Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Seven Stanzas at Easter

By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Questions, Folks:

1. I have been asked to make a presentation on surviving a loved one's suicide to a class on pastoral care, loss, and grief. Of course, I have lots to say, but only from my own perspective. Any ideas, those of you who have also suffered the loss of a child via any means or the loss via suicide of anyone you love, or have served those who have experienced such losses as a pastor or spiritual director?

2. I have recently discovered that the next (end of summer) days for the five-day Exegesis exam, which I have already blown once, encompass September 1, my boys' 26th birthday, and September 2, the second anniversary of Josh's death. I am thinking: ask for an early or late alternative test (Do they even offer those? No idea. ) or try to work really fast and finish up by the morning of September 1 so I can hightail it outta here. What would you do?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Ministry : Attention, Reverence, and Devotion

Over at his blog A Jesuit's Journey, Ryan Duns has been posting a series on helping and encouraging young men and women in the Catholic church who are discerning possible calls to life in religious community. A few days ago he posted this approach, something I have heard many times from the man he quotes, who accompanied me through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and has continued to support and encourage me through my seminary education and through this horrific past year-and-a-half:

"Be Attentive
: Learn to recognize the movement of God's Spirit in the lives of others. As you become sensitive to discerning God's desires for you in your own life, you will develop your abilities to be sensitive to God's activity in the lives of others.

Be Reverent
. When you encounter the "holy desire" of an early vocation, show reverence for God's presence. Treat this person as one who is graced by God's Spirit: this person is holy ground! Show the respect and reverence that is due any person who discerns honestly and sincerely to know just what it is that God wants for him.

Be Devoted.
Offer your entire self to this process. Pray for the person. Answer questions. Listen. Devote yourself to clarifying what it is that stirs in the depths of the person's heart and helping him or her offer himself or herself wholly to God's invitation to friendship. You cannot, of course, do this for someone else."

I've changed the language a bit so that it encompasses both men and women ~ the original post was written with potential Jesuits in mind and they are, of course, all men. But the underlying values and approach ~ attention, reverence, and devotion ~ apply to how we might seek to be present in our encounters with anyone and, in particular, someone who is sorting through matters related to a major and life-altering decision, in whatever arena of life it presents itself.

In my spiritual direction certificate program, we have often talked about how much our own practice reflects that of those who have accompanied us ~ and about how it seeps into our other involvements as well. I remember noticing that my relationships with my students were going extremely well during my last year of teaching (right before I began seminary) and realizing that I was, in fact, approaching them, more or less unconsciously, with far more attention, reverence, and devotion than I ever had before.

It was a tremendous gift in my life that, just when I needed all of that from someone, the right person showed up to offer it in abundance, and over many months of listening, transferred to me a small sense of awareness of how to proceed.

I can hardly claim to have it down ~ which I'm sure my family and friends would be only too happy to confirm. But I do I hope that I am able to provide a little of the same thing. The only possible way to show one's gratitude for such a gift of accompaniment is to offer the same to others when they happen along.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Moving Right Along . . .

Maybe my self-indulgent posts will gradually become less so?


I could easily overcome the ear and throat and head aches to accomplish something, but a single load of laundry leaves me completely winded and back in bed.

I'm very thankful that I have no pre- or post-church responsibilities tomorrow. Just get through the service and crawl back into bed, I guess. I've abandoned the optimism with which I have awakened the last several days, when I've opened my eyes and thought, "Surely I'm better?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010


One of my challenges as a mother lay in addressing the realities of life with my children without scaring them. The big reality being that my mother had died when I was a child, and the scary thing being that the same thing could happen in their lives because, of course, it could.

One night at dinner when they were very small, my boys were grappling with their developing understanding of extended family, and the conversation went something like this:

Why do we have Grandpa and Grandma on one side and Grandpa and Brenda on the other?

(Explanation followed.)

Josh, who always pondered things very deliberately: Mom, how come you are such a great mom when you didn't have a mom?

Matt, who always had a great deal to say: Our mom is a great mom because she didn't have a mom. She just figures out what she didn't have and then she makes sure that we do.


My boys are in fourth or fifth grade. Josh's teacher has given his class a list of human qualities and asked them to discuss which ones they think are most important. Conversation in the minivan on the way home:

Matt: Well, obviously intelligence is the most important quality in a person.

