Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How Can I Help?

We've been asked to say to ourselves, ". . . as a minister" as frequently as possible this year. This is to remind us that we are going to be going out into the world in just ten short months, into a world that will dump us in the figurative deep end without a qualm. When we walk out of the chapel after our ordination, we need to be prepared to serve, often and well, ". . . as a minister."

Part of our preparation for serving is to read through Ram Dass and Paul Gorman's How Can I Help? This is a book designed to introduce you to the ways of helping others in the world, everything from hospice care to helping people on the street, and all the myriad types of suffering in between.

In the third chapter, one of the shared stories states, "No one teaches us to face suffering in this society." That sentence has stuck in my brain. I keep thinking about it, and it's true. Certainly some of us have been caused to suffer during our childhood or young adulthood, but suffering is not the same as facing suffering. Dass talks about how we often don't even see the suffering around us; we look down or away when a beggar walks by, avoid visiting people in hospice and palliative care, and give painless donations at work to avoid having to really deal with anything personally.

Compare that to the work done by the grads of The New Seminary after 9/11. They simply went out and started helping. They stared suffering in the eye and didn't flinch. They held hands, offered prayer, consoled the dying, listened to the living. I'm morally certain that they were grieving, tired, hungry, lonely, needy, and afraid, and they didn't let it stop them. I'm sure that most of them used their own feelings of inadequacy (a natural thing in the face of such a huge disaster) to be human with those who needed them. That is what the seminary teaches. This is what I am learning.

Self-honesty is difficult. Standing for what you believe in is difficult. Seminary itself is difficult. Yet each of these things is necessary and brings a lasting joy to my life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Seminary Year Begins...

Img by moonmisery, my daughter.
Well, it's time to reflect. Autumn is a time of endings and beginnings, as all changes of season are. Many of my friends are celebrating Persephone's return to the Underworld. I tend to celebrate that more around Halloween, though I recognize that right now is definitely a time of closing, and shutting down. It's the time when we clean off the wood stoves and get them ready to keep us warm throughout the winter. It's the time when we first fire off the kitchen wood cook stove, revelling in its smoky scent and dry, delicious heat. On chill mornings when the frost has painted the windows, and the grass crunches under our feet, that little wood cook stove makes all the difference in the house. It cuts the cold like a knife, leaving behind a gentle, steady heat that envelops each person to come through the kitchen door.

September brings about the beginning of my seminary year. This Saturday I will be travelling to NYC for the day, to attend classes and meet up with old friends. This is my second year, and will lead to my graduation and ordination in The New Seminary. I'm looking forward to getting back to classes. The summer break was very much needed, but I'm ready now to go back to school, to finish up the learning that started last fall. I'm ready to pick up my books again, and I'm eager now that I have reading glasses and am not getting massive headaches while attempting to read.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weight Loss Goal

Well, today wasn't the greatest of days. I blew up at people in the house, accidentally spilled pepper into the pear compote that was being made on the burner beside my soup, and discovered I was missing a key ingredient from said soup at too late a moment to fix it. After I collapsed in my room for 20 minutes in tears, Gray helped me pull it back together and drove me to my Weight Watchers meeting. I went in, really dragging my feet, because despite being really good with tracking and exercise this week I just felt like I was going to be hugely disappointed.

Well, I wasn't disappointed. I lost 2.6 lbs, which is good... a bit more than average, and I need to keep an eye on that, but at least it was a loss. However, that 2.6 lbs brought me to my 5% goal. I now weigh 200.6 lbs, and this is the lowest weight I have had in 3 years. When I get below 195 lbs, it will be the lowest weight in six years.

I'm still down and emotional (though it appears so are most of my friends and family, so perhaps it is a seasonal or full moon thang), but I have my success for the night. I think this is a great night for me to take a fresh picked pear and make an offering to Aesclepius for my good health.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Big Tent Poetry Day

This week was another Wordle prompt over at Big Tent Poetry. The words in the prompt were: skirt child swarm dock debris evidence half-eaten chant embellish answer backbone temporary. The list kind of threw me for a loop. I had a lot of ideas percolating in my brain and I played with some of them before finally settling on a "prosem" that has nothing to do with my real life, but then again, bears striking resemblance.


