Back from hiatus….

I am back from a hiatus.

I’ve spent the last 8 days relaxing and visiting family and long-term friends in northern Appalachia. It was mostly a great visit — in spite of the fact that I’ve now enough raw material for an episode or two of _Criminal Minds_. { Trust me, it is a long story}

While it was wonderful to hang out with people who knew me as a child and teen, it is even better to be home in Pensacola with Best Dude and Bad Dog  { another long story} It was wonderful to have a time of rest and re-Creation  right before I jump back into campaign work for the General Election in November. creekin1

Truly, as Dorothy in the Movie _The Wizard Of O_ says” There is no place like home”.

Amen.

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Each one teach one

Best Dude and I were invited to a wedding in Hattiesburg , Mississippi this weekend. It was the wedding of a young lady whom I knew years ago when she was in an EYC { Episcopal Youth Community} group that I co-led years ago.

Her dad, like me, is a Pittsburgh-area native and ” A” and I bonded over our mutual love of the Steelers.  I’d go to the high school football games each autumn and always exchange hugs with “A” during  the marching band’s break after the Halftime Show.  When she graduated, we maintained our communication via texting and social media.

I watched as ” A” matured into a kind, thoughtful  young woman. We shared in each other’s joys and sorrows. She attended my wedding– even though she was not feeling well at the time.

It saddens me that Best Dude and I cannot be at this wedding; but finances made the travel to Mississippi not possible at this time. However, I am truly with ” A” in spirit this evening as she marries her best friend.

 

QOTW: Why the cover-up?

I am angry and sad regarding the most recent indictment of 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. 18 of those are from my hometown. I scanned the names of the accused, and thankfully did not see any familiar names .

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way bashing Roman Catholicism. As a matter of fact, I have a great love for the faith of my Irish kin and ancestors. I am aware that no ecclesiastical body is without some sort of sin in its leadership.

I hate that these people were permitted to stay in a position of trust while continuing to abuse children. Why is there not some provision in the Roman branch of the Church to defrock these predators. One child abused is too many— yet again and again the Roman Catholic hierarchy insists on covering up the sins committed by some of their clergy. These predators eventually die off— and the ” lucky” ones never have to face any sort of punishment for their horrendous crimes.

Yes, I am angry. I don’t have an answer for those whose lives were ruined by men wearing Roman collars. My heart goes out to the many faithful , decent Roman Catholic priests who now will be suspect due to the horrible behavior of a few.

I blame the Roman Catholic bishops for not protecting the Church and society’s youngest , most vulnerable people. They have the power to remove and defrock those and allow the civil court to prosecute them as the criminals they are. Yet they merely choose to shuffle these priests around like a bad peanut.

A broken system cannot be fixed unless the people at the top of they system admit that it is broken. Sliding big problems under the proverbial rug only makes room for more problems in the future.

In the case of the Roman Catholic Church— this means that more children will continue to be harmed by people who took vows to tend to the spiritual needs of everyone in their care.

Lord have mercy.

Amen.

My Soul Magnifies….

Today is the Feast of The Assumption Of St Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus.  I was reminded of this feast day when our Anglo-Catholic associate rector came to the chapel wearing a Sarum blue stole.

As Episcopalians in the Deep South, Anglo-Catholics are like unicorns….except that we exist. It is refreshing and affirming to hear a sermon preached on Mary’s role as co-redemptrix with Christ.

Hold on–don’t get your underwear in a wad over this statement. I am not saying that Mary is equal with Christ– I am saying that I see her as a key component in the story of humanity’s redemption  No one in human history can claim to have born God-as-Human. Our species owes much to this poor ,humble Jewish girl.

Without Mary saying ” yes” to God’s call on her life to bear Emmanuel, God-with-us would not have been born as a human child. Mary’s womb carried God-with-us in her womb; she and St Joseph raised this Child to adulthood. It was Mary who was there with the other women as her firstborn Son was put to death by Roman governmental officials for crimes He did not commit.

Mary, Mother of God-With-Us is an important part of our faith story. She s also an important part of my personal faith life.

She reminds me that I, too, have a responsibility to bear Christ in the world via my actions. I love the Eastern Christian idea of Mary as Theotokos: God-bearer.

