instance, or the volcano in Iceland. (This morning I saw online that there are eight million travelers with nowhere to go. I’m sure there’s a sermon in there somewhere!)

Some involve neighborhoods not literally on fire, but burning to the ground just as surely as if they were, fanned by the flames of the drug trade, of an educational system in disarray, of an economy that offers no hope of employment.

Some involve families imploding from within or besieged from without.

There are fires all around us, and so many opportunities for us to respond.

We could express our gratitude to those who do the heavy lifting for us.

We could look for ways to talk with one another, to encounter one another with reverence instead of with anger and hostility over our disagreements.

We might honor losses by taking the time to be present to those who have nothing but a tie rack to show for decades of living.

“Were not our hearts burning within us?”

Might we pause, when we are surrounded by destructive fire, when the lives of our friends and neighbors are engulfed by flames, to remember the fire glowing in our hearts?

Might we remember the one who causes that fire to burn when he walks alongside his friends and offers them a new interpretation of the events they’ve just experienced?.

We might remember that when Jesus sees the despondency in the eyes of his friends, and hears the heartbreak in their voices, he journeys with them, and he shares a meal with them.

Such little things, but such very large acts of compassion and friendship:

A walk and a conversation that acknowledge the effects of great and unwanted change.

The breaking of bread that tells us that shared memory is essential to transformation.

Acts that respond to bewilderment and confusion by recreating community and offering new vision.

What Jesus does in the world is what we are invited to imitate, to share, in this already-not-yet kingdom place which we inhabit.

Do we do that? Do we take a detour to walk with someone whose life has been singed by fire? Do we act upon the knowledge that Jesus shared with us, that community is created, and recreated, and reconciled, when we share our stories and our bread?

Jeremiah says that he is weary of holding in the fire burning in his bones; well, we should be weary of the same thing!

Jeremiah was compelled, by the brokenness of his people and by the irresistible fire of God burning within him to proclaim what he saw; we, too, are called to say out loud what we see.

We are called to resist the fires that destroy by making ourselves present -Present to those who long for the fire that creates, present as witnesses to their experience, and present as companions willing to walk straight into their charred lives.

It’s Easter, and we have been given the gift of the fire that cannot be contained, that burns within us so that we can carry it wherever it is needed, wherever there are people who need to be heard, people who need to share what once was, people who need bread broken to reveal a future.

Walter Brueggeman says that the Eucharist is one of the most countercultural things we can do: The sharing of bread and cup is an identity-shaping re-enactment, an antidote to loss. It says we’re not alone. It says that the holy power of God is in this place

When Jesus walks with the unidentified disciples on the road to Emmaus, they recognize in the breaking and sharing of bread, who he is, and who they are – and who we are: His beloved people.

And they are able to comprehend the sense of encounter with love that enveloped them as they walked with him and that caused their hearts to burn.

We, too, have been given the gift of fire that goes wherever love calls. We, too, have been given the gift of fire that consumes and transforms all potential for destruction.

It calls us to turn toward one another: to write the thank you note, to step inside the remains of the house, to walk through our neighborhoods, and to explore our differences together.

My Philadelphia friend hesitated in response to a fire that seemed only to destroy. But he knows well the fire that creates. He wrote this week that he counted 38 candles in his church last Sunday morning, and he said,

"Fire can be so beautiful."

Thanks be to God.

(With thanks to Stratoz, and apologies for any misrepresentations.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Desert Year Post

I guess this would be in my Desert Year blog if it were still current.

I keep forgetting to prepare myself for the crashes.

Last week I asked The Lovely Daughter whether she still feels, every day, like this could not possibly be our lives.

"Oh yeah,"she said.

And then I had three wonderful days, listening to two amazing presentations by and conversing for hours with one of the people I most treasure in this world.

But you know what? This is still my life.

I don't have any idea, really, how anyone survives this.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Life is Full

I have had a really full few days and I have a few more ahead of me. Lots to write about, but just bullet points for now.

Wednesday night Howard Gray, one of the most special people in my life, presented John Carroll University's annual lecture on Where Do I Find Hope? It was another brilliant exploration of attention, reverence and devotion as the dispositions to which we are called. I spoke briefly with another woman, a psychologist at Giant Famous Hospital and also a spiritual director, and we agreed that each line of our several pages of notes offers a day's worth of contemplative material.

The next day, it was my pleasure to drive HG to Pittsburgh, and the day after that to take him out to lunch at a spot high above the city, overlooking skyline and rivers, prior to his speaking on the topic of discernment as part of the spiritual direction certificate program new to my seminary this year. Lots of conversation, and I got to hear another wonderful presentation, not on the techniques of discernment, but on creating an environment which fosters prayerful discernment.

Today, back to Cleveland where Walter Brueggeman was appearing at my home church in conversation with one of our pastors. Another outstanding event! And more on that later as well.

