Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rage

I am feeling it these days. It's welling up like a fountain in my chest--and threatening to become a tidal wave.

Not good.

Mostly I am angry at injustice--and at the people who perpetuate it. (I'm angry with the Hydra too, but--unfortunately--I can't blog about that.)

I am angry at the willful ignorance that passes for politics these days. I am angry about a citizenry that won't do its homework, makes gods of lying "entertainers," and rewards politicians for negative and downright dishonest advertisements. (And on that last, I'm talking about ALL of them--not just one party...) Make. It. Stop.

I am angry about people who promise the moon and have no intention of delivering. I am particularly angry about people who do this while asking for my money and my time/vote.

I am angry about a society that puts profits before people, and actually rewards the robbers while it throws people out of their homes into the streets. I am angry at the selfishness of those who "have"--determined to deny their fellow citizens a decent standard of living and some security because it might mean they have to give up some frills in their lives.

I am furious with people who have the power to help others--and refuse to do it.

I am angry with people who say "Have patience"--people who don't have to worry about being homeless or going without medical care or being denied the chance to marry the one they love. People who can afford to "wait" for justice for others because they already have all the "justice" they need.

I am angry with people who were born on third base but who have somehow convinced themselves that they hit a triple. Who believe that they have earned what they have--without ever once examining the unearned privilege of their race or the socioeconomic status of their family of origin or their heterosexual orientation.

I'm angry about racism, sexism, homophobia--and I'm particularly angry with "Christians" who use our faith to oppose caring for the least among us and who bully, lie, and hate in the name of Christ.

I am angry about a society that apparently requires the suicides of seven kids (that I know of) in the last month--and the countless more whose names are known only to God--before it wakes up to the fact that meanness permeates our culture and that we are, in essence, murdering our children when we tell them it's not okay to be different.

I'm angry with the church--which also bullies and manipulates and treats people in shameful ways and brings disrepute on the Gospel.

Today, I am particularly angry on behalf of those who are abused by the ordination process. It is difficult enough to be called by God--to feel that you have no choice but to give your life in ministry to God's people. But to have to endure hazing (and I use that term on purpose) by those in the church to be able to exercise your call is the height of cruelty. I am furious with people who call themselves Christians and inflict this viciousness.

Finally, I'm angry at myself. For not doing more. For allowing this impotent rage to bleed into my life and my relationships with the people I love. For being less than God calls me to be. For being the Pharisee, rather than the tax collector (Luke 18: 9-14). For failing to love my enemies and to pray for them.

Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei, miserere mei, peccatoris.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Episcopal elections and the limits of "inclusivity"

Doxy's note: Since the beginning of the summer, I have been dealing with some very difficult and stressful family issues. As a result, I haven't had any emotional energy for blogging myself, and not much for reading other people's blogs or commenting.

But Mimi changed all that. ;-)

For some reason, the election of Fr. Dan Martins as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield has really touched a nerve with me. And when I was reading the comments on Mimi's post about the election, I started writing a long comment in rebuttal and couldn't seem to stop myself.

When it reached blog-post length, I decided I shouldn't clog Mimi's comment box, so I decided to put it here.

So blame Mimi. But I will thank her--it's been a long time since I felt enough energy to write anything more than a comment on Facebook....

*************************************
In responding to a comment from Bruce, Mimi wrote:

if we are to be the inclusive church we claim to be, are we not perhaps called to make room even for those who may want to destroy us?

And here is my response to that:

In a word...no.

I can't bring myself to believe that "turn the other cheek" translates to "let someone destroy you." In fact, I will go so far as to say that the urge to destroy that which does not suit you is a sign that you are being tempted to do evil.

(I recognize that temptation in myself far too often, so I am keenly aware of the spiritual dangers it poses....)

I think we, as a church and as people of faith, are called to be inclusive--and that means welcoming all to the table. It means being civil and generous to one another even when we disagree.

And I also think that it's time for us to be honest about who we are as a church:

  • TEC, as a whole, has declared its support for the ordained ministry of women.
  • TEC, as a whole, has declared its support for the ordained ministry of LGBTs--including those who are partnered.

