Most women are Marys and Marthas–at the same time.

We can discuss theology while we do the dishes.

We can pray while we knit and rock the cradle with our toe.

We have an uncanny–maddening–ability to multi-task. And to be two or more persons at once.

Last night was no exception.

It was an unusually busy Thursday night in the cafe. I was by myself after six, but had to call for backup throughout the evening.

There was the regular knitting group: women of three generations, clicking needles in the corner, telling stories, laughing, and drinking cappacinos. I am always jealous of them and they keep inviting me to join them.

There was the couple who livd in France. Last night, they had a friend with them but the wife still greeted me with “Bon soir” and proceeded to order in French. I love it when she comes in because I get to practice. The husband always orders an Americano with room for cream.

There was a woman who asked if I remembered her. At first, I didn’t and then her face began to grow familiar. She reminded me of the evening that she cried at the end of the bar as I steamed her milk . Her son had moved back home after graduation and was taking his frustration about not finding a job and his anger out on her.

Mothers always seem to be whipping posts. She shared last night that things were better. I recalled praying for her.

There was the lone, handsome guy of few words who orders an expresso and keeps to himself while looking at magazines.

And last night, there was a high school study group of fifteen or twenty seniors, drinking frappacinos and doing calculus.

It was a beautiful thing. But it was busy..

So, I called my backup, a Book Seller I will call Martha. She came over from the information desk with her efficient ways and fun humor to assist me. We ended up talking about God and the Jersey shore.

She grew up in New Jersey and wants to retire there. I grew up in Marietta and want to retire in France.

She is Northern and practical and talks funny. I am Southern and dawdle but can move my ass if I have to. I talk funny too.

She was raised a Catholic and says, “Everyone in New Jersey is Catholic.”

I grew up Baptist in Georgia where we tote our Bibles to church and go to Sunday School first.

Somehow, between serving oreo stacks, pumpkin cheesecake, bold coffee and smooth lattes, we talked about God, faith, and theology.

I usually don’t tell people my ‘about face’, but she said she was an atheist, and once upon a time, I was too. She seemed as interested and intrigued by my story, as I was by hers. 

So I shared my experience, bringing it down from the realm of theory and abstraction to flesh and blood.

She stated that Science would win and God would become obsolete. I countered that her ideas were passe and sounded like the Enlightenment, when we are living in a Post-Modern Age. We wrangled as we wiped the counters in a friendly, strong women’s way.

I told her how I pulled the scriptures off my shelf. How I began reading the Psalms and the words jumped off the page.

How I began to hear God’s voice, like a foreign currency, when I had trafficked in the coins of self for so long, I thought I was crazy, until God said, “NO”.

She said, I wish God would speak to me.

I said, read the Psalms.

Last night, we were sisters. We were Marys and Marthas at the same time.

We were women.

Read the Psalms.

Yesterday’s blog was about the prayer of faith. The bold prayer that has the audacity to demand a miracle.

The prayer of Jacob, the wrestler, who from the womb tackles everything.

 The prayer of Moses that throws God’s mercy into God’s face and causes cities to be spared.

The prayer that causes the sun to stop shining and the rain to come. The prayer that heals lepers and liberates wanton women.

Today, I want to speak of a different prayer, although they are related. Perhaps, even integral to one another.

I call it the Spiral Prayer and it takes a different tone. Instead of a commanding bass or shrill soprano, it is more of a tenor.

It is cone-shaped and spring-like.

It energizes through its revolutions which cycle around like garland on a tree or a string of Christmas lights.

The circumference of the Spiral Prayer grows smaller and smaller with time, and maybe eventually, ends with a star–or is topped off by an angel.

I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far.

I am about midway up the tree, and it is a large Hemlock, lovely in its mysterious, dark branches.

I get lost in the limbs, looking for bird nests. And before I know it, I am not moving at all, stuck on the back side, but enjoying the stroll. I have my binoculars and field guide. I think I know what I’m doing.

And then, I start moving again. I keep going and as I turn, the spiral winds to a new branch, a different view.

I believe the Spiral Prayer is the Cone of Grace.

It invites us to move with God where we grow more and more like God as we circle ’round.

Maybe, ‘like’ is not the right word as much as are simply ‘with’ God. Joined in the Journey for a while as we travel.

It’s hard to stay there. We tend to like the back side and are almost compelled by life, by the forests and the trees of longing and desire, of heartbreak and disease, of love and death and all that is between, to move away from God.

But just as surely as we do, make the circle, we are only a moment on the backside, before we come ’round right again. Like a Shaker hymn. We are travelers.

I can see why Mystical Theologians have been ex-communicated and even killed throughout history.

They are a threat and their prayer and practice and theology asks much of us.

It asks us for a while to not just see God, or imagine God, but to be God.

For a period of time, we are Oned. There is no ‘Other’.

This Union is Terrifying in its Consequences, but so very Beautiful.

Thankfully, we don’t stay there forever, but continue to Spiral in the ever-dynamic Cone of Grace.

I went to visit a friend last week.

She has leukemia.

Supposedly, she is dying.

But that’s not what I saw. That’s not what I heard.

Sure she was pale. Sure she was weak. Sure she breathed with oxygen.

But I saw fire in her eyes and heard steel in her voice.

She has not given up and asks for a miracle.

I believe God honors such a bold prayer.

Her husband shared with me that he had one day when he broke down.

He was out on his tractor, cutting a field.

He turned the tractor off and had a heart-to-heart, head-to-head with God. He said, “I’m the one who’s sposed to go first. I’m the one who’s sposed to be in that bed and I would do anything to be there instead of her.”

He loves his wife so much it breaks your heart. He means it.

