How to Snatch Joy from the Jaws of Despair

DSCN11691. Have a ‘mater sandwich for lunch on Grand Forno fresh baked, black olive bread, using the first ripe tomato you picked from the garden.  And have the tomato taste as good as I remember tomatoes tasting when we grew them in Memphis.

Maria in Apopka the Morning I Dropped Her Off At Sleep Away Camp in 2011

Maria in Apopka the Morning I Dropped Her Off At Sleep Away Camp in 2011

2. Fill out the application for the Girl to get to go to sleep-away camp this summer on the hope that she will have a good enough spring to be able to actually get up to Camp Thunderbird in Apopka, Fl.

3. Dance all through the house to “Who Let the Dogs Out” with Boo, Daisy and Maria on a Saturday when Ms Maria is in good enough shape to be able to have  2-night sleepover at home. Then pack up a picnic dinner to eat on the beach.

Where I Do Not Want to Go

photoIt was another tough ramble last night.  It rained during most of my time walking and I say something about where I found myself when I say I welcomed getting cold and wet because it was a distraction from misery.  I was only about a block from our home when a large shadow arced right in front of me and settled back on a tree.  I turned to look though I already knew it was my sweet friend and totem, the owl.  For the heck of it, when I got back home, I did a quick Google search on “owl totem”.  The site I landed on said

“*Intuition, ability to see what other do not see
*The presence of the owl announces change
*Capacity to see beyond deceit and masks
*Wisdom
*The traditional meaning of the owl spirit animal is the announcer of death, most likely symbolic like a life transition, change” (http://www.spiritanimal.info/owl-spirit-animal/)

Now, this is all as loosey-goosey as can be and I know it.  At the same time, if there is anything I know for sure  it is that since I first began this blog, right before Ash Wednesday of 2011, much of my life has been about trying to see in the dark, walking with very little in the way of light and clarity.  Last night when I looked at the picture I had snapped of my fellow creature, I was struck by the enormity of eyes that have evolved over time to receive as much light as possible. This is a necessity to survive and make sense of what seems senseless.   A piece of music I listen to often on my rambles comes from Godspell (yes, I date myself; along with Jesus Christ Superstar, this is some of my most favorite 20th century reinterpretation of the story of my faith). Except now I think the way I must sing this is “Night by night, O dear Lord, three things I pray”.  I am getting used to the truth that it is in the night that I will find and be found–and that even in the darkest nights there is enough light to see.

Glory

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Jan Richardson continues to inspire and challenge me through her magnificent posts at the Painted Prayerbook.  Her insight about glory, allowing glory a place in our lives, is particularly instructive to me today.  She says, The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing to walk where it leads us (Painted Prayerbook).  This was an intense weekend from beginning to end.  All kinds of unexpected things have happened I’m still sorting out.  And today, my work is a funny and strange echo of the weekend.  My first major project with ECF is to develop a workshop that includes a section about the ways in which teams in a congregation must come together and define their work based on a process of discernment that allows the Gospel to inform, challenge and shape team members as individuals and team results as well.  In short, I am developing a 3 hour ‘mini course’ on discernment for lay+clergy teams.  What I am trying to do for myself, distilled and made as practical and accessible as possible.

I started my work early this morning, sitting at the desk in my new workspace.  The temperature is 78, we have low humidity today and a there’s a light breeze so the door next to my little office kept swinging just enough to make me aware of the weather.  I finally stopped, came out and just got washed over by wonder.  This is glory made manifest in creation.  Allowing glory into my life today meant moving my desk out here where I stop from time to time, allow myself to really breathe and abide with my work, the confusion and ambivalence, and sheer beauty of the day.

Transfiguration

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I made myself my usual oatmeal and tried to figure out if I would get a pedicure and then go to the beach or  go up to Boca to do some more photography at the Japanese garden.  My colleague Joe Duggan has been here for the weekend, helping the parts of the New River Regional Ministry begin to have the harder, deeper conversations that no one really wants to have but are essential if this ministry is to survive.  Joe and Sherod got up a while after I did and as we discussed the plan for the day, it became clear I needed to participate in this work, even though my role is strange and ambiguous right now.  So I did and entered into a day loaded down with history, hurts, hopes, and contradictions that make my head want to explode sometimes.

All the while, I kept thinking about my friend, my dear friend, who was off getting married as we did this work.  A little older than me, life has not been easy for someone who was widowed once, divorced the second time around, raised kids as a single mom and now smiles out of pictures with a sparkly spark that makes her and me giggle when we talk about it. Old skins, new wine, Cana.

Then, it was back home to scramble to finish ECF work I had to get done before heading out for a walk earlier than usual but better suited to dinner plans with our houseguest.  I hadn’t gotten down the block before I was on the phone with the daughter of the first parishioner at St. Ambrose who took the risk to  allow me to be her priest.  M. is in hospice and slipping away very quickly.  Up the road I went, to Boca, and gathered with her son and his family to say those exquisite words of farewell I have said twice before in the past month.  This one got to me.  M was conscious enough to listen intently, to whisper amen’s from one petition to the next, to be willing to receive my thanks when I leaned over and kissed her forehead.

I will be up very early tomorrow to finish my sermon on transfiguration, having had one of those days when I am conscious with enormous rawness that it’s not just occasionally, but rather, every. single. day. when  briefly, the sun burns away the fog, the clarity pierces, the pieces arrange themselves in stark and complicated simplicity, and I realize way more is asked anew of me, way more than I had dreamed was expected of me or I was capable of doing.

I will slip in between the sheets of my bed tonight aware that I am not the person I was when I woke up this morning, that my world has once again, shifted under me and tomorrow I set out to keep trying to find my way.

Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace camino y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar.