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Friday 5: Baptism edition February 18, 2008

Posted by introspectreangel in Friday Fives, theology.
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This is so very, very late, and I haven’t played Friday 5 in so very, very long… but this is a topic I just couldn’t pass up!

From the RevGals:

In this Sunday’s gospel Nicodemus asks Jesus, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Poor old Nicodemus! He was so confused about the whole “water and Spirit” business of baptism. For today’s five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.

When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?
I was baptized at the tender age of 15 days old at the Benjamin Franklin Village Chapel in Mannheim, Germany. Benjamin Franklin Village is a U.S. Army installation made up of several smaller military posts. Anyway, no, I don’t remember it, but my mom has my Baptism candle, which is all messed up because as a kid, I loved the way wax felt under my fingernails when I scratched candles, so the decorative Chi Ro symbol on the candle is all scratched off. Whoops! Interesting tidbits, huh? Let’s see… well, my dad began studying the Roman Catholic faith when he joined the Army. Then he met my Roman Catholic mom, and they had a whirlwind courtship and quickie civil wedding in front of a JP. They decided to make everything sacramentally legit after I came along, but my dad’s childhood Southern Baptist church would not cough up the proof of his baptism when a Catholic church requested it. So on August 10, 1975, the day that I received my first sacrament, Baptism, my dad received FIVE: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, and Matrimony.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve ever witnessed at a baptism?
I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed anything unexpected. As a child, the one I remember best is my younger brother’s baptism. His godmother, my aunt from Texas, couldn’t make the blessed event in Ohio, so another aunt who was local stood in proxy for her. And his godfather, my uncle who is always late to things, was actually early… but that may have been because we told him it started an hour earlier than it did!

Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?
I just joined my current parish a few weeks ago, so I don’t know if they have any special traditions particular to that congregation. I’ve always liked it when the kids are invited to sit up front to see what is going on, though. And I knew a priest once who always walked the aisle with the newly baptized baby and asked everyone to say hello to the newest member of our family. It took a long time, because you could hear people singing little lullabies as they reached over to touch the kiddo, but they baby was usually either laughing or asleep by the end of it.

Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell?
I’m not, but I would very much like to be. I agonized over the choices of godparents for my children, because I wanted people who would take the promises seriously. It makes me sad that I’m not in touch with The Princess’ godmother anymore. I thought we would be friends forever when I was 17, but it was not to be. Boy-o’s godparents are relatives, so I know where to find them, but they are also of a different faith tradition that practices believer’s baptism, not infant baptism, and they don’t use godparents, so they didn’t quite get what they big deal was or what exactly the role was I was hoping they would play in his spiritual formation. Oh well…

Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?
Not a hymn, but I’m more of a liturgy person. I can find something to love about the music I’m worshiping to no matter if it’s a guitar Mass with 15 people present or Evensong in a majestic cathedral. So, I’ll give you my favorite words of the Baptismal liturgy instead, the words of Thanksgiving over the Water (Book of Common prayer, p.306):

“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

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Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007 May 15, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in theology, thoughtful.
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I didn’t agree with much of anything this man ever had to say about anything. I was always particularly disturbed by the Moral Majority and their influence in government, and his use of religion to divide the nation. Nonetheless, he devoted his entire life to serving God and his country, though I many not agree with the way he went about it, his commitment to his ideals was one of a kind. He was a man who put his faith into action. My prayers for his family, and for peace for them in this difficult time.

Tuesday wanderings through the religious blogosphere May 15, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in theology, vocation.
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I went home sick from work today, and I’ve spent the afternoon perusing some new blogs I’ve found. I got a comment on my previous post from the pastor of The Gathering in Salem, Massachusetts, pointing me towards some podcasts of Christian/atheist dialogue. I’ve always been fascinated by ecumenical dialogue between Christian denominations, and have in the past few years become interested in Christian/non-Christian conversations as well. So I was very excited by the article I found on Yahoo! and posted below. I know that I am experiencing a call, but to where and to do what is still very much in doubt for me…but I know that ecumenical work is going to be very important to however I end up serving. If you’re interested, you can listen to the podcasts here.

