Thursday, November 27, 2014

Presiding Bishop John Hines

My icon of what church should be:

Former Presiding Bishop John Hines speaks about the Episcopal Church's response to injustice and inequality. The interview is conducted by Mr. Hugh Downs for the Episcopal Television Network. This is an excerpt from a documentary with a working title of "Justice is the Corporate Face of Love" produced by The Rev. Charles A Sumners, Jr.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

UPDATE: lung stuff

I saw the doctor Thursday and he has a new med for me to try OFEV (nintedanib). Does a similar thing - stops or slows familial IPF. (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) but works differently so hopefully my liver will like it. They check my blood every 2 weeks to be sure that all systems are go. More about the drug here. I call it the nintendo drug because of its name!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Domination system or reign of God: what is "it" in this parable?

Wondering about the Landowner and his slaves and who joined the exploitation and who did not?


There is something very troubling to me about today's Gospel, Matthew 25:14-30. This well known parable is often preached in conjunction with stewardship campaigns and seems to confirm all our U.S. cultural myths about how to get ahead and that you can make if it you just invest wisely. How can these be the words of Jesus, who says sell everything and follow me. Does he suddenly, so near the cross, change his mind about how to live a life of faith? Is this the same person who says if you have 2 cloaks give one away? Instead of giving one away he seems to be saying - if you have 2 sell one at a profit and buy more so you can sell more at a profit? Makes me wonder (as they say in Godly Play).

I am just home from convention for the Diocese of Wyoming where we had a long respectful but painful debate about social responsibility in investing, especially as it regards companies that profit from the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Both pro and con had equally passionately held beliefs about the church's relationship with money and investing in "good" companies and "evil" companies.

I wonder if we are all buying into at the domination system of oppression and oppressors regardless of our strongly held beliefs about how to invest wisely. Are the landowner and his slaves all caught in this same system. Are any of the characters acting out of holiness? Is the landowner God? Or are the slaves who invest wisely being holy? In Jesus' world all profit was made by those who had more taking and getting more and those who had less were left to scramble for a daily piece of bread for their families. How can this parable be Good News of the One who preached about everyone getting paid the same wage no matter when they started to work? Who says - it is not just the strong and privileged who will get the most because they are called to work first but also the weakest and least likely who will receive as well.

Thursday of our convention we heard a presentation about the work done by the churches in Salem OR to help keep people in poverty and without shelter to keep it together day to day. They work to support people to find shelter, work, clothing, food, personal hygiene products, safe places. Hundreds of people are served - many who are working but whose wages do not pay the rent, health care, or for enough food. It is an amazing ministry, but I went away thinking why in this country are all these people suffering like this? Why can we raise millions of dollars in a lottery and not be able to pay people to live decently?

Which brings me back to Jesus and this parable. Interest is earned by profits taken on other people's work. But the parable seems to be more a judgment on the whole system that leaves one person out in the darkness with gnashing of teeth. Has the parable become adrift from something more Jesus is saying? He is at the end of his days, he has given away everything and soon his life. Surely he is not giving investment advice?

Leaves me wondering. What do you think?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hooray for the Scottish Episcopal Church

The Revd Kelvin Holdsworth writes on the connection between our two Episcopal Churches - Scotland and the U.S. at his blog.


Thank you Thank you. That point in the Eucharist is the most important for me as a priest - I feel like I am standing in the center of time -- all of time before us and all of time after us flowing through those of us gathered at that moment.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Update 2.1

After being off the drug for a week I feel so much better. My energy and appetite are back. I know the long term consequences of not having any medication for IPF but looking at the positives. Feeling great, no more encounters with my "study director" and her patronizing ways are all good. Also she was the world's worst phlebotomist -- broke through the vein every time! See the doc next week. Now back to the fun of life.

Thanks to Barbi Tinder for the photo.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Not such good news: lung update #2

Well-- discovered that I am part of the few who can't take pirfenidone. 3 in a thousand have a liver reaction-- so that is what my blood tests showed today. A disappointing development as currently it is the only drug that stops the progression of the fibrosis.  Taking it in for now - see my pulmonologist in a couple of weeks to hear from him. My brother and mother had it and lived a long time and died of something else - so will think on that prognosis rather than worse things. Definitely puts life in the "live for the present moment" category.  Prayers appreciated. But refer to the post on why I might not be talking a lot about it. (2 back).  Thanks for the support - I can feel that.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lung update

Update on the lungs: I saw the lung doc yesterday and he is putting me on pirfenidone -- a new med that stops the progression of the fibrosis. It is still in trials here in the US but used in Japan and Europe with good results.  Thanks for all the prayers and good thoughts. I feel as ever -- well.




