Sunday, November 25, 2007

And the Holy Spirit Said ...

"8:00!! Jude! Get up!"

And I rolled over and groaned -- I was so warm under the covers. I thought, I can try a new church next week ...there's always next Sunday ..."

And the Holy Spirit said again, "Jude! GET UP!! NOW!!"

And I rolled reluctantly out of bed. And I thought, What if I don't like it? What if they don't like me? What if nobody talks to me?

"Then talk to them first," the Holy Spirit said. "And, while we're on the subject, it's OK to stop whining now."

The Holy Spirit has always sounded a lot like my mom. Perhaps that's why I listen sometimes, and why I have always thought the Holy Spirit is female.

So I went to the little church on the hill in the country, after picking up my friend for moral support. It was a beautiful late-fall morning. We finally got our fall color, though after Thanksgiving this year.

The church was charming: small, old, with about 12 pews on each side. The service was blessedly familiar. The sermon was a real sermon -- it made me laugh and cry, the hallmarks of a good sermon. At the announcements, a charming and funny woman made a pitch for the Christmas pageant. It was like the Church on the Pike in better times.

At coffee hour, my friend and I were surrounded by people who had heard us singing. It's clear that we would be welcome in the choir. When asked about the parish, everyone said they adore the rector (she is on vacation, and the wonderful sermon was the work of a supply priest), and that the feeling of family is what keeps people there.

So, less afraid, I'll be going back there next week. Perhaps I have found a new home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mix-and-Match Holidays

OK, I'll admit it. I'm confused.

Today it was so warm that I had to turn on the air conditioning in order to bake pies for Thanksgiving. Unseasonable weather just annoys me.

But I'm not the only one confused. When I got home from work last night, I found a large box had been delivered to my porch. It was my Christmas wreath from L.L. Bean. Two days before Thanksgiving! I laid it in a shady corner of the porch, next to my large pumpkin, and I'm trying to remember to keep it moist.

Then there's my daughter, home from college for Thanksgiving. Now, one of her usual jobs -- because no one else can stand the tedium of it -- is putting together the artificial Christmas tree. She normally does this the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I feel that's really too early, but you're not going to find me doing it. This year, however, the only free time for the task was -- you guessed it -- today.

So I have pumpkins and gourds on the mantel, chrysanthemums in the kitchen, and a 6-foot-tall, naked Christmas tree between the living room and dining room.

Maybe we'll play Christmas carols tomorrow while we eat Thanksgiving dinner by the Christmas tree in our air-conditioned house!

Merry Thanksgivingmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Welcome Retreat!

Last Wednesday I went on a one-day retreat at a Roman Catholic retreat center about 15 miles from home. This was a first for me, and I was a little nervous -- but what a wonderful experience! The retreats are scheduled once a month, and attract several people each time. This time, several of us had come on our own, and a group of women also arrived together. Spiritual direction is also available, if desired.

Despite its location near a major exit of I-295, the silence in the house was stunning. We began with prayer in the chapel, and got suggestions for reading and pondering. Then we were basically given the run of the house and grounds. I settled down in the sunny front room near the cat, said a couple of rosaries, did a bit of still prayer, and then read awhile. I also bundled up and took a turn around the field, discovering in the process a wonderful labyrinth constructed by the simplest of means: the paths are demarcated by shallow trenches dug in the ground to separate them. I walked the labyrinth and was at peace.

Then it was my turn for spiritual direction. What a blessing it was! The nun I spoke with listened patiently while I explained the difficulties I face at church: the loss of friends who are leaving, the growing sensation of disjunction that I feel -- that the sermons are aimed primarily at new Christians and not at me, that there is a real dearth of programming for those who have been in the church all their lives, that the Church on the Pike is not "home" anymore.

She referred me to a book about coping with change, called Who Moved my Cheese?, which I have ordered. She also recommended ... that I find a new church.

But, but, but ...

Noooo, nooooo .....


But she may be right. I am not ready for this, however, so if I do it, it will follow a long period of prayer and discernment -- and a lot of visiting. The Holy Spirit is going to really have to kick my backside for this to happen. I'm going to have to find a place that clearly fits me better, where I don't feel superseded. A place where God wants me to be.

As Sister said, "God wants you to be at peace in your worship. If you're not, it may be that, for you, He has moved elsewhere. You have to find Him again!"

It's great advice -- but can I do it? I promised I would come back after Christmas and speak with her again.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Unlikely bedfellows ....

My husband and Bishop John Shelby Spong.

Not in the literal sense, of course! But my agnostic husband seems to have found common ground with the former Bishop of Newark, and I haven't stopped smiling yet.

It began when I first subscribed to the weekly email essay the Bishop sends out, and started passing them on to my husband (J.). He read them enthusiastically, and asked for more. Lately, I read Spong's Resurrection: Myth or Reality? which I found very thought-provoking. I passed this on, too, and J. read it practically in one sitting. Now it has disappeared from my bookshelf, and he's sharing it at work. "I like the Bishop's intellectual approach," J. told me. "He's struggling!!" Hmm. The implication is that any intellectual would struggle with the Gospel narratives.

I'm not so sure about the struggle. After all, Resurrection does affirm Jesus's close connection to God, and his appearance in some form to Peter and/or other disciples, though in Galilee, not in Jerusalem, and not necessarily within three days of the crucifixion. Bishop Spong's analysis of the midrashic method of the Gospels' composition (framing Jesus's life-events in the light of Old Testament events) does seem to me to be a reasonable approach. In the end, however, he leaves us with an assurance that "something happened" on Easter, whenever it took place, that transformed the lives of the disciples forever. This seems to me to be the most we will ever know in this life.

It's the Easter part I want J. to weigh in on. Come on, honey, I'm waiting!