Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Church is Home

"Don't you hate high church?" asked a friend I had not seen in years.

To be fair, she didn't know.  Flashes of my recent Confirmation service went through my mind at lightning speed.  I couldn't decide whether to start my I love the Monastery speech or just look at her like she was crazy.  In a moment of Jesus filled grace I calmly asked, "Why do you?" 

"It's all pomp and circumstance.  No one even believes in God.  It's all rituals.  They don't even use the Bible!"
I bit my tongue.  Hard.  I could feel the Holy Spirit kicking me in the head, "Don't be snarky!!"  (Yes, in my world the Trinity uses words like snark).

It certainly wasn't the first time someone didn't understand my decision to leave the Baptist Church and join the Episcopal Church.  And she didn't even know that yet.

I snapped back to attention when she asked, "Oh yeah, where do you go to church now?"

To everyone who takes church for granted, I recommend taking a break.  Due to bunches of circumstances I spent over a year without a church family.  So many nights I prayed through tears that God would lead this life not just to any church, but to where he wanted me to be.  I learned a lot about ruthless trust in that season as Sunday after Wednesday after holiday I thought, "Life is lonely without a church family.  I know God is bigger than a building, but I need a building!  I need a place to go and more than that, a place to be."

If you've followed this blog for the past year, you know in ways only God could, he answered those prayers.  To sit in church and worship today I often fight back tears as I recall God's gracious faithfulness to this one tiny life.  He gave me a building, people, a church family and his love.  And he let me grow up in my faith through the process.  I gained far more than I lost for sure.

She was waiting on my answer.  Not wanting to start an argument I could feel my eyes start to fill up with tears.  "I go to the church that God chose for me.  I go there with people who love him and believe in sharing that love with the world.  I go there because God is there, because I know he's at work in my life every time I kneel in that pew.  Because every time I celebrate communion, I'm sure all over again that he is with me.  Always."

And later I thought, "I worship in that building with those people because on this journey to Heaven, that church feels like Home."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The cross that binds us

The cross is the tie that binds us - to each other, to Christ, to eternity.  As it turns out, it's also that shape that holds our bodies together.  Simply described, Laminin is a protein network foundation for most cells and organs and without it tissues would not, could not, survive.

My prayer almost as a mantra lately has been that God would be at the core of this life.  At the heart of my decisions, the reflections of my behavior, and that the foundations of my relationships might be rooted and maintained by His  very being.  

It's helpful to think what holds me together both spiritually and physically - is the cross.

In yoga this morning I thought about how many tissues it takes to hold a single pose.  The amount of coordination for the body to move at all is another miracle worth noticing in itself.  I couldn't help but think of God at the center. 

And, like most days, I took what I learned there off the mat and into my day.

As my feet move, I'm praying they bring the good news of God's love to the world I encounter. 

As my hands move, I'm praying they are extended in peace and love. 

As my heart beats,  I'm praying as blood pumps through this body, God would flow through me.

And I'm praying that the cross would be more than the symbolic representation of my faith.  More than jewelry.  More than featured on my walls and engraved on the front of my Bible and BCP.  So much more than an earthly mark.

I'm praying I would remember that my cells cry out to be connected to him.  That I'm just passing through.  It was his sacrifice that led me to him, his love that keeps me near him and the cross that leads me Home.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Peace Love Jesus and Coffee

Not surprising, but still entertaining that this found it's way onto my desk today.  If the sides and title of this blog didn't give it away - I love coffee.  No, really, I do.  I love the way it tastes, the way it smells, and how it represents quality time shared with friends and quiet moments with God.  

I love when people ask me over for coffee.  There's no pretense, no expectations, only time.    I've spent many hours at Starbucks laughing and crying with those I adore the most.  Time is my love language and mixing that with caffeine and long discussions of Jesus is Heaven on Earth for moi.

Added to a life of 2 full time jobs, yoga, church, friends, home and 3 dogs.....this week I started my Masters Degree in Psychology.  It's an intense program with 10 projects and 10 papers due every 10 weeks.  That seemed easier when I was signing paperwork.  But, I'm determined to not just finish this degree, but finish well.  And that decision starts at the beginning.  

