Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You People are Good Pray-ers!

I am feeling much better. I drove my car today for the first time since Sunday afternoon. A few twinges (going up stairs is still... not good). But no more pain that wakes me up in the night. (I remember a doctor saying, once, if pain wakes you in the night, pay attention. I think that holds true for all kinds of pain, physical, mental and spiritual.) So, I thank you for your prayers, and give a special thanks to the Mad One who directed so many of your prayers through over at his place. Also I humbly point you in the direction of one of the most moving meditations on prayer I've read, courtesy of the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton at her excellent blog, Telling Secrets. Here's a teaser:

He looked deep into my eyes and then asked slowly, carefully, "When you ask me for prayers, what are you asking, really?"

Startled, I asked, "Whatever do you mean?"

"Well," he said, "I'm sure you've had the experience of having people ask you for prayers because they think you have some sort of direct link - some way of changing things - things that can't be changed. You know. They never say this straight-out but they are looking to you for prayer as some sort of 'magic trick.'"

"Ah, right," I said, suddenly understanding. "Yes, yes I have had that experience," adding quickly, "No, sir, I'm not asking that."

Agreeing wholeheartedly with Elizabeth that prayer is not a magic trick, and aware of the ways in which my life has been surrounded by prayer, mine and that of others... I commend the piece for your consideration.

Thanks friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dumb Pain

I have been on a tear about getting my house in order. (No, not my metaphorical house. The actual building in which I keep my bed, my clothes, my piano, my guitars and my Sabon skin cream.) I had my bedroom painted not long ago (by a member of "the family," a lovely, strapping woman who can-do literally everything you can think of in the way of home repair). The walls are a soft green, the ceiling is lavender, and the trim is glossy white.

On Saturday she was painting my front porch. Inside, I was inspired (after my sermon was finished) to hang pictures. A lot of them. Everything from a gorgeous framed poster of Nijinsky in his "La Spectre de la Rose" garb to two little lithographs of street scenes of San Francisco to a pencil drawing done of my dad in uniform, when he was on R and R in the Philippines in 1944. Also, posters-- show posters, from productions my children and I have been in.

Anyway, I attacked my hanging project with tremendous enthusiasm. I climbed. I hammered. I fastened screws. I broke a sweat. When all was said and done, the inside of my upstairs was really looking very spiffy and intentional. And my right hip was feeling a little funky.

Despite carrying around a lot of excess weight most of my adult life, I've been remarkably free of ill-effects. Having lost around 100 lbs last year has only helped my joints. But as Saturday night progressed, and Beloved and I changed our plans to accomodate my growing discomfort, I went into a full-blown... I don't know what, but it hurt like hell. I barely slept Saturday night.

On Sunday morning I rose early to give myself enough time to get to church. I worked through the logistics of the service: I would go up the three chancel steps at the beginning, and only go down to stay down. I would do the children's message from up there. I would only go to the main floor at the benediction.

I got through the service alright, but the pain by this point was making me dizzy. I went to the walk-in clinic, where I received confirmation that, yes indeed, I had pulled a muscle. Really badly. They told me to take that pill Dr. House fancies, and I have been taking them by halves, only when the pain is really intolerable. (At 1:47 this morning, for example).When I got home from the walk-in, Beloved essentially watched me sleep (she also read the New York Times and the local rag).

I have had a lot of time to lie around and think about pain; reading, when the pain is that bad, is out of the question.

I basically have no insight to offer on pain, except to say that it is awful, and this is just a piddly little muscle ache, not bone cancer for heaven's sake. I'm kind of ashamed at what a baby I am. But holy toledo, I have been in agony, I have had to cancel everything for the next 48 hours, and I have been ordering poor Petra around to boot. (Actually, we had a cozy day. When the House pills kicked in we started watching season 3 of "The Gilmore Girls." We just watched the episode where Francie and Rory go head to head, and then Petra went off to a rehearsal for the next play she's appearing in.)

So, I'm in pain. Dumb pain (because I don't even know when/how I injured myself). And... no insight. It's just awful. Must remember that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

In order to bring my two personas together, I offer here a plethora of links.

