Posted in People

A Sermon, A Spell

“She’s not really mine to give away anymore,” the bride’s father said to me this afternoon, as we waited in the back yard for her to complete her transformation from jeans-and-flannel to white lace. “But I’d like to.” Adding the note to my scribbled-in Baker’s Wedding Handbook, I assured him with a grin that he would have the opportunity. “May I say, ‘With pleasure‘?” he wondered. I assured him with a grin that he could.

wedding ring heart shadowTo borrow the bride’s phrasing, she has been married twice, but this is her first wedding.  Embarking on a new life in middle age, she wanted to do it “right” this time—with family and cake and a veil and a minister instead of a judge.

The groom (for whom this is the first wedding and first marriage) simply wants to be married to her.

I was there to supply the minister-instead-of-judge component of a “proper wedding,” though faced with the unusual challenge of having the ceremony left entirely in my own hands. The bride had opted not to meet ahead of time, focusing her fluttery energy instead on the planning-details which wouldn’t take care of themselves, and leaving me to make my best-guess selections for the ceremony.

This is where I love my Baker’s book–a veritable buffet of prayers, vows, traditional ceremonies from different denominations, and “contemporary” alternatives… So left to my own devices, I mix-and-matched what I consider the best bits of each. Still, my usual list of logistical questions (Do we have rings? Music? Specific readings? Are there children? Is anyone giving the bride away?) were still unanswered when I arrived, so I had hooked her father to help me to fill in the blanks. Five grown children between the groom and bride, and Dad will finally get to give her away.

wedding bookMy greater challenge this morning was the blank page on my lap as I sat on the front porch with my coffee, looking for my own words to offer this couple whom I hadn’t yet met. (Well, I had met the bride last year, when I made a deathbed-visit for her mother—but our coffee-and-conversation on that occasion weren’t exactly suited to wedding-preparation purposes…)

My pen stayed still for some moments, empty of information about this pair. But then… I have plenty to say about Marriage itself, and so my pen began to flow.  And though it was late in the morning, an owl began to call as I began to write. The owl—my ‘aumakua, or totem, or guardian—chose that moment to “make a joyful noise,” which (along with the “WoodOwl Drive” address of the wedding location) struck me as a positive omen indeed.

On an occasion like this, the pen doubles as a magic wand… The marriage itself now belongs to this husband and this wife, and it is their Calling now to nurture it—and each other–“for as long as they both shall live.” But I’m still awe-struck and honored by this ability to speak the words that create a marriage.  There’s magic here, as surely as there is in childbirth or any other act of creation.

It wasn’t a Sermon the owl helped me write. It was a spell. The magical making of a new marriage.

owl minister
Pastor Kana
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Posted in writing

When you Assume… you make an ASS out of U & ME

holier than thou cartoon
©Elmer Parolini, image from cartoonstock.com

This isn’t the post I was going to write today, but a thought-provoking interaction online has me starting with that title. It’s a title that would be objectionable to the person to whose comment I’m responding–but I should back up and share the scenario first.

A friendly fellow blogger re-blogged yesterday’s post about building a blogging community. (Normally I would share a link, but given the nature of the following reflections, I don’t want to cause embarrassment for anyone. The re-blogging friend unfairly got caught in the middle here…)

One of her readers then wrote this comment as a response to the post (names redacted, bolding my own):

Hi [XXX], well your a year older and wiser as they say, thanks for the tips but I don’t appreciate some of the langue used in this woman’s post but then she is not a Christian and they do at times express themselves coarsely my family are the same I tolerate it but I don’t like it or agree with it and they know and have toned down at least when I’m with them.

Take Care – Christian Love from both of us – [XXX]

I confess that my initial response to this was about two-parts-laughter to one-part-hot-ears. I went straightaway to re-read my own post, looking for the objectionable language.  I DO use coarse language, but in this particular post I even substituted “baloney” for its coarser variation, saying I’d save my swear words for when I needed them…

I conclude that the offending phrase was the link to an earlier post titled “Confessions of a Statistics Slut.”  Oh, and I also used the word “profligacy”–so perhaps the mention of profligate behavior (in this case, my tendency to check my blog statistics) might be objectionable as well. Did I miss anything?

teal purse with cross
Hmm, what should I do with this now that I’ve been told I’m not Christian? OK–clearly “sarcasm” isn’t Pastor Kana’s best color…

I have a problem here. I tend to get really judgmental about people who get judgmental. I’m goaded by the assumption (“she’s not a Christian”)–and even more so by the contemptuous dissociation from “them.”

As it happens, I am Christian–an aspiring follower of Yeshua’s teachings (though not necessarily the teachings of all the churches which also bear that label). As it happens, in fact, I’m an ordained minister. But if I were inclined to apologize for my use of the word “slut,” my apology wouldn’t be to those of you who were subjected to the term, but to those of my acquaintance who have been subjected to the profession–for my casual and light-hearted use of the word.