My two observations so far are....

1. Success is going to require a lot of coffee.  I've spent 12 hours at Starbucks already since Wednesday doing research, writing and reading.  What can I say?  I focus better with free refills.

2.  I need God big time.  More than once this week, waves of being completely overwhelmed have threatened to knock me over.  I've asked myself if I can honestly do well all that I'm committed to and still properly care for my own well being.  Can I work hard, play hard, study hard and rest enough to hear the voice of God whispering his plans and love into my life?  

I've combated these fears with a few plans....

1.  I'm adding more yoga classes.  I know that seems counter productive to time management, but it's critical for soul care.

2.  I'm returning to strict keeping of the daily office.  Prayer is my saving grace, but the rhythm of prayer gives me a map for my days.  I'm rekindling daily scripture reading and making a concentrated effort to find God in every moment of every day.

3.  I'm nurturing the communities to which I belong and maintaining the God connections in my life.  I need the break of lunch or dinner with friends, yoga with people of a similar mindset, and deep conversations on a walk or over coffee with spiritual people who encourage and inspire me to love God in the messy places.  

And I'm coming back around to where I started:

Peace - that I'm where I am on this journey and moving forward for reasons I may not know.

Love - Keeping those God has entrusted to me close and showing up often for those relationships.

Jesus - He's enough.  He just is.

Coffee - Because sometimes it's what ties it all together.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Monastic answers to death and dying

No secret - I love the monastic life.  Had I arrived on this Earth a different gender, drawn to a different denomination and with a different calling......I would have been a monk.  Spend my days with the liturgy of the hours and like minded people in a community of prayer?  Sign me up.  As it turns out, that is not my calling, but the life I live is forever better from time spent in their homes.

The Abbey of Gethsemani will forever hold a special place in my life as the first monastery where I spent much time with the daily office.  But, in recent years, mostly due to location, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA has become a second home to me.  The schedule is rigid, but the monks are more laid back, easy to talk to, and several have a wicked killer Godly sense of humor.  

Father Corley was the first monk to welcome me the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.  He was animated and friendly and such a wonderful example of one content to be living out his true calling.  He died last week just 2 months shy of his 100th birthday and I've been thinking ever since how much I love the way monks care for the sick and dying.

The monastery infirmary has 10 rooms and 4 additional rooms serve as assisted living.  Brother Amelio had this to say about caring for one of the monks dying there -  

"I am amazed at his calmness, something I am sure that I would not have if it was me going through this procedure. He is a man of deep faith, prayerful, kind, thoughtful and insightful, so he has a lot of maturity that he is bringing with him to the table. I suppose his whole life has prepared him for this moment. It is no accident that he is this way, his maturity is based on a multitude of small choices over the years, that have led him to be the man he is today. Growing old in a graceful manner is not an accident, at least in my opinion."

They care for each other.  They are committed to working out their differences and living together in harmony.  The strong help the weak and the weak accept support when needed.  In my experience there, the living care for the dying and the dying inspire and encourage the living.  And not just physically.  It's a place where you can be whatever you are at the moment.  Strong, weak, questioning, filled with answers, assured, insecure, angry, peaceful, hurt,'s fine as long as you're committed to finding God at that particular juncture on your journey.  And at the heart of those who love Him, who isn't?  

The answers to death and dying in the monastic life are simple - Be there.  Show up.  Don't shy away from the heartbreak of death when people need you most.  Be alive in your grief and be present every moment of every day.  Come to think of it - that's how they do most things.

I'm grateful for Father Corley and the many monks there that allow fellow travelers to find Christ in all circumstances as a guest in their home.  I've found many answers within those walls and will continue to.  But, the next time I go, I'm pretty certain it will feel like someone is missing.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Next I'm going to

Finally decide on going to grad school?   Check.

Enroll in grad school?  Check.

Get accepted to grad school?  Check.

On-line education?  Yes.

Master's in Psychology?  In process.

Starting May 16th ready. or. not. ?


Here we go!