March 2, 2015

Let Us See You Ever Clearer

I have a rather busy week, with more things on my to-do list than seem possible to actually accomplish. I was bemoaning to a colleague this morning that it was taking me forever to finish the bulletin because I couldn't find the right hymns - there aren't many hymns about Jesus overturning the tables at the temple, you know? She joked that I should write a hymn, and I was all, "yeah, right!". But then I went back to my office and thought, "why not?" and proceeded to spend the next hour writing this, to-do list be damned. It's not the best hymn ever, or even the best one I've written, but it will work perfectly for our worship service this Sunday.

(It's licensed through Creative Commons - you're welcome to adapt but not use commercially, and please give me credit. Thanks!)

Let Us See You Ever Clearer

Jesus, you preached grace and mercy,
fed with stories and with bread.
Yet your parables of judgment
stir our hearts with quiet dread.
Let us see you ever clearer,
not what we prefer instead;
not what we prefer instead.

In the temple you turned tables,
scattered coin and sheep and dove.
Crude dishonor sparked your anger,
Indignation from above.
Let us see you ever clearer,
Righteous, holy Son of Love;
Righteous, holy Son of Love.

Though we know where this is going -
Christ shall suffer; Christ shall die -
still we search for easy triumph,
pray the cup shall pass you by.
Let us see you ever clearer,
As the cross is lifted high;
as the cross is lifted high.

Creative Commons License
Let Us See You Ever Clearer by Katherine Willis Pershey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

February 27, 2015

Afterlife of a church

A few weeks ago, I was feeling nostalgic. It was the fifth anniversary of my family’s pilgrimage from Southern California to suburban Chicago for my interview weekend at First Congregational Church of Western Springs. It feels odd to call it that, though; it wasn't so much an interview as a time of holy conversation, prayer, worship, laughter, feasting, and fellowship. The terms of my call were unofficially worked out at a kitchen table while the Super Bowl droned on in the other room. There have only been a handful of times the movement of the Spirit has been abundantly obvious to me, and the thunderous call to serve as one of the pastors at First Congo was one of them.

... Continue reading at the Christian Century.

February 24, 2015

Yoga Back (Warning: Gratuitous Selfie)

I've been a member of my local studio since June now. My membership got off to a rocky start; a few days after I joined, I carried something too heavy and threw my back out. I couldn't even get an emergency massage because I'd dropped my massage plan in order to afford the yoga membership. Then, eager to get back to the mat and prove that I hadn't made a terrible decision by joining the studio, I took a class before I was sufficiently healed. I ended up having one of the longer and more terrifying back pain extravaganzas in a life that has had its fair share of back pain extravaganzas. (Incidentally, I wrote the first draft of this essay for the Christian Century while on strong painkillers. This made for a rather convoluted first draft that took forever and a day to fix. Lesson learned.)

But the acute crisis healed, with rest and a course of chiropractic care. I went back, chastened, with a renewed awareness that yoga was not going to heal my back problems in a day, a week, a month. I went back humbled and ginger, and afraid of what could happen if I upward-facing-dogged the wrong way. But I went back, and I went back, and I went back.

And now this is my back.

I have spent roughly two decades hating my back, so forgive the gratuitous selfie, okay?

It's changed. I can see it. I can feel it. My problematically weak core is getting stronger. Things that I thought I could never do - chaturanga without dropping to my knees, side plank, bird of paradise - I can do. I'm still cautious about pushing myself. As I continue to practice I continue to build not only my muscles, but also my awareness about what I should and should not attempt. With my particular spine, I'll likely never do a handstand or wheel pose or any other deep back bend. But I am tentatively beginning to hope that if I keep this up, I might not end up in anguish for days on end, frantically counting down to my next dose of painkillers and muscle relaxants.

Yoga has had an immeasurable effect on my spiritual life; I'll get to writing about that sooner or later. But just as we live and move and have our being within God, we also live and move and have our being within bodies. And I cannot adequately express how exhilarating it is to consider the possibility that I might actually have found something that will deliver me from this particular pain that has been a part of my life for so very long.

Knock on wood.

February 11, 2015

Winter Makes Neighbors Out of People

I grew up just beyond the reach of the Lake Erie snow belt. I dreaded winter so much that I could make myself shiver just thinking about it - a handy trick on long, muggy August afternoons. I dreaded winter so much I wouldn’t even let myself enjoy the glories of autumn. Instead of seeing beauty in the red and golden leaves, I braced myself for the slow descent into chilly misery. My family barely dabbled in winter sports, so I didn’t even have the thrill of sledding to buoy me through until springtime. I stayed in-state for college, torn between wanting a warmer climate and wanting to be close to my parents. After four years of scraping ice from my windshield and scheduling my classes according to how far I’d have to venture out onto the frigid campus, my graduate school discernment process was a breeze.

So it was that a few weeks after our July wedding, my husband and I set westward for sunny Southern California. I’d visited the seminary in February, and been transfixed by the novelty of gazing up at the mountain snowpack while wearing a light jacket. I was thrilled to be out of the grinding Midwestern cold for good. But when we pulled up to campus, exhausted from our cross-country road trip, the mountain range wasn’t there. Granted, I hadn’t grown up around mountains and was therefore unaccustomed to their nuances, but I was relatively sure that mountains did not pick up and move. Had someone at this seminary put their mustard-sized faith to the test, and triumphed? As I squinted at the blank, hazy sky where I knew they’d been, I could make out a faint outline of Mount Baldy, all but obscured behind a veil of thick smog.

Disqus for any day a beautiful change