Monday, March 30, 2009

Homily, Homily

Besides undergoing spiritual direction training, another way that I have been stretching myself and growing lately is through being asked to do the occasional homily at our church when our priest is not available. This is an exercise that both challenges me and terrifies me. The process of writing the homily is great for me - it gets me back into writing. The problem is then you have to stand up on Sunday in front of a bunch of people and actually read out loud what you wrote. This terrifies me. A thousand things run through my head as I stand there, "This is no good", "What if they laugh at me?" "I have no idea what I'm talking about here..." etc. etc. I'm keenly aware that I'm making this all about "me", instead of God. It is a deeply humbling experience and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for my priest and minister friends who get up there and do this every single Sunday. So far I have been blessed by lots of kind comments and no criticisms. Then it occurred to me that I need to stretch myself even more. I need to share what I have written on my blog, and that terrifies me too. Although I have very little idea who reads this blog, or why they do, I still have this strong desire to please, to get it right and to be liked. And I realized that I can't be authentic, I can't be real, if I'm afraid to post something. So, in the interest of spreading my wings just a little bit farther I present to you last Sunday's homily, based on the text of John 12:20-33, because maybe somebody out there needs this today:

“I tell you the truth, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to make many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed.”

In her novel, Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris shares snippets of a conversation that takes place during an afternoon women’s Bible study where much of the wisdom is passed on in the stories the women share. She writes: “When I dared to speak, I said that my favorite passage in the chapter had always been Mark 4:27, because it speaks so eloquently of an ordinary miracle: that the farmer “should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.” That seems to apply to so much that I do, I said, commitments that I make when I have no idea what I’m getting into, and somehow they grow into something important, before I know it. My marriage, for instance, I said, and the women laughed, knowingly. It also reminded me, I told them, how mysterious are so many of the things that we take for granted. We know how to plow a field, and how to seed it. But germination and growth are hidden from us, beyond our control. All we can do is wait, and hope, and see. “Only last Saturday,” a woman interrupted, “at the Lutheran fall bazaar. The place mat was real different. I saved mine.” She drew it from her purse and unfolded it. There was a picture of a wheat field and a quote from Martin Luther: “If you could understand a single grain of wheat you would die of wonder.”

An ordinary miracle. We plant a seed in the ground, we water it, fertilize it and if all conditions are right the seed will blossom into some plant we can eat or beautiful flowers to admire. But none of this will take place if the seed is not planted. It remains simply a seed.

Our modern society is a bit removed from that ordinary miracle. Sure, some of us might have small gardens in our backyard, but for the most part we’ve gotten pretty used to walking into the produce section of Zechner’s and picking up whatever vegetables we feel like eating. We don’t think much about the work that went into bringing them there - the tilling of the soil and the planting of seeds, hoping that they will produce a full crop. We just expect it to be there.

And perhaps that was what the crowd was like around Jesus that day. Some were following him around and some came to see what all the fuss was about. They’d gotten used to him wandering and preaching and maybe they had some expectations about what they were going to hear from him. But instead Jesus starts talking about seeds dying, losing your life to gain it, and being lifted up from the earth.

I wonder if the crowd that sat there that day, listening to Jesus talk understood that he was talking about himself. That in a few days, he would be crucified and buried in a tomb. Everything was about to change. When they found the tomb empty, would they remember these words?

For a few days they would be plunged into grief and loss, their world shattered by Jesus’ death. Yet, we know, the story doesn’t end with an empty tomb.

One of my current favorite CD’s is called “Unfolding” by The River’s Voice. There’s a song on it called Regeneration and I’d like to share the words with you.

(regeneration from Unfolding (2001)
the seed is planted in the ground
the rain and sun come pouring down
from deep within
new life is born
the roots take hold,
the seed is torn
but in its death the seed renews
the promises, the many hues
of God's creative gift to all
through summer, winter,
spring and fall

In it’s death the seed renews. No, the story doesn’t end with an empty tomb. In fact, the story is still going on. Jesus' death and resurrection transformed the world. We were given the gift of new life, all from a single grain of wheat. If we really understand this, to paraphrase Martin Luther, it’s amazing we haven’t all died of wonder. * o

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Poetry Moment


By what are you saved? And how?
Saved like a bit of string,
tucked away in a drawer?
Saved like a child rushed from
a burning building, already
singed and coughing smoke?
Or are you salvaged
like a car part -- the one good door
when the rest is wrecked?

Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved,
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?
Haven't you seen
the way snow curls down
like a fresh sheet, how it
covers everything,
makes everything
beautiful, without exception?

~ Lynn Ungar ~

(Blessing the Bread)
* o

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunny Days and other ways I'm avoiding working on stuff

"Sunny Days, oh sunny sunny days....ain't nothing better in the world I know, then lying in the sun with my radio....."

Of course, if Lighthouse were to record that tune today instead of back in the 70's it would have to be "ain't nothing better in the world I know, then lying in the sun with my iPod, or iPhone, or Blackberry....etc...." :)

It's been a glorious sunny weekend, and while I'm not naive enough to think that spring is here yet, I do loves me some sunshine. I just came back from a walk with Buffy, my new iPod (she's slim, sleek, decked out in killer purple and I'm pretty sure could save me from vampires..) and there ain't nothing better in the world I know than a walk in the sun with tunes on the iPod and a chance to reflect on my week - the good, the bad and otherwise OK.

The application is in!

I submitted my application to Spirations last week, and am now just waiting for my interview. It's helping me to work on patience, since I always want to do everything right now. I'm looking forward to this next step in the journey, even though I'm also freaking out about whether I've made the right choice or can do this. Repeat to self: "I can do this. It will be OK."

Love to hear the Robin going Tweet, Tweet, Tweet!

Twitter. I need a Twitter intervention. I'm spending so much time on there lately that Facebook has called up asked me if we're still friends. Seriously. But I've met a bunch of cool people, or "Tweeps" so it's not all bad!

I can't see clearly now...

Little floaters in my eye,
You're so annoying when you pass by...

Last month the vitreous fluid in my left eye began to detach - which is apparantly a common occurence and not too serious, but has caused several large floaters to take up residence in my eyeball and not leave. My optometrist originally said 7-10 days and things would settle down. Friday he said the good news was no retinal tears, but the floaters are around to stay. Eventually I'm supposed to get used to it. Meanwhile, if you pass by me and I'm randomly swatting non-existence things around my head just ignore me. Can't wait for blackfly season.

Because if Havi said jump off a bridge....

Jewish cookies. I heart Havi Brooks and am a big fan of the work she, and that adorable duck of hers, does. Such a big fan that she has me twirling my arms around my head in some bizarre sort of "do it wrong to get it right" yoga called Shiva Nata, regularly stretching with what she calls non-sucky yoga, and adding to my vocabulary with words like "biggification" and "stuckify". So when Havi mentioned these cookies called "hamentaschen" (or Havi's cookies in my house because I can't pronounce that) I thought, "those look delicious, I'm going to make some". I'm not even sure I like figs, but whatever I had to make them. So that is what I spent most of yesterday doing. Trying to make those damn cookies. See it looked easy enough on the blog, but I'm pretty sure that was just some trick of Havi's now, like Shiva Nata. It's the cookie form of Shiva. Anyway, as I was desparately trying to get my crumbling cookie dough to roll out, the countertop covered in flour and cookie bits, remembering finally that I don't like to make cookies, my husband smirks and asks "where did you say you got that recipe from again?" I wanted to answer that I was pretty sure it was channelled from the seventh circle of Hell or something, but I just mumbled "Havi's blog" and kept on rolling. Bless his heart, he gave me that patient "my wife and her crazy ideas" look and didn't say much more. My cookies look nothing like the ones pictured on Havi's blog (note to self: look at the picture next time). But, here's the thing, they are good. I mean really, really good. These are like the best cookies I've eaten! I'll bet the ones she makes are even better. Curse you Havi and your precocious ducky Selma! Check out Havi's blog, but for God's sake, stay away from the cookies!

