Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What must perish

Last week was ONE of the rare weeks I had no time to blog and I am saying no to shoulds! It was one of the most intense, active weeks I have experienced and something had to go. Not the three-hour second interview or its prep and not the two grants due the day after the exhausting, but good, interview. So, it was the blog.

I missed it and things kept percolating all week. It really is my time to process the deep subjects, questions and concerns floating around my psyche. Then there are times I need to rant, tell a story or express gratitude. I am grateful for the outlet and the dear readers who linger and, often, take time to comment. It acknowledges that what I experience is not isolated ... that we all struggle and amble through life the best we can, attempting to remember there is a greater ONE behind the scenes.

I am currently feeling the need to deal with with Lent, my Quaker Meeting's 200th anniversary and the June 1 closing of the school where my studio has been located for three years. And, I'll take them in that order.

Lent never meant much to me growing up, except that the school cafeteria served up soggy fish on Fridays 'cause the Catholic kids couldn't eat meat, they gave up things like gum and candy, wore ashes on their foreheads and our Methodist Church changed its color scheme to purple. Of course, I understood it as a build-up to Easter.

Last year, the practice became much more personal and meaningful to me mainly because of my new spiritual director, an Episcopal, and because it entranced me, intertwining with the change of season, life-death-life and a very specific rhythm and focus. I haven't been following it so deeply this year, yet it calls to me. I understand it as a time of shedding, reducing, turning inward and seeking Spirit. Meanwhile, my exterior life ha gone haywire with busyness and so much uncertainty.

In the midst, my faith community reached an epic milestone culminating one Sunday week before last. We celebrated with guest speakers, visitors, former members, an old-fashioned carry-in meal and then Quaker author Phil Gulley and Quaker singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer.

I loved how Phil Gully just keeps expanding his circles of understanding and inclusiveness. I was moved in "If the Church were Christian" by the idea of universal salvation; that God's love is available to all. PERIOD. That is what I believe. He advocated that if Christianity, all 39,000 factions, is to survive, we must embrace other faiths and religions with the same idea of universal salvation. Christianity must change to survive. He's right. Life is change and anything stagnant dies.

And Carrie Newcomer's low and folky voice carries her deep wisdom into song. I've heard her described as the Prairie Mystic. She truly is. She sang my favorite, about the brown-gray geodes so common near her home in Bloomington, IND. Dull and dead-looking outside, broken open, beautiful crystals are exposed.

Again, life and death from both author and songwriter/singer.

It was a former minister's words, however, that woke me up. Jim Newby, also an author and now at Church of the Savior in Oklahoma City, talked about the challenge of building redemptive community. I immediately sensed his words were a challenge to my 200-year old church not to rest on our laurels and to take up this way of being. Redemptive community, he said, consists of:
• creating a place where we can expose and deal with our pain;
• nurture deep worship for reaching the living Christ;
• encouraging and supporting one another;
• being sure of ourselves and able to count on each other; and
• practicing unconditional love.

We do one of these well and another half well. The rest are untapped sources.

This week in worship, our minister asked what current truth we speak, as Quakers. It occurred to me that truth is only present when the first motion is love, not when we worship early Friends, social activism, the intellect or the Quaker way of doing things. And that Jim Newby's five points are the perfect road map.

Why must I be the negative Nelly, I wondered after delivering that message. At least four people later said they needed to hear that and it was truth. Wouldn't have mattered; I couldn't NOT have said it. Spirit was pushing me.

A few days later, in my "in" box, this devotional from the Henri Nouwen Society arrived:
"There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty. As long as we relate primarily to each other's wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.
Living community in whatever form - family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community - challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty, believing that there we can reveal our richness."
And so, when the e-mail came declaring we had to be out of the building by June 1, I was not surprised. While it tears me up to think this place where such beautiful things have happened will, likely, get torn down itself, I understand God may be making way for new things. Better things. Things we can not possibly imagine.

That wisdom would not have surfaced had I attempted to blog last week -- only now, when Spirit prompted.

• What practices help me avoid the shoulds of life?
• What meaning, if any, does Lent have in my life?
• When do I experience times of retreating, waiting, reducing?
• How do I recognize when Spirit is leading toward a death?
• How do I trust during these times?

last week
was not in the

did I really just
hear one of the
autistic kids
next door

clearly, thank you
sweet voice, it
was not

and I rested
any attacks
of the shoulds

because this
is the season
of pulling
away from life

and letting what
must perish die

because we
have the
example of
new life

before us


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