Yeah, the last few weeks of the term. Presentations, papers, etc. You all know the drill by now. Lots of “No, I can’t do X.”, grumpiness, and hermit behavior.
Or being hold up in a library somewhere.
Term ends May 17 (sorta kinda). See you on the other side…
You really should.
Ok, yes, I do produce the show, but Lee is really amazing! You should totally check out his blog, too! We have a lot of great episodes coming up!
Ok, back to thinking about homework, and possibly another blog post. I do mean to post more, but…you know…seminary…
WordPress tells me that today is my 3rd blog anniversary. I blinked, looked at it again, and thought “Holy cow! Has it really been that long?”
I looked at my stats. It has.
Then I looked at some of my first posts for this blog and realized I started it as I was in the process of writing my application essay for PSR. I was reading some of those posts earlier and realized just how much I’ve changed in the last three years. Not just how much I’ve change, but how my call has changed, and how I view the world, and and and…
Three years is a short time in some ways. A blip on the overall cosmic timetable. But in many other ways it’s quite a long time.
So, here I am. Second year in. Radical shift in my calling. Preaching my first really big sermon this coming Sunday. Making videos and other art. Not too far from doing my Middler.
Mostly, it’s because there’s just so much going on! Pantheacon is a couple of days away, and I’m looking forward to doing the Wiccan Christian ritual I wrote (with some editing) on Monday at 11 am. The Awesome Wife is doing her music ritual “The Descent” on Sunday at 3:30 pm (at Club Maxx). We also have a suite this year, and we have lots of stuff going on there, too.
It’s crazy busy. You can look at the schedule on our wiki. Come check us out if you’re there.
School just started again, and that’s been really busy, too. Lots and lots of reading, of course. Interesting stuff, though.
I’ve also really started working on Dual Citizen Productions, and producing the new show Coffee With God with my friend Lee which is really taking off. Doesn’t hurt that Lee is pretty amazing at what he does! We’re also going to start filming The Greek Geek in March. I know a lot of folks liked his segments, and I hope you’ll watch the new ones when they come out.
I did an interfaith service at City of Refuge on December 30, 2012, and it was amazing. I’m still getting compliments on it, and really, I’m still in awe of the whole experience.
The biggest thing, though, is that I learned a lot about what being a minister/pastor really is about. I was feeling like I was just “one of the interns” until that service, and now I feel like I’ve really done something for the community. I know some people will say that I’ve really been doing it all along, but this was the first time I really felt that I had ministerial authority. We learn about it in classes, but I don’t think you really know until you do it.
What’s interesting, though, is that it’s made me look at what I do in my coven in a new light. I’m not only a priest and friend, I’m also a teacher. Sometimes I’m leading by example, sometimes through practice, and sometimes I have to give the spiritual boots to the head. It’s not always easy, either, because sometimes you have to be hard on someone, or even walk away from people, in order to help them. As the Morrigan pointed out to me in her story, sometimes it’s me that has to give the mercy blow.
To be honest, it sucks. Recently I was able to do it without apologizing for it, or feeling horrible about it for days afterwards. I felt sad that I had to, but I knew it was necessary. And I know I’ll have to do it again and again as I keep moving on this path.
It’s about power, really. It’s about figuring out how to wield your power to greatest effect. It’s also accepting the power you have. I didn’t think I realized just what I had in me. Now I do, and I’m in awe of it.
I also know that I need my friends more than ever now, because I know how power can put you on a pedestal or make you too full of yourself to function well with others. I also need to remember self-care, because being exhausted helps no one.
It’s hard. It’s not easy. But…I don’t think I’d have it any other way.
So, I guess I did figure out what to write…
“Jesu-Do” is a collaboration between Dual Citizen Productions and Mike Friedrich. Mike was taking a film and religion course this term, and had the option of doing a short film for his final. At the beginning of term he asked if I could help him with a short film, and I said yes! Here is the final result (which, from what I heard, got rave reviews from the class):
A few weeks ago, my coven and I celebrated the Wiccan holiday of Samhain. On this holiday that would celebrate bringing in the last of the harvest in times past, we honor the ancestors and beloved dead, and it is also considered the witches’ New Year. During this holiday, our lore says that the veil that separates this world from the afterlife is at it’s thinnest. It is a time where we remember those who have passed, think about what we have done in the last year, and say a wish or a prayer for the future. There are several deities that are tied to death and the afterlife that are called during this season, some of whom I work with as part of my own spiritual practice.
Today, I would tell you a story of The Morrigan. She is a Celtic goddess of battle, strife, a seer of the future, and, a goddess of death. Wiccans do not have a holy book, and much of our tradition is oral, passed down from teacher to student, coven to coven. Some of our lore comes from mythological traditions, but sometimes, the stories come from the deities themselves.
