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"Wm M Pallett travelled in succession Vandalia, Taylorville, Hillsboro, Mechanicsburg, Sulphur Spring in two years;
Perry, Franklin, two years Walker’s Grove.  In 1860 he located.  He was a fair preacher, somewhat prone to speculate in theology, but fairly useful.” 
Summary of great great grandfather Rev. William M Pallett's ministry from Leaton Journal

Re-ligio = to link
Religion -- "to bind back together."

Finally, the question of knowing God? How can we ever know God? If we add all of our experiences of God together we will not know God. That's why there is Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, the law givers and prophets, Kali and Rama, Zeus and Hera, Jupiter and Juno, and all the pantheon of gods and goddesses who are but windows to God.
If we could look through all the windows at once, we still wouldn't know God.
-- letter from Deacon Willets, Nov 2007

~of pews and zafus--old thoughts, new thoughts~
"I can't understand why people are afraid of new ideas. I'm afraid of old ones" - John Cage.

October 2010 - Snowflower Retreat lessons

    Above all: teacher Jack’s statue of Hotei-- upended, laughing, pulled 5 ways by little rascals, maintaining humor.  Wonderful image.  Offers the koan--how to maintain humor.  In the Final talk Jack taught on a string of Sanskrit word like ahimsa (non-harming).  'Apamada', the absence of madness, caught my attention.  Being calm in a mad, mad world perhaps?  Once he gets beyond warming up the crowd with grandchildren stories, I really listen.  Of course grandchildren and pet stories are what makes us universal.  I guess.  Hard to imagine he was scheduled to share teaching time.  Drifting I remembered Larry Ward and Peggy Rowe, more superlative teachers from the Thich Nhat Hahn (TNH, so hard to type) tradition.
    The only point I recall from the three Jack shared opening night, was what he called mouth yoga (I might say face yoga): Smile!  Jack and another elder modeled smiling.  Liked that so much. By the last hour, the grim, grim fellow started to try to smile.  By then I'd learned to glower back.  Tried to switch gears mid glower to encourage him.  What a life, glaring at everyone.  Most women smiled and bowed as we passed, as suggested was appropriate for silent time.
Although I rented dorm space, the weather was perfect to tent.  Each night I watched Jupiter in the opening above among the branches.  Maybe even milder than 2 yrs ago, sunny days, mild nights.  Perfect that is, except the rare flat spot I'd found turned out to be in a flood light that turned night into day.  Backed the car and blocked as much as I could of the light on the tent.  Next year I'll surely know better.
    Strong sense of ‘been there, done that’ these years.  Good to be with elders of this Madison TNT based sangha, however overly intellectual.  Good practice watching my mind judge overachieving urban folks.  Stop! Stop!  Surely a lotta high powered folks, judging from their extended, nearly horizontal necks.  Dreadful posture!!!  Grim men and women, snapping yoga mats, doing hump backed dogs on the porch. 
     Yet I did let go-- of taking notes, trying to meet folks, trying to remember names and faces, feeling unhelpful/ not participating.  Good to have TNH mindful eating guidelines read repeatedly.  Still, I overate.   Became crystal clear eating so much is practically toxic!  2nd/last night joined the outdoor supper table just after dusk.  Rice, mild spinach and beans, cauliflower dish, fruit with honey and ginger dressing.  Sublime, subtle flavors.  Couldn't keep small yums and ums from sneaking out.  Prob my silent company was from Madison or Chicago where they have fine ethnic food available.  For me, some of the the food was a huge event.  But when I got a couple more cauliflower sprigs and spinach dish, the thrill was gone and I bloated horribly. The young gal walking back up the hill to the retreat house ahead of me was farting like a filly.  Vegetarian food!!??
Each evening this nature girl waited for the sun to set in hopes of catching the new moon on days 2 and 3.  Walked to the slight hill by the lodge and held vigil, staring low on the western horizon.  Friday evening, nada.  A gal stopped; we spoke low.  She thought I was watching a wild animal.  Waiting for the new moon, I explained.  “Doesn't it rise in the east?” she said.  Luckily I didn't reply, for I would have said, silly girl from the city, the new moon is always seen in the west, just before it sets.  Later I realized what had gone on.
    The second night as I held vigil, lo a very faint sliver appeared.  Two passerby's, with the greatest of difficulty, found the sliver.  One explained, “I'm not mindful”.  Indeed.  Rolled my judgmental eyes-- city folk!

    Opening evening Frank opined that I had no idea how crazy he is.  Oh?  He has no idea.  He mentioned his interest in death and dying (and Thay’s lack).  Interesting.  Before we all left, shared briefly with him how painful sitting so much had been on the bod.  Apparently Thay’s line tends to ignores the body, rather focusing and gentleness and children.  Priorities.  Student Michelle was also bold enough to connect with this stranger.   I was so grateful.
Don't know when yoga could have been squeezed in.  My cherished opinion (thank you Judith L) is, it's really needed at super sedentary events.  Enjoyed Saturday's long, outdoor walking meditation, however, by Sunday mid morning needed desperately to hook a leg onto picnic table, rotate hip, stretch lower back.  Tough, tough, sitting, sitting.  Sesshin and me would be unbearable.  Kept thinking of the Irish gal who went to Japan, worked so hard, became enlightened, killed shortly afterward getting on or off a bus. , Maura O'Halloran, (Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: the life and letters of an Irish Zen Saint).  Super hard work, sitting still.
    I'd also like to get my paws on the Sat. night tea ceremony.  Use small cups; brew a light evening tea—touch of mint, chamomile or faint chai; serve small tasty cookies….  Of course this piggy mindfully sipped and sipped the mug of tea strong enough to engage American taste buds, and finished a molasses cookie bigger than her palm.  Thay’s American sanghas are functional.
     By the end of the retreat roommate Margaret beamed at me, presumably for being the roommate that wasn't.  The bathroom had been locked nearly every time I stopped by.  Quite a few tries before I slipped in a shower.  Yet, lying overstuffed, on the lower bunk, after Sat. night dinner, while 3 gals chattered about crafts, was pleasant.  I've enjoyed roommates very much over the years.  Undoubtedly I was better off nights in the tent, though, than bunking in a room right by squealing main door that would have been used dozens of times during the night.  Good combo--tent and dorm space.
    My strongest memory of the retreat 2 yrs ago is of peusdo lady bugs flying and crawling everywhere.  (This mild Oct, I acquired fly bites.)   This year, however, the aphid eating “lady” bugs were but a trifle compared to earlier plague.  But, wouldn't cha know?  While we could still converse, met several folks who'd retreated 2 years before.  One woman had no recollection of the beetles.  Proving once again, what differing realities we all have.  Sensible folks live in the present moment, while I archive.   
    Returned delighted and inspired, thinking of Hotei, dreaming of sublime "chia" tea, and wondering if the closing meditation might be right for prisoners some day.  Perhaps the weekend helped me be more courageous about facing the dental world, the present moment of what is.  With a bow....

Fall 2010 - balance and end of season rambles

    In a flash this turn of season I finally understood why so many unsteady folks push me away when I offer my arm to help walk.  Following the local history symposium we all enjoyed so much, we kept talking about how we enjoyed various programs (while others did not) and vice versa.  As always had to conclude to each his own.  Don't I know what's best!!  Would have been hard to find fault with Thomas Jefferson, but I'm sure folks did, preferring slapstick Johnnie Appleseed, who took down much of the house, to my surprise, while I thought, How silly!!  If we voted with money, one of the comedy presentations might well have won over the serious re-enactments I was on the edge of my seat for.     
    Rather intense times.  “WC Fields videos are the only thing that get me through winter”, one friend says.  Don't know what she would have thought of the WC Fields we saw (said history symposium).  I enjoyed not at all, but then I'm rarely amused by booze.
    As we debated such pros and cons circling a leg or shoulder during water exercise class one morning, one elder (with an anachronistic ‘60s dyed bouffant vigilantly kept from the water) mentioned one of our buddies had fallen flat on her face after the program while walking in the dark to the car.  I hadn't known.
    Out burst one of my favorite whines—only E and N let me walk with them to the car!  Everyone else swats at me!  So much easier to walk with a buddy, I went on, blah blah.  Why would people rather fall than walk with someone for stability? 
    “We don't want you to walk with us because you'll pull us down with you.”
    There it was, straight from a fierce DAR patriot, the reason modern day Americans are both independent and fearful.  “You'll pull me down.”  Got it. 
    I will?  Wherever do they get that? 
Why ever would a yoga instructor obsessed with teaching balance, jerk an elder to the ground??  Where is this thinking coming from? 
    Can only be from Fear--Fear Of Others.  The only people to trust are family.  Oh my God.  That's it.  Maybe the glue that holds us together is fear now that we're nervous about God.
    No wonder I adore the shape note hymn by Billings, "David's Lamentation".  "David the King was grieved and moved; he went to his chamber and wept; and as he went and wept he said: Oh my son!  Would to God I had died, for thee, oh Absalom, my son".  Seems to express my strong feelings of horror, grief and disappointment.
    No wonder it's such a struggle to make friends, to help, find community, bring people together.  No wonder I've learned to just let people go (not a bad lesson of course).  If Doc N wants to fall on the way to the car, he'll go down his way.  In some ways I heartily approve.  If mom's ancient bird watching buddy won't let me help cook, she's doing it her way.  When she got hungry, she hired help.
    As a do-it-myself person, I think I understand independence.  Yet when I learn something is better or nearly essential with others, like walking at night across a treacherous park lawn into headlights, standing on a ladder, unloading a porch glider, crossing a fast stream, or needing a flashlight held—why not go for it, accept help?  It's like hiking without a backpack—much lighter and easier!  
    Of course I don't liked to be gratuitously “helped” either.  "You oughta go to the workshop next week", a friend repeats.  He didn't listen when I said how much I'm looking forward to a similar one coming up.  Sigh--advice is always for the giver.  I realize a hand offered in the wrong place as I climb down bus steps would indeed cause me to lose balance if I reached.  "You need to patiently reassure older people", a wise woman reminds me.  Indeed, it is so.  The fine art of helping the fearful elder.  Need to work on that.  
    Confess I'm not filled with the milk of human kindness after traveling.  I am filled with awe of nature and geography, grateful for travel mercies.  But for people?  Not exactly.  Driving through oh so crowded Yellowstone--all campgrounds full--I was horrified by what I overheard while watching wild animals… gulp.  And what I saw--cigarette butts in beautiful pools, plastic diapers in fire rings.  Wonderful people, I'm sure, simply unskilled, self-centered like all of us.  Oh my God.
    How I struggle with my awful attitude!  I want to be like the Dalai Lama who never meets a stranger, who has a smile for all, is full of kindness, a living Jesus with malice towards none--what a good place to be!  The awful truth is I'm thrown off balance by a small cruelty to mother nature, let alone a travesty.  I may say I practice accepting living and dying, but I'm not even good with slight insults! 
    Tried posting a "meaningful" quote from a popular Buddhist magazine on Facebook recently, to see what'd happen.  "Clinging to a rock while being battered by waves only causes damage, while letting go and learning to swim freely in the changing waters can result in a great sense of meaning and well-being"---  Andrew Olenzdki.  I thought this was stunning.  Surprise -- no discussion.  Maybe folks aren't clinging to the goode olde daze as I am.   If facebook buddies can post "Click if you love Jesus" and "I'm proud to be a right wing fundamentalist", along with "I love the latest supertrash or pitbulls or my grandkids more than you do"-- why not a little eastern wisdom?
    Could this possibly be my world, my curriculum, as Ram Dass' spoke calls it?  My classroom?  No, no! 

