Monday, February 26, 2007

Help Requested

OK folks -- please, those of you who have not yet read my prior post (about the belt) are invited to do so now. I ask this because I need your help.

(pause while waiting for you to finish reading it......) have you ever had someone do something BIG deliberately that did you harm? How did you forgive them? What does it mean to forgive?

When I can see that someone's spontaneous actions come from their own wounds, and that hurting *me* in some way was not some malicious object of their actions, I can and do find a way to forgive - to see that it is not about me and to let it go.

But when someone is mean, deliberately mean in a big way, I lose my senses. I want them punished.

Lord, I know this is my ugliest side. But I confess, in my heart I want this person punished for hurting me in ways that affect my life deeply. I don't do anything about it -- I do not seek revenge. But I harbor the wound in my heart. And I need to find another way.

Tonight I am going to try to pray for the person who wronged me. I do not want it to be a struggle, but I fear that it will. Please, tell me what comes to your mind as you read this.

I want to live free from this anger and hurt. It doesn't occupy my thoughts 24/7, but at some points every week I get the twinges of it. I know that God wants better from me. I just cannot seem to find the way to better -- the way to His will.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's like chewing a leather belt

You know how in the old westerns when they were taking some bullet out of a guy and they were miles from any anesthetic? What did they do? They took off the guys belt and made him bite down hard as they cut him open. Hold that image.

For Lent I am working daily on forgiveness and gratitude. I suspect they are related. A memory soured with un-forgiveness leaves no room for gratitude. But I have a big issue here. Big. There is someone (no longer actively in my day to day life) who knowingly did me serious harm. The wounds,although over a year old are fresh enough that the temptation is still strong to tell you all about what a horrible person she was to me, and how the long lists of abusive things that she did still hurts. Part of me wants to marshal the troops and have you live in un-forgiveness of her too. But I know that is wrong. Here is what I know.

1. Unprovoked wrong was done to me that caused damage on several levels.
2. The person who did those things is unrepentant.
3. I am caught like a deer in the headlights, not wanting to engage this person ever again, but engaging her spiritually every time I feel anger at her or sorrow about what was done to me.
4. I feel trapped, as though forgiving her would be to say what she did was OK -- as though forgiving her would be letting her off the eternal hook in some way.
5. Even though I know the only person wounded by this behavior is me, not her, I cling to the internal mullings over and over again. I do not understand why this happened, and I get stuck in the not knowing.

Forgiving her feels like biting on a leather belt and trusting God to pry out the bullet. I'm not sure I even know how.

How does one forgive -- what is the HOW of forgiveness?

So, how's YOUR Lent going? Want to share a belt?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

When I was a little girl, my family and I would go to the church early in the morning before school and work and have crosses of ashes put on our foreheads. The rule was that they could not be wiped or washed off. They had to wear off over time, usually about 48 hours would remove all trace of them. Until then, I was an obvious "Catholic kid" in a school that was not predominantly Catholic, in a town that was fairly evenly split between (in RCC parlance) those who were Catholic and those who ...........were not. It didn't matter what faith or Christian denomination one was. In my family if one was not Roman Catholic one fell into that amorphous bundle of people we simply referred to as "non-Catholics." They were the other half of the world -- the other half of what one could be, in a world with only two choices in it -- Catholic or non-Catholic. So it was in the 1950's pre-Vatican II, ethnic, Roman Catholic, New England universe.

In some ways I loved Ash Wednesday. It was easy to tell at school over that 48 hour period who was and who was not Catholic like me. We would ask each other, with a special feeling of connection, "Whaddaya giving up for Lent?" That was the plan -- to give up something for Lent. And it was serious. Heaven help you if you defiantly violated that pledge. And if by accident you should forget and accidentally eat a piece of candy when you had given up sweets --well, a tempest of self-imposed guilt would ensue, and it would surely be confessed that Saturday in the confessional.

But there was something special in all of it. There was something that felt worth defending about being set apart in such a visible way. We were doing something "for God" -- or at least that is how it felt. We were giving something up, and we felt spiritually stronger for having done it -- and secretly proud of our discipline in the face of people who didn't have it. It was during Lent that I felt most connected to other Catholics, because of our willingness to wear the sign of our connection -- even if it was just a cross made from ashes for 48 hours.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lenten Resolve

Well, Lent is here again already. Those of you hanging around these parts for last year's Lent know that I took on the issue of forgiveness for last Lent, attempting to forgive someone for something each day, to try to deepen my understanding of forgiveness. It is an undone task, and so I take it on again this year. This year, however, I am adding one thing to this devotional event -- I will thank God for something each day. I am starting to feel a link between forgiveness and gratitude, and I very much want to explore that with God and with you.

A blog is like an iceberg -- you really only see a portion of what is with anyone. But I will try to be as open as I can here without becoming embarrassingly or uncomfortably confessional.

