Tuesday, July 19, 2016

To Life! --Especially Mine

"She gave me life and I'm hell on wheels!"

I read that somewhere in college.  I have no idea who said it but. . .

SHE DID and I AM and THANKS BE TO GOD for every single one of the people who have made this an amazing, love-filled and joyful journey !

[I would have added "challenging", but with all due respect, I could have done without one or two of those!]


Sunday, July 10, 2016

My First Priest



When I was five, I began to live at a rehab center.  My parents sent me there, because the best doctor in the country for the treatment of my disability told them to, so I could learn basic life skills—skills like walking and dressing myself; skills that come naturally to kids, unless they have cerebral palsy.  Physically, it was the best.   Taught me everything I know.   Emotionally, it was hell.  Felt like complete separation from love, from any sense that I was special, that I mattered.  Except in the most generic sense.  As in, If we don’t keep her healthy, there will be hell to pay. We will get in trouble.  I’m not even sure they would have.  It was 1963.  There was less oversight of such places than there is now.  Who cared what happened to a bunch of crippled kids?  I stayed there for five years, only seeing my family every 3 months for two weeks.  The experience remains my definition of hell to this day.


Into this pitch black abyss, God dropped 3 things:  Chocolate pudding, rubber animals, and an Episcopal priest.  Well, the first two of those things didn’t really drop in.  They sort of came with me—The love of chocolate pudding if not the actual item, and my collection of rubber animals.  I put them in the very large pockets which the grandmother who adored me sewed to the countless big buttoned dresses she made for me.  Big buttons specifically for hands which had not yet developed fine motor coordination.  Big pockets specifically for my rubber animals—So they could accompany me while my hands gripped two crutches and I walked through the halls.  But the priest?  He did drop in.  One Saturday a month.


Some staff member took Babby, David, and me to an empty classroom where we met with him.  Babby was a girl my age.  David was a teenager. He had been confirmed. The priest gave him a wafer.  Babby and I hadn’t been confirmed, but the priest gave us a wafer too.  I knew he was breaking the rules, and that made me smile.  Once, the priest told me that anyone named Mary was named after the mother of Jesus.  I thought I was hot stuff after that.  Not much made me feel like hot stuff back then.


The priest is probably dead now, but I need to write him a letter.



Dear Mr. priest,


That five-year-old girl you gave a wafer to grew up to become a priest herself, although the denomination she chose doesn’t call ordained people that.  When she went to college, she learned that Jesus cared especially about “marginalized” people; that God had a “preferential option for the oppressed.”  Some of the books she read in seminary said that too.  And now the people where she goes to church remind her of that every week.  But you were the first person who showed her that.  Because you gave her a wafer.


She teaches a Bible study at the place where she lives now.  Sometimes she wonders if it makes any difference.  There seems so little she can do to make the people feel loved; like they matter. 


I wonder if you felt that way—when you left those sad faces—on all those Saturdays.


And on that Sunday afternoon in June of 1989, I hope you were part of the congregation.  I hope Jesus gave you a front row seat.  I hope he leaned over and whispered in your ear,


“Remember when she was five and you gave her a wafer? 

 This day began at that moment.”


Saturday, July 2, 2016

An Embarrassment of Riches

Paratransit screwed with me again.  It seems to be what they do best.  Usually, that means they pick me up at least an hour late.  But I can't be more than five minutes late getting to them, otherwise they'll leave me.  A month or so ago, they were 2 hours late.  When I called to find out what was going on, the phone rang for 45 minutes before anyone even answered.  It does no good to complain to the powers that be.  They just give you excuses.  This year, I'm up for recertification.  Could someone please tell me why an almost 58-year-old woman with a congenital permanent disability and assorted other significant limitations that have come with aging needs to be recertified as disabled enough to need paratransit?  Do they think that riding around in their vans for hours is so much fun I would use them if I didn't have to?  And yet, I'm terrified they won't recertify me.  Because if they don't, I have no other way to get to church, to doctors, or anywhere else in this city.  That they have so much power over my life drives me crazy. Today they found another way to screw with me.  When I called for a ride to church tomorrow and told them I needed to be there at 10:00, they told me the latest available pick-up time was 7:45.  "I'll call back later," I said.  When I called back later, they said the latest available time was 7:26.  "I'll call back later," I said again.  I didn't call back later.  At least, not for the same ride.  Remembering that I recently went to an evening prayer service at an Episcopal church a lot closer to my house, I called for a ride to that church-- and got a pick-up time at a reasonably sane hour.

I grew up in the Episcopal church.  As a teenager, it bored me.  I don't talk to God this way, I said to myself one Sunday when I was thirteen.  The words from The Book of Common Prayer came out in a monotone-- from me, from the congregation, from the priest.  We said the same prayers every week.  All the "thees" and "thous" seemed pretentious.  As a young adult, I chose to join the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Their liturgy was more free form.  I could write my own prayers.  I still love that about "my church,"  the church which has loved me long and best, long and best enough that it is the church through which I decided to become ordained.  I consider it my home. Last week, I wrote and delivered the Call to Worship at my home congregation.  I wouldn't trade that opportunity for anything.

But lately I also find myself drawn to the Episcopal Church.  I've started reciting its Daily Office.  I like the rhythm of repetition; of prayer throughout the day.  I like discovering that imperfect [read "sexist"] language can still nurture me. If that's true, maybe I really can nurture other people without being perfect.   It's also kind of restful to recite words without thinking about them so much.  I wonder how that will shape me?  What will happen when I simply allow words to sink into me, when they start running through my head involuntarily throughout the day ?

I'm not giving up the church I chose.  I still love the congregation and denomination that ordained me.     And I love the people I've spent most of my Sundays with for the last 25 years.  I'll be there when paratransit gives me normal if not reasonable options (and whenever I get to lead worship!).  But sometimes when paratreansit screws with you, it's nice to remember you have options.  While much of my life includes hardship and restriction, when it comes to being fed through the Christian tradition, I am blessed with an embarrassment of riches.  Today, I need to remember that.