Tuesday, November 27

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. 

Want more of everything ready-made. 
Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer. 

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed. 

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest. 

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years. 

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men. 

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth? 

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts. 

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. 

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Thursday, November 15

Snow Day Wishes, or Grounding for Adults

I have been wishing for a snow day. I know it can't happen. I know it is not time yet. But I have been wishing for a snow day. I even dreamed that it had snowed and I got to wear my favorite, favorite wellies!!!!

I know that non-teachers don't get snow days. I'm sorry. Some people just pick the right career, that's all... :-)

It has dawned on me what it is about snow days that are so different. Why do I wish for a snow day right before Thanksgiving Break? Unscheduled time is coming... what's my deal, anyway?

The beautiful thing about a snow day is that you are 1. already ready for whatever else was going to come that day, but 2. you are required to stay home. Not only do you not go into work, no one else can impose an obligation on your time (besides the folks at the house).

A friend said it well just this week, "My house is yelling at me." And it is. Because of my parents' divorce, the detrius of years is sitting in boxes all around. I am thankful to my parents for not throwing away my memories. On the other hand, it is just a painful reminder. I don't know what to do with this stuff, logistically or emotionally. The other factor in the disarray is that I'm just not home. When I get home, I collapse. I feel (and am) obligated to many, many things that keep me away from home.

Whatever the reasons (or excuses), my house is yelling at me. My soul is yelling at me to stay home. So I will declare Saturday a snow day. In punitive terms, I am grounding myself to my house until at least a few boxes are cleared away, cried through, organized.

I will make myself create peace in the midst of chaos. 

Maybe then, my soul will quit feeling itchy. Maybe I will stop dreaming of snow. Whatever the case, I will have made a conscious choice to face the fears that are in my boxes. And the fact that I made the choice for peace (in both my physical and soul's reality) is worth more than a snow day.

Wednesday, November 14


by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom   
is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,   
more famous than the dress shoe,   
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men   
who smile while crossing streets,   
sticky children in grocery lines,   
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
but because it never forgot what it could do.   

Thursday, September 27

My Time by Leonard Cohen

My time is running out
and still
I have not sung
the true song
the great song

I admit
that I seem
to have lost my courage

a glance at the mirror
a glimpse into my heart
makes me want
to shut up forever

so why do you lean me here
Lord of my life
lean me at this table
in the middle of the night
how to be beautiful 

Monday, September 24

Defecting from Facebookland

It's an experiment, people.

Sending my thoughts out into the ether all the time can be lonely. Especially when I turn away from the phone or computer, and there is still no one else in the house.

If I leave Facebook, people will not automatically feel as if they know how I am because I posted.

What if I leave Facebook and see more people I love face-to-face or talk to them on the phone more often? What if I am able to be more authentic in person than I am in front of 450+ people, and that leads to deeper friendships? What if my friends and I had to actively seek each other out? Would we value each other more? Maybe. What if, when I'm having a bad day, I actually pray, or go on a walk, or seek out a real hug, or clean something, or do some yoga instead of check my News Feed?

What if friends from out of town come and go, and I don't get to see them because I missed their post? What if I have built such an encouraging online world that to be separated from it is a loneliness in itself? What if Facebook has become a creative outlet for me, and I write less because I'm not on it? What if people I love deeply are in need and I never find out how to pray or to help because I missed it on Facebook?

It's an experiment.

I plan to be off of Facebook until at least after the elections. I can skip all that political posturing and drama this year, I really can.

In the meantime, I'll miss you. Until you call. Or email. Or meet me for tea.

And so begins the experiment.

Sunday, July 29


I went to the store.

Oh, my WORD, did I go to the store!!!

I went to the store to get multicolored gel pens and Crayola Multicultural markers. Can you tell that colors and options are a thing with me??

The store I went to was Target.

(Now some of you know why I'm writing this...)

