Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yes, His Coming Out IS a Big Deal: Homophobia in Sports

Jason Collins, NY Times photo.

Let me be blunt: Jason Collins coming out as a gay man is HUGE.

Collins, who started this season as a center with my beloved Boston Celtics, but now wears the Washington Wizards jersey, is the first male athlete, still active in professional team sports, to announce that he is a gay man.  Up to now, men in competitive pro sports in this country did not reveal their sexual orientation... because they must be straight.  They're athletes.  Athletes are macho.  Macho men are only gay if they're singing with The Village People.

In contrast, several prominent women professional athletes have announced they're lesbians:  Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Sheryl Swoopes, Megan Rapinoe, Brittney Griner are just some of the list of names.  But unlike men, women in sports often face the opposite issue: they must convince the fans they are NOT lesbians.

I was recently told that there is a softball team at one of the major universities where the women all put their hair up with a certain elastic tie.  The significance of the color and the style of putting up their long hair is to indicate that they are straight.  I have been told of other instances where the coaches of a women's sport have kept lesbians off the team.  Many times, the reason for denying these talented... and lesbian... athletes a chance to excel in their sport is that there is a conflict with the religious values of the coach.

Some have used their theology to back up bigoted reaction to Jason Collins' coming out.  Collins cited his belief in Christ as his reason for telling the world who he is in the Body of Christ.  But ESPN Sportscaster Chris Broussard called Collins' revelation, "openly living in unrepentant sin."  He went on to say, "I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don't think the Bible characterizes them as a Christian."   ESPN has stood by Broussard as having had a "respectful discussion of personal viewpoints."  But, in fact, there is nothing respectful about saying that someone who has professed a belief in Jesus Christ is NOT a Christian just because they are gay. I will say this again and again... and probably again: a person's sexual orientation is NOT a sin, unrepentant or otherwise.  Our sexual orientations, whatever they are, are a beautiful gift from God. It is how God has allowed us to experience intimacy and deeper relationship with another person which is, by extension, a tapping into a deeper relationship with Divine Love.   How can anyone ask another person to repent a gift from God?  That's lunacy.

So is the commentary of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace.  Wallace doesn't understand homosexuality.  As he put it, "All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys..."  Someone get this man to a PFLAG meeting, quickly!!  I have had this same discussion with dads who are reeling at the news that their handsome, athletic son has said he's gay.  "How can that be?  He could have any girl he wants: how does he know he's gay?"

I gave a very simple answer to that one. 

"Mister Dad: when you were 15, did you think girls were hot?"

"Oh, yeah.  I was all into girls when I was 15."

"And so you knew you were straight, then, because you thought girls were hot."


"Well..... your 15 year-old son thinks guys are hot.  And that's how he knows he's gay."

And a light is turned on where there had been darkness.

As much as some have been offering up the same tired bigoted statements about gay men during this news cycle of Collins' coming out, there are many more who have risen above the usual locker room nonsense.  Within hours of his announcement, the Boston Red Sox contacted Collins via Twitter to congratulate him and offer that any time he'd like to come back to Boston and throw out the first pitch, they'd be happy to put him on the mound. 

It made me proud of my "home town" team.  Their response, and the efforts of pro football players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Klewe as straight allies, not to mention the moves by the National Hockey League to institute anti-discrimination policies are signs that there is progress and acceptance happening in pro sports.  Collins will still likely endure nastiness in some quarters.  But his courage is a slam dunk for equality, and will serve as the starting point to more openness both on and off the court.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

New Things

When I was with my spiritual director on Thursday, I confessed to her that I had been having something stirring inside me for the past several days.  And, trusting that I can say just about anything to this woman, I told her that I thought I might be able to preach.

She, thankfully, did not pick up a 2x4 to smack me about the head.  At least not literally.  However, she did look at me as if I was the biggest idiot in the village to cross her threshold that day.  Had she not told me already that she thought I would make an excellent preacher?  Had she not mentioned that my writing, my intelligence, my insights, and my ability to be articulate were not all gifts that I have that are in line with the ability to preach?  Had she not made it abundantly clear that my one and only problem at the moment was an issue of geography?  And, in a show of great impatience, she said what was really on her mind:

"What are you waiting for?"

