Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkins, Wreaths, and Valentines

Our backdoor neighbor has a lot going on at her house. She has 2 darling (and by darling a I mean loud) children, who really are fun (and noisy). She has a mom who has been battling cancer and this week, the week of Thanksgiving, she has gorgeous wreaths up on all of her windows and a yard full of pumpkins. It's a sight that I think is indicative of our lives as busy Americans, but maybe it's a sign of our lives of faith too.

I joked in a sermon recently that it was "that time of year"...time to get your Valentines ordered. I was kidding...mostly. But these last few weeks of the year are always such a funny mix of holidays and icons and SUCH a rush. Seriously we had a hard time this week, the week of Thanksgiving, finding some replacement lights for our Christmas tree...which we aren't even planning on putting up until well into December. If we were very faithful liturgical people...we really wouldn't even put that tree up until Christmas Eve since the time before that is actually Advent and not Christmas. But I digress. A lady at a big home store bit my sweet husband's head off as I reached to get one box of lights. Apparently she had been "all over town" looking for lights and she wasn't about to let this box get away from her. Nothing says Welcome Baby Jesus like yelling at strangers. Again, another digression. Sorry!

Looking at my neighbor's yard which holds symbols of the month of November and December in a kind of mixed up tension that is both jarring and oddly beautiful I reflected on the mixed up tension that we live in all the time. We are at once people of hope and people of sorrow. People who must think about our futures, how to pay for medicine, how to care for aging parents, how to keep roofs over our heads and people who right this minute have a lot to be thankful for. We live in that world where you have to plan ahead whether it's Christmas lights, vacation deposits for next summer, or long term care, and yet as people of faith we get reminded that Jesus says not to worry about one thing.

Sometimes I think the most faithful, most counter-cultural, most shocking thing we can do is be people who are grateful for what is right in front of us. The world says, "look over there", "uh oh, the stores are running out", "there won't be enough" and our faith tells us to breathe, to trust, to find joy in what's right in front of us. And Lord have mercy if that isn't hard!

How do we move in the world in practical, tangible ways and move in the world faithfully...grateful for what's happening in this moment, trusting that we are right where we need to be, and yet keenly aware of the important preparations we must undertake to care for ourselves, and our families?

Here's the answer. OK, just kidding. If I had the complete answer to that I would be taking over the Oprah show. I do think that it is possible to be people who straddle the present and the future. People who save for retirement but not at the expense of caring for others right now or not at the expense of the laughter and joy to be had right now.

My neighbor friend, and everyone watching a loved one who is ill, knows this straddle only too well. There is much we can learn from her. When you accompany someone on a difficult health journey you learn to be so grateful for every minute you spend with her (or him). And of course we know that is true about everyone in our lives, but it's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to get caught up in the plans and challenges and hunting for stuff we're going to need next month that we forget just to study the face of the person we're accompanying to that big box store.

But when someone is ill, we get a sharp reminder not to take any moment for granted. Each conversation, each shared meal, each picture takes on a whole new significance that we can lose in the crush of getting things done. I certainly do NOT want to romanticize illness! My neighbor would much prefer that her mom was well. I would prefer that my sweet friend with brain cancer be 100 percent healthy even if that meant that we got so busy we lost touch again.

I think we're always in the midst of straddling the present and the future and that certain circumstances simply bring that into sharper focus. I wonder if we (and by we I mean I!) can learn how to hold the present and future in some delicate tension that becomes a thing to cherish rather than a thing to battle? I wonder if I can practice my faith in such a way that I can see gratitude for the moment and preparation for the future as twin gifts from a Loving God? Reminding myself that God is God in this present instant, next week, and 20 years from now? For the eternal God there is no time, really. It all just is, and for mysterious, wonderful reasons, God has invited all of us into the dance!

Happy ThanksMasTine's Day! Rhoda

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

With my apologies to R. Kelly and the cast of Cabaret

My Sunday morning adult education class is studying the topic of money. Those of you who know me well should be laughing hysterically now. But it's a money and faith class NOT a personal finance class. Whew! In fact, the book we are using as a launching pad for our discussion is entitled, Money and Faith: The Search for Enough. When I read through this book I always have that "Money makes the world go around song" in my head. Not the R. Kelly one, though now it's stuck in there too, but that song performed by Joel Gray and Liza Minnelli in Cabaret.