Josh: No, Matt. Kindness is the most important. What difference does it make how smart you are if you are mean?

Matt: What difference does it make how kind you are if you don't even know it?

Lively debate ensues. The driver sides silently with Josh but, being a thoroughly Montessori mom, leaves the discussion to the original participants. The Lovely Daughter, being a Montessori child rather than mom, does not hesitate to interject questions and comments.


Fifteen years pass and the child who championed kindness does the most devastatingly unkind thing of all.


No wonder the mom's self-assessment is considerably altered.


It is one thing to acknowledge and understand that depression is an illness and an evil that destroys someone's expansive kindness and generosity along with his very considerable intelligence.

It is another entirely to live out the consequences.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sometimes You Get What You Didn't Know You Needed

It's been a rough couple of weeks.

Sick. Big assignment unfinished days after I had intended it to be. Multiple other loose ends also unfinished because all I really want to do is sleep. Exegesis failure and resultant sense of rejection and discouragement. Sermon into which I poured much of the last 1.5 years met with decidedly mixed reactions. Holy Week coming up, and that is still way too difficult for me. Discovery that some future calendar dates are going to wreak further havoc in my life.

And then yesterday one of my professors said some things to me about my call to ministry, about my writing, about some of my gifts and experiences, that were ~ well, kind of amazing.

And just sinking in.

This morning I woke up and realized that the profound sense of all-encompassing rejection that accompanies a child's suicide had pretty much eliminated any sense of self-worth on my part. So completely, in fact, that I wasn't even aware of it.

And so to have someone say things to me that extend far beyond general or basic kinds of compliments or affirmations ~ well, I am stunned.

I need to do something about my perspective. It seems that perhaps a little reorientation is in order.

(Yeah, I'll try not to overdo it.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

You Wondered Whether It Was Going Anywhere?

That sermon? So did I, for days. But here, after some thoughts about Mary and her astonishing behavior, is how it finally concluded:

We have religion because we live and then we die – so I once heard a great preacher say. We have a framework in our religious lives, a framework of community and practice, that helps us prepare and respond and endure when death enters our lives. And perhaps it seems at first glance that that’s what this story is about – a small family community that has encountered death, and new life, and is about to encounter death again, and a woman who responds with unabashed and extravagant love to the gift of life that has been offered to her.

But there will be more to this story in the weeks to come. And while we may have religion because we live and die, we have faith because we live and die -- and live again. It is to the source of that faith, the person of Jesus Christ, the person who in his life and in his very being reveals God to us, that Mary’s act points. It is to the relationship of love that he offers that she responds. She responds in kind to a love that is both intimate and powerful, to a love that is itself a priceless treasure, to a love that cannot be contained. She knows, as we all do, the stink of death that pervades our lives when a loved one is lost to us. But she also knows the love that will finally overcome death, the love that is truly stronger than death, because she has encountered it in her friendship with Jesus.

I may not know from personal experience what scent means. I may have to rely on the words of others for descriptions that no doubt cannot do justice to the marvel of an aroma filling a room. But I do know, from Mary’s actions, that love has a fragrance, a fragrance far more powerful than the rank odor of death which her nard was originally intended to counteract. The fragrance of love, poured out by a silent witness, tells us that love triumphs death. The shadow of the cross looms ahead and yes, it is a terrible shadow, the shadow of suffering and defeat, the shadow of the wrenching separation imposed upon us by death. But what pours out from that cross, and seeps into every corner and crevice of human existence, is love. A love so commanding in its brokenness that it rescues our shattered lives and restores them to wholeness. A love so powerful in its silent flow that it saturates everything in its path. A love that invites us to respond fearlessly and extravagantly, allowing it to stream from our lives as freely as oil poured from a jar. Thanks be to God.

