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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Deeper Things

Since we began meeting weekly, we’ve been a small handful; well, usually less than a handful, if I’m to be fully honest.  We are a sincere handful, though!  In fact, it is a joy to be able to speak so intimately with those who attend, and I find that including some discussion within my weekly message gives it unexpected life.  It’s no wonder Jesus preferred to have his little band of friends and family sit with him to learn about the deeper things.  And that is what I believe he taught.  Deeper things.  Metaphysical truths.  How to become a more spiritual person.  How to discover, through that spirituality, ways to bring God’s Love into the world.  How to be Love in the midst of oppression, anger, fear, and hate.  Indeed, how to be a Spiritual Warrior.  For, I do think that Jesus was a Spiritual Warrior.

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing ways to become Spiritual Warriors using Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in chapter 5 of the New Testament book of Matthew.  Specifically, we have been centering on the list of blessing we call the “Beatitudes.”  I call them the “Be Attitudes.”  You see, one way that I find to interpret this list is as a list of attributes of a Spiritual Warrior.  So far we’ve dealt with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.,”  ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted..” and“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  If you’re interested in what we had to say, just click on the links.

This coming Sunday, February 15, we will be talking about “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  We’ll consider:  what is righteousness?  Who are those who hunger, who thirst for this?

Feel free to join us at Red Mountain Park in East Mesa.  We meet at or near the Owl Ramada at 4:00 p.m.  If you can’t make it Sunday, our discussion group meets on the first Monday of the month at the Macayo’s on Baseline and Dobson in Mesa at 6:30 p.m.  Our next meeting will be on March 2.  We’ll be discussing ideas and thoughts about belief in things greater than ourselves.  How do you perceive the universe and the place of humans in that universe?

Blessings to all!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lighting Brigid's Fire

St. Brigid in the Desert has started meeting as a church again.  We're meeting weekly - which is an unexpected turn of events, really.  It was in some ways a difficult decision, yet in another way it was the simplest decision of all.  It took a long time to decide what to do.  I knew the time was coming to light a little bit of Brigid's fire, but in my overwhelmingly busy life, I couldn't see where I was being Called to go with it.

Then, I started that whole journaling thing back up, an experience I wrote about in my last blog.  I was poised to graduate from my unit of Certified Pastoral Education, and I began to allow myself a little more time opening to Spirit.  Answers to my questions about what I needed to do next began to flow into my mind and settle into my heart.

First, find a place to meet for a discussion group once a month.  We'll be starting an open discussion on various topics at Macayo's in Mesa on Monday, February 9 at 6:30 p.m.  The first thing we'll be discussing is whether or not we believe in "God," and if so, what we believe.  There is no requirement to believe in anything - just a willingness to discuss our thoughts about things beyond our perception and to accept the thoughts of others.

Second, I knew St. Brigid needed to become more of a church than it has been in a long time.  It weighed heavily on my heart, yet after I decided upon the place and date for our first discussion group, I knew what to do for the worship service.  We met this past Sunday at Red Mountain Park in Mesa.  We will meet there every Sunday at 4:00 p.m. until we discover a better place.  I found a nice spot at or near the Owl Ramada that is first come, first served.  If we can meet under the ramada, we will do so.  This past Sunday, I set up my table nearby and a handful of us met around it.  We spent a little bit of time reviewing the history of St. Brigid in the Desert and the Universal Anglican Church.  We prayed, I gave a message, and we shared Communion.  The entire service can be read at my sermon site, Sermons from an Inter-Spiritual Priestess.

Last week's message was about becoming Spiritual Warriors.  One of the tools for doing so, I said, was to think for ourselves.  It occurs to me that if only we thought for ourselves as we come into conversations with others, it might be easier to be ourselves all the time.  Wouldn't it be easier to avoid hypocrisy if we worked toward being who we are and what we are called to be, instead of trying to be what someone else tells  us we're supposed to be?  This doesn't require that we drop everything we've been taught - it simply requires that we think about what we've been taught and how it applies in this great big wonderful pluralistic world we live in.


I'm such a heretic.

In honor of St. Brigid, here's a beautiful song to light a fire of inspiration, played by the 1999 Hopkins Junior High String Orchestra of Fremont, California.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Friends in Thin Places: Looking for Liminality

Approaching another New Year, I find myself pondering the purpose of my own experience once again.  This has been a rough year all around, and without knowing why, I've found myself feeling frustrated, and even angry, for days on end.  I fought the feelings with vigor, pretending I was different and that somehow I could rise above my own humanity.  You see, after everything hit the fan and I found myself biting the heads off people who did not deserve my wrath, I began to realize that perhaps at least part of my problem was simply that I am human.  Humans get tired.  I have been multi-tasking, being strong, working hard, going to school, doing an internship, building a new marriage, watching my children grow up and out, trying to keep the peace between others, and trying to figure out what I'm called to be when I grow up for so long, I have no idea how not to be so busy.  It's been a couple of weeks since I had the first indication that I've been too busy for too long.  I just had no idea that it was building to the point that I was going to blow.

