One of the limits of WordPress, I have discovered, is that it hates too many iframes, and thus is unwieldy to edit. So I’ve instead put up this followup post… it includes a link to the audio from August 21, as well as the words of Rev. Linda Hoddy’s blessing.

The audio – click here to listen –  picks up at beginning of my formal remarks – right after “Song of the Soul”… it includes Linda’s blessing, closing words, extinguishing the chalice, and the postlude.

Linda’s words of blessing are below:

Spirit of Life,

We give thanks for this beloved community, this congregation,

 where a call to ordained ministry can be felt and nurtured.

We give thanks for the one who is now being called to deeper service, and for her Yes,

                We ask your blessings for her journey, and grant our own.

May Kim continue to be attuned to things of the spirit,

 open to and heedful of the subtle signs and messages by which you will guide her into

the service of humanity and a better world.  

May she be accompanied by wise and gentle souls

 who will help her discern and refine her ministry.

May her academic preparation be excellent.

 But more importantly, may her heart and mind be continually opened to your guidance and will.

 May she increasingly know the divinity present in all creation:

 in nature, in work, in play, in other human beings,

 and herself and her call to service.

 May she never doubt her own worth as a child of God, with gifts intended for the blessing of humanity.

May ministry not only be something that she does, but may it 

deepen and mingle with the roots of her being, until ministry is the very essence of who she is.

May she find joy in the sacrifice and surrender that ministry requires. 

We are grateful for all that she has shared with us in these few years:

Music and theater,  

                Administrative skill.

Laughter and tears,

Tenacity through conflict and tumult,

Warmth, wisdom, insight and friendship.

These gifts have enhanced our life together.

 And now, as we release her to greater service, we wish her well.

May she know in times of doubt and struggle, as well as in times of joy,

 that our prayers are with her.  We will hold her gently in our hearts, forever.

                                                                                                                                Amen.  

PS: The Art I am using for the thumbnails is created by UU watercolorist Jordan Lynn Gribble.

Sometimes it isn’t enough to just share the text of a sermon. Sometimes it’s important to hear the music and the other words that form the entire service. Thus (and in lieu of recordings that feature the actual musicians from my congregation), I have included links from YouTube and other mp3s. Please take the time to listen to them as you read my story of getting to the yes.

Prelude

 

Lighting the Chalice
 
Words for Gathering 

by L. Annie Foerster

Come we now out of the darkness of unknowing, out of the dusk of dreaming.
Come we now from far places, from the unsolved mysteries of our beginnings.
Attend our journey!

Come we now into the twilight of awakening, into the reflection of our gathering.
Come we now toward the light that beckons, toward the oasis that summons.
Harken the gathering!

Come we now all together.
We bring, unilluminated, our dark caves of doubting, filled with the rocks of our foreboding.
We seek, unbedazzled, the clear light of understanding, born of the fires of our attending.

May the sparks of our joining kindle our resolve, brighten our spirits, reflect our love, and unshadow our days.
Come we now. Come we together.
Come we now all together to begin.
Let us begin with Amen.

Amen.

Opening Hymn  

No. 1000  Morning Has Come

Offering and Offertory 

I went to Girl Scout camp for the first time when I was 9 years old – which would make it the summer of ‘74. It was an amazing time – in an amazing place, up at Camp Little Notch in Fort Ann. Our counselors were young women fighting for equal rights, proudly wearing the label ‘feminist.’ Our lessons were of self-reliance, strength, and independence. Our music was a blend of traditional camp songs and new songs from the new world of women’s music – Meg Christian, Margie Adams, Holly Near, and Cris Williamson. We sang “Gentle Angry People” and “Beautiful Soul” and the “Unicorn Song” and “Song of the Soul”… mostly “Song of the Soul.” A hundred little girls singing this song at the top of their lungs, finding harmonies, not knowing how deeply this song would later resonate.

My experiences at camp – the music, the women, the lessons – were in sharp contrast to the more conservative environment of the rest of my life, which was much more enmeshed in knowledge and education – not surprising, as my father was an educator and my parents were both non-practicing Unitarians.

