Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Third Sunday in Lent

That's Wyatt's model airplane up there. He came to spend the night on Friday and R and I took him to the park yesterday morning with one of those cardboard and plastic model airplanes that runs on a unraveling, wound up rubber band and a propeller with a high toss into the wind. We were over there for an hour together having a good, sweet time. It's nice to know that such simple ingredients are still more enticing than the DS or the toy story video.

Got a message from one of my former Academy covenant group members alerting the rest of us that Bob, the only man in our group - poor guy, had been unexpectedly transferred to Hospice yesterday after a tumor discovery last week.

I've been working on my personal narrative for graduate school and the Academy and Mercy Center figures largely in my growth and development story, not to mention my readiness and hunger for seminary. The Academy also came up in my leadership history presentation last week for my MIT class and now that I think about it, I found a picture of my covenant group last week and I had been thinking about how blessed I was to be in the company of my elders. People who were at 20 years ahead of me, if not 40 or more years ahead of me in this life.

Bob is a funny guy. I remember him telling jokes and laughing a lot. He is a retired second-career pastor and completely in love with his wife Mary who we heard a lot over those two years. We sat in a room together every night. The 8 of us would gather at the appointed time for 40 nights, sit in a circle, light a candle, and listen to one another or perform skits at the unstable at the end of the week. One memorable time we dressed up in trash bags as nuns and did a silent version of the hallelujah chorus with flash cards. Bob was Sister Mary Juana I think.

Thinking of you, Bob. And you too, Mary. His wife, Mary, came to our group for a little bit the last night and helped us make beaded bracelets. We each brought 8 of one kind of bead and passed them out to each other so we each have a matching bracelet made up of pieces of each of us. One of my favorite totems and sometimes I wear it when I'm preaching or leading a retreat.

Spirit of Comfort come quickly. My love goes to that bedside in Arizona. Thanks for keeping us informed Judy.

40 days and nights. Such a powerful number in our tradition.

So here we are the Third Sunday in Lent. So many people on my prayer card for sickness and vigil. Three friends have lost a parent already this year and another friend is keeping vigil. Several folks.

May there be peace and unexpected strength and surrounding in these desert times.

God of the journey,
who calls us to travel with faith,
who reminds us we are dust
yet breathes into us the breath of life,
hear my prayer:

Bearer of the Sun,
draw us into your heart of fire,
that we may have light to uncover
the unremembered stories
and strength to endure their telling.

Creator of the world,
awaken us to the blessedness of earth,
that I may honor these who once dwelled
along these paths that I now travel.

Spirit who hovered
over the face of the deep,
lead us to your life-giving waters,
that we may give our tears to the depths
and find refreshment and delight.

Helper who breathes life
into each new generation,
surround us, surround Bob and Mary, with the winds of your spirit,
and may we hear with tenderness
the stories that they bear.

-Jan L. Richardson

[pronouns modified]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forget the framework

Working on my autobiographical statement for SU's School of Theology and Ministry application today this came up and out -

Start with a purge
Start with Freedom
Forget the trellis,
the framework, the
boundaries, the programs,
the outlines, the musts,
the rules and requirements,
the questions
and SPILL over.
Pour everywhere.

out, down, across
and dripping. Leaving
stains on the table,
the floor. Exhaust
yourself. Empty.
Make room.
Step back
survey the landscape.

Then get
out the pruning shears and the gloves,
the mop and the broom.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


My mom and I were talking this week and she reminded me of something R. says that she's adopted. I'm pretty sure he picked this slogan/question somewhere - "Are you trading what you really want for what you can have now?"

Things have picked up on the job search front which is exciting and presents options where previously there was a lot of sending resumes and cover letters into the black hole of various human resource departments. I had a phone interview this morning! Relieved to know that several months after being laid off I can still speak coherently and sell the skills I've developed over the years. 3 part-time job openings on the horizon and 1 full time possibility. The jobs aren't mine for the taking, but people are talking to me and letting me know these openings are coming down the pike. One is particularly attractive, but would probably present a real road block along the school path. Attending and paying for school would be difficult. So as I was talking to my mom she reminded me of what R said that my mom latched on to, it's a good one. So I'm sitting with what do I really want and developing a strategy for keeping first things first.

