Friday, August 27, 2010


I started a new job.

All week we have been learning about the organization - everything from the mission/vision/values to where they put the paperclips. We told "getting to know you" introductions followed tours of several agencies with whom we will work.

Mid-week, after introductions, orientations, tours and explanations, we knew each others' names really well. We also learned one or two more personal bits of information ("You lived in China for three years? What was that like?" or "What is it like to run a video production company?" or "How do people in Pennsylvania feel about the death penalty?" or "What radio station in Asheville plays Indie music?"). By now we had names and personality stamps forming for our teammates.

There's Ms. GermanO, Ms. China, Ms. Harley, Mr. Mom, Ms. Three-Dog-Night, Mr. Cincinatti, Ms. Katydid, Ms. Snacks-R-Us, Ms. WeekendPlan, Mr. Americorps and our fearless teamleader, Ms. WeCanDoAnything.

So, what's a team to do but go to the YMCA for team building exercises?

Really? *yawn* been there. done that. - Was the bubble over my head.

After a warm-up, I got really into one of the exercises. It really challenged our team-work. Standing in a circle, our goal was to pass the golf ball from one person to the other. On gutter-shaped PVC sliders. The kind that allow the ball to roll really quickly if one is not careful! The challenge was that only five of the ten team members had sliders - the others had to quickly grab one out of the hands of the others after the ball made it's way around. Once we developed a circle-style, our team coach challenged us to move the ball half-way down the football field, using the few sliders, and deposit the ball into an upside down caution cone.

With creativity, patience, dignity, encouragement, focus, diligence, and not a few prayers, we did it! We all had a lot of fun along the way of making our goal.

In the midst of this "game" I realized that these kind of "silly" team games are really helpful. I know for me, I got out of my head and got really into the moment. I found myself busting through the personal space of quite a few people. I heard my voice spontaneously encouraging others. I felt embarrassed when I made a mistake that let the team down. I was inspired by the creative support that I felt from my newly-met team-mates.

Now, in this quiet moment, I think that team-building exercise was a lot like keeping a spiritual practice. For example, my morning prayer routine: I need to just show up, even if I have "been there, done that" before. I remind myself that I am different now than I was "then." When I read the scripture, it touches me in a new place, kind of like those sliders. They help me get out of my head. I find myself sometimes busting through with a personal prayer in the midst of a canticle. I sometimes hear the voice of Spirit encouraging me. I try to confess to God my shortcomings and give thanks for the grace to keep going.

May my heart remain soft and my feet grounded for the work that will come in the next 10 weeks!

What kind of "sliders" do you have in this moment?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


One of my spiritual practices is to be rigorously honest.

It's not about *lying,* really. It's not even about sharing "the whole truth, nothin' but the truth..." I get that part. Sometimes, I exaggerate just a bit and I know that's not truthful, so I am working to stick to the facts, ma'am, just the facts, and not "make sh*t up," (MSU).

Still, my spiritual "rigorous honesty" practice is different than what happens between my ears and my tongue.

This practice is deeper - it's in my heart and gut. I am learning to be honest about how I feel. What I think. What I sense. What I hear. What I heart/gut/stomach - - in this moment. This practice calls me to consider what I honestly need. It's about connecting to my soul. Next, I need to honestly share what that is with the other - with whomever I am in dialogue. I am practicing sharing what I believe and sharing what I don't believe. Or simply saying, "Gee, I don't know."

This journey is also about accepting what I perceive as reality. When I push against reality, when I fight against what is actually happening, I suffer. That's when I realize that I want things different than they are and I suffer. Yes, this is my control issue!

When I found this in the daily prayer's Gospel reading, I paused and took note. My prayer is that my spiritual "rigorous honesty" practice will re-guide my intentions.

Jesus said, "I didn't make this up. What I teach comes from the One who sent me. Anyone who wants to do his will can test this teaching and know whether it's from God or whether I'm making it up. A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn't tamper with reality. John 7:16 (The Message)

Lord, teach me to pray.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Whenever people ask me innocently, "what was Taizé like?" - I usually have to take a deep breath and "take off my shoes" for I am walking on holy ground.

