Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Apartment Still Leaks

In the middle of January I wrote a blog post called "Called to This Leaky Apartment." The last paragraph of that post read this way:
I have no doubt that I will keep doing ministry, though. I will keep on with my online community. I will keep making local connections. I'll finish that work I keep promising to finish for Presbyterian Women online. I'll keep pushing for this youth collaboration I dearly would love to make happen. I'll preach when and where I can, because I love it. I'll do spiritual direction. I'll lead retreats. Somehow it will be enough, and Christ's love will flow through this work, because Christ's love always flows through our work. And that is what we are called to.
At the time that I wrote I was sure that I had made the right decision to settle down into this pinpoint on a map, but I wasn't sure how I was going to make it all happen. I'm the first to admit that I don't have it all worked out, and the finances of being a "free agent" (aka "tentmaker" or "itinerant preacher") are a bit tricky.
But a lot has happened in six weeks--a lot that astounds me. I'm still taking my salsa class, for one. So for those of you wondering, here is what my current "call" looks like. Or rather I should say, here is how I am using my gifts to both pay the bills and answer Christ's call on my life. Some of this stuff pays the bills. Some of it doesn't pay at all. All of it is bringing me joy.

--Church Planting: Bruce Reyes-Chow announced today a new Presbyterian church plant, and I'm excited to be part of the leadership team for it. It will be "a church online", meaning it will be a church utilizes social media as its primary communication tool, allowing for an organic mix of online and face to face worship, pastoral care, fellowship, and study. We don't have all the details or structure in place--that will form intentionally as the church forms. (And if you'd like to be part of this, here's the facebook group)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Art Journal, February 27-March 4, 2012

Art meditations on a daily lectionary: February 27-March 4, 2012.

Taking some time away from journaling as life got wild for a bit and there just wasn't space. This happens sometimes.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
"The Body of Christ" on John 3:30
He must increase, but I must decrease.




"The reign of God is a warm, flesh, all-encompassing body with
enough spare flesh for all to be nourished."
~Elizabeth Stuart in Lisa Isherwood's The Fat Jesus


the rest of the week after the jump


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Art Journal, February 20-26, 2012

Art meditations on a daily lectionary: February 20-26, 2012.

I started this journal in an effort to alter my perspective on mornings. I thought that if I dragged myself out of bed and meditated for a half hour that I might be more awake when it was time to get the children up.

What I discovered is that if I start the journal at bedtime by writing the phrase of scripture I will meditate on in the morning, creative ideas begin to flow as I go to sleep. When I wake up, I'm pretty eager to get those ideas on paper, and it's been easy to get up. 

Go figure: it is good to have something joy-filled to wake up for. Not that a surly, sleepy, hibernating bear of a teenager isn't joy-filled...

Sunday, February 26, 2012
"I Have Questions, O Mighty One" on Genesis 9:11
Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.


















Links for help dealing with Intimate Violence:

     (Burlington County, NJ) 
     (Mercer County, NJ) 
     (Santa Barbara County, CA)

(the rest of the week after the jump)

Friday, February 24, 2012

NonCompliance

Whirlpool/Spiral Galaxy
by Smithsonian
Years ago, when I worked for the YMCA, I drove the big vans to pick up students from elementary schools and deliver them to our after school programs. I liked driving the vans--it was a break from my administrative work, and it was fun to talk with the kids. Finding commercially licensed drivers was always tricky anyway--I imagine I could gather with other YMCA professionals and say, "How's that finding drivers this year?" and you would hear a chorus of groans. Some years, some of us just drove the routes.

I set up routes based on school let out times, locations, traffic. After driving for a while, I knew which schools let out late, how long it took students to get to the van, and which schools had the worst pick-up routines (parents, you KNOW what I'm talking about). 

But I didn't realize that I needed to take into account one Miss Samantha Stark (name changed, of course).

Samantha did not comply with my route schedule. She got out of school every day at the same time the other children did, but it took her a full ten minutes longer to get to the van. 

I had a talk with her. I had a talk with her parents. I parked the van and walked to her classroom, dragging the kindergarteners with me. I carried her backpack. I pleaded, I cajoled, I offered bribes. But no matter what I did, Samantha took ten minutes longer to get to the van.

