Friday, April 30, 2010

Foxes, family, friends

The little foxes
Yesterday morning while walking Fargo and Rebel, we got our second viewing of this year's fox kits. It never ceases to amaze and delight me that I get to live in a town where the wild critters make their homes, too. Throughout the winter I occasionally saw a couple of adults who were on the prowl, but they generally keep their distance and mind their own business--hunting. I've found their tracks in the snow in my front yard which is about a mile from the place where they have now denned. They have denned in a big open field, kitty corner from last year's den. At one point I counted 3 adults and 5 kits. These babies are so much fun as they jump, tumble, crash into one another, scurry in and out of the den, stalk and pounce. When the parents come back with something to eat (mouse, prairie dog or rabbit) they are very attentive. If their cycle is like the last few years we will find them out and about hunting or prowling around on their own by late August.

Family and friends have been much on my mind lately. Mother and Daddy were notified a few weeks ago that an apartment in a senior citizen complex here in Laramie had opened up and would be available the first of May. Even though we have talked about it for several years, when the opportunity to move actually came, it was a whole new level of seriousness. Born and raised in the same town, living in the house Daddy built for 48 years, (which is not more than a half mile from their own childhood homes), it is a scary proposition for them to contemplate moving. One day it was "we've moving;" the next, it was, "we're staying." At times it seemed like my sister, Joanie, and I were tag teaming as we tried to help them lay out the pro's and con's. We want this to be their decision and agree that whatever way they choose we can support them and help them to have the best possible living situation. And so, it is that they are moving to Laramie in late May and will try it out until August when leases must be renewed for a year. I am very excited to have them closer and look forward to sharing some fun times and meals with them. We will all make some changes and that may well be the most invigorating and life-giving part of the move for them.

Friends have been much on my mind, too. A couple of weeks ago I met, Mel, one of my ol' college roommates and sorority sisters for lunch in her town. We lingered over coffee for several hours until the restaurant manager asked us to leave, so they could clean up and close. It is good to have someone to share the ups and downs of aging parents, troubled kids, the importance of a bible study. Laughter, tears, empathy and understanding that go back more than 40 years. Another long weekend my friend, Laurie, was here. She is the very active friend who is always ready for a hike or in this case, a half-day snowshoeing in the Snowies. The Libby Creek trail always seems to be up hill going out and up hill coming back. But it was a glorious day--so warm we didn't need gloves, hats or jackets. She and I also spent a good bit of time watching movies, basketball games, and arranging some new pictures from my sabbatical. Laurie always encourages me to stay in shape, set goals, play hard and work hard. Then a newer friend was here last weekend. Abby in quite a lot younger than I, so she introduces me to new music, new technology and new comediennes. Always lots of fun mixed with some serious talk about jobs, vocations, relationships.

Friends--cherished old ones who have been with me through the thick and thin places, and in the moment new ones I'm just getting to know--are so very important to living in healthy, whole and holy ways. Some have earned the right to offer advice and criticism because they are worthy of trust. Even at my most unlovable they still love me and desire good for me and from me. And then there is the most amazing thing of all--Jesus says to his disciples (and so to us), "I do not call you servants any longer...but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father." Just think of that, friends with Jesus, friends with God. When I am down on myself I am encouraged by this promise and then I am able to step back and consider what it means to also be a friend to my self.

Eleanor Roosevelt put it like this, "Friendship with oneself is all-important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world." And in a more contemporary way, Anne Lamott says a similar thing, writing, "Awareness is learning to keep yourself company. and then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage."

And so on this my sabbath day, I will befriend myself with a walk up the street to see the foxes at dusk, a great dinner, a good glass of wine and a good night's rest. And to you, gentle reader, wherever you are, remember that real friendship transcends time, place and regularity. Consider our friendship worthy of a God who dares to call each one of us, "friends."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That Eastertide with joy is bright

My Anglican Rosary

One of the unexpected surprises of Lent/Holy Week/Easter was praying the Rosary; sometimes with others and sometimes alone. At one of the first Wednesday evening Lenten Soup Suppers, we had the opportunity to make our own rosary. It was a wonderful inter-generational event and those of us with bifocular eyesight were very appreciative of the youngsters who could thread the needles for us to begin. On the following Wednesdays we prayed the rosary as a group, using different prayers.

One week we used the familiar "And all will be well, and all will be well and all manner of thing shall be well" from Julian of Norwich as the "week beads." In each week of the beads we meditated on a person, event, place, relationship that we really desired wholeness and wellness. Many found this a helpful discipline through the rest of Lent. The following Wednesday was St. Patrick's day, so the "week beads" were from his Lorica. We meditated on Christ's presence all around us in people and places. The final week we used the seven last words of Christ on the Cross for the "weak beads." Because of their familiarity and the different places they called me to be in prayer, I particularly liked this and used it throughout Holy Week.

