Sunday, May 26, 2013

Earwig in the Chalice

This morning I woke up thinking that my challenge for the day would be preaching a sermon on the Holy Trinity.  It's not an easy topic, and I mostly dodged it.  My theology teacher, Ellen Wondra, used to say, "You can't appeal to mystery until the last 15 minutes of class."  By saying that, we were forced to wrestle with complex theology instead of just throwing up our hands and saying "It's a mystery."  I'm glad she didn't hear my sermon today.  Since I preach for less than 15 minutes, I appealed to mystery at the beginning of my sermon!

After the sermon was over, I thought I would be home free.  Indeed, everything was going smoothly until after the Eucharistic Prayer had ended.  A Eucharistic minister handed me the second chalice.  I lifted up the purificator, and lo and behold!  An earwig was scurrying about in the bottom of the chalice.  I give grateful thanks that I did not drop the chalice, as I am not one of those people who are fascinated with insects.  My usual response is to scream and shake vigorously, hoping that the creatures will be dislodged from my person or whatever object is near me.  And earwigs are kind of like scorpions.  They're just so prehistoric looking! 

So, I gave in to my natural impulse and stepped away from the altar, turned my back, and shook the chalice upside down, trying to fling the little critter into the air.  When I peered in, he was still there, now at the edge.  So I took the purificator and knocked him down the altar steps, moved back to the altar and used the purificator to wipe out the inside of the chalice.  In the hope that alcohol kills all germs and any other insect residue, I poured the wine in.  I'm sure this all happened in less than a minute, but it felt like a one act play to me. 

Some things are mysteries and not to be explained.  The Holy Trinity is one.  Much less complicated is the mystery of the earwig in the chalice.  I'm not going to try to solve it.  I'm just going to appreciate God's crazy sense of humor and enjoy having another story to tell.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Labyrinth Finished

Last Friday we finished building the labyrinth at SpiritWorks.  I was amazed at the sense of accomplishment I felt.  Sometimes it's really good to do physical, outdoor work where you can see so clearly the results of your labor.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, our labyrinth is a Reconciliation Labyrinth designed by Clare Wilson in South Africa. Here is a little information about the unique design of the labyrinth that was provided at one in Alexandria:

"Just as with life, walking a labyrinth presents choices. The reconciliation labyrinth is unique in that you can choose to enter from either the left or right path. The first half of the walk covers one side of the labyrinth and then you cross over to the other side, which represents walking "in another person's shoes." Just before reaching the center, you can pause and then enter. Spend as much time as you like in the center, then choose which exit to take: the one you entered, the entrance for the opposite side, or the center common exit. You can walk alone, with one other person or with a group.

The Reconciliation Labyrinth is about unity and differences. It is about seeking understanding and forgiveness. It is about the world in which we live: we are alone and unique, but it is through relationship and unity with others that we become truly human."

The first people from SpiritWorks to walk the labyrinth described it as a "sacred place."  I am grateful to have been part of the creation of this labyrinth and look forward to the healing and reconciliation it will inspire.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Step by Step - part 3

Look at our labyrinth!  It's not completely finished as we still need to add mulch and finish the stones, but the basic outline is there, and you can walk it.  Step by step didn't take as long as I thought on this project.  In one big step on Saturday afternoon we were able to lay out all the rocks we have into the basic pattern.  Such a sense of accomplishment!

Though our next project, Bethany - the residential program for moms and babies, will take longer than a few afternoons of work, hopefully we will be able to keep the step by step song in mind as we pool our drops of water until we have enough to turn the wheel.  "Drops of water turn a wheel, singly none, singly none."

Yesterday we took our Thistle Farms products to the 2nd Sundays Arts and Music Festival in Williamsburg.  We sold some candles and shower gel and body butter, and we made some great new contacts with people who would like us to bring our products to other places.  It was a very small step in developing our social enterprise, but it takes those small steps.  One more drop of water...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Step by Step part 2

We're building a labyrinth at SpiritWorks.  We've wanted to do it for a couple of years now.  It's based on a Reconciliation Labyrinth that was created to be used in South Africa.  We're calling ours a Healing Labyrinth.  It's been a slow process, researching materials and finding the right piece of land.  We have decided on a little piece of land beside the SpiritWorks Barn, just across the field from our recovery center.  A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to a local quarry and picked up nearly a ton of rocks to use to line the paths of the labyrinth.  Yesterday two yards of mulch were delivered.

We began by laying out strips of ground cloth to cover the grass and serve as our base.  We hadn't bought quite enough, so while one of us went to buy more, I began the process of shoveling the mulch onto the ground cloth.  The song from yesterday's blog post began playing in my mind.  "Step by step, the longest march, can be won, can be won."  When I started heaving shovels full of mulch, it didn't seem like I was even making a dent in the big mound.  Once there were two of us shoveling, it seemed to go faster, but it still took several hours.  And there wasn't quite enough mulch.  But we got it all spread out.  Step by step.

