Praying for Charleston

“Oh, God… no.”

This was my first inklings of prayer this morning as I heard the news about the shooting in Charleston, S.C. Friends have been posting on Facebook that they are praying. I did too. And yet, my mind keeps returning to an idea I came across recently in Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing:

When we pray “through Christ” we are praying through the Body of Christ, which then includes Jesus, the Eucharist, and the body of believers (ourselves) here on earth. We are praying through all of these. Thus, not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in prayer.¹

It is good to pray, and yet it is not our only responsibility.

Holy Discomforter, teach us to pray.

 

¹Page 83

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Yes and No

The past couple weeks I’ve been pondering the ways I say Yes and the ways I say No. And not so much the Big Decisions or the Opportunities that come along. Rather, Yes and No on a micro scale. Micro-acceptances, when my words and body language and intentions are all in harmony. When the message from me is one of value and respect. Or micro-rejections, those subtle cues I give that the Other is not really welcome. When the message from me is one of indifference or dismissal. Are there ways I keep people at a distance, building barriers around my welcome? How does this affect the hospitality of my being? How might I tend boundaries with an open heart?

Photo by Anita Peppers. Used with permission.

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Author of all wholeness, may my actions be true. Dismantle the barriers which block beauty and belonging. Build in me the courage to be a bearer your love. May my life speak grace and not judgement, kindness and not hostility, acceptance and not rejection. Amen.

Here Be Dragons

stamp.php“Here Be Dragons”, the cartographer warns. Back in the day, dragons stood at the edge of the maps to signify the unknown. This addition was the map maker’s way of saying, we don’t know what’s out there. It was a warning: proceed at your own peril.

Except that much of this is false. There were mystical sea creatures drawn on maps, but of all the old maps we have access to, none of them say, “Here Be Dragons.” There is a globe, which makes this warning in Latin. Except it may not even be a warning. It could be the explorer found some creature formidable and strange enough to earn the moniker “dragon.” Other maps of the time noted where different creatures could be found. One map points out where elephants, scorpions and ‘dog-headed beings’ come from. On others one could find walruses, lions, and hippos. Dragons are not as prevalent as our imagination would tell us.

This is what I am discovering in my practice of going outside my comfort zone. Mostly, I’m finding elephants and hippos. Creatures that aren’t terribly interested in eating people or burning them alive. I have found one dragon. One thing that is still squarely outside my comfort zone. But I’ve met it, introduced myself, spent some time in its company. So next time I visit, I can say, “Oh, hello Alice. Good to see you again.” Though I may never be fully at ease in her company, I can get to know her, perhaps even befriend her.

Rock Star

Seven days in. The world is still intact and spinning on its tilted axis. It’s been a good week. Adventurous. You see, I don’t have this all planned out. I don’t know what I will be doing on Day 27. First, I’m simply not that person. Second, the boundaries of my comfort zone are not static. Each day, then, becomes a scavenger hunt, a search for ways to be uncomfortable and stretch myself. The effect of this way of engaging the world is interesting. Instead of being apprehensive, my brain responds, “Yes! Do that!” And afterward, instead of “Phew, we made it through,” my brain rejoices, “Goal met! You are a rock star!” That kind of encouragement is hard to beat. I am looking forward to discovering what adventures are in store for me this season.

Lenten blessings to you.

Lenten Practice

Yeah! Lent is here again!

That’s not sarcastic joy. I really do love Lent. More specifically, I heartily embrace the opportunity for intentional spiritual discipline. I like to take up a practice for these 40 days, something that will stretch me, something that disrupts my settled routine. This year, I will practice expanding my comfort zone. Each day I will do one thing that I’d rather not do, thank-you. And, (deep breath) I’ll blog about my experience of the process once a week.

This is my Day One. This. Stating my intention.

Because whatever would you think of me if you knew that I am not cool and calm in every situation? Oh, the consequences if I am not perfect! The future of the planet depends on me. The world will come to an end if I say I will do something for 40 days and something comes up and I miss a day. And if my reflections are not Pulitzer-worthy, oh, the chaos that would ensue!

Here’s to an adventurous lenten season.

What, if anything are you planning as a lenten practice?

Gifts of The Cranky Lady

This snippet of conversation took place after celebrating communion while on retreat this fall:

“This is good bread!” “It’s fantastic!” “Oh, my word.”

“Where did you get the bread?”
“From the cranky lady at the market.”

In response to the quizzical look, I explained. There’s a woman who sells her bread at the market. She often has a steady stream of customers. She offers about a dozen different varieties. I have only been a few times, and each time I go, I have questions. I want to know about the bread I’m getting. Every time I’ve been there, the woman seems to be in a bad mood. She frowns when I ask her my questions, and hastily answers them. I don’t feel warm-fuzzies during these encounters. So, in my mind I dubbed her The Cranky Lady.

Her bread is fantastic. That’s why I return. There was another baker, across town, who was more personable, but she no longer has her shop. I wanted to get bread from her, because communion is a special moment. I figure it is better to have bread baked and offered in joy. I debated whether or not to go to the Cranky Lady for the elements. Would my experience of this person who supplied the bread colour my experience of communion? I would much rather receive from someone I got along withcabin communion (brighter) better.

I needn’t have worried. Our celebration was made holy with prayer and story and blessing. A friend recently reminded me that communion is not complete without everyone there. Welcoming those (or the gifts of those) I am at odds with is not really about grace. (Because it’s not really about me or what I offer.) Welcoming the Other at the table is necessary for wholeness, because the community is incomplete without their presence, their voice, their story.

So, yes, it is good and fitting that we would accept and bless the gifts of the Cranky Lady. Her delicious bread enhanced our experience of the sacred meal. And who knows, maybe she’s not really cranky at all. Maybe she’s one of those people whose face of concentration looks cranky. Maybe this is her being focused and staying on top of things.

And, it’s helpful to remember, some days I am The Cranky Lady offering my gifts.

Mary

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I am not amused.

 

When I was 6 years old, I played Mary in the parish Christmas pageant.

This was not by choice. I did not want to be Mary.

I wanted to be the little drummer boy. He got to play the drum. Mary didn’t do anything; she just stood there, holding the dumb doll.

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For most of my life, this is how I’ve thought about Mary.  She was for me one acted upon, not one who acts. She was the one who gave up her power too quickly, was too eager to obey. Mary was special because she was a Good Girl. I could be special, too, if I was gentle and kind and pure. That didn’t work for me so well. I was very good at being Good, but it didn’t feed my soul. Pageant Mary was not someone I wanted to be like.

Thankfully, there is more to Mary than was in that childhood pageant.

Mary was a co-creator with God. She was fully involved in the process. (If you want to know how involved, ask your mother.) Mary bore the Holy, nurtured the Holy, pushed the Holy into the world. She was not passive in her pregnancy or her giving birth.

Today, Mary calls me into action. Like her, I am called to be pregnant with the Holy. That which God would bring into the world through me, I have a responsibility to nurture, to bear, to birth. Thank God I have more to do than just stand there.

Maybe I’ll even play the drum.