mystery worshipper report – Pride Week bonus edition

mystery worshipper report – Pride Week bonus edition
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Pride, photo by Scazza_

I am a Pride Virgin. That is, I have never participated in any Pride celebration before… until tonight. Tonight was the annual Interfaith Celebration, part of the PrideFest in Norfolk. Two years ago, we watched a livestream of the celebration. Last year, my partner participated but I stayed at home (I’m not sure why: there’s a 98% probability that I was either working late or sick… or both!).  And this year we both went together.

The celebration was held at Ohef Sholom Temple, which is filled with light and beauty. Continue reading “mystery worshipper report – Pride Week bonus edition”

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mystery worshipper report – week 1

medium_2fa730d1f86c93abc739My bride and I have begun “church shopping,” a phrase I personally loathe, but for which I don’t have a good substitute. Last week, we were farewelled from the parish where we’d worked and lived for the last six years. People asked where we were moving to, and the answer was “We don’t know.”  I would tell people that God calls people to places, and God calls people from places. We are obeying the command to go forth, and now we wander through the wilderness, experiencing many ways of worship, until we come finally home.

Today, we visited Good Samaritan Episcopal Church for worship. However, we didn’t really accomplish the mystery piece because…

  1. I was there in my formal habit. That makes it harder to be a mystery worshipper.
  2. I am 4’9″ tall (about 1.4m), and my lovely bride is about 6′ tall (about 1.8m). We make rather a memorable impression as a couple.
  3. I was a member, regular worshipper, and vestry member at Good Sam in the 90s.

So, you see, I could never be a mystery at Good Sam, which is why I worshipped in my formal habit–it was pointless to try to be undercover!  Ship of Fools owns the “Mystery Worshipper” format, so I will write this post as a narrative and a reflection, rather than in their question & answer form.

Good Samaritan is located in Virginia Beach, across the street from the Virginia Wesleyan College campus.  Continue reading “mystery worshipper report – week 1”

for my children, on mothers’ day

My beloved son and daughter,

Today is Mothers’ Day, and so I ask you to indulge me for a few moments. You are both grown now, both embarking on your adult lives. There is so much ahead of you, so much to look forward to. I am proud and excited to watch you as you find your passions, as you pursue your dreams, as you take charge of your lives.

Continue reading “for my children, on mothers’ day”

on love, real life, and the triduum

on love, real life, and the triduum
Behold the Pierced One, by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Behold the Pierced One, by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the beginning of the Triduum, the holiest time of the year. For these three days, we walk with Jesus as  he celebrates the Passover with his closest friends, washes their feet, breaks bread and drinks wine with them, goes to the olive farm to pray so hard that he sweats blood, gets betrayed for cash, gets arrested, is denied by his best friend, goes from trial to trial, gets handed off between Temple authorities and Roman authorities and yet different Roman authorities, is mocked by the mob, gets flogged, carries the heavy crossbeam to Golgotha, is crucified, dies, and is quickly wrapped and buried before the sun sets and the holy Passover Sabbath begins.

We know that Jesus does all of this out of love.  God is born into this world as a helpless infant–like all the rest of us–because God loves us. God loves us so much that God gives up God’s godness, to live and breathe and hurt and smile and run and shout and step in donkey shit and kiss babies and love his momma and spend time with his friends. And die. What kind of love is that?!

Continue reading “on love, real life, and the triduum”

a new diet, a new year, a new me?

For a number of reasons that I’m not prepared to go into right now, I am about to embark on a low-histamine diet. It’s been a tough thing so far this week, because it seems to be all about the nots so far. There are so many things not to eat, and I’m not eating those things so that I will not be in pain, and even the “good” foods are described in phrases like “any vegetable not on the bad list.”

At lunchtime yesterday, I went to the grocery store to pick up something for lunch and some snacky foods to have at my desk. I started in produce, and I picked up some nice apples and pears – organic, because those weren’t waxed – and did some label-reading. First stop, salad dressings. Continue reading “a new diet, a new year, a new me?”

dear barista

dear barista

We’ve seen each other at the Starbucks a lot, so you’ve seen me on unwashed-messy-hair Saturday mornings and on business-ultra-casual workdays and on Sunday mornings when I’m in my formal habit. So you asked me yesterday about my status in the church, and I told you I’m something like a nun, and then you asked me a really important question.

If a person kills themself, and it is totally and completely by accident, like, they didn’t mean to do it, are they still forgiven?

Yes, absolutely, I said. Even if it was intentional suicide, they are forgiven.

Oh thank you. That helps a lot.

And then I asked if this  had happened to someone you know, and you said that a friend had been careless when working with a weapon. I told you I was sorry for your loss – and I am – and that I will keep you and your friend in my prayers.  You thanked me for that, and I pulled away from the drive-through with my skinny mocha and my (definitely unskinny) lemon cake, and left you behind.

The thing is, I haven’t been able to leave you behind. I’ve been thinking about you for a day and a half now, and I wish I had stopped to offer you something a little more than a promise of prayer. I have prayed, and I continue to pray, but I feel like I should maybe have done something a little more for you. Of course, you were working the drive-thru. At Starbucks. Just outside the military base. At 7:30am. You probably didn’t have the time for me to come in and talk with you and see how you’re really doing.

