Wednesday, October 31, 2007


From Pirate Nia Grace, and good witches Claudia Mair and Aziza!
And the rest of the Burney clan!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oh to be forgotten among the lilies...

St. John of the Cross
On a dark night

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
--oh, happy chance!--
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide,
save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he
(well I knew who!) was awaiting me
-- A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined
Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping,
and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand
He wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No more spitballs

I'm beginning to feel y'all who said I should just consider myself a follower of Jesus. For awhile I thought maybe that was too simplistic, but now I'm thinking about the gospels. Jesus was pretty simplistic, wasn't He? He irritated the religious scholars by refusing to engage their endless "conversations" and complicated theological battles. He spent more time eating and drinking (they called him a drunkard and glutton) with all the wrong people.

Jesus didn't focus on the things that has me all tied up in knots right now. I think if He were standing right next to me, His questions would be, "Have you write a letter to Malvin lately?" Mal's in prison. For Murder. Nobody writes him anymore. His family completely abandoned him, and it's hard to blame them. It was a pretty heinous crime and he'd hurt them a lot even before the murder. Once I sent him a letter (and a money order. Send a money order when you write a prisoner.) and he said he cried. Everyone but Jesus had forsaken him and it touched his heart to be remembered.

I think Jesus would ask me if I gave a word of comfort to Ken's ex. One of her dearest friends died. Yeah. I know, we are supposed to have that "thing" between women who have been with the same man, but for us it's a nominal thing. We share a daughter in common. We love her. We are literally neighbors now, and in this harsh world we both know that we need each other a whole lot more than not. So when her friend died, and she shared a letter she left behind for her loved ones, I cried with her. Jesus said weep with those who weep. Cheap Christian sentiments don't mean a thing when you face the harshness of death. We all need comfort.

Jesus would probably want to know if I've remember the homeless. I sure have. My sister is driving me crazy. Some times she drinks in the room she is sharing for now with my little girls. I'm a bit of a nutjob when it comes to alcohol because of how I grew up. And she just doesn't listen sometimes, but where else can she go? She doesn't really have anybody, and God knows I know that feeling. It's hard out here. She's getting herself together, and despite her flaws, I have to see her as Jesus, too. Beer drinking in my babies room and all. Nobody said being the hands and feet of Jesus was easy.

But you'd think, if you could get in my head, I didn't do anything for the kingdom. I'm really hard on myself. I don't consider myself a very good Christian. Fr. Joseph said I seem like a woman of prayer. I laughed and promptly told him that I suck at prayer, even though the truth is, I'm making a huge effort to pray the hours. Everyday. But I rarely consider that God is moved by even my desire to spend time with Him. Nope. If I don't pray seven times a day, the Hours and the little hours, too, I'm a big, fat failure.

Man. I need Jesus so much.

Did I ever tell you that once I heard Billy Graham in an interview on one of the big news shows (I think it was 20/20)? He said he felt like he was a failure in life. If Billy Graham feels like a failure, you know I'm going straight to hell in a hand basket.

Or not. Because Jesus is merciful. And thank God for grace.

So I'm thinking about the questions Jesus would ask. He was all about the Matthew 25 stuff, wasn't He? He thought more about those who were marginalized, and not so much about the religious leaders who thought they knew all there was to know about God. And maybe they really did know all there was to know. Well not all. God was right in front of them and they missed it. But don't you find it interesting that He gave them the most trouble, and vise versa.

The older I get, the more I see how completely unknowable God is. I'm not saying He's unlovable. He gets more lovable the older I get. And I'm really fortunate that we have a pretty intimate relationship. It surprised me to find out everybody wasn't intimate with God! But I realize I don't understand Him. How can I? I'm just a mortal. A loved mortal, but a mortal just the same.

I used to think I'd be the big defender of the faith. Once upon a time I armed myself with tracts and books like knowledge would save me. Save us all! Paul said knowledge wasn't so great without love. And wisdom says love with no knowledge at all isn't the plan either. It's a really delicate balance. I find myself with a deep respect for the roots of my faith, and a great enthusiasm for the fresh green shoots sprouting off the vine today, even if those shoots can be a little screwy sometimes. I really do believe Christians have more in common than they don't. I've learned to open the windows of my soul to let a few new breezes blow in. And yeah. I know. With the windows open a bug or a bird and the stench of a skunk came come in too. It's a little risky to have open windows, but I like it more than stuffy stale air that fills the space when I can't open the window at all. No fresh air can actually make you sick.

Lord, have mercy, ain't that the truth?

I don't know where that leaves me. Will I be Catholic? I'm already Catholic, in the truest sense of the word. Stay Orthodox? As long as it's what Brian aptly called "a Generous Orthodoxy". Am I Pentecostal? Absolutely, I may not pray in tongues, but the Holy Spirit is still magnificently present, every moment of my life. Am I Protestant? Not so much. Protests tend to weary me in general, unless they are in defense of the defenseless.

The fact is, none of us has it all right. We all see through a glass darkly. Sometimes I read the church fathers and see a misogyny that Jesus didn't have. Why, because they were just men. And they were seeking God just like I am. The gospels tells us about how Jesus treated women. He certainly wasn't scared of us. So, I'm just saying, if the fathers can miss it, I'm certainly not immune to error. I could drive myself insane trying to figure out who's a heretic and who isn't. Again, according to Matthew 25 it'll be pretty clear who the sheep and goats are, and the measure of the livestock wasn't what they believed in, or where they went to church, but how they treated the other animals.

I'm not a theologian. I doubt I'll ever become one. I'm a storyteller much more interested in about how we engage the God that we do have a relationship with, and how that plays out in how we treat our fellow man. I am what I am. Whatever that is. If it helps, I believe the Creed. That's the best I can do today.

My friend Jenny sent me this great Daniel Ladinsky poem. I'm thinking of it as I write tonight. I hope it blesses you the way it touched my heart.

For a While

We have all come to the right place.
We all sit in God's classroom.

The only thing left for us to do, my dear,

Is to stop
Throwing spitballs for awhile.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Last Stop Before Heaven

I got outed yesterday. My son told his godfather what some of you probably guessed, and a few of you k now. I am thinking of becoming Catholic. This was not good news to said godfather. And a few others who now know.

When I had my first communion two years ago, on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman, I thought, "This is it. I'm home. I never have to search again."

I believed it. I bought in 100%. So, imagine my dismay two years later when I realized I seem bent toward the Roman Catholic Church.

I've resisted it. And embraced it. I've flirted with it and ran from it. My godmother asked me months ago what is this attraction I have to the Roman church, and I couldn't answer her. In our last correspondence she said, "I'm Orthodox. That's what I am." I was a little jealous, because I knew I couldn't say that with the same conviction.

Recently I met with a Byzantine Catholic priest. I thought maybe I could have the best of both. Be Orthodox and Catholic! Ah, but it isn't that simple. I could gain communion with all Catholics as a Byzantine Catholic. But I'd lose communion with the Orthodox Church, even though we share in common the celebration of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. When I stepped into that Byzantine Catholic Church, I couldn't see much difference, but there are differences. If nothing else the Orthodox dot i's and cross t's.

Maybe I've been knocked around too much, or blown about in the wind. Maybe I've tasted from too many tables, and now my palate is ruined. Or maybe I'm having a hella big spiritual identity crisis. I don't know. I just know I don't like this. I wasn't suppose to have these questions--these feelings. The Orthodox Church was supposed to be the last stop before heaven.

When I told my husband I wanted to be a Franciscan he just shook his head. He said, "It probably won't be your last stop." And I was ashamed. It made me feel really flaky.

Maybe I am flaky. Or maybe I'm crazy. No, surely I'm crazy. No doubt about that. But I have eagerly, passionately, violently followed Christ. I have loved Him, and wrestled Him and given up popularity, money, and a lot more that I don't even care to mention because He was more important to me. I have abandoned anything that I believed wasn't Him and embraced all that I thought was. And let me tell you, sometimes I didn't have a whole lot to work with. I have crawled on my hands and knees on broken glass, crap, and debris through a whole lot of bad theology because I wanted Him. And when I found Orthodoxy I stood up, and shook the dirt, crap, glass, and blood off because I was home.

At long last.

Or so I thought. And then I fell in love with Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day. And then I fell in love with Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross, and Francis of Assisi. I was already in love with Brennan Manning. I fell in love with Henri Nouwen and Social Justice and I noticed most my heroes shared something in common. They were Catholic!

I've asked myself if I made a wrong turn. When I was feeling this huge shift in my soul two years ago, I told Ken I may convert to Roman Catholic. Ken, who is Roman Catholic, didn't believe me. He found me Protestant (and Pentecostal at that) to the bone. And then I found the Orthodox church.

But what if I just couldn't become Catholic two years ago? What if it took the Orthodox Church to soften me to Catholic Church. I was spoon-fed so much anti-Catholic dogma I don't know if would have been possible for me to make that choice when I choose. That was before Merton and Day. Before Francesco.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have a big beef with the Orthodox Church. My problem is that I have big, juicy love for so much Catholic stuff that I'm a little confused about who I really am. I thought I was Orthodox, and that maybe I was one of the people God would use to build a bridge between the two. But it doesn't seem like many people really want that bridge. And that I have to pick ONE. I don't want to pick one.

Let me ask you a question. If you didn't know I was Orthodox, based only on what you read here, what would you think I am? Just tell me the truth. No answer is too out-there for me to take.

