Love is…. messy

I want to talk about LOVE.

No, not the eros, or romantic love. The love that I want to discuss is an agape love.

Agape, or the love that Christ-followers have for each other, is messy.  1 Corinthians chapter 13 says this about love :

4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. ”

This is probably the most-used Scripture for weddings. Yet for me, St Paul is describing a deep love that occurs between two people who are united in Christ.

Love is also messy. One of the costs of loving people as Jesus loved His disciples is that the love will be messy. Those of us who are sensitive are especially prone to the messiness that is the agape love that Jesus models for His disciples.

When we love as Jesus loves, we are not ” fair weather friends” Love calls us to walk with others both through celebrations and sorrows that are part of the human experience. When those we love rejoice, we rejoice with them. When they feel sorrow– we also feel sorrow.

St Paul said ” Love never fails” , and if we love the way that Jesus loved, we willingly accept that loving someone is not a part-time commitment. Love calls us to be present with people during times when they might not be at their best. Love calls us to walk with others while they are going through a life transition; allowing them time and space to just ” be” . Love calls us to allow someone else to grow into their authentic selves– even if their authenticity confuses us.

Love calls us to recognize that humans are messy creatures. Go knew this, and yet God still chose to become human.  In Jesus, God became intimately familiar with the joys and sorrows of living as an authentic human.  Because of Jesus, God knows that love is , in addition to all the attributes that St Paul lists, also messy and costly.

Loving people is hard and costly. But love, the kind of love that God showed us in the Person of Jesus, is one of the blessings of being human.

In the Name of the Creator, Redeemer, ands Sustainer.

Amen.

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LISTEN!!

Today is the feast day of St Benedict of Nursia.  He is one of my all-time favorite saints; and I do my best to live according to his Rule. { I fail miserably daily, but I still get up and try again.}

During Mass today I was reminded that the first word that Benedict used in his Rule is simply : LISTEN.

That simple, one-word command is one of the hardest things we post-modern American Christians are asked to do. We are good at talking , but lack listening skills. If e cannot listen to each other, then how are we supposed to listen to God?  Unlike humans, The Creator of the Universe dos not shout .  Nor does The Creator talk over we mortal humans. 

Benedict structured life for members of the communities he founded around a set time for everything. There are times for work, study, prayer, recreation and rest .

Americans, and I include myself in this description, are really good at working and playing.  Yet our society frowns upon us taking time to intentionally sit still and listen in contemplative silence.  While I am still honing my skills at being intentionally contemplative: I’ve found that I value my quiet time with God more and more as I age. I’ve also discovered that there are many ways that a person can listen for God.

 I’ll be the first to admit that I do not sit motionless for long. The traditional form of Centering Prayer only fills me with anxiety— instead of listening for God my mind is screaming all my cares, concerns and the endless ” to-do list” of chores  So, taking the advice of someone much wiser than me, I quiet my mind in these ways.

YOGA

SWINGING— Often  finding and old-fashioned wing set and  slowly moving back and forth quiets my mind enough for me to listen to what the Holy Spirit might need to tell me.

SWIMMING:  The sensory-deprivation that immersing myself into water and slowly moving through it creates a ” thin space” for me to encounter the Divine. Without the auditory and visual distractions, my mind is quiet and open . Some of my best spiritual insights have come to me during a session of swimming laps.

I’ve discovered that I am much more of a kinetic contemplative  rather than one who can sit with her eyes closed and automatically hear what the Spirit might say.

How do YOU listen?

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

Feast Of St Benedict of Nursia

2018

I Believe in L <3 ve…

A lot has happened since this time last year. Last year I was recovering from major spinal surgery; spending a lot of time sitting on the couch.  It was this week last year that my rector { before she became my rector} preached a wonderful sermon on The Gospel According to Wonder Woman.

One of the movie quotes that she used in her sermon was this:

It’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe. I believe in love. ” 

~Diana, AKA Wonder Woman 

I do what I do because Jesus teaches The Way Of Love.

This Love is a love that is transforming.  The Right reverend Michael B Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, explained this perfectly and succinctly in his address at The British Royal Wedding . Bishop Curry said:

“This way of love it is the way of life.” 

A love of a Creator Who loved humanity so much that God became human in the Person of Jesus, lived and died a horrid death so that we may have direct access to our Creator.

The love of Christ is transformative.

