I Could Get Used to This…

Post Script–I get to watch The movie SPANGLISH with my girl during church time–Sweet!

Today, I feel like I am finally returning to the land of the living–been a while since getting sick laid me so low. But the meds are doing their thing. Now, the trick is to get all the way well.

I haven’t missed Sunday morning work because of illness in years. Today wasn’t a great day for this to happen–there have been some pretty significant events in the past week, both good and not so good. I had planned with some care how I would handle both in our community. I really like how Sunday mornings create a space every week for a kind of honesty and clarity that aren’t always possible in other places. After all, week after week we do the same thing: we remind ourselves how we fit into a far larger story than our own, we acknowledge how we have failed each other, failed ourselves and failed the One who is more ready to forgive and transform than we are willing to imagine, and then we gather around the table for a feast. You can work through a whole lot of failure and celebrate joyfully when that is the basis for meeting week after week. So different than punching in and punching out….

That said…I am aware of a major shift working its way through my understanding of my role and vocation. A friend describes it as the tension between total involvement and total indifference. Now, indifference has some pretty negative connotations in most circles. However, Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, describes a way of orienting ourselves to the world with “a complete indifference with regard to all created things, not preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to humiliation, long life to a short one. We wish only for those conditions that will aid our pursuit of the goal for which we have been created.” Others might call this detachment, but I have come to see holy indifference as another way of describing that notion of Disponibilité, spiritual availability, that Gabriel Marcel writes so movingly about. It is hard for me to make myself available to my work, or my marriage, or just about any other aspect of my life, without wanting something in return. Holy indifference supposes that in God’s abundance, what I may need or desire will be provided for without my having to work feverishly and fearfully in any of those parts of my life. What I have to do is show up and do my best.

I won’t show up at church today. But some pretty wonderful people from our small faith community will work hard to ensure all goes well during today’s service. I have the rare privilege of getting to sit with my iPad, reading a bunch of different Sunday editions of newspapers I love. I had a delectable cup of coffee earlier and a simple breakfast. Since then, the pattern has been this: I read a while and then I nap for a bit, luxuriating in the Mallowman’s recliner that makes it easier for me to rest and breathe today. I am feeling better and I suspect I’ll be ready to go back to work tomorrow. However, I’ll admit I could get used to this way of spending a Sunday morning…

“I Exist”

I have written sharply and very critically about the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel and I still don’t much like what that place represents.  Last night we got to the concert quite early so María and I sat and watched.  Her eyes were wide open and though I was feeling just this side of warmed-over death, I was quietly content.  Behind me I could hear people from Medellín speaking in their distinctive accent.  I could hear others who hail from Cali, and a few Bogotanos.  Amazing, how happy it made me to be surrounded by those accents!  At the beginning of the performance Juanes did shout-outs for different nationalities but mainly, he recognized different regions and cities of Colombia and we were there; man, we were all there it seemed.

When I bought the tickets for this concert, I was aware that I constantly search for ways to give my daughter whatever I can of a teen ager’s life.  This concert wasn’t the same as a Justin Beiber concert, which she probably would have enjoyed even more.  I might still try to figure out how to take her to a concert like that some time.  Probably the differences between Juanes and Beiber are miniscule.  But the sheer commercialism of the Beiber machine makes me a little sick to my stomach. And this was good, in fact, it was great. María got to experience what it is like to have a full throttle loud band where it felt like the percussion section pounded so hard it edged towards respiratory therapy for my aching, congested lungs.  She loved the noise and I was glad I had my ear plugs. There is something about being jam packed with people you don’t know but who can sing along just as lustily as you do—and that too was part of the experience for my girl.

It wasn’t more than a few beats into the opening number and we were all on our feet dancing to Tengo la Camisa Negra.  We sat back down for a very few ballads but the rest of the night was  all about the dancing.  Miss María was enraptured.  Juanes engages his audiences and it seemed like everyone there was an old friend of his and everyone knew all his song.  In fact, several times, he stopped singing and the audience carried the melody.  She with her gimpy ankle, I with my gimpy hip, we are two improbable dancers, my girl and I, but we danced.