Today’s post from Fr. Jake talks about how a particular resolution from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 is repeatedly “trotted out as “law” in regards to the Anglican Communion’s teaching on human sexuality.” He provided a link to this post from a priest named Tobias, a regular commenter in the discussions that take place on his site, and I think it is a perfect response to a popular notion among fundamentalists when it comes to the topic of homosexuality, that of “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Of course, it’s a little wordy as a direct reply to that particular one-liner…and it has been my general experience that people who are attracted to that particular one-liner are also attracted to other one-liners, for example, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” I don’t think a complex topic like human sexuality can (or SHOULD) be discussed in one-liners. Of course, there are those who say it shouldn’t be discussed at all – God has a plan for what is natural and normal and everything outside of that box is “deviant” behavior. And then there is my former rector who says, “The Bible didn’t fall out of Heaven in a Glad bag.” – his way of saying the Scriptures, while divinely inspired, were written by human beings and reflect human biases. Anyway, I thought it was some interesting reading. Better than sitting around and feeling sorry for myself about how gross I feel, eh?

Christians and atheists start a calmer dialogue … May 13, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in theology.
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Christians and atheists start a calmer dialogue

By Jane Lampman, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor Thu May 10, 4:00 AM ET

Wednesday night on ABC-TV, two televangelists took on nonbelievers from the Rational Response Squad in a bid to prove the existence of God (see “Nightline Face Off” on ABCNews.com).

The TV polemics come in the wake of a rash of bestselling books by atheists challenging religion. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, go beyond questioning God to charge that religion is a plague that needs to be eliminated. Their vehemence, some suggest, is in response to Chris­tian attacks on evolution and stem-cell research.

“It’s Christian militancy that has evoked a backlash of atheist militancy,” says Michael Bleiweiss, a physicist and atheist from Methuen, Mass.

Amid the rising heat of this latest culture clash, though, a few people on both sides are finding calmer ways to engage, seeking to build bridges and even learn from one another. Some Christians, concerned that millions of Americans never cross the threshold of a church, want to understand why, as well as learn what it is in evangelistic efforts that turns people off. Some atheists, worried that polls show they are the least accepted social group in the country, want to break down stereotypes and change people’s attitudes.

So both are willing to sit down together in different venues, discuss their divergent perspectives, and, in some cases, jointly visit church services across the United States. As a result, they are sparking a growing Christian-atheist dialogue on the Web.

At a conference in Salem, Mass., last Saturday, for example, Christians from several states listened to atheists and neopagans talk about who they are, the origin of their ethics and beliefs, and what challenges they encounter in a society that is predominantly Christian.

“I’ve never understood treating a people group as [the enemy] because their belief system is different,” says Phil Wyman, pastor of The Gathering, a Salem church that sponsored the conference.

Jim Henderson, a former Evangelical pastor from Seattle who moderated the atheism discussion, has been getting an earful for some time. Frustrated at his inability to draw more people to his church, Mr. Henderson set out to learn how “the unchurched” respond to various kinds of worship services – what it is they find appealing and what leaves them cold. He began to pay nonbelievers $25 to go to a church and tell him what they thought.

“I also became intrigued by why evangelism bothered everybody, including me,” he says in an interview. “I decided to devote my life to reimagining evangelism … how to do it and be ‘normal.’ ”

Soon, he got wind of an auction on eBay in which a student at the University of Illinois in Chicago proposed “selling my soul” to the highest bidder. Young atheist Hemant Mehta had been raised in Jainism, but left the faith in his teens. Mr. Mehta was curious about Christianity and whether it could provide any evidence for the existence of God. Wondering if he might be missing something, he offered to attend church with the winning bidder.

High bidder takes atheist to church
With the top bid of $504, Henderson asked Mehta to visit 15 churches, fill out a survey on each one, and share his perspectives on Henderson’s website (off-the-map.org).