    I know numbers of happy people.  They love their dogs and families.  They raise their kids' extra children's.  A classmate explained, “I love having family around.”  She's making family happen.
    I'll love Shane Claiborne forever for saying the Sunday school picture of the perfect family with 2.5 children is Terrible Theology.  Amen.  And Amen.  Saint Shane—not in his lifetime—but in my eyes--he's divine. 

    After visiting the high, dry, cool, beautiful West--following what seemed like a nearly unbearably hot midwest summer-- sleeping out under moon and stars; visiting comfy long time buddies; attending an excellent anatomy workshop (the likes of which I haven't found yet in the Midwest); restoring spirit at the church I still miss; filling body with oriental vegetables, rice, grilled fish—I have a new koan: How to maintain healthy mind-body-spirit while living in Illinois. 
Mind-body-spirit health seems ever so very much easier Out West!   How to survive and thrive in instant potatoes/ biscuits and gravy land; dying churches with 6 verses of unfamiliar hymns; no nearby river to walk along; rare yoga classes; hot, buggy spring and summer; endless winter Midwest?  Can I survive in the remnant oak groves on the prairie, with the midwest's slower pace, where I rediscovered the roots I missed out West and now bury myself in the past and genealogy?  I'm still yoyo-ing between loneliness and hmm... the richness and depth of returning to familiar names and places where I seem to know the rest of the story.  My life is a bit like a seismograph in an earthquake region.  What I enjoy is off the charts, as is my aloneness.  Which brings these thoughts full circle to my passion for balance.

Spring 2010--the longest winter?

    I remain in a deep gray spiritual funk, following winter's string of cloudy winter moons.  One day suddenly in April (or was it March?) spring burst forth with near violence, having been held back so long.  I stayed gloomy.  Shudda been knocked out by the glory of the season--what with all the rain, everything flowered to its utmost-- but was more like a wary observer.  One Friday afternoon (en route to a Chinese-LDS fusion funeral I couldn't miss--supplied a copy of the Tao Te Ching to a presenter), stopped by the lake to find bloodroot in full blossom (understand they have a very short season).  Thank you!
    Just as may apples and trillium poked through dead leaves, before Jack-in-the-Pulpit and friends appeared, right after Easter, got in the toyota and headed west to Albuquerque.  Hated to miss crawling on the woods floor to look eye level at God's amazing plants--any time on my knees is good-- to replace last years photos that went down with the hard drive (regret, regret!  All about letting go gracefully, que no?)
    No one wants to hear my "don't think I can make it through another winter".  However, it's a rather strong message: mind-body-spirit no can do another round.  Not certain what this is all about--lack of community, church, passion; broken connection to God, mental illness, all of the above...  Whateve
r.  Subtle depression like I've not known left me without energy or interest in anything--but genealogy.  I was jealous of the friend who checks into a psych ward periodically.  Escape sounded good to me.  The cruise to the Mediterranean warmed me physically, distanced me from food, and embarrassed me about my attachment to the world.  Returned to exactly the same old, same old--sun poisoning healed, tan faded.  Only the present moment.
    Fr. Rohr/friends April conference on the Emerging Church lured me to leave Illinois spring--after all the months we waited!--for spring in the West.  Packed food box, magazines and books (2 boxes to leave in Colorado), camping gear, CDs.  As I drove hwy 36 and other secondary hwys through Missouri and Nebraska, angled across the edge of a storm.  Began to feel better.  Car camped "alone" by reservoirs--me and cows.  Not hot enough for boaters or bugs.  Worked well for me.
lbuquerque's old hostel was waiting as promised. 
Slipped in the first night's tiny room sideways, shower and toilet tucked under hall stairs.  Grew fonder of the hostel each day, realizing it modeled the community about which the conference spoke.  When travelers moved on, I was moved to a spacious suite of sorts, though I still preferred the hall bathtub.  Shortly I didn't care if the building fell in; what a comfortable place!  The conference was held in a lovely SW style hotel down the way.  In between was a homey cafe with mild chili rellenos and unhurried staff.  I was surprised and grateful to find big Albuquerque slowing me down.  Found my way around much better than in 2006--even found a real grocery store this time!
    Claiborne's opening presentation knocked my socks off--had I worn them--too warm.  Hadn't a clue what was going on in Philadelphia and beyond.  Wow!  Can't miss an AMOG or AWOG, as my old vineyard puts it--Awesome Man/Woman of God.  The fellow on my right (from CT) at the round table was also staying at the hostel.  The 2nd day opened with an Episcopal minister sharing she'd just had a dream come true--silent retreat over Easter.  Wow--the S world, silence.
    The next couple of days, speakers challenged, affirmed and clarified.  Methodist elder Suzanne nailed depression as lack of whole heartedness.  Amen and amen.  Loved hearing McLaren; his world lens expanded my view.  Fr. Rohr pulled things together, focusing on dual and non-dual thinking, moving beyond.  Good to be with folks in a number of denominations to talk about the imperative opportunity of church/christianity to change, with unusual respect for other paths.  (In the midst of the conference a few attendees still tried to evangelize for their denomination or tell one us how things must be done; a catholic elder insisted on The Formula to evangelize.  We are so like, as my mentor here says, disciples sleeping at Jesus' feet, hearing little.  Bless us.
    When the dark side of catholicism--my cherished opinion--guilt and grief--was on the program for late Saturday, decided to take a chance on getting into Anaya's sold out play of "Bless Me Ultima" in the University area. 
Perhaps by trying to be inclusive of the latest "minorities", the conference exhausted introverts and smaller minds like mine?  I'm still just trying to empty my overcrowded, opinionated mind.  Simply couldn't handle looking back or being reminded of all the injustice out there!  Instead, enjoyed a warm small theater evening of New Mexican tales, told with much Hispanic language.  I felt the message dove tailed perfectly with the conference, and my warm stay at the hostel. 
    After final questions and answers, which had me on the edge of my seat, and a Sunday morning mass to which all were invited, reluctantly left Albuquerque.  My experience was complete and overflowing.  Driving on west, savored, folded up and tucked my experience away, knowing, try as I might to bring it up back home, it wouldn't really be brought out again, until I got around to writing.  "How was your trip?", the occasional person who realized I'd been away, inquired.  "Visited family, right?"  "Uhh Great", was a sufficient reply I learned quickly.  Preach by living, not talking, darn it. 
    Late in the day, the perfect campground-- thank you God.  Wouldn't have put up the tent if I hadn't had old fashioned neighbors (Quakers from MA) who put up an old one like I hadn't seen in some time.  Simplicity in action.  Although my neighbor dismiss organized (who's kidding who) religion when I yammered about the conference at first opportunity, shortly the wife acknowledged even the friends church is challenged to change, and yes she had read Claiborne.  Common ground, I think, if we/I can get beyond differences.  Quakers are not the only church concerned about the environment I grumbled to myself.  In the morning hiked the loop trail through juniper to begin acclimatizing to an an ecosystem I've dearly love and miss.  The SW still feels pretty homey. 
    Stop in Prescott appeared to be largely about The World, the opposite of simplicity.  However my hostess and host's healthy eating and cooking was an powerful lesson in mindful cooking, with my name on it.
    My spring revival continued with 3 more nights in the desert, under stars visited by clouds with more old friends-- ponderosa, pinon and juniper.  Home tugs after a couple weeks.  As it happened, for one evening my travels were able to intersect with long, long time desert hikers I've been away from since 2004.  "Was it a yoga conference?", my longest friend queried.  "Uhhh", I stammered; "Great conference about churches needing to change".  Silence.  (No one else asked.)  I've grown to love this gentle, bruised kindred spirit.  We find long distance comfort in our mutual passion for things wild and growing.  I returned to the prairie of our childhood.  Now I get notes from the west I loved and left.  Promised my soul I'd meet this mindful group in the desert again.  Just cross MO, KS, and CO on 36; stop for nights with friends indoors and outdoors. 
    As for a kindred spirit to discuss the church emergent?  Gotta zip my lips, go within.  Contemplation, sigh. 

    Although I still think I can't take another winter like the last, watched myself order new tires with an 80,000 mile warranty.  Shrugged--someone'll use 'em.  Maybe me, maybe not.  God knows.  The strongest voice I hear for inner peace is simplicity. 
Fr. Rohr's message about simplifying (don't know whether this was "live" from the conference, or in the stack of recordings I picked up at the conference to listen to across the miles) has my name on it.  Perfect teachers everywhere, everywhere.  Assignment 2010.

Fall-Winter 2009--Give what? all up?!