From Somewhere in the Middle of Today's Sermon

And so we can imagine the joyful expressions around the table when Jesus comes back to dine. The sisters have lost a brother, and he has been given back to them. Theirs is not a story of sibling rivalry such as we heard about last week in the story of the prodigal son. Theirs is a story of sibling attachment ripped apart by death. And those of us who have experienced it know that the death of a brother or a sister is a particularly devastating form of loss. I have lost a brother, and my children have lost a brother. A friend stopped me in the grocery several weeks ago and related her heartbreak at the death of her sister. I know that many of you have had similar losses. Our brothers and sisters are, after all, the people with whom we most closely share the formative experiences of our childhood and, when we lose them, a significant part of who we are seems to be taken from us as well. Our brothers and sisters are the people with whom we share some of the biggest challenges of our lives, the deaths of our grandparents and parents. In all of the stories about Mary and Martha and Lazarus, we never hear any reference to parents, and so we can might imagine that these three siblings have suffered those particular losses. Their experiences as the surviving members of their family must have drawn them especially close to one another, and so the joy of the sisters in response to the new life given their brother must have been impossible to contain.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tomorrow Morning ~ Sermon Intro

First, I have something of a confession to a make: I’m not sure that I really know all that much about what I’m going to say. Here we have a sermon which I’ve entitled “The Fragrance of Love,” a sermon in which we’re going to explore together a sensual and aromatic encounter with Jesus, and I don’t really have any experiential idea of what a fragrance or an aroma is. You see, I don’t have a sense of smell. I never have. I don’t know why, but it’s been the case all of my life – at least according to one of my grandmothers, who said that as a small child I was completely baffled by her invitation that I smell a rose from my mother’s garden. And as recently as last week, my daughter laughed when she realized that I had no idea that my husband had started making dinner – a fact clear to her from the aromas filling the house. So I may be on shaky ground here, but I’ve done some research. My friends tell me that certain aromas do fill the air and that scents do, as I’ve read, have a strong evocative power. If you walk by a bakery, one of my friends says, the smells of breads and pastries can make you think that you’re inside. And yes, another assures me, the aroma of a roast in the oven can take you quickly back to the scene of childhood meal, reminding you of the people there and the feelings you associate with them. I’ve never had that experience, and so I am probably taking a chance here, but my guess is that the rest of you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that love has the power to permeate the space and everyone in it just as a powerful fragrance does.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Space Fundamentalist

I'll share the funny one comment on one of my exams. (I started this in the comments below, but it got too long.)

We had a terrific question on how you would design a sanctuary to reflect Reformed theology, something we had spent so much time on in class that I thought perhaps our professor had written the question. I am fascinated by architecture designed for worship, and so I loved answering the question -- I even diagrammed my ideas. One of the readers said the answer was "Excellent -- what more is there to say?" -- and the other sniffed that she was surprised to find such rigidity in a paper that in the other two questions demonstrated such flexibility and sensitivity to various issues.

I am so un-rigid that I just cracked up. But I do understand the significance of various fixtures and their arrangement, and how they differ depending upon the theology in question, which was the point of the question. One of my favorite student projects ever was the one completed by one of my ninth grade Orthodox Jewish students on mosque architecture. The fact that she understood something about the theology and practice behind the space design did not mean that she had any plans to adopt it!

Personally, I think that stained glass windows have it all over clear ones, but (a) I understand the Reformed theological arguments for clear (guess that's where the rigidity comes in? that I understand the theology behind the original practice?) and (b) if I were actually serving a church faced with the task of designing a new sanctuary, I would encourage thorough discussion of all options and reasons therefor, so that the congregation could make decisions that were well-informed both theologically and aesthetically.

I suppose I am rigid (very Presbyterian) with respect to the process, but quite open as to outcome. But hey ~ the question was about outcome, not polity, and I got to be the designer: no committee, no trustees, no session, no congregation, no architectural firm.

Hence my answer, her response, and my professor's resulting quip that I must be a "space fundamentalist!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just One More . . .

. . . post on the exam topic and then I'm finished.

We received our papers, with scores and comments today. I am feeling much better because the numbers and especially the comments on the theology and worship exams are embarrassingly flattering. (Although there is one mid-range score and a very funny comment by one of the readers on one of the worship questions ~ at least it would be quite humorous to anyone who knows me.)

When I looked at the Hebrew Exegesis exam, I caught my breath -- and suddenly understood. I had completely blocked out the fact that the passage on which we were required to write was the story of Elijah's restoration of a widow's son to life. Completely blocked out that entire exam.

Some of you readers may remember from another blog that I was completely thrown by that passage. In fact, I spent the entire first day trying to decide whether to switch to Greek, to stick with the Hebrew and make a stab at it, or to just give up and go home. Guess I should have chosen door number three -- but I didn't. And my decision made for a heavy and painful week and, apparently, an even less than mediocre paper.