The search for who wrote that song so I could attribute it to them in this blog led me through the exciting world of hip-hop lyrics. Apparently R. Kelly's song is "higher"on the Internet search engines than 1960's musicals (what? you're kidding!) Anyway, his lyrics...at least the ones I can post in a nice blog written by a middle aged Episcopal priest, follow along (roughly) the same lines as the older ones. V-12s (big cars), honeys on the cell (you can probably figure this out, but lots of special lady friends, eh em), etc. The new hip hop lyrics and the lyrics from 40 years ago are of the same ilk: money, more than anything else makes the world go around. Of course the church works hard to hold up a different view even as the church, herself, (itself, whatever) needs money.

In the Money and Faith book (edited by Michael Schut, by the way) there is a section by David Boyle that reads, "When you stash money in the bank, they must keep around 8% of that loan on deposit in case there's a run on the bank--but all the rest is lent out again, many times over. In other words, most of our mortgages and bank loans are created, as if by magic (!!...exclamation points mine), by a stroke of the pen." "Money can be something that can be accidentally deleted by your bank just because someone sits on the keyboard..." (45-46).

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Dave Barry also writes an essay for this book, and it is, as you would imagine, hilarious. He writes, "We have the Tinker Bell monetary system...we see everybody else running around after these pieces of paper, and we figure, 'hey, these pieces of paper must be valuable [because we believe and clap]" (44).

You know I have no business commenting on international banking...for heaven's sake...I still write checks! (though I do some online banking) But I hardly ever let that lack of competency stop me from commenting on things. It is fascinating to me how fragile all of this is and as we are all seeing, the economic house of cards does indeed crash with a loud thud. And actually I guess I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often!

So, I'm asking you, what I asked my class. We have all entered into this arrangement, this agreement. I choose to believe that the paper I'm given every two weeks is worth something to the Visa card people to whom I hand it over. And I have to believe that when I type click on a few areas of my keyboard..poof...we have money in our savings account...that we could really really go and get and put into our hands if we wanted to some day. And I, like all of you, operate in that system. I choose to believe it's "real". And I lie awake some nights when I fear that I didn't actually send that check to Visa, and I worry sometimes that I didn't transfer enough into our savings, and what if Rob and I have to eat cat food when we're 80 and what if we have to make choices between a mortgage payment someday and my insanely expensive asthma medicine, and on and on and money makes the world go around..and help!

So what if I could also get as caught up in believing that I am a living member of the body of Christ? What if I could believe as strongly that the small wafer of bread and swallow of wine that I receive every Sunday really is the Body and by ingesting it I become part of that Body and carry it with me wherever I go? I'm not trying to get into a whole discussion about the "Real Presence" or transubstantiation or all that jazz of Eucharistic theology (some of you just hyperventilated when I used such a careless word as jazz right next to Eucharistic theology. No disrespect intended).

I'm just questioning why it is so darn easy for me to get caught up in money fears and caught up in systems that I completely do not understand and yet allow them to interrupt my sleep. At the same time I take somewhat for granted the power of relationship with God, the power of Holy Communion. I never lie awake and think "DANG! I get to be in relationship with God! Are you kidding me? That is so cool! I must wake up Rob and share this exciting news!"

I'm not advocating abdicating! How's that for catchy? I can't abdicate my responsibility to pay my bills, pay my taxes, get advice about how much we need to be saving to live in the future. But I'm trying...slowly...to practice getting as energized by the belief that God is present, God is real, God is known in myriad ways including in that bit of cheap wine and bread as I do agitated by the belief that I don't have enough money, that the money is running out, that I'm in fragile financial circumstances.

I don't mean this as any cheap rehash of "prosperity Gospel" that sells books and gets you on TV. God is not the big ATM in the sky..pray just the right way and you press the right buttons and out pops a $20. Faithful people live in poverty. I don't think that if I just pray hard enough or love the bread and wine more then magically my Visa card debt goes away. I do think that it's a short list of things that should keep awake a member of the Body of Christ. And I'm going to try hard to remind myself that my true identity has nothing to do with my bank account.

