Mar 22, 2010

good news for the day

my heart still remains in mourning over the loss of nathan.... but today's sports headline certainly lifts me out - it's going to be a fantastic season, i can smell it!

Mar 16, 2010

Photo Essay

Schooled by the Liturgical Year

I thought I had a relatively clear understanding to the markings of the liturgical calendar, but that notion was demolished when I asked my dear sisters at St. Ben's to share with me the journey they follow each month
throughout the year. The converstaion began with my ignorant lips; "So you follow Advend, Lent..." and before I could get any further Sister Rita interrupted to fill in the blanks I had already missed. Thank goodness too, because after those two liturgical whoppers I'm not quite sure what comes next.

Sister Rita began the long stream of explanation while Sister Cecelia stepped towards the bookshelf to find something that could offer a visual picture to my pool of curiosities. Sister Rita informed me that in between the well known liturgical seasons there lies a fountain of other important dates. This is when Sister Cecelia opened up her choice book and shed light into the dark corners of misunderstanding. Before my eyes was a scroll of celebrations and Sunday's, ordinary times and feasts; which apparently can replace a Sunday. Each day, each Sunday is something worthy of intentional focus. I choked with amazement towards their disciplines.

What is it like to follow so intimately the journey's of Jesus through these seasons? Every week is embraced through prearranged and deliberate illuminations of scripture. It seems as though everything is carefully considered and lived out with a penetrating reverence. While Rita and Cecelia exposed the emotions and process of thought that run from their heart out their lips of praise, I ached with desire to walk out my days in a similar fashion to these faithful sisters. Truly there is something sacred embedded in a life that is structured according to the liturgical calendar and I have hardly broken the surface. In a few moments I will make my way from the Monastery to the Abbey at St. John's and I wonder how, if at all, the mobility of the Monks differs from that of the Sisters.

Mar 15, 2010

the not-so-vanilla spiritual director

There is a protruding facet of reason that poses the question, “What am I thinking?" Those who generally take on monastic practices; namely fasting, silence, solitude, prayer all seem to carry a common personality, and the colors of my dna makeup are without that thread. It’s like this; I went to visit a place outside Minneapolis that trains up Spiritual Directors. The purpose of my visit was to discern whether or not it could be the location to my life after undergrad. In no time at all I realized that it is not for me - and I became certain of that by a wave of nausea that nearly knocked me off my feet the moment I walked in the door. The center was lovely and the faithful employees were stunning. Truly it was a community of passionate followers of Christ who are eager to tap into the movement of the Holy Spirit. I have nothing of negativity to say about the place.

But my restlessness is born from a place similar to Pluto. Pluto has always been, in my opinion, the strange planet. Mars is like pop music, if Casey Kasem were to live on a planet it would be Mars; everyone knows the mainstream tune that flows off its craters. Does Mars even have craters? Then there is Venus. Venus is like the sexy planet. Only people like Heidi Klum or Jennifer Aniston can exist on Venus. Then there is Jupiter. This is the planet where all the ridiculously smart scientists hang out and talk about everything sciencey. The mere thought of it makes my brain hurt. I don’t even know what other planets float around in our solar system (thus I do not belong on Jupiter) but there still remains Pluto. I am convinced this would be the place for the people other people consider “different”. Artists, winos, poets, romantics, simplistics and loners – unite together under the Plutonic (not Platonic) zip code with our bare feet and tattoos and pass the doobie of eccentricities.

The place of Spiritual Formation that I had visited was for the beautiful souls that keep cuss words out of their vocabulary. It had a certain feeling to it, like the feeling you get when you walk into a super churchy person’s house with your clothes reeking of last night’s stogie and lips stained with alcohol from the microphone at Jack’s karaoke bar. I’m a karaoke junkie and I like to smoke cheap stogies, but I am intoxicated by the love of Christ more frequently than by a bottle of 3 buck Chuck. And so the question arises again; “What am I thinking? I’m not the usual softly fashioned, daintily formed Spiritual Director. I will not have Thomas Kinkade decorating my future office, nor will I have ruffly curtains and doilies. I will not use a mouse church voice that cowers when released. What I will have is who I am. My office will probably have gnarly photography with some raw honest Rembrandt, it will more than likely smell of sandalwood and lilac, and I will not (this is my promise to you) back down from saying, “I have no freaking clue what the Spirit’s doing, but dude let’s kick back and listen together.”

Silenced breakfast

I return once again to St. Benedict's Monastery. It has been eight weeks since my last visit and there is a fresh yet sober atmosphere welcoming my arrival. I say fresh because spring is just around the corner. The birds that decorate the grounds of the monastery are wild with song and vigor. Their music spreads through the campus and contribute sweet melodies to the strong, deep tolls of the chapel bells. The sober facet is tightly tethered to the Lenten season Throughout the liturgical year meal times are alive with conversation, during the Lenten season however meals are taken in silence. This is to encourage the sisters to pause from the chattering norm and instead reflect upon the journey to the Cross.