So . . . I'm thinking now that the quality of my work was affected by my emotional state far more than I realized. And there's probably a valuable bit of information in there: there are some passages that I have no business going anywhere near for at least the next few years. Maybe forever.

It was an expensive lesson ~ but then, aren't they all these days?

I think I'll just re-read the comments I'm too modest (Ha!) to post.

The Public Side of Ministry

I am discovering that one of the more painful aspects of failing an ordination exam is that every time you think you have a handle on your feelings, something else pops up to rip the bandage off the scab.

This morning, it's an email from the committee that oversees my progress, reminding me that I have to send everything (passing exams as well) to them, request permission for my re-take, and advise them in writing of my plans for rectifying the situation.

I don't mind any of that. In fact, I have often thought that there is a great deal to be said for having to explain oneself, in writing and orally, to a community as one progresses through the process of preparing for ministry. Had that been required of future lawyers, I might have saved myself a good deal of time and money and frustration.

I am, however, often surprised by how much of me has become fodder for public consumption. It can be quite a jarring experience to realize that others have been paying attention to your clothing, your facial expressions and gestures, your vocabulary missteps, and your strep throat. (The last one was last week.)

And this week, it is quite painful. I'd kind of like to go back to the days when you covered the bad grade on your paper with your hand during class, and then lied about it at lunch.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bump in the Road

Ordination exam results arrived today - a week early. I passed three and failed . . . . . .


I have been so angry and depressed all afternoon.

For the non-Presbys out there, this means that I will have to come back here at the end of the summer and try again, that I will have to spend five more days producing another 20-page paper to be read by people unknown to me who may well never have studied Hebrew or Greek, that I will have to wait till late October for the results, and that everything about my future call is stalled for six months.

We have only the pass/fail info; the actual graded exams with scores and comments won't arrive for several days. I've already forwarded my exam itself to two professors, one of whom responded quickly and kindly to remind me that I did outstanding work in my Hebrew and Exegesis courses. (Unfortunately, he is not a grader!) And certainly we have been told repeatedly that our professors are often mystified when they see the results and read our papers.

But still.

I am trying to regain my sense of humor by thinking about the Plan B I have had in mind: to ask my former employer, the Jewish school in which I taught for several years, whether they needed anyone to teach a couple of courses in the fall.

"Hey, Rabbi, I failed the Hebrew exam and I need a job."

I think that that should go over well.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More on the Ramifications of Suicide

A couple of weeks ago someone commented on the value of my participation in something. I was startled, and then mused about the remark for hours. It had not occurred to me that I had anything of value to offer in that particular situation. Or any other, for that matter. It eventually dawned on me that for a woman who has faced what seems like the ultimate rejection, all concept of self-value vanishes. My daughter tells me that my son did not intend his death as a rejection of me. No, I said, he didn't. But that's what it feels like.

This afternoon we attended the memorial service of the friend who has been actively dying for the past several weeks of the cancer with which he was diagnosed five years ago. One of his daughters is one of my own daughter's best friends and, again, it was my daughter to whom I was speaking when I said that the service was yet another reminder of the difference between our experience and that of most people we know. Sixty is far too young an age at which to die, but this man of great gifts and humor and love lived a rich and full life, and the lengthy period of his dying offered time for planning and reflection and accommodation. "It's a lot easier to celebrate someone's life when he celebrated it himself," my daughter said.

I had a wonderful, grace-filled retreat this past week.

But I still have to absorb all these realities into my one broken and fragile heart.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ramificiations of Suicide

Katherine at Meaning and Authenticity has been teaching a seminary class on loss, and did me the great honor of including in her materials for the class some of what I have written about our son's suicide.

As is always the case, one learns from what one teaches. In describing the class, Katherine writes about a woman who has lost two children to suicide: "Talking about this level of Pain that she'd never fully understand, "A" said that she'd read recently that when a loved one completes suicide, all that Pain, (which she or he can no longer bear), explodes outward toward the loved ones who remain. It's a strangely recognizable metaphor. An explosion of Pain, transferred from one who finds his or her release, to the ones they most love. A testament, I suppose, to the inevitable narrowness carried within the very marrow of this kind of Pain."

