I moved to the Community with my family in 1988 when I was 10 - which gives away my current age! I am now a solemnly professed member - I work at Paraclete Press, the publishing arm of the Community and I love my job! I also sing in the choir Gloriæ Dei Cantores, and am a member of Elements Theatre Company and Spirit of America Band. As a Docent for the Church of the Transfiguration, I get to discover new things about the church every time I share it with someone else. When I'm not doing one of those activities, I love to spend time with my dog or my "extended family". There's a lot of variety in my life which keeps me energized - and I'm learning how to be more in the moment so whether I'm at a rehearsal, or making dinner in the kitchen with 5 girls, they all get 100% of me!
Someone sent me an email on Saturday night that made me angry. On an impulse, I sat down and sent them an angry email right back! I knew I would regret giving in to the temporary relief of lashing back, and I even said as much in my reply. Normally, I pretend I’m not upset, console myself by playing out various venomous responses in my mind, and then store them away for future ammunition. This time, I wanted to do it differently. I hit “send” on the email, and on the way out of the room I ran into a friend. “How are you?” she asked. So I told her about the email I received, and my tort reply, and then I asked, “How do I do it — how can I be honest but not mean?” She said, “Just keep talking to God and asking him what he wants to teach you about yourself.”
So I re-read the email and asked God what he wanted to show me. I tried not to focus on what I thought the other person’s problem was. And I knew for what I needed to take responsibility
I went back to the person on the other end of my email rant and apologized. And here’s something I learned: When I focus on what God thinks of me, and what HE wants to say to me, then I don’t put so much pressure on people to assure me that I’m OK. And when I’m not putting pressure on others, we can just talk like two people doing the best we can to move towards God.
I find myself confronted today with things in myself that I don’t like to admit. For one thing, I am determined to hang on to control of my own life — and it’s not working out very well with my vow of obedience to God. I like to think I am available with an attitude of “here I am Lord,” but that is far from the truth. I feel myself resisting to my core — reinforcing a wall around my heart.
The painful part is admitting that my way is not always best. My pride screams out that this can’t be possible. I doggedly hang on to my way, even when it’s squeezing life out of me. I sat down this morning and thought, “I need a word about hard hearts.” I proceeded to open my daily devotional email. And there it was: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts,” Psalm 95.
We just heard yesterday in church about how the Israelites doubted God even though he had rescued them and provided for them. But he wasn’t doing it the way THEY wanted, and their anger led them to even question God’s presence. The remarkable thing though, is that, despite their grumbling, God still provided water for His people in the wilderness. His love baffles me — because it is not how I love. He will do whatever it takes to bring us to where he has called us to be.
The meditation by Oswald Chambers that went with today’s scripture:The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to hurt or offend. Jesus Christ has no tenderness whatever toward anything that is ultimately going to ruin a man in the service of God.
I stepped outside for a quick breath of fresh air this morning and found a patch of sunshine. The warmth on my back felt wonderful, having emerged from an air-conditioned office. I think I sighed out loud which only my dog heard — a moment of relief.
The moment was shattered by a gentle gust of cold air, a whispered reminder that today is the last day of summer and we turn our face towards autumn, my favorite, and then winter. I shook off the breeze and headed back inside. And the thought blew across my mind — Truth is like that sometimes.
Sometimes we’re tempted to seek out a tiny patch of sun in our life and curl up to soak it in, halting any forward motion. In that moment a cool breeze passes over us carrying with it a word of truth we need to hear, or a poke to get us to keep going so we don’t settle for the little bits of sun.
And the question is, will we turn up our collar and tuck our head down to keep it out? Or will we let the breath of God shake our branches free of old leaves so they are ready to bloom again?
I’ve always been intrigued by the verse in Genesis that says, “but there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” It puts this beautiful image in my mind of the Garden of Eden, colors alive with newness, in full bloom, and a fine mist hovering over it all catching the light. (I wonder if God gave a sneak preview of his rainbow).
I was up before the sun this morning — working on a project until it was time to take my dog out. I went a slightly different route than normal and arrived at the harbor around 6:30. The sun had just barely left the horizon, and was splashing the water with streaks of pink and gold. I stopped and my dog sat quietly. I turned my head to look towards the end of the harbor and there it was. Rising up from the water was a fine layer of mist, gently moving with the currents of air and rising to follow the sun. And, somehow, I felt some of my anxieties of the day lifting with it.
I was thinking about God’s will, and the focus and discipline that it takes to see His vision and follow it no matter what. Focus and discipline are two words I do not say lightly, or with a lot of joy. I am just starting to be willing to believe that they are the avenues to spiritual freedom, although it takes every ounce of my energy to choose them over my desire for ease and independence.
And suddenly, I had a picture of a kaleidoscope. As if that is what it is to see God’s will. I have to narrow my scope, cut away the extra little plans I’m holding on to, and be willing to look through the small little hole. Because each explosion of color and design that surprises you on the other side are more than worth it.
I am one of those people that struggles not to live on a merit system. Time and time again, I compare myself with those around me, and evaluate who gets what, and why I don’t have what I think I deserve.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of the Community’s founders, Mother Cay and Mother Judy. I was too young to have taken in their teaching at the time, and it’s a gift to be able to hear their words — spoken to individuals who lived what they heard and became the founding generation of our Community.