Money does make the world go around I suppose. But it doesn't have to define us, energize us, or control us. Money did not vanquish death, God did that. Peace to you on this (hot) October day! Rhoda
PS Fred Ebb and John Kander wrote the music and lyrics to Cabaret..you probably knew that!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Speed bumps

School's back, and I love it. Mostly because I don't have to go! Nor do I have to get small people up the morning, get them dressed, and sit up with them doing homework. So it's easy for me in my sassy little childless state to romanticize the start of a new school year. I live really near an elementary school. One day I saw these 2 young boys riding his bike down our street. I was driving behind them (carefully of course!) and noticed that one of the kids maneuvered his bike carefully in the narrow flat space between the raised parts of the speed bumps. The other little boy aimed his bike straight at the speed bump and joyfully bounced over it. I got tickled and thought that was a great metaphor! (I'm a liberal arts kid....we see metaphors all the freakin' time.)

There have been many times that I've steered my bike carefully...too carefully perhaps to avoid the speed bumps. And I wonder what I've missed by doing that. Maybe I've missed a lot of heartache. Sometimes it's silly to aim your little bike right at some hurdle. But maybe I've missed some joy, some opportunity for growth some adventure.

Once in a while though I have aimed my little "bike" right at the speed bump full on, bounce! And ouch! But usually I can look back and say, "man that was worth the ride. Worth the bounce!"

I am not sure I would be a priest if I hadn't gotten filed for divorce. I'm not sure I'd be a good priest if I hadn't married my "current" husband. (OK I may not be a good priest even with Rob, but I know I'm better for having married him!) Leaving my home of 25 years and moving to Houston was one of the bigger speed bumps, and I still feel the bounce, still say "ouch" every so often, but man what a ride this is!

Actual speed bumps are meant to slow us down so we'll drive more safely. A good idea around schools for sure. Metaphorical speed bumps can sometimes slow us down, but more importantly I think they make us live intentionally. I don't know if struggle with this but I sort of "zone out" sometimes in my life. Just plug along. I know that's a luxury. If I were literally wondering where my next meal was coming from or wondering what the test results were going to reveal I wouldn't have this zone out luxury!

But these bumps in the road force me to pay closer attention, take some stock, be mindful of my next steps. And there is great blessing in that. I do not think God "arranges" speed bumps! Metaphorical or any other kind! I do think whether we try and avoid them or plow right over them God is there, guiding, cheering, sustaining. And if we take a tumble because the bump was slippery and high or we take a tumble because it turns out that little smooth part we thought would help us avoid the bump...wasn't a good idea at all, God is there too. Transforming all of our biking mishaps into something valuable and good. It is of course terribly hard to see that always.

Which is why it's so great to ride these metaphorical bikes with someone. I'm grateful for you my friends! I hope we can always ride these roads together. And whether we ride straight over the speed bumps or in between them, I ask God to hold us and accompany us on the journey.
Happy September! Rhoda

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No honey, he was strange

You knew it had to happen. You aren't even safe here in my tiny little corner of the blogosphere. Yes. I'm going to talk about Michael Jackson! Well, actually I'm going to talk about one little part of his funeral. I danced my considerably smaller booty off during the 1980s to all of his big big hits. I have a soft spot in my heart for that era of Michael Jackson. But I was never willing to pay huge sums of money for concert tickets or sit out in the rain for a possible glimpse, and I feared that it was quite possible he was guilty of the horrible things he was accused of back a decade or so ago. I was, and still am a fan of his music and dancing, but that's about as far as it goes.

In all of the circus that surrounded...and still surrounds his death, the investigation, the all consuming news cycles, and the enormous funeral (?) I was most struck by something Al Sharpton said. I know he meant it to be comforting, but it reminded me of other bad funeral homilies/sermons/eulogies I've heard.

With tenderness he looked at the children and said, "many people will say your daddy was strange. But he wasn't" O honey. Yeah...he was...and he seems to have loved those children...in some way...and they seem to have loved him.

It just reminded me of some other funerals that I've been a part of where people didn't want to admit that the person who died had killed himself, or that she had been a really awful mother, or that there had been a drug addiction or whatever. I TOTALLY get that the pulpit at a funeral is not the place where you dredge up a long list of sins! I'm just saying that it is not helpful to lie either. Michael Jackson was off the charts talented and well..off the charts in other ways too.

All of that can be true at once. None of us is singularly one thing. The worst alcoholic was at some point something other than that. I don't just mean something sentimental either...like in one of those group exercises where you go around the room and say 1 nice thing about everyone. I just mean that each of us is multi layered, nuanced, broken, fabulous, sinful, and loved by God. It seems hard for us, perhaps especially with celebrities, but not just with celebrities, it just seems hard for us to avoid putting people in 1 category. That person is strange. That person is person is fabulous.