That’s right–I know (and love) some prostitutes. And some drug dealers, some gang members, even some hit men.  Most are no longer engaging in those former professions, some are working to get out of them, a few have gone back…  And I’m blessed with opportunities to minister. Not TO them, but AMONG them–because I’m one of “them” too. With a less colorful past than some, but I’m an alcoholic/addict, I’ve seen the inside of a jail cell (though these days the clergy collar gets me back out again), and oh yes–I express myself coarsely at times.  Did I mention that I know (and love) some human beings?

I can think of someone else who advocated ministry among sinners. Ironically enough, its HIS name which this person uses to label herself as superior to those of us who are… coarser.

for rent sign
NOT!

In some respects, this is an interesting extension of yesterday’s topic. In the blogging community, not everybody likes what other people write–or  even likes the other people themselves.  She thinks I’m naughty; I think she’s a prat. She objects to the coarseness of my language; I object to the grammar of hers. (Now I’M being the prat!)

But unlike some other arenas of life, we each have the opportunity NOT to read one another’s blogs. I will probably avail myself of that opportunity–and no doubt she intends to spare herself any additional exposure to my objectionable self. Problem solved! This is the point where my Sponsor reminds me not to “let someone else rent space in my head.”

Posted in Family, Recovery

Grittier Resurrection Stories

The Harry Potter series of books finally ensorcelled my daughter last week over Spring Break.  She has watched all the movies (in fact, I’m sure we have Harry Potter to thank for her utter lack of hesitation about wearing her new glasses) and I figured she just needed a jump-start on the books, so we snuggled up with the first volume, reading aloud.  She protested when I halted at bedtime, but (as I’d hoped) asked if she could continue on her own during her Reading Time before lights-out.  Score!

rice pudding
be careful how you answer… “Mommy, is it okay if I have more than ONE rice pudding?”

She spent the entire next day reading in the tent-fort we’d constructed in her room, emerging only for meals and for rice-pudding requests–and by the morning following that one, she already had Book Three in hand. She’s very keen on winkling out the differences between the films and the books, as well as her own misunderstandings in viewing the films.  (My favorite? Her belief, until now, that Fawkes the Phoenix was called Fork.) And she’s full of insightful questions, which she mostly saves up for bedtime in hopes of stalling the lights-out moment.

“Mommy, Why does it say Snape will never forgive Harry’s father for saving his life?”  I floated the theory that Snape was probably glad to have had his life saved, but probably resents the fact that he owes it in particular to Harry’s father, whom he hates so bitterly.  A discussion of school bullying ensued, and then she returned to the topic at hand.  “Is that why he hates Harry so much? Because Harry’s dad bullied him?”  Yes, I imagine so. “But Mommy, it’s not as if Harry was his father reborn.  He’s not like Fawkes the Phoenix that keeps getting born again.”

A fitting topic this Easter week, when we celebrate the ultimate in Resurrection stories.  Easter has always been my favorite of the Christian holidays, and I embrace the essence of what it celebrates, though I’m not entirely “sold” on the history of it. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a firm believer in God’s miracles, having experienced more than one in my own life (see “Amazing Grace, how sweet the SOUNDS” for an indisputable example), so it’s entirely possible that the Resurrection literally happened.  But whether or not the guy was walking around again the week after his murder, the teachings and example of the man Yeshua demonstrate that he was a guy who was connected to God–and the Easter holiday celebrates the “second chances” we can gain through finding a connection to God ourselves.  I suppose my objection to the catholic (small-c or big-C, take your pick) presentation of his story is the revisionist history and censorship imposed after the fact.

It’s an understandable and human impulse (though regrettably short of divine) for the powerful people within a young church to consolidate its power base by compiling a canon of gospels from the texts that can be read as pointing to the church itself as the only acceptable route to enlightenment of salvation.  It just doesn’t jive with what Jesus shared about his own enlightenment–and there’s my objection.

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Behold, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds in the sky will get there before you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will get there before you. Rather, the kingdom is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and embody poverty.”

follow Jesus Twitter
Not quite what I meant about being CONNECTED to God… (But God has a sense of humor too, so here it is)

That’s from the Gospel of Thomas–one of the extant texts the church didn’t choose.  The man Yeshua understood that he had God within himself–that each of us does–and that all that remains for us to do is to connect with God where God already IS. Within ourselves.

As for resurrection, in the sense of the revival of something from a state of decay, disuse or death–as a member of the Addiction Recovery community, I’m surrounded by examples. I AM an example. (And come to think of it, no few of these folks have been “resurrected” from a state of clinical death as well…)

If you’re not familiar with the Twelve-Step program (A.A. and others), its cornerstone is a spiritual connection to God.  A person needn’t be religious, in the sense of subscribing to any particular doctrine or dogma–in fact, the generic term “Higher Power” is used in Recovery literature, with the understanding that each person might substitute whatever name they personally apply to that Higher Power. (A common saying in A.A. is that “Religion is for people who fear hell; Spirituality is for people who have been there.”) But to Recover from addiction in this program, the only answer is to find your connection with God.

