imageDyeing to be young~Reflections on turning 70

I tell myself I am not like other women…I don’t spend endless hours prissing and preening myself in front of a mirror…nor do I spend countless hours at a gym working out on exercise machines, or doing jazzersize routines to pulsating music, or spinning for a time on a static bicycle.

No…I would rather spend my morning hours mindfully losing myself in contemplative prayer, and then writing my reflections in my spiritual journal, and topping off my sacred time by going for a quiet walk and engaging the natural world around me with contemplative photography.

I am not like other women. I do not jog down the walking path, or ensconce myself in hot yoga (which would be easy to do in my own back yard in the heat of the Florida summer).

My mornings are devoted to monastic silence, both at home caught up in prayer and Mystery and then outdoors for more awakening with Mother Nature.

Several times a week, if not too hot, I quietly close the door behind me on my way to visit my beloved water lilies. This makes it officially a social visit, not exercise.

As I leave the house I listen to the soft cooing of doves that nest outside my office window. I pause to say a silent prayer at each of the eight stepping stones that I have made over the years with each of my grandchildren.

Then there is often the squawking of an old crow waiting across the street for me to walk down Ancient Oaks Boulevard with her. Sometimes we chat away. Other times she hides up in the trees or circles overhead.

I pass the ponds just as dawn breaks. I see the beauty of the trees nestled around and reflected in the tranquil water. That is where I look for deer who are taking a quick sip of water before going back into their hiding in the woods as civilization approaches.

There are cars whizzing by on Ancient Oaks, but I am walking. I am not like those people in their cars, already chatting away on their cell phones or texting their friends while on their way to work or to drop the kids off at school or day care.

I am different. I stop to take in the beauty all around me. Good morning Sand Hill Cranes. Hello Bird of Paradise. How are you today? My precious water lilies…how was your night. What tales do you have to tell.

Once a month, I do make just one small concession to prissing and preening. I visit the beauty shop. That is where I meet my beautician. I put on a smock and then she begins to work her magic. She starts dabbing a little liquid gold to my graying roots. I sit there while the chemicals cover up my aging roots. All this has worked perfectly for years. But something has changed.

Last month, after a car accident, I went to have this magic performed and it set off a terrific headache and muscle spasms in my neck. Just the act of leaning my head back against the bowl of the sink must have “pinched a nerve” as they say. Won’t do that again, I thought.

But yesterday found me back at the magic shop for my monthly dose of liquid gold. No leaning back over the bowl for me! This time I leaned my head forward with a towel plastered to my eyes while my beautician rinsed my poor aching head. So far, so good. Then she started cutting and trimming my hair, and blowing it dry. With every pull of the brush I started to feel my head starting to spin again. “Stop” I said. No more prissing and preening. But it was too late. My head was already starting to throb and I knew that I would have a headache and muscle spasms as a result of my vanity.

I am like other women. I do want to look beautiful. And my one concession is dyeing to look young.

As I turn 70, it gives me pause to reflect on life and how I want to be viewed by the world. When I tell people that I am turning 70, I often hear them say: “You cannot be 70. You look too young.” That’s what hair color can do for you…give you back a few of the years, back to the time you really did have color in your hair.

I read somewhere that women look younger these days because they color their hair. Not as many old gray crones as there used to be. That may be the case, but I have to admit that dyeing to be young certainly triggered some powerful physical and emotional reflections in me this month, and I am still recovering from my recent dye jobs. I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I need to ease into this thing called old age. I’m already planning my return to the beauty shop, but next time just the dye job. I’ll do my own more gentle hair pulling as I blow it dry, or maybe I’ll just let it dry naturally.

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Voices Being Heard From Beyond Walls

I had a dream that there were voices calling out to me from Beyond Walls.  When I listened closely I could tellimage that they were the voices of women…some I knew, others I didn’t.  They were all were pleading with me to help tear down the walls that separated us from one another other.  I didn’t know how to respond.  I wanted to help but I couldn’t find any tools to break down the barriers that were keeping us apart.

I stared at the wall.  It was made of “safety glass” with glistening lights.  My first thought was that it was a magician’s cage…you know, the kind that would hide a person and make them disappear.    A voice whispered: “You are aware that it is all an illusion.”

Usually the act consists of a male magician who dons a top hat and swirls around in a cape, and waves a magic wand…and at his invitation or command, his beautiful woman assistant goes inside a magic box.  As soon as she is securely inside, the quickly lockers her in, and then with the wave of his stick he makes her disappear.  He spins the box around and around with a smirk on his face.  He thinks he has all the power, and the woman is at his mercy.  She is just the “side show.”

In my dream I began scrambling around, looking for a book of magic tricks so that I could learn how to set the woman free.  I desperately wanted to get her out of the box.  I knew that if I didn’t do something fast, she might be trapped forever.

As I was struggling to find such a book, I woke up from the dream.

Whose voices were calling out to me?  Who needed to be set free?  And then it dawned on me.

The Pope is coming to visit the United States in September.  Many Roman Catholic women across the country and being contacted by their bishops and being told to remain silent while the pope is here.  There are even plans in some dioceses to put them behind walls, or to keep them far out of sight, so that the Pope won’t see them or hear their voices.  Even some parishes and other centers that had offered them a place to stay during the Pope’s visit have been receiving some pressure to just turn them away…to disinvite them.  They should be told that they are not welcome, supposedly because they might make their dioceses look like they couldn’t control their women.

Do you think I am dreaming this up?  Just look closely at the “safety glass walls” that are being put up and see beyond the glittering lights to the other side as plans are being made for the Pope’s visit.

From first hand experience, I know that Members of the Women’s Ordination Conference have been officially silenced by the Office of the Pope since 1983 when he officially banned members of the WOC to be in dialogue with their bishops.  How do I know this for a fact?  Because I was a loyal daughter of the Roman Catholic Church and member of the WOC back then.  It was that desperate act of censure that drove me out of the Roman Catholic Church.  I had accepted that it would be a long time before women would be ordained, but I never in my wildest dreams thought that my church would ban me from speaking about women’s ordination!  I could not remain silent.

At that time I joined the Episcopal Church and began the process towards ordination to the priesthood.  While it was not an easy process by any means, I was able to speak up before bishops, standing committees, commissions on ministry, and other members of my new church…and my voice was heard.

Other women have chosen another path, and I am in awe of them.  I know women who remained Roman Catholic and have given prophetic witness to their calling to be deacons, priests and bishops.  At the beginning of the 21st century, a small movement began and women’s ordinations in the Roman Catholic Church became a reality.  Women in several countries around the world, including the United States, have been ordained following the rituals of the church by validly ordained bishops in Apostolic Succession.  And I have seen official documents that prove it.

“That can’t be,” you say, “or I would have heard about it.”  That is precisely my point.  Ordained Roman Catholic Women are speaking out, but they are being treated harshly and severely punished by the church they love and feel called to serve.  They are being silenced and put in a box marked “excommunication” for the “crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman.”

Their stories are being told on their websites.  Just Google Roman Catholic Women Priests and Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and you will see their faces, their ordination dates, and the ministries in which they serve.  They are real and they are here to stay.

There is also an excellent documentary about this movement called “Pink Smoke Over The Vatican” that documents the first ordinations of women deacons, priests and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church.  You can order a copy of this DVD through amazon.com

Their movement continues to grow.  In September, just as the Pope arrives in our country, three women bishops from those who are already ordained in Apostolic Succession will ordain three new women bishops in order to provide the leadership and organization for their growing numbers.  This is not a protest but a prophetic witness to how the Spirit is moving while the hierarchy remains rigid and out of touch.  If the bishops listened to their membership, they would learn that an overwhelming majority of American Roman Catholics would welcome women priests.  Their “excommunications” could be lifted and their holy orders recognized, and their ministries would thrive.

I wrote back in 1983 that I longed for the day when I would be able to embrace my sister priests in the Roman Catholic Church.  It was a hope and a dream that has now become a reality.  I am proud to say that I have heard their voices and have felt their warm embrace as we are called to serve God in our various vocations and ministries.  I hope that you get to know them, to listen to their stories, and speak out so that together we can break the illusion that they are not wanted or needed by the Church that they love, and by the people that God has called them to serve.