“When we fail to receive the gift of Mary as Mother we can also miss the call of every Christian to bear Jesus for the world as she did. It is time to re-examine the deeper implications of the treasure that is found in the life example and message of the little Virgin of Nazareth. This wonderful title, Mary, the Mother of God, “Theotokos”, reveals a profound truth not only about Mary, but about each one of us. We are now invited into the very relationship that she had with her Son. We can become “God-bearers” and bring Him to all those whom we encounter in our few short days under the sun.” { source _Catholic Online_ }

Mary inspires me to be a better follower of Jesus. Although I am unable to bear children of my own, I too, have a responsibility as a Christ-bearer. It is my duty as a mature Christian woman to mentor younger people as the begin their walks with Christ.

I am inspired to call to mind and thank the women who have ” mothered” me and continue to nurture m faith and life. God has blessed me with several spiritual mothers  and it is my hope that I will grow into the sort of ” mother” that these women are to me. As I’ve entered middle-age it is becoming apparent to me that I am at a stage in my spiritual life when I’ve lived long enough to offer a little wisdom to other Christa Sistas. A brave ” cloud of witness” of women surround me; and I am a part of that continuing story of Christ’s redeeming the world.

Mary the Theotokos is an example of the innate strength that women possess. She is someone who bravely accepted God’s unique call on her. Historically, women’s gifts of leadership in all avenues of human society have been ignored or belittled. Yet it is a woman who brough Emmanuel to the world. It is Mary the Theotokos who, along with Mary of Magdala, who tended to Christ’s dead body on that Holy Saturday.

Mary was brave.

May I be brave too.

Amen.

Feast Of The Assumption of Mary 2018

Unapologetically Myself

hippie tracks

Middle age can suck. Your body hurts in  places where you’ve had various and sundry sports injures as a youth.  The eyes , which have never been good in my case, require bifocals. Evenings out on the town end at 10 PM rather than starting at that hour.

College-age Sarah would feel soooo embarrassed at this fact. But, thanks be to God I’ve grown well beyond those years of poor choices and matured into Forty-Something Sarah.

Yet at the same time I find middle age to be a time of freedom for me.

People, like flowers, bloom at different schedules and I realize now that there is nothing wrong with me in being a ‘ late bloomer”. At the age of over-40, I am at a “place”, physically and mentally, where I am totally comfortable with being whom God created me to be in the first place.

I am married to  a wonderful and extremely  tolerant spouse who supports my cray endeavors and occasionally will join in my shenanigans.  He’s truly the Best Dude { really, Best Person} for me and I love how our partnership works to bring out the best in each other. He is totally worth the long wait— now I see why no one else worked out for me.

Trust me, Best Dude is incredibly patient — I can be difficult to live with sometimes and my passions sometimes keep me away from home. Between parish, Diocese and more recently campaign events– I am not home a lot. But he loves me as God made me and knows that my INFJ extroverted introverted soul needs stimulation.

I LOVE my city. Pensacola though not perfect, is a place where I have met many more liberal “kindred spirits”; have had opportunities to get more involved in Diocese-wide ministries ****AND*** finding a parish that springs people off into servanthood to others in our community. For most of my life I lived in rural or semi-rural places, and as a result felt isolated. Best Dude and I have lived in Pensacola for almost one year , and in that short amount of time I bloomed and continue to bloom among ” my people”.

Although Best Dude and I spent four wonderful years in a sweet smaller Episcopal parish, I know we are HOME now in St Christopher’s Pensacola. While we met many wonderful , Christ-followers at our previous parish, St Christopher’s is definitely home for both of us.

Ironically, in the past Best Dude and I always preferred smaller churches, but the moment we first walked into St Christopher’s it felt right.  Living in Nowhere, Florida made it impractical for us to be faithful members of the Pensacola parish, so we landed at Beach Parish. We regret nothing about our time at Beach Parish– they are faithful servants of Christ and we truly love them as siblings-in-Christ. Yet St Christopher’s is where we belong and where we shall stay.

