Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thoughts on a Review

"[Ms. Sundae has]an almost 17th century sensibility combined with a warmth and immediacy that's hard to find"

Beg your pardon?

I mean, I'm incredibly flattered and whatnot but "huh"? Unless by "17th century sensibility" the all-too-kind critic meant unwashed, illiterate and prone to outbreaks of dyssentary, I don't get it. The 17th century had some pretty heavy literary hitters. John Donne, William Shakespeare and a whole mess of other syphilitic geniuses who could turn a phrase out on its ear and have it come back for more.

Not me. I don't have the cunning to be strange.

It's not that I haven't given it the old college try. I have nearly hairlipped Hell trying to be deep and ponderous. It's in me too, it just won't come out. Kierkegaard has made me cry on more than one occasion and I could probably outline the difference between Anixmandes and Anaximander if sufficiently provoked. I just can't write about it without sounding like a self-involved jackass.

Now I don't actually have a problem sounding like a self-involved jackass. That's actually a bit of a forté in the Day Job, but I only talk about shallow, self-involved things during the Day Job. I don’t mind having outlandish and unfair opinions on hair products, Norwegian death metal bands, and other people's outfits (seriously, what IS the thought process behind a purple and aqua argyle button-down on a grown man?) but when it comes to the real stuff -the broken hand, the bloody heart- I can't do it. My fingertips hurt and I just can't get the words to come out fine enough for so subtle a subject.

Better not say anything at all, then.

Let's talk about my hair.

Friday, May 26, 2006

RevGals Friday Five: This I believe

"This week's Friday Five is simple. Name five things you believe--these don't have to be long statements--short sentences, both serious and frivolous."

1. I believe that being gentle is not the same thing as being weak

2. I believe that no one is as bad --or as good-- as they think

3. I believe in searching for what you believe

4. I believe life is too short for small jewelry

5. I believe the Nicene Creed said it better

There, now I believe I'll have a cup of tea.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Is mental clarity a requirement for spiritual development?

Last week I went into the deserts of southern New Mexico, just as I've done most years since I've been an adult. I go to wait for a vision. Sometimes it's a vision in the traditional sense, usually it's not. Usually it's a message that finally takes root. Sometimes it had been there for months, sometimes years; it's meaning hidden by city life the way stars are hidden by city lights.

Be gentle.

That was my first vision four years ago. The world too hard for so many soft bodies. There's a beautiful line from the last scene of Our Town where the stage manager notes that people tire themselves out trying to make something out of their lives. "The strain is so bad that every sixteen hours they must lie down and rest." I tried to lie down, but I didn't get the rest. I couldn't clear my mind of my grandfather, his cancer, the family dynamic from which I've been so happily removed for many years. I didn't expect it to.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bet THEY felt like assh-persons

Funny little tableau from work.

Me: Hey guys! I want to return this laptop. Didn't even have to use it.

Techguy the Elder: We could have used it.

Me: Sorry, I didn't even want to bring it, but I had to...in case of an emergency back at the home office.

Techguy the Younger: Did you open it?

Me: Nope. It was only opened by some cops. Got busted by the Five-O in the familial graveyard about midnight.

Elder: Well, that's because if you were (affecting a Southern accent) a God-fearin', Bible-thumpin, True Believer instead of a damn commie liberal...

Younger:...assh(catches my eye)...person

Me: Hey, so did I tell y'all I'll be starting seminary soon?

Friday, May 19, 2006

RevGal Friday Five: Words

"Please tell us five words you had to think about really hard before saying them out loud for the first time, or that you discovered you had misapprehended when someone corrected your pronunciation."

1) Erudite. Was it ehr-YUH-dite or ehr-YOO-dite? Of course, I lived in fear of mispronouncing this word because if you mispronounce erudite, you're definitely not.

2) Fecund. Was is FEE like feces or FEH like feckless (feel free to draw some conclusions about my feelings towards kids back then)

3) Halcyon. This was a word I botched up for a good 5 years before someone pointed out it wasn't pronounced "hal-ick-on." I still feel like a moron when I think about it.

