Welcome to Our Church of Holy Introversion

As I said last week, I’m on vacation now and as such, wasn’t sure I’d be posting this week. But the responses from my birthday poll (if you haven’t taken it yet, get to it), made me think of the time I celebrated those of us who don’t enjoy celebrations. It’s one of my favorites – I’m particularly fond of the illustrations Daughter and I did together – so even if you’ve read it before, I hope you’ll pardon the rerun. This first ran in November 2017:

Welcome to Our Church of Holy Introversion. Please enter quietly…

Feel free to stay in the comfort of your own home and join us online. This, my fellow introverts, is your safe haven. 

Now let us gather together (not literally together, of course; we respect personal boundaries here), and recite our Opening Prayer of Introversion:

O Holy Silence and Quiet Interlude, we do seek you.
Make our trembling hearts, which feel deeply, but discretely, Yours. Lead us to that still place within our souls where we can find rest, and, if possible, keep the noisy people from talking for just one freakin’ minute.
We say all this in the name of the system we hold good and faithful and true, Dewey Decimal.
Amen.

And now it’s time for our first hymn. The words are printed in your bulletin if one was emailed to you, but if you don’t have one, no worries. They’re on the screen too.

As always, you can sing along if you want, or just think the words quietly to yourself. That works too.

I’ll Go Home
(sung to the tune of I’ll Fly Away)

Some glad moment when this party’s o’er,
I’ll go home (go home)
To my place where silence never ends,
I’ll go home (go home)

I’ll go on home, oh Glory
I’ll go home (go home)
When my ride is ready, “Bye and bye”
I’ll go home (go home)

Just a few more weary minutes then,
I’ll go home (go home)
No more mingling and faking friendliness,
I’ll go home (go home)

I’ll go on home, oh Glory
I’ll go home (go home)
When my ride is ready, “Bye and bye”
I’ll go home (go home)

Thank you, everyone. That was beautiful. Boy, those old standards always bring a tear to the eye, don’t they?

I’d like to point out that playing organ for us today (from the comfort of her own residence, of course), is Beatrice Milford from Lincoln, Nebraska. Thank you, Beatrice, for sharing your gifts with us, however privately.

Now it’s time for sharing our joys and concerns. If you have any you’d like to share, please type them in the box below. Don’t be shy.

Though if you are shy, that’s okay too.

Katy in Melbourne: I have a joy. Yesterday at work, my boss approved my request to work more from home. I start next week. Three days at home, two at the office. Hallelujah!

Joel in Austin: I have a concern. I’m a student and in two weeks, I have to give an oral report in my English Literature course. Please pray for me. Pneumonia would be nice. Or maybe a brief coma.

Felicity in Seattle: I just want to say how thankful I am for finding this church. I feel like this is a place where I can be myself, let my hair down and get crazy if I want to. Not that I want to. Well, you know what I mean.

Yes, we do, Felicity.

Thank you everyone for sharing. We also received a number of private messages from individuals not comfortable with voicing their concerns in a private forum. We respect that.

And now it’s time to recite our statement of faith:

We believe in the Triune Behavior of Introspection, Self-Awareness, and Not Speaking Until You’re Spoken To and Possibly Not Then Either.

We believe in Thinking Things Over for a Really, Really Long Time Before Acting on Them, and Then Thinking a Little Longer.

We believe a few trusted friends are far better than many friends, and we uphold every person’s right to refuse a hug when they don’t want to be hugged, and, oh, if only everyone did.

We believe in the building of more libraries, the sanctity of quiet spaces, and the necessity of a kitty cat on our lap and/or a doggie at our feet.

Cat for an IntrovertWe believe in a Brooding Spirit,
The Holy Contemplation,
The Forgiveness of Faking Friendliness,
And the Joy of Creativity, forevermore.
Amen.

Now, before our final hymn, I’d like to draw your attention to a few events happening this week. As always, newcomers are encouraged to attend at any time, and remember, everything is offered online.

(Of course.)

Monday Podcast

Coping with Extroverts at Work: Strategies for Surviving Committee Meetings, Group Projects, and Coworkers with Pet Phrases

Tuesday Video Series

Establishing Boundaries – Handling the Extroverts in your Life, Episode 5: Violence is Not the Answer

Wednesday Webinar

Recluse or Hermit: Choosing the Right Lifestyle for You

Thursday Choir Meeting & Potluck

Please email our director, Winifred Placida, if you’re interested in joining. She’ll send you the music so you can sing from home. If you’d like to join the potluck, send us an email and we’ll give you the details once we figure them out.

Friday Book Club Meeting

Online discussion of the new book: “I was an Extrovert Wannabe – Confessions of a Closeted Introvert”Introverted boy

We hope you’ll find time to join us for one or more of these activities. And remember, if you have any ideas for future events, please don’t hesitate to text us.

And now it’s time for our final hymn. I think you all know it. Beatrice, will you start us off, please? 

How Great’s My Home
(Sung to the tune of How Great Thou Art)

Verse 1: O Lord, my room, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all these four walls mean to me
I have my books, my laptop and my Netflix,
It’s all I need, for an evening of pure glee.