The experience has changed the lives of both men. Mehta, now an honors graduate in mathematics and biology, has not converted, but the two have become friends. Mehta has started his own blog (friendlyatheist.com) and travels to speak to churches and humanist organizations. He has written a book – “I Sold My Soul on eBay” – that explains why he is an atheist and gives churches advice on what it would take to reach nonbelievers.

Henderson has gone on to pair with another atheist, Matt Casper, for further church visits across the US, and they’ve written “Jim and Casper Go to Church.” Both books offer insightful, revealing, sometimes humorous critiques of what a variety of Christian services, in churches of different sizes and denominations, look like to the uninitiated.

Henderson also conducts interviews with men and women who are non­believers as an event at church and pastor conferences. Many Evangelicals “are obsessed with conversion,” he says, and always speak of non-Christians as “lost.” The interviews show Christians immersed in their own culture and how that sounds to the people they approach.

At the Salem conference, Mr. Bleiweiss recalled a co-worker who “worked Jesus into every conversation we had.”

Henderson’s experiences have led him, with his “Off The Map” venture, into “something larger than evangelism,” what he calls “otherliness.” Otherliness – “the spirituality of serving others” – involves “drawing people into the idea of paying real attention to each other, of listening.” He wants to teach individuals and groups of all kinds how to do a much better job of listening to those they interact with.

For his part, Mehta is still open to “any compelling evidence of the existence of God.” He describes positive elements in some churches, such as top-notch speakers and impressive community outreach. “The more work churches do for everyone, the more respect they’ll get from outsiders,” he writes.

Yet churchgoers are missing the mark, he says, when they think non­religious people lack a basis for ethical values, look down on non-Christians, or fail to speak out against religious leaders who make outrageous public statements.

What would convince him? A miracle.During church services, they often fail to explain traditions or rituals, which leaves visitors confused. “Why is the structure of the service always the same?” Mehta wonders.

Zeroing in on “what it would take to convert me,” he says a church would need to appeal to his sense of reason, challenge him to think more deeply, and allow for asking questions. “I wasn’t confronted with a new line of thinking that challenged my commitment to scientific empiricism,” he writes. Also, he’d want a church where “men and women lead on an equal basis.”

Most important, he states, what would convince him would be “a miracle – an undeniable miracle that has no natural explanation.”

While on their tour of the most prominent megachurches and stylistically innovative churches, Mr. Casper asked Henderson, “Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?”

The 30-something father of two is generally unimpressed with the multi­media “killer” church services they attend. Articulate in explaining his reactions in detail, he, like Mehta, also finds in the predictable format of services that “certainty is boring, certainty is closed off.”

When a healing is mentioned in one Pentecostal service, though, he reacts strongly. If that man can heal, he says, “why is he … hanging out in this building?… Get out there, then! There are people who need your help.”

Saying that he loves the teachings of Jesus, along with those of other important teachers, Casper concludes: “The question that just came up for me again and again … is, What does the way Christianity is practiced today have to do with the … words and deeds” of Jesus?

For Henderson, Wyman, and Mehta, the value of talking and listening to those with differing worldviews has become crystal clear.

Pastor Wyman has been reaching out to non-Christians in Salem, and particularly to the large neopagan community here (attracted, no doubt, by Salem’s identification with witchcraft in Colonial times). His stereotypes about witches were often wrong, he says. Having formed respectful relationships, he’s now being asked to come to pagan events to speak about Christian perspectives.

“Christians for quite some time have been creating events and trying to draw people into our little box, and we call that ‘outreach,’ ” he says. “This is an exciting opportunity – people are opening, listening, and seeking out spiritual things.”