She was in 6th grade, and her classroom was in the back of the school--a good three minute walk--if you're moving slow. But this child did not just move slow. She ambled. And while she ambled, she twirled and laughed to herself. She swung her backpack all around in circles and kicked rocks and leaves on the way. She stopped to stare at patterns in the brick walls. 

Samantha was utterly lost in her private enjoyment of the walk from classroom to van, totally unaware and uncaring of my route schedule, the work I had piling up back at the office, or the kindergarteners waiting for a snack. It wasn't an unkindness, she just was Samantha, with her feet planted firmly in who she was. And who she was was a person who didn't rush things.

Samantha would come around the corner of the building and look up at me waiting impatiently at the van, and she would smile and wave. Then she'd twirl a few more times on the way, stopping to pick up something interesting. She had large, ginormous eyes, and as she came to the van she would smile cheerfully and say, "hi!" Then she'd plop down in a seat like we hadn't all been sitting there for 15 minutes waiting.

It took me longer than it should, but I rewrote my route schedules. I brought snack on the van for the wee ones, and we ate it during the ten extra minutes it took Miss Samantha Stark to amble on to the van. Instead of folding my arms and tapping my foot as I waited for this recalcitrant child to arrive, I rested a bit and waited to see her twirl her way onto the van.

I have never forgotten the power that child had to stop the universe in its tracks.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Let the Door Hit You...

Over lunch I re-read Matthew 6:6 and reflected on my art journal from this morning:

"Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret."

A wisp of memory came to me of Parker Palmer's book, Let Your Life Speak, brought to mind because of the reference to closing doors. It's a short book reflecting on vocation from the lens of his own experience. This piece in particular turns on a Quaker phrase: "Have faith, and way will open." Palmer tried meditating on that:
After a few months of deepening frustration, I took my troubles to an older Quaker woman well known for her thoughtfulness and candor. "Ruth," I said, "people keep telling me that 'way will open.' Well, I sit in the silence, I pray, I listen for my calling, but way is not opening. I've been trying to find my vocation for a long time, and I still don't have the foggiest idea of what I'm meant to do. Way may open for other people, but it's sure not opening for me." 
Ruth's reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking. "I'm a birthright Friend," she said somberly, "and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me." She paused, and I started sinking into despair. Was this wise woman telling me that the Quaker concept of God's guidance was a hoax? 
Then she spoke again, this time with a grin. "But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding effect."
So those of us who find ourselves sitting outside doors firmly closed to us, take heart. We are in good enough company, and at least if the door behind you is firmly shut, that's one less door to try.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Get Back To Work

Banner from L.O.G. #33
This was a guest preaching gig. My thanks to the Rev. Will Humes and his congregation for the invitation to preach.

Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Pottstown, PA

Scripture Readings: 

You don’t know me from anyone, so I thought I’d take a minute to tell you a few things about myself before diving in to moralizing through scripture. A few weeks ago I preached at a Baptist church and neglected to say anything about who I am before offering a sermon on the Lost Coin. As I stumbled through the unfamiliar liturgy, leaving out hymns and tripping over the altar call, what they probably figured out best is that I am not a Baptist. So I will tell you right now that I am not a Methodist either. I am a Presbyterian, and I came to God and the church as a teenager. I arrived on God’s doorstep at age 13 when my family blew up with sorrow and rage in the way that families often do. The youth pastor at a Presbyterian church had said once, “If anyone ever needs to talk after school, I’m around in my office.” So I took him up on it, and dumped my story in his lap. He offered me cheezits and some time to talk. 25 years later I am still here and still grateful for that community of faith. 

I am the mother of two boys, each with unique challenges. Their father lives nearby and co-parents with me; I am lucky in that. I have three cats, and I expect that someday I will have more—a friend tells me that the threshold is 10 cats, and after that you become The Cat Lady. I aspire to that, but perhaps my landlord does not. I am a preacher in between calls, which is a fancy way of saying I don’t have a regular gig. I am a writer, reflecting often on scripture and how that connects with concerns about race, sexuality, gender, and love. I am learning to cook. After twenty years of thinking about it, I am learning to play guitar. I am a social media fanatic—you can find me most days on twitter and facebook, where I have gathered about me a wonderful community of people from all over. That is how I met my friend the right Rev. Will Humes. All’s that to say, I have a fairly ordinary life with ordinary concerns. And today’s scripture is exactly about that: holiness in the midst of ordinariness.

Art Journal, February 14-19, 2012

Art meditations on a daily lectionary February 14-19, 2012.

