“…and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves.”

I have been intending to write since Thanksgiving evening but it has been a lot of false starts and deletions. The only thing that has remained in place is the title with John Donne’s words.

Thanksgiving was out of sorts, the local branch of my family is askew, and my children and grandchildren live too far away.

It is Sunday evening.  Before I sat down to write, I lit a candle, did a 20 minute sit of Centering Prayer, brewed a cup of Sleepytime tea, and unpacked a certain piece of holiday nostalgia which I will get to later.

I am physically tired from work, but I think I will hold up to write for a bit tonight.  This is one of those times when I keep dragging out an introduction.  Stalling, for some reason.  Under normal circumstances, I would get rid of all this extra chatter in my finished manuscript; but tonight I will most likely just let it go on as it will.  I am not sure where I am going, but expect to publish it before I go to bed.

I used to call this a candlelight write–something I have not indulged in for a few years . There is some kind of ache in my heart and soul I need to work out.  Maybe just a lot of transition in a short amount of time.

I liked the feel of the Mass this morning. I guess Episcopalians–among whom I am now included–call the service Mass. I still have my Catholic vernacular embedded in my brain.   At any rate, the change  to purple in vestments, the lighting of the Advent Wreath, my truly beloved O Come, O Come Emanuel–it seemed timely. My holiday mood needed an adjustment.

As usual, I could only hear about every tenth word that wasn’t written down in front of me.  I hope Roger’s sermon is on Facebook by now.  I will have to take a look at it when I am done writing.  I heard enough to think I know what he was talking about.  The same with the young woman who was speaking,  I think about tithing; and also the prayer or blessing  for adoption.

Still, I scooted out of church quickly, giving myself the excuse that I needed to make a quick stop at the grocery store before heading for work.  The gnawing ache or whatever.

I miss my parents.  Mom has been gone about 15 years and Dad almost 6.  I really feel like I “missed ” them, as well.  It’s as if they passed by while I was on a different track and I didn’t catch on to them in time.

One of my favorite Thanksgivings was Mom’s last one before she was too sick to care.  After dinner, she gathered us women and girls around her big craft table and organized a project decorating stacked flower pots to look like Christmas trees.  Of course, I took one look at my three tapering clay pots and saw a snowman instead of a Christmas tree, and asked Mom if she minded if I followed my instinct.  She said go with it, and I did.

That snowman is the object I unpacked this evening.  As far as I know, it is the only surviving souvenir of that Thanksgiving, and I can’t describe the mixture of feelings I experience every year when I take him out of storage.

Okay, I feel lighter, already.  I have a lot to talk about and think about, but I believe my candlelight write is complete.

Protect us Lord, while we are awake and safeguard us while we sleep, that we may keep watch with Christ and rest in peace.

(from Compline in the Benedictine Daily Prayer)

 

Goodnight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does green spaghetti sauce have to do with tithing?

Chopping parsley and smashing  garlic cloves the other day, my mind wandered to a desert monastery I used to visit in California.  The  recipe from This Good Food (French Vegetarian Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen) probably led me along this path as my my gluten free spaghetti noodles bubbled on the stove.

The meals I had the good fortune to share at the monastery were simple and usually vegetarian.  The thing I remember most is the loving way it always was laid out for us guests and the monks as we all congregated in the dining room.  Seated at the long tables, enjoying maybe a simple vegetable soup or possibly an  egg dish or some fish, it always felt so nourishing to the soul as well as to the body.

This monastery houses Catholic Benedictine monks, but thoughts expressed by a Buddhist monk came to mind as my parsley and garlic became more and more aromatic in the hot olive oil.  I don’t recall the exact words, but Thich Nhat Hanh had a simple suggestion that has stuck in the back of my mind several years since I read it.  He was talking about the spiritual value of seeking out sources of food that were grown or prepared mindfully with respect.  He said it may be that it would cost more, but you could make up for the extra expense by eating less.

My choice to make spaghetti with green sauce is not related to the source of the food,  but it is related to the idea of eating a little less–or, in this case, cooking with fewer ingredients for a less expensive  meal. I am not on a weight loss program, but my budget is on a diet.  I have already had to keep a close watch on my pennies, but now I have made the decision to tithe.

My idea of tithing thus far has been to look at my budget after taking care of my monthly expenses,  and then include my church donation in the budgeting of what remains.  I felt pretty good about doing that.  When my daughter told me she and her husband were tithing ten percent of their income before expenses, I was shocked and even angry that they would hand over to their church such a big chunk of their hard-earned and much needed livelihood.

But I got to thinking about how important this church is to me.  I got to thinking about how when I was raising my daughter and we ran into hard times, I always tried to take care of her needs ahead of mine.  All Saints Episcopal feels like an adopted family that I want to grow with.  There are a lot of needs to be taken care of.

So, I am going to give it a try.  I am not including my income from my part-time retirement job because that is unpredictable and hopefully I can make it up with helping out in other ways.

Maybe I will make some Potato Leek soup tomorrow, perhaps some homemade gluten free cheese biscuits. This could be fun.

