Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Lamentations

It’s funny how sometimes God knows exactly what you need.

Turns out what I needed was the last thing I wanted to do. As I had mentioned, I spent the weekend in Anaheim at the Religious Education Congress. I had two big events on the schedule: I was coordinator for the Lamentations Liturgy on Friday night (a role which entailed a lot of planning, some same-day meetings, organization of all materials, and finally participating in a small choir) as well as a hired choir member for the Celtic Liturgy on Saturday evening. Even though the two events were on Friday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 5:15pm, respectively, there were plenty of meetings and rehearsals to attend in the hours leading up to each event. I knew it would be exhausting.

Usually when I arrive at Congress, the opening ceremony is one of my favorite events. It’s always filled with good friends, amazing music, fantastic preaching, and a lot of joy. This year I couldn’t shake the heavy darkness. I felt terribly sad on Friday morning. I didn’t want to be at Congress. I just wanted to be at home, in bed.

But as the day wore on, I had to step into the leadership role that I had come to fill. Which was a bit of a distraction. We heard a good talk by Ron Rolheiser, and we met up with some friends. By the time the Evening Liturgy of the Hours came around 5pm, I was feeling a little more at ease. I heard my friend Theresa preach, which was absolutely amazing, and we were able to catch up a bit afterward. My soul was nourished, and I was ready to coordinate the Lamentations service that night.

Something happened at the service. I started out worried that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done–after all, the service really was the brainchild of Bob Hurd, an icon in Catholic church music. I didn’t want to let him down, especially after planning together so carefully for the last few months. I had friends coming to sing with us, and I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed. I needed to set up the environment. The moments leading up to the service were hurried. And then it started.

As I started out saying–the last thing I wanted to do was the thing I needed most. The last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour lamenting. I didn’t want to think about sadness anymore. Yet the more I had pushed the sadness away, the more it had begun to eat away at my joy. Avoiding it wasn’t working. I suppose sometimes you just have to face the darkness head-on.

So, for an hour, I mourned. I mourned surrounded by good friends on each side of me. I mourned with the assistance of the same liturgical dancer who had danced at our wedding, only this time she was dancing the grief of Mary of Bethany after her brother Lazarus’ death. I mourned as we sang Taize songs, the same songs I had sung many times while leading Taize at LMU. I mourned, deeply and sorrowfully.

And when it was over, I realized that I didn’t need to cry anymore.

The next morning, it was as if everything had changed. The sun suddenly seemed bright and inviting again. I wanted to enjoy Congress. I wanted to spend time with friends. I wanted to dance. I wanted to laugh with my husband and do silly things. I didn’t want to be alone in bed anymore. I wanted to grab life again.

The wisdom of God is absolutely perfect. And God knew exactly what I needed to heal.  And life goes on.

Progress and rainy days

It’s a rainy day here at the homestead. We’ve had a wonderful week–during the day I’ve been working on the house and the land, and in the evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time with new friends.

For a surprise, I cleaned out the garage for Rob and laid out his tools so he can put them in order. Our garage had exploded into a mess of wood bits, sawdust, grout, paint, half-filled water buckets, and trash from our week of bathroom construction, and I knew that the mess was weighing on him. So I took a sunny afternon and cleared the trash (5 construction trash bags full!) up to the barn, swept, and put things in order.  After all…he works so hard to make this dream happen. I want to make his time here at home as calm and enjoyable as possible, because I truly appreciate that sacrifice. He’s quite a man, my husband.

I’ve also got almost 3 sides of our “gopher fort” dug, chicken-wired, and filled. I had to call off the digging today because the rains have settled in for a couple of days. But once they’ve passed through and softened up the earth even more, I’ll be back at it.

Speaking of our garden, our fencing arrived this week. Which means after the underground gate is in, we’ll be digging post-holes and setting up our cedar fencing. I’m excited about that. We also spent a lot of time looking through an organic heritage seed catalog and picking out our seeds. I’ll be ordering them in the next few days, although they’ll arrive throughout the year (some seeds and some seedlings) depending on what type of veggie it is.

Another exciting event of the week: the former owner of this house was watching his friends’ chickens while they were on vacation, and pulled me along for the ride. I got to meet 8 pretty laying hens, and we plucked four eggs from the roost. He let us keep them, and we were eating honest-to-goodness farm fresh eggs the next morning. I can’t wait until we have our own, but we have a lot of work to do on the coop and the fencing before we get there.