It's been helpful to me to gain this new understanding. Our Josh did not, I am sure, intend to cause the damage to the rest of us that he did. And we would have much preferred to absorb his pain and help him with it with him still with us. But ~ the first did happen and the second didn't.

Now, today, Karen has included this quite from Richard Rohr in a penetrating post about how we deal with this level of pain:

"If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it."

One of the (many) great tragedies of suicide: unaddressed and therefore inevitably transmitted pain.

I have read that a death by suicide reverberates through a family for four generations. Not difficult to imagine; there are things which my great-grandparents, four of whom I remember, did, for good and for ill, that affect my own children ~ the fourth generation down from theirs.

Perhaps we can encounter our pain in ways that will transform it, so that our great-great grandchildren will know life as something worth clinging to in hope.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Call of the King

Nothing at all about my life has been predictable in any way, shape, or form, since I embarked upon the Ignatian Exercises five years ago.

I've had a wonderful, wonderful little retreat. Three days away, three meetings with my spiritual director over the course of the week, all of it interrupted by some time set aside to mark the death of a friend last night and then a doctor's visit today for a strep diagnosis. I got really, really sick ~

and the last thing in the world, far more unlikely than strep throat (where on earth did that come from?), was that I would somehow find my way into four days of prayer toward The Call of the King meditation from the Second Week of the Exercises. A lot of women don't care for that one, and I can't claim that it has ever really resonated with me.

All I had set out to do was to see whether my grief over my son's death was going to preclude a week-long summer retreat, and maybe to make a little headway on the post-seminary discernment process.

And it seems that I got caught up in a wonderfully renewed relationship with someone who had been silent for a really, really long time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Little Retreat

Tomorrow I'm headed over to the other side of town for a couple of days' retreat. My home church's session has held its annual retreats at this place for the past couple of years, so I know that even though other folks won't be seeking silence, there will be plenty of room for me, indoors and out, to have some space to myself. I'm going to come back over here to meet with my spiritual director during the day, and to spend part of Wednesday evening honoring the two-year anniversary date of the sudden death of Musical Friend's husband, but mostly I'm going to spend my time trying to listen.

It's an experiment of sorts. I'm scheduled for eight days at
Eastern Point in June, and I'm a little apprehensive. Last year my attempted eight-day retreat at Guelph collapsed into disaster. It was not quite a year after Josh's death, and the silence was an oppressive weight that plunged me into a terrifying place. I love it there, but the fact that I was taking photographs like the one above speaks volumes. I left several days early, and a palpable sense of relief pervaded my entire body as I drove away.

Baby steps this time.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Blog Series of Note

Back on March 1, Law & Gospel began to post a series of reflections on her week-end at the Jesuit Retreat House in Wernersville Pa. Others in my little blogging community, specifically Michelle and Wayne, are Wernersville visitors, and so now I have at least three people to envy.

If you had studied as much Reformation history and theology as I have, then you would understand how delightful it is that this little online Ignatian community is Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian.

I borrowed the hopeful summer photo from the Wernersville website, but Law and Gospel has some great ones of her own.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another Side of Discernment

A teen-age girl, new to the church, asks for an explanation of Lent and how she might observe it, and for recommendations on purchasing a Bible.

A friend from my Methodist church days whose son is marrying a Hindu woman this summer emails about finding ideas for their wedding.

A woman who is involved with the church retreat a friend and I designed for this week is bubbling over with delight at having discovered new ways into a life of prayer.

A Catholic director involved with the same retreat is looking for Presbyterian lectionary resources so that she can offer help to someone in our denomination.

I realize over and over again through this week of rather considerable effort that several years ago I had expressed the hope that one day I would be knowledgeable enough to meld Catholic and Protestant traditions into retreat work and -- voila! it seems that I am doing exactly that. (OK. Not exactly voila! It's been four years of preparation.)

A newly-ordained pastor friend and I have a Facebook conversation about some of the practical ~ building repairs and money ~ issues facing her congregation, and about how those matters (which I have thought I might like to avoid, since I face them every day with my own house) have to do with identity and mission. Who are you? How do you use your resources? What face do you present to the world? How is your place a launching pad for what you have to share?

All of these things look like ordinary, in-the-middle-of-daily-life conversations, internal and external.

But maybe not.