    We're regularly reminded in Bible Therapy that prophet Jeremiah's bottom line message is "Give It Up".   No Bible scholar, I can't verify Dr John's take on the prophet. The good doctor, also reminds us of his degree in psychology (among other fields) with piercing questions like "Does anyone know what it's like to be in exile?"; patients enthusiastically testify.  Perhaps Dr J favors Jeremiah's efficiency; his home is admirably clutter free.  
    Since patience is up there with grace in my book, I'm uneasy that Dr J dispatches patience along with clutter.  I dare not mention more than once a liturgical cycle that "Giving it up", "Letting go", and Life is Suffering, are core teachings of eastern religions, relevant most any time and place, in the same family as "surrender", a word that rarely comes up in class.  Forgiveness tends to bring forth howls of "never!" 
    Glaring from my vantage point struggling to sit properly and pain free in a library chair, is that "Give It Up" never seems to apply to the cherished mainline churches Dr J and others relentlessly defend.  It's applied to "Them/Others" (which, as it happens, include my cherish interests).  We all want "Them" to quit doing/ believing whatever They're doing!!  Never "Us"!  Of course.
    A big picture person, I'm fascinated by healthy leadership and community, by churches willing to give up the old and move on.  Presbyterian Sunday school has been watching Crossen's Eclipse series.  Crossen dares suggest Christianity consider update/change.  I nod; the "table" cries arrogance!

   I'm convinced the advice of sages to Let Go (Jeremiah included, if willing) is thoroughly relevant today. Give it up, mainstream churches.  Give up attitudes of superiority, the conviction of being right.  Stop criticizing successful churches, start learning.  Stop pointing fingers; start letting go.  Christians--stop thinking your church is The Church!  Ministers--start healing rather than widening rifts throughout the body of Christ.

    Attending mainstream sunday school, then a non denominational service, as I do from time to time, is like night and day, in terms of the sense of life.  Like a moth to flame, I can't resist light and life.  Traditional as I am (sentimental, clinging to King James language), experiencing the same old, same old, no matter how "politically correct", pales in the light of a living, breathing congregation. The message to mainlines need not be cease and desist.  But, could it be--be ye transformed?  No need to throw out everything, all tradition, all music.  However, how about a new "melody or thought" now and then?  I'd love to meet a church that would consider replacing lists of who's sick with counting blessings!  Might we consider lightening up!  I love some of each--old and new.  So clear much of the old is dying before our very eyes and new is arising nearby...

    Looking through my avalanching Christian Standards I just read, "My experience is that most churches simply choose to ignore the future.  They do not prepare to end well.  In the worst case, they think, "Thank goodness what happens after we're gone is someone else's problem."  More often, however, I think it just hasn't occurred to them to make plans to end with dignity." [Paul S. Williams p 792, 2009]  Amen.
    Much as I hate to admit it, Give It Up, is of course perfect advice to myself as the decade turns.  I've got heaps to give up.  Perhaps I oughta give up roaming, searching for an agreeable church home.  Or, maybe I oughta lighten up and enjoy being homeless?  God knows.  I don't seem to.
    This new decade, Christmas and deep winter, pretty much revolve around letting go and moving on.  I admit this includes letting go of my bad attitudes towards more people than I care to admit.  Such as the pastor adored by a handful, who gives me hives, you might say.  I wait expectantly, as though for a Messiah, for the reverend to move on to greener pastures!  Dear God!!  What have I come to!  Or the former counselor I try not to sit near.  Or other advice givers I avoid.  I'm stunned how many folks have moved to my Not Fond Of list.  I know full well I've got to change, not "them".  I wrestle with these "sacred enemies" as the Dalai Lama calls those who challenge and teach us.
     Practically full time I ponder the simplicity that comes with letting go.  I was moved and inspired by a set of public radio programs the only (December) morning I didn't go to church (shocked myself by not going; for weeks weather has been a socially acceptable excuse to stay home).  My lessons came from NPR's To The Best of Our Knowledge (Dec. 27th)--interviews with Kathleen Norris on acedia; someone on loneliness; someone on how giving gifts brings light to the giver; an author who learned surrender during a year in isolation. The idea of dreading morning as a sign of loneliness interested me, but what really grabbed my attention was Satish Kumar stating clearly (despite the interviewer's efforts to dig up an exception): because he did one thing at a time, he was always happy.  I'm mulling this over like a koan--how to do one thing at a time. There on the radio--my theme for The New Year: One Thing At A Time. Thank you. Back to Mother Teresa's small things well.
    Does that mean I can't listen to music as I drive, or at home?  Maybe.  Watch out folks, gonna be slower than ever this year.
    In my mind, I throw out boxes of videos and tapes, give away LPs; craigslist antique camping gear, back issues of yoga magazines and sentinels; give away clothes, books and cds.  However, only now and then there's a thud in the waste basket, or a stack of books goes to the library, mere drops in the ocean of simplifying.
     Must, must finish transcribing the family diary of William Mann crossing the plains summer 1860.  His short daily entries make my head whirl (or maybe they stop it from spinning). I'm taken back into a life of astonishing simplicity.  "May the 21st drove 29 miles to day in a westerly course along the south side of the great plat".  Most days little is mentioned beyond departure hour; miles traveled; grass and water.  Occasionally noted are hills, horses or oxen, repairs, fellow travelers, health or new graves.  Mann's log uses the same simple, straight forward words (we might call misspelled) each day.  No fancy language, descriptions or drama; rare mention of food, relationship, worries, hopes.  Thus far, primarily the present moment revealed in faint pencil, by a traveler.

    The contrast with nowadays is more than I can bridge.  My mind boggles as I peer between the lines, acknowledging the practical physical skills and discipline required to cross the country, not to mention what looks like incredible faith and vision.  Was there pride in self sufficiency and accomplishment?  Where was fear?  Looking back 150 years later challenges my busy contemporary mind big time.  Whose lives are truly meaningful?

    Several wounds re-opened this fall.  Probably most painful--family.  A brief reference to a heroine brothers in one of Ken Follett's historical medieval novels stopped me short. Something like: where were her brothers when she needed them?

    I've told myself brothers looking after sisters, siblings caring, is myth; yet in the back of my mind it still lurks because I know brothers are a part of most sisters' lives.  Old college friend Greg shares his home with his sister!  Having brothers, but not having them in my life, is an unhealed wound of broken family relationship and love lost.  I've been unskillful with my brothers and retreated to where it hurts as little as possible.  I'm unable to admit the obvious--I'm the one in whom love is missing.
    Another wound, on the back burner, no longer consciously painful, reappeared one morning. Since falling in love with church Out West, and hearing Joseph Campbell explain myth, I don't fume nearly as much about how male centered the Bible is, as I once did.  I've learned to ignore the outrageousness of the Bible (much as I ignore vexacious people or unhelpful advice), knowing it was written by and for men.  Melting under the authority of pastors both male and female whose authenticity and transparency touched me, healed much of my resentment of the male language of the Bible that is so off-putting and alienating (to this daughter).
    Recently a male friend described how moved he was by a retelling of the prodigal son story in modern terms.  I realized my wound/ resentment is still there.  I wasn't at the telling, but I imagine I would have sat stony faced while real men shed no tears. Or I would have thought about something else.  The way I hear it, Bible story after story is about sons.  I was raised with brothers and am clear sons are not the same as daughters--no, no, no.  Not even close.  I know, I repeat, because I'm a daughter, not a son.  Not only that, our experiences were so different that the brothers and I appear to have had different parents.
    No matter how pastors try to explain "man" means woman also, in my case, it generally falls on deaf ears.  I know when I'm being spoken to and when I'm not.  It was probably a woman who finally got me to hear the message of forgiveness in the prodigal son.  A pastor who takes a story where I can hear it is no small thing.  I pretty much have to hear messages in nontraditional ways.  I've needed much help.
    Recently, during a heavily male dominated Sunday School, I was again reminded that after all these years I am still not buying that prodigal son means prodigal daughter too, not buying that son means daughter. (Does holding to son literally make me a fundamentalist??)  Layers keep bubbling up....
    Of course men love the prodigal son story!  It's perhaps very moving to men.  I don't know; I'm not a man.  I know from blank faces, it's nearly impossible for men to understand what it's like to be a woman or what it's like for a woman to listen to the Prodigal Son one more time.  Likewise it's impossible for this woman to understand what it's like to be a man, or to listen to the Prodigal Son as a man listens!  No can do.  Can't speak for all women, just one.  Nor can I by the way, speak for “ladies” (about which I know nothing), only a woman.  I know one man who is very moved by the story.  I know a woman who is uneasy with it.
    [ PS.  Since writing this I heard the stunning true NY story by Gloria Gonzalez of her brother returning from the Marines as a woman, being welcomed by their mother.  That's more like it.  A mother-father God who welcomes everyone, not just sons.]
     It's been such a long, long journey to appreciate a Bible that feels so sexist to me.  Perhaps my ears began opening when I started hearing promises that sounded as though they rang true for everyone, not just men.  Or women.  Slowly I was touched by teachings that seemed non sexist, stories and parables that held my attention.  Some "knocked my socks off"--did Jesus-- dare anyone say that!  Why don't we ever hear about that!  With the help of many teachers and pastors, I listened deeper.
    This reflective time of year, I've been able to understand more clearly why here on the prairie I feel so at home yet at the same time, lonely. Although I grew up here, after 40 yrs wandering, I'll always be a new kid on the block, bounced off of unbroken friendships that go back decades, with no huge gap!  Living in a monastery of my own making on the prairie works most of the time.  I value quiet more and more.  But there are times when I think there's not a soul in town I can talk to about this or that.  If I can get myself to Walmart or the grocery store, can usually find good enough conversation.  If I want "deep" talk, I'll write or dial long distance.
    Reflecting on the year, another big lesson came to light.  May not have realized what an introvert I am until I survived my first ever surprise party here on the prairie, and until I was singled out at a benefit.  For decades I've either been away for my birthday or working--no big thing, birthdays.  I was surprised how overwhelmed, ungrateful and embarrassed I was by the attention of a surprise party.  No amount of teasing or cajoling can make me into extrovert.  I admire and envy extroverts and articulate speakers; life must be easier.  We humans like to see others squirm; we love disasters and accidents.  I've gone around accidents and avoided conflict for decades.  Until I'm enlightened enough to be comfortable with whatever happens, I'll take myself camping again next birthday; works best for all.
    Although the year seemed to end abruptly, with snow and a cold front, spiritually it wrapped up well as I listened to Karen Armstrong's Case for God.  Her perspective on the ever shifting philosophies of "God" over the millennia flowed well into my thoughts, leaving me hopeful of the possibility of life and change in churches/Christianity and religion.  After wading through the swamp, headed into 2010 reaffirmed of the importance of patience, silence and doing one thing at a time.