And I had an answer for that one.

"Sunday.  I'm going this Sunday to Thomasville to attend a service at St. Thomas."

She dislodged the figurative boot that was firmly planted in my behind.  This answer was welcomed news after 14 months of meeting with me.

I am clear that this is a visit.  And that I hold no great expectations of what will come from this visit which is, weirdly, a return to a somewhat old stomping ground.  When I first entered spiritual direction with Rev. Nancy Mills, we met in the Guild Room at St. Thomas.  I had pondered, on occasion, whether I would one day come up to Thomasville to attend church and just see something different than St. John's.  Now, that pondering is becoming a reality.  And this Sunday seems as good a time as any for a visit.  I am not serving in any capacity at St. John's; I am not going to upload the sermon; and the services are designated as "Youth Sunday" meaning that our lessons, sermon, and the music will be led by the youth.  I have nothing against the teenagers, but these "Youth Sundays" are not my favorite, so I'm happy to have an incentive to head north in the morning.

It will be interesting to hear what gets said at St. Thomas, another Episcopal Church that has had to weather the storm of ugly nasty splits blamed on the likes of me.  The lectionary for Eastertide continues to present the theme of "Expand your horizons; this New Thing is for a whole new crop of people!"  We will get to hear the marvelous story of Peter's dream in which he sees the supposedly unclean animals on a sheet.  The man has this vision and is told to kill and eat these animals that he, as a good Jew, won't let touch his lips.  But then he hears a voice, ""What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'"  This is the set up for what happens next to Peter.  As he's absorbing the meaning of this vision, three men show up to take him to a home in Caesarea.  There, he finds a Gentile man and his family who said that an angel had told him to send for Peter in Joppa.  At that moment, the Spirit swept over this family, and Peter, standing as a witness, had a V-8 experience when he realized what had been said was coming true: John the Baptizer had baptized with water, but the one who came after (aka Jesus) was baptizing with fire (aka the Holy Spirit).  And Peter came to the inevitable conclusion: who am I to get in the way of a new thing happening with the Gentiles?

Indeed, this could be said of any one of us today: who are we to tell God's Holy Spirit what to do?  Who are any of us to say that this person or that person is not eligible to receive the grace of God which flows forth freely to one and all?  This has been the dividing line between those who have remained Episcopalian in this part of the country and those who have gone off to form their heterosexuals-only churches.  The idea that God isn't on a mission to win the hearts and minds of all people, regardless of their labels, is just ludicrous.  As Jesus says in the Gospel reading from John, "I give you a new commandment, that you love oneanother. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."  There isn't a caveat on that statement.  And if we, growing more mature in the stature of Christ, can't strive to achieve that goal of loving each other instead of slamming the door in each others face, then can we really sing that line about how "they will know we are Christians by our love?"

We say that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life."  If we believe that, we might allow our hearts of stone to be broken into a billion pieces, so that we might have a heart of flesh in the same way Christ did, and recognize that to achieve the goal of walking in Christ's footsteps, we have to be willing to stretch further in love, and, maybe even attempt new things our selves by seeing who we have neglected or believed to be unfit, unorthodox, or just not one of "us". 

Or maybe we visit a church in Thomasville.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Prodigal Cat

My dear friends across the street have had a miraculous event happen: they've been reunited with their orange tabby cat, Boris, who went missing in December, 2006.  He had been staying with another friend while this couple was in Texas following the death of one of their fathers.  The day before his favorite mother, D., was to return, Boris disappeared.  He had F-I-V, and so we all assumed that when we couldn't find him anywhere, that he'd gone off into some wooded area to die.  Instead, he somehow ended up clear on the other side of the city where he's been a loner for the past six-and-a-half years!  He was in rough shape, and needed to have all his teeth pulled, but at least he's alive. 

