Sunday, December 19, 2004

Community Reinvestment and Church Memories

I’ve decided on a theme that I hope will inspire me to write short postings on a more frequent basis. I’m hoping to write about memories of my church experience which influenced me for good. The idea was born out of a very angry moment today which at first glance seems totally unrelated.

I don’t intend to write about political issues on this blog, but this one really bothers me and I need to get it off my chest.

I read a blog entry on Bruce Prescott’s blog, Mainstream Baptist, regarding a proposal by Bush Administration appointees to essentially gut the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act). The CRA is a 1977 federal law that prohibits banks from discriminating against low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. This law was enacted because banks through their own bank policy “red-lined” minority areas and offered them neither credit nor banking services. With the original CRA requirements, banks with $250 million of assets had to provide services to all communities in which they were chartered. With the proposed change 90% of banks will no longer fall under CRA. I don't trust this generation of business people to voluntarily offer just and equitable lending and banking services on their own anymore than we as a country trusted business 25 years ago.

As a country I don't believe we have squarely faced our spotted history of racism, abuse, and discriminatory attitudes. Yes, we acknowledge them, but usually with a “that happened a long time ago and it’s in the past.” My belief is that people are ultimately driven by wealth, power, and reputation. Unless curbed these instincts divide instead of build up. They separate the “haves” from the “have nots” which eventually results in the consolidation of wealth and power. These misperceptions of superiority breed oppressive and abusive behaviors. I guess I’m a progressive at heart because I believe in good government. I believe that government can bring about good laws and regulations that curb (keep in check) the excessive instincts of humans and serve the common good.

I believe the church has a responsibility here also. Although I’m not currently an active member of a church congregation (more on that later – I hope), I still believe in the church’s ability to bring about good on this earth. I believe in the church’s unique place to provide an environment that encourages and challenges people to live the ideals spoken by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. He called people to live differently and to make decision differently. The differently is living “self-sacrificing” lives. I don’t think this means to hate oneself. Quite the contrary, to deny selfish instincts and selfish behaviors; to practice vigorous honesty which means to acknowledge (confess with no excuses) and repent of (turn from) self-centered living. I believe Jesus knew self-centered living eventually destroys the soul. These behaviors not only destroy the individual, but can poison and destroy those around the individual.

Okay enough ranting….Onto my new theme. I was close to tears and angry when I read the blog entry, but in keeping with my overarching theme of “Small Glimpses of Goodness” I decided to write on memories growing up in the church. I’m hoping to mine those memories from my church experience that have influenced me for good and have called me to live out Jesus’ commands.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Today I read a new blog, Velveteen Rabbi, recommended by RLP. Velveteen Rabbi recently wrote a post prompted by her experience at an Advent service with a friend. She ponders questions about taking pleasure in the rituals of other faiths. A wonderfully thought provoking post.

I loved her description of the Advent candle lighting ritual.
Peter and his congregation lit the first candle in the enormous evergreen wreath that hangs from the vaulted ceiling of their church. Next week, two candles. Then three. Then four. And on Christmas Eve near midnight, they'll light the central candle, the final light, from which flame will be brought down to light the small tapers of everyone in the room.

Leaving aside for the moment the matter of Jesus, who is naturally a problematic figure for most Jews, I love this Advent ritual. It speaks to me. November has been a dark and in many ways difficult month; in my own personal world I feel the need for light, and when I steel myself to listen to the news it's clear the larger world needs some light too. This lighting of candles to celebrate the gradual revelation of spirit is a metaphor made manifest. Last year I was at Peter's church on Christmas Eve, and the experience of watching the light come down from the rafters and fill the room, tiny flame by tiny flame, was powerful. (Velvateen Rabbi)
Oh, how it brings back such sweet memories of Advent past. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in the Episcopal Church. My church was a relatively small parish of about 100 people. I loved the little church and have many fond memories of the people and community we shared.

Our church sanctuary was beautiful: a large stone altar in the center and a lectern and pulpit to either side. Above the altar hung a large austere silver cross. It descended down from a naturally lit vaulted ceiling.

Anyway, the advent season…the candle lighting service…purple, pink, white…such sweetness…such reverence. I’m transported back to those times I participated in this wonderful ritual. I’m grateful for Velveteen’s beautiful description. Precious, simple, yet profound.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Come Into My Keep

I wrote this last fall while attending a class at a friend's church. Through the class I experienced a connection of sorts with God's Agape Love and through this some long locked away memories seemed to lose their painful hold on me.