Now it's time for me to produce instead of listen. An adult class at my field ed church tomorrow. A "guest speaking engagement" on pastoral care for survivors of suicide in a class at seminary on Monday. A Monday night advisory board meeting for the seminary's spiritual direction program. A test (billed as a quiz, but I think not) on Tuesday. And preaching in the seminary chapel on Tuesday as well.

I'm not quite sure why everything is happening in the same seven days. But on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. I plan to pull the covers over my head and go to sleep.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pack Your Bags Friday Five

How I wish I were going on the Big Event! Maybe next year, as classes will no longer be an impediment. (Of course, with senioritis flaring up, I'm not sure that they are an impediment!)

Anyway, Songbird writes here:

I'm preparing to pack my bags for the Big Event Three, and as I gather what I need I'm thinking about just that: what do I *need* to take with me? As a person who likes to pack light, I worry that in the end I may underpack and wish I had other things with me. I own the gigantor version of the bag to the right, but my morbid fear of having it go astray and not get to the ship means I'm more likely to try to pack it all in a carry-on bag instead, especially since I have a very tight connection on the way to the cruise. But won't I be sorry if I don't bring _______________?

With that in mind, here are five questions about packing to go on a trip.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?

I usually fold, like things into a bundle with like, which has the same anti-wrinkle effect as rolling. When I return home from seminary each week, I fling ~ all dirty clothes by then.

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?

I'm not very imaginative, so: the usual. Once I lost a bottle of water which I had purchased seconds earlier just outside security.

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?

My computer, to which I am practically glued. And a curling iron.

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?

Absolutely. Several, in various sizes.

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?

War and Peace. No, seriously: I'm a very restless reader on planes, so I usually pick up a couple of magazines in the airport. For a longer trip, I would think that any of the novels QG recommends would be just fine.

Bonus question, added by me: If you're not going on the BE, what's the next trip in store for you?

I'm off to Eastern Point Retreat House in June, where I intend to contemplate seminary graduation (which will be just behind me), the Exegesis exam (sigh; ahead of me again), life in general or, perhaps, just the ocean.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good News Around Here!

Although, as we all know, I no longer predict anything at all, insofar as the next five minutes or so are concerned we have some people in this household settled for next year. The Lovely Daughter is headed for a master's degree in social work and the Gregarious Son for law school, both of them with very nice scholarships indeed!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some Kind of Grace, I Suppose

So, I am taking this course on theologian and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas. The last time I quoted him, it had to do with what God intends to make of us, and my personal wish that God would be a bit less ambitious.

I can't say that what struck me tonight made me feel any better:

"Discipleship is quite simply extended training in being dispossessed. To become followers of Jesus means that we must, like him, be dispossessed of all that we think gives us power over our own lives and the lives of others. Unless we learn to relinquish our presumption that we can ensure the significance of our lives, we are not capable of the peace of God's kingdom."

Really, I would just like to go back to the kind of life where words like that did not reverberate, resonate, or re-anything at all.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Into the Silent Land

I have been reading this book by Martin Laird for several days, meaning that I've read it through and now I'm reading around in it, a paragraph or two at a time. My former spiritual director recommended it, saying that someone else had told him that it's the best thing that's been written about prayer.

I'm not sure about that. I'm still partial to Anthony Bloom's Beginning to Pray and Henri Nouwen's The Only Necessary Thing. In fact, I like the latter so much that I've used it to teach a class on prayer at my home church, and another friend has just run with that idea and used it as the basis for an entire retreat day at hers.

But Laird does offer an amazing chapter on meeting your pain in the silence of God. He uses fear, physical pain, and compulsion to illustrate what he means, but his thoughts are applicable to any kind of affective torment -- mine being anger, sadness, and overwhelming and indefinable emotional pain. The point is to move from reactivity to witness, from endless inner commentary to direct gaze. As a person who moves constantly within the dimensions of story, I find it quite challenging to subtract narrative and imagery from my inner life. But perhaps that is exactly the invitation I need to heed right now.

The other night, having had something of a meltdown at school and witnessing the shock and dismay on the faces of others who perhaps have not come face-to-face with this depth of grief before (in part because I, myself, for instance, have kept most of it to myself), I looked up some material online. Mostly I just needed to be reminded that there is nothing unusual about my feelings. And, indeed, I read repeatedly that deep and pervasive grief last much longer than most people are aware that it does, especially in situations such as ours, where the multiplier of two of life's worst traumas is in effect.

That said, however, the groove worn by the endless replay of memories and of things that might have been different becomes unproductive at some point. The therapist I saw for some months at the beginning said that for a trauma like loss to suicide, you need to find "a good enough story," something close enough and accurate enough offer some peace. She's an excellent therapist, but I'm not sure that there is a good enough story. Perhaps what there is instead is the very thing which was the source of so much anguish for so long: the vast silence of God.