Now, my friends still had another cat named Tweety.  And she is not as excited at the return of her wayward older brother.  D. came across the street last night, in what I would call a "contained fret" over how these two cats will manage when she and her wife, T., are away, leaving a housesitter to maintain order.  The discussion inspired this version of the famous Lukian Gospel story.  I present to you, "The Holy Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to Luck":

Then Jesus said, ‘There were two lesbians who had two cats. The older orange boy cat, known for his street smarts but not his ability to fight, waited for his parents to return from a semester away. A few days before the first mother was to come home, the orange boy travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his time living on canned food off Highway 20. When his teeth rotted and he became so sick, a family that had taken care of him realized they didn't have money to fix his teeth. They said, " We will get up and go to the vet, and we will say to her,

‘Doctor, we have no money under heaven here on earth to give you to fix this cat's teeth; we are no longer worthy to take care of him. Put him to sleep’ ” But the vet checked the cat, and discovered the microchip and went to the lesbians. And while he was still suffering in the vet's office, his parents saw him and were filled with compassion; and they held him, and he buried his face in the armpit of his favorite lesbian mom. And the orange boy cat cast his eyes down. But the lesbians wrote emails and texted and called all their friends, “Quickly, bring out the Friskies Turkey and Egg—the best wet food —and put it in front of him; and brush his fur, and give him the fluffiest pillow in the TV room and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of ours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

Now the younger pretty black girl cat was in the yard; and when she came and approached the house, she heard meowing and cooing. She peered through the door and wondered what was going on. Then one of her aunties said, “Your brother has come, and your moms had his teeth pulled, because they got him back safe and sound.” Then she became angry and refused to go in and stayed out until after midnight several days in a row. Her parents came out and began to plead with her. But she swished her tail in protest as if to say, “Listen! For all these years I have been a constant companion for you, and I have never runaway for long; yet you have never given me exactly the food I want so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has broken your hearts, you give him turkey and egg!” Then the lesbian moms said to her "Tweety, you are always with us, and all that is ours, our bed, our couches, our leather chairs, are yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

The Gospel of the Lord... according to Luck!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Emerging (Somewhat): Eastertide and Equality

I have been spotty, at best, with posting here on the blog.  I totally ignored all of last week's drama in Boston with bullets flying, and bombs blasting, in otherwise quiet neighborhoods.  No mention of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, or ricin in the mail to members of Congress and the President.  Is it any wonder that my mentor did the unthinkable (for her) and preached on the reading from the Book of Revelation!  People, including me, were reeling last week.

But as I settle in to finally write a reflection this evening, I am looking at the text from this morning's reading from the Wisdom of Solomon.   We had these lines from the beginning of Chapter 5:

Then the righteous will stand with great confidence
in the presence of those who have oppressed them
and those who make light of their labours.
 When the unrighteous
* see them, they will be shaken with dreadful fear,
and they will be amazed at the unexpected salvation of the righteous.
 They will speak to one another in repentance,
and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say,
 ‘These are persons whom we once held in derision
and made a byword of reproach—fools that we were!
We thought that their lives were madness
and that their end was without honour.
 Why have they been numbered among the children of God?
And why is their lot among the saints?
 So it was we who strayed from the way of truth,
and the light of righteousness did not shine on us,
and the sun did not rise upon us.
 We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction,
and we journeyed through trackless deserts,
but the way of the Lord we have not known.
What has our arrogance profited us?
And what good has our boasted wealth brought us?

Now, I know better than to look at the Bible in a literal sense, but these lines really stood out for me this morning as I listened and thought about our world as we know it.  Especially in light of what is happening nationally and internationally with marriage equality.  The French said, "Oui!"; Nevada and Delaware are moving closer to adopting legislation to give gay and lesbian couples equal marriage rights.  And Rhode Island... little itty bitty super Roman Catholic Rhode Island... has sent a marriage equality bill to the desk of Gov. Lincoln Chaffee who is expected to sign it.  

As you might imagine, the National Organization for Marriage, the latest incarnation of those who would rail against LGBT people wanting to get hitched, put out a news release denouncing the passage of the legislation in Rhode Island.  They are worried about children growing up without a mother and father, or churches and businesses getting punished for refusing to recognize a "genderless marriage." I don't know why they think having two people of the same gender in a covented relationship is "genderless," but--oh well.  Instead, I go back to the words from Wisdom:

 ‘These are persons whom we once held in derision
and made a byword of reproach—fools that we were!
We thought that their lives were madness
and that their end was without honour.
Why have they been numbered among the children of God?
And why is their lot among the saints?
So it was we who strayed from the way of truth,
and the light of righteousness did not shine on us,
and the sun did not rise upon us.

