Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

I grew up in a Baptist church. We didn't observe Ash Wednesday or Lent. That was left, I guess, to the Catholics or those persons cleaning their dryers. (really bad joke) Anyway, the church I helped start a few years ago observes this time of the Christian season. We have tried to embrace practices from many religions and walks of faith. Lent for me, like Advent or Rosh Hashanah is a symbol; a vehicle for connecting to the Divine in this world and in me. I need ritual and sacrament to help me focus. Life is just to crazy and busy to do it on my own sometimes. It's also about community. Though Lent is perhaps focused on the individual, it is also practiced in community. I may have questions about faith or God and how God works in my life, but there is comfort in the collective belief. The community of doubters, journeyers, those searching, those that feel confident and strong...this is what church has become for me.

I just spent some time in prayer at the Warehouse my faith community calls home. After my time of prayer and communion, one of the ministers marked my forehead with ashes. Another symbol...for me a symbol of releasing attachment. The Buddhists say that attachement is the source of all suffering. I have no reason to argue. It is traditional to "give up" something during the Lenten season. I've prayed and thought about what that will be for me. The questions arising for me are 1) what gives me false security, 2) what distracts, 3) what keeps me from listening. The last one is what kept coming to me this afternoon. What keeps me from God, to others- really listening, and listening to my own heart and soul. Computers, TV, busyness, the will to "be right", fear... are just a few that start my list.

I realize that Lent begins today and therefore so should my abstinence. I'm reluctant to pick something just for the sake of doing so. So for today, I'm just going to listen.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jinx Lacey Day

Today I will attend the memorial service for my dear friend Jinx. She passed away suddenly about 2 weeks ago. As is often the case in death, this still seems surreal.

I met Jinx in 1993 when I moved to Austin. She and I sang in the church choir together. She would sit in the same place every week with the same little group of 2nd sopranos. I sang 1st soprano (at the time...those days have long since passed for me) and sat all the way in the back behind the 2nds. In the songs that demanded the 1st sopranos sing so high that only dogs could hear, she would often turn around and look at me. And there were times, when she knew the highest notes were coming and she turned around to look at me anxiously awaiting the screaching. I would always laugh and tell her it was impossible for me to sing like that with her staring at me. She kept on though, with her ever-present big smile. She called me a "swan." Now, I've heard the sounds a swan makes and it isn't especially lovely. But for Jinx, this was a high compliement. Any time I saw her she never failed to call me by this name. She was one of my biggest fans and it always felt good to hear her champion the gifts God has given me. I visited her one day in the high school where she worked. She didn't teach, but at least on some occassions, she had a class that she led. The day I was there she insited that I sing for her class. I probably would have done anything for her. So, I obliged and sang to this room full of very disinterested teenagers. Jinx, however, was standing in the back smiling from ear-to-ear.

She did the Lord's work in the world....a crisis counselor for High School students. It's my understanding that she did this work for more than 30 years. There was a memorial service last week for students, former students and faculty from the school where she worked. I was not able to attend, but I was told the people shared their stories of Jinx for more than 2 hours. They shared stories of how she helped them through the hardest of times, how she listened to them when no one else would, how she loved on them when they felt like no one else did. From my own experience, she was one of those people who made you feel like no one else was in the room but you and her. Whomever she was talking with had her undiveded attention. That is an important gift to anyone, but certainly to a struggling teenager.

She was also one of the funniest women I have ever known. Oh, my goodness this lady was funny. To give you an idea of her comedic gifts, I'll pass on a story I heard just after her passsing. As any good American school will do, they often planned early morning meetings for the faculty. One of the other counselors at her school shared that on one occassion, Jinx showed her displeasure of the early morning meetings by arriving to work in her pajamas and curlers. Yep. That was Jinx. Oh, my...I wish I had been there!! I think it was this boisterous spirit that made her so attractive to others and to me. I loved to be around her just so I could laugh! And yet, I know that it was deeper than that. There was a spirit of passion and generocity that she lived with. She loved life and deeply cared about those around her.

This world has lost a precious soul. It will be good to honor her life today. To my dear friend Jinx, thanks for your friendship, the laughter and the legacy of love you gave to me and this world. I will miss you.