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I’m Feeling Like a Japanese Bowl Today

Today is the one month anniversary of my car crash.  I’ve been on the mend ever since.  It hasn’t been easy, but through prayer, meditation, journaling and the healing prayers of family and friends, and the work of the doctors and physical therapists, I am healing.

A dear friend of mine posted a YouTube video today, with photos and lyrics by Peter Mayer…a song about a Japanese bowl.  Here are the lyrics:

I’m like one of those Japanese bowls That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me They have been filled with gold

That’s what they used back then When they had a bowl to mend
It did not hide the cracks It made them shine instead

So now every old scar shows from every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see I’m not what I used to be

But in a collector’s mind All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful And worth a higher price

I’m like one of those Japanese bowls I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see See how they shine of gold.
-Peter Mayer

These words will echo in my mind and fill my heart this day.  May they be a blessing to you too.  May all your cracks and broken places be filled with gold.  Love, M+

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Taking Stock

imageI tend to be a person of action, always on the go or planning my next move.  So it was hard for me to hear from my doctor that I have to rest and take things slow and easy for a while.  It goes against my nature.  But it also causes me to take stock and perhaps even set some new priorities.

Why do I wait to slow down until I have to?  I think it is because my “to do” list is never completed, and my “bucket list” keeps growing every year.

I tell myself that it is a good thing that I am so interested in learning new things and making new discoveries.  I thrive on having a schedule that is filled to the brim!

But when I have to slow down, I often find it painful to cross things off my calendar, mostly because I find it hard to really let go.  I still want to squeeze in as much as I can.

How is it for you?  Do you struggle with prioritizing what to keep on your schedule and what to let go of?  Would love to hear from you and learn what works for you.

Blessings on your journey.  M+

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External, Internal and Eternal Life

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  How many lives do we live?  Most of us would say we  have one life.  But I believe that I am living three lives simultaneously…External, Internal and Eternal.  Let me explain.

We all have an external self…the one the world can see.  At first glance, people will judge us by our physical bodies.  Are we beautiful? Well proportioned? Without scar or blemish?  Can we run fast, or play sports well, or climb a mountain?  Are we disabled and need assistance with our activities of daily living?  While physical appearance may seem important, it shows only part of who we are in relation to others.

Some of us wear our internal emotions on our external sleeves.  Such is the joy of being an extrovert.  My family and friends know pretty much how I am feeling at any given moment. What you see is usually what you get.

But that still isn’t the entirety of my being.  There are also areas of my life that I don’t often talk about.  I call that my internal life.  To get past the superficial, I have to know you pretty well and trust you completely before I will begin to share the deepest parts of myself.  Actually, that is very wise.  It often keeps us from being hurt or even betrayed.

If I decide to share my internal self, that means that I will allow others to get to know me beyond the superficial.  I may share stories about my upbringing, or talk about my values, or describe my passions and what I hold dear.  Sometimes that is in a personal, one on one relationship.  Other times, it is in a group setting such as a book club, writers group, bible study, or any group where people support one another.

And then there is my eternal self, the one I believe will live forever.  From the moment I was conceived in my mother’s womb, I believe that I began life eternal life with my Creator and that life will be everlasting.  That is based on my Christian faith and my personal beliefs.  Indeed, this is a Mystery that really cannot be explained, only experienced…and it goes to the core of who I am.

There have been quite a few people over the years that I have trusted with my external, internal and eternal life, but only when a great bond of trust had been formed.  In my vocation as a parish priest, chaplain, and retreat leader, I have also had the privilege of people gaining enough trust in their relationship with me enough to share all of themselves with me to share their deepest selves…external, internal and eternal.

As I move farther away from parish ministry and chaplaincy work, I am delving deeper into social media as a way to connect with others on a spiritual level, Sometimes I wonder how deeply I will be able to connect with others perhaps without every being with them in person.

I have had glimpses into this through my limited experience with social media.  I have been amazed that I have connected with others, beyond the superficial, through Facebook and more recently through my blog.