But as a child – with my siblings much older and long gone out of the house, and living in an isolated corner of southern Rensselaer County – I spent many long hours reading and thinking and wondering about God.

At age 12, I read a book describing meditation, and it suggested creating a picture in your mind of a place to go, a sanctuary. In my mind, I built a beautiful stone cloister – several stories high, with a beautiful courtyard in the middle, and arched windows along the inside where you could look out into the courtyard. That image – that sanctuary – has been with me ever since, and has provided a place of safety.
These are some of the earliest signposts that I remember seeing on this long journey that brings me here today. As I began preparing to tell you about my journey to the Yes, I realized that it wasn’t something that happened in a short, defined period of time, but rather a journey I’ve been on since my childhood. And that journey hasn’t been on a straight, paved, well maintained road… it has taken some concentration to stay ON the road, and it’s in the retelling here today that I can begin to map it out.

At the very center of the road – whether I recognized it at the time or not – is my spiritual path.
Through my childhood as a Unitarian in a Methodist Sunday school, and through my young adulthood immersed in a full gospel Pentecostal community, and long afterward, even into my agnostic phase, I still talked to God. I thought of myself as “spiritual but not religious” and felt I had a pretty decent relationship with the Divine. I found a place of expression in the pagan community, and I liked the connection to the earth and the ancient mythologies. But as connected as I was to the ideas and the people, I grew further and further disconnected from God.

And then I lost my partner to a needless death.

And then I had a major financial crisis.

And then I had a nervous breakdown.

And then a pedestrian ran in front of my moving car and was killed.

And then my back went out and I required several surgeries.

And then my mother passed away.

At every turn, God was missing. I continued to talk ABOUT God, and to help others find their voice and nurture their spirits. But I was angry. And hurt. And lonely. And I had long since stopped talking to God. I was certain – absolutely certain – that I was God’s punching bag.

Linda Hoddy talks about the time after her brother’s death, arguing with “the god in whom she did not believe”. I don’t know that I ever stopped believing in a god of some form, but I know that I got tired of arguing, and declared a schism. I decided Nietzsche was wrong: that which does not kill us does NOT make us stronger, it makes us angrier. I needed to be away from that conflict. God didn’t like me, so I didn’t like God.

And I felt even lonelier.

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “Life is to be understood backwards, but it is lived forwards.” I’m not sure of the source now, but in one of his books, Kierkegaard expanded on this idea: he said that we are all walking toward the light of God, but that because it is blinding, we walk backward. We look at where we have been, and gently nudge others so as not to trip on a root and avoid the rocks, all the while feeling gentle nudges from behind us making sure we don’t trip or stumble.

I like this idea – I like the idea that we’re all on a journey, that we see in retrospect the lessons and messages we encounter. David Roche, in his book The Church of 80% Sincerity, calls it the Principle of Delayed Understanding.

But whatever you call it, it is only in looking back that I can understand the messages that God, and my fellow travelers, had been sending. In preparing for today, I have remembered many friends from former covens, guilds, and congregations – hundreds of moments that have led me to this place. But of course it wasn’t until recently that I realized that they WERE messages.

Looking back, I see hints I left for myself, in journals, in letters, and in sermons. I look back at my talks on waiting, and faith, and being open to possibilities, and I now can see that while I was sharing some ideas that I hoped would help you, I was also leaving myself messages about my relationship with God and a possible future path.

Looking back, I recognize the metaphors – from the idea that my life was a tapestry, waiting to be woven so others could see the story, or that I was a wounded healer, telling the stories of my own woundings in order to help others heal.

Looking back, I understand the dreams I dreamed in significant places – at a women’s spirituality retreat in San Francisco, at my first UU Musician’s conference in Denver, and a notable one, in upper Michigan on Midsummer. I dreamed of being in a spa of some sort, where I was being nurtured and pampered. As my nails were being manicured and my feet being rubbed – I told you it was a dream – a handsome man came behind me as though to kiss me on the cheek, but instead whispered in my ear “not yet.”