Whitewashed Days

Her skirt hangs limply as she pegs laundry on the line,
A swarm of gnats flitting around her as her child plays at her feet.
The debris of her life flaps stiffly in the breeze,
Washed and bleached to perfection,
Evidence of nothing at all.
She continues to chant the answer given to neighbors:
“We're just fine, thank you, and my mother is well.”
She doesn't embellish the story, knowing that
They know it isn't true anyhow.
Her backbone sags, depression dragging her previously supple form
Into a question mark curve.
It's only temporary, she tells herself,
And the dock will re-hire him,
And he'll return to work and stop looking as
Half-eaten as his lunch left on the faded Formica table.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Transparency Time

Well, I thought it was time to add in my transparency information. I actually gained this week, but it's "that time" and it was a pound and I'm bloated, so perhaps it was good. We'll know if I have a largish loss next week that what I was measuring this week was water weight. Regardless, here are the stats, with starting numbers in (brackets):

Weight: 203.2 lbs (210)
Arms: 14" (same)
Hips: 49" (50")
Bust: 47.3" (48")
Waist: 45" (48.5")
Dress size: 18 (same)
Thighs: 24" (24.8")

So... I may not have lost weight, but there's definitely a loss of size there. The loss might even be more, as I measured the first time with a soft measuring tape while naked (ooooh... heh), and this time I measured with a steel measuring tape while dressed. So... I think I feel pretty good about it. I may not have lost pounds, but I lost inches, and in a lot of ways, that's more important.

A long time ago, someone told me that the scale lies a lot. There are so many things that can affect your weight, especially when weighing as often as I am (once a week). Things like water weight from bloating, before/after your bathroom routine, what clothing you're wearing, whether you showered, etc, all can add or subtract subtle amounts from your weight. At WW, we weigh in 2/10ths of a pound, so those changes are seen. Weighing with and without shoes could mean the difference between "maintaining" and "losing" for the week.

Inches are inches, though, regardless of how you look at it. I've lost inches at waist, hips, bust, and thighs. My jeans are swimming on me. My brand new yoga pants are pretty loose. The evidence is there. I have not fallen behind, nor have I given up. Success is still mine.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Questions to Consider

The questions I occasionally post, with my answers interspersed, come from a Christian confirmation book designed to help guide the confirmand in finding their faith and their center. I have been going through the book for a few reasons, but mostly because the questions are darn good ones, regardless of your religion or belief set. These are MY answers.

What are some of the times when you have been aware of God's presence with you?

I have had many times when I was aware of the presence of my gods. Some have been quite dramatic, and other times (most of the time) it's been fairly subtle. Generally, if I feel a need to reach out, or if I feel separated from the gods in some way, then I can settle and meditate, or make offerings of water or barley groats, or even just of myself offering thanks. When grief or pain comes over me, I often feel their presence, cradling me and holding me. This is much the same thing experienced by my Christian friends, and my other religious friends.

What experiences, events, or people have helped you to know of God's presence?

Well, I met Hecate as a small child (though I did not know that it was her until many years later). Dionysos I met as an adult. Hecate came of her own accord, but Dionysos found me through Neos Alexandria and Sannion and others, who helped me find direction and focus. The Christian god I met through my church and my sisterwife. There are others I sought out, or who sought me. I think I could summarize it by saying that gods find me and touch me mostly through other people, at least in the beginning. After time, the connection is formed directly, but when we start it's almost invariably through the other people in my life.

How have your family, friends, or members of the church helped you in your faith journey?

