Unfettering Grace

On Sunday our church prayed for my friend the Rev. Marilyn Evans.

On Sunday Marilyn breathed her last.

Her death has given me opportunity to think about her life.  

Marilyn was whip-smart, people wise and she could laugh in ways that created celebration around her.

And, Marilyn was courageous.

The last time Marilyn was at Annual Conference she preached.  She unfolded in the midst of the 800 people gathered the needless soul carnage she lived as a lesbian woman serving in a church unwilling to acknowledge her fullness of God-created being.

Marilyn served the church as lay person, as ordained pastor, as mentor to many, and as a faithful witness to the transforming love of God as taught and lived by Jesus.

And, for too many of the years of her lived discipleship she was asked to be in the closet around one of the most spectacular gifts of her life:  Her beloved, Mary.

When such things became legal, Marilyn and Mary married.  I was blessed to sing at their wedding.  Those gathered with them and those who carry that day in their hearts were and are in awe of the goodness of their love.

Marilyn served in a movement – the United Methodist Church – that made her love a chargeable offense.

God have mercy.

The United Methodist Church is in the process of cleaving.  One set of Wesleyans will set up camp in what they are calling the Global Methodist Church.  God go with them.

As for those of us who are tired of the squelching of the good news, we will continue to live into the vision cast by Jesus and the Minnesota United Methodist Church.

We will celebrate the love given to all of God’s children and we will give thanks that persons continue to be called into ordained leadership and we will sing at weddings and surround those who have the courage to claim love with all of the support our good hearts can muster and we will do all of these things

in the open, out of any constructed death-dealing closet.

We will love and we will support love and we will live because women like Marilyn lived and loved and live yet.

God give us a sense of joy as the unfettering of grace commences.

home

There is a scene in Gone With the Wind that has always spoken to my heart.

Katie Scarlett O’Hara stands with the dirt of Tara in her hands and she pledges her heart to the power of her place.

The pictures above have long been my Tara. They are bunkhouses where I learned to savor rainy days, play the guitar, and cultivate friendship. The one on top was part of my family’s cabin. My sister and I slept there. The one below is my friend Mary’s place.

Three years ago I sold our family cabin. The sense of soul-shift has been seismic.

On Sunday I went home again. I stayed with my cabin neighbors.

I slept under the big white pines and I immersed myself in the lake that has watered my heart for so many years.

Most powerfully, I was in the company of family.

The women who presided over the cabins on either side of mine are in their nineties. We gathered together, the matriarchs and the next generations, and we sat and laughed and spoke the stories and adventures and the love of place and people and dogs and my heart grew so very large because the truth was palpable:

It was never about owning the land.

It has always been about the weaving of life and love and the mundane and precious sharing of a story that is even yet being written.

That place of my heart is mine forever.

As God is my witness.

And She is.

land forms

My forebears came to this country from Scotland.

While visiting Scotland I felt at home. It was as if the land spoke the language of my soul.

After visiting Scotland, I understand why my ancestors settled in the Duluth area. Having spent precious growing up years in Duluth and having had the opportunity to raise my own children there, it is so very clear to me that northern Minnesota echoes with the rocky and chiseled power of Scotland.

Land forms us and helps us find our way.

After spending a tense three weeks navigating the emotional angst of having a very ill son, the coast became clear for some time away.

We headed for the north shore of Lake Superior and there the land held and blessed. We were able to clamber up rivers and sit in the flowing streams. The big lake soothed and the sun-warmed rocks leeched the tired and worn places of soul-clench.

My cells knew that I was home.

And so I am.

apples, trees and wonder

Today was the wildly joyful wedding of two people who have and will bless this world.

The service lasted nearly three hours. That was amazing.

Also amazing was the fact that my eldest daughter Leah took the pulpit.

She read from the Hebrew bible the account of how it was God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. It is a tale that calls Moses to remember that God is in all places and it ends with a recounting of how it is God was present through the generations. All those named as God-companioned were, of course, men.

Except when Leah read it. She read the account with energy and meaning and it ended with the voice of God assuring Moses that God had been present to his mother and to her mother and to Sarah and to Rebecca and to Leah and to Rachel.

And I thought as I watched my daughter launch her heart into proclamation that for too long astute and powerful women have been subjected to a recounting of God’s story that does not include them.

I have known this. I have named the scriptural and traditional gender warp that has too often cast women as bit players. I have mourned the ongoing (still???) challenge it is to find hymnody or liturgy that is fully inclusive of women as Holy reflectors.

Today, I know the enormity of woman loss in a place deeper yet because my daughter took the pulpit and made the story her own.

Isn’t that what we are waiting for?

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

From generation to generation it is our story.

It’s time for the women to speak.

in a day

This morning I was witness to holy leave taking.

A church member, vibrant of soul and young of age, breathed her last.

She was surrounded by the resonant beauty of her fine life: Her partner, mom and sister acted as resurrection midwives. She had prayed that her death might be grace filled. And so it was.

