Monday, January 31, 2011


When I logged in tonight, I noticed that this is my 101st post to this blog. What started as a way to vent a little, to throw words into cyberspace, has turned into being at least to some degree therapeutic for me. I can feel the pressure valve being turned when I write. There is a release for me. Whether anyone is following along really doesn't matter to me. Actually it's easier for me to think that no one reads what I write. So much of what I write is ill-informed. Not well thought out. Ideas that haven't matured all the way. Sentiments that I can't entirely explain. Reflections of someone who isn't so sure most of the time.

This past week I've been down. I'm not certain why. As seems almost commonplace these days, I don't often feel in control of how I feel. For someone who used to be fairly in control of herself and her emotions, this new way of being is often disturbing to me. I've been stressing about a choice I made awhile back that wasn't very smart. My brother turned 40 this past week - in a federal prison in Minnesota. A liberation theologian I have followed died.

Saturday I attended an ordination ceremony. It was for a guy I got to know as part of a few classes I took through my church body. He is a smart, funny, wonderful person. I really enjoyed getting to know him in the two very, very small classes we were in together. He will do a wonderful job in his role in the church, and I'm happy he completed his process. The service itself was incredible. It was joyful, beautiful, moving. As I felt the tears coming at a few different points, I wondered what was behind them.

I think the conclusion I have drawn is that I'm still so uncertain. While I'm fairly certain I am not called to follow the path of my friend, I still don't see clearly the path I am to follow. And while most days this fact doesn't really upset me, other days I just wish for some semblance of certainty.

Today I called off court. I have never done this. The only other time I missed court since becoming an attorney, my son was in the hospital. It just isn't something I do. I cleaned my house, scrubbed, did laundry, just locked myself in the house and worked. The distraction was just what I needed. To feel in control of "something" helped me get through some of my angst.

A line that was part of the liturgy on Saturday has run through my mind repeatedly.
"And for the grace of the Holy Spirit to amend our lives, we pray to you, O Lord." What does it mean to "amend my life?"

Attorneys use the word "amend" a lot. We amend our pleadings. We amend our plea. We amend our requests. We file Motions to Amend Judgments. It's something we spend a decent amount of time working on. In this context, what we mean ordinarily is that we need to change something. Whether we "forgot" to put something into a court document or we made a mistake or we simply learned new information that requires it, lawyers tend to amend stuff a lot. Something I tell my clients often at the beginning of a case is that we can "always amend" our court filings if things change or if we get new information. This seems to help people relax a little.

As I prayed that prayer, I wondered if I really want what I'm asking for. Change is not something I'm particularly adept at. Does this mean I have to give up my control? I'm fairly certain if that's what the prayer means, that I would probably pass on that one. I think perhaps all I'm certain of at this point is that there are cracks and crevices and weak spots in my heart. And that perhaps asking the Holy Spirit to amend my life has something to do with those places. It has at least something to do with allowing that spirit, that breath of life, to seep into those places. And it helps me to relax just a little to realize I can (and perhaps should) always be amended. That no matter how far gone I feel, there's still that possibility that my life can be amended.

And so, today I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to be doing. And I'm sad that my brother passed into his 40th year in prison. And I'm disappointed that one more "hero" for me is no longer on this earth with me. And I'm bothered that I can't maintain any sense of control these days over my emotions and how I react/feel about things.

But, still I will pray that the Holy Spirit amend my life. In all the ways that only She can.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I love words. While I feel so much of life cannot be adequately expressed through words, and still sometimes a single word carries so much with it, that there is no need for additional thoughts or ideas. While I am not notorious for my brevity, I do love powerful words. Two of my favorites these days are fortuitous - which is defined as not just something happening by chance, but something good happening by chance. The other is magis - a Jesuit phrase that means "more" - as in doing or being more somehow.

Fortuitous has come up several times for me lately. Mostly I think encounters I've had with some interesting people have been fortuitous.