The Way of Christ is not easy.

In fact, Christ tells us many times that following His Way will be costly to us.

Because of Love, I will continue to fight for what Love represents .  Like Wonder Woman I will seek to help the oppressed.  I will be the voice for those in society who are without a voice.

This is messy work, but it is work that I am called to do. Now , more than ever, people are needed to fight for those whose rights are threatened or completely taken away.

I will do my best to honor God by living out my Baptismal Covenant.

The Book Of Common Prayer outlines our responsibilities as followers of The Way Of Love in the words of the Baptismal Covenant

Q: Will you proclaim by words and example the Good News of God in Christ? 

A : I will, with God’s help. 

Q;Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? 

A: I will, with God’s help. 

Q: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” 

A: I will, with God’s Help. 

Jesus life was one of service to those who, in His society, were outcasts. Frequently He found Himself in the company of lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, ect.  Jesus did not seek out the company of the ruling class— as a matter of fact it was the Roman ruling class that killed Him.

I believe in Love.

 

Amen

 

Rejection Hurts

Today’s Gospel lesson ” struck a nerve” with me. In the interest of full disclosure, the lesson has been rolling around in my head ever since Tuesday.

In the story from Mark’s Gospel, we read of Jesus being rejected by His hometown crowd. Look at what they say:

Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Josas and Judas and Simon, and are not His sisters with us? And they took offense at Him. ” 

In their minds, this guy Jesus was just some kid whom they had watched grow up. Who told Him, of all people, that He should preach teach and perform miracles? After all, they knew Jesus from ” way back” and knew enough about His growing-up years to know that he was a mere carpenter. Sure, He could recite Scripture from memory, but that surely did not give Him any authority to teach and preach. They remembered the incident when Jesus was twelve, and hiding from His parents in the synagogue.

They know this man, and know He is not one with anything important to say.

So they rejected Him. Scripture then continues to say that Jesus  “…was amazed at their unbelief.” 

Any rejection hurts– as humans we seek out approval of others to validate God’s calling for our lives.  I cannot help but to sympathize with this very human side of Our Savior and feel His sadness at being rejected by people who know Him.

But did they know Him?

Jesus, like all humans grows and changes. As a human, He would not only grow in stature and weight, but grow in maturity.  Our Savior experienced the full scope of humanity, so it is safe to say the Jesus Whom the hometown crowd remembered was not the Jesus Who came to town looking to teach. The villagers hearts were closed; they had a preconceived notion of Who this man is based on the boy Whom they remember.

I know I’ve been in that situation more than once. People assume things about my abilities based on what they think they know about me.  I am young-looking 40-something woman with some physical challenges that do affect my life. In addition, I am also slightly autistic- and have made huge strides in coping with my unique brain ” wiring”.  More than once I’ve been told that I cannot or should not embark on certain activities because of who I am.

That hurts– especially when people who really do know me encourage me to grow in faith  by accepting challenges.

News flash: My diagnosis of autism does not mean that I can’t thrive in hyper-social situations. As a matter of fact I have proven that I can—with the correct support. In the past year I have taken on challenges that, due to pulling me way out of my comfort zone, have enriched my relationship with God and others in my community.

People who know me, like His disciples knew Jesus know how much I have grown in faith and maturity over the past few years. I am grateful for the people who believe in my God-given gifts and abilities enough to take a chance with me.

People who actively walk this journey of faith with me know how much I’ve grown and changed. While rejection hurts , I do remember that Jesus instructed His disciples to “shake off the dust that is on your feet” as they walk out.

Rejection hurts, but I’ve learned to view these sort of rejections as signs from God that I am  growing into the person God intends for me to be. I’ve learned to focus on those who encourage me; and to seek advice from people who know me well and have witnessed my maturity over the past few years.

If you remember Wallflower Sarah, I will tell you that she no longer exists. Empowered Sarah exists loud and proud in her place wearing dusty sandals.

Amen.

8 July 2018

 

Becoming Whom I Am :Part Two Defying Gravity

I am a HUGE fan of the musical Wicked.    One of the songs that Elphaba the main character sings, goes like this:

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

The election of 2016 awoke something within me.

The results of the November 2016 election showed me that what the baby boomers started back n the 1960’s was never finished.

Being called a ” white feminist ” look it up– it s NOT a compliment– also woke something within me.