Copyright © 2007 The Christian Science Monitor

I take my son to his aunt’s house… March 6, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in life, road trips, theology, thoughtful.
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…as she has agreed to watch him for a few hours until his dad gets home from work. I am about to embark on my first non work-related road trip in quite some time, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m anxious – there’s something about leaving my child in someone else’s care that does that to me, even if it’s only for a few hours to go to a movie or out to dinner. I suppose I’m fortunate that I don’t let that anxiety cripple me to the point of not being able to leave him. I’m also feeling anticipatory. I don’t have any enormous plans, just a short 3 hour trip down to the state I grew up in see my friend S and to go to the Irish Festival, but it is time for myself, time I have needed since my husband began full time grad school on top of his full time job and I became our son’s primary caretaker. We pull into a visitor parking spot at his aunt’s apartment and he immediately throws down the toy computer he was playing with in the back and announces, “I want to see Foxy!” That’s the sweater-wearing diva dog in residence, of course, and the boy always has a grand time when he gets to play with her. We walk up the stairs – he is just starting to be able to alternate his little legs on the stairs, and in no time we are knocking on the door. The minute he lays eyes on Foxy, I cease to exist. Somewhat grudgingly, I’m given a good bye kiss and a “see you later!” I’ve been banished, and so I trudge back to my car and pop a Peter Murphy CD into the player.

“…listen boy, it’s a long way down… down to heaven’s gate
to heaven’s gate the steps the steps to the tower of pride, the devil lied…dive up to the highest point, where our lives are saved…”

I back out of my parking spot and head down Mississippi Street to where it will meet the highway. I light a cigarette – I don’t ever smoke with the boy in the car – and call the husband to let him know that I’m off. He says he’ll miss me, but he wants me to have a good time. He hears the music and asks what I’m listening to. I hold the phone up to the speaker for him, and he says, “Is that the Sisters of Murphy?” I start laughing so hard I have to pull over to the side of the road for a minute. That’s the man I love – he’s always “almost, but not quite” got it.

“…don’t get shy, don’t get caught with the world and its thoughts
I’m not asking for worship or lazy sleazy thoughts…”

I inhale and exhale, and tap the ashes out the window. The turnpike stretches out ahead of me. Not too long ago, my sister-in-law hit a deer on this road, in broad daylight no less, and so I’m a little more observant, a little more wary, even though in the course of my daily life I spend so much time driving that I do get lazy sometimes. I sometimes joke with people that I’m a tad bitter because my mother lied to me as a child – in 1980, she told me that in the year 2000, cars would be flying in the air like planes and that their drivers would be able to sleep while they were traveling. I reach the toll gate and drop in my 55 cents. Green light – hit the gas and keep going.

“…I twist a shade to my right, and spit at Beelzebub on sight and go on loving all I see, for here I live on patiently…clearly now, I tell you man that all I say is all I can
for I am nothing but my sin until I learn to caste them in
…”


My thoughts drift to some emails I’ve gotten lately from an old friend, someone that I only talk to a few times a year, even though, if I’m really honest with myself, I wish it were more often. I was 25 when I first met this friend, and I was fresh out of a very needy, traumatic relationship that had finally run its course. At this point in my life, I knew that I wanted to get married and have kids, and I was fairly certain that I was done with getting into relationships that had no shot at permanency – and I had pretty high standards for the next contender to meet. This friend – and oh, I loved him and wanted him to be more, yes I did – was beautiful, intelligent, funny, had a job, and didn’t live with his mother. He introduced me to new music and new food, made me think about things that I had never thought about, taught me a few things about insight, and helped heal some of the shame that I had been carrying with me for years over some poor decisions that I had made in the past. I give him a LOT of credit for getting me ready for the man who did become my husband. He was bizarre in quite a few ways – he took me to meet his parents, but he was so secretive he would never show me the house he lived in, and a few short months later, I knew that I didn’t have the wherewithal to figure this enigma out. We had a tearful conversation in my car on the last night that I ever saw him, and I drove away, my heart in tatters. The whole 7 hour drive home, I alternately screamed and sobbed. I had to pull over several times because I simply couldn’t see through my rage to drive.

