carla considers ged

(Nota Bene: I penned this on the bus this morning. The craft I refer to as mine is the craft of preaching.)

wizard-of-earthsea-ged-and-gebbeth-by-ajinakI’ve been listening to a set of books that I read when I lived in southern California: The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin. The first book in the series tells of how Ged grew from boyhood to manhood and became a wizard. There is a dark feel to the book as Ged goes about his quest of undoing what he had done. And Ged himself has an experience that darkens him and humbles him.

There was a time when I was very much like Ged. I felt myself destined for great things. I knew myself to be talented and gifted at my craft. I was proud and impatient and eager to show my talents and to be admired for them.

Then like Ged I followed my own arrogance into a place in which I had no business being. Although I didn’t unleash a destructive force like Ged, I did unleash something that was partly from within me and that would change me. Ged was plunged into darkness and so was I. His experience was humbling and so was mine. Ged’s experience almost killed him and so did mine. Ged’s experience transformed him and so did mine.

When I first read A Wizard of Earthsea I was like the “before” version of Ged. Reading it then brought fear to my mind. Hearing the book now brings more tears than fear. It’s been many years since that experience but I cannot forget it. Sometimes I get a flashback of that time and taste some of that darkness. Sometimes I see how far I’ve come.

Some have said that I am now a master at my craft. There was a time when I thought being a master of my craft would bring me a deep sense of personal accomplishment. I longed for the recognition and for the praise. I wanted to be called one of the best. When I came through my own battle and darkness I didn’t feel that way about my craft anymore. At that time I thought I would never practice it again. I mourned its loss. I figured there would be no more chances.

During my time of initial healing I learned some humility (though not nearly enough). When I was given a chance to practice the craft again I had learned and matured a little. I finally understood how important it is to use the craft wholly in the service of the Giver of all things. I try to bear this in mind now whenever I’m working the craft. And if someone says, “You are good at your craft,” I acknowledge the compliment. And I remember the enduring truth: The craft serves the Creator. The craft serves the Incarnate One. The craft serves the Spirit–even as I do. In the economy of this craft there is no room for empty arrogance. A lesson which (like Ged) I’ve learned the hard way.

the greatest july 4th of my life

2015-07-04 08.47.23This is a poor picture of my grand-nephew. He is here in the Pacific Northwest visiting and on 7/4/2015 he asked me to take a picture of him standing near the flag and holding a red, white and blue pinwheel. He knew that July 4th was a special day. In fact, quite unbidden he said to me, “Happy Fourth of July, Aunt Carla.”

Though he knows that July 4th is a holiday, there is so much he does not know, that he someday will know.

He does not yet know that this father served in Afghanistan. He doesn’t even know where it is.

He does not yet understand what it means that his mother served her country in the armed forces.

He does not know yet, that his great-grandfather fought in WWII in France.

He does not yet know that the nation, whose flag he stands beside, once condoned and defended the slavery of his ancestors.

He does not yet know the meaning of the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Nor does he yet know why those words have irony, hypocrisy, promise and longing in them.

He does not yet know the words of people like Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

However by the time he comes to know these things, I pray that he will know things that I’ve never known.

I pray that he will know a nation that has done the hard work of racial reconciliation.

I pray that he will know a nation that is at peace.

I pray that he will know a nation where finally no one is judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I pray that he will know a nation where no one has to answer the question, “What are you?”

I have no children and never have. I have no desire to have children. However when I look at this child who is one of many who will carry my family’s DNA in to the future, how can I fail to be moved? When I look at this child who captured my heart the first day I saw him, how can I not pray earnestly for his future? When I look upon this child, who will one day know the story of his aunt Carla, how can my heart not fill up with love? What can want for him, more than to know the amazing love of God in Christ, the sustaining love family and the opportunity for love unimaginably in his life?

Oh, my little one, may God pour out grace immeasurable on you and your generation.

why i don’t write commentary about current events

Ancient-Egyptian-scribes-crop-300x187Over the years Rain and Clouds has not been my platform for giving my opinion about current events. I have intentional resisted the temptation to do that. I have taken instead the course of sharing my life as the events in my society and the world unfold. My feeling is that there are plenty of voices doing commentary on contemporary events. The overwhelming majority of those voices do there work in a way that is far superior to any attempts that I would make in such a venue. Thus this blog is not about Carla’s opinion on any event. This blog is about the one thing that I am an expert on: my life. My life is shaped and effected by the events of my time, just as anyone else’s life is shaped. So I write with the assumption that people who might read this blog are aware of the big events to which I might allude. However my hope is that people are getting information and and commentary from others.