I think if someone honestly believes that either or both of those things are against the will of God, that person needs to ask hirself* two questions:

  1. Do I think that they are first-order issues? (i.e., that salvation depends on them)
  2. If I DO believe they are first-order issues, how can I remain in TEC with any integrity?
For those who do not think they are first-order issues, I think we ought to be able to coexist quite happily in the same church. I have my own opinions about biblical interpretation, atonement, salvation, judgment, etc., with which I'm sure many people would disagree--but that doesn't keep us from worshiping and taking communion together.

And that, to me, is the hallmark of inclusion. We meet at the altar and we feast together--then we scatter to serve in Christ's name.

I am puzzled by those who DO think those are first-order issues, and yet remain in TEC. I believe they are violating their own spiritual and personal integrity by doing so. I understand the feeling of "I've been here all my life, so why should *I* leave?!"--and I'm certainly not advocating that anyone be booted out. Ever. But to continue to stay in a place that causes one to feel such anger and the urge to destroy is not healthy--spiritually or psychologically.

No parish is ever going to be required to hire a female priest or one who is LGBT. But Episcopalians who cannot accept those ministries need to ask themselves if they can remain in TEC without trying to "destroy" it. If they can't, then they should have the integrity to go to a community of faith where they do not feel called to destroy, but instead feel called to build up the Kingdom.

Because if we are truly following Christ, we are called to be co-creators with God of a kingdom where peace and justice reign.

****************************************

As for Fr. Martins...I think +Mark Lawrence *is* the precedent. I take some comfort in the fact that Mark Harris+, Michael Russell+, and Tobias Haller are standing up for him. But the fact is that Fr. Martins voted to support thievery and schism. That is not a minor issue--it is an issue of integrity and whether or not he is trustworthy.

+Lawrence said that he had "no intention of leaving the Episcopal Church," but look at what he's been doing ever since they put that pointy hat on his head. Both +Lawrence and Martins+ came out of the same TEC-hating milieu (the Diocese of San Joaquin), and we should not forget that in our rush to be "inclusive."

I don't want to hear any more "I have no intention of..." Those are weasel words, pure and simple. As +Lawrence has so aptly demonstrated....

I want to hear, *unequivocally*:
"I will NOT leave the Episcopal Church--neither will I allow any priest in my diocese to encourage others to do so."
That last point is really important. Given that so much of the ugliness in TEC has been clergy-driven, I want to hear a bishop-elect say that zie* will not put up with schismatic priests, in addition to pledging hir* own commitment to TEC.

Of course, TBTG, I'm neither on the Standing Committee for my diocese, nor am I a bishop--so I don't get to require anything of Fr. Martins. But if you ARE on the SC in your diocese, I encourage you to think long and hard about giving consent without asking for a clear, unambiguous promise.

Not "intention."

Promise.

Commitment.

Vow.

Finally, Fr. Martin's comments at GC09 about our "covering ourselves with shame" for allowing bishops to provide a pastoral response to same-sex couples are deeply troubling--as Jim Naughton rightly points out. As are his comments about refusing to ordain LGBT people.

And this gets back to my point about who we are as a church.

  • Even bishops who themselves are uncomfortable with women priests and LGBT priests must make room for them. Our canons and constitution require them to do so. (Canon III.1.2-3)
  • Even bishops who themselves are uncomfortable with same-sex blessings need to make pastoral provision for those in this church who desire those blessings, and to grant permission to those among their clergy willing to bless.

IMO, if Fr. Martins cannot do those things, he has no business being a bishop in TEC. Because to make him one otherwise is to do something doubly violent. It is to consign this church to having yet another bishop who is not prepared to honor his consecration vows, in some misguided attempt to show how "inclusive" we are.

And it is to participate in helping a man violate his own integrity. Even if he is willing to do that to gain a mitre, we ought not to assist him.

*********************
*From henceforth, I am adopting gender-neutral pronouns when applied to non-specific people. I'm choosing these particular forms because they are often used on most of the feminist blogs I read, especially Shakesville.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And so it began...

River
Down by the river, under the trees, love waits for me
to walk from the journeying years of my time and arrive.
I part the leaves and they toss me a blessing of rain.

The river stirs and turns, consoling and fondling itself
with watery hands, its clear limbs parting and closing.
Grey as a secret, the heron bows its head on the bank.