My goal is to connect with others in such a way that we both can grow spiritually through our sharing on social media.  Here’s how it is working so far.  When I feel a connection with someone through a Facebook page or website, I will often send them a personal message and see how they respond.  Often this leads to more sharing, perhaps through a Skype visit or Face time meeting.  In a few instances, it has led to meeting them in person.

That leads me to thinking about my goal for this blog, which is still in formation mode.

Recently, I was part of a class on social media where we were given a model of how to increase our followers on Facebook, websites and blogs.  We were told that if we really worked the system, we  might be able to increase our follows to 10,000!  Yikes!!!

That hardly goes along with my pastoral model of ministry.  I never wanted to be pastor of a mega church where I was the leader of leaders but didn’t really have interactions with parishioners.  So, if I am honest,  I would like to have a more pastoral size following…perhaps someday reaching two to three hundred people.  That feels about right to me.

I would like us to have a place to share some of our thoughts on the external, internal, and eternal lives we are leading.  Would you like to be part of such a group?  Than maybe this blog is for you.  Blessings, Mary Anne+

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Reading is Fundamental

imageRemember that slogan, “Reading is Fundamental?”  Actually, it is the name of the largest non-profit literacy organization in the United States.  For 50 years, its goal has been to provide children with books of their own so that they will value reading and life-long learning.

Fortunately, my mother was a one-woman “book pusher” in my family.  One of my earliest memories is one of sitting on my mother’s lap, with a brother on each side, and having my mom read to us.  They were mostly Golden Books, which dates my childhood back to the late 40’s and early 50’s.  As my mother would read, I would memorize what she was saying and then read the book back to her.  She was astounded.  I think I actually learned to memorize before I learned to read, but because my mother read books to me, I became an avid reader long before I entered kindergarten in 1950.

Reading has always been a joy to me.  It was a way to learn about the world beyond my neighborhood in Chicago.  It was also a way to find out information on any topic that crossed my imagination.  I can remember a few times in grammar school when my reading ability wasn’t exactly welcomed by my teachers.  Whatever subject we were learning in school, I would go home and look up additional information in our encyclopedia.  If the information didn’t agree with what my teacher was telling the class, I would bring the encyclopedia to school and proudly announce to her where she went wrong.  I certainly didn’t win too many points for that.

My love of reading got me my first job.  I think I had read every book in our small neighborhood library at Christopher Settlement House by the time I was 15.  In fact, I used to ask the librarian to order books that I wanted to read.  When she was leaving this part time joy, she recommended that I be offered the position.  She told the director that I knew every book in the library and could easily learn the rest of the job.  So I started working 3-5, Monday through Friday, for $1.00 per hour.  The library was mine, and I was even able to order books!

One of the joys I have had in life was to introduce my children to reading.  And not just my own kids, but others as well.  When I was pastor of a parish in a lower income area, one of my favorite outreach programs was to ask parishioners to bring in children’s books so that we could distribute them to kids at our local school.  Believe it or not, the books we gave the children for Christmas were often the first books that some of the kids had ever owned.

Over the years I have also belonged to several book clubs, and it seemed like the members always became fast friends because we all shared a love of reading.  Its not everyone who understands why you would stay up all night to finish a good book because you just couldn’t put it down.  I can remember as a young child taking a flash light and reading under the covers at night when I was supposed to be sleeping.  And as a young mom, I recall staying up all night to finish a book because I wouldn’t have time to read during the day with several toddlers and infants in the house.

That’s why its been so hard for me to give up reading this past week.  Because I suffered a mild concussion in a car accident, I’m supposed to limit my screen time (computer, iPhone, television) and even reading print books if my eyes feel strained.  Give up books!?!  Impossible.  Most of the time I am reading several at the same time…usually a spiritual book, a book club selection. a history book, maybe a travel book, and perhaps a few magazines or paperback novels.

Giving up television was easy, but books….  My stash sits there waiting for me to feel better again.  And even my blogging has taken a hit.  I’m going to post this quick before I succumb to the temptation to endlessly edit this blog as my allotted screen time is beyond up.

So if you get a chance, read a good book for me today!  And think about donating some books to your local library, or better yet to your nearest elementary school.  You could be the person that changes a child’s life by giving them their first book.  After all, reading is fundamental.

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