It could have been worse, of course.  It could have been like it was when I behaved poorly during my certification process with my previous denomination.  This time, I didn't do or say anything I couldn't apologize for with sincerity and have it be accepted at face value.  The unfortunate part is that it isn't over.  I'm still busy, but as I begin this last approach to the new year, at least I have an sense of when the worst of it will have passed.  The problem is that I don't know what to do with it.  I have a list of things I need to work on, not the least of which is to envision where St. Brigid in the Desert is headed as a church.  I promised the greater Universal Anglican Church a class for the online seminary almost 2 years ago, I think.  I need to work on that.  Yet, knowing that I have these and other projects ahead of me, I fear that first step.

There was a time, not so very long ago, that I was always aware that I stood on the threshold to a new life.  I felt joy looking forward into a new day, knowing that there is always not only hope, but expectation in the awakening.  I felt magick in the air on cold moonlight nights and sensed a shift in time and space as I walked the labyrinth or sat beneath my tree in meditation.  In my home office, I have a wood block wall hanging into which is carved a saying from my childhood:  "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  I lived by that saying, expecting a spark of inspiration and a reminder of the divine every single day.  I found liminal spaces in all kinds of places.

As 2014 drew to a close, I lost that sense of newness with the sunrise.  I could not find a place where I felt God's Presence for more than a few moments.  All I felt was tired.  I was very tired, and very separate from All That Is.  I had built a wall of busy-ness around me.  I created a cell of certainty that I knew where I was going and why I was going there.  I don't know why I built it, but I do know that whenever it has begun to crack in the past, I have filled those cracks with more busy-ness and more certainty.  Eventually, I guess my wall was so solid there was no "breathing room" left.  No room for flexibility.  No room for God to breathe new life into mine.  There was nothing left to do but curl up inside the wall and give up, or burst.

I discovered the first trickle of air coming into that cell when I chose to pick up my old-school journal and a pen a couple of weeks ago.  There's something about writing out one's thoughts in good old-fashioned cursive that makes them real, rather like confiding in another person.  Amorphous thoughts begin to take form.  Looking back into the journal, I was reminded of earlier goals and of dreams both literal and ideal.  A journal is a liminal place, a space between then and now, here and there, within and without.  I remembered how much I needed that, and I remembered the importance of my friends.

We all need friends who will not only listen to us when we whine, complain, scream, and bite the heads off innocents, but who can also point out the places where we might find a crack in the wall we've built around ourselves.  I need friends who recognize the Thin Places.  The places where our spirituality and our physical lives meet.  The places where we can meet with God.

 Perhaps I have been going through what St. John of the Cross called "dark night of the soul."  The light, of course, always present, but unseen.  Unseen, that is, until I allowed myself to hear the voices of those who bid me rest, to let go of the perpetual motion of my life.

Thank God, I say, for my friends in the Thin Places. I give thanks for those who have stood where I am and who can help me remember how to find that place where God speaks to me once again.  I am not sure my veil of confusion has fully lifted, but because I have friends who recognize the liminality in the mundane, I can feel a little bit of the sunrise.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

So it’s Thanksgiving!

When I was a child, this holiday meant coloring pictures of pilgrims and “Indians.”  It meant singing Over the River and Through the Woods* at the top of my lungs with 25 other children.  We heard stories of settlers, Native Americans, and a hard, cold winter.  We were taught that the First Thanksgiving was a celebration of survival in rough conditions, shared between aboriginal peoples and the first Euro-Americans.  We know now that this is a candy-coated fairy tale, and the true story is not as beautiful as the common table I envisioned when I was a little girl.  As the true history reveals itself, the arrival of Thanksgiving becomes a time to challenge the status quo.  For many, this day is a reminder of the cultural genocide that started with the arrival of that first group of European settlers.  For others, it is a time to put on blinders and pretend the lovely little fairy tale is an accurate description of history.  Between these extremes, Thanksgiving happens.

As time passed, Thanksgiving became a day to celebrate family and our closest friends.  For many, it’s a time to celebrate football and food.  For others, it’s a way to open the door on a new season.  This is what Thanksgiving has come to mean to me.  It is a time for family to gather, large or small, to break bread together and enjoy one another's company.  I enjoy waking up early, preparing the meal and watching the traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade on television.  When Santa passes on the screen, the secular “Christmas Season” is official for me.  I like to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, the original Miracle on 34th Street, or the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol.