I'll post more pictures when we're done.

We have another project at SpiritWorks that we're gearing up for - Bethany.  Bethany is going to be our residential program for moms and babies of addiction.  We're using the model of Magdalene/Thistle Farms that Becca Stevens founded in Nashville.  We have a community in place and now we're working on creating a social enterprise so that we can give women jobs and help them develop the skills they need.  Then we can provide the housing that they need as well.

The process of creating Bethany will be like the process of creating the labyrinth.  Step by step.  When I look at the whole picture, I get overwhelmed.  But we who live in recovery know that we can only live one day at a time, one step at a time.  It's good to look up occasionally and see the whole picture, but we'll only get there one tiny bite at a time.  My ongoing temptation is to think that I need to solve all the problems.  By myself.  Not true.  "Drops of water turn a wheel, singly none, singly none."  Bethany will take time to build and will need many drops of water to get its wheel turning.  Today I'm grateful to be a drop on the wheel.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Step by Step

Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still.
Drops of water turn a wheel, singly none, singly none.

Watch John McCutcheon here:

This morning I went for one of my run/walks.  Okay, so it's mostly walking with a tiny bit of running.  Close to the beginning of the loop, I was huffing and puffing up a hill - or at least a slight rise in the path, and I looked up to see three young women running toward me.  Wearing snug shorts and sports bras, lean and tan, with long pony tails swinging, they came toward me with the grace and ease of gazelles, running effortlessly at a pace I will only achieve in the dream world. 

I watched the girls go by, admiring their youth and speed and stamina, and for a moment I deflated.  I don't mind so much that I will never be that young again, but I felt discouraged that I've had such trouble motivating to exercise this spring.  I'm only a little overweight, though pretty significantly out of shape, and running isn't bringing me the joy that it did last summer.  It just feels like work.  Hard work.  And most days it seems nicer to stay inside comfortably on the couch. 

As I started to work myself into a bit of a depression over how easy it seemed for those young women to run and how hard it is for me to break a 15 minute mile, (it is said that it's easy to walk a 15 minute mile.  Anyone can do it.  Why then do I have to run a considerable portion to get it down to 15 minutes?!) I reminded myself of this song that I have loved since I first heard John McCutcheon play it in a concert in Convocation Hall in Sewanee.  I have quoted it in sermons and sung it to myself on many occasions.  Step by step.  I'm not going to be able to run at the speed I did in my 5k last August my first few times out this year.  I have to get back into shape, and that can only be done step by step.  Last year at this time, I was discouraged because my knee still hurt and I couldn't run at all.  This year I don't have knee pain.  Progress! 

Anne Lamott tells writers to write just what they can see through a 1 inch picture frame.  You don't write the whole novel on the first day.  In the movie, "Contact" Jodie Foster's dad tells her "Small moves, Ellie, small moves" when trying to make contact on a CB radio.  Step by step.  Yesterday I did my 2.7 mile run/walk.  Today I did it again.  I'm averaging about 15 minutes and 23 seconds a mile, and that's with running.  Step by step, I will get to 15 minutes and even faster.

As for the three girls, well they came up behind me when I was close to the end of my walk and passed me without a glance, sweating more than before, but still running with that effortless grace and speed.  I admired them, but I'm grateful to be at this part of my life with a lot of experience behind me and adventures still ahead.  Part of me wants to come up with some clever comment that would put them down just a little so that I could feel better, but the truth is that I hope that the rest of their lives are going as well for them as this morning's run.  I hope that they enjoy their youth and their grace and that God blesses them with joy and wonder. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wade in the Water: Do you want to be made well?

“Wade in the Water”
The Rev. Lauren McDonald
SpiritWorks Recovery Service – Bruton Parish Church
May 3, 2013
John 5:1-9

"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water,
God’s a gonna trouble the water."

We just heard a story about Jesus healing a man who was lying by a pool of water in Jerusalem for 38 years.  There’s a legend about this pool that says every so often an angel would “trouble the water” of the pool or stir it up and while the waters were troubled, the first person into the water would be healed.  So lots of sick people hung out around this pool waiting for the waters to start bubbling so that they could get into the pool and be healed.  The man in the story has been waiting 38 years.

Then along comes Jesus.  He sees the man.  He knows he’s been there for a very long time.  He asks, “Do you want to be made well?” 

What a powerful question.  What would your answer be if Jesus came up to you and said, “Do you want to be made well?”  My initial response is, “Yes, oh yes!  Of course I want to be well.”  If I give it a little thought, though, I might be more hesitant.  Yes, I want to be well, but…  Then I would list a whole bunch of reasons why it might not be possible or why it might not be a good idea or why I might just not be ready yet.  I’d certainly want to know what it was going to require me to do. 