Who knows what I would have said if I had been part of the Jackson funeral extravaganza! I'd like to think that I would have said something that was truthful...even if that was difficult...because no matter how strange any of us is, God still loves us and still wants to be in relationship with us. And that is the truth too. Thanks be to God, Rhoda

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Praying for Rain

As I write this today it is actually raining. So, you already know the punchline. But I've had these thoughts in my head for a long time, and am just now sitting down to write/type. Most of Texas is in a drought. Some parts are in an extreme/Steinbeck-ian Grapes of Wrath kind of drought. I have even taking to prayer. And for me that's a bit shocking!

I know for lots of you it's not out of the norm at all to pray for rain! Some of you reading this will be disappointed that a nice clergy girl doesn't pray regularly for rain. I struggle with prayer. In my classes I teach that prayer is about relationship. I didn't just make that up. Lots of smart people have talked about prayer and relationship for centuries. I think more recently Richard Roehr has written a lot about prayer in that way. Someone said that we are as good at praying as we are at the other relationships in our lives. I tried to find the source of that quote, but have not been successful. It will probably turn out that it was either in the back of a Cosmo magazine or the topic of some book I was supposed to have read for my D. Min!

The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer defines prayer as "responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with our without words." I love that! And not just because I'm on the ol' payroll. It makes everything prayer....our word prayers, our work on a Habitat for Humanity House, our singing, everything is about prayer, meaning everything is about relationship with God.

That's such a broader, deeper, richer, picture of prayer than simply asking for "stuff" from the Big Santa in the sky. And yet, when I see the parched earth, and I read about farmers going bankrupt because of the drought, and when my power steering went out on I -10 this week (!) I find myself praying the most basic prayer: help me Jesus! Please make it rain or Please don't let me die on I-10.

I suppose all of that, the prayer as relationship, and the help me Jesus get out of this mess prayers aren't mutually exclusive. I just wonder about the rest of those sentences. If it continues not to rain enough or if I had crashed my car on I10 does that mean that God did not answer my prayers? I don't think so. I think it means that I crashed my car on I10 and perhaps should have had that power steering looked at a few months ago when this problem started. I just don't know.

I absolutely believe that God "answers" our prayers...I'm just not always entirely sure what I mean by that. I can't help but draw on my 12 years as the live in manager of the Ronald McDonald House in Austin. In that time we averaged a child's death every 10 days. And there were LOTS of prayers, and I believe God heard every one of those prayers, and sometimes children died and sometimes children made shocking recoveries. And I can only look at that reality and take a deep breath, and, then, well, take another deep breath.

I can't get on board with the notion of a capricious God who "answers" some people's prayers and ignores others. And please don't give me that bumper sticker quote about God always answers our prayers it's just sometimes the answer is no. That's OK when we're talking about some things, but that does not suffice when we're talking about a child's life. Again, The Big Santa giving out stuff to "good" kids is not at all what the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus is about nor is that at all what prayer is about. I think prayer as relationship is part of all the major religions...though I might be wrong.

The anonymous quote I used above is a good one. (I'm really going to laugh if it does come from some goofy source...like a bumper sticker!) It reminds me that prayer, like the relationship I have with my husband and with my dear friends takes time and tending and a-tending. Those relationships involve us showing up in each other's lives and listening and sometimes arguing and sometimes being disappointed and sometimes being angry and sometimes being loving. Those relationships are not based solely on what those people can "do" for me or what I can "do" for them. The relationships are based on our mutual love, respect, and desire to be with each other even in the tough times even in the boring times.

So it's raining this afternoon, and my first thought is still Thank God. And I don't suppose that's a bad thought to have. Anything that makes us say Thank God is valuable. Is God making it rain because "enough" people asked for it? I don't know, I don't think so. I do think God cares about our parched earth and wants us to care about the parched earth. And anything that draws us deeper into relationship with God can be a good thing. But it might not rain again for days or a hurricane might come in 2 weeks and in all of that somewhere there's God eager to have relationship with us. And that eagerness thrills and scares me, and I still don't know what exactly to say about prayer. Thank God! Take care, Rhoda

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nose Rings, Brow Waxing, and Memory

I have lived in Houston for 13 months now and still have not taken the time to find an asthma guy/girl. I have, however, found a FABULOUS brow wax person. I know what you're thinking..."give me her name"! OK, maybe that's not what you're thinking. I still have the proverbial boatload of...we'll call them "samples" from my doctor's office back in Austin so I'm coasting on that. One day I know I will have to bite the bullet, fill out 100 pages of forms, sit in an unfamiliar office for 2 hours and introduce myself and my lungs to some new doc,but I'm just not up for that yet. In the meantime, my brows have never looked better and seriously, I can't preach if my brows look awful. Some might say I can't preach anyway, but imagine if my brows were shaggy!

