A Prayer of Confession

On Wednesday night, I gathered with other church members for a midweek reflection during the season of Lent. We read the story of Nicodemus in John 3 and shared in this awesome poem by Hafiz. Both the Gospel Lesson and the poem spoke to me in the strange mystery when leading worship actually nourishes. I listened as I invited others to reflect upon the text. I asked when there are so many opportunities to feel like a broken man stuck behind a farting camel, how can we be reborn?

This conversation turned into a denominational throw down -- as individuals offered their reflections on what Lent has been in their past. They admitted how it had hurt and how this season had offered new hope. Being ecumenical at heart, I was uncomfortable. Though we are a denomination of pilgrims from other traditions, it is always discomforting to me when our new members and visitors can only focus on the negative of their faith formation.

As I listened for the words of the Gospel and the poetry of Hafiz touch my heart, I felt an overwhelming need to confess. And because I'm not sure what to do with this prayer, I'm going to share it with you. After all, my faith journey is about community.

Gracious God
who counts the numbers of hairs upon my head
who knows the intimate thoughts of my heart
forgive me for when I do not trust your stirring
for those times when I don't recognize rebirth
for those times that I fail to allow you to work through my hands
for those times when I ignore your calling to come home.
You have wandered with me.
You have held my hand.
You have always been there just outside of my touch.
I don't need Water or Spirit to know that you are there.
I don't need to focus on the farting camel or my own brokenness.
I only need to see you in the face of others.
I need to forgive myself as you have already forgiven me.
No matter how stubborn
No matter how indignant
No matter how clueless
You are always holding my hand.
Gracious God
forgive me for those things that I fail to see.
Hold my hand and walk with me through this strange Lenten journey
as you remind me what it means to walk in your path.
In Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Losing Control

My meditation in discovering my own practice of self care is focused this week on control. After making lists last night about the the possibility of change (and the pros and cons of each decision), I was invited to explore an opportunity in my own life in which I could acknowledge a situation in which I was not in control. A committee meeting seemed like a good suggestion -- though I don't have one until Thursday. I wasn't sure what opportunity would allow me to meditate on control -- until I found myself in tears in my car only 30 minutes ago.

I can't control this. I really can't. I know I can't. I have to let this be in God's hands because there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. But O Jesus, could you allow me to take care of my body without getting the third degree of why I need to have this done?

She's only 28. This was what the technician said to my new Advocate at the Medical Center. She rose to the occasion when I last felt defeated. She was there again. Thank you for this saint, God.

And yet, God, I'd really like some explanation about why I need to go through the wringer on this every time I try to care for myself. My tone is not gentle. I'm not nice about this. I just want to get this stupid mammogram over with so that I don't have to worry about it again for another year. But, no, I'm not in control. Clearly, I'm not in control. Former Medical Center never sent the films of my last mammogram -- so I was made to feel like a drug addict demanding something I didn't need. They don't want to do the procedure until they can compare it with the old films. It's for the best care, I'm assured. They want to know if a mammogram is really the right action for me to best care for myself.

And yet, I wonder why this couldn't have been solved before I went to the Medical Center. If this was a question, couldn't you confirm? Couldn't you demand these forms yourself when clearly my request didn't suffice? Did this have to wait until today when I'm sitting in the oversized gown with my breasts practically exposed? And is it really necessary for you to speak down to me when I look upset? Is it really so shocking to you that I look like I'm near tears? All I want is to get this done. All I want is to release control of this.

O God, why can't I just let this go? Why can't it be taken care of for me? Why do I feel responsible? I just don't want to fucking deal with this. I want my fantastic advocate to take care of all of these ridiculous details so that I don't control them anymore. I want someone else to have this because I can't take it. This is not worth my would-be shiny new pair of big girl underpants.


Stomping in the Snow

I've just returned from an afternoon of snowshoeing. When I moved to the Snowy North, I decided that I needed a winter sport that isn't as expensive as skiing. So, I bought a pair of snowshoes and started stomping through this state. What I love about this past time is that it requires you to do an exaggerated walk. OK, it doesn't require everyone to do this. But, it's my favorite part about tromping through the woods. (Other than, well, being in the woods.) I can walk around like a child stomping through puddles after the rain.

Water doesn't splash. However, on a day like today, there is a nice coating of ice on top of the snow which makes me feel like I'm crashing through the glass ceiling with every single step. It's very satisfying and recaptures my inner child. I love it.