At one point, María leaned most of her body back against mine, so thoroughly and innocently enjoying the rhythm and the closeness.  I know María was hardly ever held as a baby and even as a little girl, she struggled to let us hold her.  Every unexpected chance I get like this is a small moment to redeem what can’t be changed.  It was also one of those flashes of understanding that isn’t so much about words but what your body can teach you.  I am mindful of the irony that it is when we most clearly inhabit our bodies and inhabit the world in the fullness of our incarnation, that we are also most able to transcend it.  This, this strong young, somewhat awkward body, solid and real and right there dancing leaning against me, this was my daughter.  My own body, aging, aching last night, but still upright, was a wall she could lean on.

Along with beat and rhythm that had no subtlety, there was a tiny bit of the magic that was beautiful and poignant and barely visible.  A person with María’s cluster of vulnerabilities tends to be extraordinarily egocentric. From the first time she heard we had tickets, she was sure that Juanes was going to be so happy to see her.  We weren’t in the nosebleed section but we weren’t front and center either.  I watched María bring up her hand shyly, almost tremulously, with that combination of hope she might be noticed and dread he might see her, and kept giving these little fluttery waves in his direction.   Some of the time she tried to do it more vigorously, but not too much.  I am here.  Can you see me?  I exist.

You can see her waving in the little snippet at the top of this post.  The singer did not—could not—turn and look directly at her and wave back. We were simply too far away.  But this morning, when her dad drove her to her day cam program, she told him Juanes had waved to her.  Whether he did or not is beside the point.  A couple of the people close to us did make eye contact with her and smile.  The very beautiful young woman sitting on the other side of Maria danced with her for a bit. Sometime towards the end of the concert, María put her head on my shoulder and said quietly, “this is a nice birthday”.  She never stopped waving.  I have wanted my daughter to know she exists in all her radiant, complicated, fractured singularity.  All that waving was an annunciation of sorts. She was there.  She exists.

Being a Priest, Being a Woman, Revisited


Those ramblings of mine while I was running a high fever earlier this week?  My concerns are articulated powerfully in this post.  It is not my intent to whine and feel sorry for myself.  More than ever, I see my own strength and ability to do the work I have been given to do faithfully and competently.  I don’t waste time wringing my hands and playing ‘ain’t it awful’.  But one of the most insidious parts of any and all ‘isms’ is their ability to burrow deeper and deeper below the radar, where it is easy to ignore them.

Sexism is alive and well.  It lives and moves and has its being in the Church.  In this country.  In all kinds of places.  And I, for one, refuse to allow that fact to go by unacknowledged. So there you have it!

Now I have a bunch of work to get on with because Hallelujah, I feel better.

Pray For Me, A Sinner

I’m still running a temperature, though not as high as yesterday and this morning. My bones ache and I still feel like I have bands of steel making it painful to take deep breaths.  The thing is, tomorrow night, whatever it takes, I’m taking my girl María to a Juanes concert–her birthday present.

He’s sort of a pop singer, sort of a roquero, and he is from Colombia. It will be loud and raucous and a good gift for my woman-child who inhabits little pieces of the world we call normal. Juanes won my heart with a very moving song he wrote during the time last decade when my country of birth became a hell of land mines. He performed Piedras Minas during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2007. And he also has fun and silly songs. I hope it is an evening filled with squeals and all the other things that go with a concert. I am prepared–bright pink ear plugs and my iPhone virtual Zippo– the classic one. Now pray for me, a sinner–you have no idea how much I`m having to buck myself up to go to that concert given how I’m feeling.