"There is never any spiriitual plane higher than sitting still in meditation."
---WCCM Hong Kong coordinator Lina Lee quoting her mom, World Community of Christian Meditation newsletter Sept 2009

Summer 2009 - Not My God!  What's missing!

    As usual, it happened before I knew it.  Wish I could recall exactly what was said that made me get up from the floor of bible class and say I just couldn't agree with what was being said.  “Don't Bite the Hook” has my name on it.  Deacon John is ever hopeful something "meaningful" will emerge out of outbursts such as mine.  But I'm not theologically articulate; only know alarms were going off in my heart.
    Another Monday morning Bible study.  These weeks, I confess I attend largely because that's where parties and open houses invitations are made (I'm anxious about being left out--you’ll see why)!  When I moved back to the Midwest and met The Deacon, I urged him to hold Bible study--know a good teacher when I meet one.
    We no longer meet in a small upper Sunday school kids room with balloons.  We're downstairs at the big table now.  The group has grown.  Still, class is not for the faint hearted, the Borg and Crossen approach.  I find it refreshing after years in a so called conservative non-denominational church.  However, far more challenging than theology is embracing the ever fractious body of Christ.  Lately I look for reasons not to show up every week!  I swear we always end up ranting about the same old, same old, and it ain’t the glory of God, but--politics.
    The Deacon follows the Sunday lectionary (something I'd never heard of 'til this move).  Originally I thought of Bible study as my Sunday after pill.  Needed something following Sunday services in these old churches.
    The group is about as interfaith as groups get ‘round here--maybe 4 denominations plus whatever I attend.  Before the group got larger, we'd go around and mention how our priests/pastors had used the lectionary.  I loved this.  Occasionally someone remembered something, or had taken notes, but most of us drew blanks.  (Always throwing me into peels of laughter—start to get the picture?)  I'd usually enjoyed a service off the beaten path which had no direct relationship to the lectionary, and so reported.
    Though The Deacon (TD) says readings rotate in a 3 year cycle, I swear it's the same thing every week.  Just discussed that, di’n’t we?  Between church and bible study, seems like the hem of the garment, loaves and fishes, prodigal sons, golden age births, miracles from the good book are everywhere.
    I'm no Bible reader, but a fair listener (resigned to the hot spot with other non scripture readers.)  Now and then a story's a new one on me.  Otherwise….
    All sounds same-same to me.  Ancient, difficult names blend into one mishmash, and I drift-drift.  (Yup, been asked if I'm ADD.)  Only the gist of a dozen or so stories have jumped onboard to guide my life.  Perhaps wrongly, I feel I've got the idea: love God with all thine heart, mind and soul, thy neighbor and thyself likewise.  Yes?  No buts.  (As in, but if you're not saved you're toast no matter what.  More or less learned not to bite that hook.)
    When I twin love thy neighbor with buddhist mind training such as to put others first, who can miss the picture!
    Which is why in our 2nd or 3rd year of Bible Study my body and I have become bold enough to do yoga during class (since I'm giving up Y water class for Bible study).  When I can't take another anglican gay update, or go feed the poor lecture from our hefty fearless leader, I go to the floor.  The last thing this sedentary soul needs is more sitting on her buttocks.  I've beaucoups spiritual lessons under my belt—not much confusion there—but hips still need work.
     I'm particularly beside myself when the discussion returns again and again to patting ourselves on the back and bashing "them".  My patience wire trips and sometimes I can't take it anymore--we never get anywhere.  So I find a corner in the room where I hope not to embarrass the Lutherans.  The Episcopalians already pretend they don't know me—no problem.  Presbyterians endure me stoically.  I'm the least of the worries of ex-catholics.  While folks hold forth, I listen and do a little bodywork instead of sit, sit, sitting in awful bucket seats, stressing tailbone.
    This morning I saw clearly--maybe 'cause I was on my back—ha ha—how some of us have such small gods.  Who your God is, is how you live your life, no?  Suddenly I realized folks couldn't be talking about the same God as me!  Not my God!  No way the fear and doubts and negative thinking I was hearing had anything to do with the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God!  I've been around the Psalms too much for small stuff.
    Just how big is that God of yours, I wondered, further separating myself from the rascally body of Christ around me!  Saw clearly how the lenses of our personal Gods form our world views.   Earlier I'd noticed The Deacon ignore the suggestion that the reading was about faith.  Just where was/were God and faith at this table this morning?  Intellectuals and fear were running amok!
    I may have spent a long time seeing the world through a blurry family lens, but once on the road, fur flew.  I've had the gift of grand teachers and several life giving, life saving, functional churches, cleaning up the lens through which I view life.
    Both the Bible and Christian meditation remind me to pray without ceasing.  Religious Science reminds me my assignment is love.  Christian Science reminds me to stand porter at the door of my mind.  And Buddhism helps me know and study my own rascal mind.  These teachings have served me  for several decades, grounding me theologically more than I'd realized until this moment.  I'm not asking questions, just wrestling with self.
    Darned if my background and theology haven't brought me into collision and alienation with the mainstream, my community, my local body of Christ.  Sometimes to the point I'm lonely and question whether there's room for me.  My truths aren't others'.  The gulf widens as fear grows.  How from another planet are my beliefs, my God, how alone in my New Thought thinking, following the road less traveled.  I don't like this and don't thrive.
    The same, same rant about the contemporary politics of “us and them” is tough on me.  To be fair, most of the class The Deacon tries valiently to keep us in the time frames of the “paricopies” (big theological terms remain black holes no matter how many times they're defined!) we study--so we stop leaping to current events.  However, he's the leader, free to report on current anglican dramas, share favorite commentaries, and remind us to spread the gospel and feed the poor... better not go there.
    But of God?  Not so much!  I weary and badly need perspective on the body of Christ.
    I'm especially touchy about Blame and Bash "them" rants--fundamentalists, nondenominationals and megachurches (unless I'm doing the bashing)--from the mouths of those who've never known or visited any of the above.  How can we do this!!  It's a cake walk to dismiss a church as "full of republicans".  It's advanced studies to hear what's really going on.
    We ultimately circle around to—Why’re our own beloved oh so comfortable mainstream churches dying?!  I've tried and tried (not hard enough I've been reminded) to attend mainstream churches here, but end up shaking my head, horrified, more depressed then when I walked in….  What's so preferable about a dying church I wonder?
    Most accusations roll off me.  However, it's painful to have loved a nondenominational church dearly and hear my companion joke and criticize them as they wring their hands over their churches.  Will the real conservatives please stand!  How can we throw out the good taught in other churches!  I come home and write furiously.
    Answers are so right with us in the form of our own narrow minds that sometimes I can't sit still.  I yearn to say we're boring ourselves to death with the same old same old but instead I say….
    “You know I can't agree”, as I swing my legs to the side and crawl up from the floor, returning to the chair vacated earlier.  My cherish opinion: despite his occasional lectures on epistemological humility, some of us haven't changed our mind or listened to anyone with less than a PhD since the ice retreated.  Meow.
    Like a broken record--I’d already mentioned briefly that morning—again—how much I'd appreciated attending a so called conservative church where we were clear we were under authority, both God's and the speed limit.  I've grown to appreciate churches that challenge our rebellious natures and take God, faith and prayer seriously.  I miss them dearly.
    On my soapbox I unskillfully blurt out about not throwing out babies with bath water and how I have to hold my nose and roll my eyes in nearly any church, even those I love, which is most all.  At least in some of the so-called conservative churches (that as it happens are growing, while cherished local ones die), there's life.  I hear sermons that challenge and engage, that make me uncomfortable and come back for more.  In contrast most of our local mainstream churches are oh so comfortable and safe.  Learned awhile back I need to be a bit comfortable.  Oh to be a silver tongued public speaker!
    I wonder why I'm not included in private parties?!!
    I don't want to look at the world through the lens of cynicism and fear.  It's hard to see the good in the world when one feeds on mainstream news and comes from a struggling church in need of hospice.  Most folks haven't had the opportunity to witness a church full of life and change, a church that turns lives around, a bold, transparent minister, self examining, loving, edifying.  Again and again-- how blessed I was to learn to love in that vineyard of irresistable folks who weren't as fond of me as I was of them.  Took the assignment to love anyhow with me when I moved back to the midwest.
    Feeling better.
    How could one possibly be anything but a lifelong learner--humpf?!
    One of the Bible class regulars enjoys the strong characters at the table as much as I do.  His fertile mind has come up with a cast for the class.  He's got Raymond Burr starring with Margaret Mead, Talulla Bankhead, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Rod Blago and more.  Coming soon:  Bible Study: the movie.  It helps to laugh.

The Body of Christ!!!  What a piece of work!