I am also learning who my true friends are and are not

At my age, life is too short to bother with ” friends” who claim they are soul sisters yet do not call, text or write after I had major surgery last June . After much sadness, I finally , and an INFJ had to ” door slam” her– she is not a part of my life. This saddens me, but at the same time opened up door to new soul sisters–women who make me matzoh ball soup when I fell ill with the flu last January. It makes time in my schedule and in my heart for soul sistas whom I’ve recently met and those who– in spite of living three hours away make time to get together when they are in town. Middle age shows me that I am worth quality gal pals.

As the hair color ad says” Because I’m worth it“.

At midlife, I am finally becoming unapologetically myself. 

Darn– it feels GOOD to be my authentic self.

 

#INeedFeminismBecause

Since the 2016 election I’ve seen a resurgence of ” woman power”. My guess is that this new wave of feminism is a result of the rise of the Far Right– an ideology that espouses the absurd notion that  all the power should be concentrated to white straight American men.

I have been a feminist long before November 2016. Yet recently I have been made aware of some of the struggles our foremothers faced daily.

Now , more than ever in my life, I need feminism.

Disclaimer: I DO NOT “HATE” white, straight men. As a matter of fact , I consider many of them good friends and brothers-in-Christ and I am married to one.  Feminism DOES NOT EQUAL MALE-BASHING.

Ok, now that I made my disclaimer , let me list why feminism is more relevant now than any other time in my 40-plus years on Earth.

~ I am learning from my experience working on a Congressional campaign that many people see our candidate’s gender as a deterrent— they honestly believe that a white man is ” safer” because he is male. Congress is still very much a ” good ol’boys’ club” and it takes brave women to challenge people’s perceptions of what a Congressperson should look like. I would volunteer for my candidate’s campaign even f she were a man– but the fact that she’s a woman only adds to her awesomeness, at least in my opinion.

dr Jen

~ Without feminism , and the bravery of 11 women in 1976 Philadelphia, there would be no women answering their calls to be Episcopal clergy. I believe that God calls PEOPLE  to ordained life in the Church– regardless of gender. I know so many fine priests of both genders, and our Church would be the poorer if only men were able to answer God’s call to be deacons and priests.

alleluia18

Feminism brought us bishops who are women and eventually we had the first woman archbishop in the history of Anglicanism.

 

Me with Bishop Katharine 2009

~ I need feminism because some men, especially men in positions of power, assume it is okay for them to touch a woman without her consent.  I am grateful for the #MeToo movement for finally bringing out into the open the rampant sexual assault of women.{Thank you, Hollywood}

~ My nephew, age 5, needs feminism so he will grow up to respect girls and women.

~My niece, age 3, needs feminism to teach her that NO ONE has the right to touch her without her consent and that she can grow up to be anything she desires to become.

~Feminism gives women agency over our reproductive lives. Doe to our foremothers, women have access to birth control methods and the days of women dying from botched back-alley illegal abortions are over. Although I would never have chosen abortion, I firmly believe that it is a choice to be made by the pregnant woman .

Women make up half the population of the Earth. Therefore, we all need feminism .

QOTW: To Vote or not to vote…

August 28 is fast approaching. Normally, this date means nothing to me, but this year it is the day of Florida’s primary election. But since November of 2016: I’ve been paying very close attention to the primary races all around the nation.

As a matter of fact, I find myself working for a campaign to replace the current Congressperson .

hate politics. Nevertheless, I’ve always voted.

Some people say that voting is not worthwhile; that all the people running are backed by Big Money.

Perhaps this statement holds true for most political hopefuls, but I still believe that voting is a responsibility of every American who is eligible to do so.

Some say that the two-party system is outdated. I agree, but the results of  the 2016 showed me that this archaic binary voting system is all we have right now. It is broken but at least the majority of adult Americans can and should take part in choosing leaders at the county, city, state  and national levels.

There is no doubt in my mind that the US Election Laws need a complete overhaul.

Big Money, via lobbying, does wield an unfair amount of power in deciding what laws are passed at all levels of government. Campaign finance reform is needed to ensure that those who seek office and win elections are not beholden to any person or corporation. In my observation,  lack of money keeps out a lot of honest people who would perhaps seek out a public office. My work on this Congressional campaign has taught me many lessons including importance of budgeting  and raising money.