“…hot tears flow as she recounts her favourite worded token, forgive me please for hurting so don’t go away heartbroken, no…”

This is the trip that comes back to me as I’m driving now, and I’m not completely sure why. While the process took me a good two years, obviously, I *did* heal. I went on to marry someone else, someone who is my partner in every sense of the word, who created a beautiful son with me, someone who knows all the scary bits and ugly bits and loves me anyway. I talk to my old friend a few times a year by email, and he always asks about my family and always skillfully deflects any questions I have about him and the state of affairs in his life…and that’s okay. Not everyone is the open book that I am. Since it’s a bit chilly AND I’m headed to an Irish festival, I stop at a convenience store and get myself an Irish cream cappuccino. I get back in my car and laugh, remembering several long drives that my friend and I took together when I would drink the same drink. These drives usually took place in the dead of night, and since I don’t like regular coffee and needed help staying awake, this was what I would choose. I punch out a quick text message informing him of my beverage choice so that he will know I was thinking of him, and very shortly I get back “Haha! You should have gotten a red soda.” I shudder at the memory of his oh-so-vile drink of choice and keep on driving.

“…the moon and the sun, partners in light separating reflecting one light, hearing this confusion wanes, no need to ask for wealth or one thing more now…”

By now I’ve reached a major interstate and the rest of my drive will be due south on this multi-lane highway. I don’t drive on highways like this much – most of my work takes me down one or two lane country roads. My pack of cigarettes is emptying at a more rapid pace than I would like, but I need something to do with my hands…I’m not content to keep them on the wheel where they belong. I try and decide if I want to do anything tonight when I arrive at my destination. Briefly, I consider stopping to pick S up and informing her on the spot that I have decided to keep driving…all the way to the nearest beach. She might actually go for it, being from California…but she might not, and she’s been looking forward to the festival as much as I have. I sigh and decide to stick with the plans as scheduled, but know that I will have to get to the nearest beach as soon as is reasonably feasible. I’ve lived in a completely land-locked state for the last two years, and I need to be near the water in the very near future or I may lose it. I tell people that often, and they say, “This state has lots of water!” Yeah, it does – but man-made lakes ain’t the same, kids, and I don’t care how big they are.

“…a white light blazing deep through the wasteland searching we soaring birds now hunt the brow as thirsty gripped with hunger now clear sighted painful ends to win, the battle of the me so wafer thin, the line between the devil’s teeth and that which cannot be repeat…”

A book that I am reading for my Benedictine study group at church – Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent – falls out of the passenger side visor when I have to brake suddenly, and as soon as I get back up to speed and replace everything that fell, my thoughts turn to Lent. It’s no understatement to say that I hate Lent…but lately, it’s been bugging me that I don’t really know why I hate it so much. I have no problem in theory with the concept of sacrificial love – I *am* married, after all, so I get a new lesson in some aspect of what it means almost every day. At the same time that I am reading this book for my study group, I am also re-reading (on what little personal time I have) an old favorite, Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk. She says in the introduction to the book that a pleasant surprise for her in writing it is the way her marriage “came to weave in and out of it. It seems appropriate, as my life vows are not to a monastery, but to matrimony, and marriage has been for me a primary instrument of conversion., a “school for love,” to employ Benedict’s metaphor for the monastery.” A few pages after that, she writes, “As I walked back to the hermitage in the dusk, I was suddenly glad, and not despairing, that in just a few days I’d be back with my husband, to take up life in the ruins.”

The highway stretches ahead of me, seemingly without end, and as I cross the state line and enter the Motherland, I mused for the next little while on what “life in the ruins” has meant for my husband and me. We’ve encountered our share of challenges, to be sure. We’ve both had trouble finding our niche professionally, and this stress was compounded by knowing we had a child to support and therefore no luxury of time to figure it out. We’ve both targeted the other in times of extreme stress, and been slow to forgive each other. We’ve moved often…in search of the perfect job, neighborhood, and proximity to family/friends…and ultimately ended up somewhere my husband swore he would never return to, which I turned out to be the place that I have experienced the deepest happiness of my life (in spite of the lack of God-created bodies of water).

