Friday, May 22, 2009

Firday Five: Vacations

Mary Beth from revgals is dreaming of her vacation. It has obviously gotten warm and sunny where she is! She has come up with come up with questions on vacations for our Friday Five.

1) What did your family do for vacations when you were a child? Or did you have stay-cations at home?

My vacation from the time I was a Brownie through high school was Girl Scout camp. Mom and I usually went up north to visit grandmothers. But Dad never went on those trips. There were a couple of camping trips that I remember to Estes Park in CO and to Padre Island in TX. My folks didn’t really start traveling together until after I left home. Then they got a camper/trailer and took off. Dad traveled for a living so traveling was not what he wanted to do for vacation. He spent his vacation working on the house.

2) Tell us about your favorite vacation ever:

I have had a couple of really neat vacations. Just after I was ordained and had a full-time salary, J and I went to the UK for a month. We went under the auspices of the Movement for the Ordination of Women since they weren’t ordaining women in the UK yet. It was my first trip abroad and since both J and I come from Celtic or Brit backgrounds we did some family hunting. It rained 3 of the 4 weeks there, but that didn’t dampen the trip. The other trip was the vacation we took to Anaheim for the 1985 General Convention. We borrowed my brother’s camper van and saw much of the Southwest that I had never seen.

3) What do you do for a one-day or afternoon there a place nearby that you escape to on a Saturday afternoon/other day off?

During the spring and summer my favorite place is our front porch. I am pretty good about distancing myself from stuff when I need to just hang out. But our porch is on the second floor so there is a bit of “tree house” effect about it. Inthe early mornings the screens hold some of the river insect life that I love watching. (They are on the OUTSIDE) There is usually a breeze and presently the lilacs have been awesome this year and their smell wafts over me while I sit and read or doze.

4) What's your best recommendation for a full-on vacation near you...what would you suggest to someone coming to your area? (Near - may be defined any way you wish!)

I am not far from the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Soccer Hall of Fame for those who are into that. We have rivers that have been some of the oldest blue ribbon trout and small mouth bass fishing in the country. The Erie Canal System goes throughout our area and there are some nice campgrounds for campers. The middle part of NY state is beautiful, full of lakes, wineries, and historical sites. The Senaca Falls Women’s Museum shares the history of women’s suffrage. There are interesting traces of the Underground Railroad to Canada. I love upstate NY. There is so much history and just plain beauty here.

5) What's your DREAM VACATION?

I had one of my dream vacations last summer when we took the Canadian Railway across country. But I would love to go to Spain and rent an apartment or a small pension in a small town. We have friends that really want to do that on the coast of Italy. We need to save our $$ to do that. And I still want to go to the Holy Land. But at the moment I don’t want to support the Israeli regime. If there was a way I could make contact with the Palestinian Christian community, or go to the College of St. George, I would love to go. I also would love to go to New Zealand.

Bonus: Any particularly awful (edited to add: or hilarious) vacation stories that you just have to tell? ("We'll laugh about this later..." maybe that time is now!)

Our first trip to the UK was when the worst hurricane since the Spanish Armada hit London our first night there. It literally shut down the city for several days. It uprooted huge oak forests all throughout the southern part of the country. We were staying with a group of Anglican monastics. When we came down for breakfast we found the whole community huddled on the steps in the stairwell. “Did you have a bit of wind last night?” I asked. They were incredulous that we had slept through the whole thing. J and I come from TX and OK. High winds were part of life there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Five FRIENDS

Friday Five Friends

Revgal Jan writes
Ever since I found out I could be the hostess for the third Friday Five of each month, I have not been able to get the thought of friends out of my mind. Being an only child (all growed up) who moved around a lot in my lifetime, friends have always been very important to me. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "The way to have a friend is to be a friend."

So today let's write about the different kinds of friends we have, like childhood friends, lost friends, tennis friends, work friends, and the list goes on. List 5 different types of friends you have had in your life and what they were/are like.