There was a lot to take to heart, but one phrase stood out to me about my constant comparing. In speaking about control, Mother Judy said “you negate Jesus Christ when you live according to a merit system.”
It seems so clear, but hearing it again had a fresh impact. Why do I assume God’s role, and decide what I should and shouldn’t have? And where does that leave space for the mercy and love of God?
Our daily devotional had a meditation on Saturday that caught my attention. It was a quote from Richard Rohr in his book “Hope Against Darkness”, “God makes grace out of our grit; salvation out of our sin. We are saved, ironically, not by doing it right as much as by the suffering of having done it wrong. We come to God not through our perfection as much as through our imperfection. Finally, all must be forgiven and reconciled. Life does not have to be fixed, controlled, or even understood to be happy. Now be honest, that is good news.”
What I am compelled to admit, is that while I love the look of this in writing, I often don’t live this way. Too many times I forfeit the short road to God by fighting to be right in any given moment, instead of accepting my imperfection. I sacrifice the happiness that comes with being unfixed, out-of-control, and misunderstood. Instead, I bolster my efforts to control my own life, fix the chipped paint of my exterior, and press my point until I feel I have been heard.
It reminds me that recently I heard someone say, “sometimes you just have to surrender . . . to fall back and trust that arms will be there to catch you.” So I offer up my prayer: Lord, give me the grace, like a spiritual skydiver, to let go, fall back, and let you make some grace of my grit.
I was working on a project the other morning — one that involved keeping careful count of an item, and therefore required my full concentration.
My dog was with me, quietly hovering just on the edge of my circle of focus . . . except for his insistent repetition of dropping his tennis ball on a box in front of me, or at my feet, and then backing up expectantly, waiting for me to catapult it into the air so he could give chase. He’d pull back and wait for a minute, then, if he did not get the desired response, he’d snatch it up again and drop it an inch away (as if maybe just a slightly different location would inspire a better result). We’d had our play time so I ignored him while I finished up.
But at some point he pulled my focus away from my task and onto his face, his ears alert, jaw twitching, and wide brown eyes full of confident and hopeful expectancy — truly believing if he just kept at it, eventually I’d turn his way and kick the ball — which I did.
And it hit me — here was an image of our relationship with God — or perhaps what it should be. Not that He ignores us, but sometimes the answer doesn’t come in the time I want it to. Too often I quit and simply walk away from the ball — or maybe snatch it back in frustration and sulk — or tear it to pieces. But maybe the point — and the work — is to stay in the constant state of hope and expectancy, believing that the answer WILL come — and poised and ready to spring after it with all joy.
Tucked behind the set of our theater production of “Julius Caesar,” I have had the unexpected privilege of hearing comments from the audience as they return to their seats after intermission. The set is outside in the atrium of The Church of the Transfiguration — the stone paving and imposing columns setting a believable scene for this historic tale. Inside the side aisles, the roof gives way to open air — the moon and stars add to the elemental thread through the play.
As I stood there two nights ago in silence and out of sight, I heard two women walk by, heading back to their seats. One of them said “I just can’t help but look up to the heavens now and again — it’s so beautiful” and her friend replied, “I know, and to see that huge angel looking back down on us — amazing!” I smiled to myself at the reminder to look up to the heavens now and then, and know there are angels looking back whether we see them or not.
Yesterday was the feast day of the Transfiguration, the name day of our church. Our Sunday Eucharist was enlivened with movement and brass fanfare and ribbons streaming from the west wall depicting the Transfiguration story. But what’s on my mind is transfiguration in its broader sense — most likely prompted by the combination of yesterday’s service, and the impending opening night of “Julius Caesar” this Friday by Elements Theatre Company. It’s a big word for a concept that is both basic and immensely mysterious — change.
A word most of us both long for and avoid. I easily focus on the little changes of my daily life — an updated rehearsal time, a cancelled event, a new living situation — and I overlook the fact that life itself is one big change, and one we can’t measure by time or distance. Like St. Paul says in the scriptures, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Degree by degree, moment by moment, becoming who we are meant to be.
What eludes me sometimes is the fact that God can use anything to bring about this change. It’s not about me trying to become different — it’s an action God does in me when I say “yes.” Which is where “Julius Caesar” comes in. Isn’t part of what draws us to theater — or any art — is the potential for change? To see something a little differently, experience life in someone else’s shoes. I wonder if theater/art is one of the few places we humans are actually open to having our minds or opinions changed — maybe we even long for it. The “Julius Caesar” I read in high school, held at arms length, is quite different from the “Julius Caesar” I am living now. And sometimes just the willingness to engage (to consider that what seems like an old story from history, actually has something to teach us now) is all it takes to start the change.
I have a quote on my desk that I love and says it far better — it was said by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, Director of the Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage in Florence, Italy. He says the role of an artist requires him or her to give to others and therefore inspires us to look to him/her as a giver of spiritual life and “by doing that, we acknowledge art’s potential to nourish our craving for richer, deeper, more meaningful life, and we are already changed.”