Here is Her story as it came to me during my spiritual work, and this is how I wrote it a few weeks ago:
In a distant time and place, I walk behind The Morrigan as we approach a field. A mist rises around us, but the further into the field we go, I can see that there are bodies everywhere. Armor, blood, gore, chain-mail, swords, and all the other weapons and trappings of war lay scattered. We pick our way through the bodies. There is hardly any noise beyond the moans and groans of wounded and dying soldiers. Even the crows have decided to stay silent as they watch from their perches in the trees.
My stomach wants to rebel, but I swallow hard, and continue to follow Her through the field.
Her Sword gleams as She searches the field. She stops next to the body of a young soldier. He looks at Her. There’s brief flash of fear before She gives him the Mercy blow, but after, his face is peaceful. She lifts his spirit up from his body, kisses him, and he fades to the place beyond the veil.
I stare as we both watch him leave.
I am not sure, exactly, what I feel, but I know that what She did was right. I look at the field stretched out in all directions.
Then I look at Her.
When She turns to me, Her face is a mask, but there are tears in Her Eyes. “Did you think that Mercy and Compassion came without cost?” She says.
I bowed my head. “No. But there are so many!”
“There are always too many.” She says with sorrow.
We continue to walk the field.
When I do divination with tarot cards, sometimes the death card comes up. In my tradition, we say that it doesn’t just represent the physical death: it can also mean a spiritual death.
Sometimes, this is a major spiritual awakening where we have to let go of a part of ourselves that we have held on to for so long that we don’t need anymore. We grieve this loss just as we would any other death, going through the stages of grief as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has described: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, eventually, acceptance.
Sometimes, it isn’t our own spiritual death we are witnessing. Sometimes it is watching the people we love kill themselves slowly through their own actions. We try to help, give advice, or money, or time, but the other person still continues to harm themselves and those around them.
When I sit with the dying at the hospital I volunteer at, I know there is nothing left to be done for them. They are in the final days and hours of their life here on Earth. All I can do is bear witness to their passing and hold their hand. In the end, all we can do is let them go as they take their last breath.
And this is true of spiritual death: sometimes all you can do is let go of that which needs to be let go. Sometimes all you can do is bear witness to someone’s self destruction.
And death always comes at a cost for the living: grief, sadness, loss. It is unavoidable. It is particularly hard when everything that can be done has been done, and all that you can do is watch and pray.
As clergy, we witness all of these forms of death. Death is never an easy topic for people to talk about. Many people deny that death is happening, even in the last moments. There are people who spend their lives trying to fend off death by whatever means necessary, and there are people who seem to seek it out as a way of escape.
We become the witness to all of the ways that humans experience death, both spiritual and physical. We try to reach out, to help as much as we can, but there are times, that even we, with our spiritual knowledge, love, and desire to heal the soul, cannot do anything more than bear witness to the human experience.
And sometimes, though we don’t like to admit it, we also have to be the Morrigan, and give the Mercy blow. Sometimes we are the ones who have to call the police, or the ambulance, or Child Protective Services, or the family of someone who has died.
There are always those who we cannot save. There are always those who we have to let go of. It is a never-ending cycle. There are always too many.
But there is always hope: hope that things will get better, or that the one we had to let go of will find a way out of the darkness, or that the one who has passed is in a better place. We keep working, because the bright light of hope is always somewhere out there, even when life is at it’s darkest.
In the end, we do what we can, and pray, to whatever god we pray to, that we have done right. That the cost was worth the mercy and compassion we tried to give.
And that, through our actions and our witness, we have brought peace and hope to those who need it, even if only for a moment.
For sometimes, that is all we can truly give.
Let us pray:
Spirit of All,
May we have strength in the darkness
when there is nothing left
May we show compassion and love
in grief: both our own and in other’s
May we have wisdom
to show Mercy when it is needed
and may we always have Hope
that life and love will always be found
by those who need it.
In your many Names, I pray
“What are you afraid of?” She asks.
I look at her sitting on the root of the Great Tree next to me. I don’t say anything, because, in my mind, I’m blocking what I already know. I stare down the roads to the South and East. The desert and the city.
She crosses Her arms. “I’m not going to tell you what you already know, but I am going to make you admit it.”
“I…I’m afraid…I’m afraid I won’t be good enough. I’m afraid I won’t get all this work done. I feel like there is not enough time for everything…”
“You’re afraid you’re going to fail.” She stares hard at me with Her young face. I nod.
“Do you think I would test you in this way if I thought you would fail? Do you really think We would bring you here only to have it all be for nothing?”
I shake my head.
She continues, “Just because you have some pretty cords doesn’t mean you are done being initiated. This time, it’s not for Me, but don’t think for one minute that We all don’t have a stake in what you do.”
I nod again and stare at my hands. The idea that I am not alone in this journey bubbles up and sticks in my head. I am not alone, on Earth, or in the Spirit realm. My fears ease slightly.