For those of you who think you can't "do art" consider an art journal. I'm enjoying these meditations much more than I thought I would. A friend asked for suggestions on how to start, so I wrote out what I'm doing below the art.

Sunday, February 19, 2012
"A New Hope" On Matthew 17:3
And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.



















(the rest of the week after the jump)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Abandoned Dreams














if you live very long,
and look very deep,
you will find
an abandoned diner
where there used to be hope.

still,
something might yet be done with it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

White Women Do

Reposting this here as I closed down my pastor blog in January from my time at Tiny Church. Still feel strongly about it.

Originally posted 12/8/2011

I've seen a post going around facebook called "15 Things White Girls Love to Do on Facebook" and I want to take a moment and register my objection.

That post makes white women out to be silly young things that sit around all day taking pictures of their feet. Here's a picture of my grown feet:


But what white women do on facebook and every other place of life is far more insidious and dangerous: we participate in ongoing structural racism; we perpetrate micro-aggressions against people of color; we engage in active oppression of our own selves to further a racist patriarchy that benefits us

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine for Those Who Fear

I'm reposting this in honor of those who living in violent situations and those of us who have in the past. And I suppose I'm putting this out there because many of you will say to yourselves, "I could never stay in a violent relationship." And that may be true. But most of us never thought we would either.

Intimate violence hides under rugs and behind closed doors. It lurks in relationships, often unknown to friends and family who visit in our homes. Intimate violence is perpetuated by parents, spouses, children, cousins, friends, and lovers. Intimate violence is hard to get away from, since it is closer to your skin than underwear. Intimate violence becomes a way of life that seems normal, usual, like everybody else. It fogs perception for perpetrator and victim. It tears apart one's soul.

Links for help dealing with Intimate Violence:
     (Burlington County, NJ) 
     (Mercer County, NJ) 
     (Santa Barbara County, CA)

A group of us gathered in October, 2009 for a service focused around intimate violence--the violence perpetuated by family members, close friends, lovers, spouses, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles. We meditated on what it meant to live in fear. And we remembered. You're not alone in this, but if it feels that way, make your way to my doorstep. Email is katiesmulligan@gmail.com and this meditation is for you.

October, 2009, Princeton Theological Seminary
by Katie Mulligan


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

There are days when I cannot stand being in church. This is one of them. There are days like this one when my reflection on the violence around me sensitizes me to the abuse of power, words, and bodies to the point that I can barely stand to be enclosed within four walls. On those days, when the memories of fear and shame are triggered by the everyday, careless uses of power around me, I come to church wondering how this can be a place of healing and safety. I long for wide open spaces.

On days like this, I find it difficult to submit to a narrative of power and authority, for I know that I, like many others in this room, have found my way out from under the oppression of another person’s unjust rule. I hear the words that God is all good and all powerful, and that this makes all the difference. But quite honestly, the people who perpetuate intimate violence claim also to be good in their power. On days like this, when I am steeped in the memories, I long for wide open spaces, where power and authority are flattened and equalized. The four walls of a church bear down and I fix my eyes on the door.

On days like this, even the very words of scripture wrap around me, strangling life. I read through these beautiful words of John of creation, of darkness and light, how the Word was God and with God and all things came into being through him. And while I can hear and see the beauty, I am also aware of how even in just these 5 lines the church has found ways to damage and violate sisters and brothers in the name Christ. As I read through these five lines and hear how once again God (and therefore power and authority) has been equated with a masculine figure, I shrink a little inside. I read in the study notes of my Bible this remark: “Darkness is total evil in conflict with God; it cannot overcome.” And on these days when I am acutely aware of the way in which we use words to imprison others, I think on how darkness as evil has become a way of understanding people and perpetuating violence and racism against whole groups of vulnerable human beings. 

I bring these thoughts, these fears, these memories and connections to church with me, and they are not well understood by those who refuse to reflect on the violence that surrounds us. And I shrink a little inside. I long for wide open spaces. I fix my eyes on the door out of the church.

We come here tonight, each with our own stories. Some of our stories are violent and frightening—they are stories that are not usually welcome in polite company. They are stories that we sometimes cannot tell to our family and friends because they involve our family and friends. For those of us caught up in intimate violence, our safest spaces have been violated—and we have seen for ourselves that the potential for violence and violation exists in every place and in every time. In this way we become broken and small—intimate violence, whether it is physical or sexual or spiritual strips away pieces of our bodies and souls and leaves us conscious of how fragile we are. For many of us, we are never the same again.