Being A Priest


I am running a temperature of 101.8 after Advil. I have slept as much as my aching body will allow for now; I’m that weird combination of woozy and bored I get when I’m sick like this. My iPad has become a source of mild amusement. Sherod and I have this table where we drop our collars as soon as we can get them off after church on Sunday. That’s what I can see when I peer through the camera viewer.

I am reminded that in 1988 I was deeply conflicted with the church and also the bride of an Episcopal priest. In the diocese of Alabama, Bp Stough was beginning to tiptoe in the direction of ordaining women. Enough that by then, there was a group called the Clergy Spouses of the Dio of Al. That was good. The name of their monthly publication was Ring Around The Collar. The masthead included a picture of a nice, manly-man clergy collar threaded through a petite, obviously feminine wedding band. That was not so good. Poor Sherod. This feminist, disillusioned wanna-be priest would send him down to the mail room to throw away that damned rag before it entered my home.

I much prefer the two collars in our not so tidy room. I know our PB is woman and there are plenty of women in the church. On a lot of days though, I suspect at least some of us wonder if the main part of our work is still about rolling that Sysephian rock more than we should. That’s hard to think about; I am going to catch me some more sleep…

Colegio Bolívar-Clase de 1978

Image 1

Something I said I’d never do:  go to a class reunion, especially not a high school class reunion.  What I am doing on July 26 and 27: having two of my classmates from Colegio Bolívar stay over at my house so they have a place to crash for the class reunion we’re going to.  My class graduated on June 9, 1978 so it has now been 35 years since I saw most of the people I will see next month.  A couple of weeks ago, a number of our classmates met in Cali.  Those of us who couldn’t make it down to that reunion started chatting up a storm on Facebook and before you know it, we were planning CB78-USA.  David, who lived down the street from me in Cali now lives in Davie, just a few miles from my house.  Margarita, another classmate, lived in Weston for a long time.  There are several more in Miami.  José, another classmate who lives in Cali, may actually travel up here for the reunion.  I hope he does. Of our class of about 37, I think there will be 8-10 of us gathering and Roxanna, Debbie and I will probably stay up late talking–high school sleepover, all over again!

So what has changed, what is different, given the finality of the decision I made to put as much distance between myself and a period and place in my life that I experienced as terribly painful?  Time, obviously.  Facebook is a strange and marvelous creation for its persistent, ‘in your face’ reminders that we never really leave our past behind.  We get lost and then get found by each other in so many different ways.

We are offered opportunities to re-consider what we saw and understood about ourselves.  Who are these folks who I grew up with?  Colegio Bolívar was a Pre-K-12th grade school opened initially for the children of expats doing business in Colombia.  It was also small.  The majority of my class started with me in Pre-K so we spent a long time together in pretty close quarters.  What was once a well organized and ordered set of data points—x is friends with y and is not friends with z—is much more random now.  I am curious and strangely grateful to spend even just two days with people who knew me when I was a little girl, who knew my brothers, who came to my house, who woke up and saw the same Farallones de Cali I did, who maybe still miss them like I do.  And several of my classmates will probably remember my mother.   So yes.  I am very happy to get to do something I never thought I would do.

My Dad


My dad turns 86 next Saturday.  This week we’ve been reviewing his Excel spreadsheet detailing the plans for the family reunion in Sweden in August.  He also told me he’s considering subdividing the property his house is on and building a much smaller place because the house in Boquete is too big and too loaded with memories that make him sad.  He’s already started laying out blueprints for what he wants.  At the end of that particular Skype session we discussed a trip in August of 2014 to visit my cousin RoseMarie in North Carolina, and then going on to Yellowstone, a place he’s always wanted to see.  That’s my dad!  I thank God for him today…

Some Kinda Beautiful

IMG_1214The abundant rains of the past week have ferns growing in all kinds of places…

IMG_1217Royal Poinciannas are exploding with color

IMG_1215And this morning, waiting for a meeting I was quite anxious about, I sat where I could reach out and touch a Meyer Lemon tree already filling with fruit, I could feast my eyes on orchids, and remember ‘ Becky, who lived her last years in something one can only describe as penury, and left a $250,000 bequest to All Saints which helped make this small paradise called Becky’s Garden  possible.  Some kinda beautiful…