The Taizé community is an Ecumenical community in the south Burgundy region of France that radically believes that through trust, peace, and reconciliation, change can come about through our young people. I joined a week with only 800 people (700 youth, 100 adults), although it can grown up to 5,000 during one week. Led by around 100 protestant and Catholic brothers, the community exists by living simply with a common life of prayer (three times per day), scripture study with reflection and work.

You can click here to watch a short 11-minute video.

The shape of our days included waking up, prayer, breakfast, scripture study led by one of the brothers, quiet reflection, noonday prayer, lunch, chanting lessons, small group discussion, leisure time (patisserie in a nearby village!), dinner, evening prayer and sleep (dorm-style, 6 to a room).

I recall the small group in which I participated: E. from Holland (Lutheran Pastor), B. from Norway (Priest in the Church of Norway), E. and I. from Norway, M. from Hong Kong, A. from the UK, H. from Germany, K. from Sweden and me, from US. In our international circle we experienced a passion and an intensity while sharing scripture in light of our cultural tradition and our personal experience in light of it the day's message.

I easily recall the sacred space and the beautiful church - windows wide open, birds flying about, bells ringing loudly while we all find a place on the floor in silence.

How can one describe what it's like to share 15 minutes of silence with 700 other people?
How can one share the sensation of African-singing-body-prayer-in-four-voices led by a diminutive
Italian young adult?
How can one re-glimpse the spiritual velocity formed by hundreds of young adults moving en-mass towards the cross on their knees?

As for me, I usually quote Robert Benchley who said, "Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing."

My Taizé experience was unforgettable and indescribable and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Needle Stick

Last week, I got "tested" for TB.

Apparently this is a common test for anyone who plans to work in an institution (like a hospital - but that's *so* last year) or in home with the elderly (aha! that would be me).

This involves a simple (ouch!) needle stick wherein the kind County-Health RN injects a serum under the skin. Three days later, the same RN looks at the now-bruised hole in my arm and since there was no "reaction," this shows that I am immune. She stamped my "card" and that's what I presented to my future employer so that I could get "in home aide" training.

I wondered how this relates to my faith journey. It reminded me how V. Gene Robinson wrote in In The Eye Of The Storm. He complains about how Christianity has become so bland...

Instead of going to church to be energized for mission, ministry and justice, all too often we go for an "inoculation" instead...{like} You don't want to get chicken pox, so you go to the doctor, who gives you just enough chicken pox to make your body form antibodies to it. So you never get a full blown case of chicken pox.

Could it be that we actually go to church for such an inoculation?
God help us if we go to church on Sunday morning just to get enough religion to keep us from having a full-blown case. If we took to heart what we read in scripture and hear in church, we would set about changing our own lives and seeking to transform the world. A "full-blown case" of Christianity would result in befriending the oppressed, working for justice and offering ourselves sacrificially in God's plan for the salvation of the world ...

I am pretty sure that I've got a full-blown case of Christianity. I'm officially a church geek.

I got another needle stick when I heard how the "brand image" of Christianity has become so tarnished that followers are dis-owning it with toxic anger. I feel much of that anger, distrust, resentment, like my neighbor Anne Rice.

I still believe the world is being transformed by a God of creation - the one "in whom we live and move and have our being" - the God who is present in every moment and who, as a human, taught us to live a way of life and is a very bridge between humanity and the divine. I pray for the grace of our Creator God, the love of the Incarnate Word and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit may sustain all who have a full-blown case.

What form does your needle stick take?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Scripture and religious teaching contains so many images that draw on the quiet, pastoral images.

  • The shepherd who finds the one lost lamb.
  • The green pastures into which I lie for restoration.
  • Promises from Yahweh of living in fertile pasturelands and being God's flock.

Don't get me wrong, I think these images are timeless for humanity, in our yearning for sensing God's presence and deeply profound. AND I read recently an alternative image that Kester Brewin suggests may be a force to be reckoned with in how the Church emerges in the future.

