Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Lenten discipline: wrestling with the sin of productivity.

It goes like this:
  1. build an entire identity and sense of self-worth based on what you can produce/accomplish;
  2. arrange to have a major organ shredded and sucked out through a straw;
  3. watch the fun as you try to figure out what "be-ing" looks like.
Call it the Blue Collar Curse, or imagine something deeper, hard-wired. Either way, it's hereditary. My parents were both do-ers. My brothers, too, gauge success and worth each by their own kind of productivity. It's projects for one, financial security for the other--the outcomes look totally different, but the compulsion is the same.

So I do too much. Then hurt for days. Then do it all over again. Even stranded on the couch "resting" and too tired to think, I've crocheted and cross-stitched more in three weeks than I have in the last ten years. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, my grandma used to say.

Did you know you can watch dust accumulate, day to day? Dishes pile up. Cat hair gathers like weather. A month ago, I was too busy to care very much. Now housework is the axis on which my world tilts and spins.

The recliner is both paradise and storm-swept island, rain forest and sagey desert.

Sometimes, I have no choice; I let the phone ring.

Being feels ethereal. At least Doing casts a shadow, implying substance. And it's that craving--to have substance--that has something to do with what happened in the Garden.

And yet, Jesus was both actor and experiencer. The gospel writers cite his acts--healings, signs, wonders--as proof of divinity. But Jesus said, "Tell no one . . ." The do-ing arose naturally from his be-ing. And vice versa. And oh, the God-shaped shadow!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top ten things I learned from my hysterectomy . . .

10. Vicodin is proof of a loving God.

9. Warm prune juice works eventually--and comprehensively.

8. Your friend will tell you that coconut (in macaroon form) works too--after the prune juice has kicked in.

7. Nothing in one's closet adequately camoflauges swelly belly.

6. When the only way you get a "vacation" is by having a major organ shredded and sucked out through a straw . . . maybe your life is out of balance.

5. Women have a higher pain tolerance than men, but men have a higher dirt tolerance; it's genetic.

4. When you have a ten-pound lifting restriction, you discover everything in your house weighs ten pounds.

3. Cats make better post-surgery companions than dogs.

2. A visit from a friend brings the best kind of healing.

1. Laugh--even when it hurts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

25 Things I Promise Never to Crochet

For fear that this newfound interest in crochet may be a symptom of perimenopause, I hereby give my friends permission to perform an intervention should they ever find a poodle toilet paper cozy in my bathroom. I depending on all of you to tell me the truth if my house ever begins to look like a church bazaar exploded.

As further insurance and in the spirit of Facebook, instead of 25 random things about me, I offer you 25 things I promise never to crochet . . .

I *heart* my broom


Or you could name your kid BeatMeUpAndStealMyLunchMoney . . .

Unable to afford a thyroid test,
Agnes tried to disguise her thinning hair.

Turkey Hat: Because everyone wants a turkey on her head . . .

They seemed so cute
until they elected a leader . . .

Without the navel ring,
I'm not sure this would work.

Kitty says: Me will wait until she's asleep,
then lay on her face until twitching stops.

Who doesn't love a mushroom in a jar?

The perfect outfit for meeting his parents:

Coke & Red Bull:
Because beer can hats are just tacky.

Granny Squares:
There's a time and a place . . .

. . . this is not it.

I know granny squares remind you of your Grandma--I get it. But it's just not right!

The Look-At-Me Dress:
When Bad Attention Is Better Than No Attention.

Funky is as funky does.

She'll need therapy anyway.
Might as well make sure she gets her money's worth.

Coulrophobia (fear of clowns): irrational fear or self-preservation?

Because snuggling with a real dead fox just isn't weird enough . . .

Presenting: A Clusterf*&$ of Cozies

Tampon Cozies: uterus with ovaries (left) & banana (right).

Gun Cozy

Motorcycle Cozy?

Infidelity Prevention System:

Wrong on so many levels . . .

Because after the last sweater you made him,
the dog finally ran away.

swelly belly & sleeping ovaries . . . who knew?

I'll be taking a hiatus from contemplating the diaconal ordination liturgy while I'm recovering from surgery. As some of you already know, I had a laparscopic supracervical hysterectomy last week. So I thought I'd offer an update.

It wasn't an easy decision. I was coping with my symptoms, but with ten years to go until menopause, the prospects for making it to my fifties without the bleeding becoming intolerable were slim. I could wait, but I'd still need major surgery to have my tubes tied so I could go off birth control pills. And if the fibroid tumors continued to grow, I might lose the option of a laproscopic procedure. Taking out just the fibroid would actually be riskier than a full hysterectomy and there was not guarantee that others wouldn't quickly take it's place. So . . .

I checked in at 6 a.m. last Wednesday, was home by noon with a lovely pain-killer cocktail on board. In the weeks leading up to the surgery I'd been teary and cranky a good part of the time--mostly from worry, I think, about whether I'd made the wrong decision--but as soon as the surgery was done I was calm, peaceful, relieved. No more bleeding, worry-free sex (well, the promise of it), and the freedom to ditch the birth control pills I've fretted about for the last five years since my mother died of breast cancer--done and done.