“…yeah on and on it goes, calling like a distant wind…through the zero hour we’ll walk… cut the thick and break the thin, no sound to break, no moment clear – when all the doubts are crystal clear, crashing hard into the secret wind…”

Back to Lent. It starts with Ash Wednesday, when I am reminded of my nothingness in the grand scheme. It ends with Holy Week and Easter, a time of high pageantry when I experience in “real time” what it might have been like to be a disciple. In between is where I get bogged down. No meat on Fridays…take something on or give something up?…repentance and discipline on the brain, concepts I strongly resist in the best of times…getting bogged down with thoughts of evil and hell and WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Is Hell for REAL? What kind of God does that? Is God’s “YES!” stronger than my “NO!” as I heard one pastor say, or can I keep backing away and backing away until I fall over the edge into a Hell of my own making? Surely it can’t be the pit of fire and brimstone with a red devil with horns and a pointy tail, or Dante’s “Inferno”! And why can’t I figure it all out? And on top of that, why do I experience this pathological obsession every freakin’ year?!

When I was a child, my dad heard me say under my breath, “Damn you!” to my sister. He immediately made me get out the dictionary and copy the definition of “damn” one hundred times. If I remember correctly, it was something to the effect of, “To condemn someone to hell.”

That’s a lot of power to give a little kid.

“…there is no middle ground, or that’s how it seems for us to walk or to take…instead we tumble down, either side left or right, to love or to hate…”

I arrive at S’s house, and take my bag in. She’s tired and not in the mood to go anywhere, so we open a couple of beers and settle in for “Iron Chef” on The Food Network. We can laugh at anything, and we do. The secret ingredient of the evening is peanuts, and the contenders appear a little *too* excited about it. At the end, one of the judges says that one of the dishes was so good it made him “cry like “Beaches”, and we spend the rest of the weekend using that over and over and over again. The next morning, we go to the Irish festival. We look at every single bit of jewelry for sale, and I promise myself once again that one of these years I am going to buy myself a full length hooded cloak. Instead, I satisfy myself with some dragonfly earrings to remind myself that it is better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not. We listen to the bands and the session players and watch the dancers. We eat…and eat…and eat some more. I drink Belgian beer, because in spite of the framed Guinness poster on my wall, I don’t like to chew my beer. I let a beautiful boy speaking in a true blue (green?) brogue bum one of my cigarettes. I have a wonderful, relaxing day with an old friend, and briefly I think again of the friend who was on my mind during my drive and wonder if I will ever lay eyes on him again. I head home refreshed, renewed, and ready to take up my own version of “life in the ruins.”

“…on a long and winding grey paved street, your breath the only friend, chattering others surrounding you, you’re going out again…”

"U2-charist": Bono moves in mysterious ways January 29, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in theology, worship.
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Mon Jan 29, 9:18 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) – For Anglicans who still haven’t found what they’re looking for, the Church of England is staging its first “U2-charist” communion service — replacing hymns with hit songs by the Irish supergroup.

“Rock music can be a vehicle of immense spirituality,” said Bishop of Grantham Timothy Ellis, announcing plans for the unique service in the central English town of Lincoln in May.

A live band is to play U2 classics like “Beautiful Day” and “Mysterious Ways” with special singalong lyrics displayed on a giant screen. Seating for the 500-strong congregation is to be re-arranged so everyone can dance and wave their hands.

The service is to focus on the Millennium Development Goals — U2’s lead singer Bono is a leading promoter of the targets to alleviate world poverty.

————————————————————————————————

I part ways with many Anglicans/Episcopalians on the subject of what is appropriate music for the liturgy…I grew up in the 1970’s/1980’s post Vatican II Catholic Church and spent most of my childhood Sundays singing folk songs and other contemporary arrangements. Some of my favorites were “Though the Mountains May Fall”, “Here I Am, Lord” and “Gather Us In”. I always hated the organ and thought the acoustic guitar and the flute were the way to go for church music. At my wedding, the church required us to pay the organist whether we used her or not, so I ended up paying the organist as well as hiring other musicians to play the guitar, piano, and flute. I understood their logic – the money the organist makes from playing weddings is considered to be part of their compensation, but I still resented it. When we got back from the honeymoon, we immediately went church shopping and landed in the Episcopal church. Theologically, I’m at home, but it’s a fact: the music has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to. I thought it was very “stodgy” at first, but I have come to like many of the hymns we sing in my own way. Still, I would jump at the chance to participate in a Eucharist and hear something else besides the arrangements from the 1982 Hymnal. This “U2-charist” would be very interesting. I’ve always thought that the modern trend towards electric guitars and drum kits in the non-denominational mega-churches creates music so loud that it actually takes away from worship, but I’ve also never seen these instruments used in a liturgical service.