Hmmm....I think it's time for a cookie break! * o

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Conversations with Cordelia

(Background - Cordelia is what I'm calling my inner critic these days. She's a chameleon that changes depending on the situation. She's mostly a composite of that girl we all knew in high school - you know the really good looking, popular girl that always made you feel like the brainiac nerd who couldn't dress properly and didn't know what to do with her hair? She's the Buffy to your Willow, off partying with the hot guy in school while you're stuck in the library doing research with Mr. Giles. And, she's partly made up of that friend I had in high school who was always trying to "help" me by pointing out what was wrong with me, and who once gave me a copy of "How to Be Your Own Best Friend", which to this day I'm still trying to think was well intentioned and not just a cruel hint. In short, she is mostly everything I am not.)

I'm working on my application for Spirations Institute and have gotten to the essay part. Write your spiritual journey in about 1,000 words. I'm stuck and avoiding it, and Cordelia pops in and plunks herself down in front of me. Well, plunks is probably not correct since Cordelia is anything but awkward. As usual, she looks good - perfect hair and makeup, nice slim black jeans, powder blue cotton long sleeved tee and a scarf perfectly wrapped around her neck. Damn, she does know how to dress well. That's so annoying.

Cordelia: "So, is that the latest?" She points to the papers spread out in front of me.

Me: "Latest what?"

Cordelia: (Tossing her head lightly to one side.) "You know, your latest thing, dream, whatever you want to call it. Is that what you're working on?"

Me: "Ya its an application for spiritual direction training, kinda stuck on it right now but I want to get it done this weekend."

My cat, the traitor, jumps up on her lap and Cordelia begins to stroke him, somewhat absentmindedly. "Hmm...I thought you were going to be, like, a writer or something? Or a creativity coach? An artist? I don't know, I can't keep up (she sighs) you're always changing it."

Me: "Well...I've done some writing and that, but I don't know I just feel pulled to explore this right now. I think I want to combine the creativity and the spirituality into something."

Cordelia gives me that haughty look she is oh so good at. "Something?" she snorts "see that's your problem - no focus. You don't really know what it is you want."

Me (defensively): "I can focus when I want." I briefly focus on a fantasy involving tightening that cute little scarf around her neck.

Cordelia looks around. "Ya sure - looks like you have piles of focus. I see your art course over there waiting for you to get back to it, a couple of half finished journals lying around, a bunch of unread books, files that have to be put away......girl, procrastination is your name."

Rather childishly I reply, "Ya, so what? I work full time too remember? And I did finish my Certificate of Spirituality so I am capable of finishing things,"

Cordelia smiles. "Well, where's all this playing going to get you anyway - don't you think you're just wasting time and money?"

I bite my lip. "No, I'm not playing. I'm trying to figure out what it is I want to do."

Cordelia (snarkily): "So what will this, (she waves her hand in the air) spiritual direction thingy get you anyway? What can you do with it exactly?"

"Well, I'll be companioning people on their spiritual journeys, I'll be listening to their stories, encouraging them - kinda like a spiritual coach I guess. And I want to do more retreats..." My voice starts to trail off.

Cordelia laughs. "Aren't you worried people are going to start thinking you're a little flaky?"

"I'm talking to you aren't I? How much flakier can it get?"

"But you can't make any real money at this can you? It's not like you're going to quit your job or anything, so why bother?"

I let out an exasperated sigh. "Because I need to do it. Because if I don't, I'll just dry up inside. No, I can't quit my job right now but that's not all of it. It's about growing, and discovering me, and not squashing my creativity, and connecting with something greater."

Cordelia picked that cat off her lap, got up, brushed the cat hair off her jeans and stretched, an obvious bored look on her face. "Ok honey, if that's what you really want" she said in a tone that implied why the hell would anyone want that? "Anyway, I've gotta run, important meeting. We'll catch up later, maybe by then you'll figure out what it is you want to be when you grow up (giggle). Call me."

Cordelia glided out the door and for a long time I started at it. Truth is, I probably will call her later. That's just the kind of co-dependent relationship we have. * o

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mid-Week Poetic Moment

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

~ Margaret Atwood ~

(morning in the burned house)
* o