Our beehive equipment also arrived! We’ll be spending some time this raining weekend assembling it all. All the books I’ve been reading say that it’s a good idea to get everything assembled and ready a few months ahead of time–that way, when the bees arrive, all you have to worry about it getting them settled in. Since our bees are set to arrive April 16th, I think we’re right on schedule.

Our evenings were spent at the houses of our new friends. It’s been quite a blessing to have only been in town 8 weeks and already have people with whom we enjoy spending our time.  I’m also beginning to appreciate the gift of knowing people that are different–different beliefs, different lifestyles, different values, different hobbies. Many of my friends from college and grad school were people who were strikingly similar in our core belief systems and interests. I’m not sure if that was just dumb luck or if being involved so closely with LMU Campus Ministry shaped it, but there is was. This was a blessing to me at the time, because it helped me to become more comfortable with my newfound place in the church, in my faith journey, and in my own self-confidence as an increasingly independent woman. But now I find myself appreciating that I can share my life (and faith and values) with people who don’t necessarily share them in the same way. I can appreciate where they come from and why they see the world a certain way. Being in seminary really  began that part of my journey, and living in Tehachapi is continuing it.

Finally, the big news on the homestead: we’re hoping to trade in one of our cars this weekend for a truck (well, kind of a truck). We’ve been looking at different trucks and have our eye on a Ford Expedition that is in our price range. It has the power and (hopefully) the room of a truck, so it can haul a small animal trailer or have a few hay bales stuck in the back. At the same time, it has plenty of room for what we hope to be an expanding family. So we’ll see how it all turns out. If we like the test drive and like what they offer us for the car, we’ll have a dependable four-wheel drive for our next snowstorm.

Communal Hope

IMG_5416Rob and I spent some time chatting with LMU students last night about Creation Care. Officially, he and I were speakers on the topic for a “Theology on Tap” gathering. But, as seems to continally be the case, I found that as we ministered, so we received blessings tenfold.

These young men and women were mostly seniors in college–about seven or eight years younger than me. They are filled with a vibrancy and hope that inspired both of us.  I am finding that as I speak to more and more people, it becomes clear that the ideas are out there. The motivation and desire exist.  Most people just need one or two things: a little direction, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their journey. This is why I am so passionate about speaking on Creation Care–not because I have an abundance of knowledge to impart, but rather to give people a reason to come together. As we share ideas, talk about what one another is doing, and make connections, we build a network of support for one another.

Which leads me to comment on the thought that has been turning over and over in my head throughout the last three weeks of this quarter: the lynchpin of all sustainable Christian movements is communty.

True community is sorely lacking in many of our most foundational Christian gathering places.  We seem to get very comfortable in the way things have always been, and are anxious when we consider things being different. What if we really knew the people in our parish–really knew them? What if we extended our boundaries beyond Sunday Mass or meeting with fellow parents in the school parking lot, and decided to try to model the early Church of Acts? I’m speaking mostly to my Catholic brethren now, because this is the community with which I have the most familiarity. My experience at Fuller has taught me that there is much we can learn from some of our brothers and sisters in certain Protestant denominations.

I had a class last quarter with a young man (he couldn’t have been over 24 years old) who had formed a group of about fifty people within his church. They decided to be a type of “emergency ministry.”  Any time a person in their congregation had a personal emergency–a woman’s transmission suddenly blew out, or a father lost his job unexpectedly, or a family didn’t know how to pay for a child’s school supplies–they went to this group of people. Everything was out in the open and nothing was secret. The person would talk about the problem with the group, and they would find a way to help. The natural checks and balances within the community kept the system sustainable; since everyone saw eachother at least once a week, people could continue to see how the person was doing as the emergency passed. Likewise, the person knew two things: they could depend on the community and that they were responsible for how they responded to the gift. The young man described great success with this program and told us that it did bring the church community much closer in their support of one another in time of need.

I tell you this story because I believe it shows the importance of community in our Christian lives. Often we look at the problems of the secular world and feel overwhelmed. How do we counter a culture of overconsumption and spiritual starvation? The answer, I believe, lies in community. We must break free of the idea that we need to “go it alone” or accomplish everything as individuals. In community we are stronger, and in community we can accomplish more through our combined gifts than we ever could on our own.

Back to the idea of our experience at LMU last night. Forming a small community–even for a moment–was just one example of how we might support one another as we seek change in our world. I think that every opportunity should be taken to do this. It may be for one night, it may be for a whole year. But forming community and supporting one another is essential. We cannot live out Christianity in solitude. That’s just not how it works.

