Adoration Part Two

As I mentioned last week, Father Michael’s been putting out a monstrance for Adoration these last couple of weeks of Advent. My last experience was pretty emotional & very intense.

Tonight’s was also, but in a very different way.

This time I went having heard much less bad news, which didn’t mean I was necessarily having a good day. I had a weird day. But it wasn’t an awful day.

I went in a cheerful mood. I was happy to be ending my day in this manner, knowing that everyone else was busy with a vestry meeting, & I’d selfishly have Christ all to myself again.

I knelt for a bit, & in my head I sang the little chant Father Vladimir taught us:

Here’s my heart, Lord.

Here’s my heart, Lord.

Here’s my heart, Lord.

Speak what is true.

I did that for a good long while with a smile on my face, then just said “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And then I was quiet in my mind.

Here is where some of you will think I am crazy.

I perceived Mary sitting on the pew next to me. I knew she wasn’t actually there there, but she was there. She looked so young & yet spoke with such an aged, wise voice, in a slow, deliberate way, like English was her second language, but she was very good at it if she took her time. She glanced up at the monstrance subtly. “You can sit back,” she said gently. “You’re in pain.”

So I did.

She said, “I knelt by his cradle when he was a baby. And I fell to my knees when he died on that cross.” She said it so carefully and lovingly. I burst into tears.

She spent a good long time telling me some things that might not make any sense to you, but they made perfect sense to me. She said to love him as she loved him, because he is both her son and her God. She knew it was strange.

She said that he never didn’t love me, even when I denied him. You want to talk about a Jewish mother guilt trip. But she didn’t mean for me to feel bad. She just wanted me to know. I felt bad because I felt guilty.

And then Christ was there. I mean, he’s always there, but he was part of this conversation. “Hey, you were a child,” he said, & for some reason Mary sounds like she’s from Israel, but Jesus sounds like he’s from Yonkers. There is nothing I can do about that; he always sounds like a 30-something rabbi from Yonkers to me.

I was basically sobbing at this point. “You were a child & you were in so much pain.”

“He cried with you,” she said. “He cried for you.”

So basically I’ve completely lost it alone in this dark church & Jesus is walking me through some stuff I feel like crap about & he’s explaining where he was during all that & helping me love & understand difficult people. He’s also forgiving me for not getting things at the time.

He & Mary are also consoling me on some difficult people & things now. And telling me that no, it’s not fair but if anyone can handle it, I can.

But where I completely surrendered to the conversation & cried like a child was when he very plainly said to me, “I love you so much. Hey, I love you. You have no idea.” And Mary said it too & I just kind of crumpled on the kneeler & sobbed like a child.

Which of course is when Father walked in & had to lock up the church. But his timing was impeccable; if he’d come in a couple minutes earlier, I would’ve missed all that.

I’m not telling you this because it’s a special experience just for me. It’s a message for you, too. Jesus loves you. You have no idea how much. You can’t possibly comprehend it. I can’t.

Also I get the impression Mary feels a little sorry for men, because they have a hard time being vulnerable. And sometimes they are mean about it. That was really good mom advice. Jesus was basically like, “Ya know, she’s not wrong.”

So that’s the story of my near hour with Jesus & his mom. She thinks of the church as her daughter-in-law. Isn’t that sweet?

I am going to see if other parishes have weekly or daily adoration, because there is nothing like it & I want to go again. I don’t know if it’ll be the same as St. Nicholas — a dark, cold church lit only by a few candles with lingering Sunday scents I know & love — but I want to try.

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Adoration

No one has known more suffering than Christ. I know that now. I know it.

He suffered on the cross & he suffers now. Every time we wound one another, be it something as heinous as murder or simple as indifference, he aches with sorrow.

This hit me during adoration this evening. It hit me long enough to sob for an hour in front of a monstrance. It hit me long enough to sob in the car on the way home, though I did manage to hold it together long enough to buy my stupid sensitive skin soap.

Now that 87% of you think I’m crazy, let me explain what adoration is. Actually, let Brother Jim explain it. This is a lovely piece of writing Father had me email to everyone in the church (yes, someone has entrusted me with yet another database).

Father then announced at Mass this Sunday that during Advent, we’d have adoration on Tuesday evenings. I spent a blessed hour alone in the church, Christ all to myself, kneeling in the front pew.

It occurred to me after maybe 2 minutes of gazing at the Host that I would need tissues, which we apparently don’t have in the sanctuary. I wandered into the sacristy & snagged a couple. I came back, began to pray for Christ to speak to me, & was besieged with inconsolable sorrow.