When Jesus asks the lame man whether he wants to be made well he starts listing all the reasons why he can’t be healed.  No one will lift him into the pool.  He’s too slow.  Someone always gets in front of him.  In his mind there’s only one way to be healed – get in the pool while the water is stirred up.  And he’s full of excuses about why that can’t happen.  They’re legitimate – he’s probably tried many times in 38 years.  He does seem pretty attached to making it happen his way, even though his way clearly isn’t working for him.  38 years is a long time.  Maybe it was just easier to stay sick.

In our reading from Melody Beattie’s book, The Language of Letting Go[i], we hear another take on this issue.  Instead of being attached to our own way of getting well, some of us are simply attached to being a victim.  We think other people should be tending to our needs, or we blame other people for us not being able to get well, kind of like the man at the pool blaming others for not putting him in when the water was stirred up.  We think other people ought to be able to read our minds and give us the care we need while at the same time we’re not willing to take care of ourselves or ask for what we need or take the steps necessary to do our part.  Sometimes, deep down, there’s actually something appealing about being a victim – we get to nurse all those wounded hurt and angry feelings, and we don’t have to do the hard work of self-examination and forgiveness.  It might be easier not to take responsibility for getting better.

That brings us to the reading from the Iona community in Scotland[ii].  In this reading we hear someone wrestling with the idea of wanting to be healed but being scared of what will be involved.  What if I have to change?  What if I have to remember things I don’t want to remember or feel things I don’t want to feel?  What if I don’t recognize myself without all my hang-ups, hurts, and habits?  What if people stop paying attention to me?  Sometimes it’s just easier to hold on to the familiar – even if it hurts, at least it’s ours and we’re comfortable with it.

So, do you want to be made well? 

"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water,
God’s a gonna trouble the water."

What I’ve learned in recovery, and maybe you have too, is that healing can be hard.  It can be painful.  It can come at a cost.  And, it’s so worth it.  Sometimes people are blessed with natural recovery or miraculous healing and their addiction, disease, or inner turmoil disappears in an instant, almost like magic.  But most of us don’t have that kind of recovery or healing.  Most of us stare at recovery and know that it’s going to require a lot of hard work.  Sometimes it means wading through some pretty troubled waters.  It means admitting that we need recovery and healing and that we can’t do it on our own.  It means letting go,
         of control,
         of outcomes,
         of old patterns of thinking and ways of being,
         of what is familiar and comfortable.

But here’s the good news, my friends.  When God is the one troubling the waters, then the change that’s coming is going to be good. 
When we stop clinging so tightly to our own solutions,
         when we drop our defenses and open ourselves to God,
                  when we let God in to clean and cauterize our wounds,
                           then miracles happen.
When we surrender to the changes God is making in our lives,
         when we let go of our own wills and seek God’s instead,
                  when we jump into the water that God is stirring up and allow it                           
                         to cleanse and wash us, then the miracles occur. 
That’s when healing happens.  Cleaning wounds can be a painful process, but when it’s done, then the infection is gone and the wounds can heal.  God is working in us and through us all the time, doing new things in our lives, redeeming everything. 

You see, wading in the waters of God’s love may not always feel like soaking in a warm bathtub or floating in a peaceful lake.  Sometimes God troubles the waters, stirs them up so that what is on the bottom comes up to the top and the hurts and wounds that are buried deep inside are brought to the surface so that they can be bathed in God’s love and healed.  That process can be uncomfortable and even painful at times, but how clean and shiny and new we feel once we’ve gone through it.   

So, do you want to be made well?  If so, come jump in the water with me,
"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children
Wade in the water,
God’s a gonna trouble the water."

[i] The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie, March 15, page 71.

Removing the Victim
“Don’t others see how much I’m hurting?”  “Can’t they see I need help?”  “Don’t they care?”
The issue is not whether others see or care.  The issue is about whether we see and care about ourselves.  Often, when we are pointing a finger at others, waiting for them to have compassion for us, it’s because we have not fully accepted our pain.  We have not yet reached that point of caring about ourselves.  We are hoping for an awareness in another that we have not yet had.
It is our job to have compassion for ourselves.  When we do, we have taken the first step toward removing ourselves as victims.  We are on the way to self-responsibility, self-care, and change.

[ii]Gathered and Scattered:  Readings and Meditations from the Iona Community by Neil Paynter, “Healing,”Alix Brown, Month 1 Day 18.                                                                                       

I want to be healed.

Do you know what you’re asking?
For healing’s a journey through doubt and through pain.
And the healing that God brings may take a whole lifetime
with no guarantee that you reckon it gain.

I want to be healed.

Then you’re asking for changes
that shake the foundations you’ve built upon sand.
For the healing that God brings doesn’t follow our patterns
and shapes us in ways we may not understand.

I want to be healed.

Then drop your defenses,
and open your heart, your mind and your soul.
For the healing that God brings probes scars you’ve forgotten,
cauterizing and cleaning and making you whole. 

I want to be healed.

At least, in the future.
Perhaps I’ll just wait till the time feels right.
I’m not sure that God’s healing will suit at the moment.
I’ll hold on to the things that I’m used to – all right?