Looking back, I learned that some messages came via Eeman’s Law, which states that half of life is figuring out what NOT to do.  In my case, I had some false starts, seeking some greater way to serve, which never panned out. In the late 90s, I had an opportunity to take an intensive priestess training, but somehow the money never appeared. In 2006, I began the program to achieve a Credential in Music Leadership through the UUA, but this was cut short because of my back.  About a year ago, I pursued some positions within the UUA – none of which panned out.

Now of course, in my state of schism, I saw each of these failures as further proof that God was not on my side.
But something happened in the spring of 2009. I met a former Lutheran minister who would later become my boyfriend. In our conversations, I told Carl about my schism with God, and he brought up the book of Job. Now I’ve heard all about Job, how God tests him by causing all manner of tragedy. I was pretty unimpressed – ‘cause if people aren’t quoting Nietzsche, they’re talking Job, as though they think that’ll help.

Hah.

But Carl brought up something I had not heard before. “After all of the tragedy in the first three chapters,” he said, “Job spends the next 39 complaining to God. Loudly. Forcefully.” Hmmm. “It’s okay to complain,” he continued. “In fact, it’s what you are supposed to do.”

Now this is something I’d not considered before. So, I started complaining. I began to argue, and yell, and list in painstaking detail the many grievances I had.

But it was not until later that summer that I got the feeling that God was talking back. Carl and I were driving through New England, and while I navigated the rolling turns of Route 7, Carl viewed the beauty of the Green Mountains through his eyelids. In the quiet, I began humming some of my favorite spirituals: “Over My Head, I hear music in the air” … “there is more love somewhere.” I got to a piece from our teal hymnal, called “Comfort Me.” Now the way Mary Neumann wrote the song, the third verse goes “speak for me, speak for me oh my soul.” But that day, I began to sing “speak TO me”…. And God said “I have been. I never stopped.”

Yeah, okay, I know many of you are skeptical of spiritual experiences, or of God, but I have no other way to describe it except ‘God said.’

And God said, “I never stopped talking to you. You are the one who stopped.’ And so I asked her, “I haven’t heard you. How have you been speaking to me?”

The answer came immediately, as the napping Carl let out a loud, forceful snore.

Which made me realize that God had been speaking to me, through the divinity in each of us. Through the long conversations with Carl, and Linda Hoddy, and Brent Wilkes, and Nikki Ferguson, and Aaron Broadwell, and others… through the poetry and music that has made me weep from their beauty… through the many quotations from books and movies that I’ve collected… through the little moments of grace I’ve witnessed and been blessed with. All of them, messages from the Divine, all of them hoping that in the spirit of Kierkegaard, I would recognize them in retrospect.

Looking back on the road I traveled, with its broken pavement when there’s been pavement at all, with its twists and turns and steep hills and narrow bridges, I realize that the long and winding road has led me to the door of ministry.

And its road signs all say “Yes.”

 “Yes” echoed first during a service where I served as worship associate. Linda asked me to read a poem by Edward Hays as the meditation. The poem, about being open to the divine, is based on a Sufi saying that reads “don’t invite an elephant trainer into your living room unless you have room for an elephant.” As I read the poem, in front of you all, I heard “yes” so loudly that I barely got through the reading.

 “Yes” echoed when Linda invited me to join the Wellspring spiritual deepening group, although I believe I only expressed my interest in passing. And, “yes” echoed over and over again during the year of sessions with other seekers on the journey.

“Yes” echoed in the words of Jim Mihuta, who told me I had a knack for saying the right thing at the right time… in the words of Joe and Sally Russo, who said they never wanted to miss a chance to hear me speak… in the words of Barbara Freund, who said I had the kind of presence, even just singing in the choir, that suggested I should become a minister… in the words of Ashley Friedman, who said she remembered my 80% sermon and that it still resonates with her as she makes her way through her first years at college.