Spring 2009 - Into the Garden

    Thought I wanted to be included at someone else's easter dinner; I wasn't.  Considered assembling a dinner of leftover folks but didn't think I knew anyone else.  I'm more or less unfit for human company this so called “spring” anyhow.
    Listening to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services finally "got it"--time to go to The Garden!  Of course.  For weeks I've been threatening to go listen for frogs, sleep under a tree.  Then it got cold, rainy, etc.  Rain or not, I was off for a night in eastern IL.  When my favorite campground was closed/locked, surrendered to the main campground just off the interstate with its steady roar of traffic.  Dashed to town to attend the vigil at an old catholic church.  After we stuffed ourselves into the church, we were hailed back outside--babies, families--for an official opening fire ritual, with a priest.  I was thrilled to watch a sharptail hawk fly in--it was dusk-- and observe the gathering from high for some time, before flying across the street.  I love gatherings of the changing/unchanged catholic church--Philippinos, Hispanics, all ages, kids.  (Don't know what the hawk thought.)
    Back at the campsite three of us early bird tenters rattled around the nonelectric loop that evening.  Frogs went to sleep early; awoke once to an owl call.  Aircraft flew so low so low during the night I wondered if I'd tented on a runway.  The new waxing moon rose early and made shadows on the tent much of the night, but I was too cold to peak out from sweater over head.  T'was nippy.  Found myself thinking--regardless, good to be out.
    In the morning, indulged in writing Eve months of news.  The park director I met last year at the closed campground to the north came by and chatted with us tenters.   Good job reclaiming stripped coal land.  Excellent PR man; had to tear myself away to Easter morning late service (glad I did).  Wanted more tent time, once it warmed up, more time in the woods.  More time writing Eve, myself.  More time in the garden.  Yearn to return.
    Late of course, squeezed into full sanctuary.  Folks arrived 'til the service, which was satisfying, was over!  A baby hiccuped ceaselessly.  Oh how I miss the old church.  Why cant I forget!  Don't really need a pastor in jeans with shirt tails out and punk hair, or a light show, but sincerity works.  Afterwards I met the lone recycler and senior pastors.  Boldly or rudely I mentioned how the call to green came from the top in Boise.  The pastor opined that Idahoans are more environmentally aware!!  Just because there are rivers?  Not my view.  Cherished opinions.  Before leaving town, visited new widow Kathy, heard about the trip to China, and saw Harry's tree us old buddies contributed towards.  If I lived in Urbana, I'd have a qigong teacher and woods right in town with paths to prowl.  Compelling.  Not to mention ethnic influences.
    'twas an Easter of re-enactments.  From 1st Pres breaking apart, re-doing Ken's "Bystanders", scene by scene, and then uhhh discussing each.  To the vineyard junior pastor retelling the easter story from the point of view of a soldier.
    Reenactments always remind me of my first experiences, which seemed so right and real--pastor Mike's incredible passion for bringing the Bible alive in his unpretentious way, greeting us in Hebrew or Greek.  Incredible Idaho.  Sleepers everywhere.

    As always-- head full of confusion needing airing and sorting.
    Keep thinking 'bout full Easter weekend.  En route to camp, heard talk by a visiting buddhist teacher i've not much appreciated in the past.  If i heard right--one always hears what one needs--this time he focused on the "sickness of right and wrong", good and bad (like in the story of the father with the son kicked by the horse, the son couldn't go to war, etc).  Curious students began asking such off the wall questions as why it took Jesus Three (not 2, not 4) days to resurrect (I hooted with delight).  That was somewhat how the teacher responded-- 1 day, 2?  3?, what difference does it make?  Promoting (I thought) his point about right and wrong.  (On another level, I understood this to be about our incredible demand/addiction to know per Angeles Arrian.)  The teacher baits seekers with a "Go ahead, ask anything at all"!  Bet he yearns to be a counselor.  Maybe he is.  What I wanted to know was--how are his eye(s).  Heard he'd had an operation, was studying his face, eyes.)  Of course I didn't ask.  He's the teacher who said No, I couldn't go into prison with one of his students without being his own student also!  Have I mentioned that lately--ha ha--so i know he's got his own control issues.  I'm his student, most everyone's' student, but won't admit it to his face, which is what I assume he needs.  Maybe he's changed?  Have I?
    Now why would any thoughtful person ask a Buddhist practitioner/teacher (albeit Jewish by birth), unknowable questions about a 2000 year old teacher or another denomination?  We must know these things, even as we scorn the religion of our grandparents, and admire uncle Al who refused to set foot inside church.  We're confused folks.  I am.  On review, perhaps it does seem preferable asking an outsider an inside question, to asking the average pastor who'd be unlikely to have a broad view.  Another answer might be, we're not very thoughtful people, which I translate "mindful".  (Lately I want to call the yoga classes I've been sharing at the fitness club, Mindful Yoga.  "Can't you move faster and do more, like the other instructor does?", one newcomer confronted.  No....)
    Since I so wrestle with judgment, the visiting teacher's talk was more or less down my alley.  Stunned to learn a student from Lincoln Christian college observed the morning--silent sit/walk and teacher talk.  Was that why the Christian theme?  Who knows.  Never heard such a thing from that teacher.  Easter weekend; bet I wasn't the only one surprised.  Too bad I haven't learned how to build relationship with the group.  Relationship, not my strong suit.
    Which leads to pastor John subbing for the UUs recently.  He's utterly lucid and unabashed about his Christianity, yet belongs to a nonchristian fellowship i'm tempted to label antichristian.  There he is, enjoying the fellowship that he didn't get in his own denomination, a story I relate well to, seeking community.  He knows several folks well enough to be included in their lives.  Boldly he spoke on "Advanced Spirituality", with a chuckle.  Wonderful, simple talk, referencing the Bible amply, also Kerouac and everything in between.  He knows his theology and his UUs.  Bonnie wove hymns into the closing before anti christians knew what happened and the equal time committee could meet.  John was pleased.  I watched as people made their ways up to him.  I know he touched a distant chord in many.  Ones who didn't want to hear a christian speak hadn't showed up, per UU prerogative.  After an hour of socializing, eventually joined 3 diabetic UU members--2 former pastors and an aspergers fellow--for lunch at their favorite chain.  (Don't bother to suggest a change to a healthier, less traditional venue!)  At every opportunity I asked what Rev John heard from folks after the sermon.  He too wonders why no one ever discusses sermons.  Wish he were a regular sub.  Love hearing from those who've been there, done that, lived, learned, grown.  Heart warming morning/afternoon.

    The dance goes on.  Lose track of perspective unless I go to the garden and write my heart back open.  Closes so easily.  So many unfinished lessons.
    From a cemetery side rosary (as always, practically no one could hear beans, especially the folks who whispered); to an evangelical flogging so severe (go recruit for Jesus) that I nearly jumped up on my seat (in one move, like a Hubbard Street dancer onto a folding chair) and yelled "Shut Up!  I'm a contemplative!"; to an episcopalian service in Hartford (went east for Hemphill memorial service) I cried through, the dance continues.  UCCs showed a friday night movie that gave life/ brought order out of chaos-- Seeger doc: Power of song; at last able to accept UCC hospitality.  Does it count that I inadvertently experienced a gay centered concert?  Did I mention the baptist's deeply moving easter production (so reminiscent of Cora's Concert of the Cross)?
    Surely one man's evangelism for Jesus is as real as one woman's campaign for silence.  If only he'd listen.  ha ha.  If only she'd do what she's told.  ha ha.
    Absolutely yowl at charges of lack of diversity brought by some amongst us.  Like to challenge the chargers to try following me around; doubt they could hold their noses long enough.  The local paper listed: 120 years ago 4 mental patients arrived in town.  I chuckled and thought "we've never stopped arriving!"  I dare all of us to look fully at the diversity in the body of Christ here and not scoff or wince!!  EEK!!
    Have I adopted a multiracial child, 2 or 3, or taken a single mom in?  I have not.  Don't feel called.  Sometimes feel pushed by those who feel called to tell us what to do!  Have I crossed lines, spoken to "Others/Them"?  Hope so.  Been civil where others turn their backs?  One never knows where one meets God.  Deferred to others?  On occasion.  I practice deferring, as well as holding my own now, speaking the truth.  Have I crumpled?  Despaired?  Repented?  Often.  Do I forgot who's in charge?  I have.  Remembered?  yup.  Struggled?  Again and again.  Let go??  Now and again.  Started over?  Again and again.
    One never knows the next step in the dance--perhaps that proves I'm not saved-- unless one has the right touch with the partner, and a light step.  "Keep walking" is a proverb I relate to.  I think it fits well with "Be still and know (god)".  If one's path is wide, one can step in any direction and stay balanced.

    We do our own thing in this country, whether we listen (to God or others) or not.  I so prefer the comfort of those who acknowledge other paths, one God, not yours and mine.  Whenever I try the narrow path, I fall right off, bumping into narrow gates, getting bruised and scraped.  This spring, the phrase Compassion's way from a buddhist reading at the end of sittings, rattles around and around.  Each moment, just as it is, the only moment... holding to self centered thoughts,  exactly the dream...  I so love eastern teachings: compassion, non attachment, non harming, right thinking, right action.  Can only practice, slide the wedge back in, crack open my heart.  Not in big ways per instructions--give all away and follow me--perhaps that's for men?  But Here and there, now and then, in my own way, I catch the gate before it slams.  Like sticking a foot in a closing elevator door.  Feels right.  I'm learn to write prisoners clearly, as Jesus might.

    Instead of meditating through Fr Laurence's seminar yesterday, I went to the back of the room, lay on the floor, sleeping, unabashed, exhausted, without discipline.  To small groups he asked What is Necessary, What is Missing.  Others answered faith, other good responses.  I mumbled Discipline.  The facilitator thought that would fall under What is missing, rather than What is necessary.  Whatever.  As always, I was unclear about the question.  In the tea leaves of life, I feel only the learning is important.  Having missed a night's sleep flying in so very late and driving north, squandered the opportunity to hear Fr Laurence.  However, the reminder of the fruit of meditation is never lost when one witnesses the clarity of his mind--like a good knife--his thinking, his humor.  Good to be with meditators again, even if the day was like an anesthetic from which I could not awake.
     Today's not the garden I had in mind, these trees along the Des Plaines.  I'd planned to spend the day with a college mate.  In her busy world, she forgot my coming and I transposed digits in her phone number.  I'm enormously grateful for this perfect garden and its good night's sleep.
     Bristled recently when I heard contemporary buddhist essay say we should be able to respond to what appears to be the most challenging forecasts with an "OK".  (Disagreed--what about suicide?)  The essay stayed with me, perhaps helping me make the shift from looking forward to seeing an old friend, to heading out of town when she wasn't home; going with "what is" rather than what I'd expected.  Ram Dass' "Ahhhh so", returns often, with gratefulness.  No new teachings, just new timing, open ears.
    All fits together perfectly when I make time to reflect.  Finally.
    Never lost on me is the power of gratefulness and prayer... to pray without ceasing...  every thought is a prayer.  Deeply imbedded teachings for which I am ever so grateful.