As I perused the Dollar Spot innocently, I was overcome with back-to-school happiness. I bought stress-koosh-gel-ball-thingies for my classroom Safe Place, I bought dry erase slate boards to practice letters and numbers on, I bought a lesson plan book for a just a buck (!!!), and I bought a nonfiction book with great photos of amphibians and such.

*this is all I bought on my classroom budget card, don't worry*

My heart rose and went into palpitations as I stood in front of the pens. So many choices! There were less gel pens than I would have liked, and they were clicky. I don't really like clicky pens. The Bic pens now came in a multicolor pack with TWO shades of green, purple, pink, etc. Can I pass up TWO shades of green?? It was about this moment that I realized how anal retentive I am about office supplies. I LOVE office supplies, but I'm very exacting in my expectations of them.

I managed to avoid buying the little multicolored cards that were already on rings (perfect for sight words, but I already have the stuff to make sight word rings by hand).

As I rounded the corner of the aisle, I was greeted with the lunch boxes. There were so many wonderful lunchboxes of different types. My heart fell as I realized that there is no possible way that I can justify buying a lunchbox this year, no matter how cute the astrobright owls are. It was exactly this moment when I remembered that I am a TEACHERGEEK.

Trust me, I love my vacations, and I know how to rest. But about this time of year, fuhgeddaboutit. I love setting up a classroom, planning my long-term plans, deciding on projects for the first few weeks of class...

The pièce de résistance came as I saw It. The Lamp. You see, I'm not the hugest fan of flourescent lights in learning environments, or anyplace else humans are, for that matter. Because of this, I usually have at least one if not several alternate light sources in my classroom.

This Lamp... this Lamp is green. This Lamp is beautiful. This Lamp has a pattern of flowers and plants embossed on it. This Lamp has the power to bring me to terms with the shade of green that my classroom was painted that I, um... was slow to appreciate. Not only did I find THIS Lamp, I found a coordinating lampshade that is off-white with green trim that will go on the other lamp I already got for the room.

My heart soared. I literally felt in love during my time at Target (and as I write this). I know, I KNOW I am a teachergeek. I know I will always be this way. My Granny Goo was a teacher, is 96 years old, and still likes to decorate seasonally the way teachers do.

It is embarrassing to be in love with lamps and pens and books of amphibians.

But I am grateful that I love. I am grateful that I have work to do that I love. Of everyone, I am grateful.

I am the teachergeek.

Tuesday, June 19


Nightmares. Bitter.

Early morning liturgy. Sweet.

Going to the doctor and realizing that I only hate the pregnant women there for a fraction of the time that I used to. Bittersweet.

Telling my friend of my soul's repair and success and having her worry that maybe I will hate her when she is pregnant again. Bitter. I didn't mean it that way. I told her because her eldest son is the first baby that I didn't hate when I realized I would never be a mom. That family has been so redemptive and healing for me. And they don't know it, and they can't understand. Some walk this soil and never know the blessing they are to others.

Getting the sweetest cuddle from her second son. If my soul hadn't healed, I would have missed that!! Sweet.

Meeting with a wonderful woman who is also an "adult of divorce." She reached out to me, took the time. Sweet.

Recounting all of the shocks and sadnesses the divorce has brought me. The confusion, the ironies. Bitter.

Knowing that the thing that she says is the worst part of it is the first thing I had encountered in "processing." Knowing I am not alone, that I can see myself in her eyes. Bittersweet.

Feeling I have gained a friend, knowing that she will pray for me. Sweet.

It's been a bittersweet day.

Thursday, June 7

Classroom Rug

The classroom rug is where it all begins.

Every teacher of young children knows that. Every day begins with circle time; morning greetings, calendar, weather, pledge of allegiance and the like.

Today I got to pick out a classroom rug for my new classroom. *excited!*

Because of that rug, kids will know what it means to sit on the perimeter or in the area of the rug. We will count on our 100s chart; 2s, 5s, 10s; and then we will count by 3s, because that will make multiplying by 3 so much easier later on. Vocabulary is important. We will discuss circumference and the symmetry of leaves.

