Saturday, February 27, 2010

Something new

Today I went to a place I'd never been before. I did so with a little trepidation, feeling a bit like the test case. Some of the folks at the church I attend regularly and I were talking about attending a service at this center, and I quasi-volunteered to "try it out." I view (rightly or wrongly) the others in the group to be a bit more invested in the organized Episcopal church than I am. While I identify myself as an Anglican, I'm not too caught up in "right" or "wrong" way to be an Anglican. Part of the beauty of the tradition is that it is rich, diverse and mostly non-judgmental.

So after my kids settled in with a sitter, I headed down to the Clayton area to a place called the Living Insights Center. The premise, if I understood it correctly, is that this is a place where all religions and all followers of a particular way (whatever that may be) are welcomed and accepted. Regardless of your creed, or lack thereof, there is a space for you. I didn't get much chance to experience the place because the service I came to attend was starting. During the service's quiet time, I felt acutely aware of the sacred. It just seemed like a holy place. I can't articulate it much better than that, nor do I want to try to given that I tend to over-explain things that can't really be explained very well at all.

After the service I walked around and looked at the various icons, relics, etc. from various traditions...many were represented. Most I could think of in fact. I was struck by the unity of it all, and the universality of it all. I typically subscribe to the idea that there are many different paths to the divine, the center affirmed that in a new way for me.

Today's experience, and hopefully more to come at the Center, are exactly what Lent is to me. Part of my Lent was to be open to the divine - to allow space in my soul for something new to take hold. As much pain as I have survived in recent years, I am ready for joy. I feel prepared to be in love again. Not with a new man, but with something so much bigger than that... life, love and that which is holy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This year, in approaching the liturgical season of Lent, I was unsure of what to do. Most years I try to take on some Lenten discipline. Whether it's giving something up, taking something on, or trying to form a new habit, I usually take advantage of this 40 day period as a new beginning of sorts.

As i approached Lent this year, I didn't really know what to do. As tumultuous as life has seemed this past year, I wasn't sure what to try and take on. I opted first for the easy out - giving up soda. I've been drinking a ton of diet coke lately - so it would be good if I could drop some of that stuff. But for something deeper, I was struggling.

Then late on Shrove Tuesday, two things occurred to me. The first occurred to me while I was preparing some bankruptcy paperwork for a client...we categorize debts in bankruptcy by "priority." The debts that get paid first in a bankruptcy are priority debts and the others are listed as non-priority. All this talk of priority made me recall something fundamental. How I got to this point in my life, and ultimately what provided the downfall of my marriage was forgetting that I should at times be a priority. That my health, both physical and mental, and my life only gets to be a priority if I make it one. No one is going to oblige me that. I have to claim it for myself. For whatever reason, this is a tough task for me. I feel pulled in a lot of different directions, and it's tough for me to make me a priority. And perhaps I've felt for most of my life that there was something inappropriate about making oneself a priority. It sounds selfish and silly in some ways. But of course I really do believe it is difficult if not impossible to love someone else (including God) if I can't start with me. If I can't acknowledge the divine or holy in me (from God), then I don't value who I am, in all my abilities and disabilities. So, Lent is also a time for renewal for me - I'm headed to the gym tomorrow to begin to work again. I'm cutting back on things that are not healthy. Not so I can be thin, but so that I remember what it feels like to feel good about my physical body, and so that I can be physically whole.

The last part of this is going to sound "new-agey" or mystical...but I really want to recall again (and perhaps more importantly experience again) what it feels like to be in that divine communion. I've had experiences in my life that have felt holy, divine. But oftentimes I get so caught up in life, and explaining life to myself, that I close myself off from those sorts of experiences. I had one of those moments probably most recently when I was in Mexico bobbing around in the Caribbean. I just felt this presence. And then a peace, that was indescribable. In the midst of my turmoil and my un-settledness, I received this gift. It was all at once amazing, beautiful, holy. I want to be open to the experience. Accept that I cannot explain everything, but to be open. As I struggle to put some definition or some flesh on the bones of that I think is next for me...whether that be seeking ordination, staying precisely where I am, or a third path, I have become a little obsessed with wanting something to strike me. As I have felt "struck" in the past by a notion that I was right where I was supposed to be at a particular moment, so too I want some nod or nudge or gut reaction to arise in me that tells me what is next for me. But part of me is aware that I am perhaps not ready yet. Not open enough, not ready to receive that which is my birthright, my next "home." So the prayer for me, for now, is that I can be open to receiving...whatever it is I might receive. That instead of ripping off the paper and tearing open the box, I'm just open to receiving the gifts. Because knowing what is in store isn't really possible, and imagination of what is next is often scary and filled with too many unknowns. For now I just want to unclench my fist, one finger at a time. Just remain open to being transformed, transfigured into what I was intended to be all along.

