Friday, October 27, 2006

Pictures from Laity Lodge

Well, I finally got around to scanning some of my photos from my weekend retreat at Laity Lodge.

The picture above is of the limestone river road which you have to follow to get up to Laity Lodge itself.

This next picture was taken from the river - the building is where we shared meals, prayer, and conversation.

The this picture is another river view perspective. The next picture was taken from my hike up to the gazebo.

I hope the pictures, at least somewhat, convey the beauty and serenity of the place. To the "thin places".

Friday, October 20, 2006

Laity Lodge

So how did Laity Lodge go...

Well, Laity Lodge is between Kerrville and Leakey and the drive out there was absolutely goregoues and peaceful once I put alittle distance between me and San Antonio traffic. The drive into the canyon itself is alittle nerve-racking going around blind narrow curves and then the "plunge" (well, ok big dip) into the Frio river which the Lodge uses as part of the road leading to the lodge. I'll post the picture I took of a car driving on the limestone river road. Then you drive your car back up a bit and there you are at the lodge.

I ended up getting there an hour early and decided to go exploring and I really wanted a picture of car driving in the river without having to wait forever, and wouldn't you know it - as soon as I got to the bottom there was a car coming my way. Then I trudged back up and through the trees taking mini shortcuts back to the Lodge. My next excusrion that day was up to the gazebo (2,200 ft) about 1.4 miles in. It was so quiet and calm, inhale calm exhale stress.

Throughout the weekend at specific times those who wanted to could hear Mary Earle speak about Celtic Traditions. She was a really good speaker - the amount of information she had at the ready and she was able to convey to us so that everyone could follow her thoughts was a joy to see and hear.

I also participated in the art class about making mandalas, I enjoyed making mine and I want to make one with my kids (well, we each make our own). I may post a picture of it, but that will be another long while since I don't have a digital camera and just started a brand new roll of film. Anyways...

There was no TV, no radios, cell phones don't work out there (I tried), one working in-out phone, just me, my feet, my ears, and my books, which I brought way too many of but I did get temporarily caught up in my lectionary reading Saturday morning or so I thought. I woke up at 5am about my usual wake-up time and my roomie was already out the door, so I read and learned later that Ecclus. is not Ecclesiastes but Sirach. So I was once again behind.

Over a log fire outside (it doesn't have to get too cold in Texas to start a fire) I got closer to a couple from my church who are just fabulously centered people and had an interesting though short conversation about when I was "in the zone with" God and about getting back into that zone with Rev. Woody.

I did enjoy myself but I did really, really miss my wife. So when asked how I liked Laity Lodge my answer was "bitter-sweet."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Coming Out Day

I thought I should share this from the HRC:
"In honor of National Coming Out Day — Wednesday, Oct. 11 — the Human Rights Campaign is releasing a first-of-its-kind Straight Guide to GLBT Americans. Download this resource and find out more about how everyone — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight alike — can help in the struggle for equality."

To Equality, Respect, and Safety for Everyone.

Upcoming Events and Other Randomness

I'm very excited about going on a weekend retreat at Laity Lodge. This will be my first time there and the first time I've gone on a retreat in nearly 20 years. I plan on bringing my camera, so if I can figure out how to post pictures, and the pictures turn out well, I'll post the "best" one or two.

A friend of mine and I were planning on going to see Margaret Atwood October 30th - I got hooked on Margaret Atwood when I saw the Handmaiden Tale and through her poetry. So I was very bummed when I had to cancel because my Community of Hope group switched training days to accomadate those of us with children who wanted to participate in Halloween with them (They are so excited about their costumes and their accessories).

Back to pictures...I really need to get on the ball again. I enrolled in the NYIP, self study photography course. The material is really well presented and I've enjoyed the course thus far, BUT, I haven't made space for this in my life, I sort of crowded it out with prayer. I tend to jump into things and immerse myself, leaving lots of things stranded on the shore so to speak. Balance, balance, balance - a very beautiful word that I haven't quite grasped it's meaning of yet :-) Not to toot my own horn but I'm not half bad at it, and it's something I really do enjoy; so I'm hoping the weather cooperates this weekend so I can get some nice nature shots. I tend to shoot more in black and white or well Kodak's faux black and white (because any photo place can develope it and the all around expense is much cheaper). Back in the day I developed my own stuff, and I like the tactileness of developing my own images, but I'd like to go digital and would but the expense of a digital SLR camera is holding me back.

Anyways, here's to hoping the 10-day forcast of rain, rain, and more rain is wrong for at least one day this weekend.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Finding a Church or How Church Finds You (Part II)

There's a magic that happens when you find the right church - it's that feeling of having returned home after a long time away. And what is it that makes a church feel like home for one person but like trying to get a child to wear scratchy polyester to another.