on her knees again

Fall 2008 - Fond Moments

    Pulling together notable adventures the last few months feels beyond me--waited too long!!  However looking back over my shoulder's often a helpful re: matters of the spirit.  Fun to look back and see what's sifted out of the dramas; what remains memorable, strong, amusing, distasteful, and best of all, helpful and clear...
    Maybe start with last night.  The Courier (local newspaper) sponsored a stop by the Army Field Band and Choir on its Midwest tour, right here in No River city.  "We", the whole area, turned out for the free show at the spiffy new college gym.  I've been surrendering, mellowing for years, for times like this, all part of the decision to regress to the Midwest.  The Northwest's Sedentary Sousa band got me loving bands; the Inland Empire got me going to church.  Now, instead of "outdoor" pursuits, life's filled with "social outings" like tractor parades, church luncheons, funerals, class reunions, nursing home sings, burgoos, even cruise night (once, by accident).  Sewed an 1850s dress to sing in.  For the record, I don't go to ball games yet, or eat regional cholesterol winning "horse or pony shoes"--think gravy and cheese.  Knew it'd be a profoundly complex evening.  Watched myself alternately resist, be manipulated and enjoy.
    Interesting timing, the Field Band concert on the eve of a nasty, divisive election, midst faltering 2008 economy.  I've learned from (two) Illinois Regimental Civil War re-enactment bands-- bands lead men into war.  No accident the Army Field Band tour during the controversial Middle East War.  Who can be dry eyed during a medley of armed forces songs?  Here's to dad, Uncle Bill, grandfathers Art and Chester; most of the men in the local obituaries, and a few women.  (Maybe someday when I'm fully balanced and grounded, I'll listen without tears ... potential thread.)
    What surprised me most, perhaps because the audience was elders who'd been there, who visibly melted, was the jolt I felt at the set of Big Band music.  Zing.  This was the music girls danced with WW2 GIs to, these now white haired men and women of the audience who survived WW2 and the intervening years.  As the gym filled with Tommy Dorsey strains and the audience warmed, vivid scenes from Ken Burn's fall 2007 War documentary scrolled through my mind, especially the voice of the son assuring his Italian mother he was well, right up to his death.
    Band members were impeccably attired in black military jackets with gold buttons and blue pants; women (a few) in short jackets and floor length blue skirts with deep slits in back, low black paten heels.  I liked the women's attractive short or pulled back hair.  (Reminded me what a relief it was to go to a Nazarene College play with clean cut kids.)  I was riveted by the excellent posture of most band and choir members--just how "military" these musicians lives are, I don't know--do they workout, run mazes?  These weren't everyday Americans; no one was obese.  None too subtly, the evening masterfully choreographed a tribute to those willing to give the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf in a war I tend to deny, with music.  Undeniably a treat to hear exquisitely trained and tuned voices and instruments--no everyday occurrence!  Because I'd listened to Odetta sing Leadbelly earlier, had a yen for the concert to end with "Goodnight Irene." (It didn't, of course.)  Quite an evening.
    Is there's a better way, better country?  Where's God in all this?  Everywhere.  Gulp.
    Three days later we senior Sunshine Singers caravaned 70 miles over to the VA in Quincy to sing.  Our coach's church in the small farm town of Franklin is active with the American Legion and has a connection with the volunteer coordinator in Quincy.  Another moving, interesting experience, visiting the big, beautiful old grounds, and old men (and some women) I think of as dad's military buddies.
    Military musicians remind me of Kathleen Norris, the writer's family.  I'm gingerly reading her latest, Acedia and Me.  If I remember right, her father was a career military musician, who ended up in Hawaii.  Read cautiously; her story is mighty close to the bone, a little risky, looking into depression as the days turn short, gray and cold.  Waited years to learn what Kathleen's been doing.  Acedia!!!  Naming indifference is the first step, she suggests.  I think I understand.  I'm open to guidance wrestling noonday demons as winter approaches.  Wouldn'tchaknow, the desert monks knew spiritual disciple was key. The Yoga of Discipline waits on the shelf.  I dance around discipline, in any tradition--prostrations or meditation, lectio divina or serving meals; praying at dawn, noon, sunset and midnight...

    The last few months' weather--late summer and fall-- has been nothing short of Divine!  (I know, that's judging; I practice loving it all but as Pappa puts it in The Shack, "I'm awfully fond" [of temperatures in the 70s....])  After ice storms and floods we look at each other and exclaim, again and again--What a gorgeous day, week, month!  What a beautiful evening!  Hard not to wonder if God finally gave central Illinois a break?  Or, we'd been rewarded for surviving last winter!  Or....   Gorgeous week followed week.  Feel a bit less foolish moving to the Midwest.   Thank you God!
    One gorgeous, mild fall weekend headed north by toyota to Wisconsin to a Thich Nhat Hahn style mindfulness retreat, probably the highlight of the fall and something of a life saver.  Left town breathing shallow, stomach amok; returned, revived.  Heard about this retreat during a retreat near Chicago, end of September.  The crazier the election and economy, the stronger the appeal of the woodsy porch Linda described.  (Having met challenging "industrial" food at the earlier retreat, the promise of good vegetarian cooking didn't hurt.)  I haven't been back in the Midwest to have a sense of whether October's weather was unseasonably warm--that's my guess--or perhaps it's the difference in elevations west and midwest.  Warm days and mild nights under a growing moon made camping delightful.
    Nothing short of a miracle that I crawled out of ye olde tent (with its growing number of patches) in the dark and  hiked to that lodge porch in time to watch sunrises.  Couldn't understand why everyone else sat inside.  (I'm challenged by sangha.)  Hearing the morning's last coyotes and owls, and first birds was pure heaven on earth.  Remembered the compelling story in  Idaho Loners of an Idaho hermit who lived in the Snake River highly recommended watching sunrises for peace of mind.  He is so right on, yet I can probably count the sunrises I've watched on both hands.
    Inside and out we flicked off swarms of asian lady bugs.  We sat in silence, walked and ate in silence, smiled and bowed, and listened to excellent, simple talks.  Adored the silent group walk, nearly 100 of us walking slowly through fields and woods--a good hour outing--out to a viewpoint to contemplate.
    For once I was comfortable with "friendly" silence.  Usually silent attendees and talking presenters feels lopsided.  Perhaps being close to nature helped?  or... maybe meeting several friendly folks who also attend church, the night we arrived (before silence fell), helped.  One intense fellow clearly needed this silent weekend as much as me.  His bursting right out with how he'd looked forward to the retreat for months helped me feel I might be home (Thay's theme) for the weekend.  A couple times during the retreat our eyes smiled, or we sat companionably in the horseshoes of couches.  At the end we briefly compared notes.  A small connection can make such a difference.  Encountering church attendees at a buddhist retreat was something of a first and a relief, perhaps another difference between Midwest and West.
    During social justice discussions I caught up on sleep in the warm tent--almost hot during the day.  By mid-day I was down to a sleeveless layer (while others wore jackets and, to my horror, closed the sliding glass doors!)
    I remain overwhelmed with gratefulness for such a restoring experience.  What a super speed bump to slowing down life.  Already look forward to returning next year!!

    Still floating from  simplicity and clarity of the Wisconsin weekend, a few Friday evenings later, drove over to IUS to watch "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama" (by travel photographer Rick Ray).  Wonderful film.  Like a broken record I chant: dunno know what I'd do without Buddhism in this crazy world.  Wisdom teachings on delusion, attachment, suffering and impermanence are invaluable.

    Thought I'd better ease carefully back into the mainstream after two meditation retreats (one "Christian", one "Buddhist").  Unitarians maybe?  In September I'd heard a delightful talk on the smorgasbord of religions out there that made me chuckle with recognition.  Like an international potluck, you can end up with a bit of a stomach ache mixing too many religions, the minister testified.  Same, same, the "Too many minds", of the clear minded buddhst prisoner In Idaho I once wrote about.  (Don't I know!  Still don't seem to be able to choose just one, still visit around, upsetting my stomach now and then.)  My most recent unitarian visit had me shaking my head  Rats!  Just couldn't agree that examples of holy alliance like Ghandi and MLK are all THAT rare!  I've piles of inspired biographies--MLK and Gandhi have company!  Maybe I'm not a UU.  Too Christian to be unitarian; too "Buddhist" to be "Christian"!  Can't choose sides!
    Today visited northside Lutherans (again); David subbed at the helm.  (Probably not proper terms in church world!)  It's a blessing to be under his compassionate wing.  And to chat with friendly folks.  Like a number of churches, the northsiders hold 2 services--one for young folks, another for old folks.  How ridiculous, per Judge Jeanie, small churches, splintering "for the sake of the kids".  What kinda cereal do you want, your royal highness?  No!!  Here's breakfast, here's church.  Do as I do--sit down, stand up, sit, stand; say this, say that.  Wish I'd mellow out.  Can't I just sit there and sink into the experience!  Still miss The Past, my old church!  Thanks, buddhism, for teachings on letting go.  Tonight allowed myself to listen to Idaho (perhaps it was all a dream?).  Been months.  But no, there's still an amazing. healthy church out there.  Sublime to hear a good, relevant message from the heart.  That Tri!  Now he's using words like holistic and Mind Body Spirit!  What's the world coming to!!

    After nearly 2 years, Psalms class ended.  Mission accomplished from my view--gained a grand appreciation of the Psalms.  Our excellent teacher became discouraged at erratic attendance, like of this sheep.  It's heresy to suggest that while the father pursued one lost sheep, others strayed, but I think that's what happened.  No doubt others wouldn't see it that way...
    This leaves Monday's lectionary discussion my most consistent, ongoing group.  I've been nudging the group to read the Psalm as a group.  Though I failed earlier, someone talked David into attending; he's fine ballast.  This 2nd year of the Sunday After gathering of the body of christ remains interesting and uplifting.  Thank you, deacon.

    As I write, realize perhaps the theological glue that holds me together is the Y treadmill (used to be stepper).  I rotate reading yoga, buddhist, christian science magazines (falling further and further behind on all).  Current favorites are Radical Grace ("Christian") and a ("Buddhist") prison newsletter. Love each issue deeply.  It's my only consistent reading time, perhaps the fulcrum of what little balance I manage!  There's yoga for Body; buddhism for Mind; and christian science for Spirit!  After I attempt to turn down THREE teevees, I take off shoes (usually) and pad 'long the moving path, sometimes listening to favorite mellow music on the forever low battery ipod, while reading article after article, frequently digging for pen to underline...  Perhaps a comment in a meditation article about how caring for bad attitudes is the same as caring for bad backs--both respond to love!  Or an article in the buddhist magazine trying to explain the subtle difference between the way buddhism works with ego and western therapists do, or how the West is changing buddhism.  Perhaps an article reminding us of the truth of god's presence in Iraq, or in the election, or our finances.  Or a report of a teacher or parent forgiving the youth who killed a son, or a prisoner writing about the impact of his teacher's death.  Reports of prisoners doing thousands of prayer cycles towards enlightenment or others' health give me goose bumps.  Another article describes the difference between walking mindfully through noon traffic versus angrily; another writer looks at being overwhelmed with emotion watching a violent movie vs observing with equanimity.  So often buddhist articles address issues immediately on my mind, things I can use now,
    One morning I tried talking to my treadmill neighbor (like I used to sometimes Out West).  Oops; so much for community.  Better to keep my nose in re-ligio than giving up precious sustenance in order to meet the ever challenging body of Christ!  Oh, this practice of loving people I'd rather not!  Too bad Jesus, Buddha et al. all said to.  Can't I just go home and talk to the dog like others do!  Help!  Balance!!!