My family supports my faith journey wholeheartedly. They're supporting me financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually as I go through the seminary process at The New Seminary. My friends are counted in that number as well. The most surprising place that I've found support is in my church, though. Considering I'm an openly Hellenic polytheist going to a Christian church, they have embraced me and held me (and not proselytized, I might add). They have been confused, uneducated, and even uncomfortable with my path, but never has anyone denounced me or made me to feel unwanted or unloved. Quite the contrary. They have encouraged me to explore my own path and how it intersects peaceably with Christianity. They have invited me to preach, and listened and asked questions after. It's been an incredible and uplifting experience.

What qualities or traits might someone else see in you that show your faith?

There are a few physical things I do which stand out, like covering my hair when I am in the presence of the Olympic gods, or refusing to have bound hair at weddings and funerals and such. However, I think the thing which makes me stand out most is my habit of prayer. I may not say the same words, necessarily, as my Christian friends. Yet they see the faith in my words and my thoughts, and they see the devout belief when I bow my head in prayer. I feel the most connected to my gods (in general) during very deep meditative prayer.

What qualities or traits do you hope God will help you develop as your faith grows?

It is my hope that I will grow to be tolerant and understanding of all religious paths, and be able to minister to and help anyone who needs a helping hand. I hope that my patience will be nurtured into a flowering plant (it's rather sparse and weedy right now LOL). I also hope that my actual devotions become easier to do. Sometimes I find I get bogged down in all the day-to-day things, and I become spiritually lazy and unwilling to go out into the cold dark to worship alone.

Even though our faith journeys and experiences are unique, have you discovered ways your story connects to the story of others?

I have found myriad ways in which my spiritual path has run alongside other people's paths. I have a similar parental background as Pastor Alison had. I have the same "need for geek" that our new pastor, Rev. David, has. I connect with some of the older, more conservative members of the church in my politics and the application of my beliefs. There are so many ways that my spiritual life touches gently with others'!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weigh in and Poetry

Just a quick note on my weight this week. I lost 5 pounds! I was shocked and made her weight me in twice. I worked hard and I expended more calories than I took in. The proof is in the pudding (which I didn't eat, by the way). That part is getting better. The weight is moving in the right direction.

With that out of the way (weigh? heh), I bring you today's Big Tent Prompt: we were to rewrite some of our personal history. I've been going through a very heavy emotional time for the past few weeks, and this prompt made me shudder. I recoiled against it, but this morning I finally had the poem fall out of my head. It made a sort of soft, splatting sound when it hit the counter, so I decided to write it down quickly.

What If...

What if I had never met my guy?
What if our paths had never crossed,
And I had gone on living the way I was?
Where would I be today if I hadn’t left the
Abuse, the anger, the betrayal?
Would I have gained the strength to be
Who I am right now, right here?
Or would I have sunk beneath the pressure,
Relegated to an emotional black hole
That ate at me day after day until I simply
Ceased to exist?

What if I had never moved back home,
After leaving in disgust at all mother’s lies?
What if I had continued to live out there,
Welfare checks if necessary,
Until I found the inner strength to stand alone
And on my own?
Would I have reached the inner peace with mother,
This sense of harmony that gives me strength
To go on even when everything hurts my soul?

What if I had never had my daughter?
What if I had realized how her father was before
The commitment was made?
Would I have managed my life so differently
Without her tiny hands curling around mine
And making the world right?
Or would I instead of failed to learn about
Responsibility and parenthood and life,
And chosen to dance and play until winter arrived
And I starved in the cold?

What if doesn’t do much for me.
After all, I did.
No amount of “what if” statments
Will ever change the past.
I had my girl, and I love her.
I moved back home, and it led to love.
I met my guy, and we’ve been together a long time.
This is how it’s meant to be,
Pain and snot and tears all mixed in
With laughter and joy and babies that smell just right.

What if?
No.

Friday, September 3, 2010

More Poetry

It's Friday, so it must be the day to post up my poem that is a response to Monday's Big Tent prompt! This week's prompt was to find words from our everyday lives and incorporate them into a poem somehow. I was more aware of this week's prompt as I went about my daily duties. I thought about the things I do all the time, like laundry, cooking, reading, hugging children... All these things are important enough that they are daily happenings. I decided this was not what I wanted to write about. I needed something that was a little different, somehow special to my life.

