Feets, don’t fail me now

wilderness

Can you hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Can you hear the crying?

I’ve heard those voices – my own loudest of all – a lot lately. I have been crying and wandering in the wilderness a great deal since November 8th.  And that’s how I found myself back in church this past Sunday. Sometimes our feet just take us where we need to be. I have no other reasonable explanation for why on a cold, rainy Sunday, I got myself up and dressed and in a pew and found myself listening to Prepare Ye, a calypso style anthem written by Marc Robinson.

Click here to hear it – it has a Lion King vibe and everyone was really feeling it and someone in the choir was even playing bongo drums. It sounded like hope to me and it was a balm to my battered soul.

Can you hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Can you hear the crying? 

dont-sit-in-my-pew

Don’t even think about it.

I’m attending a new church, one in the city where I live, instead of driving 40 minutes to my old church where I used to live. I had to get out of my own way to like this new church. For starters, it’s fairly modern and I’m pretty old school when it comes to churches. My new church is sort of like a ranch house. It’s rather dated with not much curb appeal – entirely different from my old church. The Property Brothers could do a lot with it.

Funny thing, though – on this Sunday, the simplicity of my new church seemed quite lovely to me. So my wife and I sat down in our row. We’re Episcopalian and every good Episcopalian sits in the same row no matter what church we’re in – it’s just a thing and I can’t explain it. Our new church has chairs – not pews – which bothered me at first because there’s no kneeling. Episcopalians are known for our Anglican aerobics featuring lots of up and down during our services. And there’s something about your energy when you’re kneeling that opens up your heart – a bit like some yoga poses.

aerobvics

Episcopalian workout.

Before I lose some of you who are rolling your eyes because I’m writing about church, let me say loud and clear that I know many of  you have been deeply hurt and damaged in the name of religion and I don’t discount those feelings at all. My own dear wife has endured much suffering within her evangelical family. It makes me crazy mad and terribly sad.

I know I have been blessed  to have always felt accepted and loved in the Episcopal Church and that is why I returned there after months of wandering. It feels like home to me and since my parents died 14 years ago, there is really no place I feel closer to them than in the confines of an Episcopal Church – fancy or plain. So there is where my feet often take me, particularly in times of despair.

twilight-zone

Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

We welcomed our new interim rector on this Sunday and he processed in with a cane. He’s in his mid-60’s and his hands were visibly trembling as he began the service and he apologized for his legs not working quite right on this morning. I assume he has Parkinson’s or some other neurological condition.

He sat on a stool when he delivered his sermon – a sermon that was surprisingly personal and political. He talked about finally pulling himself up out of bed on November 9th – after checking his iPhone at 3 and 4 and 5 to see if perhaps, an Electoral College Miracle had occurred as he slept. He talked about being able to finally see through his tears later in the day and thinking about where God was in all of this. The very question I asked with rage on that same awful day. I never got to an answer but he did. He said, “God is here with us, the real question is where are we in all of this.”

Sometimes you just have to ask the right questions.

He did not give us false hope – far from it. He said the coming days would be very difficult but that our charge is to “be the grace of God in the world”.  So much for a soft opening.

As he preached, with his trembling hands, the irony was not lost on me that #notmypresident might make fun of this dear man – as he so infamously did the disabled reporter.

And as I looked around the congregation, I realized that we had landed in a truly diverse community of faith. It could make a great holiday commercial for Coke – young, old, black, white, Indian, Asian, wheelchairs, walkers and gays – not necessarily in that order. And I could hardly suppress my glee when the developmentally disabled young man sitting directly behind us let forth some unbridled burps during the sermon. It was all so gloriously human.

And then came the Prayers of the People, one of my favorite parts of an Episcopal service. A lay person serves as an intercessor and leads the congregation in prayers for almost everything and everyone under the sun. There is a refrain that the leader repeats after each petition to God and it is usually different every Sunday. This one was a doozy: Give us grace to engage one another without hatred or bitterness and to work together with mutual respect.

Do you think that includes social media? Crap.

We prayed for the leaders of our church and the leaders of our country – Barrack, our President and Donald, our President-elect – that they make wise decisions for the well-being of our society.

It was at this moment that I wished I had stayed home in my pjs to watch CBS Sunday Morning.

prince-henry

Membership has its privileges.