And then my mom told me she's giving up purchasing things for Lent and she's committed to getting rid of 40 things.

Love that.


Monday, March 7, 2011


homemaking: the creation of a home, especially as a pleasant place in which to live.


It's been awhile since I've been here. I'm still unemployed, job searching daily with plenty of unpaid activities keeping me busy. When the sun's out I'm reveling in this season and hopeful for the future. On the grey days #3 - #10 I feel listless and sometimes without direction, wondering what the hell I'm doing or not doing with my time.

Getting off the internet and into homemaking mode has proven to be a place of rejuvenation. And I'm really, really enjoying it. Mostly in the kitchen. R and I have hosted a number of people for dinner in these past weeks and months and last week we packed up a couple galettes, salad, and lava cakes and carted them over to a family with a new baby and sat around their table laughing and sharing stories until past all of our normal weekday bedtimes. I cook dinner once a month for my check-in with one of my mentors (and he buys me lunch out once a month - nice.) I'm learning about timing. I have developed unemployed time syndrome. Symptoms include thinking anything is possible, even in condensed amounts of time, because there is no job. I don't always leave myself enough time in the kitchen for everything I've planned to do and I've ruined a couple of pans in the past weeks. However, the overarching feeling is enjoyment and satisfaction. The timing will improve. I like going to the grocery during the week and sitting at the table for most meals. I like getting out a tablecloth and lighting candles. And the time in the kitchen is so centering and sensual. So gratifying to make applesauce out of an almost compost worth apple, cilantro pesto from leftover chili garnish, white bean rosemary dip just because I have everything already at home and it sounds good. Got me thinking recently that the people I visit in the jail have not experienced this in awhile and may never again; the process of creating something with my hands, tasting as I go, loving on all the colors, the warm smells coming from oven, listening to the whirring and the chopping and the bubbling on the stove, anticipating who I'm going to share it with and what conversations might occur across the table, holding R's hand at the seat next to me, talking while he does the dishes.

Some friends brought flowers with them a couple weeks ago and I spent some time the next day dividing the big bouquet into little bouquets around my apartment. The picture above is from the little vase in my bathroom. It's still there. Mums are hardy!

R and I are talking about moving in together. When the sun's out I spend a lot of time fantasizing about making a new home. I would say together, but that's a lie, I like to be in charge of the home front. So he's in the picture, but I'm doing the set up in my mind. I fantasize about a possibly larger than my current one butt kitchen, space to walk on both sides of the bed!, a bedroom door, more of "God's LIGHT" coming through non-north facing windows. I make believe that if we get a 1 bedroom apt. with a dining room in my current building that we'll turn the dining space into shared studio space since we're both project people and maybe they'll be a pull out couch for guests in the living area. Seeing each other regularly without having to plan it. It's already my job to keep his granola jar full, but right now he carts it back and forth in his backpack. I look forward to the possibility of seeing it our countertop.

On other days I'm honestly terrified. I'm irrationally afraid that I'll never be alone again. I feel safest alone, having a space of my own to retreat to, quiet and stillness. Do I really know who I am, how I really feel, and what I want enough to make this decision? In a lot of ways I feel I'm just now shedding more shells and I'm not always sure what I'm going to find underneath. Someone else's life is affected my choices too.

Scared self, I won't abandon you, but I want to grow.

I don't know why, but I was trying to take a picture of my glow in the dark Mary the other night. The pictures just turned out black. I took one with my nightstand light on and kept it. I look at it now and see Mary, the Light, the alarm clock blackened out - comforting me that there is no rush, and the title of another's story Without a Map, which is how I feel at time's these days. Reminding myself that it's not about how I think I should feel, but how I do feel.