On the property where our school will be there are so many different kinds of leaves; cypress, elm, weeping willow, juniper... we will explore leaves and trees. We will hold earthworms and watch plants grow, we will pet, feed, or watch as many different kingdoms of animals as we can. A bird's nest blew out of a tree, and I collected it. The birds' loss will be the student's gain.

We will paint and draw and dance and sing. We will explore color and tone and the history of art and music.

We will revel in letters and rhyme. "Print-rich environment" is what they call it... Fairy tales, nursery rhymes, poems, Aesop's fables, picture books, classics, singing songs, memorizing Psalms.

We will pray our prayers and learn to be God's. This will mean learning to share, be patient, take turns, and do good work. It will mean to use all of our senses to know ourselves, each other, and the Holy Trinity. It will mean to lose ourselves in the joy of knowledge and the wonderment of Creation.

The classroom rug is where it all begins.

And I am so excited.

Monday, May 21

Wanting a King

“Laughing in a crown of jewels, numbness from a scepter’s wound. Toss and turn, I spin and learn… catch yourself before you burn. Joker’s dance before the king, jingling beads and silver rings. Close your eyes and bear the sound, jumping up; falling down.”

            A warm acquaintance asked me the other day about my conversion to Orthodoxy. Part of that story includes a two (or five, depending on how you count it) year grieving process over the fact that I will never be a mom. Not biologically. He said to me (in essence), “Not to be too personal, but how does that not still just kill you?” I explained that it was a process that for the most part is complete. I won’t be a mom. Sadness of that still gets in my face sometimes, but it no longer threatens to destroy me.

            He then assumed that I must then love Paul’s advice about staying single. Keeps me nice and Biblical, right? Keeps me focused on Christ. I answered with the very truth… Even though I won’t be a mom, I separated that out from wanting to be a wife. Wanting to be loved. Sometimes, I’d like to take good ‘ol Saint Paul and knock him in his sainted teeth.

            Being a single girl is like being Israel during the time of the Judges. A theocracy. I believe that was the time that a conversation between God and Israel sprang up that went a little something like this: “Dear God, we would like to be ruled by a king. A king!! Wouldn’t that be fun?? A king would give us national pride. He’d be so handsome, riding off into battle with our colors, someone to serve at official functions, you know…” God said, “Au contraire, mon frere!! You have got NO idea the problems that having a king would bring. Stick with Me, kid… You’re doing fine!” Israel then goes into whining, wheedling mode. For years. Finally, God relents and gives them just what they want. A king. 

This leads to Saul. And Absalom. Divided kingdoms. Exile. Jews, Christians, and Muslims in a land with 3,000 years’ history of bloodshed and turmoil. We should shudder when God answers our prayers in the affirmative. Sometimes exactly what we want is too much to be borne.

Whether or not I enjoy him (and mostly I don’t), Paul was right. As a single girl, I live in a theocracy. “Your Maker is your husband; the Lord Almighty is His name.” Though God has never shown up to tell me I’m better off just sticking with Him (unless you count Paul’s unsolicited advice as authoritative), I hear myself, just like Israel: “Oh!! God!!! You know what would be fun??? A husband! He’d be so cute around the house. And tall… He might be even tall enough to change light bulbs. He could hug me up tight when I’m sad, and be a date to parties, you know. Serve at official functions.” 

I know that in other parts of this blog, I extolled marriage as a sacrament, which it is. 

I know that here, I am comparing marriage to the war-torn Middle East, a conflict that has raged for millennia. In case you think that is extreme, I caution you to remember that my parents just got divorced. Their conflict has raged for more than mere millennia in my life; it has raged for the whole time. From my view, comparing the two is apt. 

For the most part, life is a ‘que sera, sera’ affair. I am not a seer; not wise enough to know what will befall me. But I will take a moment to consider my wants. To consider that wanting a king and actually having a king are very different things. Official functions notwithstanding.