Thank you, LMU students, for giving me more to think about–and for giving me more hope. I am continually amazed and grateful for the potential that God has placed in each of us. Think of what we can do with that potential….together.

Never the Same

Photo credit: www.lmu.edu

Photo credit: http://www.lmu.edu

I’m sorry I haven’t been on for a few days. I, along with the community of Loyola Marymount University, am mourning the loss of one of our most beloved family members: Sr. Peg Dolan.

Sr. Peg was one of the best mothers I knew, and she never had any biological children. She remembered the names of students who had graduated thirty years prior–along with the names of their spouses, children, even parents. She was always in high demand on campus, but never was too busy to sit over a cup of steaming tea to talk with me about my latest spiritual dilemma. I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in saying that she epitomized a living saint. Everything she did or discussed was rooted in deep devotion to God. And yet I never knew her to judge or deny anyone based on their personal faith struggles or perceived failures.

One of my favorite sayings of Sr. Peg was, “Pray from where you are at.” She didn’t expect someone to be comfortable with leading spontaneous prayer if they had grown up only saying Hail Marys or Our Fathers. Likewise, if one’s only comfortable way of prayer was casual conversation with God, it was perfectly fine with her. Or if it was song. Or even the unspoken groanings of the heart. It didn’t matter, she said–as long as it’s connecting with God, it’s enough.

I will miss Sr. Peg. A lot. I know heaven is throwing a party for her, and she is now face to face with the God she loved so much. But I’m feeling selfish. I feel sad for us. I can’t imagine a world where people can’t talk to Sr. Peg. I can’t imagine that students will no longer be able to hear her wisdom. It just doesn’t make sense to even write that she “was” a breathtakingly beautiful woman. The world truly will never be the same without Sr. Peg in it. And that  makes me sad.

Thank you, Sr. Peg, for enriching my life. I can only pray that someday I will make a fraction of the difference you did in this world. You inspired thousands–literally, thousands–of young men and women to love God more deeply. I am one of those women…and I will be forever grateful for the gift of your love in my life. I can’t wait until we have tea in heaven someday. Keep the water hot until I get there. 🙂

Dream big. Big enough to fulfill God’s dream for you, a perfect human being. Make the gift of your life become a masterpiece each day, that you will help make your life better for you and all you meet in your life journey–no matter where you are, or what you do.  

–Sr. Peg Dolan, RSHM

Education, not disappointment

 

IMG_5086Rob and I continued our path of forming relationships with farmers last night through a 3-hour dinner with our bison farmers from the farmer’s market, Kathy and Ken Lindner.  There is a deep wisdom, accompanied by comfortable kindness, in this couple.  They make you feel at ease, and within moments of talking with them you are assured of their intent: the wellbeing of and right relationship with creation (specifically of and with bison).

There’s so much I could write about regarding this holy encounter, but for now I will focus on one phrase of Kathy’s that struck me. We had commented that so much of what they encountered when trying to sell their meat to grocers and restaurants (compared with their current model of selling directly to custumers at farmers markets) must have been extremely frustrating and disappointing.  Kathy’s reply was simple, but profound: “It was education, not disappointment.” She went on to explain how each part of the journey, even ones that didn’t end up fruitful, was part of their education toward what really needed to happen–for their own good, for the good of the customer, and for the good of the bison. Because their philosophy is not steered by making money, but rather by contributing to the Greater Good, it seemed to me that theywere able to put these “frustrations” in the proper perspective. Disappointment is a matter of expectation. Education is a matter of learning, of growth. The same circumstance can be seen either way: it’s our choice on how to perceive it.

I think this is such an important lesson in my own formation. It’s so easy to see setbacks or delays as disappointing. It’s so easy to be discouraged when people just don’t understand the importance of balanced food ethics, or their role in a culture of over-consumption, or the crucial element of conscious solidarity in an active faith life. It’s a temptation.

Yet I think it’s important for me to realize that passion can only take me so far in my faith life (and consequently my vocation). Zeal isn’t necessarily sustainable. It’s valuable, and certainly can be used for goodness, but it’s not sustainable. It’s what is needed for a sprint, but not a marathon. What I pray for today is the sustainable maturity of faith that Kathy and Ken showed us last night. They may not necessarily use those Christian terms, but this language speaks to what I need and pray for–grace to mature in my faith, to be content with the process, the lesson, the metaphor, the now.