Chorus: Then sings my soul! I’m finally all alone:
How great’s my Home! How great’s my Home!

Then sings my soul, I’m finally all alone:
How great’s my Home! How great’s my Home!

Verse 2: When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And read Thoreau, and hear about his beans,

He make good points, perhaps a bit pretentious,
Though I gotta say, his cabin sounds sweet to me.

(Chorus)

Verse 3: When a friend should come, to a point of understanding,
And drive me home, what joy shall fill my heart,
I’ll tell them thanks, and promise I’ll call them real soon,
And then proclaim, “My Home, how great thou art!”    

(Chorus)

Thank you all for joining us today. Please be sure to sign our guest book on your way out, and remember: There is nothing wrong with you! You are perfect just the way you are!

And now, let us all rise for the blessing:

May your books be plenty
And your interruptions few.
May no unwanted attention
Ever shine upon you.
May peace be in your home
May social obligations be few
And may the extroverts in your life
Finally start listening to you.

We’ll leave you today with a quote from our Patron Saint of Introverts, Greta Garbo:

I never said, “I want to be alone.” I only said, “I want to be let alone! There is all the difference.

And let all the Introverts say: Amen!

Note: The inspiration for this post came from Brian of Bonnywood, who gave his permission for me to organize this Church, even though it was his idea.
Thank you, Brian!  🙂

No chickadees this week. Instead, let’s talk more about racism

Ah, man, I like chickadees!

Yeah, sorry about that. Listen, we really wanted to talk about chickadees – and tell you about other visitors to the bird feeder! – but a certain angel chick on our shoulder was having none of it. She claimed we needed to do a follow up from last week’s post, because to write on a topic like racism and then do a fluff piece seemed a little… well, as she put it:angel on my shoulder

Fine. Get on with it then.

Okay. First some stats: Last week’s post saw a little traffic. It surpassed our record number of reblogs for a single post (more than one), broke our record for shares on Facebook (more than two), and actually brought in readers from Twitter (We’ve no idea what’s happening there; we haven’t tweeted in over three years and can’t remember the password).

It also garnered a number of comments. More comments than “likes”, which we’re told is good but seems weird. And while the comments didn’t break any records in number, they certainly did in length.
All this made us realize that what this blog needs is to cover more serious topics. Like, super serious topics. The more contentious the better!
We could cover climate change!
Abortion!
Whether or not leggings should be worn as pants!

leggings

Please don’t.

We didn’t say we wore them. We just said… eh, never mind.
We had a number of very thoughtful comments, several bringing up things we either didn’t cover or didn’t elaborate on very well.
For instance, both here and elsewhere, people pointed out that prejudice is not limited to white people. It’s a universal problem.

Oh, yeah. I meant to comment on that.

You too?
Listen, we probably didn’t introduce the subject well enough and that’s why people got a wee bit defensive.
No offense.

None taken.

Good.
In hindsight, an explanation for why the Convent was meeting on racism would have helped. You see, a few years ago the Leadership Conference of Women Religious made a pledge:

In the presence of constant and painful reminders of the deep roots of racism in our country, (we) pledge to go deeper into the critical work of creating communion, examining the root causes of injustice and our own complicity, and purging ourselves, our communities, and our country of the sin of racism and its destructive effects.

The Sisters have been at it since before we started working at the convent, though this was the first time they were going to devote a full week to it with the entire community gathered together.
Make sense?

Um… yeah… Sorry, I got distracted. There’s a national conference for nuns?

Right?! We were surprised by that too.

Anyway, it’s not that the Sisters don’t understand the issues of tribalism and the wide spread nature of prejudice, but that they were making a distinction between racial prejudices and racism.
Or maybe we should say “big-R” Racism. Meaning the collective actions of the dominant race. For America, that’s white people of European ancestry. It shows up in our laws, our institutions, our media, and embeds itself into our psyche whether we like it or not.
For a better understanding of it, here’s an excellent article on the subject and it’s not too long. It’ll take maybe five minutes, tops.

I’ll read it later.

Please do. Anyway, that’s why the timeline we created was focused in that direction.
And no, we’re not going to upload all those pictures again. If you missed last week’s post, click the damn link already.

Harsh.

Sorry.
Where was I?

You were singing that song from Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”

No I wasn’t.
Oh, I remember. So yeah, it’s true that all people are biased. Even the most self-aware of us don’t realize our own biases until we’re confronted by them.
Though rather than just shrug our shoulders and say, “oh well, everyone does it,” we push ourselves to learn and grow and improve.
Right?

Right.

Cool.
You know, we fear we may have confused matters by bringing in our personal reflections and failings. It was not our intent to wallow in “white guilt.” We hate white guilt. In truth, we hate guilt.

Guilt is an useless emotion unless it is followed by real change. That was what we were trying to get across. We used to act one way, now we see the error and will act another way.

Sounds good. I still don’t understand why nuns are talking about it.

We’ve said this before but it bears repeating: where we work is not a cloistered convent. The majority of these Sisters do not live at the Motherhouse.