So my brow wax lady (no, I'm never giving you her name) is hilarious. Like full on stand up comedy hilarious. It's not many people that can make you laugh until you need one of those "sample" inhalers while putting hot wax on your face, but she can. Last week she brought in some pictures from the late 80s and early 90s. She's so pretty that even big 80s hair and shoulder pads couldn't do much to detract, but the pictures were hysterical. We laughed and laughed, and I recounted the days of my naturally curly hair with a perm! And of course, my fabulous leg warmers. Cue the "Flash Dance" music!

The very young and cute receptionist then came into the room and said, "I wonder what people will say about this era of clothes and style? I mean, there's nothing to make fun of." Brow lady and I both agreed...for a moment...and remembered that back in the 80s we didn't think anything we were wearing would EVER go out of style. Then it hit me!

The young woman who raised that question was wearing one of those o so popular blouses where your bra straps show (on purpose!) and a nose ring!!! Yeah. Nothing to make fun of there for future generations.

It's funny how in our lives we are always embroiled in past, present, and future. That must be why we are so tired! In the immediate moment it's hard to believe that the shoes (super cute) that I have on will ever be "out of style" and it's hard to believe that anything...good or bad...will change, and yet my memory tells me that shoes I HAD to have in the 8th grade are now out of style and the same fate will await these. My memory (and my mirror) tell me that I am getting older (gulp) that my precious mother will indeed die one day even though it feels to me like she's still 50 and I'm still 20.

Time and memory are fascinating. We can remember exactly where we were on certain days...days that feel like they were yesterday and 100 years ago all at the same time. I can remember my freshman college dorm room like I was just in there yesterday, and at the same time it feels like it was a lifetime ago. In the moment sometimes days feel so long and yet the years go so fast.

All of this curious mix of fast and slow, long ago and present, future and past are constructs that we need to divide our days and lives I guess. We have to create the language of day to describe a twenty four hour period of time. Humans had to develop the ability to categorize to get our bearings, I think. Isn't this the work of metaphysics? I don't know! Some of you smart kids and weigh on that.

I know that our human finite minds have to have these sorts of bearings but that sometimes that gets in the way when we think about God. God, who is infinite is not time bound. And I can't wrap my little human mind around that because I am indeed so time bound. I have to work to remember that God is as present with me as God was with Deborah or Esther or Ruth or Mary or whomever! And God will be present with the kids unborn who will one day look back at pictures of my from the early 21st century and laugh at my shoes....and my brows. God is present in our generation, and as our friends of the United Church of Christ say, "God is still speaking". And I would add even though it doesn't always feel like it.

Shoes and nose rings may come and go in and out of fashion, but the God who created is the God who still creates and who will create. God is present now, and always.

Take care, Rhoda

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Broken Janie

My stay-put Janie broke last week. I cried. What, you ask, is a stay-put Janie? It's a very useful clergy girl garment made by the wonderful people at Women's Spirit. It's this generation of clergy's answer to the "dickey" (which makes me want to make all sorts of bad jokes, but I won't). It's a simple, yet terribly clever, sort of half shirt that clips together on each side. The Janie makes it possible for the words "fashionable" and "clergy shirt" to go together. You can wear a Janie under most scoop neck blouses or v-neck sweaters and still have your completely appropriate Anglican collar and black shirt on, but not be tied to wearing only black shirts. Fashion can still happen people...even in the priesthood! And Lord knows black shirts in Houston are a barrel of fun. It's enough to have a plastic collar around your neck!

I cried because this particular Janie I have had since I was ordained in 2001. It's seen me through an awful lot of priestly work. It has had a lot of people's tears on it, tears of joy and tears of deep anguish. It's carried mine own joyful and anguished tears too. (And yes I've washed it a lot, but I'm going for a metaphor here). It broke the week that our Diocesan bishop retired, the week I cancelled the subscription to the newsletter from my former church, the week I didn't stumble (finally) when someone asked me where I lived. And for all those reasons I cried.