I am not the person I was when Best Dude and I moved to Pensacola.

Tomorrow I  {an introverted, slightly autistic white woman} will do my first political canvassing in my city.  Thankfully I will work with some experienced campaign workers, but I’d be lying if I did not disclose that I am a bit nervous.

But I believe in this work– and feel strongly that I am being called way out of my comfort zone in order to effect real change in November.  In order to do so, I’ve learned again what it means to be part of a team.

In one of her homilies, my rector asked the rhetorical question Who am I becoming? 

In the past two years, I’ve gone from timid and passive to bold and assertive.

I know what type of woman God created me to be and I seek out examples of such women both from the lives of the saints and women I know in my own life.

I don’t let others’ perceptions of my disability cloud my mission.

Nor do I let myself be backed into a corner. When someone is bullying myself or someone else, I call them out on their behavior.

I’m gaining confidence in myself.

When asked to debate my choices, I do so with decorum yet with “punch”

Regarding activism, I am learning when to talk and when to listen. I also know that checking my white privilege is not the same as allowing others to bully me. 

I look to be a mentor to younger women– with the hope and prayer that I can be an inspiration to them in the same way that so many inspired and inspire me.

I am  a middle-aged WOMAN. Here me roar!

Amen.

 

Be Whom You Are: Part One Autistic Liberal

 

” Things do not change. We change. Henry David Th

My name is Sarah and at the age of ” over 40″ I am FINALLY growing into the woman God intended for me to be all along. It’s been quite a wild journey, and I cannot thanks my parents , my spouse, my friends and parish family , & my amazing rector for encouraging and at times demanding that I grow into who I am.

I am Autistic.

While some people think that my autism -and I am really what is known as high-functioning autistic-makes me unable to deal with certain stressors, I am proving everyone wrong. Back in October I was not the strong, confident, capable woman I am right now and I am sorry that my potential for growth was missed . While that is ” water under the bridge” as they say now I have learned to never  let anyone’s perception of me alter my own confidence in my abilities.

Surrounding myself with strong, capable, and beautiful in all senses of the word women has helped me realize my God-given potential. I’ve learned that behind every badass ” Wonder Woman” I know is a story of struggle. We women are like tea— ya never know how strong we can be until steeped in ” hot water”.

I have said before that I identify strongly with butterflies. As a matter of fact, I must be a species of butterfly who spends a painfully long time in her chrysalis.

I am not the person you knew six months ago… last year , or surely not  the shy wallflower that I was in middle and high school.

This past election cycle has taught me that I am NOT moderately-liberal. Rather, I am very liberal. Since Best Dude and I have moved to Pensacola, I’ve found more of ‘ my people’. In our old community, I had to hide my liberalness— as being liberal in Navarre is like having social leprosy. No one wants to be around you.

While Pensacola surely has her share of MAGA adherents , I’ve found more like-minded people here– people among whom I can let my liberal hippie chick freak flag fly!

BohemianPrincess

Maybe mid-life is later than most for growing into my butterfly wings. But at least I finally broke out of the constricting chrysalis. With God’s help, and the encouragement and collective wisdom of my sister ” Wonder Women”.

I am strong.

I am smart.

I can be fierce when crossed.

I am a blue dot in an overwhelmingly red region.

I am Woman; hear me ROAR!

 

Bicentennial+42 years & the Philadelphia 11

For better or worse, Happy Birthday, USA.

The year I was born, you celebrated your 200th birthday. You’ve had a rather interesting life since then.

I love you, USA. Because I love you, I need to tell you what has been on my heart since November, 2016. You won’t want to hear it– but oftentimes it is those who love us most who must point out self-destructive and unsafe behavior.

In July , 1976, 11 brave women were ordained to the Episcopal Priesthood. In honor of these brave woman, I’d like to recite a portion of Psalm 145, which is one of the assigned texts for today’s RCL

The LORD is just in all his ways

merciful in all his works. 

The LORD is near to all who call upon him

to all who call upon him in truth. 

It is in the spirit of these brave Episcopal women, that I step out on faith, America.

I cannot imagine the fear that those brave women felt as they stood at an altar before a bishop. It was not ” legal” for women to be ordained ; yet these women drew their strength from God– a God who calls certain people regardless of gender to Holy Orders.

