Good church

Back in the days of going to church in an actual church building I used to comment to my husband, after some—not all—services, “That was good church.” What I usually meant was that some aspect, or some combination of the singing, sermon, and sharing during the worship service left me with a warm glow of inspiration.

I counted on but seldom gave credit to the thing that has really kept me going to church all these years, which is community. The “fellowship of the believers.” Continue reading

An initiation

117080589_10157619881687379_57698875694796554_nOne thing I used to do a lot with women friends was devise ceremonies for particular occasions, focused on individuals, that seemed to call for a little extra spiritual oomph. I have recently resumed that practice, and yesterday was a beauty.

We Protestants tend to be ceremony-shy, limiting our rites and rituals to big occasions such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms. But over the years, I have helped design and execute, or been the recipient of, rite-of-passage ceremonies marking such things as the completion of a thesis, imminent motherhood, a job change involving a new set of skills, a divorce, or a girl’s entry into puberty. Continue reading

Racism and poison ivy

During the pandemic of Covid-19 I have had a lot of time to think and read. I have also had a lot of time to spend in my garden.

When I am tired of thinking and reading, I am happy to go out into my big landscape garden and pull weeds. Since it is newly planted it has a lot of weeds. I do this in the morning before it gets hot. This takes up any morning energy I might have for writing, so, as a result, I haven’t been blogging recently–which is just as well, because with all that is happening I feel like I have nothing to say, nothing at all to add.

I really felt I had nothing unique to say about that other pandemic of racism and police violence that has captured our national awareness in the last several weeks on top of, because of, along with Covid-19. Could this at last be a transformative moment? Can the biggest mass movement this nation has ever experienced be sustained? How will that happen?

It was just too much to contemplate. And then poison ivy showed up and became my teacher. Continue reading

The circling days

Yesterday I walked Ben through the application for Medicaid. That was my one accomplishment for the day, besides putting in another grocery order and making nice greens flavored with smoked salmon along with rice and fried tilapia. I ate too much.

Today, laundry will be my accomplishment. This doesn’t take up much time, however. I hang my clothes on drying racks but I have always done that. Dinner tonight will be beans and veggies cooked with a smoked turkey leg.

We got a new set of face masks that are so superior to the ones I made that I immediately ordered another set. Continue reading

The umpteenth of April

This long month is coming to a close cold and rainy. I can’t get out to finish the weeding today. Maybe I’ll clean upstairs, get rid of the sewing mess I made several weeks ago fashioning our three pathetic masks. We should have another set if we’re serious about using them properly, laundering after each use. Maybe I’ll buy some on Etsy.

Mask sewing isn’t where it’s at for me, the distracting focus. I know that is an oxymoron. What I’m looking for is a way to be sad and determined at the same time. Something to do that feels like purpose. A larger wheel to engage me as one of the cogs rather than spinning in my own space.

What can I do?

This is a status report, Day 47 of sheltering in place. Subtitle, the halfhearted quest for meaning.

We are sheltering a refugee as we are sheltering ourselves. That’s one thing we’re doing that is working out well for all concerned, all things considered.  Maybe we could take in another refugee? We have room. But we are not prepared to go through everything again that we went through in order to shelter this one. So perhaps we could offer space but not sponsorship, if that makes sense.

Yikes, though. How about something smaller?

My husband needs a haircut. There’s a little project, if he’ll agree to it.

Feeding the three of us occupies a large part of my attention. Daily meal planning and preparation and planning the grocery orders that go with that. Because of our different needs and tastes the meals have to be pretty simple so cooking is not always entertaining. My mouth waters at my friends’ Facebook posts of their baking ventures. We’re making bread, which Vic and I aren’t supposed to eat but that’s a staple for Ben. I would really like to try cinnamon rolls, but I would just eat them and I can’t afford that. I’m already gaining weight.

The gardening works for me when the weather is good. I bend over till I can’t anymore.

Grooming—personal and garden—and feeding are daily household tasks that fit only abstractly into a bigger picture. They help but don’t satisfy some need for larger purpose.