It's a funny thing about symbols and metaphors. They are all around us, which it's both quite comforting and quite annoying! You can over symboli-gize something...what's that old line? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But as a person who lives in the world of Sacraments, I am deeply grateful for the daily symbols that are all around us.

Sacraments are symbols of God's love of us, outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace, the catechism tells us. They are tangible things for an intangible truth. And they are everywhere. I don't know that God speaks through the kind of exciting, dramatic instruments the Sacred Scriptures tell us about. I haven't seen a lot of burning bushes lately. That does not mean of course that God can't! You'll hear me say many many times, God can do whatever God wants to do!

Nor do I think that God broke my Janie! But I do think that if we chose to, we can move through life in a way that allows for the possibility that God is fully present all the time and still interested in speaking to us through myriad ways...most of which for me, at least, don't make good television, but do make good reflection fodder.

My broken Janie brought me to tears which brought me to some time of deep prayer and reflection...which is always a good thing. Not always a fun thing...but always a good thing. The tears also brought me to a lot of chocolate, but that's a story for another day. The Janie sits crumpled on a shelf in my closet reminding me that there's a next chapter, that it's time to let go of some things and open up to the new things. Reminding me that God is present in our past and our future and of course in this very moment. And that connection, unlike the little clips that have to strain against the chubby sides of my body, will never break.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Knee Caps, Oprah, and Enough

Last week I was watching Oprah. I hope you were sitting down when you read that sentence! Are you shocked and appalled? You mean I wasn't watching PBS? Listening to NPR? Practicing my Spanish? Sigh..nope I was watching Oprah and perhaps even leafing through a People magazine. Tanya Harding was the guest. Remember her? 15 years ago (really, 15? wow) she was connected to what surely must be on the top 10 of modern shocking sports stories. She and rival Nancy Kerrigan were going head to head in the national figure skating championships with spots on the 1992 Olympic team at stake. And then BAM! There's the lovely Nancy Kerrigan crying hysterically on national TV after what appeared at first to be a random act of violence. A masked man came up to her in the hall of the skating arena and leveled a baseball bat across her beautiful talented knees. Later it was revealed that the man and his accomplice were linked to Tanya Harding. Cue the music! This is the set up for a crazy Lifetime TV movie! Nancy's career went forward she worked her head off to rehab her knee in record time, and won silver at the Olympics. (She did have a momentary misstep when she made a slightly disparaging comment about that year's Olympic darling Oksana Bahul) And Tanya...well...Tanya descended into the ranks of late night TV punchline, B-list celebrity appearances, and of course, female boxing and wrestling.

So in between my reading Sartre and Hebrew poetry, I glanced up at Oprah and there she was. Tanya actually looked quite beautiful and healthy and she said to Oprah, "I've been apologizing for 15 years, and I think that's enough." Some audience members clapped. More clapped when she talked about divorcing the brilliant mastermind behind the whole scheme.

And I wondered. She said she had told Nancy that she was sorry "for her part" and that they had appeared publicly together. And yes, at some point we do need to be "done" with our penance.

It's just interesting to think about. Most of us don't do such crazy public "sin". But we can find ourselves in the part of this story that's about wanting to take short cuts. Obviously the crime was the actual assault, and I've never done anything like that. But I wonder how often my desire for short cuts has taken me down a path that results in my need to be forgiven.

And once I've done something that needs forgiving when is that "over?" Tanya Harding could discover a cure for cancer (or the swine flu) and forever she'll be that girl that hurt (or helped to hurt) Nancy Kerrigan. Bill Clinton will forever be linked with Monica Lewinsky, a woman I know in a very small town seems to be labeled always, "that women who cheated on her husband." It's just interesting.

I think it is true that forgiveness does not equal forgetfulness. Reflection upon those who have hurt me and those whom I have hurt is necessary for my growth and development. But at the same time, when is it "enough already". How do we put on the mind of God in such circumstances? And maybe even if "we" can "the public" can't...and I'm not even sure who all I mean when I say "we" and "public."

Short of being able to rewind that whole ugly incident Tanya Harding will forever be tarnished by it, but in all of that there surely must be forgiveness. I'm just not completely clear what that looks like.