I drop my past on the grass and open my arms, which ache
as though they held up this heavy sky, or had pressed
against window glass all night as my eyes sieved the stars;

open my mouth, wordless at last meeting love at last, dry
from traveling so long, shy of a prayer. You step from the shade,
and I feel love come to my arms and cover my mouth, feel

my soul swoop and ease itself into my skin, like a bird
threading a river. Then I can look love full in the face, see
who you are I have come this far to find, the love of my life.

---Carol Ann Duffy, Rapture

Dearest Friend---

For all that you have given me...for all the joy that you have brought into my life...for the miracle that God has wrought in bringing us together...I give thanks.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Tell me again who is "interpreting" scripture?!

I woke up to find this piece from Thinking Anglicans in my reader:

Bishops and divorce

So +Rowan thinks that Jesus' plain words about divorce are negotiable, but not any of the other scriptural referents to homosexuality?

Veddy interesting.....

Jasper says to tell you all that hypocrisy reeks. And not in a good way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pupdate



Jasper is home! He is pleased to be back with his friend, Porky Pig. You can see that they had to shave big bands of fur off his paws for the IVs. Between that, and the shaving for the surgery, he looks like a very patchy rug...



He is relieved to be back at his post. He was very worried that the Evil Hordes of Satanic Squirrels might have overrun the place in his absence.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jasper's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month*...

The last month has not been a great one for Jasper.

On April 30, he was attacked by another dog at daycare. That dog bit a plug out of Jasper's left side, and he ended up having to have emergency surgery to repair the damage.



Despite the best efforts of the surgeon, and copious quantities of antibiotics, the wound got infected, so the recovery process has taken a long time.

But he was doing great--especially after the "Cone of Shame" came off.



Monday was Jasper's 3rd birthday. We had a great day--he got a bath and haircut and had a nice long walk with Dear Friend. He was feeling quite sassy.

And then yesterday, he started vomiting uncontrollably. I couldn't identify anything he might have gotten into that would make him sick. He had nothing in his stomach to throw up, so he just kept retching.

He is now at NC State University's Small Animal Emergency Service. He has had X-rays to determine that there are no blockages in his stomach or intestines. He has had blood work to determine whether he might have some acute condition and to rule out poisoning of some sort. He spent the night retching, and also had bloody diarrhea.

They are talking about testing him for Addison's Disease today and doing an ultrasound to ensure that there isn't some obstruction that didn't show up on the X-ray. The vet student who just called to give me an update on Jasper says that he is very playful and lovable this morning, but he's still retching. So he's on IV saline and getting antacids to settle his stomach.

Prayers, good thoughts, and all positive energy would be appreciated. Jasper is the most affectionate, loving dog I've ever had. The house feels very empty without him....

*with apologies to Judith Viorst. I love that book--except when I'm living it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent is not a competitive sport....

One of the reasons I decided to go back to giving up my daily pleasures of Diet Cokes and sweets was because in my early years of "doing Lent"--which I did on my own, outside of church--those little deprivations made me do a lot of soul-searching. Those were my "good Lents," if you will.

Once I got into church, I heard other people take a lot of ribbing about giving up chocolates or sodas---the implication was that these were not SERIOUS disciplines. That "real" Christians gave up things that mattered or---more important--took on new spiritual disciplines.

I'm sure that no one was TRYING to do spiritual one-upsmanship, but that was the message I got. So, for the most part, I stopped giving stuff up and started trying to take stuff on.

As a result, I haven't had a "good Lent" in years. I'm a mother, own my own business, and now commute to be a wife too. (And I have to fit the dog in there somewhere.) I have finally realized that taking stuff on is--quite simply--a recipe for spiritual failure at this point in my life.

(And before someone comes in here and starts giving me a pep-talk about not thinking of spiritual things in terms of "failure"...well, thanks, but don't worry. It's a figure of speech, you know?)

So I'm back to giving up the little things I really enjoy--and consume without thinking most of the time. I will not win any Olympic gold medals for my discipline--and I'm sure there are plenty of folks who will find my choices puerile (if I even bother to mention them, outside of the blogosphere). But I'm coming to understand that God is in EVERYTHING--even in the smallest and seemingly most insignificant choices I make.

