Birthday blessings

It’s all in how you look for them, but the blessings are everywhere…

…in the shy bunny greeting me on the church sidewalk
…in the lazy, snoozy purrs of our feline residents
…in the tranquil beauty at sunset
…in the glory of a Peace rose

But most of all, in the love of the faces nearest and dearest to me. On today of all days, I feel very blessed indeed.

There is a lot wrong in the world, and a lot of injustice that breaks my heart. I’ll keep making space for those whose voices are not being heard. I’ll spend another day with my patients, eerily aware that their lives and their families are on the edge of death… and I go home to enjoy life.

It is a strange juxtaposition that many pastors feel when we rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Rom. 15)  Today it is all the more poignant, and perhaps more striking as I mark the start of another year.

Life is so very full. And all by Grace.

soli deo gloria

Bone weary gratitude

 

Something hit me. Hard. Whatever it was (or is!), I went from 100 mph doing chores, cleaning dishes and getting charting done to about 5 mph as I crawled into bed at 9 pm and slept for about 12 hours. A fever and GI symptoms knocked me FLAT!

I have gardening to do, housecleaning to mow through, reading to finish and reviews to write, and absolutely none of them grab my attention. My pillow, electric blanket and bed are calling me…

I am emotionally and physically run down. But I am also blessed down to my toenails with the good things in my life. So what do you do when you know you need a quick re-start to get back on track again?

You. Rest.

I know. DUH. But that’s what I need to do. So today I slept almost all day. answered a few emails that couldn’t wait (about 2 out of 50) and followed my cats’ examples of getting into a good nap.

IMG_0580

I’m still tired. I’m still facing the problems and discouragements of yesterday. I’m still angry at the lies and collusion that appear to be rampant in our government. But I’m a little better rested than I was yesterday.

And maybe, just maybe, I can tackle my “do list” with more enthusiasm and grace.

Wearing a legacy

stolepic
Lace created by my grandmother, Claudia Bishop Harsh.

This morning I put on my robe and reached for a purple stole. I have two… but I chose this one.

I pieced this stole last year from odds and ends and purchased purple swatches. Considering I had never created a stole before, it was a work of much guesswork and happy accidents.

As I wrote last year, I was a bit uncertain how to finish this stole. The embroidered findings of a cross or bread and cup would not show clearly on the piecework. And it needed something, oh… a little more personal! 

And then… as I rummaged and searched for the right finishing touches, I found the family heirloom lace and knew… a commercially created cross would not work. Carefully, I trimmed and sewed pieces of this lace on my stole. I would wear the handwork of my foremothers around my neck.

On Easter Sunday, I will wear more of my family’s heirloom lace on my white robe. As I pray and sing and offer Communion, I will again wear the legacy of my family’s faith. This lace trim, created by my great-aunt Maurine, was painstakingly sewn on late into the night on Holy Saturday last year.

IMG_0988
In the basting stages last year: hand-tatted lace created by my Great-aunt Maurine Bishop.

Not everyone gets to wear their family’s love on their sleeve. I know that as I celebrate on Easter Sunday, I bring my family with me. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins bring a sense of “grounding” to my faith. I wear a labor of love!

I serve from a place of privilege, for I know I am encouraged and prayed for, welcomed and loved. I worship in safety. I can express my beliefs without fear of persecution.

I wear a legacy… one that I hope to never forget.

Thanks be to God!

Grace has called…

IMG_0566

Grace Has Called My Name
Kathryn Scott

Peace as elusive as a shadow dancing on the wall
Life swallowed by the pain of yesterday
Left broken by the shame of things that I had done
No freedom from the choices that I’d made
But with one touch, You made me clean
You met me in my deepest need

Grace has called my name
When all that I had left were just filthy stains
Grace has called my name
When hope had all but faded far away
Grace called my name

Wounded by words that left their mark upon my soul
Dreams overturned by empty promises
Well intentioned things
I’d heard a million times before
Just left my heart to grieve alone again
But with one touch
You set me free
You met me in my deepest need

Grace has called my name
When all that I had left were just filthy stains
Grace has called my name
When hope had all but faded far away
Grace called my name

Healthcare: Who will pay?

mhBLxSaOver at RevGalBlogPals I wrote a thing… you can find it here (but here’s a sample…)

Without subsidies, they will not be able to afford to keep him at home. His daughter shrugged and said that it will end up costing the government more to put him in a nursing home, because he has no financial resources. “What’s the sense in that?” she asks me. “If we keep him at home, it will cost one-third to a half of the monthly cost of a facility.”