Motherhouse?

Seriously. That’s what it’s called.
Several of the Sisters live within Minnesota, others are in Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi, California, and Texas (in McAllen). There used to be a few in other countries, but now their only international missions are in San Rafael and Juarez, Mexico.
So if your concern was that their work would begin and end within the convent walls, you may rest easy. That’s not how they operate.

Coolcoolcool… So now what?

Well, as we told one commenter, the purpose of the Sisters’ meetings was to 1) make us aware of the need for social & political change and 2) discuss ways of getting there. Their last day was pretty intense, discussion wise, and they decided to continue exploring more ideas and ministries.

So what you’re saying is, even nuns can’t solve racism?

Um… they’re nuns. They don’t have superpowers.

Damn.

Yeah. But at least they’re not giving up. You have to give them that.

Fine. But what can I do? I need steps!

Hey, come on – we gave you steps!

You did?

Yeah. Only they were kind of hidden and random and probably made no sense.

Ha.

Shut up. For one thing, we hinted that voting is important. You understand that, yeah?

Oh… right.

Here at Feeding on Folly, we will not tell you who to vote for. However, we will suggest one thing: When casting your vote, stop thinking only about yourself. Consider the common good. The good of many over the good for you.
That is all we’ll say on the matter.

Our more step – though again, no worries if you missed it – we were advocating an end to modern day segregation.

You want me to sell my house and move?

No, we’re not saying sell your house. Unless you want to, in which case you should consult an agent and start packing.

Got it.

Here’s an idea: how about every other time you catch a movie or eat at a restaurant, you try one in a completely different neighborhood?
Also, broaden your outlook with the books you read, websites you visit, blogs you follow, and movies you see.
Even if you feel properly progressive and have an extra-crunchy liberal core, if all the media you consume is white-based, then you’re not getting enough seasoning.
The point is, get out of your comfort zone.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound like much.

Maybe not, but it’s an excellent way of broadening your perspective. Especially if where you live limits how much you can interact with people of color. In any case,  it certainly can’t hurt.

I suppose not. But I’m just one person and the problem is so vast!

Hey, listen up: You are not one person! There are loads of other people who think the same way you do (or very nearly) and are doing their part too. Don’t lose hope! Never lose hope!
You are not alone.
Okay?

Okay. Thanks.

You’re welcome.
Tune in next week when we’ll probably be talking about chickadees. Unless something comes up to divert us and then who knows?

In the meantime: Be good, be brave, and always choose love.

Word.

MLK quote

On racism, white saviors, and being honest with ourselves

About a month ago – for reasons too vast to explain in a 1,000 word blog post – I found myself creating a timeline of “Racism and Immigration” in the United States for the convent’s biannual community gathering.

And because I can never do anything half-way, I wound up filling 21 large bulletin boards for the Sisters.

The only reason I stopped at 21 is because I ran out of bulletin boards.

Seriously. There was no shortage of information.

I’m considering creating a wallet-sized version of my work so the next time I hear someone claim this nation was founded on Christian principles, I’ll just whip this puppy out and say, “OH YEAH?!”

The magnitude of the information I found was overwhelming. There were times I had to get away from my computer. Take a walk. Breathe in some fresh air.

The weird thing is that I knew this stuff. I was a history major. My studies focused primarily on American history. I even took a course on Civil Rights.

Still. When you see everything together, all at once… it’s maddening…

And once again, it was plain to see how much my family benefited from America’s racism.

Sure, they were poor immigrant farmers who worked hard to make a life for themselves in Dakota territory. But the only reason they were allowed to make a life for themselves in the Dakotas is because they were white and the people who were forced off the land weren’t.

Indian_Land_for_Sale_Poster

So there you go.

Did my family understand what was happening? Did they care? I have no answer for that.

My guess is they had some kind of awareness, but they looked the other way. After all, it’s what most of us do. We see things we don’t like, but it doesn’t affect us — or it somehow benefits us — so we look the other way.

Except my work on this timeline meant I couldn’t look the other way. It stayed with me long after I left work.

It’s with me still.

One of the photos I spent a lot of time with was a familiar one. I’m sure you recognize it:

Little rock

We usually see it every February during Black History month.

The year is 1957 and the girl in the white dress is Elizabeth Eckford, one of the “Little Rock Nine” — the nine African-American students who desegregated an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I got to thinking about the woman behind Elizabeth. The one baring her teeth. A look of sheer hatred on her face. I wondered what she thought of the photo. I mean, if I’m seeing it every February, she must see it too.

How do you live with something like that? How do you explain it to your kids?

Or is it something she’s proud of? “Yes, that’s me and I’d do it again!”

Little rock (2)

But that’s freezing her in time. Not allowing her to grow as a human being.

A little bit of snooping gave me the story: her name is Hazel Bryan and she was 15-years old when the photo was taken.

Fifteen years oldLet that sink in a bit.

How many stupid things did you do when you were fifteen? How many expressions of hate crossed your face?

Yeah. Me too. Only in our case, there was probably no camera around to catch it.

