Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blogging Lent 4: Kind of Sparkly

An interesting thing is happening. I was reading a friend's blog about her decision to give up sugar, and I became intrigued with this idea. Mind you. I've done it before, only to, well, stop doing it. The last time I did that my going back to sugar coincided with a fairly traumatic life event (a death). And since then I've been unable to sustain it for more than a day or two.

But at the end of last week I came to a place of... well, tiredness, I think. Tired of feeling unwell. Tired of straining to buckle a seat belt. Tired of being terrified to get on an airplane for fear of crowding some stranger unacceptably. Tired of being tired. And so, with great reluctance, and some sadness, because, you know, I love sugar... I decided to stop. Just stop for now.

And something interesting is happening. First of all, the physical craving is dying down (though there were a couple of tough days at first). And the fatigue is passing (I had a terrible day in front of the computer Tuesday, but that seems to have been the last of it). I am finding I have more energy. I am finding I feel more focused on my work. And yesterday, as the thought of a much-loved sweet treat passed through my mind, my firm thought was, "So not worth it."

Last night Beloved and I had dinner, and I tried something new on the menu of our favorite funky haunt. I never do that. I always have the same thing. Last night I tried something new. Beloved said, "What are you doing?" And so I told her about the sugar decision. (I hadn't before, because I didn't want to disappoint her when I failed. How about that confidence?). She smiled at me over her wine, and said, "I thought you looked kind of sparkly."

And the thing I complained about last time? Getting better. Lent. Getting better.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Blogging Lent 3

Which is to say, what Lent? I am living a dreadful example right now (should any of my parishioners care to take notice). Rather than enter a time of quiet reflection (morning prayer? who has time for morning prayer?) I am pretty much running 16 hours a day.

It's not good.

It's Saturday morning, and I have already worked more than 50 hours this week, and I have a full day of church obligations ahead of me.

Also, what girlfriend? And what family?

Hope your Lent is a little more sane than mine is working out to be.

Over and out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Valentine Echoes

I have been standing over my sink, pulling shriveled leaves from the red and pink tulips that my Beloved sent to me on Valentine's Day, along with the same message she always sends: I love you so. I have been trying to steal another day, another half day for these gifts which are by nature ephemeral.

They arrived last Thursday while I was at work, and I didn't find them until I'd returned from our date, late at night. My daughter had put them on the piano, still enshrouded with plastic. They were not arranged, but strewn in a red glass vase, a rectangle that flared outward from its base. They were breathtaking. Now, even stripped of their greenery, their earlier glory, they still are.

Beloved called me this afternoon. She'd found a quote that she just had to read me. It was from Julia Child.

I think it's a shame to be caught up in something that doesn't make you tremble with joy.

It reminded me of you, she said. Which is funny, because it reminds me of her. It reminds me of both of us... how we feel about our work, how we feel about our children, how we feel about one another.

Sometimes I want to weep with gratitude for all of it, the wonder of it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentiny Closetedness

Yesterday was a Day O' Meetings. Met with someone who has been worshiping with us, first thing in the morning. Met with one committee of the local denominational body first thing in the afternoon, and another right after that. I'm not much of a "meetings all day" sort of girl. My brain starts to slip int a gooey, achy state. One woman I know (who was at both those afternoon meetings) is SUCH a meeting all day girl. She was buzzing. She was pumped. Her energy, even after five hours of wrangling about this and that, exhausted me. And off she went to yet ANOTHER meeting. Egad.

I knew I had a Valentine assignation with Beloved. She'd said, "Dress up. Wear lipstick." (I always do... wear lipstick.). But the question was: what to wear to work so that I would be appropriately dressed up for Beloved, but not tip off anyone that I was going on a Date on Valentine's Day? Because, of course, the conceit is that I am single... divorced. And, though no one has asked, Not Seeing Anyone. This is implied. Anyway, I settled on a top that brings out my eyes (on a silver platter, baby), and a skirt, and a blazer... all appropriate for Meeting Day, but also... things Beloved would appreciate.

I met her as she closed her business for the day. We got in my car (I always drive) and went an intermediate distance ... to a restaurant fairly close to my church. I tried to sound casual. "If there's anyone from my church, I'll give you the high sign." She looked at me with a frown playing around her eyes. "I hate it that you're scared about that." Then it was forgotten. We went in (she had made a reservation) and had a wonderful meal, with a great Shiraz. No congregants in sight.

Back at her place we exchanged gifts. We gave one another the same CD: Jolie Holland, "Escondida." We'd heard it in a hotel restaurant the last time we traveled together.

I tucked her in, and went home to my own warm bed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A meme...