I picked up a coffee again this morning, but didn’t see you. I’ll try again tomorrow. Because I’m concerned for you, and I want to make sure you’re okay.  Because, as I told someone recently, I love and I pray – that’s what I do. That’s the job of a Sister or Brother: to love and to pray.

I want you to know that you are loved and you are being held in prayer. I want you to know that God grieves for your pain and grief. I want you to know that, regardless of what their life was like here, your friend is in a place of great joy and amazing wonder. I want you to know that they are surrounded by the Great Light that heals and makes whole and gives life. I want you to know that they are cherished completely, loved infinitely, and held to the bosom of Jesus like a precious jewel.

I want you to know as well that you are cherished completely, loved infinitely, and regarded as a precious jewel. And if you need someone to journey with you for a while, to listen and support and to love and to pray, I am willing to be that person for you. You may already have someone like this, but your question made me wonder. I heard the yearning in your voice, the deep desire to know that all is well, that all will be well. Because it will – that has been promised to us.

Now that we have passed the solstice, called Yule, the light of the sun creeps back into our days again, a little bit at a time. And the Light, the Word became flesh who brings life to all people, is with us. We will celebrate that becoming-flesh tomorrow night and Friday, with parties and big meals and gifts for each other. We will celebrate the Light, the Word, the Life. As much as you may miss your friend, they also are celebrating the Light with the great feast that never ends. And one day, dear one, you and I will both join in that amazing celebration. Because you are a precious jewel, reflecting the image and likeness of the God who is Love.

Love and prayers,
sister hedwyg

heap of feelings

heap of feelings

I’m having one of those days where I’m just full up to my eyebrows with feelings, and I don’t know what to do with them. They’re all rough and pointy, and they stick out uncomfortably here and there, and they distract me from getting work done.  I’ll be working on a spec, and then a feeling will poke me – “Hey, you’re fat. You should feel shame.” or “You asked for what you need to write this section two weeks ago but you still don’t have it. Anger, anger!”  or “Maybe somebody said something to you in chat. How exciting!”  And those feelings will set off other feelings, and then all those jagged feelings are moving around, bouncing and poking and sliding and scraping, and it takes ten minutes to settle my heart and mind enough to try to work again.  It is overwhelming.  It’s so overwhelming that I stood in my kitchen last night thinking, oh, so this is what a mid-life crisis feels like. Good to know.

It’s easier to deal with when I’m sitting at my desk working on a document. It’s so much worse when what I’m doing is relating with other people, like in a meeting.  When I’m with other people, the risk is that one of those feelings will hear something triggering, and I will get emotional reflux that is spewed all around me.  When that happens, it can be frustrating or hurtful or angering for other people, and it’s usually embarrassing and shameful for me.  Sometimes I don’t even realize it has happened until it’s too late, and everyone is sitting in that awful, uncomfortable silence, and I wish I could shrink to the floor and disappear.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with all of these feelings.  I mean, is there a nice lever that will let me flush my feelings, like you’d flush a toilet?  They won’t let me ignore them, and they interfere with everything.  Am I supposed to put them into a nice, orderly line, hang up a “The Conscious Mind is In” sign, and greet each one in turn?  And once I’ve cleared up that backlog, how do I keep them from piling up again?

My suspicion is that my life doesn’t have enough time that is quiet and reflective.  The reason behind this is probably that these feelings aren’t all pleasant and fun, so I don’t want to have to engage with them.  Frustration and anger and shame are scary, and so I would rather stick my fingers in my ears and sing the I can’t hear you song than listen to them.

Of course, it’s much more subtle than that.  I remember when I had my first bout of severe depression in the late 90s, when I would play Minesweeper for hours, trying to ignore the awful feelings with pure logic and intellect.  I do the same thing today, even if it isn’t Minesweeper.  It might be companionably watching TV with my partner, or it might be decompressing with an hour of Civilization, or it might even be the assigned reading for my spiritual direction course. There are always things I could be doing (should be doing?, ask some of the voices in my mind) that look more enticing than having an honest conversation with The Bitch or The Coward or The Total Embarrassment.

Well.  So I guess what I will do is hang up a “Now Serving” sign and a “Take a Ticket” machine. And I will try to spend about an hour in quiet each day, having a conversation with the next feeling in line, trying mostly to listen to it and understand what it is saying to me.

Because this is affecting my relationships at work, well, in every part of my life.  It is damaging people I care about, people I respect, people I admire.  And if I don’t figure this all out soon, I’m going to end up erupting like a volcano, spewing flames and lava and ash all around me, then collapsing in emptiness and shame.  At least the apologies will be less difficult and painful if I start doing the work on my own, than if I let the volcano blow.

A wise friend of mine once told me this important law:

People only change when they want to bad enough or when they hurt bad enough.

Unfortunately, it has a corollary:

People only want to change bad enough when they hurt bad enough.

Okay, Holy Spirit – I hurt bad enough.  I’ll get to work tonight.  Dammit.