  • It's in the city where we are faced with humanity.
  • It's in the city where buildings and stone and pavement tempt us to feel separated from nature.
  • It's in the city where God and humanity gotta work together, in co-creation, to become temporary communities, creative exchanges of ideas and technologies and must learn to find that essential goodness in life.

For me, the "city" can become a stumbling block in my faith. Let's face it - cities are hard places to live joyfully if you, like me, tend toward nature. But removing myself from "city" to "go into nature to experience God" is, in a way, an escape. I don't deny that.

As for me, I'm going to learn to take time to listen for God in the city - where God's full and mature incarnate complexity, mixed of divinity and humanity, cooperate. "Move towards the pain," as I learned in CPE.

The City is the place where we need to be working out our corporate life. The City is the direction that Jesus moved in his ministry and where we can still find him today. I think that The Church, to survive in the next century, can take this complex dimension of *city* and serve to teach us all about finding God through complexity and through The Other.

Then we'll all retreat to lie down in green pastures to renew.

Spirituality is not to be learned in flight from the world, by fleeing from things to a place of solitude; rather we must learn to maintain an inner solitude regardless of where we are or who we are with. We must learn to penetrate things, and find God there. - Meister Eckhart

Where do you experience God in your city - in this moment?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I See Ewe

A funny thing happened on the way to the south beach of Iona.

Until this point, every sheep, cow, horse, chicken, dog, cat and "every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth," pretty much shied away from me. There were several times when I would be hiking through their pasture and these four-leggeds would run away very frightened. The very healthy, happy cows in southern France would simply look at me, continue chewing their cud and disdainfully look the other way with a distant "don't bother me" look.

Until this point. I walked into the field that hung on the edge of the island. There were hundreds of happy sheep milling about, baa'ing their way through the afternoon and munching on the low-cut grasses on the knoll. I noticed several tufts of "hair" (okay, wool) about on the ground and saw that about half the sheep had been recently been sheared.

I looked at this one sheep about three paces in front of me on the path and suddenly she looked right back at me. No kidding. We locked eyes. She continued walking towards me keeping the stare. I said outloud, "is there something I can do for you today, missie?" and without speaking a word, she proceeded to rub her face, neck, ears and nose on my knee/thigh. rub rub rub without any fear, just kind of mumbling how good that felt. She nearly pushed me over.

Okay, it was a little intimate, but funny, too. When I 'felt' a pause, she looked up and walked on her way. So did I. Even now, if I close my eyes I can still smell her scent and feel the weight of her body nearly pushing me over!

I wondered if that's what it's like for God. God locks eyes. She rubs and rubs, loving our bodily selves and finding some wonderment is what our bodies feel like. It's very, um, incarnational! And still now, I can feel God's presence, God's weight, nearly pushing me over.

Or, perhaps I am seeking God and now I feel that I have locked eyes, I want to feel God's presence all over me. I want to rub and rub and feel what God feels like. Scratch me behind my ears!

How do ewe see God, in this moment?

Monday, August 9, 2010


I've been away on vacation for the last seven weeks. Seven weeks.

That's a long time to be out of ordinary time, and a long time to be gone from my daily life as a Chaplain in the hospital. A long time to be out of any routine!

This morning I read in Acts 5:12 how all the apostles and the people were gathered together at Solomon's Portico. According to the bible commentary as well as "Google, source of all knowledge," this colonnade was historically located by one of the early historians, Josephus. I'm not so interested in "if it really did exist" or not, but rather what this landscape implies for me, in this moment.

I'm in-between. Done with one "job" and now ready to launch something new. Done with trip-of-a-lifetime-vacation and now fearing anything that seems ordinary. Glad to be back but wish I was still away. I think that porches are a landscape that holds these in-between times. Right now I'm in that threshold before what is next but is after what has been.

I think that my ordinary-today-porch is not so extravagant as a royally-named Colonnade, so I consider what it means to live into this moment, in the dark shadows of unknown and with companionship of a creative God of surprises towards what is next.

What is your porch like, in this moment?