Life is such a tangled up thing. I believe, even if I do not understand why, that part of what makes our lives chaotic is undone business - it is like letting the sleeve of a sweater unravel bit by bit ..leaving it unmended ... until the threads start catching on things and impeding your movement in unexpected ways. So then perhaps you start walking so as not to snag the unmended sleeve - and soon you start to accommodate your life to protecting that sleeve, using energy and attention that might have brought you or your loved ones joy instead -- when it all could have been solved by addressing the issue and mending it in the first place.

So that is what my Lent is aiming for -- and yours?

Happy Year of the Pig

Happy Chinese New Year -- more accurately, Happy Year 4,705. This is the year of the Pig. The Chinese zodiac progresses on a 12 year cycle through 12 different animals who rule that year. To determine the animal of your Chinese astrological zodiac,
check out this site.

There are lots of traditions associated with Chinese New Year, many of which can be found on this site run by the Government of Taiwan. Mt favorite story is :
Even though Lunar New Year celebrations generally last for only several days, starting on New Year's Eve, the festival itself is actually about three weeks long. It begins on the twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month, the day, it is believed, when various gods ascend to heaven to pay their respects and report on household affairs to the Jade Emperor, the supreme Taoist deity. According to tradition, households busily honor these gods by burning ritualistic paper money to provide for their traveling expenses. Another ritual is to smear malt sugar on the lips of the Kitchen God, one of the traveling deities, to ensure that he either submits a favorable report to the Jade Emperor or keeps silent.

In the event that reports are made to God about you on this day, it is my dearest hope that these reports are sweet, tender and divinely succulent.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Valentine or Pal-entine Wanted

I confess. It will suck to not be in a romantic relationship this year on February 14th. I do not care if it is a commercial holiday. It sucks to not have a Valentine. So this is an open invitation to the Universe.

I therefore invite those of you reading this to be my Valentine, or, less romantically, to be my "Pal"-entine on February 14th.

Just let me know.

My heart is on my sleeve.


A desert road from Vegas to nowhere
Somewhere better than where you've been
A coffee machine that needs some fixing
In a little cafe' just around the bend
I am calling you, I know you hear me
I am calling you

A hot dry wind blowing right through me
Oh, the baby's crying and I can't sleep
But we both know that a change is coming
Oh, coming closer, such sweet release
And I am calling you, can you hear me
I am calling you
Oooh, yeah

A desert road from Vegas to nowhere
Somewhere better than where you've been
But we both know that a change is coming
Coming closer around the bend
And I am calling you, don't you hear me
I am calling you
I, honey, I'm calling, I'm calling, I'm calling you
I know you hear me
I am calling you.

--from the fine, small film -- "Bagdad Cafe"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

When there is not inclusion, there is Injustice

My own church body, the ELCA (Lutheran) just defrocked a pastor for being in a committed loving relationship with a member of the same sex, in this case male.

This is a quote from his church's website about the trial and its results.

On August 8, 2006, Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod filed formal charges with the ELCA against Pastor Schmeling because of his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. Currently, the ELCA has a policy that excludes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in relationships from the ordained ministry. The congregation stands in solidarity with Pastor Schmeling. The hearing began on January 19th and concluded around noon on Tuesday, January 23rd. The hearing committee remained to make their deliberations. On Wednesday, February 7th the committee's decision was communicated to Pastor Schmeling.

We invite you to continue to pray for St. John’s and the entire ELCA. We give thanks for the amazing support that has been offered to us during these days of trial. Pastor Schmeling also wants you to know how deeply moved he has been by the outpouring of love and support. He feels held in the power of the Holy Spirit and gives thanks for the opportunity to serve the church with people across this country.

Pastor Schmeling had informed both his congregation and his bishop before ordination that he was gay. At that time he was not in a relationship. Ironically, and with a cruel irony indeed, now that he is, he is defrocked.

Because my denomination has been so slow to move, they had no other choice - rule-followers that Lutherans are, there had been no new rules written. And so this man and his partner get to endure this outrageous decision.

God loves everyone. I saw a show on TV with a zealous preacher -- he was so affirming to everyone as he addressed the issue of inclusion. "Jesus," he said" did not come to change anything but your heart. He did not tell you to change anything but your heart -- and he wants you to turn toward Him, where you are ALL his children. So stop worrying about someone's penis or vagina, and focus on the heart. "

I am heartsick. Our churches are treating people like issues, or like doorstops. It is wrong. Just plain wrong. God must be weeping.

I was heartened to hear that Pastor Schmeling's church supports him. Their website gives an address to send funds

If you want to contribute to the defense of Pastor Schmeling, please give to the Pastor Schmeling defense fund, “The policy is the problem,” which is a fund at St. John’s designated for this purpose. You may mail checks to St John's Lutheran Church, 1410 Ponce de Leon Ave, Atlanta, GA 30307, noting the name of the fund in the memo line. Any funds remaining after the trial ends will be donated to Goodsoil,

In closing, I am moved by the way this congregation describes itself : "A congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that invites freely, loves unconditionally, and serves with joy!"