“Yes” echoed the day I went to visit Union Theological Seminary in NYC…. I walked into a large stone building, and after our little tour group gathered, our guide took us into the courtyard. It was the courtyard of my sanctuary… the same arched windows, the same shape, same stone. “Yes” reverberated through the place as I enjoyed an informative tour, an amazing lecture, and a wild and welcoming service led by the Queer Caucus.

“Yes” echoed the evening I ended my meditation with a sudden need to flip through an old Methodist hymnal I own. I opened the book and began singing the hymn in front of me… Open my eyes that I may see…

“Yes” resounded in the song that I had known since my youth, a song I have sung over and over again as the introduction to “Song of the Soul.” “Yes” further echoed as I read the third verse:

Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

And finally, “Yes” echoed in early January, when I awoke from a dream… in which a handsome man hugged me and whispered in my ear “now.”

At that final “yes,” I completed my application, and Linda and Murray Penney were among those who wrote recommendations for me. They must have said some nice things, for in April, I was accepted.

I’m five days away from orientation now… five days away from setting foot on this new road – most assuredly, as Robert Frost puts it, “the one less traveled by.” Not surprisingly, I keep finding myself singing “Woyaya”… we are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we know we will…” and I invite you to stand as you are able and join me in singing it now.

The road isn’t completely uncharted, however, and yes, I already know there will be bumps and rocks and uneven pavement just as on the road I’ve already traveled. But I do have some sense of where I want my ministry to go. I joke with Linda that I am keeping a list of reasons not to go into congregational ministry… but I think, at this point, my path is heading in other directions. On the other hand, as the rabbis in the Talmud say: “Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him YOUR plans for the future.” So who knows? I do know that there are some fascinating things happening in our denomination – a resurgence of universalism, a call to spiritual deepening, a sense that now that we’ve reached our 50 year mark, it’s time we figure out who we are now and where we are going.

 I feel called to share our religion with a world that I think is absolutely ACHING for a meaningful, active, useful, nurturing faith such as ours. I believe I’m called to help people nurture their souls – to help more people find a home in what our president Reverend Peter Morales calls “a religion for our time.” I am inspired by his words, and those of Scott Alexander…and Kaaren Anderson… and William Shultz… and Deane Perkins…and many more Unitarian Universalists of vision. Their words are calling all of us to make a better world through our faith and actions.

And I know there’s so much to understand, to explore, and to share. My gifts in music and theatre… along with my desire to know and to heal… seem to make for a potent combination in ministry. Will I work with congregations, clusters, and districts? Write and lecture? Do community ministry? Or land in a congregation after all? I don’t know… as my friend Alan Rudnick says, “when working in the business of faith, faith is needed.” I do know that I once I began hearing “yes,” I could not say no… and the continued yesses from friends and acquaintances and newfound colleagues tells me others may be interested in what I may eventually have to say.

As I enter Union – a place brimming with diversity of race, gender, religion, age, talent, and ability – I bring with me the experience I have with love, community, and support that I have found here, from you. 

This congregation – you together and individually – you have listened to me and watched me grow. You have nurtured and comforted me through some difficult times, providing not just emotional support, but rides, and meals, and help when I needed it.

When I came here in October of 2004, I was emotionally shattered, in need of spirit, connection, comfort, and community. And you provided – in spades. I never felt so welcomed in all my life; through the many congregations I’ve been part of, I never felt home before. I often find myself thinking of a song from The Wiz, which begins “when I think of home, I think of a place where there’s love overflowing.” This place – this group of people who love each other and work together and drive each other nuts– this place is home.

And yes, I feel a little like the bird being pushed out of the nest… or the teenager being shipped off to college. And I will be back many Sundays, but only as a congregant, sitting in the pews, maybe singing on occasion. And of course, my role here will change… I won’t be doing chores anymore, but I will be bringing home my dirty laundry and looking for a good hot meal. What I bring of you to Union is far greater than what I’ll bring home. And even at school, I will have some of you with me, as member Nan Asher has graciously allowed me to stay in her home in Queens, which helps me extend an already very tight budget. But most of all, what I bring is the knowledge that where there is room for growth, space for possibilities, a firm foundation of love and respect, anything IS possible.