Maybe it has to do with how we hear the Words of God being spoken and used in and to the congregation. And how the people treat you upon visiting says alot about how the people are living their faith too I think. I'm not saying a church has to go all extravert on ya, and everybody is different and being able to judge how a person would like to be welcomed is just as important as the actual welcome.

And I guess another piece to the puzzle is what am I looking for when I step into God's house. What luggage did I come with and hope to leave at the door, and can I recognize people in the pews who can also recognize my journey as one similiar to theirs. Am I amgonst kindred spirits?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Random Thoughts on the Ordinary

I don’t think I’ve ever thought much about ordinary and God in the same sentence until recently. Until I rejoined a church and “got serious” about God again, I hadn’t spent much time questioning my beliefs about God, because (1) I didn’t talk about Him much with anyone and (2) my core belief set was pretty basic: God exists, follow the Golden Rule, follow the 10 commandments. But now, my faith is changing and in many ways maturing.

For me, looking for the divine in the ordinary brings Him closer, as opposed to an impersonal being. Looking for the divine in my ordinary life makes God and keeps God personal for me. God had gotten very compartmentalized in my life, He was this thing I did, now its what I try to live. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I hope it does. I keep thinking The Way. Everytime I see The Way in the bible my first thought is - that's so Zen :-) and then I smile and move on.

Why is it easy to see God in nature, but not in ourselves? Why is it easy to see God in children, but not in ourselves? We are all part of nature, and we were all once children. When does life shift focus, become this thing that once possessed endless possibilities but now we find reasons why the possibilities can't be. Maybe that's part of the answer - reason and logic. Faith and God are more about imagination and trust. Both of which become quite battered as we age, and unless we nuture this side of ourselves I think maybe life becomes harder, less grandeur, maybe in some ways lonier.

Seeing the Divine in Ordinary Life: Finding a Church or How a Church Finds You (Part I)

Seeing the divine in "ordinary life" is a pretty new concept for me, maybe its always been there and it just got buried under the weight of the version of Catholicism I grew up with. I grew up being taught that God was a punishing God and the only way to not go to hell was to do exactly what God said to do and to do exactly what the Roman Catholic Church tells you to do.

Well, long story short, by the time I was 16 I was through with the Catholic Church. I couldn't be a priest, I couldn't be a deacon, I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't was all I was hearing, and on top of all that if I even thought about any of it off to hell I'd go. The positive side to letting go of Catholicism was that this opened me up to other religions (I was actually taught at my Catholic Elem/Middle School not to talk to the Lutherans because they were "bad" because they didn't believe Mary was a virgin).

I explored Buddhism, New Agism, the Koran, Confusius-ism, and I started to see where some of the commonality lay between all these religions. And for a long time this was enough - the exploring, but never staying, because in the end, these faiths didn't feel like home. I have incorporated many Buddhisms in my life, and a few New Agisms, but the rest, well, all I can say is that intellectually I could follow, but spiritually I just couldn't embrace the ideas.

I had tried over the years to go back to the Catholic Church, but well, Catholic Churches (at least in my experiences) don't embrace strangers let alone acknowledge you. So that same old anger would return, plus I still hadn't forgiven the Catholic Church for how it treats women. And then, a friend of mine invited me to her Methodist Church: tons of people said hello, hope you come back, they had women priests, were gay friendly, and wow was I amazed. But, yes the but, something was still missing but I didn't know what. More time passed and my ex-girlfriend told me about her co-worker's church...and when I walked onto that Church campus it was magical and then I met the people and the magic was still there. I was home. But like all rebellious children it would take a few more years to finally come home for good.

When we decided it was time to take the children to church (well, our son had a big part in this) I knew where we were going - no questions asked - that church was it - all or nothing, and the whole drive there I kept praying that it hadn't changed, please let it still fell like home. And it did, this amazing church is The Church of Reconciliation. I didn't know anything about Episcopalians, or were they Anglicans, or were these words interchangeable? I only knew that the service felt and sounded like - Catholicism, but it was somehow very different, like they only kept the good parts. I've been an Episcopalian ever since. I'm still learning what that means exactly. And I'm still learning what it means to practice one's faith in a community after so long on my own. And I'm re-remembering what it means to be a child of God.

St. Francis Day at My Church

Yesterday we rounded up both dogs, a Shih Tzu-Poodle mix (Diego) and a Boxer (Dora). We thought about bringing the cat (Darth Vadar), but decided that two children and two dogs was plenty to handle without having to lug the cat around in a carrying case and who happens to really hate car rides (and is pretty vocal about his dislike).

Everyone there was really impressed by how well the dogs got along; There were two cats, one rabbit, and one guinea pig, the rest where dogs. Maybe they sensed something special was happening just for the animals. The service was just right in length for our canine friends, and afterwards all the animals received a blessing from our Pastor and a St. Francis medal. When we got home we put the medal on both dog's collars. There was also a Vet present in case anyone had questions.

The Blessing of the Animals made for a nice way to bring our afternoon to a close.