Perhaps this is what NOM and any other group or individual should consider before they speak harshly of another.  Again, when I think about what is happening in the lectionary on Sunday as we hear the stories of John's gospel, I am struck that there is an overarching message of, "Don't chase away anyone; all comers are welcome to the banquet!"  The very ones you would reject, they will be "the chief cornerstone."  That seems to be the message that is getting revealed in our time.  I can't help but feel that in my bones as I witness more and more willingness to open the doors to the banquet hall just a little bit wider to let more people in.

And it is that witness that then makes those who refuse to see, those who have stopped up their ears and will not listen, look even more foolish.  How much longer can ecclesiastical and secular bodies stand opposed to the tidal waves of justice that are sweeping the planet?  How steadfast can one bishop be in refusing to recognize and honor the gifts not only of LGBT couples, but of LGBT people period?  How can people insist that Christ is NOT risen, when it is clear to so many of us that He is alive and the Spirit is blowing away prejudice against the LGBT population?

"Welcome happy morning!" age to age will say... whether you want to hear the message of the hymn or not!    

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Celebrating Pride in Faith; The Call to Action

I know what you're thinking: Pride Week? In April?   These are the accomodations the community makes in Tallahassee where there are three college campuses, and June is so hot and humid that to own a sauna is really kind of redundant.

One of the highlights of the week for me has been the interfaith service.  The one in Tallahassee is truly INTERfaith: Jewish, Evangelical Christian, B'hai, Pagan, Quaker, Lutheran, Episcopalian, MCC, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalists all gathered under the roof of Temple Israel as one call to recognizing the LGBT spirituality in all of those (and many more) traditions.

Again, I participated to make sure that the Episcopal Church was present and accounted for in this assembly.  As you may recall from my post "Wanting Memories," I basically went to the mat with my clergy to be allowed to represent our parish in the service.  It was a really ugly fight, from my standpoint, and one which so deeply hurt me that I couldn't bear going through that hell again. So, rather than asking any of the local Episcopal clergy to participate, I offered that I would stand in, along with with Mtr. Phoebe of the Church of the Ascension in Carrabelle, and do a portion of the service.   I shared all of this with my spiritual director who, after many questions, finally took out the two-by-four and asked if she was allowed to "come play."

"Oh, you want to take part in the service?" the directee asked, stupidly.  And after getting whalloped by the two-by-four, offered that I would check with the group, and that I was sure they wouldn't mind.

The service had three sections.  The first was presenting and celebrating our past and standing on the shoulders of giants.  The second was our present time, and seeing where there were still pockets of resistance to the recognition and respect of all people.  And the third was lifting up the giants of our future. 

The "Episcoposse," as I like to call us, were to start the section on the present.  My charge was to lay the foundation of the section as a "call to action" or "what can people of faith do to lift up those being laid low by laws and prejudice."   Many people had enjoyed what Mtr. Phoebe and I presented last year but I didn't want us to do a repeat of the same thing.  I knew we needed something to engage the congregation; it is not the Episcopal liturgical way to let people sit and be passive.  And so, after some thought, I proposed that we steal a page out of Morning Prayer and offer suffrages with a concluding collect.  And, after some prayer and stillness, I took a first crack at what would be our offering which then my spiritual director, Mtr. Galen Mirate, spruced up and nuanced. 

Finally, and again after prayerful meditation and listening to the guidance of the Divine, I wrote out my opening "homily" which preceded the suffrages and collect.  Here's what we presented:


The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;

These words from the prophet Isaiah were the same ones that Jesus read from the scroll in the presence of many at the Temple.  They are the call to action for all people of faith as we encounter our world of haves versus’ have-nots.  Equal rights for some but not others.  And the real dangers of LGBT people living in countries where governments, with the backing of religious authorities, enact laws that threaten our lives with imprisonment and even death.