As it turns out, Hazel was ashamed of that photo. It pained her every time she saw it. Years later she apologized to Elizabeth and it looked like they might become friends, but that’s a Hollywood version of the story. Real life rarely plays out so sweetly. (You can read the more complicated story here.)

Speaking of Hollywood, one thing I thought about as I looked at the picture: who would I be in the story? Had I lived in Little Rock during that period, would I be one of the people walking behind with a smirk on my face? Or if I was friends with Hazel — would I be sneering too?

I know who I’d like to be. I’d like to be the girl who broke from the pack. The one who stood next to Elizabeth and became her friend. The one who made her feel welcome and included.

You know. The one who never existed.

But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’d probably be the other girl in the photo. The one who looked away just as the picture was taken.

looking the other way

Because that’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve never taken part in a protest, marched, or did any other daring activity. Heck, even when I saw friends and family showing their insensitive whiteness on Facebook regarding the Kaepernick/national anthem controversy —  did I leave a thoughtful comment, lovingly correcting them? Or even a snarky comment?

I did not. Instead, I just avoided Facebook until the controversy died down.

I looked the other way.

But there’s no looking the other way anymore. We can’t wish this gone or pretend we’re colorblind. We’d just be fooling ourselves and that doesn’t help anyone.

As the speaker told the Sisters during one of their meetings (they let me sit in for one of the days), “Racism is more than racial prejudice. It is more than individual attitudes and actions. Racism is the collective actions of a dominant racial group.”

Meaning whether I’m a nice person or not has very little to do with it. If we ain’t gonna change the system, it’s just gonna keep happening…

Timeline 19

I could easily have continued the timeline to the present, but I decided to end it with the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 and a challenge by Martin Luther King Jr. — a paraphrase from the book of Amos, 5:24:

“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I figured the Sisters would appreciate it.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll notice I’ve only shown you 19 bulletin boards when I claimed I did 21. The fact is, I didn’t take a picture of the other two. One was an “Additional Information” board, where I left copies of speeches, in-depth articles, and other items I couldn’t fit on the timeline. For the last one, I put up a blank poster board and asked the Sisters to add their thoughts and memories. My hunch was they’d have some interesting ones.

It was one of my better ideas.

Remember how in a previous post I told you these Sisters were a bit radical? Back in the day, several of them were involved in protests, some took part in civil rights marches, and a few spent time in jail. In other words, they never looked the other way.

I’ve so much to learn.

Listen, I realize this was a heavier post than I usually write, but it’s been occupying my thoughts for some time and I needed to let it out. Fortunately, I came across something funny that is related to the subject at hand. (No, really!)

Imagining myself in the “Little Rock Nine” story led to think about White Savior movies. You know the ones I mean, right?

Wikipedia has an interesting entry on the genre. I particularly appreciated this bit:

(…) continued cultural hypersegregation led to the common misbelief, by many American white people, that the nation had reached a post-racial state of social relations. (…) That reappearance of the white-savior narrative occurred because the majority of white people in the United States had little substantive social interaction with people of different races and ethnic groups.

Seems pretty clear, right? The less social interaction we have with each other, the less aware we are and the more insensitive we become. Meaning the less willing we are to support real social and political change, and then… my God… we get movies like this:

All kidding aside, I don’t have an easy answer to any of this, probably because no easy answer exists. But interacting with people different than us, following a wider circle on social media, reading books and novels written by people of color (I recommend Jessmyn Ward and Paul Beatty), dismissing the white savior flicks and watching “BlacKkKlansman” instead (or hey, have any of you seen “Sorry to Bother You” yet? That’s a trip!) — all of these seem like a good first step.

And if you know of any second, third, fourth… tenth step? Let’s get this conversation started…

A birthday party for a 100-year-old Nun — and some God talk

A couple of weeks ago I attended a birthday party for one of the sisters at the convent. She’s 100 years old.

100 year

There were balloons, flowers, two sheet cakes and plenty of ice cream.

Lots of people came. All the sisters, of course, as well as others who knew her and even a few – like me – who never met her before.

I’m sure she didn’t care.

It’s unlikely she has any memory of the event and given her blank stare, it was unlikely she had any awareness of what was happening. But she enjoyed her cake and ice cream. That’s the main thing.

I sat at a table with three other employees. One of them has been working at the convent for 40 years(!) and she was the only one among us who really knew Sister Theodora. She told us a few stories.

Sister Theodora was a very kind person who loved talking to people. She was trained as a nurse, spent her early years caring for children but found her true calling when she was moved to elderly care.

Several times this employee would look over at Sister Theodora and say, “It’s so sad… it’s just so sad…” and the others nodded in agreement.

I’m probably alone in this, but I didn’t see what was so sad.

She lived a rewarding life, enjoyed her work, she made it to 100 and now she’s eating cake and ice cream. Okay, so maybe she doesn’t have memories of her past or knowledge of who she was as a person, but does she need them?

What is better? To keep your mind and be aware of everything you lost—your health, your family, close friends—or to lose your mind and not count the loss? In other words, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. Why is that sad?