I just glanced at the book to see whether there were some words more precise than mine. And here they are:

"Now we can see how afflictive thoughts and feelings play a rather important role. They provide an invitation to be still and gaze into the vast silence they manifest. This is how Eckhart could say, 'what used to be a hindrance now helps you most.' Such is the simple sifting of silence."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Ordinary Grace ~ 2

Those of us doing seminary field education in a church or other placement are required to meet once a week with a group of our peers to discuss the myriad "things that come up." Usually one of us presents a scenario from his or her experience, and then we discuss a multiplicity of issues that arise in connection with the original challenge.

Today we took a break from the usual format. We talked about all the roles involved in being a pastor, and all the roles involved in our personal lives, and then one of our professors asked us to draw our "houses," showing the four "rooms" representing our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual sides. How are we taking care of all four?

Some drew blueprint-type floor plans, some drew views from the front, and one gentlemen with some actual artistic skill drew a three dimensional representation. Quite elegant.

I won't bore you with mine except to say that my quick and mostly instinctive drawing showed a spiritual side that was spacious and wide-open to all the others and filled with cool stuff (LOTS of art)(to look at, not to do!) and my physical side was -- ummm -- the mudroom. Containing one unused yoga mat and one beat-up pair of walking shoes.

It's actually a very cool exercise. You probably need to do it quickly to get the benefit of its revealing some of what's really going on in your life, but it's definitely worth a try.

And ~ oh: Mine did have the ocean outside and three cats inside.

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Ordinary" Grace - 1

This looks to be a post-Lent Lent, in the sense that I'm going to try as an intentional spiritual practice to be more attentive to and grateful for all that I take for granted, most of which I view out of a lens warped by loss. (And warped by other frustrations as well; for example, the fact that I am still way too tired to get much outside enjoyment out of yet another incredibly beautiful day. At least I can see all of the green exploding into life all around me, and I'll be able to feel the warmth of the sunshine when I go out in a bit.)


Where I am going in an hour or so is to meet with someone whom I've recently begun to accompany through the Ignatian Exercises. I can hardly believe that the fact that I'm writing it down here means that I have begun to take even that for granted. In my own life, there are two huge before-and-afters: Josh's death, and making the Exercises. I don't see how I would be surviving the former in the way that I am without the latter. What an enormous grace and privilege this is for me: to share in someone's unfolding encounter with God, to offer the gift of a tradition of 450 years and to receive in return the confidence and trust that enables a person to explore the ways in which it calls out of the present, and to share in a partnership in which God is so clearly at work.

Maybe not so entirely ordinary, huh?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Grace of the Ordinary

I am so completely depleted.

Partly because when I got so incredibly sick a few weeks ago, there were few opportunities to take a break. Partly because when I have taken breaks, and slept and slept and slept, I have awakened exhausted by the thought of all I need to do to catch up. Partly because I have been so affected by that blip on the call-and-ordination timeline. And partly because religious celebrations are still way, way, way beyond my capacity to absorb.

Years ago, in one of my graduate classes, we were assigned as a reading a short essay on the topic of grace. One of the phrases in the essay has never left me: the writer spoke of praying "for the grace of an ordinary day." At the time, our family had weathered a terrible and lengthy storm, and that seemed like a good but extremely ambitious prayer. Now it seems that anything at all ordinary is simply beyond realistic possibility, but it's what I'm planning to focus on for a good long time.

There was a lot of intensity in the past few days. Seven services in three different churches, each with a different liturgical and homiletical focus, each with its own musical tenor. Each pulling me this way, pushing me that.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, the most significant moment of all, for me, came in the form of a quiet conversation just before the beginning of a Good Friday service, with a Jesuit whom I don't know at all well, but seem to run into unexpectedly at significant junctures in my life. Or perhaps they turn out to be significant because of the brief conversations we share. He is able to move from small talk to matters of great weight with amazing speed and ease, and always manages in just a few sentences to convey something I need to hear at a time when I am actually able to hear it.

More important than the beautiful liturgies, the weighty sermons, the exquisite music. The grace of an ordinary conversation.

A little bit of Easter.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter - 1989 - St. Augustine

I think I posted this last year in another blog. The boys would have been four-and-a-half and The Lovely Daughter one-and-a-half. Look at those blonde heads!

I went to the Easter Vigil service tonight and I made it from beginning to end. It was like running a marathon. I can't imagine how I will get through through the Easter morning service in my field ed church.

The Easter Vigil readings cover the entire arc of Scripture. For me, it was kind of like going in and out of consciousness. There are places in the story where I connect out of some almost reflexive hope, and then I slip back into those dark hours before dawn, before the Exodus, before creation.

I suppose that each spring a little bit more of the story will come into focus, and perhaps the light of Sunday will crack open the Terrible Sadness of Saturday. But I can see that we are talking about a project of many years.