God is a God of justice and mercy. Our nation’s founders knew that–and they knowingly risked their lives by affixing their names to the Declaration of Independence. The people who founded this nation were not yes-men. Rather, the United States was founded by brave people willing to risk life and limb so that they and their descendants can have a better life.

I’d like to think that the principles on which this nation was built still stand true now.  In all honesty, I see signs of a deep-seeded hatred of the “other” that has been lurking just beyond our nation’s collective conscience .

Sadly, I see signs that freedom is being stripped away from people on a daily basis.  People-of-color, immigrants  with certain skin hues, GLBT persons, and all women face the reality of losing our freedom. Immigrants, if they subscribe to a certain faith, are not permitted to enter this country legally. After what was done to the First Nations tribes by white immigrants ; don’t you find this obsession with removing ” brown people” from our midst sadly ironic?

Is it really too much to ask to let freedom ring for ALL Americans?

America, you do not have a good history of white ” settlers” relating to people-of-color. The Cherokee Trail of Tears and the trans-Atlantic slave trade are but two of the worst examples of the white supremacy which has been cleverly hidden in my lifetime. Since 2016, I have awakened to the fact that racism, heterosexism,  and misogyny have always been a part of the sociopolitical landscape.

This both angers and saddens me. Yet you ARE my nation and I know that I enjoy certain freedoms that other places cannot fathom. America– I love you enough to want you to become the best version of yourself.

Please know that I write this letter in a spirit of love and shalom.

 

Blessings,

Sarah Beth

4 July 2018

Fourth of July, 2018: Bah Humbug

I am not– and never was— a big fan of Independence Day.

Working in the hospitality industry during my summers of high school and college: The Independence Day week meant work. I am not complaining, but just pointing out that my association with this particular American feast day is one that is associated with customer service and not drinking beer with my friends around a campfire .

Secondly, and more importantly , with what is happening in this nation now I cannot celebrate ” freedom” when ” freedom” is really only certain for white, straight men who can prove that they were born in the USA.

All women, GLBT persons, immigrants, migrants, and people-of-color are not totally free. Perhaps I was naive in my thinking that ” liberty and justice for all” was ever a reality.

These past two years has proven otherwise.  While angry young white men commit most of the mass shootings and other acts of terror; our government continues to pass policies that demonize people-of-color; especially Mexicans. and Black people. There is a travel ban against nations with primarily Muslim citizens;, even though we’ve had more terror committed by “Christians” than any other faith affiliation.

We are looking at the possibility of the President nominating a Supreme Court justice who would vote to recall both  Roe V Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. For those who failed US Civics in ninth grade, these are the cases that legalized abortion and provided marriage equality in all 50 states.

Reversing these two opinions by the SCOTUS would be detrimental to civil rights.

” Roe” is important to me because I am a woman who believes in the agency of women’s bodies. Although  I personally would never have chosen abortion; I believe that as a sentient being that is MY choice alone to make.  Adult women must have a choice when it comes to our reproductive freedom.

” Obergefell” is important to me because I know and love many people whose marriages would be invalidated if this opinion were reversed by a conservative SCOTUS. I may be a white woman marred to a white man, but because I love my friends and my faith compels me to do so: I fight for equality for all.

I am NOT giving up.

resist

I will continue to fight so that my sweet nephew will not grow up fearing police– the very people who are allegedly sworn to serve and protect all citizens. I want both he and my niece to grow up to be proud of their multiethnic heritage. I want my niece to grow up knowing that no one has the right to touch her without her permission.

Children are in cages at checkpoints along our borders. Think about that: CHILDREN are in CAGES. As an American Christian of Jewish descent, this brings to mind horrible images of  what I learned at the US Holocaust Museum. This is not the first time that a powerful government separated children from parents: that was standard practice during the Nazi Reign of Death in Europe.

Instead of buying flag-adorned clothing to wear this week, I will think about small actions I can do that might make a difference in this sad, sick society we live in. All children deserve better than this, and this Aunt will fight like a Mother!

Am I angry? Yes!

Do I feel like my nation has let me down? Oh yes!

Shall I give up trying to change things so that these United States can be The Land of The Free? No , I shall not!

Why? Because I am a human with a soul , and therefore I DO care.

Amen.