I appreciate your taking the time to read and reflect on this with me.

Book Review: Healing Spiritual Wounds

Book Review

Carol Howard Merritt, Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church
(New York: Harper One, 2017), hardcover, 232 pages.

HealingSpiritualWounds

Carol Howard Merritt, known for her insightful writing in the Christian Century and her previous books* offers a gentle work for those who have endured mistreatment by the Church. This book is not intended has an apologetic for “why” one should be in a church, or even be a Christian. Rather, it is intended to help those who are struggling to redefine faith’s role and want help finding the path back to belief and wholeness.

I began this book in the throes of the flu, and thanks to “flu brain” was not able to finish it as quickly as I wanted. But a few weeks, ago, as I read and reflected over her words, I was encouraged that, once again, she has brought clarity and a much-needed re-teaching of one of Christianity’s main tenets: Love God, love yourself, love others.

The book is grounded in her own spiritual journey and invites the reader to begin their own path of healing and discovery. Can one find a place peace and wholeness away from an internal conflict about a “God of love” and the way religious people act? Carol suggests there is a way, and it is in a place of peace and being “in God.” She shares her own realization that her “inner skeptic” (p. 5) was searching for God, even in the midst of disappointment and pain. And she invites the reader along to ponder their own places of raw hurt, discouragement and doubt.

This is not a “how-to” book. Merritt doesn’t give you simple formulas and Bible memory verses to “fix” yourself. Instead, she models a way of meditating on the Sacred text, on seeking God in the unspoken words of the suffering, and then she provides creative exercises for reflection in the journey back to wholeness. The author is clear in her own realization that “religion heals… but also brings suffering” (p. 8) and names the knife-in-the-gut wounding from the Church’s teachings that are sexist, racist, homophobic and politicized.

Carol groups the “spiritual wounds” we may experience around seven distinct areas, each with their own path for healing: healing our image of God, recovering our emotions, redeeming our broken selves, reclaiming our bodies, regaining our hope, reassessing our finances, and being born again. Each area of spiritual wounding offers vignettes from her own life, stories from the struggles of others, and exercises for reflection. The process begins with understanding our own experiences of religious wounding, not just what we experience, but where we have wounded others. I have started a collage recommended in the chapter “Finding Shalom” and it has been very thought-provoking, one that I will be working on for a while!

As a trained chaplain, several of the chapters reminded me of my own work in my spiritual identity and pastoral identity. In particular, the chapter on “Healing Our Image of God” took me back through the process of experiencing the “life-giving God” through a process Merritt calls “communal and personal” (p. 55). I remembered how I learned to experience God outside of a list of do’s and don’t’s. How photography, poetry, writing and music changed the “replay” of God’s work in my life. It was soul-stirring.

Other chapters had equally thought-provoking moments and I know I will want to return to this book for a more lengthy reflection, perhaps with others in community and accountability. It is not a quick read! You might want to make it your summer reading project, or schedule it for Lent 2018 (as this year’s Lenten season is underway).

For those who have struggled against a “father” image of God that conjures up the worst memories of the Church’s patriarchal abuse and misuse of scripture, I encourage you to get this book and dig deep. Merritt writes: “We don’t always realize that we’re working under patriarchal conditions because we’re so used to them; it’s like not knowing when we’re breathing polluted air” (p. 202).

Rediscover that God is not a white male, nor an authoritarian killjoy, and is completely and utterly bent on the loving work of restoration and reconciliation – with you. And me.

*(Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital ministry in a New Generation)

—————————————-

Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church. Carol Howard Merritt. New York: Harper One, 2017. Hardcover: 232 pages. ISBN-10: 0062392271

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.