May it be so for us all.

Seagulls and Skordalia with Roasted Pickled Beets

I went out for Greek food today, and got as an appetizer one of my favorite Greek dishes -- Skordalia with Roasted Beets. My friend and I each had appetizers and a lunch. So there were leftovers. On the way home, I pulled over to a parking lot that overlooks the ocean and did some birdwatching.

This is a tidepool area, where a river meets the ocean, so the places with fresh water were iced over, and there were crowds of various birds hanging out and doing what birds do. In this case, they were seagulls, and what they do is cruise for, and then fight for, food.

Seagulls are an amateur birdwatcher's misery. There are a zillion kinds of them. The mature male version of one kind of gull can look exactly like the immature female version of another. One kind of gull alone can have several different sorts of plumage depending on his or her age and the season. I have developed a stock answer when someone asks "What kind of gull is that?" My answer is "I do not care, because if I did I would go crazy."

What, you may ask at this point, does this have to do with Skordalia and Roasted Pickled Beets? That detail is on its way. Bear with me.

Gulls are beggars of the worst order. They circle overhead and do not ask for food, they yell for it. In the movie, "Finding Nemo" the cartoonist aptly depicts them as all saying "Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine" at the same time as they all divebomb a crumb.

But, today was a chilly day -- just a bit above freezing, and I do have a soft spot in my heart for birds, so I reached into my leftover bag and got out the pita bread -- broke it into small pieces and tossed it out of my car window. The wind was strong, and the pieces blew back at me, landing very near the car.

What ensued was almost a scene from Hitchcok's film, "The Birds". Swooping and swarming, the gulls dove at my car and the nearby pita scraps as though they were prospectors who had just discovered gold.

Within moments the bread was gone, and the birds were now standing around my car, looking at me, or hovering near my window, waiting for the next handout. All I had left were roasted pickled beets and Skordalia. What the hell. I dumped them out of the window and quickly moved my car. I parked a few spaces away and watched a horde of frantic birds gulping down the garlicky beet and potato mixture. They loved them!

Maybe it was greed, or maybe genuine hunger -- it is often so hard to tell the two apart. But my leftovers are now with the gulls.

I may be the only person in the world today who is personally responsible for giving a half dozen gulls garlic breath.

It may not be a grand accomplishment, but it is a singular one.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Hi folks -- I have recently placed a blog entry on BlogHer that I would be very happy for you to read and reply to over there. It is a thought about hope and an invitation to post ones own hopes. It can be found here. I would love to get their Religion and Spirituality section to be more dialogic than it is now, so any help would be very appreciated. Plus, it is a good site for y'all to bookmark, with some very amazing editors in all sorts of areas. I am really humbled to be in their presence.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Just call me , "Detective Mata"

First, I am having keyboard problems and my 'period' key does not work so I will use dashes instead - sorry --

Well, another potential house bites the dust - I was looking at a lovely house on 5 acres of land in a rural town in the Berkshires -- Everything seemed perfect on the outside -- the land was forested -- There was a great barn, and a flawless fieldstone patio -- The home had bow windows overlooking a hill of trees, hardwood floors, a huge fireplace, and a giant living room-- AND the price was reasonable --

Then we checked out the basement, and saw three separate rooms all set up there -- Great, we thought -- Then we noticed the tables that were set up around the rim of each room, and the chains hanging from the ceiling above the tables -- the same was true in the barn -- Our young realtor said that maybe they were into 'horticulture' --

Now I am a child of the 60's-- I know a Pot Farm when I see one--

So, Nancy Drew characters that Sandy and I can both be, we sought out information --

The prior owner had only owned the home for 7 months -- Hmmmmmmmm

He was selling it for less than he paid for it --- Hmmmmmmmm

The home showed signs of 'sudden departure' -- one room was half painted with painters' tape still up -- Hmmmmmmm

One back door was missing a pane of glass -- Hmmmmmmm

His realtor said "the bank is handling this for him at his request" ----- Hmmmmmmm

Friends we know in that town told Sandy that one night state troopers blocked off the guy's driveway, and led him out in handcuffs -- HMMMMMMMMMMMMM

So, although I do not know anything for a 'fact' one can safely assume with reasonable probability that the prior owner might have been involved in some form of illicit commerce -- And, since folks in that line of work have been known to stash funds that they could come back for later -- well, I will pass on this dream home and get back in he hunt this weekend -- I don't need to be the old lady living in the remote dwelling formerly used as a Pot Farm -- I can just imagine the folks who might stop by for a visit!
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