We are the ones who make it sad. We are the ones who look at people with dementia and think, “Oh, I hope I never get like that.”

As if our lives have worth only when we are of sound mind and body. As if that is what makes us who we truly are.

All right, I’m going to drift off into a bit of God talk right now, so if you aren’t into that sort of thing, just scroll down to the next heading.

Look, I’ll even give you a warning:

Warning: Contains God Talk

As I said before, one of my job requirements at the convent was to “be knowledgeable of Franciscan spirituality or willing to learn.”

I’ve been learning. One thing I learned is that Franciscans are real big on Humility and Contemplation.

(Notice the capital letters? That means they’re big on them.)

The key requirement for each is a self-emptying. Letting go of all those things you think make you who you are — your ego, your ambition, your work, your desires — and opening yourself up to fully experience God. They call this giving up your False Self in order to find your True Self.

(Again. Capitals.)

Another thing they’re big on is that this is a continual process. They call it Continual Conversion.

(Not only do they like capitals, they’re fond of alliteration.)

It’s ongoing. We can never fully achieve it during our lifetime, but there is joy in the trying so we keep at it.

I want you to know these aren’t wholly new concepts for me. Protestants also speak of emptying ones self, but we tend to breeze over it because it makes us uncomfortable. It smacks of obedience and frankly, we’re not real big on obedience.

Even so, I’ve been giving it a go and so far my progress has been… um… maybe “progress” isn’t the right word. Let’s go with “inching forward at a snail’s pace.” Yeah. That sounds about right.

Emptying myself by inching forward at a snail’s pace is going fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

Okay, let’s breeze over that for the time being. What I really wanted to say was that the morning after Sister Theodora’s birthday party, this popped up on the app I’m using for centering prayer. It’s by St. Ignatius – the founder of the Order of Jesuits. That guy.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

Take note of that second line: “my memory.” Even that. Are we willing to give up that?

Fact is, we may not have a choice. We can (and should) take care of our bodies, eat well, exercise, yada-yada. But even then, our genes or our environment or whatever will have the last say. We entered this world not knowing anything, we may very well exit it not knowing anything either. One way or the other, we are emptied.

But to empty oneself willingly, that’s what old man Ignatius was talking about. Remember the chief goal: we are emptied in order to be filled.

The more I think about it, the more I believe we should consider this phase Sister Theodora has entered not as sad, but as sacred. She will soon achieve her True Self and return to God. She has entered a time of Holy Returning.

(Caps all mine.)

Does this sound foolish? If so, I’ll gladly play the fool.

FeedingonFolly

End God Talk

Sister Theodora didn’t stay long at the party. They say she’s not fond of big crowds so once she ate her cake and ice cream, her nurse took her back to the second floor — the Memory Care Unit, where her and five other sisters live.

They receive excellent care there, as do all the sisters who need medical attention. One time at lunch, a sister who recently moved back to the convent admitted she felt a little guilty by how nice she had it. “So many people don’t have what they need, and here I am living in comfort.”

Sitting at the table was one of my bosses — I have two and they’re a married couple, so we’ll call him Mr. Boss.

Anyway, Mr. Boss said to her, “The way I think of ‘privilege,’ it’s not that we should take away the things that bring us comfort, but that we should make sure everyone else is raised up so they receive them too.”

I rather like how he put that, don’t you? And you know, from what I learned about Sister Theodora, I’m pretty sure she’d like that too.

News from the convent: Dinner, death and donuts

Our lead story:

A protestant took part in a Catholic Eucharist. In other news: Hell did not freeze over.

It happened last Friday, March 1. The convent’s “Founding Day.” The Mass was a special one and many people attended. Sisters from far away attended. Employees of the convent attended.

I, a Presbyterian, attended.

I knew none of the songs, but I faked it well. As for the prayers, there were a few others not doing the sign of the cross either. So yeah. I wasn’t the only protestant on the field. (For the record, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a protestant making the motion, however this one is fairly certain she’d whack herself in the nose if she attempted it.)

Then we segued into the Eucharist and in all honesty, Catholics are masters with the segue. It’s seamless. There was another song and people started walking forward. I was about to sit down because, you know. Not Catholic.

Only I noticed everyone was walking forward. Everyone. Even the non-crossers, whom we presume are fellow protestants.

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood. I had Catholic friends. I know the drill. Only Catholics. Never me.

But these Franciscans have been described as radical. So maybe?

I whispered to the woman sitting next to me – a frequent visitor to the convent, she runs their volunteer organization in St. Cloud — and I ask, “Do you know if it’s okay if protestants–”

I didn’t get to finish; she was nodding emphatically. “I know for a fact it’s okay,” she said, adding, “The Sisters think it’d be like inviting someone to dinner and then not allowing them to eat.”

Which is a marvelous way to put it, don’t you think?

Speaking of dinner, there was one after the Mass and it was free. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, several salads including a “copper coin” salad. A dish that will forever change my view on cooked carrots. For dessert, apple pie.