In my opinion, professional lobbyists should not even be “a thing” . Yet in realty, lobbying is a career path in itself and I doubt that politicians will pass laws outlawing lobbying.

All this to say is that our broken and archaic system is better than nothing. In spite of her flaws, America is still a free nation. { I know the communists on Facebook will vehemently disagree with me, and they have every right to their own opinion} The right to participate in elections is a right that many people worldwide can only dream of attaining some day.

Floridians, please VOTE on August 28. Please vote again in November.

In the Name of the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer,

Amen.

Transfiguration Part Two: Seeing Christ in Myself

As promised, here is Part Two of the 2018 Transfiguration Meditation.

Yesterday I discussed seeing the Face of Christ in others– especially those individuals with whom we have major philosophical and social differences. Today I want to examine the difficulty of seeing the Face of Jesus when I look in the mirror each day.

None of us are totally without sin yet we know that we are loved and forgiven. It is hard for many, including myself, to put that theological precept into practical action.  My experience as a Christian woman who is developing her natural potential for leadership has been met with some resistance.

I know that many people see me as the cute blonde gal in the flowing skirts and lacy blouses. I look younger than my actual age — and I know some people judge me based on how young they think I am.  Additionally, I struggle with some health issues that can cause people to make assumptions about my capabilities with our really sending time with me.

I know I am not the only person– and surely not the only woman– to feel this way. I struggle with loving myself as my Creator loves me because society has told me that I am not okay as I am. Especially in the Deep South– I see strong women maligned and made to feel badly for who they are . Men are allowed to talk over women { Millennials coined the term ” mansplaining” to define this phenomena} and no one calls them out on their rudeness. I’ve seen this in churches, in civic organizations, and politics.

What bothers me the most about how strong , confident , women are maligned is that the worst offenders are other women.  I saw this happen in high school, and college and hated it.  Unfortunately, some women remain Mean Girls well into adulthood. When I’d tell my mom about girls’ cruelty towards me in school, she would explain that they felt threatened by me and only acted cruelly to build themselves up.  Are we Alpha Women really that threatening?

The constant bullying by other women and mansplaining by some men makes it hard for me to see the Face of Christ in the mirror.  I work everyday to love myself as a Creation by the Creator but society makes doing so a daily struggle.

On Sunday I was remined that “Jesus is no pushover teacher”.  Therefore, it is okay for me not to be a pushover— and to live into who I am as a Beloved.

In the Name of the Creator , Redeemer & Sustainer.

Amen.

Transfiguration Part One: Accidental Saints

Today is the Feast Of The Transfiguration. Since today’s feast s a big deal among our Eastern Rite siblings-in-faith, I plan to look at two sides of what the Transfiguration means to me right now in my faith journey.

It was hard for James and John to look at Jesus as He really was . As a matter of fact, the Gospel tells us that when they were on that mountaintop with Jesus  “…a cloud came over and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud cam a voice that sad ‘ This is My Son My Chosen; listen to Him”.

Freaky? I think so.

I am currently reading a book by Reverend Nadia Boltz-Weber entitled _Accidental Saints_.  The tagline on the back cover of the book has this statement :What if that person you’ve been trying to avoid is your best shot at grace today? And what if that’s the point? 

Hmmm.

Face it: we all see the face of our Savior in people whom we like and with whom we agree.  But to see the face of Jesus in someone who angers frustrates or annoys me is REALLY hard– at times almost impossible.

I came across this on Saturday when I attended a meeting with the deputies from the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.  For the most part this meeting was informative and productive.

However…

During our discussion of Prayer Book revision an older white man angrily asked the panel where he could find justification for same-gender marriage rites in the Bible. As if this wasn’t offensive to my theology and sensibility, this man qualified his questions with some comment such as ” and don’t mention the word ‘love'”

Gentle readers: yours truly the Anglo-Catholic second generation hippie chick felt so angry that I would not be surprised if literal smoke came out of my ears .

When I relayed this incident to a long-distance sister liberal friend she reminded me that this man is not  ” an asshole” . She knows him and said that he gives much time and talent to his parish. His one hang-up apparently is marriage that is not heterosexual in nature.