4) Schubert. Also in the moron category. Pronounced it Shoo-BEAR (a francais, non?) until someone pulled me aside and said "um, it's Shoo-BERT, you idiot" (thanks dad)

5) Collect. (a little Anglican humor, y'all)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Life with Father: hide and seek

I've had a rocky-at-best relationship with my father, who I've seen a lot of since I've been in Nashville with my grandfather who has cancer. My father is a dogmatic atheist and well...I'm not. He wants to impress. He wants me to love him and for everyone to think he's good enough and so he tells stories. Some of them are true, some of them are not. The good majority fall somewhere inbetween. Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron says "there's no such thing as a true story" only the story lines we tell ourselves and others. I'm inclined to believe it and who hasn't embellished a story, or made one out of wholecloth before?

But it's tiring. It's like talking with a teenager who thinks you're the cool kid and will make up anything just so long as you'll approve. "Like me! Like me! Be impressed by me!" it would be annoying if it wasn't so sad.

Why is he like that? I'm not sure. I used to be that way, probably worse. I made up stories not to be malicious, but to entertain, to make people interested in the fake me because either I didn't like or didn't know the real me. It's a false front.

Here's the problem with false fronts. It prevents any real intimacy. I don't think I'll ever have a genuine conversation with my father because all he'll let me see is that mannequin. It's a bit like that Tragedian in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, who would rather keep his handsome false face, miserable in self-made rejection than be small, ugly and loved. It's a hard thing to give up, friends, that story line we tell ourselves, the stories we make up just so we can be the hero.

I can't say I love him, but I do have a tender spot where that love would go, if he ever was brave enough to leave the mask.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Reflections on a couch

I remember him sleeping on my couch, curled up like a broken bird, his breath fine and soft against the red cushions. Candles burned low, Leonard Cohen sang Goodbye Marianne. I stared. I wanted to hold him in my hand, that thin body, those spindly legs. I don't know how long I looked at him as I folded myself in the club chair. I know I'd never looked at him that long before. I could never meet his eyes. His eyes stared through everything, including me. They pushed himself in the places that only shame and sunlight could reach. He drew out the sacred and profane in me and in that moment I realized he did not love me.

I wasn't his partner, I wasn't even his lover; I was an archetype, THE archetype…the darkness that allowed his light to shine. He was Saint Michael, flaming sword, prince of all the angels.

I wonder what that made me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Crying Uncle.

Eric is Buddhist, Steve is drunk. They both have a problem with the church. They're in their mid 40's and are generally decent guys --Eric more so than Steve, who gave my 16 year old brother a joint for Christmas one year. Sitting around my grandparent's small table at midnight --all three of us emotionally exhausted from drives and flights and trips to the hospital-- we began a conversation about religion.

I came out about my call to ministry. They were flummoxed but good natured as I tried to explain "the call" to them. Eric, the sweet and eternally hip Washingtonian who marches in protests and drives a scooter said "oh, that's how it happens. I must have been out when he tried to call. You don't molest kids do you?"

"Um, no"

Then I explained a little about the Anglican Church, how we can marry and have kids and all that good stuff. We agreed it made all the difference. Steve, who was pretty well wasted, asked if I thought there was some gender confusion going on with celibate clergy with the whole "bride of Christ" thing.

Literalism…it's going to kill me some day. I tried to explain but they saw a joke and ran with it.

"I ain't gonna be nobody's bitch" said Eric.

I know he was joking, but no matter how crudely he put it, Eric did address a pretty valid problem a lot of us face. Basically, we don’t want to obey; we don't want to make ourselves servants. Basically, we don't want to be the bitch.

I felt like I was being grilled.

"Won't you miss sex?"
Only if I don't write it down on my calendar.

"What do you think of the Bible?"
Well, my thought right now is that it's divinely inspired but not in and of itself divine. I believe only living things have divinity but we can all be inspired by God.

"Why Episcopalian?"
I like Scotch.