Peace to you all on this end of April day, Rhoda

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Unthinkable

Hello blogger pals, For Christians this week is Holy Week, leading up to the celebration of Jesus' Resurrection. For Jews this week marks the sacred time of Passover, which of course, also celebrates deliverance and new beginnings. It's a powerful week for so many of the world's people of faith. It's also a big time for the sellers of bunnies and chocolate and strappy sandals, but that's for another post. In the liturgical church world, the world where I hang out, this week is the culmination of the season of Lent. A season where the topic of forgiveness is discussed vigorously. (Don't get me wrong..I also hang out with the sellers of strappy sandals...just got back from Macy's).

Last week on the Today show I saw an interview with the family of Katherine Olson. She was the young woman from Minnesota murdered in 2007 by Michael Anderson after she answered a bogus Craig's list employment ad. Apparently the young man just wondered what it would be like to kill someone. At the time of the murder, Anderson was 19 years old, Katherine was 24. Anderson has now been found guilty and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The irony that he is from the town of Savage is just too poignant.

Katherine's father, an ordained minister, spoke about forgiveness. He said the New Testament (Greek) understanding of forgiveness is to release, and that he hoped his family would get to some sort of release. Then he said "the purpose of forgiveness is to heal a relationship We have no relationship with the killer."

Wow. When he said that I just motionless (very hard for me). That was such a powerful statement from one who has suffered an unthinkable, unspeakable loss. NEVER would I presume to advise or weigh in on how the Olson's should navigate these wretched waters of grief. This blog reflection in no way is intended for any reason that remotely speaks directly to them. Nor, for that matter is this intended to speak to Michael Anderson or his family.

It did call to mind that powerful scene in The Shack when the God figure asks Mack (whose child was murdered) which of God's children should God stop loving. Mack, the lead character in the book, wants desperately (and understandably!) for the murderer of his child to be punished (duh) and to be cast away from God. And who wouldn't! But in the book God says God has to love all the children or the love isn't real.

I don't have a child, but I have children in my life whom I love more than words can say. And I know even as much as I love them their parents love them even more deeply and radically. Despite all my peace loving liberal Christian beliefs I can also imagine choking someone with my bare hands who hurt one of these kids or my beloved husband. So, I wonder.

I wonder about God's love and God's forgiveness. I do believe that God's love and forgiveness must be extended to everyone or else to no one. (Not just I think that but smart theologians through the ages have taught us that). That doesn't mean, of course, that there are not consequences to people's actions. Part of God's love of us is consequence, and judgment.

Katherine's killer will go to prison. His family will suffer. He will suffer. And yet, I do not believe even as horrible as his crime was, that he will be cast away from the love of God. And maybe some day Katherine's family will go to visit him in jail, like the final scene in The Shack. Or maybe not.

And since forgiveness does not HAVE to mean having a face to face conversation, reconciliation, and lunch with the offender, maybe Katherine's family can indeed forgive in some way. Again, or maybe not. Maybe that doesn't even matter.

In this week where Christians think long and hard about the suffering of God, maybe God's suffering with both the Olson family and the Anderson family is enough. Maybe that's a glimpse of forgiveness.

Blessings to you now and always, Rhoda

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Away we Go

Hello Friends! And I use all of those words loosely! Even saying hello scares me a bit here on the big ol' internets (as a certain mom says). And the word friend really carries a lot of weight, don't you think? (as do I for that matter, but please do not comment on that!) The impetus for this blog began with my work at Christ Church Cathedral. During this season of Lent I've been leading a discussion and some retreats on the topic of forgiveness. Such a weighty, difficult, empowering (and I hate that word), hopeful, frightening topic and one that warrants frequent reflection and discussion. What a privilege it has been to wade into those waters with parishioners from several churches and with many true friends. We've used the books The Sunflower, Forgiven and Forgiving (quite possibly my favorite book of all time), and The Shack. And o yes. the Bible! I am a priest after all, and must earn my keep! So after all this slogging through Lent and these books the conclusion is...forgiveness is hard. Duh! And forgiveness, like our daily bread, must be asked for and eaten every day. No matter how much you eat at the Golden Corral buffet on Sunday (ask me about the Golden Corral some day) you are still going to be hungry on Tuesday. We sometimes tend to forget that as it relates to forgiveness. It is that important and that rudimentary. Like so much of our lives of faith, it is a matter of the daily-ness. Not one big blinding burst of Light (my apologies to St. Paul), just daily walking, daily success, daily struggle, daily tedium, daily joy. Peace y'all! Rhoda