No posting for the last little while… November 8, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in blogging, theology, unemployment.
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…just not feelin’ the whole blog thing lately, I guess, and not having regular Internet access is not making me happy. It’ll probably be the end of November – start of December before I can get a mileage reimbursement check, which I hope to then turn around and use to get a satellite Internet installer out to our little house in the boonies, since there’s no cable and no DSL available. And with no Internet, I can’t find out where anything is in this town, so in the meantime, I call Ally like, EVERY DAY. “Where’s the post office?” “What’s a good place for pizza?” “Can you tell me where the nearest 24 hour pharmacy is on my way to my work?” I’m so lucky – who else has a friend AND personal search engine all in one lovely package?

Husband had another interview today with an inpatient substance abuse rehab facility, and my only concern about it is that it’s about 75 miles from home. He applied absolutely everywhere that he was qualified to in the city we live in, but the fact that it is a college town means there is high supply of qualified graduates who want to stay in town bumping right up against low demand for those same graduates – someone who just moved here and doesn’t have any contacts doesn’t really have a prayer. So, he’s been drawing ever-widening circles on the map around our city and moving further and further out in his job search. Once again, he’s got a really good feeling about this latest interview, and once again, he has been told a decision will be made by the end of the week. They told him if he IS hired, they would do the supervision for his CADC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor) for no cost, which is pretty freakin’ awesome.

I’m still doing the Spiritual Exercises. I’ve moved out of the preparatory week activities and into the “Principle and Foundation”, which has to do with why we are created. We are created by God to love and serve Him because He loves us and wants to share life with us, so our response to that love takes the shape of praise, honor, and service. First of all, Ignatius says that we must make ourselves “indifferent” to all created things, which gave me some serious pause, because naturally I thought of “indifferent” in our modern context of “not caring”. The commentary I’m using chooses different words: when Ignatius says it is necessary for us to make ourselves “indifferent” to all created things, he is really saying we must hold ourselves “in balance” before such things as health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one, and not fix our desires on these things, as they are barriers to being able to offer a completely loving response to God and desiring to share our lives forever with Him.

spiritual exercises: Romans 8:26-34 October 13, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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I have a hard time with the word “predestined”, which shows up in this passage. In the last post, I touched a little on my love of language and my pride in my ability to use it well. So, I guess you could say I have a real relationship with words, and just like relationships with people, there are some that make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. “Predestined” has always been one of those words that has given me an icky feeling. I like my free will, thank you very much. I believe in personal responsibility, accountability for the choices you make and consequences, both good and bad. The word “predestined” seems to contradict everything I believe in. I want to believe that there is more to it, something that I’m not understanding about the word and the concept it represents, so once again, I turned to The Message, where I certainly got what I was looking for.

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided
from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same
lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he
restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.
After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed
it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on
a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed
with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

“The original and intended shape of our lives”…more appealing words, certainly, beautiful ones, even. But it also sounds to me like the argument that some folks use to rail against all the wonderful, different ways in which we human children were made. In other words, “Don’t rock the boat – don’t be different – that’s not the ‘original and intended shape of our lives’.”

However, immediately preceding this passage are the words that have brought so much comfort to many: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” These are words that sanctify our struggles and encourage us to let go of SELF, along with our fear and self-loathing.