To be honest, there is some discomfort in that. Who wants to think that God is interested in Every.Single.Thing you do? It sounds almost stalker-ish...

And yet...I grow more and more convinced that, in everything we do and every choice we make, God is there, calling to us. Calling us to the good--for ourselves, for others, and for the earth. Calling us to holiness--to be the people we were meant to be. Calling us into a relationship so total and--dare I say it?--erotic, that it makes sex look tame and boring.

That's a lot to lay on an unopened can of Diet Coke. But, for me, it's a start--or, more accurately, it's my little choice for this morning. This morning, I chose to write this blog post, rather than succumb to the temptation of going downstairs for the soda (even though I can hear it calling my name from here). I thought about God for the better part of the morning. And while I won't claim that I reached any Kama Sutra-type heights, I felt connected.

Somehow, I think that's what it's all about.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bite

I am a Diet Coke addict.

There, I confessed it.

When the Empress was very little, I was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The symptoms were such that I honestly felt as if I were having a heart attack. This was quite...disconcerting...for someone in her late 30s, with a family history of heart disease. (My paternal grandmother died of heart disease in her 50s.)

One of the things I had to do to deal with GERD was to give up soda. It was a terribly difficult thing for me, because I drank multiple cans a day---but for many years, I couldn't drink more than 3 sips of soda before I felt the tell-tale chest pains.

It tells you something about my addiction that I kept trying...

About a 18 months ago, I discovered that I could drink sodas again. I suspect it had to do with the fact that I COMPLETELY changed my life. I was no longer miserable, and apparently my body responded by lowering acid production. So I'm back up to my 3-4 cans-a-day Diet Coke habit.

What I love about Diet Coke is the bite.

It's not the taste. It's the "bite" of the carbonation that hooks me. And there is a lesson there, I'm afraid.

I love to bite. I love to argue, and even more than loving to argue, I love to win.

Tonight, as Dear Friend recited the liturgy for Ash Wednesday, I asked God to help me lose my love of the bite. I asked for a gentle spirit and a gentle and forgiving heart.

This is a hard request for someone who continually battles for justice for the marginalized. I have said many times that I wish Jesus hadn't said all that stuff about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. It's so much FUN to eviscerate the people with whom you disagree! And, to be perfectly honest with you, I'm pretty damned good at it.

But biting doesn't achieve much, does it? All it does it CREATE enemies--and all *that* does is lengthen my prayer list!

I will never give up my passion for justice and the Gospel, but I have seen people who know how to advocate for the good without biting. I know that it is possible--and that it will take a miracle to achieve it in my case.

I am giving up Diet Coke for Lent--and hoping to give up the bite. In my case, it is a serious sacrifice for both. I ask for your prayers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Fitting Life

Does your life fit you? If it were an outfit, would it make you feel beautiful or frumpy? Is it the right size, or did it long ago become too tight or begin to swallow you up like an over-sized tent?

I’m thinking about the “fit” of life because I got word that my father died early this morning.

My father and I had been estranged for almost 20 years when I got an e-mail from my cousin telling me that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I didn’t feel any responsibility to go, but Dear Friend really wanted to meet my dad and he urged me to make the trip to my hometown. So we went to visit my dad the week before Thanksgiving. It was the first time I had seen him since Christmas Eve, 1989.

Twenty years is a long time in a human life. Twenty years ago, my dad was the age I am now--46. His hair was still dark then, though it was beginning to thin on top, and his beard was shot through with white. His eyes always twinkled mischievously--and you could bet he was up to something.

My dad was cocky--he wasn’t a large man, but he walked with a swagger and was quick with a joke. He was part con man, part gangster--and he was always the life of the party. He was the kind of “hail fellow, well met” whose glass is half-full and who is forever on the hunt for the main chance.

But when I saw him in November, that man had disappeared. My dad was dying, and he looked like he was 90 years old--frail, with a belly swollen by the cancerous liver and lungs that killed him today. He was in a great deal of pain, and the medications he was taking were clouding his brain. I am not sure that he really even knew who I was.

Which, in a way, was...fitting.