The word "keep" is a theme of the poem. Initially, the word "keep" sounded weird because I never use the noun form of this word, but recently I learned from a friend that the definition of the noun form is "the stronghold of a castle". It changed the whole picture of the poem for me.

~*~*~ Come Into My Keep ~*~*~

No need of yours is too great for Me;
No need of yours too deep.
Come always and forever into My Keep
for I will attend you there.

No fear of yours is too strong for Me.
No fear of yours will turn Me away.
Come always and forever into My Keep
for I will attend you there.

Bring Me the burden you carry
for it is not too heavy for Me.
Nothing will scare Me.
Nothing will frighten Me.
Nothing is too awful for Me.
Just come always and forever into My Keep
for I will attend you there.

Let Me hold you.
Let Me kiss you.
Let Me comfort and dwell with you.

No struggle is too complex for Me,
No struggle too matted or mangled.
I am the God who saves.
I am the God who rescues.
I am the God who redeems from the pit.

Call out to Me; you will find Me
for I am a God who finds.

Forever and always come into My Keep
for you will find Me here.


Sunday, October 17, 2004


Today is my birthday. B and I went to our favorite place for our favorite drink. (Yes, it's Starbucks). Anyway, as we enjoyed our morning coffee I watched several birds out the window. Two in particular walked across the patio on an apparent mission. I've never paid much attention to birds walking. Their feet are completely unfurled when they walk, several appendages (?) pointing forward and one pointing backward. They seem remarkably stable. At one point one bird broke into a run and then just like that he was standing atop some monkey grass. The blades didn't even move. For some reason this scene just tickled me.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Some Hard Questions

Today was a rough day. I was in meetings from 8:30 - 11:00, then again from 3:00-4:30. Have a big deadline Wednesday, so I worked until 9:30pm tonight. A 12 hour day. Whew! When I work long days like this I become fearful that I will return to my "workaholic" days. During the worst times, my motives for working long hours were less about deadlines and more about attempting to "redeem" myself and seeking my boss' approval. One receives lots of kudos when they produce lots of work. For me the kudos were a way of "medicating the inner pain". It worked for awhile, but eventually my work owned me and it became a living hell.

I don't think tonight was about either of these, but I'm not entirely sure. Schedules are tight and there is a lot of work to do. The team is feeling the pressure, so everyone is a bit testy. Unfortunately, when time is short, resources are short, and money is tight then "placing blame" for any miscommunication is just around the corner. This is especially true when people are discouraged which is the case for this project. I'm finding myself both tempted and actually succumbing to the blame temptation. Perhaps I feel a little guilty for not providing enough direction to the team. I don't know.

I guess I need to ask myself some hard questions. The purpose is not to condemn but to clarify so I can get back on the road to working hard for the right reasons, recognizing and valuing my limitations, and humbly bowing out of the role of savior.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

June in my Town

I just got back from a walk with my dogs. Today is simply beautiful and a welcome respite from the stress in my life at the moment. Normal June temperatures are in the high 80s, but today it is 70ยบ.

This was one of those walks where all my senses were fully engaged. Traffic was unusually light, so I heard birds chirping and singing. It rained quite a bit in the last 24 hours, so everything is shining with a wonderful brightness. As I walked by some juniper bushes their fragrance just flooded my nose. Even the slight breeze was refreshing.

Anyway, it was an oasis of calm and beauty.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Vulnerability in Writing

When I first shared my blog with some friends, I sent the link with these introductory words, “For me writing feels like holding an egg. I want to share my thoughts, but I feel so vulnerable. It doesn’t take much pressure to break the egg and the life that goes with it. It then takes a lot of courage to be willing to hold another egg.“ They encouraged me to write an entry about this. So here goes.

When I offer words for others to read, I want to offer a glimpse into my soul. But in doing so, I risk rejection which is my greatest fear. A negative response unknowingly becomes a flaming arrow that ignites smoldering fears. Did I say too much? Am I being too honest and open? Do my dark and messy places cause discomfort in people for I know they bring me shame?

Over the years I have watched the agonizing process of several dear ones as they worked to complete their master’s theses and PhD dissertations. So much fear lurks below the surface. “Is this good enough? Is it researched enough? Do my words say what I need them to say?"