“Your actions will follow you full circle round. The higher the leap; I said the harder the ground.”
                                                                                                ~Indigo Girls

Friday, May 11

What I Learned at Catholic School

The first item of international news I remember in my life was when Pope John Paul II became Pope. Growing up as an evangelical Protestant kid, I would play "confession;" I'd make someone stand outside a window curtain while I went in and said, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned." I suspected that becoming a nun might be a great way to marry a handsome baron, a' la The Sound of Music.

But never in a million years did I dream that I would teach at a Catholic school.

During this year in a Catholic school, I learned so many things. I learned:

* Wearing high heels six days a week makes my feet ugly.

* That when Catholics say they have an "intention," it means they have a prayer request.

* Sometimes they sing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" by Martin Luther during Mass. That took me aback until I realized... the Reformation? They're over it. 

* That more than any creed or sacrament, the one thing that most Christians still have in common during worship is the Lord's Prayer/Our Father. Which is kind of beautiful, I think. After all these years and differences, we keep coming to the same Daddy for daily bread.

* That crucifix? When Catholics see it, they see love, love, love. No greater love hath a man than this.

* That when you tell a Catholic child that you went to Bible College to do ministry, they look at you aghast and say, "YOU used to be a NUN?!?!" ...as if I could ever be so brave as to take monastic orders. As if my life has been spicy enough to take orders and then cast them aside...

* NO Christian Church or communion understands and does service to others better than Catholics. Period.

* When you sing, you pray twice.

* They are utterly kind and generous, but will defend faith and family tooth and nail, like lions. Thank God.

* There are true and real differences amongst Christians in doctrine, and doctrine forms lifestyle.

* Even though there are true and real differences in doctrine, MANY perceived differences come from a difference in vocabulary. I have been so grateful to build a small amount of "trilingualism" between my Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic experiences.

* That preparing children's souls for eternity is THE goal. (not state tests, not college prep, not scholarship, not sports or arts talent) Souls. Eternity. Nothing less will suit.

Most of all, I learned that whatever the lens you look at Christianity through, the picture is always the same. The hope is to be with, to be like Jesus. Each day, more and more. We call it discipleship, sanctification, theosis. The human soul thirsts and needs. We need to be with Him. We need to be like Him. Even in the ways we fail that, there is wholeness to be gained from the attempt. And at the end of the day, He wraps His arms around us. Calls us blessed. Loved. Home.

With my sweet Catholics, I learned to pray:  "I love You, Jesus, my Love; I repent of ever having offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will."

Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

Never in a million years did I dream that I would teach in a Catholic school.

But I'm so glad I have.

Thursday, April 19

Thoughts on the departed from "The Sacred Journey" by Frederick Buechner

I am not at all sure what the Great Cloud of Witnesses or the Communion of Saints fully entails. I do not believe that one can know in this life. But I believe this: Christ trampled down death by death, and with Himself he has (and will) raise all the dead. I also believe that a mere thing such as death cannot make someone who was always in the life of Christ and the Church to be less than with Christ and the Church. He became all that we are so that we may become all that He is: and that includes our experience with death. Such is the Good News of Easter, of Resurrection.

Here is the passage that years ago began my thoughts on this subject:

"How they do live on, those giants of our childhood, and how well they manage to take even death in their stride because although death can put an end to them right enough, it can never put an end to our relationship with them. Wherever or however else they may have come to life since, it is beyond a doubt that they live still in us. Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is within us still. The people we loved. The people who loved us. The people who, for good or ill, taught us things. Dead and gone though they may be, as we come to understand them in new ways, it is as though they come to understand us--and through them we come to understand ourselves--in new ways too. Who knows what "the communion of saints" means, but surely it means more than just that we are all of us haunted by ghosts because they are not ghosts, these people we once knew, not just echoes of voices that have years since ceased to speak, but saints in the sense that through them something of the power and richness of life itself not only touched us once long ago, but continues to touch us. They have their own business to get on with now, I assume--"increasing in knowledge and love of Thee," says the Book of Common Prayer, and moving from "strength to strength," which sounds like business enough for anybody--and one imagines all of us on this shore fading for them as they journey ahead toward whatever new shore may await them; but it as if they carry something of us on their way as we assuredly carry something of them on ours. That is perhaps why to think of them is a matter not only of remembering them as they used to be but of seeing and hearing them as in some sense they are now. If they had things to say to us then, thay have things to say to us now too, nor are they always things we expect or the same things."

Monday, March 19

Monasticism, for a Moment

 Full disclosure: I've never been to a convent, except for one time in high school when I gypped school and was so curious about the convent at St. Joseph that I walked straight up to the doors, bold as brass, and asked to use the restroom. They were kind enough to let me do so. I was greeted with a very cool pink-and-black checkerboard floor, and could hear beautiful voices singing prayers down the hallway. Everything I know about monasticism has come from reading or talking with those that know more than I. Rudiments of understanding. That's all I have.

I gave a talk on St. Brigid Saturday night. If you don't know about her, you should check her out! She was an amazingly generous, holy woman who founded cenobitic monasticism in Ireland. (Essentially, she was the beginning of communities of monks and nuns, rather than monks and nuns living as solitaries.) Irish monastics are responsible for the Book of Kells, preserving Western literature at crucial periods of time, things like that. This was a woman who accomplished a LOT, with long, long lasting effects.

During the talk, I forgot the word monastery. I turned to my friend and said, "You know, that place with the monks?" This is how my ex-Protestant brain works. Teflon in regard to monasticism.

I am a Christian today because of a novitiate at an abbey... or at least the movie version of one. I "asked Jesus into my heart" in 2nd grade because I was dancing around in a field of wheat as if I were Maria VonTrapp. In that moment, I realized that the wheat and sun were REAL, that God was REAL, that He made them, and I wanted Him more than anything.

I have been shocked and appalled at several different Protestant friends who have assumed that now that I am Orthodox, I will want to become a nun. I don't. I am the girl that prayed steadily throughout high school and my 20s that Jesus would NOT come back until I got to have sex!! I'm the girl who, when I rededicated my life to Christ at 16, struck this "deal" in prayer with God: "Dear God, I am all Yours. Forever. But if I am not married by the time I'm 35, I'm going to go have sex anyway. I love you. I just want You to know my plans ahead of time."

I'm not the only person who grew up Protestant who has no regard (or context) for monasticism. I grew up believing that a person is to love God, and love people. For me, loving people meant being of service to others. To be useful. And I've tried to do that.

Last summer, I was driving around the St. Louis Arch talking on the phone (I know, I know) with a former mentor of mine who is Protestant. We were arguing viewpoints about monasticism... her thoughts were identical to mine. But with her, I found myself arguing the other side. I have been told that being a monk or nun is about prayer. It is true that all Christians are called to be joyous always and pray continually. The call to pray is the same whether you are a monastic or not. In a discussion on prayer, I closely questioned a monk one day... about many things. He agreed that the call to prayer for Christians is the same, but said that monks become so because they need separation from the world to live that life. He considers being a Christian... and truly Christian... truly living a life of prayer... in the world much harder than being a monk.

And I believe he's right.

It is in Orthodoxy that I have encountered an idea that would have never occurred to my Protestant mind, that of prayer as service. That prayer itself is just as valid of a way of loving God and loving people as physical or emotional usefulness is. Until I came upon this concept and had been convinced of its truth, I had seen monasticism (and in some ways, prayer) as a wholly selfish act. But how can that be? Who has more power to serve, act, and move? Me? Or God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth?

I have heard it said that it is the prayers of monks that keep the world spinning on its axis... that we would have descended into fire long before now if not for them.They say that a person can become prayer.

Prayer... for the life of the world.

I've always prayed that God would keep me alive only as long as I still  had the ability to pray. I envision myself in a bed somewhere, a shriveled, white-haired wisp of a thing. A little furnace of prayer.