Phone Calls With Grandma

Today I served chalice at a funeral for a woman whom I’d not known in this Earthly life. A third chalice bearer was needed, so I took the assignment.  I am so glad I did, because in addition to hearing stories from the deceased’s  grandson about how much “Grand-Margaret” loved family, the beach, God, and life in general I was reminded about how blessed my brother and I are to still have a living grandparent.

Our paternal grandmother is still very much alive. As a matter of fact, I spoke with her on the phone two evenings ago. She told me how much she appreciates my habit of sending photos  { I send old school paper photos- not digital, as Gram won’t learn the Internet} and that she looks at the photos of her far away family every day.

Grandma is approaching her 88th birthday and can no longer drive.  Her balance isn’t good , and she’s finally getting the hearing aides she needs soon.  yet her mind remains sharp, and she and I shared family news, discussed politics { actually fun because we agree on pretty much everything politically}  church  {she loved the photo I sent of me robed to serve at the altar during Mass} and dogs  { in my last hand-written note I’d reported to her about the new puppy whom Best Dude and I added to our household}

Grandma and I did not always enjoy the comfortable relationship we share now. For many reasons, she and I had a lot of conflict during my growing-up years. As a matter of fact it wasn’t until I moved away from where I grew up that I really began to appreciate Grandma for who she is and how she’s shaped who I am becoming.   But as I matured in faith and life, I realized that Grandma has always loved me as she loves each of her fifteen grandchildren . She is far from perfect; but she is one of the strongest , most giving , smartest women I know.

 

Words of Jesus in Mark Chapter 4 and one-year post op

It has been { almost} one year since I had surgery to correct a pressed nerve root in my neck.

Since I do not believe in coincidences I feel that yesterday’s Gospel lesson from Mark speaks to my experience with the ACDF surgery last summer.

At the end of the portion of Mark’s Gospel that was read yesterday at Mass Jesus says ” Peace! Be still. “

Y’ all know how hard it is for me to ” be still”.  Yet last summer’s surgery was a ” storm” of sorts from which I emerged a quieter, more contemplative person. You see, so that my internal and external surgical wounds had time to heal { the surgeon literally slit my throat in order to expose the offending disk that he needed to remove so that the nerve root could be freed} I had to restrict my movement.

This . Was . NOT . EASY.  I am naturally a hyper person, much more of a “do-er “than a “be-er” .  Yet medical necessity demanded that I be still and slow down  in order to make a full recovery.

This meant that in addition to restricted work– my leisure activities had to be put on hold.  Restriction meant that I was now allowed to swim. { the doctor wanted to make sure I did not get the external wound infected. Not only do I live in Florida and this was summertime, but I LOVE to swim.  Looking at the vast beauty of the Gulf of Mexico only made me wish I could be in that beautiful, refreshing water. But I needed to heal— and healing takes time.

But the good news is: I am fully recovered . The use of my right arm and hand is back to 100 percent and I have no more nerve pain. X-rays showed that the bone graft that was inserted into the disk space has fused as it was intended to do.

While I hope and pray I’ll never need another spinal surgery, I know that this experience taught me valuable lessons.

….. It is ok to just be still.  Since the surgery, I’ve become much more contemplative and have learned to treasure stillness.

….. I appreciate the wonderous creation that my own human form is and always has been. There is nothing quite like waking up totally helpless in a hospital recovery room to remind one of one’s mortality. And for the first three months post-surgery I was pretty helpless. I’ve so much gratitude for my Best Dude: he balanced working, taking care of me and prepping for our move and never lost his cool.

I am grateful for those who sent get-well cards that cheered me up as I recuperated. Food that people sent to our house during that week of recovery sustained both Best Dude and me.  The prayers of two Episcopal parish families wrapped me in prayer and love.

Ohana Gelato 5

One year later my scar has faded into near-invisibility. The unaware eye cannot see the fine line on my neck.  Free from debilitating nerve pain from the trapped nerve root and bone spurs. I am able to return to swimming, power walking  {with some sprints thrown in} and SWIMMING. The metal screws and plate in my neck are only noticeable when rain is in the forecast– I am a much better weather-indicator than some of the radar used by our local media.

Aloha  in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy.  In hindsight, my experience with neurosurgery allowed me to experience aloha. I’ve spent a lot of time in these past 12 months learning how to truly live aloha. The kindness, compassion and mercy shown to me has helped me live into the aloha that is our Baptismal Covenant.

Feast of James Weldon Johnson

2018