Today's post on the Feast of Mary Magdalene over at Magdalene's Musings.

Monologue on Luke 8:1-3

Monologue on the Passion

Rising: An Easter Sermon/ Magdalene Monologue

And, finally, this, from Janet Morley's excellent inclusive resource All Desires Known.

O God hear my cry,
for my loss is more than I can bear;
I am surrounded by darkness,
and I do not know myself.

In the hours before the dawn I will arise,
while it is still dark.
Through the streets of the city, and in the cold garden,
among those who have disappeared,
and at the site of sudden death,
at the place of my abandonment,
and deep in my heart's anger, I will search you out.

In the speechless places of my soul,
and in that which I most fear, I will seek you;
through the strange landscape of my grief
I will return to the darkness
as to my mother's womb.

I shall not fear wounding,
nor shall I be appalled by violent men;
for the grave is naked before God,
the pain of death has no covering.

I sought you early, my beloved,
but you had turned and gone.
I came while it was still dark;
I put my hand to the rock.
I looked for touch, and behold, terror;
for grief, and behold, annihilation.

Horror engulfed me,
and I did not hear your voice;
I was clothed with my tears,
your face was hidden from me.
Then I was compelled by your presence,
and my heart turned within me.

Like the sudden rain upon the grass
and like the sunlight
my God is come to me;
as the footfall of a child who was lost,
as the rhythm of an unremembered song.

Your coming is like freedom to the prisoner,
like the return of those long captive.
You are the movements of the dance I had forgotten,
you are the face of satisfied desire.

My soul is stirred for you, my beloved.
I cannot contain my heart;
for you have seen my longing,
and your eyes are dark with love.
Your love is stronger than death,
your passion more relentless than the grave.
You will but speak the word,
amd I shall be healed;
though your touch is the touch of a stranger,
yet is your voice my home.

John 20:1-18; Song of Songs 5:2-8

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Like a Mighty Tortoise...."

.... moves the church of God.
Brothers, we are treading
Where we've always trod.

Unknown, attr. to Rev. Jeannette Piccard

Well, it took three days to get the official word, but... they said yes.

Yes to a four year renewal of my contract with my congregation, because my governing board told them in great detail why I am the right pastor for this congregation.

It was not unanimous (a little birdie told me). But it was not close, either.

I've been too busy this week to properly absorb it...

But thank God. And thanks to those people who were able to look beyond me as an "issue" to see me as a pastor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Prayer Requests

This just in:

There are so many things going on today, and so many people involved... it's hard to single out any one thing.

But I will ask this: prayers for the ongoing ministry of the church I serve, and for its wonderful people, and for those who will soon be making decisions that will affect us all.

Today a body meets that will decide, pretty much, whether I am able to continue as pastor here.

While they are meeting I will be singing and dancing and otherwise cavorting onstage in a dress rehearsal for a play that will open Thursday night.

And while all this is going on, my dad is trying to figure out what he wants, what he can and cannot do, what he will and will not do, and how his children figure into all of it.

While you're on your knees, you might throw in a petition on behalf of my blood pressure.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

I have been thinking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness a lot recently. I have been thinking about independence, and what that means.

I don't think it necessarily means isolation, though I know it can be used to convey a stance of being apart. The Hebrew notion of holiness is also one of being apart, but certainly not so that one can be isolated... so that one can be devoted to God's service in a particular way.

My dad loves his independence. By which I mean, his identity is as a man responsible for himself. He is a person who does not rely on others to fulfill his basic needs, or even his less tangible ones. He satisfies all these himself. He eats what he wants, when he wants. He watches television according to his interest. (He is very, very interested in Greta Van Sustern. Perhaps I shall try to shift him Rachel's way....) He comes and goes as he pleases. Socializes as matches his mood. Likes getting into a scrap with the butcher at the grocery store. (A butcher by trade, he is forever dissatisfied with the current state of butchering in America.) He thinks of himself as independent.