We ended our relationship in much the same way we had lived it--on opposite sides of a seemingly impenetrable divide.

***********************************************

My dad and I had a complicated history. My parents split up when I was 6--not a very common thing in 1969. My dad was a sporadic part of my life for the next few years, but disappeared for nearly 10 years about the time I was 11 or 12.

He popped back in while I was in college--mostly because he wanted me to do something for him. And that was fine--we ended up engaging in a trade of sorts. I helped him out, and he helped me finish college. I will always be grateful for that.

After I went to grad school, however, we had a falling-out. In that conflict, both of us were armed and dangerous. Harsh words were exchanged. Old grievances were aired.

And that, as they say, was that.

************************************************

For many years, both before and after the clash that ended our relationship, I felt bewildered and angry with my dad. The realization that the man who contributed half my DNA wasn’t interested in being my father left a scar. His absence from my life--both as child and adult--has formed me in ways that I still don’t always recognize or understand.

Mostly I couldn’t understand how he could have two children but not want to be a part of their day-to-day lives. Even now, this aspect puzzles me. As a mother, I simply cannot imagine choosing not to know my children--or my grandkids. My children are my father’s only grandchildren, but he never met them.

I have spent much of my life trying NOT to be my father. Trying to be respectable, responsible, and dependable. Trying to be a good parent.

But...

Almost five years ago, my life was turned upside down by a crippling depression that nearly killed me. My breakdown was rooted in the fact that I was trying to live a life that didn’t fit me. It was a life that was filled with all the world’s markers of success--marriage, children, big house in the suburbs, mountains of “things”--but I experienced it as an arid, colorless, and endless wasteland. My dogged and desperate attempts to remain in that life eventually made death look preferable to enduring it any longer.

I was lucky. I believe God showed me a way out of that life--and pointed me to the miracle that is my life now.

And in that process, God enabled me to do something else. God enabled me to forgive my father--melting my anger and confusion and turning them into something approaching understanding.

I will never know why my dad made the choices he did, because we never had that conversation. But in the wreckage of my old life, I discovered that my dad and I might not be so different after all--and I found some empathy I didn’t know I had.

***************************************

Of course I could be wrong, but I came to believe that my dad ran away from a life that didn’t fit him. Given my own history, I’m extremely wary of appearing to excuse the breaking of commitments in the search for some hedonistic form of happiness. But I honestly believe that my dad was probably never meant to be married or to have children. I think he recognized that too, after the fact--as evidenced by the fact that he never remarried and never (to my knowledge anyway) had any other children. He was simply born at a time when you got married at 19 or 20 and had kids. No questions allowed.

How many of us have fallen victim to similar expectations from our families and our culture? How many of us have woken up one day to discover that we are living someone else's life, and asked ourselves "How the hell did I get here?!"

But sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we are given second, third, and even more chances. It is up to us to decide what we will make of them.

I am doing my best to make my extra chances count--and I think my dad did too. I have reason to believe that my dad was happy with the life he ultimately chose. For the last number of years, he ran a bar on the beach in Playa del Carmen on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. I know that he attracted a sizable--and very loyal--group of American expatriates who made the bar their home-away-from-home and who loved my dad in the less-complicated way that “chosen families” often do.

In the photos I have seen of him, he looks like a grizzled old pirate--and he’s always laughing.

Having finally found a life that fits me--a life filled with love and laughter--I’m glad my dad found his own “fitting” life. We both made some pretty major mistakes in life, and I am grateful that our poor choices didn’t doom us to misery forever. There is a part of me that wishes we could have reconciled, but some things are just not possible in this life. By the end, there was simply too much distance between us and not enough time or energy to undo a lifetime of missteps.

But I left my visit with him with a deep sense of peace, because I could finally say that I was no longer angry with him. That will have to suffice for now.

I believe in a life beyond death, however, and in a merciful God who will make all things right in the end. So I also believe that--one day--my dad and I will have a chance to mend our broken relationship. Until that day, I have this image of my dad pouring a beer for Jesus and telling him some raucous joke--and Jesus rolling his eyes and laughing.

Rest in peace and rise in glory, Dad. The next time we see each other, the questions will all be answered and we'll be able start over again. We'll know how to love each other better next time...