In sadder news from the convent:

One of the Sisters passed away.

Deaths are announced quietly here, by way of a little slip of paper on the entrance to the convent.

front door of convent

It was a Sister I’d never met before: Sister Bernarda. She was 102 years old.

She had been a registered nurse and hospital administrator. Other Sisters reported she was always dignified and direct, and took care to present herself well and look her best. They also said she was very patient and kind to young nurses in training, had a charming sense of humor and was loved by all.

One thing I kept hearing from the Sisters: “I’m happy for her.”

They truly have a different view of death.

The day before she died, Sister Bernarda went to the convent’s beauty salon and got a permanent. (Let that sink in. At 102, she got a perm.)

She told the beautician she needed to look nice because she was “going to meet Jesus.”

Sister Bernarda

This is the news, folks. I’m not making this up.

From the lighter side of of the news:

Yesterday was Donut Day. Also known as Shrove Tuesday.

So apparently this is a thing? Honestly, I had no idea. Growing up Lutheran, every day was donut day. But for those whose Lenten tradition meant giving up decadent food, all that fat and sugar had to get used up. Hence, donuts on Shrove Tuesday.

Full disclosure: I’ve never had a donut as good as my Grandma’s. They arrived on your plate literally moments after she pulled them from the fryer, crispy and golden and oh-so-good. Never too sweet and perfect for dunking in tea.

But these, my friends? These came close. Really, really close.

Speaking of Lent, not sure if it’s your custom to give up something – it’s not mine, but I always liked the notion strictly for the challenge of it. Anyway, came across something that might be the most difficult challenge I’ve seen. It comes from Pope Francis.

Lent image

Even if we aren’t 100% successful, I rather think if we all just attempted these, we might change the world.

And that’s our news from the convent. Until next time: Be humble, be kind, and always choose love. 💗

Ceiling Theology

According to my blog’s stat page, I haven’t written squat since Christmas Eve. Is that right?

*receives note*

Okay, my editor says I shouldn’t openly admit how long it’s been since I last wrote, and…

*receives another note*

Okay, I’m also not supposed to mention how my editor sends me notes.

*receives third note*

Oh for cripes sake, I TOLD you the chocolate is on the second shelf, toward the back. Sheesh!

Anyway, sorry for ghosting on you. Been a bit busy and all that. I’ve got a couple blog posts percolating, but nothing quite up to snuff. So instead we’ll be doing a quickie for today.

This came to me via a sister from the convent. She works with college students at a volunteer ministry and they were studying the creation story. One of them brought up the scene from the Sistine chapel. The part where God is reaching out to Adam.

You can picture it in your mind, right? I don’t need to show it to you.

Okay fine, I’ll show it to you:

creation

So the student pointed out something I was aware of, but never really thought about.

Look at how how God — he’s the one on the right — is stretching out with everything he’s got. You can see his muscles at work, he’s straining, doing all he can to reach Adam. The angels look like they’re holding on to God, afraid to let go.

And then there’s Adam. Lounging about, taking it easy, barely managing to hold his hand out.

I mean, he’s not even looking at God.

creation (5)

Did you ever notice that? I didn’t.

I don’t know what Michelangelo had in mind, but I couldn’t help thinking this is like an extremely condensed version of the entire Bible.

God — forget for the moment he’s shown as a white-haired old man (this is art, baby) — God is always reaching out to us.

creation (2)

Come on, people… just a bit farther… you can do it!… I’m right here

And we’re all, like…

creation (4)

Hmm? … Oh, yeah… um… I don’t know, God. I’m kind of swamped right now...

Isn’t that interesting? And when you think about the Biblical stories — taken as a whole, I mean — then it seems clear that…

*receives note*

Okay, my editor thinks I’m getting too religious and need to back off. But you all know I work at a convent now, right? It’s gonna be hard not letting it creep in a little.

*yet another note*

What do you mean you can’t find it? You freak out over a misplaced apostrophe, but you can’t see a box of chocolates right in front of your face?! Geez!

I better go. I’ll see you all next week. In the meantime, keep reaching…  😉

On nativity sets and bread pudding with bourbon sauce

For those of you who landed here in the hope of finding a recipe for bread pudding with bourbon sauce, let not your heart be troubled. For indeed, there is one.

And since I know how irritating it is to have to scroll through an entire blog post when all you want is the freakin’ recipe–seriously, do we need a picture for every time they crack an egg?–I made you a jump link straight to it: Click to jump to recipe

(Gosh, it’s been so long since I did a jump link, sure hope I did it right. If not, I wonder where they all went to?)

Oh well. On my nativity set. Here’s a picture of it:

Nativity set

The set is from the Willow Creek collection and is ridiculously popular, but for the record, I bought it when it first came out. Before it was popular. Just so you know.

It’s the first nativity set I ever bought and the only reason I did so is that Mary is holding the baby.

Nativity set with mary holding baby

Most sets have her praying, like she wishes he’d go to sleep already…

Nativity with praying mary

Other times she looks surprised there’s a baby at all, which I guess is reasonable given the circumstances…

Nativity with surprised mary

Once I saw a set where Mary was holding up a cloth. I told Husband, “Look! She’s got a diaper!” He thought it was the swaddling cloth. Sadly, I never saw the set again.