Well, that is until we got to Easter. Our facilitator/mentor/bead master/friend (Barbara Kissack) had also prepared special prayers for the days following Easter. Using a sequence hymn written by Adam of St. Victor (canon in the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris in the 12th Century), I was so moved by his powerful images. I think that his ideas parallel those of Gerard Manley Hopkins who wrote of "Eastering" as I blogged about last time. Adam of St. Victor's words follow:

A Laramie sunrise
I see flames of orange, yellow, and red shooting upwards to the sky, piercing the whole clouds.
I see the clouds themselves chasing the flames upwards,
And I feel the air itself reaching for the heavens.
Down below I see great, grey rocks beating against the earth, as if they were pushing their way down to hell.
At your resurrection that which is light and good rises up with You,
And that which is heavy and evil is pushed downwards.
At your resurrection goodness breaks from evil, life breaks free from death.
And so here we are a couple of days into Eastertide. After the Easter Day services, I made a few phone calls to family and friends, particularly remembering with great fondness the women priests who took me with them on Easter Day to the country on my first Easter at seminary. I believed they mentored me into the "orthodox" way of priestly recovery from Holy Week: time in the country with good friends, a nice simple, but very tasty meal, some very nice wine, naps, walks. I had a wonderful dinner with our Deacon and his wife who is also Sr. Warden. They served lamb, wine, asparagus and good conversation.
Yesterday was a sort of recovery from "liturgical overload," with a long walk by the Laramie River--Fargo and Rebel loved going to a new place with so much pee-mail to check since late last fall--a nap, a movie, more phone calls, a steak on the grill and the Duke/Butler game. Before really changing gears for some of the events of Eastertide, I want to celebrate and recognize so what a good Holy Week it was. I'm not sure if my long tenure here has enabled us to have similar expectations, or that we are better able to delegate and trust that things will get done, or that new folks stepped up to the plate to offer their gifts. For me it was the least stressful Triduum I've ever had. I felt more present to the real worship and not be held captive by liturgical details. The garden for the Altar of Repose was beautiful and quiet; the cellist at Good Friday provided a most moving rendition of Bach's Sarabande for the Veneration of the Cross; the story tellers at the Vigil were so creative; the soprano and the trumpeter with a piece from Handel's Messiah on Sunday moved the congregation to tears and cheers. Each liturgy was unique, but it came together as a unity.
I think that this congregation really worked hard this Lent to recognize where they had grown cold and hard-hearted so that when that work climaxed with the last of the stones thrown on Good Friday, we were really ready as a group to move into new life, Easter life. It was, as one member wrote today, we were aware of the Holy Spirit's presence with us like we haven't experienced for some time. I stand in total agreement with Adam of St. Victor, "life breaks free from death." Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Springtime in the Rockies

Snow-laden branches in my backyard on Maundy Thursday, 2010
So here we are on Maundy Thursday, anticipating the Great Three Days which supposedly signal Spring. But in typical Wyoming mountain style, our Easter bonnets will be stocking caps or Stormy Kromers; and we'll wear wool skirts, flannel shirts and packs. No sandals for us.

I will have to say that when I walked with Fargo and Rebel this morning, I was awestruck by the beauty of it all. The snow lay heavy on branches and even wire fences held 2-3 inches of snow. When I finished shoveling the driveway, I gave strong consideration to making a snow bunny as it was the perfect snow for snowballs. But finishing up the last of the sermons for the Triduum seemed more pressing. Each year at St. Matt's we are better able to identify and utilize the varied gifts of more members. We have some new water and towel haulers for Maundy Thursday footwashing, new readers and pray-ers for the Ecumenical Good Friday service; new story tellers for the Great Vigil. Newness seems to a good word for Easter.

I came across a portion of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, "The Wreck of the Deutschland" with the amazing line, "Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us." When Christ Easters in us there really is the possibility of new life right now. So much of Lent we have dedicated ourselves to identifying places where our hearts have grown hard, cold, rigid; now I think we are ready for the new life.

As the Psalmist writes, "He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfroast like ashes. He scatters hail like bread crumbs; who can stand against his cold? He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind, and the waters flow. " (Ps 147:17-19)

This spring snow will soon melt and then we will be blessed with new growth on the now blanketed trees; the spring flowers will bloom (probably by June!!). But even in this cold, God's Spirit blows through us and the living waters flow. And soon we will shout, "Alleluia, the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!" And he will Easter in us again, day by day, rain or shine, snow or sun. Alleluia!