The willingness to see the education rather than the disappointment.

Working Toward Community

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 One of the joys of this past week was that we were able to host many different friends in our home. We cleaned our home, making sure it was a welcoming space. We made some homemade butter, baked bread, and made ice cream. We prepared meals from our CSA and farmer’s market produce, eggs, and meat.  We even harvested some of the vegetables and herbs from our own garden.

It was a wonderful and exhausting week. Many glasses of wine were poured, stories shared, dreams explored. We spent many good hours with those we love.

But I think it’s important to acknowledge that community doesn’t usually just happen. It’s cultivated, like a garden. It must be tended. Part of tending to community is putting in the effort to make it happen.

I’ve written before about how much we enjoy seeing the fruits of the work of our hands and how work can actually be an important spiritual discipline. I think these are important to keep in mind when cultivating community. It’s easy to get caught up in the not-so-fun aspects of community (i.e., how much work it is!). But the truth is, it’s sacred work, and it is necessary. And often the work can actually be shared…and (gasp!) sometimes even fun.

These are two things that I think we need to be more willing to do in our churches: make conscious efforts at cultivating community (beyond the 5 minutes over donuts after Mass), and engaging in the work that is necessary to keep it up.

Attachment to an Outcome

Today was the first day that I really put our one-car-commitment to the test, biking farther than was convenient for me and, frankly, a little further than I mentally was comfortable with.  I had slept poorly last night, and woke up feeling cranky and tired. As I watched my husband drive away to work this morning, I was sorely tempted to just grab my keys and hop in my car. 

But a funny thing happened. As I rode, I felt my tension begin to slip away. I felt myself settle into the slower pace of the bike as cars zoomed past me. I became attentive to my muscles, especially my glute muscles, working to propel me forward. I found myself becoming proud of being a self-powered machine, crossing a distance that would have just been a 10 minute car ride.

Before riding back I had a great conversation with a friend and mentor. As we sat with coffee in our hands and the warm summer air filling our lungs, we talked about life and faith and everything in between. I love talking with her because I always learn so much from her; it’s just one more confirmation for me that we are all more connected than our compartmentalized-prone minds would like to think. She, a Buddhist, and I, a Catholic, share so much spiritual common ground. We may use different words or manifest it in different ways, but in the end it’s really all about love. A continual reminder that everything is gift.

One of the things we talked about is attachment. Why is it that we hinge so much on particular outcomes? Why are we attached to things turning out a certain way, or achieving some sort of contrived ideal? The thought occurred to me as we spoke that I would never fear failure if I wasn’t so attached to a specific outcome. If I concentrated more on the process, on the journey, then whatever happened at the end of the road would simply be an extension of the journey. There would be no “fail.”

I think this concept of attachment can really be a hindrance to many Christians’ sense of evangelization. I see so often that the evangelizers seem so attached to a specific outcome that it stops being about the people involved, about love, even about God. It becomes evangelizing for evangelization’s sake. One more notch for the Lord’s team, right? But this is wrong! Part of the whole purpose of evangelization is to spread love. If there is no love in the process, there can be no love in the outcome. So often we fail to accept where people are at because we are so fixated on where we want them to be. True evangelization is simply bringing people closer to a life fully immersed and exploding with love. It’s not about committing to certain practices or saying certain words or signing on the dotted line. It’s about love. Love, and love, and more love.

In any case, this message of detachment was further reiterated as I rode my bike home. Here I am, far from a avid cyclist and steadily pedaling along on my trusty Marin hybrid. I didn’t have any fancy bike clothes. To be honest, I know I kind of looked like a dork (and a slow one, at that).

As I went, there were several occurrences when sleeker, faster cyclists passed me at speeds that I thought were likely humanly impossible at the time. I was breathing heavily up a hill, happy that I had the guts to even stay on my bike, and three 20-something guys on fancy road bikes passed me easily, laughing and joking and making it look like it was the easiest thing in the world. It was tempting to be discouraged.

But I caught myself. What outcome am I attached to?, I thought, remembering the conversation I had had just a half hour before.  I am not attempting to achieve cycling perfection here. My purpose is to be in solidarity with those who don’t always have a car at their disposal, to recognize the value of physical work, to accept and embrace voluntary displacement.  I needed to be detached enough from the need to be “good” at what I was doing in order to get the good out of what I was doing.

In the end, the journey really was the destination, anyway…I just had to let go of the idea of “achieving,” sit back, and enjoy the ride.