In a sense, we Addicts (those of us who have made it to Recovery, at least) are fortunate, in that we were each provided with a driving and desperate need to hook up with God.

Faced with Alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions.  In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness.

That’s from another “scripture” of sorts–the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.

If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried.  We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there.  Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma.  We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously.

phoenix tattoo addiction
“Out of the Ashes of Addiction–Renewal & Growth”

The only thing more powerful than Addiction is God, and we need him to revive and survive.  Or, as the A.A. old-timers sometimes bluntly tell a resistant newcomer: “If you don’t get God… You’re fucked.”  Not precisely how most churches would word the precept, but at its heart, that IS the Easter message. If I don’t look within myself, my life will embody poverty–as it DID when I was rolling in money and drinking away my soul.

Whether we find our own connection with God in a church pew and through the example and teachings of that murdered man who found his own connection to God a couple millennia ago–or whether we find it in a folding chair and a cloud of cigarette smoke through the words of a grizzled and tattooed ex-Hell’s Angel with a hell-to-angel journey from Addicted Possession to becoming God’s gritty messenger…  It’s really not a long journey to get to God, because (as Yeshua pointed out) he’s been hanging out with each of us from the get-go.  Some of us just over-complicate the journey.

My husband Keoni’s first tattoo out of Rehab was a phoenix, with the inscription: “Out of the Ashes of Addiction, Renewal and Growth,” along with the date when he hanged himself and was transported by ambulance to the rehab hospital.  That fierce-looking fellow is our own resurrection symbol…  Although we’re now referring to him as Fork.

Posted in writing

The Reluctant Fashionista Springs Forward

This may not be a problem a lot of you have run into, so I have to share that it’s kind of challenging to find clerical shirts for women that a woman would want to wear. Particularly if one’s clerical activities fall outside the realm of traditional church-choir stuff (more on this in “Confessions of a Street Minister”), and if one is not generally a button-down, demure-demeanor kinda gal…

There are plenty of online clergy-shops out there, though some of them you can discount right off the bat as a woman (um, the Catholics, for example) and a lot of them have pages of men’s clergy-wear with a token women’s blouse (usually black) thrown in.  A few lovely sites actually cater exclusively to clergywomen, including maternity clergy-wear (the Catholics would faint!)–but if you’re looking for something specific and it’s not there, you’re pretty well S.O.L.

I am in search of something specific at the moment, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.  (And since we’re speaking specifically about the business of not being damned, please believe my emphasis that this item does not exist to be found.)

Our daughter Anelahikialani and her wife Sarah are legally joined by means of a Civil Union in California, but now that full-on MARRIAGE is available to them in that state, they are gleefully planning a wedding.  They’ve honored us by asking me to preside (and Daddy to cook!), and I am now looking for a clergy blouse in hot pink (the wedding color), with a tab collar, and sleeveless (the girls aren’t interested in covering the family-stories of my Ink)…

Having given up on finding such an item ready-made (or in my price-range if I were ever to find one), I Tweeted the other day to ask if anyone has a pattern for converting a collared shirt into a clerically-collared shirt.  (My mother met a minister’s wife in Hawai’i who refashioned Aloha shirts to clergy shirts for her husband–she called the pattern her “spiritual conversion kit”…  I could use something like that.)

In any case, no one in my immediate circles had such a thing, but someone suggested “Pinterest” as a place where I might find it.  So I stopped by Pinterest.com last night, put in the request for an invitation (evidently a person has to wait for a spot there) and while waiting for my invite to show (it still hasn’t–evidently they weren’t joking about the waiting list!) I went browsing to see what it was all about.

Tomy “Fashion Plates,” vintage 1978–same set as mine…

And immediately got sucked into this little outfit-building fashion gizmo that somebody else had used to assemble an ensemble and post it on the board.

Minutes later–and to absolutely no purpose whatsoever–I found myself hunting down the pieces of an outfit from the thousands of separates on Polyvore.com–and did, in fact, put together an outfit I would don in a heartbeat if it weren’t stuck to my screen.  Laughing sheepishly at myself the whole time, and experiencing nostalgic flashbacks to the mix-and-match “Fashion Plates” toy with which I spent hours of childhood time.

Of course, I still haven’t made headway on the clothing question which brought me here in the first place, and I had one way or another, in my search for blouses and patterns, and my subsequent imaginary fashion-plate play, managed to stall for several hours in which I was meant to be writing several articles.  Which left me yawning and trying to write at three in the morning to meet my deadline.  (Though of course it wouldn’t have been THREE in the morning if I had not also had to change the clock forward.)