So, as you see, I really have believed in prayer as service all along.

May it be ever more so.

Sunday, February 26

Forgiveness Sunday; or, The Inconvenience of Lent

Matthew 6:12; 13-14

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

About seven weeks ago, I felt ready for Lent. I really felt ready! At that time, I was chatting with one of my favorite "cradle" Orthodox people, asking him if he was ready. I remember saying to him, "I'm just so READY for Lent, so that I can go ahead and get OVER myself!!" Having always had Lent in his life, he gently let me know that he never really enjoys Lent. It's hard, plain and simple. 

During the weeks preceding Lent in the Orthodox church, we have four Sundays where we concentrate on certain Scriptures to prepare us. (You can read about them in more detail here.) First, there is the Sunday of the publican and the Pharisee. It is a call to true repentance. Second, there is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. We concentrate on the lavishness of the Father's love when we turn to Him. The third Sunday is the Sunday of the Last Judgement, where we are reminded that whatever we did to the least of these, we did to Him. Matthew 25 is a fearsome and inspiring chapter, is it not? 

Today, the fourth Sunday, is Forgiveness Sunday. Tonight, we will go to Forgiveness Vespers. The key verses for this week are Matthew 6:13-14. And therein lies the rub. The difference between me seven weeks ago and me now is that I am sadder and angrier. I have unforgiveness in my heart. There are people who have caused chaos in my life. There are people who do not see the good things I am trying to do, and inhibit my moving in that direction. There are people who have kicked me when I am down, just out of what seems to be sheer meanness. 

I've spent time lately being sad and mad... and I feel like the dude in Dodgeball: "NOBODY makes me bleed my own blood! NOBODY!!" In truth, I wish that these people could feel some of the hurt and discomfort they've made me feel. I am horrified to find that I actually wish them ill. I justify that to myself by saying that I'm just so sick of people being ridiculous and hurtful.

My favorite principal ever and I were talking about life one time, and she said, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the OTHER person to die." 

That thought took me aback. Even more sobering is the thought that to other people, I am probably the chaos-inducing mean person. I am the one who does not see the good that others are trying to do. As there are people who are stumbling blocks for me, I am probably that to others. I need forgiveness.

All that pales in comparison to the verses in Matthew 6; that if I do not forgive, I cannot be forgiven. If I do not forgive, I effectively cut myself from all that is good, true, and beautiful... God. I truly will die if I live in unforgiveness, because I will have dis-united myself from Him who is Life. 

I can't tell you how much I don't want to go to Forgiveness Vespers tonight.

But I will go. And I will be grateful. What I am so grateful for is this: I don't have to, I can't wait to FEEL ready for Lent. I can't take my heart back to the more peaceful state it was in seven weeks ago. Yet my feelings on the subject just don't matter, and for that I am so incredibly relieved. I am glad that the Liturgical Calendar does not make concessions for if I feel ready to get over myself. In truth, I should be getting over myself daily, as a living sacrifice. 

Twice this week, two men I respect greatly have told the same story. (One of them is my non-Lent-enjoying friend.) I always sit up and pay attention when that happens. It's never a coincidence. It is in this story that I see that the point is not merely "getting over myself" or "self-forgetfulness," but to be filled with Him. In this story, a student is asking his teacher (St. Seraphim of Sarov) how to know that he is filled with the Spirit of God. During this conversation, St. Seraphim and the questioner ARE in the Spirit of God, and this conversation ensues:

