Poetry Corner

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Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Somebody’s Gotta Live in Bowling Green

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Here at my church, we’re interviewing some people for a newly created full-time youth minister position. Our first interviewee is coming to town shortly and I’ve been charged with the task of showing and hopefully selling her this town: Bowling Green, Kentucky. But the thing is, I don’t know how well I can do this.

This is the big landmark of Bowling Green, or what my family calls “Granmon’s Water Tower” because she used to live just down the block from it.

See, I’ve always had an odd relationship with my hometown. If you are from Bowling Green and you say you love it, I will just roll my eyes and scoff at what I judgmentally assume is your lack of worldly experience. However if you are not from Bowling Green and you in any way insult this town, my nostrils will flair and I will get defensive and judgmentally assume that you’re jealous that you aren’t from such a sweet wholesome place. However, on both accounts, I am probably horribly wrong.

Let me clarify here that I have Bowling Green in my blood. I can take you down to the courthouse and show you portraits hanging of my great-grandfather. I was born here, my parents met and married here, and I have an endless supply of happy childhood memories within these city limits.

But somehow I’ve found this place to be my hometown in definition only and not in feeling. There are a number of things that irk me about this town: that it’s built in such a way that it’s impossible to be a functioning member of society without a personal vehicle. Being a Democrat in Bowling Green is the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like a Christian in the first century. And it’s a solid hour’s drive to the nearest Whole Foods, Volvo dealership, or J.Crew. (Woah, when did I become such a yuppie? I’m in the wrong tax bracket to want any of those.) 

Still, there are still some good things about this town/city. We are the home of Duncan Hines. In fact, if you’re planning your own pre-packaged dessert mixes pilgrimage, be sure and make a stop at my church and the Duncan Hines Memorial Chapel. No joke. There is a local orchestra that once a year puts on its biggest fundraiser: Beatlemania and plays only Beatles’ songs- that’s pretty awesome. And there’s a minor-league baseball team, the Bowling Green Hot Rods. 

I really hope this girl I’m showing around my town likes it because this is an awesome job at an awesome church and if she is awesome, she’ll fit right in. In conclusion, I’ll just leave you with this video which is as honest a description of this place as you can find:

I Guess this isn’t the First Time God Used a Flood to Change Somebody’s Plan

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So yesterday morning, doing what’s become part of my daily routine, I read Rachel Held Evans blog, today dealing with how to be happy when you’re growing and it’s about the journey and not the destination. You should read it here. In fact, I highly recommend it or the rest of my post will make no sense.

I was really looking forward to this week. The hustle of Easter was over but the joy lingers. There’s a royal wedding. And most of all, Tuesday evening I’d finally get to meet with the Commission on Ministry to get some sense of if and when this calling from God will get to translate to seminary and someday stable life. It’s the meeting the last 10 months have been building up to — a meeting I’d get to leave with a solid sense of what the next few years, and probably the rest of my life, will look like.

But Monday evening I got a call from my rector: the meeting had been canceled due to flooding in Louisville. It’s one of the worst calls I’ve ever received, and I can make melodramatic statements like that because I’ve never received a real bad news call like someone I love has suddenly died or my parents are getting a divorce or all the grocery stores in town have quit stocking Nutella.

If you’d had a stethoscope to my chest you would have heard my heart sink, which came out as the most unlady-like “ugh!” I could muster. The next hour or so was filled with a despicable blend of cynism and self-pity. How bad could this “flooding” be? (pretty bad, as it turns out) How long will it take for them to reschedule this time? (Probably not that long) This is only my life they’re dealing with here! (Cortney, if you want any semblance of control of your life, you’re in the wrong business. Get used to it.)

Luckily I had good friends around who both comforted me with their tear soaking shoulders and reminded me of the hard truth: discernment can’t be rushed. And that made me remember Rachel’s post that I talked about earlier and realized that the past year, I’ve been absorbed in an arrival fallacy, thinking once I knew something, then I’d be happy and my life could really begin. Maybe that’s what makes the journey so disheartening: the speed bumps and the check points and the toll bridges. While I must never loose hope that my journey will place me where I need to be, it’s senseless to imagine that these speed bumps and check points and toll bridges will ever end.    

At least I still have this royal wedding to look forward to. Unless that’s going to be canceled, too.

Stuff Episcopalians Like #2: Episcopal Shield Bumper Stickers

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Episcopal Shield Bumper Stickers.

Episcopalians by no means invented the idea of decorating your car with your theology. But we did make it our own. And because it’s hard to fit the catechism on a bumper sticker, we made do with our Episcopal shield. Maybe not as innovative as Apple’s apple, but one of a kind, nonetheless.

Now, I come from a parish that is particularly fond of these little adhesive shields. You can buy them for a whole dollar, in case you’re afraid your baptism only figuratively marked you as Christ’s own forever, this can literally mark you. Because we’re the only Episcopal church in town, it can be fun to see a shield and figure out who it is, because you probably know them. Especially if it’s in the liquor store parking lot.