I guess I could say therefore that this passage causes me some distress, even disturbs me a little. There seems to be a direct contradiction between the idea of an existence rooted in mystery, and my appreciation of that which is concrete and well-defined and easily controlled. I like the ideas of holy mystery and profound truths and God’s desire for me, but I can’t quite get my mind around them, because that would involve my complete and unconditional surrender, and I really don’t see that happening anytime soon.

spiritual exercises: Job 1:21 and 38:1 – 40:5 October 12, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb…I must bow down before the creator’s wisdom.”

In the NRSV, chapter 38 of Job starts out with this:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: who is this
that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your
loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

The Message says this:

“And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent
storm. He said: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk
without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job!
Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want
some straight answers.”

Ah ha! I get it now. While the last several years have seen me make a career transition from hotel professional to social worker (a downward trajectory according to our society, not to mention my mother, so can anyone please tell me why I’m enjoying myself so damn much?), when I’m doing one-on-one with people, I always seem to slip into the vernacular seen in the latter translation. Doesn’t matter what your job is: I think I’ve met more than my fair share of people who just don’t seem to get it, whatever “it” happens to be. So when God says to Job, “Up on your feet!” THAT makes sense to me. It’s how I was spoken to as a child when I was in the wrong, and it’s how I speak to others now. I consider myself to have a good head on my shoulders. I also know that I am “beautifully and wonderfully made”, and yet, just like Job, I confuse the issue. I keep thinking that I’ve got it all figured that, that I know what needs to be done to accomplish the objective at hand, and I keep getting knocked off my feet. And it’s starting to occur to me that I need to take more time to just LISTEN. I think our latest change of residence may wind up being very conducive to that: the directions to my house include the words “turn left on the unmarked dirt road”, and the house has a neat back porch that looks out over a whole lot of nothing. It’s tough, though. To me, words are power. Having a good vocabulary, being able to explain myself clearly and concisely, having a knowledge of grammar and sentence structure – these all lead to the perception in others that I am intelligent and accomplished. The fact that I know how to use language is a big part of what I use to reassure myself that I am still the same person I’ve always been when everything else in my life is sliding around and it appears that I may not be so intelligent after all. And this attitude of mine towards language and intelligence is really a small symptom of the larger sickness of having to be in control of…well, just about everything else. This passage hits me where it hurts. It says, “It’s not about YOU. Once in awhile, you just might need to GIVE UP.”

So, what do I most hope to get out of this retreat? I think it would have to be this:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have
opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m
ready to shut up and listen.”
-Job 40:3-5 (The Message)

spiritual exercises: Exodus 3:4-10 October 11, 2006

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This passage made me think of my husband and a conversation that we had while dating. He has struggled with issues of faith much more than I ever have, and I remember him telling me that he would give anything – absolutely anything – to have a physical experience with God or His angels like Moses’ experience I read about in Exodus last night. I, on the other hand, have always been more able to see the holy ground in the everyday happenings of my life. As a child, my holy ground was the park that my mom took me to. It was the place where she told me that God is not an old man in the sky with a white beard, but rather that God is all around us, a lesson that I am now in the process of teaching my son. At this time in my life, my holy ground is the sanctuary of family, the family that is made up of myself, my husband and son, and sometimes, my daughter, when circumstances arrange themselves so that she can come for a visit. Last night, after reading the passage, I meditated on the meaning of holy ground. The physical structure that our family calls home has changed a little more often than I’d necessarily like in our 4 years together, and on one level, I’m quite peaceful in the knowledge that every move we make is leading us closer to where we are supposed to be, even when we don’t understand how or why. On the other hand, I feel insecure when I have to explain to people where we lived before and how we came to be where we are now and how moving seems to be a way of life for us. I feel judged, and I feel like people are looking at me and thinking that I must somehow be unstable.

I guess this is all a really long-winded way of saying that I try to take my holy ground where I can find it: my back porch, my drive to work, the birthing center where my niece came into the world this past Sunday night are a few places I’ve experienced recently. Last night as I prayed, I experienced a desire to begin searching for more holy places, and a vague admonishment from somewhere that I need to be aware that they won’t always be where I expect.