Anyway, the reason I’m musing on nativity sets, other than it being Christmas and all, is that it recently came to my attention it was St. Francis who came up with the idea.

(For those of you who follow this blog and don’t just come here hoping to snag a recipe, you’ll know I recently started working at a Franciscan convent. Hence, my recently acquired knowledge of nativity sets.)

It was St Francis who created the first living nativity. He set it up in a cave in central Italy and it was so popular that for several years after it was reenacted throughout Italy. Eventually they created small replicas for people to keep in their homes.

His intent, St. Francis’ that is, was to have a scene where people could reflect on the event; no one cared if it was historically accurate or not.

Nativity and st francis

Even so, for a lot of us, it became gospel truth. The stable, the wooden manger filled with straw, the shepherds and wise men jockeying for space, the stingy innkeeper, the whole shtick.

Several years ago I saw a video of a theologian talking about the nativity story. It was quite entertaining, mostly because he talked with so much enthusiasm.

According to this theologian — his name was Dr. Bailey — it’s far more likely Jesus was born in a home, not a stable. The homes of that time and region consisted of one big room, a portion of which was lower and that’s where the animals were kept at night. Mainly to protect them from thieves, but also because they added warmth to the house.

As for the manger, it was probably a concave spot cut into the main floor for feeding the animals on the lower level. When the angels told the shepherds, “You will find the babe wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger,” they would have pictured a home just like one they grew up in. The message was clear: “He’s one of us!”

There’s a lot more Dr. Bailey said, including specifics as to why they’d be in a house. If you’d like to read an article he wrote, you can do so here.

What I love about this rendition is that it becomes a tale of hospitality and family. A new baby lain not on scratchy straw but in a cozy nook, a young couple assisted by relatives they probably never met before, the nervous new mother comforted by wise and knowing women. And however poor the family, they would have shared their food as well.

It could be that this is where our present day Christmas gets it right. Families and friends getting together, sharing food and conversation, a extra room if needed.

And here’s where we segue into the bread pudding with bourbon sauce, because if you’re going to be hospitable toward your family, a little bourbon can’t hurt.

And if my jump-link worked, we’re now joined with our recipe hunters too.

Oh, hey there! Nice to see you again!

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

  • Difficulty: easier than you think
  • Print

This is a tasty, grown-up version of bread pudding, with cranberries because I’m not fond of raisins. But feel free to use whatever dried fruit you’d like. Also, if you’d rather not have bourbon in it, use apple cider instead. 

bread pudding

Ingredients:

  • 4 or 5 cups dry bread cubes
  • 2 cups half-n-half (can use milk or almond milk instead)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked a couple hours in  1/2 cup bourbon or apple cider
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Bourbon Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey (reserved from soaking fruit)

First off, put the dried cranberries (or dried fruit of choice) in a bowl and soak in bourbon (or liquid of choice). Let soak for a good 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour half-n-half (or milk) in a mixing bowl and add the bread cubes. Stir gently until all the liquid is absorbed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. Strain the dried cranberries, reserving 1/4 cup liquid for the sauce. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and add the cranberries, stir gently until combined.

Grease an 8×8-inch pan with the melted butter. Pour the bread and egg mixture into the baking pan; bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until the liquid has set.

To make bourbon sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in sugar and egg and whisk until smooth. Slowly cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens a little. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon. (Note: the alcohol does not cook out.)

Pour the bourbon sauce over the bread pudding to serve. Enjoy!

Welcome to Our Church of Holy Introversion – Please Enter Quietly

Feel free to stay in the comfort of your own home and join us online. This, my fellow introverts, is your safe haven. 

Now let us gather together (not literally together, of course; we respect personal boundaries here), and recite our Opening Prayer of Introversion:

O Holy Silence and Quiet Interlude, we do seek you.
Please make our trembling hearts, which feel deeply, but discretely, Yours. Lead us to that still place within our souls, where we can find rest, and, if possible, keep the noisy people from talking for just one freakin’ minute.
We say all this in the name of the system we hold good and faithful and true, Dewey Decimal.
Amen.

And now it’s time for our first hymn. The words are printed in your bulletin if one was emailed to you, but if you don’t have one, no worries. They’re on the screen too.

As always, you can sing along if you want, or just think the words quietly to yourself. That works too.

I’ll Go Home
(sung to the tune of I’ll Fly Away)

Some glad moment when this party’s o’er,
I’ll go home (go home)
To my place where silence never ends,
I’ll go home (go home)

I’ll go on home, oh Glory
I’ll go home (go home)
When my ride is ready, “Bye and bye”
I’ll go home (go home)

Just a few more weary minutes then,
I’ll go home (go home)
No more mingling and faking friendliness,
I’ll go home (go home)

I’ll go on home, oh Glory
I’ll go home (go home)
When my ride is ready, “Bye and bye”
I’ll go home (go home)

Thank you, everyone. That was beautiful. Boy, those old standards always bring a tear to the eye, don’t they?