All day today the church has been alive with the sound of music.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the marriage of two amazing folk. They have collected a tribe of singers and dancers who will lead us in a full-hearted celebration of love. There is music happening in most every space available. Our day care children are in awe, as am I.

Love. It’s what life is all about.

Today as Lori let go and tomorrow as Drew and Cassie cleave it is love that moves the loosing and binding that is life.

Love.

Born in the heart of the Holy.

Savored by the wise.

weave

This has been a summer of prayer school.

Sure. I talk about it. I teach it. I do it.

And then family hearts break because of impossible tragedy. Then the chaos of misery strikes my child.

Then I realize that I am held by a weave of hearts connecting to the Holy and in that weave I am grieving sister and aunt and wracked mother and I am raw want and I am held.

I am held.

Love breathes through prayer. The number of people who have prayed and are praying for my loves and for others in this God blessed world is wondrous.

The song of prayer, whispered and bellowed and sung minute by minute and heart by heart.

Prayer; the heart longing of God reached out and returned as the breath that is life.

I’m learning.

Hallowed be.

in a name

At the hospital where son Jameson stayed, there was a white board.

On the white board there was a spot for writing the names of contact people for the patient.

In said spot for said son, there were three names written, each with a different last name.

What’s in a name?

While going through the shatter that is divorce, it feels like the word “family” will be forever grief soaked. The days of assumed roles and relationships are forevermore gone. There is a deep sense of loss in that. The “who are we now?” is question near desperate for answer.

And, resurrection is real.

Those three last names? They represent a dad and a mom and a step-father committed to the body-soul-mind health of our beloved. Those three last names represent a tribe of people who are committed to companioning each other through love and life.

Three last names represent family in all of its complex stunning foibled power.

What’s in a name (s)?

Family. Our family.

Our answer.

home

Carole King’s Tapestry album was the soundtrack for my teens.  The album somehow found each part of me and gave it voice.

One of the songs that has been sounding in my being this past week is the song “Home Again”.  It begins: “Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to make it home again, it’s so far and out of sight.  I really need someone to talk to and nobody else knows how to comfort me tonight.”

Besides the fact that the song is soul-woven, it has sung in my heart because of the power of the story of the Prodigal.  Jesus tells a story about a man who loses himself in the so-many distractions that can lead us to groundlessness.  Jesus tells us that the man “came to himself” and decided that he wanted to return home to the place where he is known and taken in, stupendous stumbles and all.

It is our story in so many ways, is the story of the Prodigal.  We sing the song of “Home Again” so many times in our lives.

We wander seeking home throughout our lives.  We convince ourselves that home can be found in chemicals or time fritters or shopping or something someplace someway that will take away the great lonely of living.  We wander and long and wonder and then, oh then, we come to ourselves and remember Home.

Home in the great expanse of the Holy whose song dances through us yet.  Home in the wrap of claiming and welcome that awaits us if we would but cease our scurry.

Home in the heart of God;  taken in, welcomed and fussed over are we.

Home.

time and rivers

Of time and rivers flowing
The seasons make a song
And we who live beside her
Still try to sing along
Of rivers, fish, and men
And the season still a-coming
When she’ll run clear again.

So many homeless sailors,
So many winds that blow
I asked the half blind scholars
Which way the currents flow
So cast your nets below
And the gods of moving waters
Will tell us all they know.

The circles of the planets
The circles of the moon
The circles of the atoms
All play a marching tune
And we who would join in
Can stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.
                Pete Seeger

How is it we are given this gift of life?

Having returned from vacation a scant 24 hours ago, I officiated this morning at the funeral of a woman who blessed.  She blessed through laughter and quick humor.  She blessed through a willingness to “join in” as Seeger sings in the lyrics above.

She lived a singular life; unrepeatable and precious.

And so it is for each who join in.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  My prayers for my loves and the real clamor of my longings sound relentlessly in my soul.

Sometimes the “I want” is a gong noisy and clanging and that gong has the power to create such cacophony within that the still small assurances of the Holy are near overwhelmed.

And then I remember.

Mine is to cast my nets below; deep into the moving waters of grace that will tell me all I need to know.

Still.  Small.  Powerful.  Deep.

Let us all begin.

 

 

steadfast

Today we celebrated the life of a woman who lived 101 years.

Gathered for worship were her children and grandchildren and friends and folk who knew themselves to have spent time and life with a graceful powerhouse.

We do that at church.  We hold the space for celebrations and life markings.  We welcome  people we may never see again and for a time we share voices in song and stories through hearts.

There are times when the beleaguer of “doing church” can make the heart heavy.  The tending of relationships and buildings and protocols and brusings can near obscure the reason for our being.

And then there are services that remind us that community in Christ matters.  It matters deeply.

For 101 years the woman we celebrated today held space in her being for the power of God in her life.  The fruit of her faith was palpable in her people and in the air and prayer we shared.

I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for the steadfast devotion that has prompted people to support a church that has held funerals for nearly 160 years.  I’m grateful for the privilege of weaving worship that names resurrection and wonder.  I’m grateful for the hands that bake bars and pour coffee.

I’m grateful for the reminder that “doing church” matters.  It matters a lot.