Then, on a whim, I picked up fresh corn from the farmer up the road. I sat outside on the trailer's step, shucking it. I like to do it outside so I don't get silk and husks all over the house, and because then I can take that organic "trash" and feed it to my chickens right away. They love it when we have corn, because not only do they get the husks and silk, but they also get the cobs when we're done with them. Happy chickens!

Anyhow, I realized that corn was what I wanted to write about. Then I started thinking about how to write it. Most of my poetry isn't rhymed, but once in a while I get the urge to do something with a nice rhythm to it. This was one of those times. Someone pointed out to me that a ballad rhythm was nice to work with, and that you'd know it was "right" when you could sing the poem to the tune of Gilligan's Island. LOL! So that's what I did. Now see if you can read the poem without humming the tune... ;)


The Harvest at my Feet

If I close my eyes, I can still JUST feel
The stickiness of silk
Of papery husks that my fingers peel
From kernels filled with milk.

The scent of autumn fills my nose
And brings back memories
Of hay and heat and late bloom'd rose,
And fall's familiar peace.

The corn piled at my feet is fresh,
The husks now laid aside.
I can almost taste the saffron flesh
That farm fields do provide.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weight is Down!

Well, here's that transparency thing again. I have lost weight yet again, for which I am glad. I had a bad week last week, and it was a relief to see the numbers go down. So... I lost 2 lbs this week, which brings my total weight loss to 2.6 lbs. I know that doesn't seem like much, but when you realize that I've slowly been inching up over the past few years, that's actually not too bad. Sure, I wish the numbers were higher, but there's also a sustainability factor. I'm re-learning how to eat, not as a diet but as my lifestyle. I think the most difficult part is definitely portion size. I generally eat well, consuming lots of green veggies and whole grains. I have that part down pat. It's the "stopping after a single serving" part that really has me stumped.

My stats this week:
Height: 5'1"
Weight: 207.4 lbs
Dress size: 18
Hips: 50"
Thighs: 24.8"
Waist: 48.5"
Bust: 48"
Arms: 14" (at the bicep)

There. Time to get back to dieting.

More on Prayer

Join us in prayer. Together we can transform the world! | World Day of Prayer

September 9th (Thursday) is World Day of Prayer. I plan on taking time that day to say some special prayers. I hope others will join me in solidarity, in interfaith joy and companionship!

Prayer


I'm answering a long bunch of questions as part of a spiritual exercise I am doing. I decided to post some of my answers here, to share my point of view. Comments, as long as they're polite, are more than welcome!

If you were asked to explain prayer to someone, what would you say?

Prayer is talking to God, whereas meditation is listening for an answer. Prayer is that moment when we let go of our daily illusion that we're somehow in control, the moment when we admit that a Higher Power does lead us in some mysterious fashion. Prayer is speaking in your mind or out loud those inner thoughts which no other human person can safely hear, and knowing in your heart that it's okay.

What does prayer mean to you?

Prayer is the time when I sit alone and bare my soul to my gods. Even if someone is physically present (such as in bed at night, or in church or class) the act of prayer is essentially solitary for me. It is a pure and unadulterated moment when I can say anything, think anything, and be assured that somehow, somewhere, they are listening.

Can you recall a time when you or someone else you know prayed? What was that like?

I've prayed many times, both alone and in groups. I have visited people in hospital and in hospice and prayed with or for them. I am a part of the prayer chain at school, and I engage in healing and intercessory prayer with my church. When I hear of someone suffering or in pain, I will try and say a prayer for them. I find it uplifting, and when I make the time to do it right (uninterrupted and focused) I get a distinct sense of rightness, almost like a pat on the head.

Some people think praying is only for asking God for something. What other purposes are there for prayer?

Prayer is for talking to the gods, asking for help for yourself or for another, for bringing an action or thing to their attention. Prayer can include praise on its own, or may include thanks to one or more gods for things received.