Giants, such as David Kato in Kampala, Uganda, who led the group Sexual Minorities of Uganda, have been killed in the cause to bring freedom to the oppressed in his country.  He dared to be outspoken, and to stand up for what was his right… and the rights of all people to be treated with respect and dignity.  His death must not be in vain.

The countless numbers of transgender people who are sometimes brutally killed that we remember each November are a reminder that gender identity and living outside the binary understanding of male and female poses a threat to some.  Their deaths must not be in vain.

Immigration laws that threaten to divide binational LGBT couples are another casualty of our growing hodgepodge of laws on the issue of who can be married in this country.  Inequality under the law must not continue.

We have come a long way, but we have so much further to go.   And it will take all people of faith to put on the mantle of light and the prophet and speak truth to power… both in the houses of our government and our houses of worship.  It is our calling to allow our mouths and our bodies to become the vehicle through which Love can cast out the fear that keeps us down.

May this calling to courageous acts of Love be fulfilled in your hearing.
Mtr. Phoebe: We pray in peace and call upon the Spirit to whom all hearts are open, all desires known: silence
Mtr. Phoebe: Comfort and succor those who have suffered rejection from their family, friends and faith communities
All: May they forge new bonds of affection here on earth and be nourished by the unconditional love of the Almighty from heaven.
Mtr. Galen: Protect those who suffer violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, both here and abroad
All: Shield and defend them from the forces that seek to do them harm, and turn the hearts of those who would oppress them.
Mtr. Phoebe: Grant courage and strength to those who live in fear of revealing their true selves
All: Give them hope in their struggles and assurance of your great love.
Mtr. Galen: Empower those allies who stand with their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters
All: That they are uplifted and inspired by the Spirit Who drives them to cry out for justice.
Mtr. Phoebe: Preserve all people who have entered into loving and committed relationships
All: And direct the nations of the world to recognize marriage equality for all.
Mtr. Galen: Lead all of us from prejudice to truth, from blindness to clarity, from apathy to compassion
All: And melt our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, as we strive to become instruments of Divine transformation.
A Collect for Action
Almighty God of our many understandings, you have called us to follow your example of love and bind the wounds of those who have suffered rejection in your name; place in our hearts the power to love; place in our mouths the power to enlighten; place in our minds the power to understand. Let our knowledge of your truth give us the wisdom and strength to turn bitter injustice into loving acceptance, and guide the people of the world towards the path of greater inclusivity, where all may live in peace. In the Name of your great love for us, we ask it all. Amen.
The service concluded with the Pagans leading those who wanted to do it in a chant and spiral dance to raise the energy and send it out into the world.  May that carry us forward to keep doing the courageous acts of Love that will change the hearts and minds of many more people.







Saturday, April 13, 2013

A New Thing Means A New Way

I was listening intently to the Gospel story from the Friday noon day service during Easter Week.  It happens to be the same one for this Sunday, the Third Sunday in Easter, in which the Evangelist John is telling the story of how the disciples, still in a daze at what all has happened with the death and now resurrection of Jesus, decide that the only logical thing to do is to go back to what they'd always done: fish.

And so the fishermen, led by Simon Peter, get in their boat and head out into the water to return to what they knew and understood. They cast their net off the left side of the boat, and hoped they'd pull in a good haul of fish.  But they catch nothing.  Undaunted, they do it again.  And again. And again.  This was fishing.  This is what they did, and casting the net off the left side of the boat had always worked before.  Why isn't it working any more?

Standing on the beach observing all of this is Jesus.  They don't know it's him, but he says to them, "What? No fish?" They mutter and grumble, "No!" And then Jesus simply offers that if they cast their net off to the right side, the "wrong" side if you will, they might find it to be better fishing.  Instead of arguing with him, they head back out to sea, and do as he had said.  And--whaddya know--their net is teeming with 153 fish! These creatures are squiggling, wriggling, jumping against the ropes of the net and the fishermen are blown away with this amazing catch they've made.