In short, my friend who knew Homophobic Man is able to see Jesus in him, because she sees this man as Christ sees him. We are all wildly imperfect  yet totally beloved children of the Creator and the true face of our Redeemer is reflected in each of us.

Taking time to see the reflected, transfigured face of Jesus can be scary. It requires putting aside that which divides us and goes back to our theology of the Eucharist. We all come to receive Christ, to take Him into ourselves so that we may reflect Him out in the world.

The theology behind Passing the Peace during Mass has roots in giving people an opportunity to reconcile with each other prior to going to the altar rail to partake in the Mass. It does not mean that we like what everyone says or does nor must we always agree .In the Peace we recognize Christ in our neighbor and they recognize Christ in us.

Freaky? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely !

Recognizing the Face of Our Savior in every person we meet is terrifying. But we’ve much to learn from the Accidental Saints we meet daily.

Feast Of The Transfiguration 2018

Amen

Becoming an Alpha Woman.

I was reminded today of the growth that God has done with me and within  me in these past twelve months or so.  I’ve grown into the Alpha Female  whom the Divine intended for me to become all along. Yet I remain an eager work-in-progress.

My priest, in her sermon today, said there is a four-part model to spiritual growth. Currently I find myself on the cusp of stages three and four.  I’ve inched much closer to Stage Four in the past year & I owe a lot of that to the people in my life in Pensacola.

According to the sermon today : Stage Three is when a person loves God because God loves them.  Stage four: the most self-actualized  stage of this model of spiritual development, is when a person  realizes they are God’s Beloved. When they realize this they are able to love themselves and others fully.

For many years I was stuck on Stage Three. I loved God, but really did not love myself. As a matter of fact, it took meeting and falling head-over-heals in love with Best Dude in order for me to stop loathing myself. As I learned to see myself through my spouse’s eyes, I came a bit closer to self-acceptance and love.

These past twelve months that we’ve been in Pensacola have been transformative for me.  In the past trip around the sun I’ve undergone major neurosurgery,  packed up a house { as best I can while on restriction after surgery} sold a house, bought another one in town.

Best Dude and I said goodbye to one beloved parish community and were welcomed with open arms into our current parish community . I’ve grown into the strong, independent “alpha female” whom my Creator has designed me to be.

I’ve become:

{ more} Pro-Woman

Cultivating a life here with Best Dude that we both enjoy.

I don’t put myself down { as much as I used to}

Grateful for the partner who is an equal— both of us work together as a team.

I call people out in love { ok sometimes I get angry and yell– but honestly who does not?}

I know when to walk away from people and situations that are not healthy or life-affirming. As an INFJ, when I ” door-slam” someone I mean it. This extreme measure of self-care is used as a last resort.

I do not compete for attention. Being an introvert helps  me achieve this, but everyone likes attention.

I create my reality. If I am unsatisfied with something, I change it to make it fit who God created me to be.

I invest in myself. I allow my time and talents to be put to use for self-care, growth and physical heath.  I no longer apologize for taking days for total care of mind, soul and body. I realize that I cannot serve others in Christ’s name if I am not healthy.

I dare to go for my dreams. No more playing “What if” or telling myself ” Why should I?” The question now is: Why not me? “This has been especially true regarding my parish and diocesan activities.

I don’t care if the new and improved Strong Sarah intimidates others : it is who I am. I am also grateful for the strong women who bless me with their lives every day.

I’ve made my share of stupid mistakes. Rather than regret my past: I learn from it. No one is perfect, and thankfully we have a forgiving Creator who understands what it means to be human. The Bible and the Lives of the Saints are full of imperfect people who did great things in the Name of a loving Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. These stories of Saints, and the stories of saints I know inspire me to use my past as a springboard for a great future.

For years I’ve sacrificed my true self in order to fit in with the ” norm” around me.  For instance, I totally live into my ” liberal” identity and{  I actually prefer the term progressive} social views.  Our move to Pensacola has allowed me to connect with more like-minded people.

I am not ashamed  of who I was in the past, and I am proud of who I am now. While I do not know exactly what it is that God has for me in the future; I trust that I will have my sister and fellow travelers with me for this crazy journey called Life .