The irony in all this?  The five articles from which I had been procrastinating all that time, I had accepted only with a fair bit of whining and protest because of their topic–which I adamantly and insistently characterized as an issue of which I have no knowledge and in which I have no interest in and which I didn’t even want to research.  The big, bad topic which I’d stalled for hours to avoid touching?  FASHION DESIGN.

Ha! Okay, okay, I give! I spent my spring-forward hour proving myself wrong about my own interests. Time to spring toward forward-thinking with a more open mind, yes?

While I’m still stalling, I’d like to add an introduction to a challenge across which I stumbled yesterday: the 2012 Water Dragon Sunday Post hosted by Jakesprinter.  His is a graphic-design blog, and the Sunday challenge involves a weekly assigned theme, for which topic each challenge-participant is meant to post a photo representing their own interpretation.  Today’s Sunday topic (which, in a fascinating sample of synchronicity, I didn’t look up until after my little fashion foray) is DESIGN.

So here it is, my Sunday photographic composition,compiled when I was fiddling with the online fashion gizmo:

assembled at Polyvore.com–the high-tech version of those “Fashion Plates” I played with as a kid…


 And if anyone knows anyone who might have a pattern for collar-conversion, I’d love to be put in touch!

Posted in PostaDay, Recovery

Confessions of a “Street Minister”

While I’m in line at the visitors’ window of our county jail, I’m invariably asked by another collared personage what church I serve.  My most honest answer is “The Little Converted Crack-House,” which is how we jokingly refer to our A.A. home group.  (Before I joined the Recovery Community, I actually assumed this bustling little building was a biker-bar…)  Our “crack-house” is, in fact, the place where God & I got to know each other, and the place where (more than any church I’ve ever attended) I am regularly surrounded by other people who have personal, daily connections with the Big Guy. This is where my ministry (with or without clerical collar)–where every Recovering alcoholic’s ministering–takes place.  Our own lives depend on it.  That’s rather a convoluted answer, though, so when I was first asked about church affiliation, I just mumbled that mine is a “street ministry,” and left it at that.

As far as ordination, my affiliation is with a non-denominational church. (Not non-denominational-Christian, but entirely non-denominational–“In service to God and my fellows,” end of story.) Neither the Ordination nor the Minister ID-card in my wallet nor the clerical collar in themselves make me magically useful–it’s my own experiences (in particular, my life as a Recovering drunk) that enable me to be of service to my fellows.  Ordination in my case simply means I’m “recognized by the state” in this capacity, and it opens doors.

the collar opens doors…

It allows me to take those “clergy visits” into the jail. (My husband scans the online log of arrests for me every morning to see if there’s any familiar face who might need a visit.  “But few of any sort, and none of name,” he reported this morning, quoting from Much Ado About Nothing…)  Happily, these days I also get to walk back OUT of the jail.

Our local women’s shelter, where I volunteered during my five months of joblessness this year, wouldn’t allow A.A. meetings to come in to their facility–although the majority of the ladies in residence are in Recovery, many of them court-ordered to attend a 12-step program, and the shelter’s curfew didn’t allow them to get to outside meetings–because the Program isn’t specifically Christian.  But when I showed up in clergy collar to plead the case for an on-site meeting, they suddenly acquiesced.  (Hoping God will forgive that bit of manipulation on my part…)

As a fun bonus, I’ve been asked to marry several friends. (To perform the marriages, I mean. I’ve already married my Best Friend–who, by the way, proposed to me by writing the Question on a dollar bill and putting it in the collection basket while I was chairing an A.A. Meeting…)  I’ll freely admit that this role has helped me grow and stretch my own comfort-boundaries; I’m much less self-conscious now when someone asks me to pray with them, for example.  And for that matter, people seem less self-conscious making that kind of request of me now, so I suppose the collar works in all directions.

“Street Ministry” seems like a pretentious name for the things I do, and I was somewhat embarrassed by my own answer in the jail’s waiting-room. But here’s the break-down: In my previous professional life, I would be greeted by name in the halls of the State Capitol. Now I’m greeted by name in the alley behind the Rescue Mission, where I share a smoke with the rumpled gents after helping my hubby serve dinner at his volunteer-job.  Guess which one of those is more soul-satisfying?

We had to move this summer when our house went into foreclosure, and I was asked to do a hospice call shortly thereafter.  I knew I had seen the white tab of my clergy collar amid the craziness of unpacking and reorganizing, and remembered putting it “somewhere logical” where I’d naturally look for it when I needed it–but could not find the d@*n thing!  After an extensive hunt, I finally turned it up–in my drawer of sports bras.  Can’t imagine what possessed me to “file” it there… “Spiritual support”?  ;)