Tonight I wish to celebrate this one small thing that for me is everything. In the midst of violence and terror, shame and fear—even in the midst of knowing that others do not wish to discuss what has happened in our lives, we nevertheless are gathering in this chapel. We gather in this place of power and authority, where the word of God Omipotent is preached, and despite everything that has tried to extinguish life and love and trust from our souls, we dare to speak openly of intimate violence. This piece of my soul that held on to life regardless of all that happened to me and around me is a rather wild piece of my soul. It doesn’t conform well to four walls, and it has a habit of messing with scripture in order to keep from strangling.

But what I see in this scripture tonight is that where we meet God is exactly in that wild piece of our souls that holds on to life. Those of us trapped and oppressed by individuals and powers who seek to extinguish the life God gave us can find at our center a wild and raging current of life that refuses to allow the death of the soul. We gather tonight in this sanctuary, even though the wildness in our souls might prefer wide open spaces. We gather tonight to testify to life. We gather to testify to the life of our brothers and sisters whose bodies did not survive. We gather to draw strength and healing from one another—from sisters and brothers who will meet our eyes as we tell our stories of violence. Look around, because the people in this room are people to whom you can tell your stories—and I charge you all with that. If you are here tonight, you are part of that wild, raging current of life, and we need you.

In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...What has come into being in the Word was life, and life is the liberation and survival of all people. The Word shines in the midst of violence and oppression and intimate violence did not extinguish us.

Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Morning: A Parable for the Church

I decided a week ago to reconcile with The Morning. I have wrestled with The Morning for 39 years and lost every single day. I have cursed it, cussed it, spat at it. I have tried to best The Morning by not sleeping until The Afternoon. I have tried sleeping early in The Night in an attempt to trick myself.

I have tried coffee--even Kirk's coffee. I have tried fasting, feasting, showering and not. I have refused to acknowledge The Morning several days in a row.

An actual sunrise from my window
But each day The Morning returns, with a promise just out of my reach. And each day I stumble through, longing for the day when I might start my days with The Afternoon. Or at least Elevensies.

Last Monday I woke up and growled at The Morning. The Morning did not respond. The Day went badly. And it occurred to me that The Morning will come to me again and again, and I am wasting effort hating The Morning. So I decided to reconcile.

I got up yesterday morning and I sang hymns. The day went well. I only cursed at The Morning once. I think I woke the neighbors with "Great Is The Lord."

I decided to art journal. I decided I would find one phrase each night from the next day's lectionary and write it in my journal at the end of the day. That way I could sleep on it, and start the day with God's word.

My prayer corner
These habits I am trying to form may wear off in a week. I have the attention span of a sparrow, flitting here and there. But you know what will stick with me? The reading for tomorrow: 
Now there were four leprous men outside the city gate, who said to one another, ‘Why should we sit here until we die? If we say, “Let us enter the city”, the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; but if we sit here, we shall also die. (2 Kings 7:3-4)

In my journal are the words, "Why should we sit here until we die?" In the morning I will greet The Morning with this scripture. And then I will say, "Run and tell that."

Nostalgic For What Wasn't

I was driving with my boys tonight and they decided to share some of their music with me. I didn't grow up with a lot of music in my home, although I took piano lessons and listened to John Denver more than any human ever has or ever will. I started to be shocked at some of the lyrics, and then I remembered Jr. High and Madonna, Cindy Lauper, etc etc etc. Oh the 80's. I can still smell where I was when I hear certain songs. "Papa Don't Preach" "Careless Whisper"etc etc etc.

I remember a high school sweetheart, and this was our song:



I went to college. He joined the army and then went to college. We were terribly young. I was terribly unkind.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Snail's Pace

via http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1039003/
My life right now feels like a snail's life. Slow, steady, focused on what is most immediately in front of me. I'm moving slowly and so, it seems, are most of the people I am dependent upon for work, friendship, and life in general.

At least in part, this is because people moving at lightning speed have long since sprinted past me to wherever it is they are going.

And in part this is because children grow at a snail's pace. And for the last ten years and the next ten years, I am wrapped up in these beautiful children of mine.

And partly, I have become convinced that a snail's pace allows for a fascinating experience of life. 