To Sing is to Pray

I joined the small but mighty choir at All Saints a couple weeks ago.  I was hesitant to do so, what with my hearing and my aging voice and brain–but I am so happy I decided to jump  in.  I relish the work I find myself doing to keep up.

I managed to find my voice recorder in one of the boxes I had not yet unpacked from my recent move, and even found the extra supply of batteries.  So I brought it with me to choir practice  last Wednesday evening.  The recorder is a helpmate for my Tetris-like thought and memory process.

In case you are not familiar with the computer game, Tetris:  The game involves a series different shaped blocks floating from the top to the bottom of the screen, and the object of the game is to fit them together properly before it’s too late.

I can almost physically see my thoughts and ideas working their way down to where they belong these days.  Mostly it is just a matter of time, and they do get there eventually; but sometimes “eventually” is a little out of sync with the immediate need.

At any rate, I took out my trusty recorder and the sheet music and worked on it all this morning, and it gave me so much pleasure to sing these hymns and feel any missing links fall into place.

Singing was my most natural expression of joy at an early age.  My favorite pass-time was swinging in the backyard while I sang at the top of my lungs.  Whenever we were on family trips or “Sunday drives”  I opened the window and sang with the wind blowing my voice back into my face.

I am told that the first time my mom took me to Mass, I jumped up and started singing “Too-t00-tootsie, Good-bye”  when the bells were rung during Consecration.

I guess singing has always been something like a prayer to me, no matter what words were coming out.

At choir practice, we were working on mostly classical and traditional hymns, but one of the songs was contemporary.  It was clear that this was a digression from the usual choices for this choir.  I have to say, I love singing the more difficult work but bursting out with the simpler hymn is also a joy.

It seems that when we work hard on creating a beautiful and complicated piece to present during the service  we hope to show how deeply we respect and honor God.  But when we sing something simple, we are showing our vulnerability, admitting that we are but naked, helpless children before God.

Both approaches are valid recognition of God and our relationship with him.

This thought also rings true to me in regard to traditional worship services and churches versus the new modern Christian churches in their various contemporary forms.`

How I spent election day

I am very tired and I haven’t finished setting up this blog site, but I wanted to get some words in.  I will try to keep this short–in fact I will try to keep all my entries short.  (Being prone to rambling on in journals, we will see how that claim goes.)

I woke up around 7:30.  I had left myself a note on the refrigerator to go vote, but I had not forgotten.  I made a cup of Irish Breakfast tea, got dressed, tucked a zip-locked gluten-free blueberry scone into my purse and headed out into the drizzly morning.  It was pleasant going into the local Park and Recreations building a few blocks off the town square, standing in line a short time, exchanging smiling hellos, casting my ballot electronically.  I confess to not knowing most of the locals, but I punched  in anyone not republican everywhere I could and hoped for the best.

I had promised myself a real cup of coffee as a reward for performing my civic duty, so before going back to my car I walked looking for the little coffee house I knew I had seen around there somewhere.  After some meandering about the nearby alleys, I located the little shop and went in.  Beautiful  place, enlarged photos of Guatemala on the walls .  The proprietor enthusiastically described his different ways of brewing coffee available and I had him make me a latte (no flavor added).  “Ah, coffee flavored, ” he said approvingly.  I wandered about looking at the pictures and masks and other Guatemalan items and he told me about an upcoming film and Mayan dance presentation.  I asked if he minded if I ate my gluten free scone there, and he said no problem .

When I finished my treat, I spotted some prints for sale, and went over to browse the large collection of note-sized photography prints.  I selected one that appeared to be a table set for The Day of the Dead, and I asked him if they had a similar celebration as the Mexican one I knew a little about. He told me they had this amazing tradition of flying kites and took out his laptop to show me pictures.

Wow!  These kites are huge, taking five or six people to launch them.  Many are round, though there were other shapes.  They remind me of  mandala designs.  Apparently whole families work together making these kites for months before the Nov 1 celebration.  The kites are to honor their loved ones and ancestors, the idea being that the string connects the earth and the heavens.  At the end of the ceremonies, they set the kite free.  This whole thing just tugged at my heartstrings (sorry).  They put in all that work and then let it go.  Like sand paintings.  Like life.  Amazing.

Anyway, my coffee house visit took me to a better place than election day.

Now I am back home after work and dinner and shower watching the election results with very little sound and the closed captioning traveling across the screen,  It is later than I thought and I haven’t really been paying attention.  It’s beginning to look like Trump is winning.  This is so surreal it is giving me a stomach ache.  I think I will let the final results play out without me.

God bless America.  Really.  Please.

Goodnight for now

First blog post

Now that I took the plunge and was received into the Episcopal Church last Sunday, I can’t get over myself.  Part of me feels relieved, as if I have come to rest after a long and convoluted journey.  The rest of me says, not so fast.  You did not come here to rest.  You joined this gang of  misfits because you need them and they need you–the authentic you.   There is a lot of work to do.

Scary stuff for me.  Commitments.  Trust.  Confidence that I have something to offer.

O God, come to my assistance.  O Lord, make haste to help me.

We’ll talk again.