As I heard this story, all I could think was, "What a wonderful metaphor for the church!" I periodically see the articles or hear the rumblings of church leaders about the almighty "numbers." How many people are in the pews matters. It can speak to the health of a congregation, and it is often part of that bottom line that the diocesan office will look at in determining the future of a parish. Sometimes, this "numbers obsession" can obscure the real reason a church exists. Sometimes, getting worked up over the "numbers" can lead people to doubt about whether we're doing enough to get new people, or the all-important demographic of "new young family."

What I see this story saying to the church is that if you want to address the "numbers", then stop throwing the net off the same side of the boat and expecting a different result. If the church continues to fish in the same waters using the same approaches and going after the same people of a certain socio-economic class and profile, the net will remain empty because most of those people are the ones already sitting in the pews. Time to cast the net off the other side of the boat and catch the people who are swimming in the under fished waters. That requires putting the message of the church out there in communities that are not the "usual suspects" in the same social circles. Y'know, the ones who don't look, sound or dress like us.

Here enter the Pride Week Interfaith Service in Tallahassee coming up this Tuesday. This service is the perfect opportunity for anyone, LGBT or an ally or friend of gay people, to enter a space of worship where there are many denominations and faith groups gathered to celebrate the Divine's desire to to see the net teeming with fish. For some, this may be the only worship experience they'll have all year because it is the one time they have enough trust that they won't be cast out or attacked from the pulpit. Religion has been cruel to the gay community; religious people have been like the false prophets who have preached a false gospel that God does not love LGBT people. Today, these same false prophets are backing away from outright condemnation and instead peddling the line that they LOVE LGBT people; they just don't think they should have sex. Ever. Is it any wonder that the LGBT community has deserted the churches?

At the interfaith service in Tallahassee, Christians, Jews, Pagans, Hindus will come together to offer the welcome that God has laid out to humanity from the beginning. It is a welcome that doesn't have a litmus test or a special code to unlock the door into the party of eternal life. For some, this may be the most love they've ever felt from people of faith. I have spoken with folks who feel alienated from their churches who then have come to this service and felt uplifted. That's powerful.

They may share with others about the service and what they experienced. And regardless of whether it results in 153 people showing up in any given congregation's sanctuary, the message of acceptance and inclusion that comes across when churches and other faith groups participate in this service is priceless.

So much of what John's gospel stories of the post-resurrection time are teaching us is the importance of going beyond ourselves to spread the message of Love to those who are seeking a spiritual home. This is the set up for those stories of the Apostles in the Book of Acts: the Ethiopian eunuch, the Roman Centurion, even Saul, breathing threats against the followers of the Way, and his conversion. Christ represents a new thing. And a new thing requires a new way of approaching the mission of growing and building up the church. It means moving away from the comfortable and doing things a little differently. It's not enough to wait for people to come in the door. The church must move outside of the sanctuary to cast the net wider in search of the those who are seeking a faith home no matter who they are. This is the way, the truth, the life that we are expected to follow. Break out of the comfort zone and welcome the unusual suspects into the great love of Love.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Power of The Cross

I have mentioned before that my mom, the Anonymous Peggins, had taken up a ritual of doing Morning Prayer at her breakfast table.  Her practice is different than mine.  She likes using a little book written by the former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold as her guide. And, apparently, she has been picking up the Forward Day-by-Day booklets at her church, which offer additional daily meditations.

Much like her obsession with baseball, these are new practices of my mom's that I'm pleased she's doing.  Growing up, she didn't do as much routine practice of prayer.  No one in my family did.  We went to church regularly.  But that was on Sundays, it was for the obligatory hour or so, and then we would go about our business until the next Sunday at 10am.  The only connection I saw my parents have beyond that routine were their additional ministries.  Mom sang in the choir at Christ Church; and I know dad, at one point, was legal counsel to the parish and would need to go to meetings.  I sang in the Junior Choir until I was about 10.  That's when I became an acolyte and I quit the choir.  And then there was Youth Group, but that was about hanging out with my friends, and once I got to prep school, my life was no longer my own except for that hour on Sunday mornings.

So, like many people, we were all about being like the Marthas of the church with little, if any, Mary energy going on.  The fact, then, that mom has taken her place sitting at the feet of Jesus in daily prayer is a good, and right, and joyful thing, in my opinion.