As a bonus, put a link to a new (to you) blogging friend and introduce us!

It is very interesting that Jan has brought up this topic. In my parish, the women’s study group has been reading Joan Chittister’s The Friendship of Women. In it, Sr. Joan uses various women in the Bible to characterize the kinds of friendship that illustrate the kinds of friends that we women develop. It was an especially lovely book when I picked it up last year and read it for my spiritual reading. I heartily recommend it.

1. J. is my BF. We have lived together for over 30 years. We are not lovers but I guess after 30 years we could call ourselves “partners”. J. is straight and I am lesbian. Shortly after I left the convent and as I was beginning to understand my vocation to the priesthood (in the mid ‘70’s before TEC was ordaining women) I met J. at a women’s ministry group led by the Rev. Mary Bruggeman. It was a heady time when many of the mainline denominations were considering the ordination of women. J. was one of the first women priests regularly ordained. I eventually became an Episcopalian and was ordained 5 yrs later. We found that we did not do well living alone and that ministry was just too difficult by ourselves. We found that life was just much better when we had s someone to come home to. This does not mean that we see eye to eye on everything; we are both strong women. But our relationship allows us to have ‘community’, that sense of being enveloped in love and respect that allows us to go “once more into the fray” each morning. Last week when the NY assembly voted to support same-sex marriage, I asked J. if she wanted to get married. We both laughed. “It wouldn’t be any different than most of the marriages of people our age”, she said. I doubt if we will do that since it isn’t what we want to say about our love for each other. But it might be nice to get the tax break.

2. J&D—are a couple. They joined my parish in my first call back in the early 80’s. I have moved all over the country since that parish, but J&D have stayed “up” with each other. A phone call, or a short visit keeps our lives primed to the kind of love that is ready when any of us need it. My present church is in the next small village from theirs and we get to see each other upon occasion. We are very careful not to intrude upon the pastor/parishioner boundaries that continue with relationship with their rector. We are FRIENDS and the expectations are different. We are considering a trip to Europe together. They are a bit younger than we are, but we enjoy so many of the same things that I think that it would be great fun.

3. I met H. at church just after I lost my parish in the dio. She was a therapist and I need a therapist in the worst way. The bishop promised to pay her fee and we began to do some of the best work in therapy that I have ever done. But the bishop refused to pay for her services when she submitted her bill. I was shocked and angry and had no insurance. I was also without an income. H. agreed to see me without pay. After several years of therapy, we realized that our sessions were becoming less therapeutic and more friendly and we ended our professional relationship. But we continue to see each other weekly for breakfast. She has become the supervisor of the counseling that the ministry requires. And I have become her spiritual director—i.e. friends. Yes, it is a bit of blurring of those proper boundaries, but we are respectful of what it means to be our special selves.

4. B. was the moderator of a list-serve I joined some years ago. He was as conservative as I was liberal but I enjoyed the group that I had met on line. He was blind and pastored in the deep south. He maintained many of the “bubba” mentality that had finally forced me from my southern roots back in the ‘70’s. But he was a kind person and I could not just delete him. He was especially bad about LGBT issues just as I was coming out and claiming who I was. We finally began a long and rather torturous conversation off the list serve in which I talked about how I understood myself as a lesbian. He began to share some very difficult encounters with gay men in his youth. What came out was his fear of his own sexuality. It was one of the holiest and honest discussions I have ever had with a colleague. He did a 180 degree change on LGBT issues. We often talked on the phone. When I went to volunteer after Katrina, I visited with he and his wife. A couple of years ago he had a massive heart attack and died. The list-serve had stopped at that point and there was no group with whom I could grieve. I couldn’t even reach his wife to offer my condolences. Perhaps it was the anonymity of the internet that allowed us to become close, but the love and support we had for one another was part of our own spiritual growth. His friendship will always be with me.