    In many ways the Y is an epicenter, an excellent microcosm of learning and drama.  On bad days I refer to it as the west side's unhealthiest place-- my small, bitter cherished opinions showing.  (Cherished opinions being thoughts that gotta go!)  Instead of forgiving, I still harbor resentment over being turned down to teach in lieu of younger models!  Assumed I'd teach there like mom!!  It's focus is kids (who are of course short of involved parents these days) and of course, that all American obsession, looking good, neither subject of which is my strong suit!  What then would I doing there (since they got rid of the hot tub that was there when I first visited)?  Mom and dad were both deeply involved--mom taught, dad played tennis, contributed time and finances.  I joined in memory of the folks, I guess, and because I think I need a place like I had in Idaho, to teach and exercise, and have become most fond of Connie's water class.  The Y's falling down around us--leaks, stinks, shorts--oughta be razed.  Should we "shore up the mansion", "support the symphony", "rescue the Y", back the arts, or revive downtown, questions squarely facing this community in these challenging times, (not to mention challenging my ego and conscience).  Don't think we can have it all, but that's another story....

    One of my favorite moments the last few months--I've had no opportunity to share--happened during (silent) meditation at the Chicago area retreat in September.  When I looked up at the nearby candlelit statue saw not 1 but 2 figures!  Smiled knowingly.  Ah ha!  Of course!  Never alone.  Reverend Mary used to remind us of the line in Course in Miracles to remember who walks with us.  While the presenter tried to keep us busy with her agenda, I drifted, sensing I needed to relax, not analyze.  Spent much of the retreat laying on my back, outside under oaks, on picnic tables under shelters, acorns clonking, enjoying reading The Shack finally.  (Ended up rather fond of that book, thank you, Sally!  Loved the author's view of God as male because of our great need for fathering.  Amen.  Each retreat, each book, person or event offers something special, helpful.  That candle light ah ha is there for good.  Didn't find an opportunity to share what we experienced during the retreat.  I now so do!

"If you knew who walks beside you at all times on this path that you have chosen you could never experience fear again."
from the Course in Miracles

Spring/Summer 2008 - the right to pursue one's spiritual path

    Following 2nd service one summer Sunday morning, walked 'round community park, letting thoughts simmer--feeling "been there, done that"!  Pastor addressed the small church v big church/friendliness controversy.  Remembered when Tri challenged us by taking away the "Come as you are you'll be loved" bumper sticker until greeters were trained.  We were talked to about how we need to get along with ourselves/each other first ... what a miracle that we get along at all (including the reminder Democrats should be welcome too).  Like in Boise (until I'd been there years), I'm tired of greeting neighbors on either side who turn away to talk with real friends.  I'd prob do the same thing if I had old buddies in the congregation, but I don't usually.  On the way to the car, met a loner in the parking lot who spoke back--small but important connections, these.  Hard not to compare the skillfulness of leaders addressing these issues near and dear to a newcomer's heart.
    Just back from the West, visiting two of my root church experiences (Science of Mind and Spokane Unitarians).  Neither S.O.M. nor Unitarian Universalists are labeled "Christian".  Yet both churches were vital stepping stones to a "Christian" congregation along my path back to the midwest Bible belt.
    I'm looking for clarity finding a church home here.  Eventually, in Idaho I couldn't resist the life and authenticity at the conservative/"radical middle" fellowship I eventually called home.  I more or less fell in line, under authority, a huge thing for me.  When the fellowship changed from having no membership to offering membership, I signed the book.  Pastor said "If you call this home, you're welcome to sign the membership book."  I did.  (Earlier I wrote about being immersed in the Boise River.)  Although I began to sense I'd be moving away, I grew greatly under the benevolent authority of evangelic leadership.
    My sense this Sunday was that although I've found aliveness, I've not found home; doesn't feel like the reluctant but compelling fit of the radical middle.
    Haven't found a way to describe my predicament, as Ram Dass might call it, without using clichéd labels.  When friends send emails about the gov'ment spreading flu, taking away rights, I line up with those darn liberals.  Other emails bash the religious right or whine about the right to health care, written I bet from couches with cable teevees by folks with SUV guzzlers, and I think noooo, I'm an old fuddy duddy on that one, over there with right wingers on that one!
    "Not Always So", the title of a Buddhist book I love, 'bout says it for me.
    Despite the local pastor's charm and helpful talks, I don't have a sense of belonging.  No waves of love for people who disapprove of me, have come sweeping over, as they often did out west.  From visit one in Idaho, I was deeply touched by the music and truth I was hearing, and the willing hearts of the congregation, under authority of an extraordinary teacher.  Over and over I wiped my eyes along with the rest of the congregation, deeply moved.  Somewhat similarly, a few years before, as soon as I walked into my first new thought church in Seattle and heard the minister I was touched and began to recognize some of my cherished opinions might need a second look.  Indeed--Surely the Presence, was there, and remains, as I saw on this return visit.
    Perhaps what's most revealing that I'm not home yet have been talks on the church's mission: to help others come to Christ (or something like that).  If the mission were to bring ourselves closer, I'd have no problem.  But to badger others without cleaning our own stables first?  Perhaps I misunderstand.
    At my own former radical middle fellowship last week I heard (or thought I heard--one always wonders): Consider whether believing differently is equal to unfaithfulness.  One hand is the fist of truth; the other, open is to change.  Is that not radical?  Change, the C word!  Try that in Illinois!
    Came back from both Seattle and Boise, a little teary, but revived, spiritually, to have been around "other" paths, ways of thinking.  While in Seattle I heard stories of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama meeting; sang with Pat Wright's incomparable gospel choir; heard Mozart's Requiem Mass dedicated to the continued War in Iraq.  My head spun; this was not the midwest.  In Boise I was blessed to spend time with several men who walk the talk, awesome disciples of Jesus.  I know it when I experience it.  Humbling.
    In Oregon enjoyed bunking and soaking with "infidels" who put mother earth, the environment first.  One nodded at my new "The Environment: God's Creation, Our Responsibility" t-shirt.  It's from a church I semi-apologized.  Saw a smile.  I'm so proud of my old church, senior pastor teaching sustainability and thriving by living more simply.  Doesn't get much better than that!  I'm also proud of "infidels" who walk the earth gently, ride bikes, raise gardens, recycle ferociously.  And humbled, again and again.  Sometimes I wish I had another church person to talk with when I visit the Oregon retreat.  Other times I delight in just being with their faithfulness to the earth.  Lord knows, we're all so darned different.  I think it was on Speaking of Faith I first heard something like, "the right to pursue one's spiritual path" mentioned.  Amen!  Boy do I take advantage of that one!  What a treasured freedom!

    "Wherever am I going with this???"  I'm always tempted to answer with the old book title "Where did you go?  "Out".  (Said that to G when he phoned the other night when he accused me of not telling him I was going to Seattle.  "Out", I chirped and continued, "and What Did You Do?  Nothing," (the second half of the title).  He's younger; never heard of it.  I swear I told that boy I was off to Seattle and Boise!  He thinks I'm secretive; I think he doesn't listen.).  Where am I going?  Out to take advantage of the freedom to pursue one's spiritual path.  Life probably wudda been easier if I were a cradle Catholic like my current good buddies, or devout Lutheran or Episcopalian or Presbyterian.  But no, I came from a family where mom stayed home and dad took us to (the congregational) church that was just entering tough times.  It hangs by a thread to this day.
    Perhaps as a result I sit silent zen now and then; read Benedictine and Franciscan newsletters; visit both mainstream and nondenominational churches regularly; attend a variety of Bible studies.  Do you know anyone else willing to go to an LDS concert?
    A few weeks after pacing around community park, I went the hospital chaplain's last service.  Except for no one singing--that's not true--we all sang the first verse of "Jesus Loves Me" like true children of God--it was marvelous.  How I'd love a community church like this.  Well attended by folks of numerous faiths, meaningful talk full of humor and intimacy by warm, retiring minister.  We lingered, leaving slowly, inspired and heartened, brought together on the occasion of yet another beloved's retirement.  The body of Christ together, again, and again, and again.