Every hideous news story I’d read that day hit me with a furious sadness I was incapable of feeling while scrolling my FB feed. A 9-year-old girl who hung herself, a pregnant teenager stabbed to death by her boyfriend. Starving children. The homeless who visit our very parish hall 3 times a week. The unbearable fear & isolation & loneliness of these souls pierces Christ as surely as any spear.

There were visions of friends who are dead, one who killed herself & another who ODed. A friend’s niece who died stupidly, horribly, unnecessarily. My friend’s beautiful brother who recently passed. All walking strong & joyfully with Jesus now, but his own sorrow for them was so much.

I thought of a friend who is going through a tremendously painful, scary medical mystery, his lack of faith, & even pure hatred of God.

I spoke to him. “Is this you all the time? How do we end your suffering? What can I do to end all the suffering? You control the universe! How do we console you?”

I had the sense that all human rage & hatred is only suffering & pain, expressed in sin.

I didn’t get any answers today. All I knew is that after a little while, I stopped crying, & I looked at my watch. I had been there an hour. I figured Father probably wanted to lock up the church & go home. I got to blow out the candles surrounding the monstrance. That felt like a reward.

Sometime during this hour, I also thought of Mary, giving birth to this glorious child who was destined to suffer & die for us. That also made me sob. That never doesn’t make me sob.

On the way home, Garmana’s version of “Virga ac diadema” shuffled up. It was written by Hildegard von Bingen. These are the words in English:

O branch and diadem in royal purple clad,

who like a shield stand in your cloister strong.

You burst forth blooming but with buds quite different

than Adam’s progeny—th’ entire human race.

Hail, o hail! For from your womb came forth another life,

that had been stripped by Adam from his sons.

O bloom, you did not spring from dew

nor from the drops of rain,

nor has the windy air flown over you; but radiance divine

has brought you forth upon that noblest bough.

O branch, your blossoming God had foreseen

within the first day of his own creation.

And by his Word he made of you a golden matrix,

O Virgin, worthy of our praise.

O, how great in power is that side of man,

from which God brought the form of woman forth,

a mirror made

of all his ornament, and an embrace

of all his own creation.

The heavens’ symphony resounds, in wonder stands

all earth, O Mary, worthy of our praise,

for God has loved you more than all.

O cry and weep! How deep the woe!

What sorrow seeped with guilt

in womanhood because the serpent hissed his wicked plan!

That woman, whom God made to be the mother of the world,

had pricked her womb

with wounds of ignorance—the full inheritance of grief

she offered to her offspring.

But from your womb, O dawn, has come the sun anew;

the guilt of Eve he’s washed away

and through you offered humankind a blessing

even greater than the harm that Eve bestowed.

O Lady Savior, who has offered to the human race

a new and brighter light: together join the members of your Son

into the heavens’ harmony.

Like, seriously. That happened. Of course, I burst into tears again.

I don’t really know what to do with this information except to try super hard to never cause anyone sorrow, ever. I mean I already have a No Sorrow policy, & I try to make as many people happy as I can, & alleviate pain as often as possible. But it must not be enough.

I don’t know what to do.

The Distinct Advantage of a Crappy Childhood

I had an epiphany today talking to a good friend about what adults fear & how we learn those fears. I suppose the greatest adult fear, for single people (divorced or otherwise) is being hurt again.

There is nothing pleasant about an adult break up. Whether you were married five years or living together ten, enough of your life & identity are entwined with another person that the act of separating actually destroys some part of you. Even if it’s just a change of address & no assets or custody need to be split, you are not breaking up to be fancy free & joyful. You are rebuilding.

The house has crumbled (sometimes because both of you were crappy builders, sometimes because one of you took a wrecking ball to a load bearing wall, sometimes because you got the black mould), & it has to come down.

Some people immediately move into a tiny house or a mobile home. “Only room for me & my dog/cat in here! I’m good!” they say, meeting their friends for dinner out, but never inviting anyone in, never making room for another. “I like my space,” they say, in the tiniest space they could cram their broken heart into.

“I’ve already moved on!” says another, whose life becomes a veritable motel…many rooms, nothing permanent. Shameful breakfasts. Always with people but perpetually alone.

Then there’s me. I don’t know what I am. I have zero aversion to being in love again, I know what it is when I see it, & I have no desire to force it. I’ve always been like that. I could easily be hurt again & I know that. But I don’t care. The worst thing that will ever happen to me already has. I therefore willingly wait for & then allow what will come. It’s like being homeless & in no particular rush to find a home. Would I like a home? Of course! Do I want to get locked into a 30 year mortgage I can’t afford with someone who can’t love every key part of me? No. Not at all.