And I want to thank you… in song.

A Time for Prayer and Meditation

 In Silence

In Music 

In Words  
A Blessing from Rev. Linda Hoddy

Closing Hymn

No. 6 Just as Long as I Have Breath

 

Extinguishing the Chalice

Postlude

In just over two weeks, I head down to the city to begin orientation at Union Theological Seminary. It’s been so far away for so long, it is surprising to realize how close it is now. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been resigning positions on boards, finishing terms on committees, closing up projects, generally putting my house in order so that once classes start, I can concentrate on work and studies.

A few weeks ago, I first identified a certain good melancholy – a bit sad to be no longer seeing these people on a weekly or monthly basis, but knowing I am leaving on good terms and heading for something more.

But the last week or so, I’ve been sad in an unsettling, unclear way.

Now I have tied some of the sadness to a particular fear I carry with me – an odd academic fear. I’ve always been good at school when I put my mind to it – I grasp things easily, see connections, know, and excel. But since the surgeries in 2007-08, I’ve noticed that my memory is compromised – it is a strikingly noticeable effect of the pain meds and thrice-in-one-year doses of general anesthesia. And I know, once I get into it, I’ll likely see my strengths come back and add more tricks to those I currently use to get by with a diminished short term memory.

But even with that nagging worry, and recognizing the loss associated with ending certain activities, I’ve been sad. It became sharpest last night, when Carl and I were talking. I was telling him about my day – the many good things that happened. Normally, I’d be smiling and triumphant in the good stuff (finishing a hard project, getting a new one, having a great experience with an author, etc.). But I was still terribly unsettled and weepy. When we hung up, I should have gone to sleep, but I was left wondering WHY the things that would normally signal a good day didn’t have the same effect.

And then I remembered the Edward Hays poem:

Don’t make friends with an elephant trainer unless you have room in your home for an elephant.– saying of the Sufis

O Blessed one, you whose voice calls me
to the sacred path of the pilgrim,
I wish to seek you with all my heart.

Yet I am often half-hearted in that desire
when I realize the cost of such a quest.

My life is rather comfortable and well-ordered
and fits me like an old shoe.

I fear the knowledge that if I romance you
I may lose what I hold dear.

Be compassionate with my hesitation
as I measure the cost of loving you.

I have read in the holy books
and know from the lives of the saints,
that you, my god, come as purifying fire
to burn away all that is not true.

I tremble at the thought
of you consuming those things that I love
and even my prized image of who I am.

Yet, I also want to know you more fully;
help me to embrace the awesome implications
of my inviting you to enter my life.

Enlarge my half-hearted love
with the ageless truth
that if I seek your kingdom first,
seek to be fully possessed by you,
everything I need shall be given me,
and happiness beyond my wildest dreams
shall be mine.

Come today, Creator of elephants and saints,
and be my friend.

And I realized that there is a lot more going on.

I realized that I’m not just giving up or changing parts of my life, nor am I intentionally making changes to my life. Rather, I am giving myself over to a change, giving myself over to the service of God. I am stepping into a role that carries a holy and sacred calling. I am saying Yes, I am willing to be different. I am allowing the reality of God to change my reality. Like a magnet being wrapped in copper coil and run through with electricity, my very polarity is changing. Like a length of iron being heated up and hammered into a sword, I am being strengthened. Like a piece of wood burning in a fire, my chemical makeup is altering.

And as hard as I have worked to change myself for the better, God is taking those things and changing me for good.

The change is indeed unsettling. And I don’t know if everyone who enters seminary goes through this – maybe others have always just known, or have had an easier time letting go of control, trusting God. I know it’s been hard for me to put my weight down on the “trusting God” thing; I’ve been angry with the Divine for many years, and I’m unsure of my footing.

And that in itself is a little sad.

But as unsettled as I feel… as sad and unsure… I know that even this is a good sad.