It was a bizarre experience I have to admit, sharing a meal in silence. I grew up in a family of 6 and the dinner table was not just a place to set your plate; but a stage to unleash your imagination. The walls would shake before our laughter and the engery soared when mom would pass the jar of her ridicoulously amazing chocolate chip cookies. It is no wonder why eating in silence this morning was uncomfortably unnatural.

This intentional silence is a gorgeous thing however. I continue to return to the monastery (and tomorrow I will be spending the day at St. John's Abbey) because I firmly believe that the rhythms by which the Monastics adhere to have significant wisdom and rich blessings to offer the Protestant community. My desire is to release myself from the piles of religious conditionings that confine the mystery of the Holy Spirit and in turn receive the gift of monastic cadance.

Mar 11, 2010

Overshadowing Cheap Grace

When I share with people the deep fondness I carry towards the Lenten season, it never fails that I am met with awkwardly curious expressions. Perplexed eyebrows are raised leading to a stream of rushing inquisitions. "Are you Catholic?" Nope. "Are you Lutheran?" Nope, not Lutheran either. "Why then do you like Lent so much?" Ah, sweet honey to my lips is such a question.

I suppose it may be rather odd that I choose to adhere the liturgical calendar when my church community does not. But we all have our peculiarities and this one of mine is an unexplainable love for a shredded veil. So what is it exactly? What sets these 40 days apart from the other 325? Simple, an invitation. The Lenten season is for us, a sweetly tender opportunity to examine our hearts. It is a beckoning to walk with Christ during his last 40 days on earth and to not just remember - but cry out in mercy and crumble in gratitude, humility, and reverence before the passion expressed on Calvary's tree.

It is easy for Christians (perhaps singling out American middle/upper class Christians???) to trample around in the over sized clowns shoes of cheap grace and promenade ourselves in the false bouffant assumption that the grace of God liberates us to live according to our desires. Whatever tastes good, smells good and feels good ought to be ours. And if it is a questionable desire don't worry about it; God's grace is sufficient enough so go ahead and indulge. Day in and day out we whore around like addicts of worldly pleasures without regard to the gnashing repercussions, because when we sit in our comfortable lazy-boy pews on Sunday mornings we are spoon fed cheap grace. Grace does not permit prostituted actions.

With each day of Lent I fall deeper into love with the penitential psalms. I think Psalm 51 might be my favorite of the 7. This poetic cry of David's is a vibrant expression of confession and repentance that is painted from a healthy understanding of his transgressions. What is so lovely about the psalmist is that he mourned over his sin. When do we ever take the time to cry over the chasm of sin we have dug? And really, should not crying out for mercy be our immediate reaction towards sin. Like gasping for air when the wind is knocked out of us, so too our plea for mercy when standing face to face with iniquity. I despise the way my sin separates me from the redeemer and so I cry. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.

Mar 8, 2010

What's the Point?

What's the point? Is anything that we do truly purposeful? Recently I've been walking around in the discomfort of vomiting cultural norms while panting for the ways of Jesus. I attend Bethel University. If it were not for grants and financial aid I would be dropping $30,000 a year to be learn about theology. Although I am intoxicated over the fact that I get to unfold what it means to trust Christ by way of paved paths from the brilliant minds of generations past; Calvin, Schleiermacher, Luther, Baur...I cannot help but counter such a blessing with deeper ponderings.

Why are we studying about the issues of injustice while comfortably confined to our upper-middle class cookie-cutter institution? Why am I wrestling with doctrines and the infallibility of scripture rather than putting legs to the words of God? Why is the main goal among Christians to find a good Christian partner, buy a fancy diamond ring, finance a fancier house and produce 2.4 perfect Christian babies? The Christian dream is the American dream. At the end of the day I truly believe that God is not going to ask me, "Brianna - what are the 5 points of Calvin?" How does my ability (or inability) to articulate TULIP feed the stomachs of the poor or wrap loving arms around the hurting?

I think often of my friends at El Refugio and in doing so I ache to return to them. El Refugio is, you guessed it, a refuge for the homeless elderly of Tijuana Mexico. During my time in
California I would frequently spend long days visiting the beautiful souls at El Refugio. We would cook breakfast together, laugh, try to communicate through our language barrier, and enjoy each other's presence. It was a community that had no choice but to rely on God.
I've witnessed miracles at El Refugio truly.
Rather than multiplying fish, God faithfully multiplied eggs, ham, bread, and oranges. No one ever went unfed and this
unexplainable truth can only be attributed to the blessing of Christ. My friends at this sacred place never asked questions of theology and I never felt the need to impress them with a lengthy string of paper doll vocabulary.
Afternoons were spent taking silly photographs (photography is the avenue God made for communication - it was lovely), playing hide and seek in the hanging laundry, dancing, and soaking in the warm Tijuana sunshine. This was all we needed and we were fully satisfied.

I hope I am not portraying cynicism. Because that is not my aim nor is it how I feel. It's just that I carry a lot of questions about complacent conditioning's and sometimes they keep me awake at night. How do our conditioning's meet the greatest commandments? What am I doing, right now to obey the command to love? I'm fairly certain blogging to an abysmal void ceases to fill the empty arms of the marginal dwellers. How can I live in the affluence of the states and simultaneously run the legs I hope to put on scripture?