Some have said to me, “But Carla, you’re a preacher and as such you do comment on current events.” That is true. I believe that central to preaching is the application of ancient texts to a current situation. However that is Carla the preacher and not Carla the blogger. In the big wide world there has been much afoot: the Charleston shootings and the burning of African-American churches, the Supreme Court decision regarding same gender marriage, the Episcopal Church’s election of it first African-American Presiding Bishop, Pope Francis’ Encyclical on climate change. I will allude to these over the time however I don’t refer to them as news events. They are the context in which I live my life. There are many voices that will be able to lay out the importance of these events in the life of the world. I commend people’s attention to those sources. Here is this little blog I comment on my little life as one among many.

tv eucharist

TVEucharist4On June 30th I was involved in the taping of TV Eucharist. I’ve had the chance to do this on several occasions as a priest, deacon, and lay person. Usually two liturgies are taped and I was preacher for one of them and presider for the other.

Both of those roles are challenging but for me the greatest challenge is being the preacher. I have to do a number of things that I don’t like to do and that I don’t do well. For one, I have to stay behind a podium. The camera expects me to be in one place and only in one place. The camera expects be in the frame. The camera only catches me as head, shoulders, arms and trunk behind a podium. That setting does not favor the way I preach.

I consider preaching to be an incarnational act. Part of what that means is that preaching involves my whole body. Gestures, movement, walking, expressions, use of visuals, voice use–all of physical-ness of my preaching is a part of how I practice the craft. They are not icing on top of a cake. They are ingredients in the cake. Working in front of a stationary camera forces me to limit that physical-ness and thus limits me as a preacher.

Preaching takes as long as it takes in my practice of the craft. However TV Eucharist has a space of 8 minutes for the homily. To be honest, I’m just getting warmed up after 8 minutes of preaching. It’s hard for me to be done with a sermon in 8 minutes. I don’t lose track of time when I’m preaching but I am not particularly aware of it either. However I am very aware of time when doing TV Eucharist and I’m aware of what that awareness is doing to me as a preacher.

By far the hardest part of being a preacher for TV Eucharist is the absence of an assembly. There is no one in front of me. I consider preaching to be interactive, the way I practice the craft. When there is no assembly to interact with I am like a dolphin alone in big square fish tank. My sonar has nothing but the sides of the tank to bounce off of. I feel very much lost and alone. That is tough for me because for me preaching is also a communal act. All things considered, TV Eucharist is clearly not me at my best.

Why then do I say yes to it? It’s a combination of two reasons. Neither might compel me alone but together they do. 1) TV Eucharist reaches people who cannot be in a corporate setting for worship. That community needs to be served. That community needs to be reminded that they are a part of the body of Christ. TV Eucharist is a strong liturgically reminder of that central fact of the faith. 2) Those who are served by TV Eucharist are getting a view into the current make up of the church, its laity and its clergy. It is important that they see the diverse people whom God has called into ministry, lay and clergy. So my brown face needs to be there. For these two reasons I gladly say yes to TV Eucharist, even though I’m not my best me in that setting. In other words, TV Eucharist is yet another way that God says to me, “Carla, it’s not all about you.”

the fourth of july

b014fc99f65e143414b31af4b72ce2e4Every year since the time I first arrived in LA (1992), I’ve listened to the reading of the Declaration of Independence as read on NPR. Today, as always, I am amazed at the power of that document. I am so deeply moved at what this document says. I am sometimes ready to cry and sometime ready to scream. I know there are parts of this document that are simply dated. There are parts of this document that I just don’t agree with. Yet there are parts of this that move me as deeply as the texts of Scripture.

Jefferson on “All men” is very different from my understanding of “all people.” Jefferson on the “merciless Indian savages” is just wrong in my opinion. Jefferson’s opinion of African slaves, Indian peoples, and the European poor were from the point of view of a man of privilege. His view of liberty and freedom are seen through that lens. I think it’s a clouded lens.

Still how he defines injustice, injuries and usurpations track with my own understand of the same. For a moment I wondered what Jefferson might think if he saw the current state of the American political state. Then I realized that this is not the question. Jefferson is dead. What matters in how I see the current state of the American political state and how my fellow citizens see it. Jefferson is gone but his words call me to be accountable for the state of the nation. To that end am I, like those in 1776, prepared to pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor?