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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, May 26, 2006

Lessons from Isabella

Isabella is C's kitten.... well, not quite a kitten. Izzy, or more often these days Bella, has sprouted since C adopted her on March 16. At that point Bella was a teeny, tiny fuzzy ball of two shades of grey with a hint of brown thrown in. She and her brother Oliver (or Ollie) traveled back to Chelsea, Michigan in a carrier laden with a blankie smelling of their mother, squealing and squirming. C's friend Gail had come along for the ride and they both attempted to calm their furry cargo on the 1.5 hour ride back to the country.

For more than a week the fur flew, as did kitty litter. No one had bothered to mention that the siblings had not yet been weaned. Anxious hours were spent making certain neither one got dehydrated or stepped on or lonely. Ollie started out to be the more vocal of the two... that has since changed with Bella being a squeaker of the highest order.

I do not profess to be 'a cat person'. I've nurtured cats, housed cats, adopted cats... yet I am not someone who has cat salt and pepper shakers.

That being said, Bella could warm the heart of a turnip. Her antics are quite laughable - which sometimes flies in the face of discipline. I saw with my own eyes her attempts at doing chin-ups on the back rungs of C's kitchen chairs, dangling ever so precariously, quite astonished she was proving to be such a feline athlete.

Miss Isabella is a furry Kodak moment. Ever photogenic, she takes full advantage of her cute quotient. Darting across the room, up a chair, onto the kitchen table, zipping down again then down to the lap, pant leg, tearing 10 feet away and then just flopping over in semi-exhaustion she finally snaps her head back as soon as C calls out: "Bella? Kumma, Bella!" Up again, she trots over to C, chirping all the way, her Siamese lineage coming through loud and clear.

Bella does everything whole-heartedly. Curling up in one lap or another, crawling up C's polar fleece to rest as a furry collar around her neck, a mini tail flicking every now and again - her restful moments. Then she has her kitty-zilla moments when she tears around willy nilly, taking a gentle swipe as she zooms through. If her food is not up to snuff, Bella attempts to cover it, just the way she manages her toilet habits.

The lessons I am learning from Bella are: do it with flair, sleep in complete trust, explore the big world and revel in love when it comes your way. Not bad for a kitty, eh?

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Monday night Emmy Lou and I ventured out into the night with the sole mission of delivering my industrial strength rectangular 2-wheeled garbage pail across the street and next to my kindly neighbor's refuse receptacle.

My, it was brisk; for a metro New York night sky is was unfamiliarly dark and the stars seemed to be particularly visible. Much to my chagrin, Em disappeared into the night in hot pursuit (I believe) of either a cat or a rabbit both of which abound in the rehabilitated army officers housing where I live, known in local terms as Camp Shanks. It's after 2am and would be a decidedly poor idea to start whistling loudly or barking out her name, so I take the quiet approach, head back into the house for a cap, sweatshirt and flashlight. For about 20 minutes I attempted to lure Miss Em back from wherever she shot off to... to no avail. Cutting off the 'torch' I move to my front steps and sit down for a few moments, hoping she will head back this way of her own volition.

I look back up at the stars... I am pulled up to a night in 1970 looking up to similar sky at about this time of year. I had moved away from my parent's home was sharing a furnished apartment with a young woman I had gone to high school with. Money was tight; K's designer luggage at the time was a series of paper bags branded with the logos of all local grocery stores.

In this environment I had a stroke of genius and decided to buy a bicycle and pedal to work rather than spend the money on gas. My spanky new Schwinn was a muted magenta and white with three gears and a set of cargo baskets. That night in that time I looked up into the night sky believing all was right with the world.

Three nights after this 'perfect' night I was in the surgical ward of the local hospital with a horrid concussion, broken left leg, severe lacerations and cut nerves in the right leg. Although I have been spared a recollection of the actual impact and fallout, I was hit by a Cadillac driven by an elderly woman going about 15 mph over the speed limit around a curve with limited sight lines.

Upon arrival at the hospital my poor head had been severely traumatized and I had very limited long-term memory.... I can recall recognizing a woman who worked with my mother in our town's bank, but no clue about who my mother was.... let's just say it gave my Mom no comfort at all.

I was in the hospital for over a week. Had to stay back @ home because my mobility was severely limited. The weeks went by, I got back to getting around, advanced to 2 different walking casts then finally it was off. Sitting in the surgeons office he zipped down the cast with a spiffy Dremel-like drill/saw, turned off the appliance and cracked the cast off.

The limb was withered, terribly nasty, orange-yellow and wildly hairy. "Go ahead, stand up!" said the good doctor with a smile in his voice. I shivered from stem to stern. But.....but..... how do you know it's OK to put weight on it.
"I wouldn't let you hurt yourself.... especially when you are standing in my office! Now go ahead - it will hold." He held his outstretched arms toward me, motioning me to go forward.
Putting nearly all of my weight on the 'good' leg, I stood up from the chair I had been sitting in.
"Oh, come on now.... after all you've been through, don't be such a chicken". Easy for him to say I thought loudly to myself. Leaning on his hand and arm I took a step and then another wobbly only because I was full of fear and doubt. Both legs still looked utterly wretched. One leg withered from temporary atrophy, the other covered in bruises, gashes and stitches.

"Now, don't be using the crutches. Use the cane if you need to for the next day or so, but then go cold turkey". Chickens, turkeys - a poor piece of poultry I was, scattered and skittery. I was sent to a couple of rehab sessions, but the rest was up to me. It took a long time to lose the fear of what if... of going past the fear to living into wholeness again.

All these years later, I still have the scars from that accident. I still have nerve damage, still have perpetually grey skin over the knees where the blood vessel damage remains. I still have the scars, but the scars are only skin deep. The reality is I can and do walk, my long term memory returned long ago, I have another bicycle which I plan to put to good use this summer.

Do you have scars? Did you go through a skirmish that left a mark on the inside or the outside? Have you recovered from the assault? Have you faced your fear of testing your current strength? Have you gone back to the scene of the incident?

I have heard people talk with a great deal of bitterness recounting a bad encounter they had with parishioners in a former congregation or a priest they felt slighted by. While they spoke, I imagined them pampering that injury, perpetuating the pain related to that scar. When questioned whether they had made any reconciliation with the 'offending party' they looked at me in quiet shock. "But they hurt me; I won't ever talk to them/go there as long as I live".

Scars. Some go very deep. We can invest them with pain they no longer possess - or look at them as badges of courage and go beyond our fears to wholeness again. It's all the way you look at it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

..... and behold, it was very good

This is a wonderful photo sent to me by one of my friendly cashiers at the local ShopRite grocery store. Called the Parrot plant, it is native to Thailand. Posted by Picasa

Sorry about the surrounding border - am new at this and can't "erase" it. You can, however, magnify it by clicking.... so play around with it and enjoy.

How awesome is our God! We look and find wonders in nature every day that are far beyond our design, control or comprehension. Beauty remains and will not be stopped. Thanks be to God!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Writers Cramp

In these pages I've made the confession that I'm pretty new to this writing thing. Sure, I am a storyteller.... enjoy engaging others in the unfolding of a story. During inspired moments I can be swept up and am blessed to translate that poignancy in a dramatic gesture.

This writing thing is NOT first nature.... or even second nature at this point. Last week, juggling the rigors of being back at the house, of attempting to keep Emmy Lou's coat in some semblance of fit (can anyone tell me how a short-haired dog can shed enough undercoat to fill a throw pillow each week???), of sniffling through the worst tree pollen season on record I came home each night and plopped myself in front of my trusty lap top and could type out about 3 sentences..... and then backspace until each sentence disappeared from the screen.

OK, God (says I).... what is going on here? How about some divine intervention that could translate into an entry for MOLC? Any hints?...... the silence was fairly resounding.

Bottom line: I'm spoiled... very spoiled. I have been given so many gifts by my Creator that I might well fall into the category of "Jacqueline of All Trades" I can sing easily and have perfect pitch. Can cartoon, have an uncanny ear for languages and dialects, mimic in a heartbeat, can program a VCR, cook and impromptu meal, tape out and paint walls (thanks for your guidance, C to make me a better painter than I have any right to be), install ceiling fans, speak to animals, listen to hearts...... all this with very little effort on my part. It just seems to happen, comes naturally.

Ah, the problem comes when I have to 'work at it'..... for example, meetings. I REALLY have to work at getting myself to, remaining seated and involved in the meeting 'process'. Truth be told, it's easier for me to tolerate hearing fingernails dragged on a blackboard (anyone remember what a blackboard is????) for minutes at a time than to sit through a meeting.

For the last year and change Barbara has contracted with me to write MOLC.... whether I have a blast of creative inspiration or not. Suddenly I have an incredible amount of compassion for the writers of yesteryear would would sit with a pad and pencil.... writing three lines and - dissatisfied - tearing off the sheet and crumpling it, eventually tossing it onto the growing heap of unfruitful attempts at communication which once was a wastepaper basket.

I think my muse is on vacation.... sabbatical? strike? spring break? Whatever the cause, it is a bit unnerving to show up and have no thought flow nearly effortlessly through the fingers to the keys.

In the interest of fairness, this installment is less MOLC and more MOLL (More or Less Life). We all have 'one of those days', personally, professionally, spiritually.

My novice mistress at CSJB, Sr. Suzanne Elizabeth would offer a pearl of wisdom when I hit a barren patch in my prayer life. "Sometimes" she would say, "you can't pray. There is no motivation to pray or to listen to what God may say to you. In those moments, pray to want to pray. God will hear your intention and answer you ".

So it may be with whatever your challenge is.... waiting, exercise, trusting, trying. If you don't 'want' to do any of those things, your approach must be to want to want to. Slowly but surely something will work out.

...... and, as humble as this edition may be, it got done and got posted. Give credit where credit is due....... thanks be to God! Alleluia, Alleluia!

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