I guess you’d call me a renter.

And it’s not just me. One of the most fearless children I know is a foster kid. I won’t get into the details, but this little one’s life would make you burst into tears. And this child is the friendliest, most outgoing child on the planet, always making sure other kids feel welcome, always putting herself out there to make friends, never afraid of rejection despite her life’s experience.

The truth is, she’s probably horrified by the idea of rejection, but plows on anyhow.

Why?

Why not?

True, the consequences of childhood heartache are not the same as adult heartache. Divorce leaves financial & emotional scars children can’t conceive of. But children’s brains are actually shaped by trauma, & their lives are often directed by trauma for years, sometimes decades after. It’s not always pretty.

But somehow, those kids always try hardest to show love (unless they’re the ones that go super dark, which would be an entirely other post & unrelated to today’s conversation).

I then had a bit of a revelation that I shared with my friend. “I have an advantage I never realized.”

“You do? What’s that?”

“I’ve had longer to heal from my pain. People with idyllic childhoods & youths — they get hurt later & it’s raw for a long time.”

“Yeah, it’s true.”

“But people who were hurt as kids…we have a lot more time to work on it & learn what we need to learn from it.”

“I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”

“You know I’m going to forget this epiphany, right?”

“No, you won’t.”

“Eh, maybe not now that I’ve told you. I usually have these in the shower, then forget them. I’ve probably had this same epiphany 40 times already.”

And now I’m sharing it with all 8 of you that read this blog regularly. Some of you may even comment “Isn’t childhood trauma resilience more like numbing & flattened affect?”

Bitches, have you seen my affect? It ain’t flat. That shit is alive & in colour. It’ll take you to Flavortown, have you meet the mayor & buy you a souvenir foam rubber hand.

Flattened affect my arse. Get out of here with that jive.

But I have another advantage, one that will not make sense to all of you, & that’s okay. It is legit my relationship with Christ, my kvetching to Mary, my ongoing dialogue with God in a language that uses virtually no words & is as crystal clear as light.

Sometimes you can’t see light because it’s so…light, but every now & then — wow.

To live in concert with the Holy Spirit is to pretty much always default to joy, or if not joy, then contentment. I will not lie & tell you people that I am always bloody happy. I am not. I actually took a moment & prayed today for some relief from something, & you know what happened? I ended up carrying a rubbish bin full of water to a random stranger on the street not ten minutes later. WHAT WAS THAT EVEN ABOUT & HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

I don’t know, but the rest of the day was wonderful after that. Basically the Holy Spirit is weird.

And God has a sense of humour. “Oh, you’re feeling a little put out? Well, Sunshine, here’s a guy who needs a rubbish bin filled with water.”

Did I tell you about the time the Bishop of El Salvador needed a ride to a Dodger game? And back? So I couldn’t swear in a car in LA rush hour traffic for TWO HOURS?

The Holy Spirit, y’all.

Let’s just all agree right now, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, whatever — right now that there are Things and Machinations of incomprehensible beauty & the one thing we can agree on is that they will occur whether we think we are ready for them or not.

Our job is to respond with grace.

What is fear keeping you from enjoying? Who is anger stopping you from loving?

I also wrote this, which is specifically geared toward people who have Survived.

Blessed Are Those

There is no scripture that indicates Jesus said to anyone, “Girl, lead your best life. You deserve this. Get you some.” There’s not one scripture that even hints at the slightest possibility of that message, & yet here we all are, telling each other blessings are coming if you do you, boo.

This is, like, the opposite of Christ’s teaching. By every metric, the message of Christ is that we are actual living, breathing crap and we have to change. He loves us so much that even though he knew we were nothing more than animated monkey feces pulsating with selfish urges, he died for us in the hope that we may want to be something other than that.

I get the impression a lot of people think God is just like your dog. He sees you naked (& the weird stuff you do when you are naked) & doesn’t judge you at all. He just loves you, wagging his divine tail. But the dog is judging you constantly; he just can’t articulate it. God articulated his judgment quite well all throughout the Bible (“You wicked generation”, etc.). And still he sent Christ.

And is Christ. As well as the Holy Spirit. Gotta throw some trinitarian mysteries up in this.

Right about now is when you expect I will drop a loving, warm, and hopeful point on you. I’ll drop this instead.

Christ said blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who are persecuted for his name’s sake. “Blessed” is also interchangeable with the word “happy”.

Happy are the miserable!

Why?!