It's going to be a good, powerful 40 days. That I know for sure.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Sometimes words seem to take on a new meaning for me. The word I have focused on in this past week has been "invitation." I first thought about this word some in the context of the sacramental theology class I've been taking. We've had some discussion in the class about the idea that God has taken the initiative in all of our sacraments...that God comes to us, invites us and we respond.

Then I watched my three year old play his favorite game these He colors on a small slip of paper and then hands them out to me, his sister, anyone else at our house at that time. He tells us these are our im-ba-tations - invitations - to whatever...dinner or bath time or his "party" he's going to have in the basement. What he really is asking you to do is to share an experience with him.

And isn't that typically what we are doing when we invite someone somewhere? Typically we are asking that they share in an experience with us. We're not asking for anything more than the presence of the other at something. In a normal invitation, we are not asking the person to be something, or bring something or perform in any certain way, we just want them to come along and experience whatever it is with us.

Oftentimes I think I have placed restrictions or requirements where God has none. Rather than just accept the invitation, and come along and be with Him/Her, I presuppose I know what God wants from me, expects of me, knows of me. It would seem not enough somehow for God just to want my presence. Of course that is a tall order in many ways. Can I be present, in the here and now, and simply be with God? Can I still my racing mind, drop all the things that *need* to be done today and let ago of my assumptions about God long enough to just "be with"?

I find myself at a loss that God would be inviting me, just for me to come along. Surely there must be something else He/She expects of me - otherwise grace begins to seem cheap. Then I recall just how difficult it often is for me to just be with God. Being with assumes a self-acceptance that I haven't figured out yet. And I realize that this grace is anything but cheap. But it is not costly in all the ways I assumed as a child and young adult. I don't have to be someone else, or do something extraordinary with my life. I simply have to live into who I was meant to be each day. In the small ways and in the everyday moments. I simply have to be willing to be with God. And to be with is challenge enough. I accept the invitation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Trusting Me

This past week I had two experiences that while seemingly unrelated are in fact indicative of a new way of being for me. Both of the experiences are some time in coming, but I feel they have a certain synchronicity.

The first relates to a woman I met about a year ago. I met her, and didn't know her at all. But for whatever reason I judged that she was entirely unlike me. That she seemed gossipy and girly and one of those people I would not typically like very much. She seemed very surface and not at all deep in heart. Then I spent some time in a small group with her a few weeks ago. The same person I had so quickly dismissed was in fact intelligent, articulate, vulnerable and amazing. I was sort of stunned. And then more than that I was humbled. I had clearly misjudged this person. In my rush to "know" her and have her figured out, I didn't look at her heart. I hate now that I wasted an entire year of life without getting to know her and her journey better when she was in front of me the entire time. But I'm glad that I was open enough to really see her now. I am inspired by her journey and hope to understand her better and better.

The second instance relates to a woman I met several years ago - while I was in law school. It was a strange time for me. I was exceedingly unhappy with where I was and with who I had to deal with on a daily basis. I was a square peg for sure in law school. And after I learned what it took to pass, I checked out to a large degree. I didn't invest myself in most of the people i met, and I avoided getting to know people very well. I had mixed feelings about this woman. We didn't seem to have much in common. We had mutual friends, but we never really gravitated to one another. Over time, I made more of an effort to get to know this person. But still there was always this obstacle of some sort. She appeared to be judging me at every turn. I actually learned at one point that she had made jokes about me to a group of people. Despite that fact, years later, I found myself interacting with this woman again. This time, she and I are peers in the legal community. In spite of some gut feeling or reservation I have, I have spent time with her socially. Today, when i saw her, I was struck by how different we are. And how I don't want to be anything like her. She seems to me now (years later) insecure, judgmental and not at all kind. She is not anything I want to be. She may be a wonderful person to others, but my gut and my experience tells me different. And so I made a conscious decision today to not be around her anymore.

As time goes by, and I find myself more and more drawn to those better angels of my nature. As opposed to wasting the time I've been given trying to be someone I'm not, or distrusting what my own gut and experience tells me, I'm going to try and live more into it. And trust that if I listen with my heart as opposed to my own judgmental eyes, I will see what I need to see. And then I can make the best decisions for me.