Pirfenidone2DACS.svg

"Pirfenidone2DACS" by Fuse809 (talk) - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I have not told you about my health

After a year of thinking that my cough was allergies and not getting much change using anti-allergy meds I decided to have it checked out. My primary care doctor agreed and sent me to get an x-ray. When it was compared to a previous one – it was off to the pulmonologist. In the 1990s I had a condition called B.O.O.P. / along with polymyocitis. So there was some thought that I was having a recurrence of that. But also pulmonary fibrosis runs in my family so that was another thought along with much more dire and imminently more terminal things.

The point of this essay, however, is not my medical history but my reaction to once again having something serious going on and my unwillingness to tell people. At first I did not even tell my husband that I was going to have it checked out. He is a retired doctor so had already been thinking about telling me to get it checked out so was relieved to hear that I was getting a chest x-ray when I told him I was getting it checked.

Once I got the results that said I needed more tests, I still did not want the news to go beyond him but decided that I should tell our adult children so they did not get a big surprise. They hate it when we don’t tell them what is going on with us.  Then I told my priest who is also my colleague – since we work together and she is a great support. I decided that it would be good to talk it over with my spiritual director who helps me sort out what I am feeling and how I am reacting. But beyond that – I still did not want to tell anyone.

As I wondered about my reticence, I reflected on the last time I was really sick and the reactions I encountered. So beyond wanting to stay in denial by not talking and not wanting to cause others to worry there were three reactions that I wanted to avoid.

Pity: that “look” people give you that says “oh you poor pathetic sick person” as if one’s whole identity is being sick and you have lost your essential person-ness. Maybe this is asking too much of others. It could be that others just are expressing the feelings they are having and not really putting me in the “sick person” box. It may be that in our family we tend to do grim humor instead. We use humor to get through scary stuff. We know the seriousness so really don’t need that reinforced or reflected back. As an example, I was telling a friend about trying to fix the church’s sprinkler system and being up to my elbows in water when I saw what could have been a live wire in the water. My friend replied “well that would have solved all your problems.” I laughed and laughed and continue to laugh when I remember her comment.


Avoidance: people begin to draw away. This does not always happen physically, since you do have encounters with one another, but happens a lot emotionally. For me, as an extrovert, it is sort of like being dead before one is really dead. I think it comes from the other's not wanting to think about one's own mortality. When I am around people who are really sick and it could be terminal – I do feel like fleeing. I understand the reaction but it is hard to experience from the person who is sick point of view. When I had my previous serious illness – it revealed who would hang in there with me and who would not. The church, sad to say, failed miserably in this one. Though I was a seminarian in process to get ordained and had been super active in the diocese for years, I received no calls from my bishop or clergy. Only one church friend checked in with me regularly and friends who are not Christian kept up our relationship.

Questions: wanting the gory details and endless questions about what I did to “get sick.” This is probably the hardest thing to deal with because not only do I not want to talk about it all the time but also I do not need to add guilt to the mix. Questions like: “Do you think there was too much stress in your life?” Did you have a healthy diet?” etc. There are causes for some things and illness may be the consequence of something one does (like smoking - which I never took up - dodging that bullet), but mostly things happen because we live in mortal bodies that are subject to all sorts of conditions and will eventually die from something. Hearing questions like these may give me one more layer of anxiety that I really don’t need. I think it also comes from the hope that if one has not engaged in those behaviors or habits – one will not get whatever terrible thing the other has. It is sort of like holding up a cross to keep vampires away.  The questioners are trying to discover if they are vulnerable to the same thing.

All three of these reactions often come from caring but the way they are experienced by the person with an illness is not always helpful. In the end the person feels like an object in someone else’s life drama. I would suggest that you ask what is helpful and try to understand if I react badly to any of the above actions.  I realize this is a bind for my friends – you want to reach out and I don’t want you to withdraw in fear of doing the wrong thing. The best for me is for you to stay a pal and not worry too much about doing it right.