I have been in such out-of-the ordinary situations for so long, so shaken by what has happened in our family and having to deal with one crisis hard upon another, several of which I have not blogged about and each of which would be considered by any rational person to be more than enough for any one year ~ have I completely forgotten that God is in all things? That God is reaching out for us in all the events of our daily lives?

And have I forgotten that if I am in ministry I get to be a witness to that? That I get to help people with the little steps that all together, in sequence and in a jumble, make it possible to grow into a life of attentiveness to God?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Clinical pastoral education is not (hardly!) just about visiting patients and leaning different ways of working with them. Nope ~ there's a huge self-awareness component, based in frequent and challenging meetings, one-on-one with a supervisor and in groups with colleagues in the program.

It's valuable, but ~ right now? That was the question raised in a multitude of ways during my interview earlier this week for a year long program. Two of the interviewers were my supervisors from two years ago, people who know me fairly well. Both of them were present for our son's funeral; one was the person who came with me to see his body (because I knew that I could absolutely count on her not to turn away), and served as a reader at the service.

For several months now I have been inclined toward hospital chaplaincy as the way to go. And I may still be, either next year or eventually. I have a lot to contemplate over the next couple of weeks, whether they offer it to me or not -- or perhaps make an offer for a year or two away.

Throughout the discussion and in the days since I have been reminded repeatedly of two things:

The first is that I have had and am having an experience that few people share or comprehend. The things that disturb me are different from the things that disturb other people, and the things that don't are as well. Am I in a place to work exclusively with people who would describe their lives similarly?

The second is that last year as I was considering field education possibilities, one of my professors urged me to go for a situation in which life and future were paramount.

And now there is a third thing ~ my meeting Tuesday has been followed by a cascade of events apparently designed to incline me toward exactly what that professor was talking about.

Hmmmm. More about that later.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Connected Encounters: More on Silence

Last week-end I heard a homily in which a bit of the following poem was quoted at the end. I recognized the name of the poet, because my former spiritual director had sent me another poem of his months ago. Yesterday as I arrived for my chaplaincy interview, the Jesuit who'd offered Saturday's homily was walking out of the hospital's pastoral care office. I don't know him (well, now I sort of do), but I intercepted him, and last night he sent me the poem he'd quoted.

I have had a series of other encounters between yesterday and today that I think have great bearing on my vocational discernment, but those will take a bit more time than I have this morning to relate. For now, this piece by R.S. Thomas, which seems to me to be intimately entwined with my experiences of what yesterday marked as exactly one and one-half years:

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

~“AD” by R. S. Thomas in Collected Later Poems: 1988-2000 (2004)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Silence of God

That's what I'm interested in these days ~ the silence of God. Maybe I always have been.

Right now ~ what's going on in my own life doesn't reflect that silence. But I have experienced a long run of feeling God's abandonment and absence and, as I think about this morning's interview for a hospital chaplaincy residency for next year, I realize that many of my most passionate interests lie in the that arena.

In church we hear a lot of sermons about God's dependability, God's consistency, God's abiding presence with us. The relentless of that message, the complete lack of subtlety with which it is preached, accounts, I think, for a great deal of the absence from church by those believe that their experience rules out its truth.

There are a lot of people like that. People who have never had any particular reason to believe one way or another about God, people who have drifted away from the religious roots of their childhood, people who have experienced great trauma to which the response of the church has been inadequate. People who for whatever reason have not felt or recognized or been able to imagine God present in anything at all, let alone in all things.

I think that those are the people to whom God is inviting me to be especially present.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beginning Anew

A good photograph is knowing
where to stand.

~ Ansel Adams

I found the this quote here, as I was looking around online while I pondered starting anew. Unfortunately, the blog on which I found it hasn't been active for a year. The photography is stunning.

I am beginning this blog in part out of a desire to see and express myself differently than I have in the past year-and-a-half. (There are other blogs, under a pseudonym.) I don't know what that means yet, and I am just beginning to figure out the new camera that is supposed to help me. (OK, so I haven't figured anything out yet beyond how to insert the battery. New technology always overwhelms me, and I have to contemplate it for awhile before I begin to experiment with it.)

I presume that Ansel Adams is talking about knowing where to stand in a physical, geographic sense although, given the power of his photography, he may be speaking metaphorically as well. For me, his words speak first as metaphor.

I'm not sure that I have any words at all for the place in which I stand now.