Winter 2007-8 - Where everyone knows your name.
and O'Donohue's Death

    Pastor's sermon last week “Where everybody knows your name” (Acts 2; 42-47) surely had my name on it.  Recalled the long Where to live crisis that landed me back in the midwest.  Where indeed?  Back to where everybody knows your name.  Back to the beginning.  Can't go home?  Hmm.
    I yearn for guidance to get through each week--just "the truth", not a lashing or bashing; support and encouragement, not coddling.  I yearn to be moved, to have help connecting dots, understanding life, the world, reconciling paradoxes, and for meaningful interpretation of scripture.  Ideally in the company of buddies, but maybe not.  (Haven't created that yet; took years out west.)  Every time I hear pastor's Biblical explanation that man needs a companion, I nod in deeper understanding; he has a bead on male-female relationship that's helpful.  As a progressive in an evangelic church, of course, I wince now and then.  I surely miss former pastor's measured words--he considered the wide spectrum in the congregation and tread remarkably carefully.   Both good naturedly refer to their churches as places for rejects from the mainstream.  Yup.
    After threatening to visit for a year, enjoyed Springfield's west side non denominational church the other week.  Nondenom. talks seem to speak to subjects on my heart--like, just how much knowledge (in a cyber world!) is enough!  A nearby fellow that morning shared that he worked with the gray haired elder tinkling the ivories!   Cool!--elders involved in music!
    Slowly understanding what's missing (between me and church here)--it's being under the authority of a visionary.  Duh.  Took a while.  Idaho was my first experience.  (Picked right up on something different when I walked into what became my long term home church, but was slow to understand what it was; slowly grew to respect and appreciate being under the visionary authority of a pastor who wasn't afraid to mention the E word-- environment--and later showed world population charts and spoke of limited resources!  Stunning.  Such a church had my full attention!  An article in Jan 27th's Christian Standard (good little magazine out of OH) says studies say "large" churches (>400) are driven by vision, smaller, by history or changing needs.  Ah ha!  I'll think on that.
    Like any good divine nudge or message, they seem to appear in groups.  Went to a Black History evening at prison one Saturday night.  I was in heaven with music, chaplain's passion, and the speakers message on... vision.  Right on!  Harder'n'heck to hear in the gym, strained and kept relocating.  Among other things Bishop Warren said--well, preached, yelled-- spend time with folks like what you want to be.  Click.  Simple, profound.  Get clear so you'll have the vision of who you really are.  Yes!  Vision!  Needed in prison, in churches, in small, old towns....
    Can't yet understand how it makes any difference whether a group's small or large, vision would still be good, que no?  The whole country needs it!
    This week's headlines about local college kids witnessing another mass murder leave me stunned.  Not that people kill--we're frustrated and confused, unskillful in our cries for love--rather,how can we not make a connection between guns and death?  Aren't we missing the obvious?  Or am I!  Each time I see a "Guns save life" billboard on the highway, I wonder what I'm missing.  I surely know we all perceive things differently--the way I understand things is not the way others do.  Amen.
    Each time I threaten to stop going to Bible class because of my dinged ego, I hear the teacher's passion for the Body of Christ-- his profound understanding of people-- and I can't resist.  It was a bit much when he started bashing mega churches and I knew darned well he'd never been to one and never will.  Don't I know how easy it is to throw stones!  I haven't either, but I'd love to.  Wait, wait, teacher, you can't speak to why others go to church!  As you yourself preach, most of us go to be with others: for fellowship!  No matter that churches might promise to save you, protect you, assure you they're the only true one, bash others, mostly folks simply show up to be with friends and fill that hole in their life.
    Meanwhile I wander into, enjoy, grumble, puzzle over our local churches.  On some levels I no longer search, no longer full of whys and "how comes", though I yearn to understand churches more fully.  I yearn to be at peace and find niches to serve.  I need help living, surviving tsunamis of popular untruths, staying on course.  It's good to write through this jumble of thoughts!  I confuse sincere folks.  The other night a gal fixed her Lutheran gaze on me and pleaded, where are you a member!  Decided to answer Idaho (true, but perhaps not helpful).  Not sure how long I can get away with that, or if I should.
    After a recent quick visit back West, it still feels right.  Beloved senior pastor mentioned the headlines of the week, then commented the only way to have peace and to lessen competition for dwindling resources so your children have them, is to consciously simplify ones lifestyle.  He calls it leaving small foot prints, large hand prints.  Bold, bold man.  I'd never seen such a crowded service.

    Mid February I was jolted to read an e-newsltr saying native Irish speaking theologian John O'Donohue died early January, age 53.  The shock reminded me of my reaction to Loren Eisley's death in 1977.  Never met either.  O'Donohue's earthy spirituality, luminous (or is it numinous?) teachings about death, have been enormously helpful and healing, right down my alley, a perfect fit.  Although I have no idea where O'Donohue might have taught and explored next, I feel his work stands complete--prophetically his last book is Benedictus: A Book of Blessings.  A December interview (on the web), is also prophetic.  I'm listening to his CDs again, perfect for winter reflection, grieving and grateful in one swoop for his life.
    After many years, met an old school friend recently.  His health is precarious; may well not see him again.  Back West I had an unexpected gift of a long talk with the church gardener, who's for years has been too busy to chat.  His health also is failing, changing; we could speak frankly of the changes and journey ahead.  He was full of clarity and time.  He's also full of visions and peace.  I was stunned to witness how all his life experience has brought him to this perfect moment where he touches so many lives.  He's in exactly the wisdom place senior pastor spoke of in his December 2006 empowering elders sermon that knocked my socks off.  O'Donohue helps me understand the preciousness of life and the naturalness of death; perhaps he's something of a Celtic Taoist.  It's comforting to know there's beauty in  deaths of beloved friends.

    Though I had ample opportunity, missed out on the holiness of the Easter season this year.  No one's doing but mine.  I was selfishly consumed with whether or not I was going to live to see spring.  Went to a number of lenten programs, ever interesting, though I often drifted.  Either I change, or get outa this world where churches sing along to CDs.
    Attended 1-1/2 hrs of a Good Friday 2 hour noon service.  Sat near a friendly professor; thought he (and others) weren't going to make it through the meditative section--silence, not for academics!  The nearly empty church rattled and rustled with shifting.  (In all fairness, it wasn't an easy meditation, putting one's self in Jesus' sandals!)  Drifted back to ghosts of Easters past--music and meditations in big venues along the West Coast.  As they became slicker, I began letting go.  Ended up remembering fondly the relatively simple Good Friday that pastor Mary read the Easter story.  As I reminisced, suddenly my eyes lit on the here and now communion table--chalice and....  The more I stared, the more clearly I saw an iced jelly donut.  Incredible!  (Possibly maple bar.)  Between presenters I psstt at Dave and pointed.  He shook his head firmly--Not donut.  I was unfazed, of course, continued to see things our way, as we're want to do in this neck of the woods, and of course spent the rest of the service reveling.  Nothing could more perfectly symbolize how times have changed in this old farming community.  The final Via Dela Rosa singer (to CD) took me right straight back to Mary's service and Joanna's rendition of Via Dela Rosa (also with CD).  Over lunch we marveled at the lovely conclusion to the service, debriefing not only the talks, but professor's recent travels East.  My hunch is I'm one of the few folks around, who, having just read Swami Abhishiktananda's story, can imagine the experience of being upended by India.  Absolutely.  I'd be.
     This winter I read two biographies of catholic priests who lived in the Orient.  They went to evangelize, build bridges, learn, and because they were drawn to the divine listening, silent, meditative aspect of Asian traditions.  Despite the peace and contentment they admired and found in Asia, both agonized continuously over the belief that they might be betraying Christianity and Jesus as the only path to God, their respective orders and vows.  Dear, dear Christianity!  Much to learn.  Why not embrace rather than resist?  Perhaps that's why O'Donohue touches me so.  He appears to have left priesthood without bitterness and kept on expanding and passionately embracing the whole earth, especially the preciousness and beauty of it's wilds of his native landscape.
    Christianity's seeming to draw lines and force taking sides drives me wild.  I overhear people judging other churches and religions, shaking their heads knowingly at other's delusions.  I back away.  We seem to be indiscriminate and confused about Jesus' tough love teachings, probably always have been and will be.  Endlessly fascinating, but also grounds for seemingly more and more division and alienation.

    Easter morning, after visiting both non denominational (for message) and traditional (for stained glass, music and color) services, hastened to Easter brunch with Donna's family, a few blocks into town.  A few hours later, across town, vegetables in hand, I joined an episcopal dominated gathering for roast lamb, spaciously hosted by the deacon who loves Jesus and the early church because they ate together.  From time to time my eyes rolled at the wonder of the assemblage.  Recently I overheard someone ask if the area's ready to talk about race, I think it was.  Race?  Despite what it looks like, in my opinion, this area is as bizarre and diverse as they come.  Today we were: peculiar singles (from swilling dirty old men and women to holier than thou abstainers); a wide variety of doubles from same sex, bi-racial to unclear orientation; the dominant aryan theme was spiced with color; natural and dyed blondes; gray to not much left; top heavy with degrees, education and professionals; relatives and non; a rather wide spectrum of mental and physical abilities/disabilities, and political views, veering towards democrat.  A jealous girlfriend came late; drop ins from other dinners reloaded plates; poker faced youth drank wine.  A functioning autistic drank beer and talked loudly to a deaf elder--my vote for the best win/win conversation!  When we ran out of chairs, I noticed a senior eating alone in the next room, talking to a senior cat in a heated basket.  Lord have mercy--truly the Body of Christ eating together.

    It's been a long, cold, unstable winter, very different from my first winter back.  No ice jams on the Illinois or Mississippi to the west (or so I think).  Much time for pondering, sorting, reflecting.  Lots of illness, mine and others; the newspaper bulges with obituaries.  Sometimes on a cold night, occasionally in front of the gas log, I'm grateful to be right where I am, a very good moment.  Thank you teachers of all traditions!  How badly I need O'Donohue's reminder:

When one flower blooms, spring awakes everywhere

2008 Archives  - Winter - Odonohue; Spring/summer - Right to One's Path; Fall - Fond Moments
2007 Archives - Jan. - Home?; May - Settled?  Summer - Church Wars; Fall - Uncle Harry;
2006 Archives  - Winter/spring - Coming full circle; transitions; is it really true; Summer - Saying goodbye; Sept - Sink or Swim

2005 Archives  - Idaho christians and buddhists, gospel music, prison; Fr Laurence, Merton, Multi-faith, Dalai Lama,
2004 Archives   - WInter - Spiritual Mongrel; Summer - Truth Telling
2003 Archives -  July - Heat Wave; Fall - Chop Suey and Phad Thai
2002 Archives - Feb - Lift him up; Mar - Didn't it Rain; May - Discovering more friends; Aug - "1919"; Nov - Thanksgiving
2001 Archives  -  Jan - Eyes Have it; March - Parting Language; June - Moving on; July - Divine Oneness;
Sept - Bringing Soul Explosion Home; Bombs and laughter; Nov - Enjoying the puzzle
2000 Archives  -  Sept. Holy Ground; Oct. Old Souls, Trinity; Nov. Sitting & Listening
1999 Archives  -  Oct. High Holy week in Boise, Drepung Monastery Monks visit

THOUGHTFUL SITES (finally updated 2010)

Timber Butte Homestead 
Dharma Dialogues

Center for Spiritual Living
Center for Action and Contemplation
World Community of Christian Meditation USA
Krishna Das
Julia Butterfly Hill

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