To try to persuade him to accept help in any given area of his life is very, very hard. A year or two ago he recognized that he could not go about his planting as he had done previously. He liked to fill four planters with artful arrangements of red geraniums and white and striped white-and-blue (really purple) petunias. (You understand the color scheme.) But his loss of upper arm strength meant that he really could not do this himself any longer. He hired a young man to do it for him, gave him a list of the flowers he wanted. The young man came back with yellow and purple flowers, no petunias, no geraniums. Dad was not just upset. He was devastated. He had taken a little leap, had asked for help (paid for it, really) and what he wanted was completely disregarded.

At this point, dad sees everything that is offered as "help" as an encroachment on his status as an independent man. There is some truth to that. If he comes to rely on others for his meals, or to drive him here and there, there is a loss of independence. I cannot deny it.

I had a beloved aunt with whom I discussed women's rights as I became aware of them, as an adolescent in the 1970's. She used to say, "Don't be fooled for a minute Ceci. Women were liberated the day they learned to drive." Dad is aghast that he might need to stop driving. (That is the regulation for receiving Meals on Wheels in the county where he lives.) I get that.

To me independence has something to do with integrity, but it also has to do with relationship. I do not value my separateness and aloneness all that much. (This distinguishes me, among many other characteristics, from my Beloved.) I like to imagine I'd accept the help if my life called for it. But who knows? I can jump in my car and drive 250 miles to respond to an emergency, and get myself whatever I want to eat, and climb stairs without needing to collapse on a bed to rest. I know nothing of what my dad is going through. Nothing.

Last night Beloved and Petra and I attended a Fourth of July/ Graduation party at the home of a mutual friend. Young people were swimming in a pond. A fifty-something physician was running around the yard setting off fireworks with the glee of a twelve-year-old. Three generations interacted seamlessly, and music echoed through the hills with the cracking sound of the fireworks. We were celebrating our independence.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home at Last

I'm home from a couple of days at my dad's house.

I really know nothing more than when I received the frightened phone call from him at 10:15 on Sunday morning.

He had an episode on Saturday night in which he was too weak to walk, it frightened him, and he called 911. By the time the paramedics had broken in through the back door of the house, dad was able to walk, and got to the ambulance under his own steam.

For some reason when he got to the hospital, he de-emphasized his weakness and talked instead about insomnia and vivid dreams. So the ER doc released him with a prescription for a sleeping pill.

Other possibly relevant facts:

Dad had a car accident (slow motion fender bender) on June 10. He was distressed about this, but had not told me or my brother.

In the day (days?) before his episode of weakness, he hadn't eaten, except for sips of water. (Why? No clear answer.)

When I arrived, he seemed fine. He always has difficulty walking-- a knee injury that should have been operated on a long time ago plagues him. He has a somewhat frail appearance, a little more frail each time I see him. He ate everything I provided for him while we were together.

I told him there are basically four possibilities at this time:

He can come to live with me.

He can go to live with my brother.

He can live in some kind of assisted living facility (preferably near me or my brother).

He can stay in his house with modifications-- meals brought in, someone to clean regularly, people on a schedule to check in on him and drive him where he needs to go, severely restricted driving (if at all).

He wants none of these options. To him, he had a bad moment, it has passed, and all is well.

I am a pastor. Churches are filled with old people, with children of old people, and grandchildren of old people. This story is nothing new. It is a situation everyone in my congregation has been touched by on some level. I am witness to people making all kinds of decisions, good, bad and indifferent, about their own or their parents' care every day. I am also witness to people making no decisions, and untenable situations stretching on and on.

When I left I had in place:

Someone to prepare meals for my dad and assist with grocery shopping. This includes some social interaction for him at least twice a week (he wants to do the shopping with her).

Someone to stop in to check on my dad a couple of times a week.

An interview to be scheduled by Senior Services of the county he lives in.

Someone to visit him next Monday to talk about cleaning his house.

Someone to take him to the dentist next Tuesday (a minor adjustment of his bridge).

Someone to take him to the bus, to come visit me for a week, next Wednesday.

Now let's see how much of this actually comes to pass.