It also allows me time to think. The first twenty minutes (or maybe thirty) had me thinking about the board meeting that I attended yesterday for a new organization forming up here in the Snowy North. If you have heard of the Interfaith Youth Core, you get the idea of what we are attempting. It's unique to this area and drudges up all of my concerns that Youth Ministry may be a thing of the past. Stomping through the snow, I worried about this. And then, I was reminded of the post that one of my new blogger friends offered yesterday. Miguel Angel is one of my good friends from seminary and has started to blog about his discernment -- which I love to read. I commented this morning that I do most of my thinking about life and faith while I'm walking. I reminded myself of this and turned myself away from church.

My stomps became more playful. The breaking ice was more satisfying as I started to think about the writing that I have just begun. I've been compelled to write a book for as long as I can remember. I've never really thought that I had a story to tell. And then, a friend of mine remarked that my work life should be a sitcom. She finds it most entertaining how I share my inner monologue with her that I don't share with those to whom I minister. Of course, this inner monologue needs a release. So, I've begun to write. It's the most wonderful thing I have done in a long time.

As I stomped, I started to think about the words my friend offered at New Years and the phone call that I received this week that continued this saga (after hearing nothing). I'm wondering if what appeals to me about Miguel Angel's discernment is that it resonates with my own journey. Maybe this is where I am too. Could it be? Or is there something else happening? Why doesn't God make Herself a little clearer?


Are You Kidding?

University students aren't safe. This scares me.

And yet, this scares me too.
I'm a little offended... and hysterical. And confused.



One of my favorite people just sent me an e-card from NOW which instructs me to love my body and take a quiz. I'm prone to distraction -- so I did.

Question 8 was:

A new trend of plastic surgery called ________ is when external folds of skin surrounding the vulva are snipped to better resemble images of "ideal" women.
A. fallopioplasty
B. vaginomentation
C. labiaplasty
D. uteraloptic
E. None of the above, this surgery doesn't exist.

Correct! Your Answer: labiaplasty. Correct Answer: labiaplasty
Labiaplasty is a procedure designed to reduce a woman's labia. Some doctors perform 40 to 50 labiaplasties a month on women as young as 20 years old, even though they can cost upward of $4,000 and take several months to heal. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) began collecting information on vaginal rejuvenation in 200. Growth in this area alone increased almost 30% from 2006.

This is replusive and upsetting. Once again, I feel called to Pray for Our Pussies. Sisters in Christ, let us pray. Let us pray that more women will know that they are beautiful. Let us model this with our curves and long hair. Let women hear the good news of Eve Ensler. And God, grant us peace in all of our pussies.


Cooking Creativity

On Monday, when it was time to write the Pastor's Message for the Church Newsletter, I asked our Church Administrator if it was too late to talk about the Practice of Lent. As I confessed to her, I'm still not sure what to do with this season. In her brilliance, she assured me that it was needed and valuable even if it did arrive one week into the season. She remarked: Write it for yourself. Isn't she brilliant? So, I wrote about Creating My Own Humanity in which I concluded:
In this season that came too soon for my human needs, I'm going to try to create. This Lent, I'm going to try to make spring. I don't think that this will result in a studio of complete paintings or a pile of short stories or even a completed knitting project. I am simply going to try to create -- for the sake of creating. I'm going to try to allow my human creativity connect with God in more places in my life. In these 40 days, I'm going to try to create -- and I may fail -- but this is part of my humanity too.

And so, I have presented myself with the challenge to explore my creativity. The snow storm (that changed to constant, endless rain that will soon freeze over) forced me to say home so I pushed up my sleeves to cook. I bought ingredients yesterday to make chili from my home church cookbook. Several years before I arrived, the church I serve now created a cookbook in which no recipe appeals to my palette. Curses of the New Yorker snobbery. I turn to my home church cookbook which offers yummy delights. It smells good too.

While I cook, I'm listening to NPR and heard a newsbit about this website: Couchsurfing.com. I'm fascinated. This summer, I will be traveling to Iona with two of my Young Clergy Women friends Teri and Amy. Our plan (I hope) is to spend a week in Iona in prayer followed by a week in Edinburgh. Before that, I'm hoping to spend a week in Glasgow wandering about by myself. But, it seems I could have a friend and a free (or really cheap) place to stay. How exciting. Or perhaps a little insane. I'm going to dream about that while I cook a little more.


No Motivation

Is this happening to anyone else?

Lent arrives and church life gets a little more exciting -- but I'm totally not interested. I'm finding excuses to not be in the office. I'm just not inspired. Maybe it's the endless snow. I'm glad that I didn't seriously entertain the thought of a call in Minnesota. Brrr.