5. C. was my BF G’s mother when I was in Jr. High. C taught school, I didn’t know her as a teacher. She was just G’s mom. The relationship with my own parents was often strained in my teen years. C’s was always calm. She let me talk and she listened. She never judged. G and I lost contact after her marriage. But always I would visit C. She was always glad to see me. She was the only member of my life as a youth that encouraged me when I wanted to go to seminary. Whenever I visited my family, I would always visit C. Some years ago I visited and realized that C. was failing. Her normally sharp mind was no longer there. Last year G. called me to tell me that her mother had passed. They asked me to do the funeral. What a privilege that was!

Bonus: I would like you to meet Elizabeth who blogs at She is one of the most prolific bloggers I know and is wonderfully funny. She is also very savvy about Episcopal matters. I met her when I was a senior in seminary and she came to visit the campus. I have watched her grow into a wonderfully articulate lover of Jesus and a champion of LGBT and women’s issues in the Church. It is always such a delight to see one who comes after you excel and carry on the message that God is love. I hope to see her next month when some Anglican bloggers get together.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Five: A Bug's Life

Sophia has been keen on nature today with here Friday Five:

As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised and delighted to find it swarming with ladybugs. The sweet little red beetles are one of my favorite insects and also my daughter's blogname--though as of this morning she was thinking of changing it to Butterfly. I'll keep you posted.

This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia: Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness? That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes? Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!

In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?

I have always called them Ladybugs. The President’s wife was Ladybird. When I was growing up there were interesting little indentations in the sand that were made by ant lions. There were also stinging caterpillars that the neighbors called asps. I was 4 when we moved to TX from IL so I was treated to a whole different set of bugs. We had tarantulas and we had chiggers.

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?

Today, I guess it depends. If they are Daddy Long-legs, I generally ignore them, especially if they are in the bathroom during the summer. They eat the gnats and no see’ums that come through the screens in the bathroom. If they are something that I know to be poisonous then they get flushed.

3. Favorite insect?

Since I am a fly fisher and tie my own imitations of the bugs that trout like, I have several. I love mayflies. The are often hard to imitate but they are so pretty coming off the water during a hatch. The huge Drakes—often 2” long down to the itsy bitty ones that we refer to as midges. I also like caddis flies because they are fairly easy to imitate. I still delight to a wet summer evening when the lightening bugs are in the grass and the whole field looks like a fairy den.

4. Least favorite?

I really abhor chiggers in the South and black flies in the North or the mountains. It is hard to understand the wisdom of God in their regard. And I really dislike mosquitos, not because their bite is so obnoxious, but they are known to pass on poison ivy to which I am extremely allergic. It makes fishing a hazardous sport for me.

5. Got any good bug stories to share?

The spring of my first year in NY I went to a friend’s cabin in the Adirondacks to assuage the hurt of being turned down my the ordination committee. I was sitting on their dock while fishing absorbed in the pain of seeming failure. There were gnats swarming around me but I was so sad I didn’t notice. It was my first introduction to black flies. I woke up the next morning with golf-ball sized knots all over me. My eyes were swollen almost shut. One ear looked like I had been in a fight, and I had a fever. I have never gone to the Adirondacks during May again. Of course, I applied again and was accepted. But I still identify black flies with rejection.

Bonus question: share a poem, song, quotation, etc. about insects.

I don’t remember any poems or songs except “Itsy-bitsy Spider”, but I do remember that when I was in first grade we had a story about Billy Goat Gruff in which I played the bee which stung the Billy Goat and made him go back into his pen. I had a really neat costume my mother made that included golden cellophane wings that daddy made for me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Five- celebrating the seasons of life

Sally, in her oh so English manner is pondering the connections faith has from different traditions. I remember as a young child it was important to take little flower baskets to the older people in the neighborhood. I guess this was a relatively Yankee custom--or more likely it came from the Scottish/English heritage of my parents. I would gather up all the dandilions and any other things that were blooming and place them in construction paper baskets Mama and I made and then placed them on the door handles of our neighbors and then ring their door bells and ran off. Perhaps it was a vestige of Beltane.