I’d like to point out that playing organ for us today (from the comfort of her own residence, of course), is Beatrice Milford from Lincoln, Nebraska. Thank you, Beatrice, for sharing your gifts with us, however privately.

Now it’s time for sharing our joys and concerns. If you have any you’d like to share, please type them in the box below. Don’t be shy.

Though if you are shy, that’s okay too.

Katy in Melbourne: I have a joy. Yesterday at work, my boss approved my request to work more from home. I start next week. Three days at home, two at the office. Hallelujah!

Joel in Austin: I have a concern. I’m a student and in two weeks, I have to give an oral report in my English Literature course. Please pray for me. Pneumonia would be nice. Or maybe a brief coma.

Felicity in Seattle: I just want to say how thankful I am for finding this church. I feel like this is a place where I can be myself, let my hair down and get crazy if I want to. Not that I want to. Well, you know what I mean.

Yes, we do, Felicity.

Thank you everyone for sharing. We also received a number of private messages from individuals not comfortable with voicing their concerns in a private forum. We respect that.

And now it’s time to recite our statement of faith:

We believe in the Triune Behavior of Introspection, Self-Awareness, and Not Speaking Until You’re Spoken To and Possibly Not Then Either.

We believe in Thinking Things Over for a Really, Really Long Time Before Acting on Them, and Then Thinking a Little Longer.

We believe a few trusted friends are far better than many friends, and we uphold every person’s right to refuse a hug when they don’t want to be hugged, and oh, if only everyone did.

We believe in the building of more libraries, the sanctity of quiet spaces, and the necessity of a kitty cat on our lap and/or a doggie at our feet.

Cat for an IntrovertWe believe in a Brooding Spirit,
The Holy Contemplation,
The Forgiveness of Faking Friendliness,
And the Joy of Creativity, forevermore.
Amen.

Now, before our final hymn, I’d like to draw your attention to a few events happening this week. As always, newcomers are encouraged to attend at any time, and remember, everything is offered online.

Of course.

Monday Podcast

Coping with Extraverts at Work: Strategies for Surviving Committee Meetings, Group Projects, and Coworkers with Pet Phrases

Tuesday Video Series

Establishing Boundaries – Handling the Extraverts in your Life, Episode 5: Violence is Not the Answer

Wednesday Webinar

Recluse or Hermit: Choosing the Right Lifestyle for You

Thursday Choir Meeting & Potluck

Please email our director, Winifred Placida, if you’re interested in joining. She’ll send you the music so you can sing from home. If you’d like to join the potluck, send us an email and we’ll give you the details once we figure them out.

Friday Book Club Meeting

Online discussion of the new book: I was an Extravert Wannabe – Confessions of a Closeted IntrovertIntroverted boy

We hope you’ll find time to join us for one or more of these activities. And remember, if you have any ideas for future events, please don’t hesitate to text us.

And now it’s time for our final hymn. I think you all know it. Beatrice, will you start us off, please? 

How Great’s My Home
(Sung to the tune of How Great Thou Art)

Verse 1: O Lord, my room, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all these four walls mean to me
I have my books, my laptop and my Netflix,
It’s all I need, for an evening of pure glee.

Chorus: Then sings my soul! I’m finally all alone:
How great’s my Home! How great’s my Home!

Then sings my soul, I’m finally all alone:
How great’s my Home! How great’s my Home!

Verse 2: When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And read Thoreau, and hear about his beans,

He make good points, perhaps a bit pretentious,
Though I gotta say, his cabin sounds sweet to me.

(Chorus)

Verse 3: When a friend should come, to a point of understanding,
And drive me home, what joy shall fill my heart,
I’ll tell them thanks, and promise I’ll call them real soon,
And then proclaim, “My Home, how great thou art!”    

(Chorus)

Thank you all for joining us today. Please be sure to sign our guest book on your way out, and remember: There is nothing wrong with you! You are perfect just the way you are!

And now, let us all rise for the blessing:

May your books be plenty
And your interruptions few.
May no unwanted attention
Ever shine upon you.
May peace be in your home
May social obligations be few
And may the extroverts in your life
Finally start listening to you.

We’ll leave you today with a quote from our Patron Saint of Introverts, Greta Garbo:

I never said, “I want to be alone.” I only said, “I want to be let alone! There is all the difference.

And let all the Introverts say: Amen!

 

Note: The inspiration for this post came from Brian of Bonnywood, who very generously gave his permission for me to organize this Church, even though it was his idea.
Thank you, Brian!  🙂

Bible Stories in Text: David & Bathsheba

You may not believe this, but I wrote this piece long before the news about a certain Hollywood producer hit the fan. But given the subject matter — a powerful man taking advantage of a powerless girl — it really shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Sigh.

For context, read II Samuel, chapter 11, verses 1-4 …

David and Bathsheba 1

David and Bathsheba 2David and Bathsheba 3David and Bathsheba 4David and Bathsheba 5

Four missed calls
Two voicemail