It’s very hard to put into words unless you’ve achieved this, so I will flounder & you’re gonna get bored. I’m just warning you. You may want to turn on some music or something.

There’s an old story (or proverb or whatever) describing the 3 major Chinese religions. Confucius, Buddha, & Lao Tsu are presented with a barrel of liquid. Confucius & Buddha dip their fingers in, taste it, & make sour puss faces.

Lao Tsu, the Father of Taoism, dips his finger in, tastes it, & smiles. The other two are annoyed at the sourness of the liquid. Lao Tsu is happy because he’s experiencing something. He gets to taste. He’s learned what the liquid is. He has information.

I guess for super weirdo crazy Christians, the kind y’all make fun of, suffering is an opportunity to be closer to Christ. It’s not like Garbage’s “Happy When it Rains.” It’s more like “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s more like the montage of Rocky dragging wagons of hay around or whatever (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it).

It’s training. It’s boot camp. It’s the tempering of steel. It sucks, but it’s the human experience of suffering making you into a badass for helping others. You’re training to be Christ’s hands. You’re getting ripped to be Christ on Earth. You’re bulking up his Church.

A person who has suffered much & learned from it has what seem like super human powers. They can forgive easily. They are patient. They are humble. Nobody understands them. Everyone thinks they’re crazy. A few also envy them, or begrudge their existence.

If someone whose child was murdered can forgive the murderer, what the hell does our beef with the idiot neighbour say about us? We don’t like people who are actually Christlike because they remind us how very not like Christ we are.

Christlike folk are loved & hated. They triage everyone. Strangers in pain will come before family that isn’t. Friends will wonder why they are still kind to That One Ex. You’ll notice that people try to see if they can make them angry. They’ll seem childlike and naive to world-weary cynics.

Jesus’ own friends doubted him constantly. The man walked on water in front of them, & they were all, like, “But, are you SURE?” No wonder he was always yelling at them. I feel like Jesus probably smacked Peter in the back of the head a few times.

This is because the disciples were humans laden with original sin, & therefore ambulatory sacks of crap. And he knew that. And he loved them.

If you were friends with Jesus, you’d be that person Facebook messaging him urgently, “Dude, that Peter is such a douche. DROP HIM. Stop talking to him. He hella denied you.”

And Jesus would either ignore you or type back “🤷🏽‍♂️❤️”.

And you’d message all your mutual friends, saying, “We need to stage an intervention for Jesus, y’all.”

Ambulatory sacks of crap. That’s us.

And completely worthy of salvation.

For more of this sort of thing, check out my book Christ, Not Crisis.

An Issue of Branding

I was recently offended that a girlfriend tagged a bunch of other cat ladies in a post about cats, but not me. Let me stop you right there — I know that’s stupid. If you read my stuff, you know how I handle offense. It never lasts.

I was just slightly hurt because I love cats & I thought everyone knew it, is all.

Anyhow, my ridiculous peculiarities aside, I said something to this friend, who then said “But cat lady isn’t your brand. Your brand is church lady.”

Usually when you say “church lady” to Americans, they think of the Dana Carvey skit on SNL, but I knew this wasn’t what she meant. She meant Church Lady, that chick that is literally always at church, & when she’s not at church, she’s trying to be the bride of Christ to errbody she meets & works with because that’s what He asked us to do.

And I was immediately okay with that. I just didn’t realize that was now “my brand”.

It makes me laugh, because I think we all have this image of ourselves (heck, of our work or business) that is sometimes wildly inaccurate. It can be wrong because we are narcissistic, or because we have too little self worth. We can also have an internal life we never share with anyone, so we are alarmed to find out that the external world has already branded us.

For example, you may be a wonderful professor, husband, dad, sister, writer, singer, machinist, rodeo clown, or nurse, but nobody knows because you’re a complete douche to people you don’t know (o hai, internets).

That my brand is “church lady” is okie doke by me. Apparently what I’m pumping out into the world is not my love of cats, or even that I’ve written some books (please buy my books), but that I love Jesus. A lot.

This doesn’t suck.

It’s also unexpected; I’m kind of a disaster person. I’m surprised my brand isn’t “try hard”, as in “try hard not to suck”. And I do try to do a lot of helpful things. Sometimes I do pretty well, but a lot of the time I muddle through, having virtually no consistent point of reference for whatever thing I’m trying. So far, nobody has died, so that’s working for me on some level.

Someone once told me having a cheerful & enthusiastic personality covers a multitude of sins. I think they were trying to be nice.