Thank God, no pun intended, that the passing of The Peace was next because I really needed to hug my wife and shake lots of strangers’ hands after that. Full disclosure: There were audible groans when Donald’s name came up. This isn’t going to be easy.

We prayed for the Standing Rock water protectors and the people of Aleppo and the victims of the warehouse fire in Oakland.

I think we’re going to like it here.

And wouldn’t you know we ended up kneeling (finally) for communion right beside that developmentally disabled man who smiled beatifically at us.

I’m always amused when God is not subtle. It makes her seem all that more accessible.

Yes, God was there in that colorful flock of saints and sinners this past Sunday and I need to remember that as I continue to find my footing in this abnormal normal that we’ve been thrust into to.  Oh, don’t worry, I’ll keep kicking and screaming and ranting and raving but I’m so very weary from crying in the wilderness and it feels good to be with others.

Besides, this coming Sunday is the Christmas pageant. And you know how the gays love a pageant.

So for now, you know where to find me Sundays at 11 – third row from the back on the right hand side, aisle seat.

There’s no place like home.

 

peanuts

Always a good show and easier to get tickets to than Hamilton.

episcopal-church-2

I guess two out of three is not an option.

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Finding solace among the trees

I do my best thinking in the woods. They’ve become my haven, especially lately.

The woods have always felt like home to me, a place to let my mind wander, to feel the wind on my face, the sun warming my shoulders. The moment I step onto the trail, a soft bed of pine needles beneath my feet, the world around me quiets, and I can just be. Even on my worst days, the second I’m surrounded by towering trees, I can always come back to center, find my footing.

Today was one of those days. I needed solace, and I found it among the pine trees. I come here to think. I also come here not to.

There’s a beautiful forest not far from our house that I’ve grown to love. Few people know about it, so much so that most of the time I have the woods all to myself, and other times, I run into the same familiar faces and their blissful Labs and hound dogs with tired tongues hanging from their mouths.

As I’ve weathered through these past few seasons, so have these hundreds of acres of forest. Together we’ve morphed and changed, parts of us died but new growth came. I was thinking about this today as I walked beneath the trees which seemed to have bloomed over night. The bare branches of winter have been replaced with lush, green. I remember in February, deep in my grief, wondering if spring would ever come.

Walk in the woods from Carla Kucinski on Vimeo.

Growing up, my backyard consisted of hundreds of acres of forest in rural Pennsylvania. Those woods provided the perfect hills for sledding in the winter and produced the most delicious blueberries in the summer that still felt warm from the sun when you popped them in your mouth. I remember going for walks sometimes with my father and getting lost with my sister, and watching the sun set behind the tree line, casting hues of pink and orange across the sky. I suppose that’s where my love of nature began and why it always felt like home to me – and still does.

My appreciation for nature grew deeper in my early 20s when I adopted my first dog as an adult. I’ve been fortunate that both dogs I’ve adopted over the years are both lovers of the woods. When my first dog Yoshi passed away four years ago this month, I sprinkled some of his ashes along one of his favorite trails by a lake and among the creaking, swaying pine trees. Even in his old age with his shaky knees and deteriorating hips, he came to life in those woods, hopping over logs. It was his medicine. When he died, it seemed fitting to return him to the earth, to his favorite place. I remember the day I sprinkled his ashes, the wind kicked up suddenly, and I could feel his spirit there with me. Some days, like today, I can still feel him in the breeze in the middle of the woods. He’s never left me.

Yoshi woods web

Yoshi and me hanging out on his favorite trail. He died less than a month after this photo was taken.

I have a new doggie companion now, a black Lab and Border collie mix who also has a deep love for woods and hopping logs. When she’s in the woods, she’s at home, too. It’s a magical place for her. She completely loses herself in the experience, chasing squirrels and running after deer. But often times I catch her pausing for moment on the trail, looking up to the sky, scanning the scenery around her. Most of the time she’s listening for squirrel movements, but sometimes I think she’s intentionally stopping to take it all in. She constantly reminds me to rest, to linger, let go and be in the present. Everything is temporary. Tomorrow will be different.

Molly woods web

Molly among the pine trees circa March 2016. Photo by Carla Kucinski.