“Besides, Little Crow, when you finally come to Me, I want you to tell me you did your best.”
I look up again, and She is smiling at me in her Crone aspect. Her eyes hold laughter, and She winks.
I stick my tongue out at Her and smile. “You…sometimes I hate You, You Old Bitch, but you’re right. You know, I hate it when You’re right!”
She smiles and laughs, turning into an Owl. I watch as She flies away to the North. When She is out of sight, I start walking.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I’m trying to get back to writing a weekly post, and I’m in a strange spot these days. I have comments on a few things, so I think I’ll just make a random thought post right now, and if I think of anything more interesting later in the week, I’ll write that, too.
Art, Liturgy, and Audience
A TA from one of my classes this spring has been writing about art and liturgy, and it’s making me think about how my call to use art in ministry will pan out. One thing that keeps sticking in the back of my mind is challenging the audience. I think that it is a minister’s job is to challenge the people they are ministering to. It seems that in some places there’s a sense of not wanting to make changes because it will make people unhappy or uncomfortable. Or because they think that their congregation wouldn’t be able to “handle it” because it’s something that’s outside of what they know.
While I get the old notion that one must know their audience, I think it’s a serious mistake to think that a congregation/group/church/etc couldn’t handle anything new. And, I think, a serious underestimation of people’s intelligence. Sure, some people might not like, say, a sermon about a piece of art instead of a regular sermon, but even if they didn’t like it, they will still talk about it because it made them think.
Then again, I also think that a minister can’t be too predictable. It’s our job to help people think through the Really Big Questions, and even those answers can be a surprise.
I was talking with a friend earlier tonight about how I feel like I’m a broken record when I talk about progressive Christians with certain people. The question is always “Where are all the progressive Christians? Why aren’t they confronting the Right Wing nutjobs?”
The simple answer: money. If I had billions of dollars, you’d better believe that I’d be supporting progressive Christianity as much as I can. But I don’t have that.
My other answer: I won’t sit there and tell someone that if they just did X, Y, and Z their life will be good and they’ll go to Heaven. I won’t lie to them because the world isn’t simple: it’s not just Good and Evil. There are plenty of shades of grey and sometimes good things don’t come in pretty packages and not all beautiful things are good.
So, the progressive Christians are out there. We’re trying to fight the good fight. My question to the ones who ask where we are is: What are you doing to help us out?
Homophobia is not ok, even from family members.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of Barney Frank and his partner at their wedding. It was a sweet picture, and it got a lot of likes from friends. The exception was my uncle. See, this uncle became one of the types of Fundamentalists that tell people they are going to hell for things on a regular basis. This uncle, and the rest of his family, moved to one of the south eastern states several years ago, and basically haven’t talked much to the rest of the family since (to my knowledge, anyway).
Anyway, he posted the bible verse “Romans 1:24-28”. I kind of figured where this was going, but I looked it up. Sure enough, it’s one of the ones that is used to prove the “sinfulness” of homosexuality. I admit, I was angry, especially considering a) I’m queer, b) I have a wife, c) I was his goddaughter, and d) I’m in freaking seminary. I basically said that he could take his homophobia somewhere else. He replied that their problem was with God.
Funny, since I’m queer, I suppose I’m sinful, too, according to my uncle. But last time I checked, I had no problems with my Gods (at least not about this). In fact our relationship is quite fine. I’m pretty sure, however Barney Frank believes, that his relationship with his Higher Power (or lack thereof) is quite fine too.
I suppose that thing that gets me the most is that this is the first time I’ve gotten outright homophobia from a blood family member. It’s just strange to me since the rest of the family don’t seem to have any problems with it. I did unfriend him and my cousin after this. They may be blood family, but homophobia isn’t ok, even from them.
School starts back up in a few weeks, and I’m pretty excited about it. Systematic Theology, Preaching (eep!), New Testament Greek, and Field Education. I’m doing my Field Education at City of Refuge, and I’m really excited about it! The 4M have some really awesome things coming up, too, and the Circle of Cerridwen has some interesting stuff in the works for Pantheacon. Not to mention Mabon and Samhain coming up! Busy fall, as usual.
But really, it’s all worth it!
I’m done with my first year of seminary.
Last September feels like a million years ago.
I am certainly a different person this May than I was last May.
Right now, all I can really do is be amazed at how spirit has moved in my life, and just be in awe of all that happened this year.
Now I have the summer ahead of me, and there’s even more: making stock for my Etsy store, producing a documentary, going to the Fellowship’s West Coast Conference, trips with Sarah (and she’ll be home all summer! yay!), going to a monastery for a week, and volunteering for NODA.
But, I think, next week is crafting and rest so that I can talk and think more than one sentence at a time.
Because right now, I’m just plain tired.
More to come…after sleep..