I'm not recovered, of course. I have "swelly belly." The four tiny incisions scattered on my torso don't reflect the healing that needs to happen inside, so I look pregnant--especially when I've been up and around too long. And after a several nights of waking up drenched in sweat, I did a little research on the internet and learned about "sleeping ovaries." Although mine were left alone, the disruption of the surgery can put them into a kind of shock. They should "wake up" and start pumping out hormones in a few weeks or so. It's also possible that going off of bc pills after 15 years has something to do with this. The pills could have been masking some perimenopausal symptoms, and it's going to take a month or so for my normal hormonal rhythm to reassert itself. Luckily, the only emotional expression of this hormonal hula has been a brief moment of rage when hot grease popped and burned me while I was fixing dinner last night--exacerbated by the fact that I really shouldn't have been up fixing dinner, no doubt.

But here's the kicker. I really expected to feel miserable after this surgery--what with losing my girly parts and all. Before the surgery, I speculated to a friend that this would be a Lenten experience full of digging around on the dark side, threshing out issues of identity, femininity, and OMG I'm OLD! Instead, I feel liberated. Probably some of that pre-operative weepiness helped me process any sense of loss connected with this. And now, the positive effects of being forced to slow down and rest are having an interesting effect.

It started before the surgery, actually, this urge to do creative things. For many months, I've been in a receptive mode, mostly intellectual--learning my new job at the college and doing formation for the diaconate. Normally a voracious reader and learner, I realize now that so much learning has been overwhelming me. Too much information, not enough time to digest it. That's the input side. On the output side, most of my activities have involved pushing paper (at the college), doing missional activities (Holy Trinity), and engaging in intense relational work (Holy Trinity). None of these "outputs"--as Spirit-filled as some of them are--create a tangible finished product . . . which may explain why being forced into days in the recliner--deprived of my usual routine, social contacts, and busyness--I'm giving in to strange cravings:
  • I dropped an impossibly boring online class in the Old Testament in favor of a couple of trashy novels--mind-candy thrillers that have no redeeming intellectual or spiritual value.

  • I'm dreaming about my own garden, not the church's.

  • I'm rediscovering "worthless" activities: an old cross-stitch project, skimming magazines, crochet. (Because I'm slightly concerned that my renewed interest in crochet may, in fact, be an unmasked symptom of perimenopause, I'll be writing another blog entry--Things I Promise Never to Crochet--as a sort of insurance policy against the possibility of becoming a bonafide church lady.)

  • I want to make things--with my own two hands.

Perhaps a psychotherapist would interpret this as a combination of regression (avoiding responsiblity in favor of fun) and womb-grief (needing to create things since I can no longer create a person). And maybe they'd be right. But it feels more like someone hit the reset button. And the new message goes something like: Slow down. Relax. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Redeeming Evangelism

You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship.

For my non-Episcopal friends: this quote from the examination of diaconal candidates is as close as most Episcopalians come to uttering the e-word, evangelism. If you'll pardon the pun, the idea of evangelism scares the hell out of us. Which, of course, is exactly the goal of those who love us with signs like this one:

I'm organizing a coup to take back the word evangelism from those (mostly old-school) folks who perform it with equal doses of carrot and stick. "Jesus loves you, but if you don't love Him back . . ." What? He's going to make sure I never love anyone else? Candy-coated threats make Jesus sound like a stalker.

Equally troubling, on the other end of the seesaw: magic Jesus. "If you accept Jesus into your heart, you'll spend the rest of your life riding horses on the beach in soft focus." Once a young drug addict came into our church drawn there by the early morning organ music--like a line from the song Sunday Morning Coming Down. I prayed with her, sat with her in the front pew through as much of the service as she could handle before her withdrawal got too bad. She'd been out of jail for 24 hours and had already gotten high again. "I don't understand!" she despaired. "When I was in jail, I prayed the sinner's prayer like they told me. Everything was supposed to be different." Pure cruelty, if you ask me.

So how do we show someone redemptive without forgetting about the love part? What would that look like? Redeem comes from the Latin redimere--to buy. And most of the definitions of the word convey the sense of re-purchasing: buying back something that was once owned. I think this has something to do with the restoration of relationship--with people, with God. But human relationship is too often cemented by fear. We've all known people who don't have friends; they take hostages. And relationship through threat is the primary tool of the abusive spouse. God's version of relationship is different--cemented by the love of the Creator for the created. It's that relationship that we're trying to get back to.

I like how Huston Smith puts it in his book Why Religion Matters: "All human beings have a God-shaped vacuum built into their hearts. Since nature abhors a vacuum, people keep trying to fill the one inside them. Searching for an image of the divine that will fit, they paw over various options as if they were pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, matching them successively to the gaping hole at the puzzle's center."

As an evangelist, what shape of God am I'm offering, what kind of puzzle piece do I proclaim in word and (more) in deed: loving? vengeful? manipulative? compassionate? simplistic? partisan? judgmental? forgiving? . . .

Please, God, let me live into a shape that's You.