There are things I could and should be doing as chair of our church’s outreach team. They depend on communicating by email, phone, Zoom, or whatever technology we can muster and master. Our mastery and access, however, are not equal. People don’t respond promptly. Requests and invitations get lost in the ether or in the endless email chains. Confusion reigns. Everything that was hard to do before—agree on and plan projects, budget and raise funds, decide how funds should be spent—is harder than ever. While the needs may be increasing exponentially, we don’t always know where they are. We haven’t laid down clear procedures that work well without face-to-face meetings and the weekly fellowship times between worship and Sunday School where you can collar people and ask them to do stuff.

One of these days when my energy is up I might rethink church logistics for the pandemic age, something besides the video worship service and Zoom sharing and prayer. By the time I get around to that, however, we may be able to meet again. Oh I wish. I am starting to hate the technology. And committee meetings are not what I want to do when church meets face to face again. I want to sing in glorious four-part harmony. I miss our singing.

I’m feeling a lack of real church.

I’m feeling a deficit of the inner resources, psychological and spiritual, that are necessary to keep going in these difficult times.

I see it in my need for distraction, in my restless, halfhearted quest for purpose.

I see it in my wish for things to be the way they were; in my resistance to change and difficulty.

I see it when I sit to meditate and can’t stay quiet and empty my mind for a mere twenty minutes because the waves of grief and anger start rolling through.

I understand why people drink too much. I understand why people just want to get out again and go to stores and bars and movie theaters and restaurants and the beach even though the virus is still out there.

I’m sleeping a lot, when I can get to sleep.

We want to stay asleep. We would like to sleepwalk through life as if nothing had changed. We are not ready to wake up to reality.

That’s how I am today. How are you?

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The azaleas are pretty even in the rain.

Slo-o-ow down

Who would know that it is Saturday? One day rolls into another. Hey, it’s a bit like retirement! What does corona-sheltering mean for retirees? More of the same. Intensive retirement. Moving from you don’t have to do much to you can’t do anything. You thought you’d already slowed down a lot? Well, you can slow down even more. Those frequent trips to the grocery store and library, just for a change of scenery and stimulation? They’re not happening anymore. Dinner parties? Uh-uh. No church. No meetings. No spontaneous trips to see the grandkids, let alone flights to far places.

The effect of this diminished possibility, for me, is a kind of soothing inertia. Continue reading

A letter from prison

“Ben,” the African asylum-seeker whom we are sponsoring, has now been in detention in New Mexico for four months, waiting to be paroled or bonded out. As I’ve written before, he is part a cohort of a dozen or so Africans who came through Mexico and arrived at the border at about the same time—and the last one still in deteIMG_4068ntion.

We’ve been talking regularly on the phone these four months. He calls us Mom and Dad in the African way (he’s actually about the age of our children). We’ve written letters, too. Sometimes it’s easier for Ben, who is a journalist, to express his feelings in writing. The one that came yesterday struck me profoundly. He gave me permission to share it. Continue reading

Community prayers for Traychon

A few days ago I learned that the community On-Site Prayer Ministry was scheduling a vigil at the location of the shooting of Traychon Taylor, the one that took place practically in our backyard a few weeks ago and that I’ve written about here and here.

Since I’ve been doing my own vigil in my backyard rather sporadically (I’m easily discouraged by weather), this seemed like a next step in whatever might be unfolding. I looked forward to it. Continue reading

Traychon, cont.

When you start out on something that seems promising but outside your comfort zone, you can easily lose momentum, chicken out. You hear the countering voices. What was I thinking? I am making too much of this. I’ve been feeling this about my little Traychon project, about the young man who was shot behind our house, which I wrote about just two days ago. Nevertheless, I have persisted in following my impulses or perhaps the Spirit. Continue reading

Traychon

So this happened a week ago Sunday night, at around 10 pm as we were watching a movie at home: a pop-pop-pop that might have been gunshots or firecrackers. Fifteen minutes later I looked out a kitchen window and saw police cars, lights flashing, crime-scene tape, cops with flashlights behind our long backyard, in the street and in a parking lot that belongs to a business at the back edge of our property. Definitely, it had been shots.

Continue reading