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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Fan of Francis Logs In

by Tom Pappas

I am not a Catholic but I have been to Rome and poked around the Sistine Chapel and admired the ALL MARBLE artwork in St. Peter’s. I live in the diocese of Lincoln and it is considered one of the nation’s most super-conservative.  I often roll my eyes when I find out their most recent outrageous – by my standards – ruling. I have just exhausted my qualifications for sharing my opinion on the new pope.

The world was shocked by Benedict’s resignation, and I found it stunning as well. It seemed like a situation they wanted to solve before Easter. The images from Angel’s and Demons (both the novel and the movie) informed my idea of what the conclave was undoubtedly like. The College of Cardinals provided white smoke in short order!

There are three things about Pope Francis that in my mind are blue ribbon.  He seems to be outspoken about care for the environment. Responsibility for the great gift of our planet is something that I also take seriously. Bravo, Francis.

His life has been about ministry to the poor and marginalized. The gospels, as I read them show that as Jesus’ way. Bless you, Francis.

And what about getting out there with the people! How I love that. Reports are that he touches and hugs them. Comedienne, Paula Poundstone, recently quipped that the pope rides around in an aquarium, and when you think about it, it’s sadly true; but not for this guy.  Be brave, Francis. Your Swiss Guards are going to try to isolate you but don’t let them do it. There’s danger outside that aquarium, but we have a fairly important model of taking the risk.

I will not name the two topics that I disagree with Pope Francis about, because this is about a fresh start. God made our experience so we get to do it every day. Catholics have had some rough times lately and they took this strange opportunity to have a terrific fresh start.

It’s fun for me to think that some of the Cardinals are wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. Surely that is something every faith pilgrim should wonder from time to time.

So far, I am a fan of Francis. Welcome new world!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Moving is Over-Rated

A Guest Blog by Alice Ling

One month ago today, I joined in a formal Liturgy of Farewell with the congregation I’d been serving, and in the next few days completed the process of saying good-bye: to parishioners I had known for too short a time, friends still adjusting to me being 3 hours away instead of next door, family who enjoyed having me within reach again, even a one year old grandson who was the light of my year. Since then, people who only reluctantly agreed to let me go out of respect for the quest I’m on have regularly asked if I’m getting settled, happy in my new home, or beginning to feel that elusive sense of joy or peace.  Really? 

I know it’s their way of expressing their hope this move is good for me, but I don’t work that fast. I’ve just started the arduous task of opening the zillion boxes of books, stacking piles in rings between me and the bookcases as a step toward eventually putting as many as I can on shelves. In the next few days, I will face into the trauma of a first haircut in a new place. All the while doing my best to hold off the question, what have I done?? Into the midst of all of that floated the gentle invitation to write something about being healthy while in full throttle transition mode. I could pretend I misheard the question and respond, I’m all ears. Or I can eek out an observation or two of what I’m trying and what seems to make sense from here.

While it doesn’t come naturally for me, I’m making an effort to be gentle with myself. Sometimes I have what it takes to tackle a project, sometimes I need to sit in a heap. I try to milk the bursts of energy for all they’re worth, and take a break when my psyche demands one. As I approach my goal at the end of a weight loss journey, I’m trying not to lose ground or my hold on tender new behaviors, but I also know now is not the time for rigidity. 

After a few days of affirming the exercise I was expending carrying boxes around the house, I resumed my walking routine. It’s a healthy thing to do, but more than that, this spirit needs fresh air, time to explore the setting of our house, and a chance to watch clouds moving over the lake, deer bounding across the road and turkeys scavenging on a hillside. Knowing that meeting people and forming friendships will be key to my life in this new place, I’ve followed the opportunities – church, a potluck supper, listening in as two people discuss a neighborhood newsletter, even a contentious wastewater meeting. Whether I ever go back is a different question than what I’m willing to try once. One of these days, I may even trade my slow start savoring of a cup of coffee for early morning yoga, but I haven’t gone that far yet.

Perhaps even more challenging than being gentle with myself is being patient with the process. I’m the sort who plants roots deep and builds a nest with care, and starting over doesn’t come easily. I have known since before the decision was made that it would take significant time for me to grow into this new reality. I have intentionally created a space for openness in which I expect to rest, heal and discern; and while it doesn’t surprise me that it feels more like emptiness and void than openness and space, they are two sides of the same coin. 

I need to live within the complicated mix of it all, and float as well as I’m able. I’m beginning to envision some in-depth exploration of the concept of patience. This is no annual cycle through winter and mud season, trusting the crocus will bloom and life will return. I have my doubts that it will even be a 9-month gestation period. The timeline, process and outcome are unclear, but here I am. In the midst of it all, I need to wait and watch, pray and wonder, trust and hope. I’ll bake some bread, sing some songs, write the poems I hear and do what I can with the books. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Prayer for the Weeding

by Angier Brock

Early March, and it’s still cold here in eastern Virginia. For a few more weeks, the temperatures will remain too unpredictable to do much planting, but I have begun collecting packets of seeds. A few I can go ahead and sow directly into the ground (radishes, lettuces); others I can start indoors in flats (marigolds, nasturtiums); the others will have to wait a bit.

What really needs my attention, though, is weeding. I have been out assessing the situation, and it looks as though the weeds have had quite a good winter. The dandelions in the grass I don’t mind so much. They remind me of my grandparents’ yard when I was a child, and they will add a bit of midsummer color. But honeysuckle—the non-native kind that invades a landscape and strangles native shrubs and trees—has run amok in the ground cover on one side of the yard. To get it in check will require some dedicated and persistent effort over the next few weeks. 

As I ponder these things, just at the start of the third week of Lent, I am reminded that the same sort of interior weeding is what Lent asks of us. I’m not thinking here about attaining inner perfection, for I know there will always be dandelions in my inner landscape! But I am thinking of the kinds of insidious inner habits that can creep in—and that can be both invasive and destructive if left unchecked.

For example, have I let my own need to speak crowd others out of conversations? Have I rushed to fill a silence with words, thereby keeping conversations on the surface, not letting them sink down to deeper levels? Have I gone too quickly to the glib phrase or funny line—to ease tension, perhaps, or to cover my own anxiety or deny my own vulnerability by keeping others at arm’s length?

Or perhaps I have picked up habits over the last season or two that are unhealthful in other ways. For example, am I watching too much TV, not getting the exercise I need to stay flexible and strong, reaching for snacks that drain my energy rather than nourish my soul and body? Could some of my habits be keeping me—whether deliberately or inadvertently—from hearing, or doing, something related to my work, my call?

I know what I want from the yard and this spring and summer. I want home-grown tomatoes and squash to eat and to share. I want pastel lilacs and bold, colorful zinnias to bring indoors and to give away. I want native shrubs and trees that will not only provide shade for my grandchildren when they come to visit but also give shelter and food to the visiting birds. And I know that I can have those things only with some preparation, some effort, some discipline on my part.

I also know what I want my inner landscape to yield: a creative, generous, and spacious heart—one that listens deeply to others while remaining honest and true. That hope also requires of me some preparation, some effort, some discipline.

Lent calls me to that work. May it be so.