Heidi of sh-out tagged me with a six random things meme... but I've already done an eight random things meme here. So... I will pass... But do go read hers. Sleep paralysis! 30 email addresses! It is way more interesting than mine.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blogging Lent 2

Days two through five of honoring the body: mixed, with a slight chance of sunshine.

Thanks to the Writers Guild of America strike Fox aired the Christmas episode of "House" in late January, followed by two new episodes. (Have I mentioned that we love the irascible, nasty, brilliant, evangelically atheist diagnostician around here? Yes we do. We love him. Even as we are repulsed by him).

One of the new episodes was about a woman who had converted to Hasidism at the age of 38, and found both faith and a husband (with the assistance of a matchmaker). She had collapsed with internal bleeding during her wedding celebrations, and, as usual, House and the Cottages (we also love Television Without Pity) were at odds during the diagnostic process. House seized every opportunity during the course of the differential to question her convictions, even to impugn her sincerity by claiming she was a masochist who was secretly enjoying the painful procedures. At one point they were doing-- oh, help me here, a CT scan? Imaging her brain in real time, and watching it light up "like a Hannukah bush" as he said, in the areas of her cortex that would indicate pleasure. Only thing was... she was praying, as it turned out, which accounted for her pattern of brain function at the time.

I was mighty interested in this scene. I was interested in her colorful brain, brought on as a result of prayer. Where did I hear this recently? A man had... I don't know, an illness that resulted in something good happening to him. (That was specific and helpful! There was more to it than that.) Oh! It's the new TV show Eli Stone... which I have not seen, but which someone was describing to me. A man (Eli Stone) had a brain tumor which resulted in his seeing visions. The visions prompted him to do pro bono legal work for the poor and downtrodden. He was trying to understand all this, and a friend said, there are two explanations for everything: the scientific explanation and the divine explanation.

So I have been thinking about brightly lit cortices, mine included. Yesterday in church, during the prayers of the people, I felt myself slipping away as I prayed aloud, and someone else coming in... and my self-awareness kicked back in, and, I'm not sure I was resisting, but the sensation lessened. And my impluse had been to praise... to praise God, perhaps, in language unfamiliar to me, or at least less comfortable. It was frightening.

The colorful cortex.

Last night I managed to eat in a healthful way. I set myself an arbitrary time to stop eating, and my self-talk was about the fact that I am honoring my body by eating more moderately, as well as trying to ensure better sleep by not going to bed stuffed.

I felt well this morning. No sugar hangover. Thanks be to God. The colorful cortex.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Blogging Lent 1

Day one of honoring the body: mixed.

Did you ever sit at your desk in your office and feel lonely? That's what happened to me yesterday. I wandered in a mental wilderness and tried like crazy to focus on my work, all the while thinking about all manner of extraneous things, things I couldn't do anything about, things I should do something about but am not sure how to proceed.

This is the last complaint along these lines, but, wow, the early onset Lent still has me in a tailspin.

And then, from this morning's lectionary readings: this, seemingly tailor-made for my Lenten quest:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead... because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Yes. Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday

It's here again. The annual conundrum. What to "do" for Lent.

Now, as I've mentioned once or twice, I'm a pastor. As if this gives me some kind of advantage in approaching this annual conundrum. Ha! I say again, HA!!!

My mind does a little contradance. It goes something like this:

"For Lent I will give up all sugar and flour... No, wait. I have ulterior motives for that: I really want to lose weight, so I can't give up sugar and flour. Motives are too mixed. For Lent I'll read scripture and pray daily. But... well, aren't I supposed to be doing that every day anyway? (supposed, supposed, supposed...) I'll... write down everything I eat. I'll... go on Weight Watchers or the South Beach Diet or the Overeaters' Anonymous diet, and I'll... give it all to God. And if I'm really good, then by Easter Sunday I'll have lost... wait. No. Motives again. Not about God, about me..."

And so forth.

Lately I've been reading those books out of the Valparaiso project, and I simply love this quote:

"Christian practices are not activities we do to make something spiritual happen in
our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are
patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy,
and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of
God is experienced. In the end, these are not ultimately our practices but forms of
participation in the practice of God." ~Craig Dykstra

Now this makes sense to me... both in terms of everyday practice and in terms of the Lenten disciplines. We don't "do" things in hopes that we'll become more spiritual, better people.
(Well, we do, but we're wrong, aren't we?) We do things because we are spiritual people... enfleshed spirits, in-spired bodies. Already.

I think I do need to fashion a Lenten practice, this year, that will honor my body as a part of God's creation. I need to be co-creator with God of a new way of my being in the world... I need to find a way of caring for myself that takes this deep need of mine (to be more harmoniously attuned to my body, my health) seriously. Temple of the Holy Spirit. As they say.

Perhaps I'll begin the day with prayer and see where it takes me, every day.