My uncle Steve drained his glass, wobbled slightly and said "Amen"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Confirmation, or lack thereof

I've waited 7 years to be confirmed. I waited for the right parish, the right point in my spiritual development, the right priest (I was going to say the right bishop but that throws off my alliteration, so forget it) and finally it all came together.

and I missed it.

Not missed it exactly. I wanted to be there --wanted desparately-- but at 10:30 Sunday morning I was at Vanderbilt Medical Center in room 2007 of Thoracic Stepdown watching the tubes drain the cancer and blood from my grandfather.

I wish I could give more comfort to my family, but no man can be a prophet in his own town and no girl can be a pastor in a room full of people who've powdered her bottom.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hi, cancer sucks

No I don't have it. It's my grandfather. Not the one here, but the one in Nashville. He went into the hospital sometime last week, complaining of feeling weak. His insides were eaten up by cancer. His stomach held the bulk of it. No one expected him to survive the 6 hour surgery required to remove his stomach and thoracic lymph nodes but he did. My grandfather is the single kindest man I've ever met and no one can think of anyone who doesn't like him. My grandmother (who wound up in the hospital as well) said back in the 50's there were a few people who saw him as a professional rival and didn't like him too well then --he was a nuclear health physicist in Atomic City, Idaho-- but no one has disliked him for 50 years. Not a bad track record, eh?

My grandfather is just like sherriff Andy Taylor; funny, humble and fair. He's better looking than Andy Griffith and is a hero to boot (won the Carnegie Medal of Heroism).

My grandmother was so upset about my grandfather, she landed herself in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer.

Interestingly enough, the hospital was built over the house where he and my grandmother met 53 years ago.

So I'm okay. I missed my special confirmation, which I've worked so hard for all year, but that's fine. The bishop will understand.

I'm exhausted mentally, physically and financially (it's a 14-16 hour drive from Austin to Nashville, with gas at $3 a gallon). I just arrived in town this morning and I'm going back on Thursday. I may be updating regularly, but then again, I may not.

So please, pray for comfort and health for my grandfather and those who love him.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Church, home and the rest of it (a belated update)

The problem with writing about your life for a living is that your life doesn't always appeal to an audience. Recently I've lacked any inspiration. I've been sort of down recently, not depressed, just…pressed. Pressed for time, pressed for money, pressed for ideas. I'm like a panini in the bistro of life (that was bad on purpose), and it's wearing a little thin.


Church is great. I'm really hitting my stride as part of the parish and aside from flaking on my bookshop tour this Saturday, all is well. I officiated at Morning Prayer today and although there were only two of us, I think I did well. I give good liturgy if I do say so myself. The other night at dinner in the parish hall, this lovely couple came up to me as I was putting away my dishes to tell me how much they like it when I read the lessons. I told them I had good material and just sounded out the hard words. Still, it made my day.

I've got a party to plan for my confirmation group. I'm torn between doing it at a wonderful local pub --perfect for us Whiskeypalians-- or at the rector's house. Of course I'm worrying about this because not only is the rector invited, two retired deans of the seminary I just so happen want desperately to attend will be there as well. I just need a theme.

I'm being confirmed on the 7th in front of God, the bishop and everyone. Oh, except Michael. I haven't decided to ask him yet. Professor McGonigle will stand in my support which delights me to no end.

Also, we just elected a female bishop! I'm so pleased I could spit. Which I don't, because I'm a lady. I bet the folks in the Dallas/Ft Worth diocese are having fits because to my knowledge they don't even ordain women.


I had a bad week of missing Michael. I wish he'd just move to Germany. Or get hit by a bus. Or move to Germany AND get hit by a bus. Okay, I don't actually want him to get hit by a bus (actually I do, but I'm working on not wanting it) but it's hard. Here's a man who was my mentor and of course I fell in love with him because that's what girls do, and it just so happened that I perfectly matched some fantasy he had as a kid…well, it gets sordid from there on out, so never mind. Aside from all the sordid stuff, he was really good for my soul and formation.


See the first paragraph. Except leave out that panini bit and add a whole lot about how my cube mates don't play with me and I hate that I work in a cube. Also, paperwork.
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