I believe God hears those prayers. The prayers of  honesty and anger, the heartwrenching, raw prayers of boldness and desire, of persistence, and audacity. 

I believe God hears–and answers–the prayers that don’t just knock, but BANG on heaven’s door and demand a miracle.

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

  –Leonard Cohen

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

  –Henry David Thoreau

I recently suffered a breakdown.

It was really more of a breaking apart.

They go together.

It was as frightening and nightmarish an experience, as I have ever known.

Even to think of it now, makes me cold, like I was while reading The Road.

In many ways, I was with the Man and the Boy on The Road. I was pushing a cart. I was filling it with survival things.

But eventually, I could not even push the cart. I had to lay down. I had to give up any semblance or illusion that I was pushing anything.

I went to the woods, like Thoreau, only for me, the woods were the North Georgia mountains and I didn’t go there to live deliberately–a luxury, really. I went there to live at all. I collapsed at Lynn’s door.

She took me in and I remained there for twelve days. Her home became my sanitarium.

Later, I would switch the description to “sanctuary”. But to be honest, it was first and foremost, a sanitarium.

When I got there, I could barely walk, talk, think, drive, move..My entire body and mind were shutting down, breaking apart. I was like a prism, with the light passing through. I was fractured, split apart. With fissures and synapses too wide to cross.

A person can handle just so much stress, internal and external. A person can deal with only so much exhaustion. A person sometimes has to break down.

And in the breaking down, there’s a breaking apart.

And in the breaking apart,  there’s a light.. and that’s where the healing begins.

I have a friend named Ann. She’s a mystic, although she’d probably never say so. But she’s also, beautifully tied to the earth.

She lives in California where she feels she is herself.

She lives on top of fractures and fissures in the earth’s crust.

I like that idea, that when we plant ourselves on the earth, in a place that feels like home, we are healed by geography.

For me,  that horrific day in August, it was Hiawassee and on the doorstep of a very good friend, who I will never be able to thank enough.

Country Girl, Shake It for Me

September 11, 2011

It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain,
As his arm harvests the ears,
Or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain
In the valley of Rephaim.
Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree,
Two or three olives on the topmost bough,
Four or five on the branches of a fruitful tree,
Declares the LORD, the God of Israel.
In that day man will have regard for his Maker
And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel.

  –Isaiah 17.5-7

His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. Now this expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken —that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain.

  –Hebrews 12.26-27

Country girl, shake it for me girl, shake it for me girl, shake it for me.

  –Luke Bryan, Country Girl (Shake It for Me)

 

I went dancing last night.

I haven’t been dancing in a long time, and in over three decades as a ‘single’ woman.

It was fun.

I got to wear my new cowgirl boots, so cute!, and stomp. I got to line dance. I got hit on.

To be honest, I’m not sure the guy even remembered because he offered to buy me a drink–diet coke–and then never came back. And when I saw him again, he repeated himself. Oh, the affects of alcohol..

Still, the night was fun, and I needed fun.

I’ve been serious for far too long;  but had no choice.

When one goes through a breakdown and a divorce within weeks of one another, fun is hard to come by.

It hasn’t been fun. It has been hell and I am not going to mince words about it.

Mincing words is not my style, plus I have learned so much I want to share.

For starters: When one is going through hell, they need help.

It is going to be very difficult right now, not to be caustic, vitriolic, sarcastic, and biting–but I am trying. I will continue to try and deal with my anger in a positive way, the starting point of which is to acknowledge it.

So, I am acknowledging it. I am angry. I am angry as hell. And I am angry as hell for good reason. Many good reasons.

I am sure over the next few weeks–if I am able to continue writing a blog–you will hear more about it.  As I stated, I have learned so much over the past three months about myself, about others, about our culture, about God.

It has been twelve weeks–twelve weeks–since I have blogged on a regular basis. During that time, I have written down 50 or so drafts of  ideas and titles on my WordPress account,  and that many more in a notebook and recorded on my iPhone. I could stop living, thinking, breathing now, and still have content to share for a very long time, if I could still write.

You have the choice to read and good luck with that. Because some of the blogs, I know, will be both blistering and rigorously honest. But I pray, they will also be helpful and loving and we will all grow through the process. Become more golden.

I recently received an email from a former parishioner who shared with me that when she visited a second former parishioner in a nursing home, somehow my name came up. Probably because I visited the woman in the nursing home while I was in the mountains. The woman in the nursing home said, “Patty may be the most honest person I know.” I think this was meant in a positive way. I took it that way, and I am grateful the first friend shared it with me. It means a lot right now, when I am struggling to remain honest with myself, others, God, in a way that is helpful, hopeful, healing.

The scripture says, “And you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.”

I believe God is in the Truth business, never an easy task, but as a very good friend once told me: “Truth may not be pretty, but it is beautiful.”

I believe by sharing my truth, my experience, my perceptions and learnings, in as honest and loving a way as possible, good can be the result. Better than the result; Good can be the Fruit.

God is not only in the Truth business, God is in the Good business. The Fruit Business. The Harvest Business.

And..God is in the Shaking business.

Luke Bryan has a new country song that’s hitting the top of the billboard charts. It is called Country Girl (Shake It for Me) and is very sexy. The singer/songwriter’s not bad either. As I wrote, in what I hoped was perceived as a funny post, on facebook, I’d shake it for him:)

As the writer of Hebrews shares in chapter 11. God shakes things loose that need to be, so that what is necessary, authentic, True, may remain. And that is Love.

So..put on your cowgirl boots and come dance with me..cause there’s a little bit of a country girl in me and I’m going to shake it.