Anyhow, being known as a Church Lady means that somehow, my constant internal dialogue of “Why are you such a disaster person?” is making it out into the Mainstream far less than my love of Jesus. It could be argued that Jesus actually surrounded himself with disaster people.

Peter was ridiculous, once described (by an effervescent being of light I’m privileged to know) as an overly enthusiastic grad student. Martha felt put upon & Mary literally wept on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with oil WITH HER HAIR which, let’s be honest, are both things I would do.

I was also told that being both Martha & Mary is about as close as humans can get to being good Christians. So. Cooking, cleaning, & weeping. I’VE GOT THIS.

Tell me if you need prayer. Ask me if you’re confused about something. I think my priest is this close to forbidding me to answer anyone’s theological questions, but if you want an answer that is earnest but probably a disaster, we just won’t tell him.

If this is my brand, Imma revel in it. It’s a “market” I feel comfortable in, a label I’m perfectly happy to wear. CHURCH LADY by…well, not Calvin. No no. Not that.

good Lord I’m the worst

Everybody’s hugging!

First, I’d like to thank the five decent Philly fans out there who acknowledge that both teams played an amazing game. You’re the real MVPs. You are doing what Jesus would do, I’m pretty sure.

Now that that’s out of the way…

What a weekend. Three masses: one a funeral for someone I admired tremendously in the short few months I knew him before he was too sick to come to church, one a Latin mass with early Mozart chorale at my old haunt, St. Thomas. And, of course, Sunday mass at St. Nicholas, which was small and intimate today because #SuperBowlSunday.

Despite my team losing, it was a pretty phenomenal weekend, with tears & laughter & guacamole & cheesy dips & tremendous affection. I’ve been hugged by everyone and their mother. I was told, in a torrent of earnest & fervent love, that I should be a priest (I should not). I’ve stacked a lot of chairs. I’ve washed some wine glasses. I’ve read from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I’ve had a very good conversation or two with people I respect tremendously & for whom I have deep affection.

I don’t even know how to thank Jesus for all the really lovely things I heard & did this weekend. I hope my constant little random smiles are received as gratitude to him.

Even the cat was slightly pleasant.

Oh, a short funny thing before I go. I let the Fitbit wake me up, which means instead of an audio alarm that might disturb the others in my home, my wrist vibrates me awake.

Today that was perceived in my dream as me being sucked from work (I was dreaming about work) into the parish hall at St. Nicholas with my friend Janice yelling at me, “Hey! Hey! Hey, Kellie!”

I awoke laughing. That’s never a bad thing.

I’ve written some books if you like any of the stuff you read here.

What in the actual

I am trying to remember my dream from last night because I know it was Significant. I fell asleep in tearful prayer (apparently the glutening is still a thing, despite my slight improvement in symptoms), and I prayed to remember anything told me. But it seems I have been shown things instead (which happens).

I can’t remember the beginning at all, but eventually it seemed to unfold that I worked at a thrift store run by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. We were all of us encouraged to shop there, too, so we did. I think my Facebook friend Eric was my coworker somehow.

I had been looking through make-up (something I would never buy used) when a girl (maybe Meghan from Reno?) brought me an empire-waisted blue top with 3/4 lace cuffed sleeves. It seemed cute to me in the dream, so I tried it on. It didn’t quite fit over my clothes. She found another that was more of an Easter green & that was a little too big, but quite comfortable. Everybody thought it looked really good although I looked pregnant.

I had no time to take it off because Bishop Diane was visiting. She set her shoes (shearling-lined wooden clogs with a bit of a heel) aside & asked me to try them on in front of everybody. They were comfortable, but I felt like something was off. I touched the top of my head, which was sticky.

I went into a bathroom & there was dried dirt caked on my face (that I assumed came from the top I was wearing) & it looked like a bird had crapped fuchsia glitter slime onto the top of my head. I could see it & feel it, but nobody else noticed it. I was pointing it out to people, but nobody could see it.

Suddenly I was in a subway station and Jimmie was hovering over the far platform in the lotus position. “Everything I have said is as it is,” he intoned with a smile, which is interesting, because in the real world, he has been trying to help me understand something.

Then the “screen” of my mind went blank, and the cat flew in with an envelop & a wax stamp.

This cat.He stamped the envelop with an elaborate, pretty black seal & handed it to me, saying in a kitty voice “Here!” Then I distinctly heard Jesus say, “This is my official seal; these were your answers. Wake up.”

And I did.

The seal was a very wispy, delicate version of this, but in a circle with some leafy looking embellishments:

To say that I am confused is an understatement. I am also really tired. Jesus wanted me to only get 6 hours of sleep (well, Him & the cat).