I think it is also helping her right now in ways that are not readily perceptible.

While I was there with her at Exeter Hospital, I made a point of wearing my crucifix with the rainbow beads.  It was my way of  having that outward and visible sign there for me as a touchstone during this trying time.  Each time my mom would see it, she'd point to my chest.

"It's my cross," I'd say, and lean down to let her touch it.  She would take it in the fingers of her left hand, fondling the beads, and staring intently at the crucifix fixed in the center.  Then she'd pat it against me and smile.  She'd touched the cross, felt the rainbow beads, and now she was happy.

Her interest in the crucifix was not just with mine.  On Wednesday, Rev. Caroline Hines, the interim rector at Christ Church, came by the hospital to see my mom.  Unlike her two male cohorts, Caroline decided to travel, as I say, "incognito"; meaning that she was without her priestly collar.  Instead, she donned a simple white turtle neck under her shirt, and a silver crucifix.  Mom was delighted to see her.  And, again, her eyes became fixated on the cross around Caroline's neck.   The priest leaned forward and let mom touch it.  And, just as she had done with mine, she fondled it between the fingers of her left hand, and then smiled.  Having this touchstone seemed as important to her as it does to any of us who put it around our necks.

In my own mind, I wonder if my mom was saying whatever version she has of a prayer as she felt these pendants and symbols of Christ around our necks.  Certainly her fingers were communicating a prayer.  I can only hope that she is feeling the power of Christ as she contemplates the power of the cross.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

So! An Update on Anonymous Peggins

I have been in New Hampshire since Sunday night, and unlike other visits home, where I enjoy trips to the seacoast or go to rejuvenate by spending time in the mountains of my native home, I have been keeping vigil at my mom's bedside in Exeter Hospital.

I established a CaringBridge site for her last week, and will be showing my brother, Tom, who is the youngest of my three older brothers, how to write there and upload pictures. Tom is a marvelous storyteller and is her Durable Power of Attorney; hence he'd add a lot to the conversation there. But I also recognize that this event has him caught up in the medical merry-go-round, and so he may not have the time or energy to write much. If he doesn't, I suppose, I will remain the family journalist. What else is new?

The stroke that Anonymous Peggins has suffered was significant. And it has knocked out quite a bit of her speech center in the left hemisphere. Her vocabulary now consists of the word, "So." Since my arrival, she has gotten out an occasional, "Sue." And when she saw my brother the other day, we both heard her push through a, "Toe." Rather than have me repeat all that has happened here, I ask that you visit her CaringBridge site:


Meanwhile, I have felt God both encouraging me, and giving me a swift kick in the butt, all at the same time. I wrote to my mentor that I woke up yesterday with the hymnal juke box stuck on "Alone Thou Goest Forth, O Lord," which is a mournful tune from Holy Week. Did my Morning Prayer ritual, where the readings were more Easter affirmations and a bit of chiding that if I am not believing in this Resurrection, then I'm dead. Or more like dead weight. The message I took away from reading Paul's Letter to the Corinthians was that to wallow in death, darkness, bleakness, despair, depression, etc. only feeds itself and doesn't allow one to see the light that bursts through all of that. That light is life. Eternal life. Love. And that experience helped to get the needle unstuck on the Holy Week record. Oddly, it shifted the music to a plain chant I've heard at St. John's that they'll use with the psalms. This one is from Christmas, and it was a beautiful reminder since this particular chant was the turning point at the Christmas Eve service this winter, when I was feeling disconnected from the Christmas spirit. It was associated with Psalm 98, which is a joyous celebration of all that is God.

Let the rivers clap their hands... And the refrain:"Today a Savior Christ The Lord is born"

This morning, I have another of the plain chants. Again, associated with the psalmists words of praise of God. The refrain: "Be joyful in The Lord all you lands; lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing."

I honestly don't think I could manage this crap with my mom without the music in my head. It's what is buzzing in my brain as I hold her hand. She pulls my hand into her chest sometimes, like it's a teddy bear. And the music spins, and my hand continues to repeat to her the words that Love wants us to hear: "Do not be afraid. I am with you always."