I love the solitude of the weeks when María and Sherod are off on one of their adventures and I especially love when Friday comes around.  It’s been a stressful week with work.  More than usual, we have had drop-ins at the church, folks who were lost and at their wits’ end and desperately alone.  One of them came in and visited for a while one day and two days later, yesterday, was back.  A distinguished-looking person in his late fifties who once had a good job and a good life, he fell through the cracks with the Great Recession of 08.

M recently got a 2-week gig with a large temp agency to do heavy labor in a warehouse.  When he went to deposit the paycheck in his account, just in time to pay rent and avoid eviction, it didn’t clear.  He tried again a couple of days later and it still didn’t clear.  No one from the temp agency would work on this with him face to face—he had to call a service center and would find himself waiting up to an hour on hold, listening to god-awful Muzak. He was shuffled from one person to the other. It was all made worse because, though he is here legally, his English isn’t great.

Finally desperate, he went to one of these check cashing places, the ones that are so exploitive, and got the money he needed.  Except that, even though this was now 10 days after having received the paycheck from this global temp agency, there was still a ‘stop payment’ on the check.  Now the harassment began.  At all hours of the day and night.  By the time he came to see me, M could barely hold it together because he was so distraught.  The A/C in the parish hall had not been working, I kept losing internet connectivity all week, a couple of other things were pressing in and here was this person struggling to explain it all to me, shoving little pieces of paper across my desk, giving me wrong phone numbers to call, getting me on calls with people who put me on hold as well or, worse yet, were insulting and demeaning to us both.

After about 20 minutes of this, I’d had enough.  I followed him in my own car and we went to the nearest office of the temp agency.  The only ones there were the site supervisor and another person sitting behind a desk who might have been a temp worker himself. Basically, I pulled out all my big guns. I said I was M’s pastor, I was trying to help him resolve a problem caused by the temp agency and if the agency didn’t get it resolved quickly, I had lawyers and the press lined up to demonstrate how this multinational is exploiting a person legally in this country.

At first, I got the run around.  I must have looked pretty determined because the young woman got someone on the line and we were able to explain the situation to a person who could do something.  Again. But first we had to hold for 20 minutes.  The agency called the check cashing folks to confirm that a new check had been issued to them and had been mailed and got a commitment from the check cashing folks that they’d back off the harassing calls.   In these situations I always try to emphasize that I understand that the person interfacing with me probably has their hands tied and I try to treat them with respect. There was some small amount of humanity and humaneness in the encounters with the temp agency staff.

I also talked to someone who is probably either Pakistani or from India, at the check cashing place because I wanted to be sure that the agency service center people really had talked to him.  When I had first called this person from my office earlier in the morning he was just awful.  When he figured out I was actually trying to fix the problem, you could hear the weariness slide into his voice as he explained about the boss getting on top of him because so many people kite the system.  M didn’t necessarily get much dignity back but hopefully will not get harassed any further.  And I got back into my car and struggled not to sob.

I am a powerful, privileged, competent person and I am in ministry, what someone beautifully described as the last great generalist position around.  I can tackle a broad range of problems and meet a lot of different kinds of needs.  I write applications for grants where I get to throw around phrases like, “we leverage the resources and generosity of two different faith communities”.  It all sounds so hopeful and I want to be clear, I am in awe of the fact that I get to be a priest.  But the extent of the exploitation I see is appalling.

I curled up on my spouseman’s easy chair this afternoon and read a book  called The Little Way of Ruthie Leming which traces a person’s exile from and return to a small Southern Louisiana town.  It’s all about belonging and being claimed.  Even the land claims this particular prodigal son as he returns home.  So many of the good people I know around here are not claimed, have no notion of what it means to belong in and to and with a community.