Last Monday evening, I had one of those odd days that ended in tearful,  lamentful, “I am a worm” prayers… long wails about how horrible I am, how no one could love me, how unworthy I am. but as the tears subsided, I was led to find the old Methodist hymnal I have kicking around here. I opened it to find this hymn:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Refrain

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.

Refrain

Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

Refrain

Now for me, this meant I needed to listen, maybe, more than lament. I needed to stop complaining and pleading, and simply contemplate. So I started listening.

Listening led me to realize I had to at the very least explain to my sister what’s going on. So on Tuesday, I told my sister I was considering a formal path to ministry. She was loving and supportive, and it led me to think that I needed to concentrate a day on this.

Wednesday, after assuring myself I had no definite deadlines to meet, no work I HAD to do, I spent the day considering the question of formal pursuit.

I read the websites of several seminaries. I made first steps to actually take a course – online, at Starr-King in Berkeley. I made an appointment to visit Union Theological in Manhattan.

And I prayed… rolling over and over in my head the words “I fear the knowledge that if I romance you / I may lose what I hold dear. Be compassionate with my hesitation / as I measure the cost of loving you.”

What is the cost? Losing my preconceived notions? Losing the beliefs I think I have? Losing love? I did determine that if I lose the man I love over this, he wasn’t the right man at all. I would miss him, but it gave me a bit of solace.


It’s now a week later. A session with my spiritual director leads me to understand that the other lesson in “Open Mine Eyes” may be that God’s pointing me to, at the very least, speak about my faith, speak and share the love I know to be at the heart of it all.

I talked with Carl about the choices before me, and determined that while the decision to go the path of formal ministry is mine alone, where/how/when is a question that involves the people most important to me.

I don’t know what the answer is. I am still searching. I am scared to death, about all I might lose. I am scared that if I don’t do this, I’ll regret it. I am scared on a practical level. And mostly, I am scared of what God might really be calling me to do.

So what I realize is that all of my prayers, laments, reading, understanding, and exploring has been incredibly selfish and self-centered. It’s all been about what I want, how I see my world, how God can help me. There has been pride – I know more, I think more, I am holier more. And I have been angry – because I have been sure that all that has happened is a reflection of how much God has marginalized, disliked, bullied me. I have seen God only “as I understand God”…no more, not really any bigger than I can comprehend, limited, segmented, pidgeonholed into the role of giver.

And that, I am coming to realize, is a bunch of bull.

There’s a verse of the poem by Edward Hays that reads

Enlarge my half-hearted love
with the ageless truth
that if I seek your kingdom first,
seek to be fully possessed by you,
everything I need shall be given me,
and happiness beyond my wildest dreams
shall be mine.

What does it mean to be fully possessed? What does it mean to love God – and more, to act like I love God?

Does it mean…maybe… that I need to GIVE? That I need to think of God not in terms of what I get, or where God fits, or how I understand God’s role in my life… but rather that I think of God in terms of what I can do as one of God’s children, how broader God is than my little mind can imagine, how God understands MY role in GOD’s universe? And that means… that I sing, and worship, and praise…and talk, and think, and read, and ponder, and love, and give, and work, and play… all as a way of thanking God for being able to do all those things, rather than doing them to GET something.

CS Lewis talks about how we see faith as a bargain – and I think that’s right. We do. But there is a moment…and I think I am there… when we realize that there is no question of earning anything. God is just waiting for us.

And of course, I can’t bargain with God… there is nothing that I am that God hasn’t given me.

Now it’s hard…given the battle scars, given the hurt and pain and tragedy. How can it be that God’s given me that too? And yet…if I stay angry, I am never going to truly understand how exceedingly large God – and God’s love – is.

Rambling thoughts…hard to put into place. I know that my words this afternoon are failing to properly express my thoughts. I also know that the lowerarchy isn’t happy… dark images of Mom’s death, feeling a failure at my job, the general heaviness…tells me I am doing something right. I am pissing off dark forces because I’m willing to consider not only how expansive God is, but how I might start to love God.

