Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Everyone's life changes.  Mine is no exception.

When I started this blog in 2006, blogging was relatively new, and I was relatively new to the Episcopal Church.  I had many questions and few answers that gave me comfort.  This blog became a wonderful spiritual gift to me--opening me up to many avenues within the Episcopal Church, particularly any of us who had any affiliation to what I lovingly call "God's Rainbow Tribe."  We were all loud, proud--and a little bit cloaked.

The big uncloaking came in 2008, when we all found each other on Facebook and, later, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat--and there will be more.

When I started this blog, I had this notion that I would simply live out my days as the beloved pathology professor and local hospital pathologist, on my 35 acres of heaven in rural northeast Missouri.

God has a funny way of messing with plans like that.

It is now late September 2015, I no longer teach medical school pathology, I only work as a hospital pathologist two days a week, and I am in the process  towards Holy Orders.  I am the same person showcased in this blog, and I'm not the same person showcased in this blog.  But the reality is, it's time to pull up my tent stakes and move to a new blogging adventure.

As many of us do when we aren't sure where we're going, we find temporary digs.  For now, for at least 30 weeks, my new blogging home is here, and please visit when you can.  I'll probably create a more permanent blog after that, and I'll definitely leave a trail of bread crumbs from there.

Thank you for sharing a piece of my world with me.

"Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine:  Glory to him from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.  Amen."

(BBC Proms rendition of Jerusalem)

They're not the Four Questions of Passover, but I believe, that, in an odd way, the Glastonbury Legend and the four questions in the hymn "Jerusalem" are matters important to our faith, even if they are not matters essential to it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Glastonbury Legend...well, actually there are two arms of it, but it starts with the legend that Joseph of Arimathea, a tin merchant, traveled to England with the young Jesus.  The legend was around since at least the 13th century, coupled with the idea that later, Joseph also brought back a chalice containing Christ's blood (aka the Holy Grail) to Glastonbury.  The idea that Jesus had actually set foot in England was immortalized in William Blake's poem in 1808, and set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.

It's at this point the story gets a bit of a checkered past.  The reason for setting it to music was pretty much...well...nationalistic.  Originally to be a part of Britain's "Fight for Right" movement, and written at the time the British occupation of Palestine commenced during WWI, Parry pulled it from anything having to do with the Fight for Right movement, quickly became one of Britain's most beloved songs, even elevated to the status of a hymn in the Church of England.  (This carries another delicious irony--Blake was a Nonconformist and formally rejected the Church of England.)

Yet for modern-day Britons, "Jerusalem" is the equivalent of an alternative national anthem, crossing religious boundaries (note the woman wearing a hijab under her ball cap, at about 2:05 in the video above.)  It's sung at rugby matches...

...even when the participants are in the British commonwealth but not from England...

...and, of course, at Royal Weddings.

Back to "Jerusalem" and those four questions, though.  Blake lines them out in the first stanza of his poem:

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

(keep in mind punctuation rules in 1808 weren't quite what they are today.)

Although we don't carry the words over into the U.S., we do carry the melody over into #597 of the Hymnal 1982 in the Episcopal Church, as "O day of peace, that dimly shines."  Even in the alternative words we present a reflection of the Glastonbury Legend.  

It is in those questions, I believe, that something fundamental to our faith, even in America, matters as a part of our Anglican heritage.

The first question speaks to our belief in the immanence of Christ--that notion that Christ is always present and with us, somehow, somewhere.  The second question raises the possibility that all that we are, and all that we have, is sufficient to offer before God.  After all, if there was even the remote possibility that the temporal Jesus was present in places beyond the scope of what we know in the Bible, the possibility that Jesus' divinity resides alongside us and within us doesn't sound so goofy, does it?

In the third question, we are reminded that behind the clouds and storms of life, God is still present, shining behind and through them--and in the final question we are urged to be a part of the New Jerusalem.  There's some debate among scholars whether the "dark Satanic Mills" refer to the Industrial Revolution, the Church of England (Remember, Blake was a Nonconformist), or to something more abstract.  All that aside, the fourth question lays the foundation that it is part of our journey with Christ to challenge the unjust structures of society, in the hope of the New Jerusalem.