I've been on nine informational interviews so far. I've got another one this week and handful in the weeks ahead. I just spent the last two full weekends on the facilitators team for the winter Shanti volunteer training. I loved it and am quite tired. I felt acutely tender and grateful both quiet Sunday mornings walking to training. The training couldn't have come at a better time for me personally. Thank you, Shanti. What an enjoyable privilege.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Architecture Books & Bad Food; Loneliness & Humility

Sometime last fall or summer I was at spiritual direction and Suzanne was leading me through a Lectio Divina meditation. She asked me "What do you picture yourself handing over to Jesus?" I answered "architecture books and bad food." We both started laughing. Man has that image stayed with me. I giggle every time and I'm experiencing the truth of it unfold.

The New Year is a good time for purging and I know some people who have the bug right now. I have a friend, Sonja, who says when she starts cleaning out her closet she knows change is coming sometimes even before she knows what the change is and she's internally preparing for it by making external room. In December I started going through my books for the thousandth time, change was coming and I knew at least partially what it was. In September I came home from my last week at work with a box of books from work and had a shelf of architecture and art books at home. In order to make room internally and externally for the new vocation that is unfolding and to outwardly profess with my precious books that I wasn't going back to architecture. I didn't need these books anymore and other people might love them. So I kept maybe a half of dozen of those books that I couldn't bear to get rid of (most of them books about sacred spaces) and I gave the rest away to colleagues, students, friends, and neighbors. It felt really, really good. I feel lighter, more spacious, more firm, more concrete in my orientation shift and there's more room in my apartment now. One less box of books on the floor taking up physical, visual, and psychological space.

Saying goodbye.

Job seeking is proving to be a humbling experience. Wow, I am so unqualified for many, many positions. Thankfully this is good, even helpful information. It's clear I need to go back to school if I want some of the jobs out there, like chaplain positions, that I'm not qualified for no matter that I have the heart or desire for it or I have years of volunteer experience. It is hopeful that there are job postings to scan through everyday. What would I feel like if there was perceptibly "nothing" to even move toward?

I'm lonely. Not for friends or meaning or volunteer activities. I'm lonely for co-workers and one place to go everyday. I realized last week that I've been unemployed for about 5 months. When I decided to take time off and claim a Sabbath for myself I had a relatively easy time settling in to the time and feeling guilt free about relaxing. Relaxing and recharging and reconnecting with myself and others was the point. Now that I'm actively looking for a job that is changing and I feel some restlessness creeping in.

Twice this week dear people in my life have called and asked me to lunch, on them. Very nice. And people making themselves available for informational interviews and encouraging and clarifying conversations. I'm a little overwhelmed by all the ways I'm being spoken to and encouraged. Very thankful and as much as I might be lonely sometimes, I feel very full and a little scattered with my energy and focus. Inviting myself to relax in the midst of this time. To enjoy these sometimes slower, scattered days and to claim days for myself with no plans without feeling guilty. My job is to look for a job. That's enough. There's nothing else I can do to further "earn" this "time off." I don't have to be on Craig's list or making phone calls or setting up the next thing whenever I'm sitting still. I'm learning to receive offerings in this season - paid trips to the grocery store, lunches, hosting responsibilities, time to rest and sit in chapels mid-day, car rides to appointments and home from church, sharing of experience, wisdom, and connections.

Time to go bake my sister's birthday cake and enjoy the fact that it's not 11 pm after work with my eyes half crossed to do so.

Praying for all those spending time in hospitals - visiting, working, or lying in the bed. Praying and mindful of all those who have been unemployed for a heck of a lot longer than I have with mortgages to pay and children to feed and be present to, for all those who don't have unemployment benefits or living off them is near to impossible instead of just tight and requiring some restraint and humility.

Much Love, Em

Monday, January 24, 2011

Speak, LOVE, your servant is listening

I love visiting the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle U. Architects, you'll know this place by its other name - Steven Holl's chapel. There are candles to light, little stacks of poems for the taking, a prayer book to write in, beautiful, milk spilling sculptures, prayer impressed wax walls, rotating prayer cards, restroom relief for urban wanderers, a large baptismal font, stillness amidst the rustling of other bodies trying to be quiet and respectful.

I sat where I could see this statue of Mother and Child last week and a card with the Salve Regina printed on it. I took a picture of it so I could take the words home with me. I didn't know what the Salve Regina was, but I appreciate the sentiment, the crying out to a woman, to a mother.