Searching for Words

On Saturday, I hung up the phone after crying to my father. My knot had seemed better until I hung up the phone to realize that the knot is directly related to my stress level. I have no idea what is stressing me out. I know what was stressful in the phone call. I know what hurts and what I cannot fix. I know that that is part of my stress -- but I'm not sure what to do about it.

Since I hung up the phone, I have been wanting to write. Not just blog. Not just journal. Not the usual sort of writing that I do here and there. I have been longing to write. Perhaps I'm inspired by the book that I'm reading. Maybe I'm trying to find a way to express what is running through my head or the truth that I have come to know. And yet, I'm not sure where to start. I'm not sure where to begin -- so I'm searching for words.

Reverendmother is reading a book about unblocking creativity. I wonder if that would help. I painted this weekend when I couldn't figure out how to write -- but maybe I should just pick up a pencil and paper and allow myself to just connect. At the very least, I can rejoice that Obama won the caucus in Maine (even if the Democratic Party wouldn't allow me to vote). This is good news, my friends. This is change I can believe in even if I can't find words for my other thoughts.


The Practice of Lent

"Wow, that's really tight. Does that hurt?" the massage therapist asked as she worked on my back this afternoon.

Yes, it hurts a lot. It prevented me from getting a good night sleep last night and will probably prevent one tonight. It hurts so much that I am uncomfortable turning my head. The most annoying part about this discomfort is that I have no idea when this happened. I lifted on Tuesday night but I can't imagine that that was the cause. I may have slept awkwardly -- but I didn't notice it.

After our pampering this afternoon, Songbird offered an image that scares me. I had mentioned feeling like I had been stabbed in the back earlier this week. My colleague and friend reminded me of these words and said that perhaps my body is reacting more than my mind. If this is the case, it should hurt. And it does.

The suffering of Christ is not a theme that I find at all comforting during the season of Lent. I don't give up anything. I don't deny myself. I don't intend to suffer. And yet, here I am in complete pain feeling like I've been stabbed in the back. I'm not looking for a Judas among my circle. I don't need to worry about any of these possible metaphors. I'm not sure that they are helpful. Instead, I think that they might just make the knot in my back tighter.

Instead, I want to focus on the positive. This is what I want for Lent. I don't want to be the pessimist. I don't want to focus on what I am failing to do in my family and personal life. I want to acknowledge that the knot in my back is because of these strains -- and I want to let that go. I had hoped that my Lenten practice would focus on self care. I was hoping to find a better way to take care of my body. My body has beaten me to this desire. She has no interest in going to the gym -- but this body requires loving care so that it can experience some measure of rebirth. My body is forcing me to acknowledge what the rest of my self has lost.


Holy Lent!

I like to read during the Holy Seasons of Lent and Advent. What usually happens for me as these seasons arrive is that I suddenly realize the season has begun and scurry to find a book.

I thought I was on top of this this year. I am not. I had several options picked out. Yesterday, I ordered books from Amazon. One for my book group that decided to read this book and the other because Tribal Church and Barack Obama has got me thinking about the 20-30 generation. I don't want to read this for Lent. I want to read this because I'm curious.

I didn't order a book for Lent which means that I have to go to the evil mega-bookstore to find a book (instead of one of our local independent bookstores that don't carry any religious books not written by the Pope) to find a book. Here are my options:
OPTION A. I have this book at home. I found it on my bookshelf last night. It appeals to me and might be a good journey for me. Perhaps you are more well-read than I am and have read The Imitation of the Christ. This does have the added perk of not going to the bookstore.
OPTION B. Along with Borg and Crossan, I have scholarly crushes on Elaine Pagels and Karen King. I've developed a big crush on King actually -- less on Pagels after I've officially read everything she's written. Last year, they released Reading Judas. I think this might be an easier read and one I might enjoy more.
OPTION C. I have to add a little Crossan. He wrote this book God and Empire that's about to appear in paperback in the middle of Lent. I'm interested in this because someone recently told me that you can't talk about this in church. I believe the words were: "This doesn't preach." I so disagree. I want more information though.

So, I'm looking for suggestions. Please help me begin my Lenten Season.


Reading Challenge III

Last night, I finished The Book of Lost Things which was an impulse buy at the Borders 2 for 1 table. It's a book about a boy that is grieving the loss of his mother. Now you know why I bought it -- but it has a fantastic quality like Harry Potter.

The boy goes on a quest to find this book (among other things) and discovers himself along the way. I'm not sure that this is really a story about grief. I did however love what the Book of Lost Things actually was. It revealed more to me about the Bible -- especially since the entire book made me believe that it must be the Bible that would solve the boy's problems. Of course, I was wrong. A good read -- even if I am far, far behind Alex.