Once into the season, I enjoy saturating myself with holiday music, watching the cartoon specials I grew up with or watched with my children as they grew.  One year, I introduced them to Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (which I watched from the time I was about 4), and we have watched it ever since.  These past few years, I have sometimes watched these shows alone.  I don’t mind.  The love that I feel and the energy that is released when I watch them makes the time worthwhile.  Thanksgiving is the beginning of a season that fills me – and thousands of others – with joy.

I support those who choose to make this day a time of remembrance for ancestors lost to cultural and real genocide; to blankets infused with smallpox, forced movement across the country, and being corralled into reservations.  I am not blind to the history of this day.  I do not ignore the truth, and will always acknowledge and educate whenever I have the opportunity.

On the other hand, I wish to declare this day as something new and separate from its history.  I wish to declare this day a day of thankfulness for our own good things and the good things we can find in our history and in our current times.  I do not wish to deny the happenings of our times; the racism, the sexism, the ageism, the hatred, the fear, and the frustrations that are so clearly evident in current events.  I do not insist that we forget the dead children of Ferguson, of Cleveland, of America.  I do not insist that we ignore the terrors of soldiers and civilians in the Middle-East, or of veterans shattered and lost in the system, or existing in the streets.  I do not ask that we turn our backs on those who need, who hunger, or who mourn.  I simply ask that in all the darkness, we look for the light; for there is light.

There is Light.  I look for it and find it in the relationships I have with my family and my friends.  When I find that Light I want to share it.  I cannot march, I cannot give money, I cannot pull individuals, cities, or societies out of their darkness.  What I can do is turn on my own light, and with that find the great Light that I can share with others.  I can share it in my writing, in my actions, in the way that I interact with others I touch along my path.  Yet I cannot share it if I do not find it.  To find it, I need the nourishment of family, friends, and the coming season.  My body, my mind, my heart, and my soul are fed by the rituals of my life.

Thanksgiving is one of these rituals.  Allow me this, and I will have the strength to shine the Light and to share the burdens of darkness with those who carry it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*For an excellent history of this song, actually a poem called "A Boy's Thanksgiving Day" and its impressive author, Lydia Maria Child, just click on her name!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christmas Cozy

It’s that time of year again.  It’s a cozy time for many of us – a time when memories of childhood Christmases filled with love and the warm scent of pine fill our senses.  Storefront displays, bright colored lights, and the sounds of the season, both secular and religious, fill us with nostalgia and a sense of being wrapped in loving, protective arms.

It’s also the time we begin to hear and read the cacophonous arguments about what to call this time of year, how “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and the horrible commercialism of this special holiday.  It is most definitely an overly commercialized time of year.  It’s been so for a very long time, and as long as shoppers continue to line up to purchase products at the department stores on Thanksgiving, a day once meant for celebrating with family and friends, it will remain so.  As long as people insist on purchasing more than they can afford to buy and pile more gifts under the tree than any one family needs, Christmas will continue to be a “commercial” holiday.

As the United States becomes a more pluralist nation, the greeting, “Merry Christmas” becomes less acceptable, and on the flip-side the more appropriate “Happy Holidays” comes under attack by certain factions of Christianity that seem to fear change.  These are the people that argue that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”  Of course, He is not the reason for the season.  The reason for the season has to do with climate and the distance of the earth from the sun.  This is Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere.  This time of year has been celebrated since the beginning of human awareness, as have the Summer Solstice and the equinoxes.  It is the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere; though Christmas is celebrated at the same time in both places, on December 25, for various reasons.  Jesus is the reason for Christmas and a reason for the giving of gifts and the singing of carols, but he is not the reason for this entire season.  In fact, as many have argued, Jesus was more likely to have been born at another time of year, and there are Christian denominations that choose not to celebrate Christmas at all.

Of course, we are heading into a time replete with Festivals of Light; Christmas is but one of them.  As a Christian, I have come back to my family tradition of calling it Christmas, yet as a Wiccan, I called it “Yule.”  When I speak to people I don’t know, I wish them “Happy Holidays.”  This is not just a “politically correct” way of speaking at this time of year, it is also the most respectful way to greet others and acknowledge this time of celebration.  On the other hand, if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” or a “Blessed Yule,” or even a “Happy Hanukkah,” I simply thank them.  I am honored that they chose to wish me a good season.