Upon letting this “marinate” for a few days:
As I reflect on the above I think there is an undercurrent of fear and anger in myself that evokes my reaction to your reaction, anger at having to deal with possible outcomes and fear of loss of abilities. I try not to project into the future what will happen and I try to live day by day – making necessary plans but living now. I don’t say “why me” – I know we all deal with our own stuff. I also try not to compare my stuff to yours – which is worse or better. And I like to stay in denial occasionally!

My husband and kids are a great source of support. They know me well enough to let me come to my own decisions. I also appreciate my brother, my priest, my spiritual director and good friends who listen and wait for me to hear myself. My priest and my spiritual director are very good at asking an occasional question that makes me go deeper but not all the time. And often my friends' and family’s grim humor is a catalyst for facing the days and nights of whatever happens. These are clarifying days – that help me live in the moment which all any of us have but sometimes need reminding.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crosses of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Our church uses a variety of crosses depending on the liturgical season. We are in the process of discussing moving a window with a nondescript design that was over the altar but too small for the space. During this time we have tried out different expressions of the cross. We also have other crosses around the church. I have been challenged and gone more deeply into the subject, especially as I design each expression.

The crosses of St. Catherine's speak to me in a variety of ways.

The stick cross (currently hanging in over the altar) reminds me of the fragility of life but how we are always bound together in the bonds of baptism. It is a cross for Lent with a burlap banner behind it. It is made of red osier dogwood sticks bound together with bare copper wire.

Most of the year we have a brass cross is a Celtic cross and carries me back to our roots in the British Isles. It is also sturdy and enduring as the love of Christ. It reflects the light back to us. We use banners of the year's liturgical colors with it. It was hanging in our church when we met in a converted school building (now a strip mall). So it also holds those memories of beginnings and dreams.

The driftwood cross (used last year in Lent and this year in the narthex) evokes the place we call home and the tides and storms and calm of the Pacific Ocean. It is made of 2 piece of driftwood and is attached to a base. This year we have a purple cloth around the base and burlap hanging behind it.

The St Catherine's cross (on top of the church) connects us to the early church, spreading to the 4 corners of the earth, and the spears remind us of the suffering of those who stood up for the faith. It is a copy of a cross on
top of the bell tower of the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai located in Egypt.

The processional cross with its icons of Jesus and the Gospels reminds me of John 5:39,that I need to study but that life in Christ is in the living. This cross was commissioned for us when we built our current building.

Each one says much more as I enter into contemplation on this sign that even death is not the end.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Woman at the well

The Gospel for this Sunday is one of my favorites (I know I know - I say that about most of the Bible! but this one really is). I chose it for the Gospel for my ordination as a priest. To me it speaks of  the reality of life. How we fill our lives with "many husbands" (occupations and loves of the moment) but when we find the real thing we realize what has been missing and the depth of our thirst. Then we want to run out and tell everyone. The Eastern Church honors her with a name, Photini: bringer of light. She was one of the earliest and best evangelists. She did it by telling her story. The power of story to tell the truth about life (even it not "facts") is well known. What is your story of coming to Christ or having Christ come to you? Who was the story bearer in your life?

Here are some photos of the sculpture of the woman and Jesus - from Chester Cathedral.



And a video performance of the story here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Keeping a holy Lent

What are you doing for Lent?

When I was serving at the altar every week there were so many ways to fully immerse myself in worship. Now as I sit in my pew it is easy to drift off and go home feeling a little less than an encounter with the Holy One. So, for Lent, I am going to pay attention to the attitude of worship - with my whole self.

One day I noticed someone who prays with his hands turned palm upwards - I thought I would try that. I know from paintings of the earliest Christians they usually prayed in this way.

It was amazing the difference. Instead of juggling papers I felt involved in the prayers. I began to memorize the responses or let the congregation carry me along if I forgot the words.

So for Lent - it will be "all in" -- using the practices of the church of genuflecting, bowing to the cross, making the sign of the cross when the Trinity is invoked, kneeling for confession, and holding my hands palms up to both hold and receive prayer. I invite you to try some of these - involve your body in worship as well as your mind. And sing even if you don't think you are a very good singer.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Another good one gone...

Rise in glory, Pete Seeger.