A few years ago I felt this pull or push or drawing into. At first I thought that perhaps I was being called to the priesthood within my church body - the Episcopal church. So, I explored that, albeit reluctantly and with some fear and trembling. Soon though I began to feel the twinges that told me that I was misinterpreting the road signs. That the path I thought I was being pulled onto was not mine to take. With that realization came a little bit of confusion and sadness. If that was not my call, what did that mean? What will I become when I grow up? Will I figure it out prior to being retirement age?

As I continued down the road, somewhat uncertain and angst-ridden, I stumbled (in a very fortuitous way) onto a different path. While I'm still not certain what it means or how it looks, I know for sure how it feels. It feels very much like coming home. It is the magis for me - the more. I first got a glimpse of what this looks like in October as I experienced, very late at night/early in the morning, the theology and praxis of someone I knew very little of. As his excitement lit up the room, I found myself enveloped by it. It was fortuitous. And I felt blessed by the encounter. And changed in some not-so-easily expressed way.

As the months have flown by since that night, I have had so many refreshing moments with people who feel at least somewhat the way I do. That the magis is there - that at this moment in their lives they are being pulled or pushed or taken in by something, something more. Something that I can only call holy. These encounters cannot be described in any other way but to say they are fortuitous.

For example, last weekend I spent time in a community that was a big part of my life as a teenager, I was reminded again of how incredible that sense of belonging to something so much bigger than oneself really is. As I watched kids (of which I was one, sitting there some 20 years ago for the first time) embrace one another and sing and just bask in that warm glow of a loving environment, I remembered the hour I first experienced the power of loving community. It was in this community that I was first loved freely and was able to love others freely. Over and over, as I have experienced this same miracle in various forms, in different places and at different times, I realize just how wonderful a life I have led so far. And I can't help but be excited about what is to come.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about this fortuitous business I call my life. We both laughed at how timing is sometimes so incredible that of course it can't be an accident, it's not just fortuitous after all, but something much bigger. As we talked and laughed (and cried just a little), my friend expressed to me how deeply he feels this magis. How at this transitional time in his life, it (the big IT) is still there for him. I didn't have to tell him, he already knew...I felt the same way. And how fortuitous for me. To be part of yet another encounter with someone who knows how I feel, and who feels the same way and who is happening along the same road I'm called to travel at this moment in my life. Very fortuitous, indeed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Especially Fond

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." (From the Gospel of Matthew)

Today's Gospel lesson seems to tie in very well with what I've been contemplating these days. (I'm not certain why that still surprises me when it happens...)

As I was listening to The Shack on CD while traveling, I grew to really appreciate a phrase the author used repeatedly. God, in various forms, indicates to the main character in the book many times, that He/She (God) is "especially fond" of him or of another human being. As I listened to it, I wondered how many times I have felt this way for someone else, for God, or even how I feel about this phrase directed at me?

What do I think of God speaking to me in this way? I'm a little unsure. It seems informal of God, I think. But I like it conceptually. Who doesn't want someone to be especially fond of her? I'm not certain I've ever been able to claim this for myself wholly or fully. What I'm learning, albeit haltingly at times, is that the more I am able to love others in this way - being especially fond of them, sometimes in spite of who or how they are, the more I can feel in a fresh and new way the love God has for me.

There are people I am especially fond of. I often label people I really enjoy as my "favorite" for example my son is my "favorite boy" and my daughter is my "favorite girl." There's a Judge I really like, I tell him he's my favorite. A good friend who is part of my usual lunch group knows she is my favorite. I'm not sure when I started doing this, but I enjoy the practice of ascribing favorite to people I love. I enjoy being expressive and loving people. I feel especially alive in those moments.

As obsessed as I've been at moments in finding my "calling," I know for sure I am called to be a lover of souls. And how blessed a life I lead! To be surrounded by people that I'm especially fond of much of the time. Sometimes I lose my patience or my ability to be the person I want to be, and yet those I'm especially fond of usually see past that and love me back to where I need to be. Those people, both past and present, are the ones that make my life make sense and who know that I mean well, even when I'm not completely certain of my own intent.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Forgiveness Redux

I've thought a lot about forgiveness in the past few months - as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing about it, yet again. Oftentimes these posts are my way of trying to work out what's happening with me. The topics of forgiveness, redemption, healing and resolving one's past have been on my mind continually in the past few weeks. Some of my obsession with this topic is deeply personal. Some of it relates to the work I do some days as a guardian for kids who have been the victims of abuse. Still more of it relates to my own children and what I hope and want for them.