Sally says:

It is the first of May, or as I have been concentrating on dialogue with folk interested in the new spirituality movement this last week, it is Beltane, a time to celebrate the beginning of summer. The BBC web-site tells us that:

Beltane is a Celtic word which means 'fires of Bel' (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.
Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.
Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.

Another advert for a TV programme that has caught my eye on the UK's Channel 4 this weekend is called Love, Life and leaving; and is a look at the importance of celebrating the seasons of life through ritual and in the public eye, hence marriages, baptisms and funerals.

I believe that we live in a ritually impoverished culture, where we have few reasons for real celebration, and marking the passages of life;


1. Are ritual markings of birth marriage and death important to you?
I am an Episcopalian, OF COURSE ritual is important! It is so much a part of my life that those who are not part of my faith don’t understand many of the things I do. I can’t just do Hatch, Match and Dispatch! But it is hard to find others who attach as much meaning to the rituals around important happenings in life.

I have never married or given birth so I don’t have a way to articulate what that means. I have to rely on the rituals of the Church to sign the beyond-verbal experience that such events provide for others. I have to depend that the Word will infuse meaning into what I cannot verbalize in sign and the paltriness of language.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice.

Absolutely the Eucharist! I love to baptize and I even love to commit others to the ground, but it doesn’t so completely satisfy me as does the Eucharist. It doesn’t have to be in any particular tradition. Just the gathering of people who invite Christ into their midst with bread and wine connects me to all who have gone before and all who will come after.

3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for?

I need a ritual for getting up. Off and on I have had certain actions I have followed in those moments between being asleep and being fully awake. I want the ritual to reconnect me with being fully alive, fully awake and fully trusting in the God who loves me. As long as I have this vertigo it takes all my energy just to get my bearings. And then it is off to brush the teeth. I need to take the time to center my day
4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how?

Because I am an Episcopalian/Anglican I believe that many of the rituals we have already touch the pagan origins of what it means to be in connection with God. Christmas is Saturnalia and Easter is just the name for Astarte or Spring. When I worship, I want to direct my worship to the Omnipresent One, however he/she is named. But I am a follower of Christ’s way and I am more likely to identify the Holy with the Christian tradition. I am as drawn to Stonehenge and the holy wells of my Celtic heritage as I am to a cathedral or a pilgrimage site. When I was in the UK I was stunned with how gripping my first sight of Stonehenge was. I knew it was a ‘thin place’ between the sacred and the profane.

But I am unlikely to attend Neo-pagan rituals because it might be misconstrued by the faithful. As a priest I feel that I have some obligation to the Church which ordained me to stay within my own tradition and those we are in communion with. In the pastoral realm, when someone comes to me with an experience of the holy with in an ancient tradition, I give thanks for that. At the same time, I look for the continuation of faith that my forbearers had--the manifestations of goodness, wholeness and loving are qualities that I know that they too cherished. I need not disparage that simply because it was BCE. Faith is given by God and I believe that there is only one God. How God has manifested God’s self to others through out the ages is fascinating and supports my own faith in a God who is manifested in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be?

I find that celebration can take place in the grandest and the grungiest of places. I celebrated when I placed the ashes of my mother in her grave last week. It seemed like the completion of what my mother had done for me. I returned her to the earth. I got down on my knees and reached deeply into the sandy clay of Ft. Worth, TX to finish the cycle of life she had completed. It connected me with all of her 96 years, with the earth we cherished, and made her again a Bat Adam—a daughter of the earth from which she had come. It was not a planned act. It was what I needed to do after the rest of the family had left. The funeral director I think was a bit appalled, but I don’t care. It was an act that will link me with her the rest of my life—and after all, that is what celebrations are about—linkage, connection, touch.