Monday, December 31, 2007

I have been blessed!



Here is the story of the Blessing:

"The idea…
...it’s a game of tag with a difference, rather than looking inwardly, we look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too."


My dear friend Grendel blessed me, so it's my turn to pass it on...

To Eileen:

I bless you. May God grant you the grace to see yourself as others see you, and to experience the happiness you deserve in all areas of your life.

To Mimi:

I bless you. May God reward you richly for your wisdom, your compassionate heart, and your endless patience with certain people who shall not be named.

To David:

I bless you.
May God reward you for your courage to do and say what is right and for your faithfulness to Her church in spite of all the obstacles you face. (And also for your ability to make us redheads feel special! ;-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy



This painting is by the 17th-century, Italian artist Guido Reni. Although I have been a pretty serious Italian art nut since my early teens, I had never heard of Reni before I moved to Raleigh. The North Carolina Museum of Art has a remarkable collection for a city of this size---including a sizable collection of Renaissance religious art. I was completely blown away the first time I saw this work.

If you have ever nursed a child (or watched someone who was comfortable nursing in front of you), you will recognize the beauty and naturalness of Reni's depiction. I swam against the cultural tide by nursing both of my children until they were well past the age of two. Until I saw this painting, I had never seen an artist accurately portray the intimacy and tenderness of a mother and a nursing infant. So even though I usually rebel against Anglo Marys and Blond Jesuses, I fell instantly in love with this one.

A copy of it sits on my personal altar. It has often been the focus of my personal devotions because it connects me to Jesus in a way that brings comfort and joy--a reminder of a deeply meaningful time in my life. A time before life got so complicated and painful...a time when I could "do good" as naturally as breathing.

And that brings me to my favorite Christmas song...
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Both the painting and the song speak to me of the deep joy and contentment that faith and love can bring...if only we would let them.

Look at the peace on the face of the Madonna and Child in that painting. They are bathed in the love of God and each other.

That is what I want my faith to be like. I want to love God in the uncomplicated way that a nursing baby loves her mother. I want to feel God's presence enfolding me in the same way as I once held my sleeping infants.

Unfortunately, I seem to allow too many things to get in the way of that kind of faith. Lately, the Church has been a big stumbling block for me---and the blogosphere hasn't helped that. As I mentioned, I have found outrage to be more addictive than caffeine (if less salutary to my work...).

But, here in the darkest part of winter, there are things happening in my life that are bringing comfort and joy. God is making Herself known in ways big and small. My faith may be tenuous at times---but I have discovered that it is also tenacious.

I am like Jacob...wrestling with the angel and refusing to let go until I receive God's blessing.

After a long, dark Advent, Christmas has come at last. No matter what happens in the Church or in the world, God is present---and the "good tidings of great joy" are ringing out to those who have ears to hear them.

May God grant me the grace to listen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gone Fishin'....

It's been so long since I posted that I wouldn't be surprised if there is no one around to read this. But on the off chance some intrepid soul is still stopping by...

I'm going to take a break from blogs. Since I'm clearly not posting here that much, it's the ones I read like a monkey on crack from which I need a vacation. You know the ones---MadPriest and Father Jake and Tobias and Mimi and...well, add your own name to the list because, if you are part of the progressive Episcopalian blogging ring, I guarantee you I read your blog.

But doing so is beginning to wear me down. I spend more time reading blogs than I should---and I have enjoyed the recent Anglican fray too much. I have found myself addicted to the high of being outraged. I suspect this is not healthy for my soul---and that it explains the spiritual dryness I've been feeling lately...

So time to back away for a bit. I've got some writing of my own I'd like to do, and I'm also going to be moving right after the holidays. I guess I need to spend some time sorting and packing.

I also need to spend some special time with my kids---who are growing way too fast!!---and with myself. I've not been paying attention to God lately, and it shows.

In his sermon last weekend, my dear friend (who happens to be a priest) challenged us to consider what Christ was doing in our own lives this Advent. He used the following Gospel reading, in which Jesus answers John the Baptist's question: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus responds by saying:
Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Blessed are those who take no offense at me. Matthew 11:4-6
With his permission, here is what my friend asked us to do:

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Take a personal and private inventory during Advent---Look at those six signs of Christ in the reading from Matthew 11: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

In your personal history, which ones has Christ effected in you, already? That is Christmas past.

Which ones do you detect that Christ is doing in your spiritual formation right now? That is Christmas present.

Which ones don’t even appear on the radar screen yet, but await the future? That is Christmas yet to come.

That’s Advent! Gratitude for Christ’s action in the past. Cooperation with Christ’s working in the present. Faith in Christ’s coming to us in the future...when he will turn “mourning into morning” (G.M. Hopkins)!

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I'm going to do that inventory. I'm going to spend some time with God, my children, and the people with whom I share "meatspace" (to use an inelegant Internet term).

I'll be back when the well isn't so dry---and when I've relearned what Jesus meant when he said "Blessed are those who take no offense at me."

May you all have a blessed Advent and a holy Christmas---and may the "tidings of comfort and joy" remind us of our own responsibility to be God's hands and feet in this weary, broken world.