Several weeks before Christmas, I walked to the Great Reading Room on campus which is part of the original library. This room is truly magnificent in every dimension. The walls are lined with beautiful bookcases where theses and dissertations stand. It was with sweetness that I walked around the room and read the acknowledgements. These bound books represent a finished work and the pages reflect a portion of their lives. Each time they opened their writing to another's eyes, they offered the fragile egg and the life within.

I truly admire the humility and strength of these to journey forward in spite of sometimes life crushing criticism. Every time they share a chapter with their advisors, they hope for encouragement and a tiny breath of life to fan their flame. Sometimes their flames glowed so dimly that criticism without encouragement left only a tiny glow.

I think back on periods in my life when my "flame" was but a tiny, tiny ember. I am so very grateful for those people who believed in me and sent encouragement my way.

A bruised reed he will not break and
A smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
(Isaiah 42:3)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Neat Blog Entry

Just a quick note. I occasionally read the blog, Correction, which was recommended by Real Live Preacher on one of his blog entries. Anyway one recent entry recounts a meeting between these two bloggers. It's worth the read. Here's the link.
My Dinner with Real Live Preacher

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Real Live Preacher's recent blog entry "On a Wing and a Prayer" touched me today (as they most often do). He stretches my thinking and often leads me to a small glimpse (grin). I'm most touched by his last few paragraphs about worship. Here is a brief clip. (If you have time, read RLPs essay. It is really he includes a really cool picture)

"When the end you seek is so wonderful, so unthinkably good, and so compelling that you will throw yourself against time, space, and even reality for the slightest chance of finding it, you have found worship." Real Live Preacher (On a Wing and a Prayer)

I've always considered worship as something exclusively related to singing and/or music. Although I love music and I've been touched at times, I struggle with worship. I've observed people deeply moved by a piece of music. It is a sacred moment, but I find myself wondering "what is wrong with me". RLP's essay shows me another way.

Several weeks ago I was contemplating the Opportunity and Spirit landings on Mars as part of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. That these tiny man-made machines are occupying space on another planet and sending information back to earth...WOW.

How tiny the space I occupy on earth...
How tiny the earth within its solar system...
How tiny this solar system within the universe...

In this context my infinitesimally small existence in the universe was mind boggling and bending. Quite frankly it was sobering. Yet, I still believe that somehow and for some reason this really powerful God of the Universe truly, truly loves me. I think this was a moment of worship.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


I finally got around to adding comments to my blog (thanks B!!). It was much easier than I thought it would be. Also, it was sort of fun to mess with the html code. I guess the programmer in me still lives on a bit.

I'm working on a blog entry about writing that I've been thinking about for several months now. It will probably turn into two entries. Oh Well!

P.S. Btw...Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Today I did something that took a lot of courage. I'd put off this task until almost the last possible moment. "I'm proud of you. You did great!" were the words to my soul. Immediately I countered, "I'm not proud of me at all because I know how simple this task is and also I know just how much I've struggled to do this very simple little thing." As I approached the place to do my task, words came to mind about courage: "Be strong and strong and very courageous."

As I ponder these words, I wonder if courage doesn't always look courageous from the outside. Yes, sometimes it is accomplishing a grand feat against all odds or standing firm on principle against strong opposition.

But maybe courage is also about what happens on the inside. Maybe I was actually being strong and courageous while wrestling with whether or not to do this thing. I sure didn't feel strong and courageous. I felt the opposite: weak and afraid.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe struggling and wrestling with things is not a sign of being weak, cowardly, or faithless. But maybe it's in our weakness, fear, and doubt that we find courage to do what we know we need to do.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Sweet Healing Music

My friend who writes the blog, A New Anglican’s Journey, posted music for Divinum Mysterium in the Advent posting. The song's name was not something I recognized, but the music and lyrics are precious to my heart.

My mother played the organ in the church where I grew up and she played this song during Christmastime. The music brings back wonderfully good feelings and memories from my childhood in the Episcopal Church. I always loved the Advent season when I was a little girl especially the candle light service on Christmas Eve: the candles, wreathes, poinsettias, the smells, the green and red, the air of expectation. Something about it always gave me pause and awe, and sometimes sweet tears.

As I listen to this piece of music over and over again tears roll down my cheeks. It's been a long time since I've felt good feelings about the church. I thank my friend for posting this piece of music. It is a precious glimpse of goodness.