This morning as I walked down the hall in the hospital, I was heading straight toward the gift shop.  The window was filled with the trappings of Christmas – decorated fir trees, sparkly lights, ribbons, and bows.  I felt that nostalgia for a time and place that I seem to remember out of childhood – or perhaps simply out of time.  I remembered the trip I took as a child with my mom and my grandma to Dayton’s Department Store in Minneapolis.  The store was decorated with all the trimmings.  We took the escalators upstairs, where they had an entire room dedicated to Christmas.  A train ran around the top of the walls, felt snow and snow-people stood about giant Christmas Trees.  Christmas music played above, and I got to see Santa Claus, assisted by his elves.  Remembering this, I was filled with a sense of joy, hope, and expectation.  I was reminded that there is more to this time of year than the rampant commercialism, more than the self-righteous religious rhetoric.  The symbols, sounds, colors, and smells of Christmas are more than representations of a religious tradition.  They have become traditions of western culture.  They are secular traditions that can bring people together, if only we could let go of the semantics of our religious differences.

This time of year is a special time for practitioners of almost all religious traditions.  Should it not be a time when we see the beautiful Light that is the Hub at the center of the wheel of all religions?  Should it not be a time when we who practice religions that claim to center on Love actually practice that Love?  For those who do not practice a religious or faith tradition, could it not be a time for respecting and loving one another, just because it’s the right thing to do?  Sure, it’s the right thing to do all year long, and we should practice Love each and every day.  However, being human, we simply don’t.  We need a time of year such as this, to remind us not of what we are, but what we could be.

Picture from

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Thing I Wrote

This is a "Thing" I wrote for my CPE program.  It's really my statement of faith, I suppose; a statement of my theological understanding of the world.

God is Love is at the center of my spirituality.  I understand God as “that which created us, fills us, and connects us all.” God is All That Is.  As I seek to reconcile my Christian education with my “alternative” religious experiences, I have come to understand the concept of the Trinity as Creator (the Creator of all things), Christ(the most perfect reflection of God’s Being in human form, known to many as Jesus – yet I believe there have been others), and Holy Spirit* (The continuous flow of God’s Presence that is beyond the physical, yet can be experienced, felt, invoked, and directed.  It is known as the Christ, the Holy Spirit, Spirit, Energy, Chi, Power, and many other names).  Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  His actions and his parables reflect his expectation that his disciples would see all other human beings as our neighbors, no matter who they are or what they do.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, reinforced these teachings of Jesus.  While I am no longer a United Methodist, I find the Wesleyan approach to understanding how to apply the teachings of Jesus to life very helpful.  Wesley encouraged the study and reading of the wisdom of other faiths to understand who our neighbors are.  He held that scripture is the first place to look for answers, but that experience, tradition, and reason were also to be taken into consideration when making decisions about right actions.  Further, he wrote of the universality of God’s love as the core of ALL faith.  St. Francis and John Wesley both found God’s creatures to be worthy of honor and respect.  In fact, Wesley approached health and the environment in a holistic manner.

The new/ancient practices of Neo-Paganism & Wicca draw on similar interpretations of the place of humans in the world.  After so many years of practicing as a Wiccan Priestess and wrestling with my upbringing in Christianity and my study of other cultural expressions of the Divine, I come to the conclusion that at the core of it all is the ineffable Something we cannot describe.  I do not wish to describe that ineffability through the Via Negativa approach (by describing what It is NOT); therefore, all I can say is that It IS Love, though of course this is not sufficient.

I honestly feel the connection between myself and all other creatures, particularly my human brothers and sisters.  This sense of connection, along with my experiences in life, is the foundation for who I am becoming as a pastor and as a chaplain.  Using Wesley’s approach to decision making, I reason that my reading and understanding of scripture (which includes, but is not limited to, the collection of books we call “The Bible”), my experiences in life that have led me to understand pain, fear, isolation, anger, etc.; my personal mystical experiences which allow me to see beyond boundaries of denomination, religious and cultural context, etc., and my inherited tradition of Protestant Christianity and adopted tradition of Eclectic Wicca all come together to make me a potentially excellent chaplain.

In fact, it is as if I have been called toward this position all along.  I am able to speak to most “versions” of Christianity, including Catholicism, and speak with, pray with, or just sit with patients and family members who practice any of these traditions.  I am able to openly discuss spiritual concerns of practitioners of Neo-Pagan traditions, and have done so in the hospital.  I am not uncomfortable being present with those who claim no religion, and feel no compunction to talk them into adopting a faith.  My interpretation of what some Christians call “The Great Commission” is not to proselytize but to actually be a disciple myself and an example of the kind of life that Jesus lived.  In seeking to do this, I become a better person and a better pastor/chaplain.

*Changed from Walker (a generic term for the human who lived among us, shining the Christ Light upon us)
*Changed from Spirit, originally assuming the "Holy," but desirous of being fully understood, that I believe the Holy Spirit is a Christian term for that Spirit that goes by so many names, culturally and experientially identified.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014