This is on my car. Horribly faded, the shield, in case you’re not familiar with it, should actually look like this:

The shield has a neat history that you can read about here. Learning about the shield is a mini-lesson in the history of the Episcopal Church.

It’s hard to overstate the joy that comes from barreling down the interstate far away from home and recognizing a fellow Episcopalian. Mildly dangerous, it can be fun to try and drive by them at the same speed, waving as if to say “We would be best friends if we lived near each other!”**Please don’t actually try this.

I can only hope that the pride that makes us devalue our car a tad is a good kind of pride — the kind that says, “I find joy here. You can ask me about that.” Not the bad kind of pride that makes Charlie Sheen blush. So if you’re sporting this nifty little shield, be mindful of that. The least you can do is use your turn signal.

Why do you like your church bumper stickers? 

Quote Corner

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All that Christ desires in you is within yourself, and there it is His pleasure to be. – Thomas à Kempis


I want to hold up a mirror to society. And then get in the Guinness Book of World Records for largest mirror! – Tracy Jordan

Maundy Thursday

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Wow, can you believe it’s already Maundy Thursday? It feels like it wasn’t that long ago that I deciding what to give up for Lent. Okay, I’m a bad (good?) procrastinator and it actually wasn’t that long ago that I was deciding what to give up for Lent. There are a lot of good meditations on what Maundy Thursday means. This is not one. (You can find one here)

The triduum is upon us. It’s a great time of year when Episcopalians and other liturgical churches get to break out the obscure jargon that’s known for making us so approachable. So just in case you were unaware, ‘maunday’ comes from the same root word as ‘mandate’ referring to when Jesus told people to do this in remembrance of me and to love one another as he had loved them.

But Maundy Thursday is also when remember Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and therefore today is that great day when churches across the nation offer free pedicures. Of course by pedicures I mean, they’ll rinse your feet off with water that, if you’re lucky, they’ve heated up a tad. (I suppose seminaries and cosmetology schools don’t offer much in the way of collaboration) But if you’ve ever gotten to participate in one of these services, the symbolism remains – having the church you adore wash the scummiest part of your body, resisting the urge to say, “no, thanks, I can take care of myself here,” and putting what is most vital and vulnerable into the hands of God. 
 
As someone who has hiked in the dessert with Chaco sandals, I can attest to how quickly nastiness probably built up on Jesus’ disciples’ feet. Which is why this evening when I go up to get my feet washed, I’m doing my best to make sure they’re not pre-pedicured dainty feet that I work for during sandal season, but dirty, hairy toed (that’s right- I just admitted that I have hairy toes) and as despicable as I can muster. You know, to make it more true to life.

If I do become a clergyperson, I’m really going to regret writing this.

God’s Funny Bone

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Has anyone else had a very unholy event that led them down a spiritual journey? Just me? Let me explain.

Years ago, I had the great joy of getting to live in Louisville, Kentucky during Derby which I figure is the second best thing to to living in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I had a Louisville native friend who brought home a car-full of his seminary buddies and I went to go meet up with them at one of the crowded bars that night. My friend introduced all of his seminary buddies and that is how I met him- tall, dark and handsome with piercing blue eyes like a Siberian husky, you know the type. For the purpose of this blog I’ll refer to as Jon Hamm. Not only does he look like the actor, but he reminds me of Jon Hamm’s recurring guest role on 30 Rock as Dr. Baird.

Now, to be fair, I was equally stunning that night. I had on a J.Crew halter dress with a low back and a makeshift Derby hat that I insisted on wearing out to the bars, even though nobody does that. We spent the night enjoying our alcohol induced flirtation and the warm night time that I love Kentucky summers for.

Now my friend Jon Hamm will be getting married this summer and (spoiler alert!) I won’t be the bride. Because this isn’t a story of how I met the love of my life- instead a story of how I got on this trajectory that I’m still riding (just like 99% of the episodes of How I Met Your Mother). Because that night, instead of just becoming interested in him, I became interested in this thing called the Young Adult Service Corps, which he talked about because he was just 2 months away from going to South Africa to serve as a missionary for a year.
And 6 months later, I was the one applying to be a part of the Young Adult Service Corps. The following summer as he was returning to the states after his year of mission work in South Africa, I left for mine. The rest, as they say, is history.
What started as a rush of pheromones ended with me giving a whole year of my life (I mean a solid 365 days) to God’s mission. And even that has now developed to more. Am I the only one that can almost hear God laughing when I retell this story? Not a vindictive “gotcha!” laugh, but a promising laugh, a delighted laugh. When Abraham’s wife Sarah gave birth to their only son years after her child-bearing years, they named him Isaac, which translates to “he laughs.”And like I suppose Abraham and Sarah did, some of my prayers consist of nothing more than me laughing with God.
Where has God laughed in your life?