I traveled to Philadelphia this past week. It was a nice break. I went with an old friend, and I laughed harder and longer than I have in years. Between laughs, we had some serious discussions about love and life. We also went into some old cathedrals - one of my favorite things to do. Our last stop before leaving the city was to go into the art museum. I wanted to see a painting I've always admired, but I ended up being drawn to a very different painting. One that echoed the theme of my life right now - healing and redemption. It was a beautiful image of Jesus healing people at the shore of what I assume was the Sea of Galilee. The sun was either rising or setting in the background - it was hard to tell which. An incredibly moving painting.

As I drove home the last 6 hours by myself, I listened to The Shack on CD. I had read the book over a year ago, but thought it would be interesting to listen to in the car to pass the time. The most intense parts had me weeping hard and long. It is such an amazing and moving story. The part though that struck me in this "reading" was an exchange about forgiveness. God is asking the man in the story to forgive the man who raped and murdered his child. As I listened to the narrator, the tears poured from my eyes. Does God really understand what He/She is asking of this man or of so many of us?

As the protagonist struggles with God's desire that he forgive the man who harmed his child, God takes center stage in the book and explains that forgiveness is not what I (or the main character) perhaps perceives it to be. It is not about forgetting. It is not about relationship. God in the book describes it as "removing your hands from around another person's throat so that he can be redeemed." This isn't the warm, fuzzy, sentimental image I have of forgiveness. And perhaps therein lies my struggle.

I often feel that if I forgive my ex-husband for his actions (or at times inaction), then that means we have to return to some sort of relationship. And I know that I'm not at a place where I can handle that. In the book, God assures the man that is not what forgiveness is. Rather for relationship to be restored, the person who has transgressed must choose change and repentance as well. In addition, God tells the man that forgiveness doesn't mean excusing the bad behavior or allowing it to happen again.

All of this brings me around to the topic of resolution or reconciliation. I had an interesting discussion with a friend about whether it is possible for us (or anyone) to really resolve old trauma or past bad experiences so they no longer impact or affect us? I told my friend that I didn't particularly like the word "resolve." To resolve something, in my experience, suggests that something has been dealt with and is now shelved away, never to be considered again. And honestly the worst hurts we experience can't be resolved, or at least I haven't figured out a way to do that yet. My own life has shown me time and again that some of those old hurts will re-surface on occasion, and not always in a horrible, crippling way. Sometimes I think the hurt has re-surfaced because it can be used in a new and different way now. That somehow I've been underwent a transformation that allows me view it in a different light now.

What I do think can happen is that we can experience a reconciliation with regards to these traumas. I don't mean reconcile in the way that we often use that term - to reconcile oneself to a life of difficulty. No, the reconciliation I mean is the true meaning of the word for feel put back together - to feel some harmony, some sychronicity. Not a denial of the experience, not a minimizing of it (it wasn't so bad, really...), but also not an overdramatization of the experience or the myth created around the experience. No, I really do mean to bring oneself back into right relationship - with oneself and with God. To allow the experience to be what it was, a bad experience of life, but to not allow it to define my very existence in this life.

Certainly I don't mean to minimize how hard I think reconciliation really is. It requires a suspension of judgment that I am unaccustomed to being able to pull off in my own life. It calls for the ability to confront the feelings and emotions that come with the experience and not run away. It is hard work, and I am in no way saying I've mastered it. Yet, I am beginning to understand that reconciliation is possible for me, for me and God and for me and my life's events that have been difficult and painful.

While I still can't say I've had my "a-ha" moment regarding being able to forgive a few of those who have hurt me deeply, I can say that the experiences themselves are changing shape and form for me. I no longer feel paralyzed or held hostage by those moments. I feel differently about how things look and feel around the experiences. I feel redeemed.