But everyday, and oh yes, I do mean everyday, for a moment or two I think longingly of a faster paced life. I miss the exhilaration of performing 72 tasks at once and doing them more or less well. I miss not having to think about the sorrows and pains of life because there are so many intriguing things to do that I don't have time to think about them. I miss the joy of being caught up in the raging winds of spirit and life and excitement.

And then I remember that when snails get dropped from great heights by the winds that their shells crack and they get eaten by other creatures. So for now, a snail. And for now, a snail's pace.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Yurodivy

Somebody asked me yesterday what keeps me going through this rather complicated time in my life (which seems to be staying complicated). I was reminded of the Russian folk figure, the yurodivy

I had posted the quote below a while back on my pastor blog. The question of what will keep us going in the church through this rather complicated time is a question that seems to be staying with us.

I hear a lot of fear around me about ministry in uncertain, insecure times. And probably if my circumstances weren't already uncertain and a bit insecure I'd be fighting hard to keep them certain and secure. 

I guess what keeps me going most days is a line from Psalm 139: "If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast." I cling to that, even as I'm moving in directions I never expected. I cling to the certain knowledge that no matter how far I move outside others' expectations (and my own) that even there Gods hands shall lead me and hold me fast. Perhaps this is what the yurodivy knows best.

Here is that quote I posted in November, 2009, shortly after my ordination.

A Twitter friend of mine tweeted this tonight: "If the church is to survive, it must abandon the idea that it is sacred and everything else is profane. It is all sacred."  This reminded me of Iulia de Beausobre, who wrote an essay called “Creative Suffering” If you get a chance to read her story, she is quite an amazing woman.  But here is a little bit of her essay.

(And my deepest gratitude to the yurodivy's of my life, who have walked with me through my most terrible moments and taught me to dance. You know who you are.)

This matter of participation brings us to a figure as popular as he is typical in Russian history and life--to the yurodivy, 'the born fool', so hard to describe to anyone who has not grown up in Russia.

It is perhaps best to begin by pointing out what the yurodivy is not. He is not a monk, though there is much about him that might lead the passer-by to think that he was: his speech, intonation, cant phrases, sometimes his clothes, and always his absolute voluntary poverty lend him a monkish air. He is nobody's son, nobody's brother, nobody's father, and has no home. He is as old as the history of Christian Russia and wanders over the whole of that huge country feeling equally at home everywhere. But he settles down nowhere and is usually to be met on the road. As often as not he has a practised trade, but prefers for the most part to live on the people, and in return for his meal and night's lodging will give them a piece of his mind, seldom mincing his words. Though he has no schooling at all, he is always ready to express, in chant and rhyme, his views upon the world of matter and the world of spirit; on Russia, her friends and her enemies, and on infinity; on the past, present and future, and on eternity. And yet he remains somehow lovable, and he is loved; cherished in fact, because he is a living personification of what most Russians take to be true Russia, and in him every Russian is confronted with something of his own essence.

From a practical point of view, no useful purpose is served by anything that the yurodivy does. He achieves nothing. Yet there must be some strong attraction at work to draw men (and women too), poor creatures most of them, to choose such a rough and comfortless life, manhandled from time to time, pelted by children and set on by dogs. The attraction is found in participation, participation in all the dregs of life. The aim of the yurodivy is to participate in evil through suffering. He makes of this his life's work because, to the Russian, good and evil are, here on earth, inextricably bound together. This is, to us, the great mystery of life on earth. Where evil is at its most intense, there too must be the greatest good. To us this is not even an hypothesis. It is axiomatic.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Voyeurism

This weekend I read a book written by a straight Christian man about how to minister to queer folk. I probably shouldn't have read it. My thanks to those who put up with me while I did.

One of the things that troubled me most about this book was the sense of being watched, intruded upon, and exposed. I do not think the author saw clearly, but to the extent that his words hit home, it was painful to read. This book felt like the work of a voyeur. But I am reminded in the work of Marcella Althaus-Reid that the voyeur is as involved with the objects of his gaze as are the objects:

“The voyeur’s gaze can carry the intention to dislocate power...Dogmatics or ecclesiology aside, the first challenge that the voyeur’s gaze presents to us is that its power is outside the order of legitimation...The voyeur looks and sees in the other what the other cannot look at.  The voyeur masters the surroundings, contexts, and materiality