Legends matter.  The truths within them matter even more, and have little to do with the accuracy of the facts.  It means the New Jerusalem can arise from Ferguson, or Charleston, or Chattanooga, or Lafayette, if we are willing to believe, and respond to God's call in each of us to see our own green and pleasant land.

(Read how these photos of lightning bugs in a Kansas hay field were taken here.)

I tried and tried last night to take a picture of what I was seeing last night outside, but my cell phone camera wouldn't come through for me.  So I posted this 2009 National Geographic picture to give you an idea.

As I looked out across my hay field, I could see the faint glow of hundreds and hundreds of lightning bugs hovering just above the surface of the grass--a very interesting sight in light of the fact it was the eve of Pentecost.  It got me to reflecting on how we've heard the Pentecost story in Acts so many times, and I think we've come to expect that receiving the Holy Spirit is supposed to be some huge gonzo-dramatic rush of wind and hubbub, yet maybe the reality is, that it's more like hundreds of lightning bugs in the dark.

This has been an interesting time in my life.  (You might have heard there's an old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times.")  Being a part time seminary student and the letting go process of parts of my work life, have, on good days, been a little messy, and on bad days, anxiety provoking.  What's interesting is that other people--including people who have nothing to do with the Church--keep referring to it in conversation as "your transition" and "transitioning."  I come away from those conversations with this surreal feeling--they are literally referring to me in the 2nd and 3rd person in the same terminology as when a person switches gender.  Then I think to myself, "Well, maybe it IS a little like what people feel like when they switch gender."  I find myself passionate about new things, and less passionate about things that used to matter a lot.  Granted, it's not hormones,  but it is very, very visceral.

Yet perhaps this is how the Holy Spirit works within each of us--a lightning bug shining in fits and spurts, hovering over a dark field.  When daylight comes, the lights are too small to notice.  Perhaps it's only in the dark they can be discerned.

Pentecost blessings!

(Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, from OrthodoxWiki.)

I have to admit, I've usually been more in Martha's camp in that whole "Mary/Martha/Jesus" story.  There is always a lot to do in my life.  Always.

I'll also add that for those of us hardwired with a little more "can do" nature, Mary of Bethany, at times, has been held over our heads like the Sword of Damocles.  Mary, of course, is the "good" girl, sitting quietly at Jesus' feet.  Martha is the "bad" girl--how dare she have her undies in a twist because she wants to get some things done around the place so the guests can eat and be comfortable!  Why, the nerve of it!  Mary is "good" for embodying the things society has come to deem positive feminine qualities.  Martha, on the other hand, comes off as bossy, scolding, and shrewish.  For so many years, the only thing I ever heard from the pulpit or Sunday School was that the qualities of which I possessed the minority were more prized than the qualities I knew I had, and that the ones I had were the "bad" ones in the story.

In short, "You should be more like Mary and less like Martha," sounded a lot like, "If you were being truly a Christian woman, you'd be like Mary--not who you are."

So I had to chortle a little at a piece from Elizabeth Esther's blog, at her discoveries regarding the legend of Martha slaying a dragon, as well as the fact the Roman Catholic church has a feast day for Martha of Bethany, but not Mary of Bethany.

Well, it's worth pointing out that in the Episcopal Church, we celebrate all three on July 29--Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus.  One of the things I love about Anglicanism is we often try to be more both/and, rather than either/or.  Living in the tension of both/and, and believing in a God who can handle both/and, is a thread that underpins so much in our brand of faith.

The reality is, now and then, no matter which of the three we seem to be hardwired to be, there are times that Marthas like me DO need to slow down, sit, and listen.  There was even a time I had to be Lazarus for a while--in those days after my breast cancer surgery and during my radiation therapy--when "being dead"--both to myself and to the world--was a very important piece of my healing.   Yet, we should never feel guilty for being what we are hardwired to be.  I think this particular story is difficult for strong willed women, for the women who get things done, and for women who don't quite fit the mold of traditional femininity.

Really, I'm grateful that other people are hardwired to be the Marys and the Lazaruses of the world, because I sure couldn't do it.  I'm glad to work with them to advance God's reign, and to learn about the times I need to emulate them--just don't ask me to be them.

(Photo of kitchen courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Week one is pretty much in the books.  I was "within my Lenten food budget" but I also didn't run out of anything important.

I did, however, have a really big realization.  In short, I have "more kitchen" than most people.

I have a 4 burner full size gas cookstove with a broiler.
I have a microwave that does more than "poke and nuke."
I have a full-size deep freeze which enabled me to buy meat in bulk and the amount I'm counting off for a daily meat ration is cheaper than if I had to buy meat at the store.
I have gizmos--crock pots, blenders, etc.
I have a dishwasher that enables me to not have to wash a single dish after I've made a culinary mess, so I don't think about the extra time and energy to wash dishes or leave things sitting long enough to attract bugs.
I have a fridge big enough to store leftovers.

I'm certain the average person who has to live on this food budget wishes their family could have any of these things.  I'm betting the average person who has to live on this food budget puts in more hours at difficult, manual, or mentally tedious labor, and coming home to cook and clean dishes does not find this "fun."

I'm remembering cooking wasn't "fun" for me when I had very little income.  Back when my days consisted of being in class (or on the hospital floors) for hours on end, nights on call, etc., cooking was something that kept me from more important things, like studying, vegging out in front of the TV, or sleeping.  Cooking was only fun when I had a little free time, and friends to share it with, play cards, yard games, etc.  Cooking only became "fun" for me when I got a little income and could experiment.

When I was in Lui, South Sudan, cooking was more communal.  The kitchen crew who fed us worked plenty, but they worked together, shared stories and time.  In the US, we all go home to our insular little worlds, and it's pretty easy to see cooking as thankless, boring, and hindering us from spending our time on more meaningful things.  The temptation is to do as little as one can to do what one has to do and be done with it.  Cooking is messy, and if one doesn't want bugs, mice, rats, roaches, etc., cleaning is a must.

Wow.  It's not just about the food.  It's about quality of life, of which food is just a tiny part.

(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

...and I've already had to make some choices about where I purchase food.

For starters, I decided to fast on Ash Wednesday up to the time of our evening service at 7 p.m.  "Ah, though, I probably need a pint of milk, a little juice, and a couple of protein drinks..." I thought to myself.

Now, normally I'd run into the Casey's on Osteopathy Street to do that, since it's on my usual route to work.  However, those items would each be anywhere up to 80 or 90 cents cheaper at the Hy-Vee.  I have to make my food money last till next Wednesday (when I put another $86 in there and start with a new week.  As it was, the things I got at the store came to $10.55.

I realized that, at this stage of my life, I pretty much buy whatever grocery item I want, wherever that's handiest to purchase.  Yet doing this as my Lenten discipline has reminded me it wasn't always that way, and this is the way it is for many people EVERY day.

I also realized a staple in my life at Lent is going over to Mary Immaculate's fish fry on Fridays in Lent, right after we've done Stations of the Cross at Trinity.  That's $7.50 right there.  I realized that will be my "splurge" for the week during this project.

I am remembering.  Remembering the days when every penny for food needed to be accounted for.  Remembering that part of how we got by in the winter, when my dad was laid off, was because he hunted, and because we'd occasionally get a calf or a pig to raise up and butcher.  Remembering we'd buy the "pieces and ends" of the bacon instead of the strips...things like that.  Remembering there were a few days that biscuits and gravy were the main course.

How did I forget so much?

I just posted this to my Facebook page today:

As Lent approaches, some of y'all have asked what I plan to do for my Lenten spiritual discipline. This year, b/c I've been so involved in food ministries, I decided to make it about food awareness. I went to the Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Calculator to determine what the bare minimum food budget was for my household (Ok, so I'm claiming "one person and two dogs" is close enough to "one person and one child" b/c that's the lowest it goes.)

That comes to $86 a week in my area of the country. My plan is for the dogs and me to live during Lent on a food budget of $86 a week. To prevent my urge to "hoard," I'm going to subtract the food in my cabinets from the budget if I use something I already have. I'm also participating in Jane Redmont's online Lenten course, which is also about "food." I've calculated my normal monthly grocery bills on my credit card, and will donate the difference to food ministries.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm telling you, my Facebook folks, as another layer of "keeping me honest." I hope everyone who observes Lent has a blessed one!

I hope to keep you all appraised of this journey via my blog:  My thoughts, musings, (and perhaps even hunger pains!)  May each of you, in your own way, observe a blessed Lenten season.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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