I could see using this as a framework for a personalized prayer.

Personalizing prayers and poems came up at this past Saturday's Seeking and Listening Reunion Retreat Day. We went around the circle introducing ourselves by name, what retreat we attended and what retreat experience stays with us. For one of the retreatants, previously unbeknownst to me, it was my rewording of Mary Oliver poems and other prayers. She shared with the group her thought "Mmmm. I like that. Wait - can she do that? Is this allowed?"

O, the clutch of our upbringing and being good girls and boys, following the rules. It shows its face even in the most personal of things like our prayer life, our communion with God, with the mystery of Life. Holds us back as we long for freedom, personal expression, community belonging, to know and be known intimately.

I read a great book recently, Beginner's Grace by Kate Braestrup. She's the well known Unitarian Universalist minister, the game warden chaplain in Maine. Her first memoir is Here if You Need Me which I highly recommend. I didn't love her second book of non-fiction about marriage, I did get a gem or two out of it, but it was missing the flow and the magnetism of her first memoir. Well, I'm back as a big fan now. I had to return the book to the library, but several pages were marked. If someone would have been around while I was reading it they would have heard a lot of groaning and I love that or Yes! Her theology is pretty simple and accessible and believable - God is Love.

As I was typing the post about surrender and daily discipline with the scripture from 1 Samuel - Speak, Lord, I'm listening, I thought to myself "Kate would say, Kate would pray, 'Speak LOVE, your servant is listening.' Oooo, Yes." O, to be Love's servant, to be Agape's servant, to stop and be - listening for Love. I remember hearing Alice Walker talk about substituting Love for Lord as well.

Kate Braestrup appears to feel total freedom to change words and write her own prayers. Beginner's Grace, a book about prayer, is full of them, Praise God. Inspires me to keep working on a personalized Lord's prayer and I've committed to writing a communion liturgy for Liberation this year. It was important for me to realize that personalizing prayers doesn't have to mean throwing away the prayers in their original form - including the Lord's prayer (sacrilege?), sometimes it feels so good to say all those Thy's and Thine's and it felt like a gift to look down at a 2-year Academy bulletin one day and see a New Zealand Prayer Book version. Writing my own version helps me flush out the meaning of the original or at least better understand where I find meaning. Writing this post and looking around on line for the links to include I came across this page showcasing several versions of the Lord's prayer and a People's Prayer collected by Zora Neale Hurston and shared by Alice Walker.

In other book reviews and moments of resonance. I'm reading a book right now that I am bowled over by, gives hope, provides scaffolding for a vision, makes me question, are these stories of redemption for real?, unrelenting rebirth alongside unrelenting death. I would be out of my mind to do an information interview with Father Greg Boyle, aka G or G-dog, and other folks at Homeboy Industries, shadow him for a day or a week. His memoir is called Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. Those Jesuits. Usually I devour books like this, but I'm reading it kind of slowly. I might finish it today. Maybe an interfaith chapel + letterpress/silkscreen studio, a place to heal + a place to work isn't so crazy. One step at a time. I doubt I need to say here that I highly recommend this book.

At the end of the S+L retreat we used the "Keep Watch" prayer. Because the S+L retreats are inclusive spirituality retreats we try to be very conscious of our God talk, to be respectful of everyone present without watering down our language so much that is has no weight or depth, to be so respectful of the people attending who are not religious or don't believe in God, that we ignore the people who are and do. For some this works, for others it doesn't. But, as I recited the prayer I said "Keep watch, dear Love, with all who work or watch or weep this year." I like to say dear, Lord too, but I also exercise the freedom to substitute as led. Keep watch, dear Lord, dear Love, dear Red Bird, dear Community, dear Friends, dear Mystery...

There's a lot of joy and new beginnings this year and a lot of sadness and weeping, hospital stays and chemo treatments, dying and birth, homecomings and going forth.

I'm praying and I know others are too.

Holy Mystery, who dwells in all that is, seen and unseen, hallowed be your many names and your namelessness...