A theme in my prayers and laments of late has been about how/why/whether God loves me. I’ve spent years certain I was his favorite punching bag, of little consequence. How could it be that after all I’ve gone through, I should know that I am loved? Why would a deity who supposedly love me treat me this way? And… if I am being called to something greater, why? Is it because I’m a sucker? Because I’ve proven to be good at being used? If this is how god shows love, then we need to talk.

What I have NOT considered – until last night – is that part of the problem is that I don’t love God.

Carl and I have been reading CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity (and yes, there have been many parts at which I’ve been ready to hurl the book across the room with great force – a topic I’ll address at some point). Last night, we read his chapter on Charity, aka Christian love. He wrote…

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love beween human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God. About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? … Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, “if I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?” When you have found the answer, go and do it.

I had never considered, for one moment, this idea. I’ve been so busy waiting for God to love me, to show me God loves me, to prove God’s love through signs and hints and bounty and direction…. and it never once crossed my mind that my angry prayers and laments might not be enough. I’ve shown God plenty of frustration, anger, annoyance, even snarkiness. But I don’t know that I’ve shown God any love.

And I don’t know that I love God. I AM angry. I AM frustrated. I DO feel shat upon. I don’t mean to act the victim – that’s not my point. My point is this – I don’t know that I know HOW to act as if I loved God. I don’t have the answer yet.

But I’m willing to work on it.

A few days ago, feeling alone and without answers, I likened how I felt to being on Massachusetts Bay.

When I was a child, we spent our summers in Brewster on Cape Cod, and I have strong memories of walking out into the Bay at low tide – it was very flat, and it seemed that the sand went on for miles. Indeed, I suspect it did… we would walk for hours, digging for clams, feeling the moist sand under our feet, seeing the waves at some distance from us. Usually, we walked back in long before the tide itself came in (although there was one instance where that was in some question – apparently Mom was much more scared than she let on).

Anyway… Saturday night, feeling alone and unnoticed by God, I used this metaphor…that I was walking out into the bay, with the tide always going out, knowing God had been there because I could hear the roar of the waves and feel the moistness of the sand…but the further I walked, the further the tide rolled out. It was as though i could never catch it…and that the tide…God…would never come back to meet me even a little bit.

A lonely, exhausting, fruitless feeling.

The next morning, I went to church, feeling exhausted and a bit beaten up spiritually. I was slated to speak about stewardship during the service – why I give of my time, talent, and treasure. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but once I got there, and looked around at these people who had provided just what I needed, i realized that God was there – in their faces, in their hearts. I got weepy while I tlaked about giving of myself and getting bounty in return, for right there – in front of me, I was getting even as I gave.

Perhaps the lesson here is that the tide DOES always come in… the oceans and seas teach us of the constancy, the ebb and flow…. the tide will come in. It may take a while, and it may seem that the low tide lasts so much longer than it should… but the tide will roll in.

Now the second part of this tide is my conversation last night with my new spiritual director, Erik Wikstrom. We are meant to have a spiritual director as part of our Wellsprings program. I chose Erik from a list of local and not-local directors; we had originally tried to connect over a year ago, but it wasn’t right. Now, it was.

Erik listened patiently to my story – the spiritual journey, the seeking, the life events that brought me here, the tragedies and hardships, and the sense that I can no longer ignore the call to ministry.

He said three things that gave me pause…and which tell me the tide IS rolling in.

First, he said that I have already answered the call – I have been ministering to people for a long time, whether through pagan circles, or speaking at churches, offering the kinds of support and guidance I have offered informally through the years.  He suggested the question is not “is there a call to answer” but rather “what shape will it take now”… will it go toward formal ordination or something less formal?

The second point he made is that it’s not going to be this question that will likely dominate our conversations. Rather, it will be my anger toward God and learning how to better communicate with the Divine.

Thirdly, he heard my spiritual exhaustion. He agreed I needed to stop journeying and rest at the oasis for a while. He confirmed my feelings of needing to stop and listen. And I think he’s happy to sit next to me and help me hear.

So.. we will sit. We will listen to the still small voice…and watch the tide roll in.