"How do you feel now?" Father Seraphim asked me.
"Extraordinarily well," I said.
"But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?"
I answered: "I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it."
"This, Friend of God," said Father Seraphim, "is that peace of which the Lord said to His disciples: My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you (Jn. 14:21). If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (Jn. 15:19). But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33). And to those people whom this world hates but who are chosen by the Lord, the Lord gives that peace which you now feel within you, the peace which, in the words of the Apostle, passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The Apostle describes it in this way, because it is impossible to express in words the spiritual well-being which it produces in those into whose hearts the Lord God has infused it. Christ the Saviour calls it a peace which comes from His own generosity and is not of this world, for no temporary earthly prosperity can give it to the human heart; it is granted from on high by the Lord God Himself, and that is why it is called the peace of God. What else do you feel?" Father Seraphim asked me.
"An extraordinary sweetness," I replied.
And he continued: "This is that sweetness of which it is said in Holy Scripture: They will be inebriated with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy delight (Ps. 35:8) And now this sweetness is flooding our hearts and coursing through our veins with unutterable delight. From this sweetness our hearts melt as it were, and both of us are filled with such happiness as tongue cannot tell. What else do you feel?"
"An extraordinary joy in all my heart."

Saint Seraphim goes on to explain that when the Spirit of God comes, "the human soul overflows with unspeakable joy, for the Spirit of God fills with joy whatever He touches." 

So tonight, I will forgive in order to make room for Him. During Lent, that's what we do. We endeavor to be self-forgetful, in order to be filled. I cannot pretend that forgiveness is a one-shot proposition. But I can begin to align my heart in such a way that the aim is forgiveness, to have the poison sucked out of me, to fill the space with Life. And I am so grateful that the timing of Life does not depend upon me. 

Ready or not, here it comes... tonight. 

And p.s. ...when I am older and wiser, I will know that what I need to be forgiven is so much greater than that which I have to forgive. I hope to achieve that wisdom sooner rather than later. Please forgive me for the ways in which I hurt, offend, or fail you. 

Peace of Christ to you.

Saturday, February 18

The Opposite of Dancing

Context, for those who might not know: My parents are divorcing.

Because of the unseasonably warm weather this winter, I had hoped that I would escape my usual February doldrums. Not so. 

I invited Mom down for her birthday, primarily because I thought I needed to be fair since I had invited Dad for his. My sister said I was crazy, and I know she’s right. I just hate the idea of being estranged from my family; primarily because I don’t think it is “nice.” “Nice” is such a stupid, insipid idea. I guess I think that maintaining a tie with my family is more than nice… it is stability, loyalty, sense of place. Yet the visit with my mom left me bereft.

I guess that I have always been trying to make Mom and Dad what I need them to be; a real picture of a mom and dad; whatever that means. But they aren’t what I need. Unless what I need is something to rise above. 

When she left, I felt such a sense of emptiness, an infinite sadness. Futility. My great fear is that I have spent my entire life trying to be a peacemaker and healer of my parents’ relationship, costing myself my own ideas for adulthood, my own plan for a life. (Not that I had any great plans of my own...) My sister, who feels less beholden to them, has built a “real” life for herself; married, kids in the house. Sometimes I feel that my life was like that of a second child born to donate organs to a chronically or terminally ill older sibling, except the illness in this case is an illness of soul on the part of my parents. Sick and dysfunctional, I know.

So, now it feels that not only have I not succeeded in healing my parents, I have no life that is my own.

When she left town, I did not call anyone to talk. There is nothing left to say. There is nothing left but the sense of futility and emptiness. The only thing would suit is a long cry and a cuddle.
“I wish that I could just lay my head in your lap and cry for awhile.” But even that is denied me. As I knew it would be. And this right before Valentine’s Day. Of course.

To extend to myself a greater bit of grace, I could say that my adult life has been not a seeking of healing and peace for my parents, but a seeking of healing and peace for myself. It feels to me as if I spent my 20s trying to get my life quiet; that I have always been seeking peace. But my more honest friends have told me that I spent quite a bit of my 20s seeking fun. (Yet I find peace in fun and communion with friends.) 

It is said that Jean Vanier (a spiritual mentor to Henri Nouwen) once gave this blessing:
“May all your expectations be frustrated.
May all your plans be thwarted.
May all your desires be withered into nothingness
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God the Father, the Son and the Spirit.”

But I am not singing, and I am not dancing. I am heartsick.
Maybe Lent will bring the cure.

Search This Blog