Someone very important to me told me that I was Anglican! I'll qualify that by saying Anglican Catholic! I'm beginning to wonder if she didn't have a point.

I almost want to give up religion, but I happen to think religion is important. I like church now. There was a time I didn't. I love the Eucharist, and have no intention of living my life without it, though I almost want to fast from the sacrament in protest of our lack of unity. But I need the Eucharist. It was the reason I converted, make no mistake about it. It was the Eucharist, and the sense that I'd be safe from the insanity of my youth and the horrid theology that marked it. I just wish I didn't have to declare that I belong to anything. But isn't that a cop out? Because I do belong to something. The Eastern Orthodox Church. So why do I feel like a Roman Catholic trapped in the Eastern Orthodox Chruch? No one is more surprised than me of this Catholic desire welling up in me.

I don't know what to do. It's like I've fallen in love with another man while I'm married. And because I've done that, I can tell you it hurts like hell. Literally. And I'm not the only one hurt by it.

I want to belong to all Christians, and have them belong to me. And you know what? I know all about the importance of sound doctrine. Believe me! I know why it matters. I'm just weary now of the fights over the things that don't matter all that much. And because this change is so painful to me, it makes me reluctant to drag my kids along. My son said, "So we're going to be Catholic now," like I'm going through some kind of religious flavor of the month. And that's horrible!!!! I had no idea what to tell him. And what if I do change? It makes me leary of publicly letting anybody know "what I am." I'm skittish about privately letting anybody know now. Maybe I'll be like Linda in Zora and Nicky. She's a traveling Christian. She just goes around from place to place with her brothers and sisters in Christ. Belonging to all. Belonging to none. But I'd wear better clothes. You have to read Zora and Nicky to know what I mean about Linda and her clothes. But I digress.

What grieves me the most is this: Jesus never meant for His body to be broken. He's still praying for our unity. He's still waiting for the answer to his prayers.

Lord, have mercy.

In deep grief,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I know I've been quiet. Of course I'm dealing with my seasonal junk. Apparently Fibromyalgia symptoms have a seasonal component, too, because those symptoms are back with a vengence, and the bit of trouble I've had with my heart is back, too. I almost fainted today talking to my friend Mary on the phone. The room just started spinning, or it felt like I was spinning. It was like that Hitchcock movie Vertigo and the image of the man spinning around.


But more than that is going on. In my soul there's this ginormous upheaval and I can't even tell you much about it. I feel like a seed in the wind, trying to find some solid ground to burrow into and grow. I will tell you that it involves church, and an unrelenting feeling of displacement. Remember when I wrote about feeling like a Ghetto Pilgrim? It's a very similar feeling, only... it's not the same. The truth is I've found a spiritual home, but...

Sigh. I can't talk about it right now. It's too heavy on my heart, and rather delicate. And not only do I feel sad, I feel flaky, too. I don't mind being completely crazy, but flaky just bothers me.

I feel like I'm embodying the Merton prayer:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I love Thomas Merton. I find myself in his work so very often. There is great consolation in the thought that God will not leave me to face the perils within and without alone.

I just wanted to check in. I've got these physical issues. I'm on deadline, and I'm trying to keep my little seed from perishing before it even finds good ground. That's a lot on a sistah, but God is good. Just don't know when you'll see me again.

I can also tell you that Siri Mitchell is coming soon, and we're going to talk about her wonderful novel Moon Over Tokyo. And Will and Lisa Samson will join us about Justice in the Burbs, if I ever get my book! I contributed a meditation to that wonderful life changing book--but my contribution isn't what makes it wonderful. Will and Lisa and a host of their amazing friends and the message of being Jesus wherever you are make Justice in the Burbs shine. I've also asked the luminous Phyllis Tickle to teach us how to pray. I'm going to tell you about another seed soon. The seed of a local ministry I'm going to start, but in a bit. Sometimes things need to take root a bit before I tell all. So check back. Eventually I'll show up again and actually tell you something. Until then, know that I'm bouyed by your prayers and friendship.

Pax et Bonum!
claudia mair

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy St. Francis Day

Happy St. Francis Day!

The Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament

We adore You,
O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You,
by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.

Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. Amen.

Saint Francis’ Canticle of All Creatures

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon
for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Heavenly Father,
You gave Your servant Francis
great love for each of Your creatures.
Teach us to see Your design in all of creation.
We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Saint Francis’ Meditation Prayer

My God and my All!

Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen.

Saint Francis’ Prayer in Praise of God, Given to Brother Leo

You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love.
You are wisdom.
You are humility.
You are endurance.
You are rest.
You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Saviour. Amen.

Saint Francis’ Blessing to Brother Leo

The Lord bless you and keep you;
May He show His face to you and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.
The Lord bless you, Brother Leo.

Devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi

O beloved Saint Francis, gentle and poor, your obedience to God and your simple, deep love for all God’s creatures led you to the heights of heavenly perfection and turned many hearts to follow God’s will. Now, in our day, pray also for us, in our ministry to the many who come here searching for peace and intercede for us as we come before the Lord with our special requests.

[Mention your special intention.]

O blessed Saint of God, from your throne among the hosts of heaven present our petitions before our faithful Lord. May your prayers on our behalf be heard and may God grant us the grace to lead good and faithful lives. Amen.

Saint Francis of Assisi,
Pray for us. Amen.

Image of St. Francis by Br. Mickey McGrath,
available from

Prayers from

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Messy Journal

Journal entry: "God, a little less rain would be nice... please."
p.s. this is not my journal. :o)

"Sometimes prayer and meditation seem too ethereal to help us put life into perspective. But the concrete act of gripping a pen can be just what we need. Our journals provide a quiet space to converse with God and to confess the faults, mistakes, and self-absorbed ideas we find too difficult to admit elsewhere. . . . They give us an opportunity to reflect on this critical question: What is God doing in my life?"--Jan Johnson, "A Place to Ponder", Discipleship Journal (Issue 119).

I'm starting a journal today. Friar Dale, my friend, a gentle but wickedly funny Franciscan recommended it, and for the first time in ages, I really wanted to do it. Generally speaking I don't do well with journals. I start off with the zeal of a Pharisee, only to end up utterly defeated by the discipline it takes to continue. I hate that legalistic spirit that crops up when I'm trying to do something good, so to bypass it altogether, I'm just going to start off my journal being a mess, and stay that way. I mean, in my present state what else could I be? Friar Dale said it was okay to have a messy journal. He said I could even leave lots of blank spaces. He even suggested that I call it something like, "My f____ up journal of unfortunate events, musings... well, I forgot the rest because my brain is partly cloudy with a chance of rain, but it was clever, and deeply comforting whatever it was.

I've got this other really groovy Franciscan friend (Ecumenical Franciscans RAWK!), sistuh Paula Clare. Paula is white, but she is also a sistuh by association. And she likes Sister Sledge and a lot of soul music I like. The sistuh quoted "We are Family" to me, and did it with real soul! I love my white friends who are black. They crack me up. Anyway, sistuh Paula Clare and I both share a love of art and she's pretty crafty. And terribly groovy. She makes what she calls "altared books." Honestly! Some people have to slip a little monk funk in everything they do. Anyway, I've been inspired lately by her blog. So, I think I'll put images in my messy journal. I think art is prayerful. I found the journal of sadness online, and that's what I mean. To just pour out my heart like those artists did. Write. Draw. Whatever. And lose the legalistic vibe. I'd like to think that even in my fumbling about in darkness, God is in the dark with me. Yeah. I know He's "The Light", but there is an aspect of God that is dark to us and full of mystery. I like that about Him. Rilke knew this about God, and He wrote poetry about it. And by the way, I'm gonna put poetry in my Messy Journal, too.

I have this vision of being connected to God by something like a golden umbilical cord. That cord cannot be broken, even when my prayers are simple sighs.

I'll let you know how it goes.

love y'all,

Monday, October 01, 2007


Okay, so right now my entire life resembles this flower. And that ain't good. I get the whole thing about to everything there is a season...

turn, turn, turn.....

But it isn't much comfort when seasonal changes make you feel less than human. My strongest urge right now is to hibernate. That wouldn't be a problem if I were a bear, but alas, I'm not a bear. I am a woman. With kids. And a cranky husband. And I'm on a deadline for novel number six.

I don't know how much I'm going to blog. I felt fine when I did Camy's interview, but somewhere along the way I became a sad (literally seasonal affective disordered) person who's greatest ambition is picking out what pajamas to wear. If I can get out of said pajamas within two days I am highly accomplished. I can hardly recognize myself now from the self I was just a few short weeks ago.

And the snow hasn't even hit the ground.

It will take all I have to finish the novel and... um... stay awake. The fatigue I feel right now is numbing. I'm making an effort to stay close to Jesus by keeping the divine hours. I will likely fail miserably at this. But I'm going to try.

I need prayer roots. Something solid and ancient to order my life and time. Pray for me as I learn to pray. Sounds funny doesn't it, but I need those prayers, lovies, yours and the divine offices.

I also am smack dab in the middle of a huge spiritual crisis, the likes of which I haven't seen for three years. I have no idea where I'm going to land. I'm trying to take it slooooooow, but it's an aching, hurting place. And I don't like to hurt anymore than I already do.

And speaking of hurt. The novel I'm working on is called Wounded. It's for David C. Cook. It's about a young black woman who receives the wounds of Christ. Is it real? Or is she crazy? Man, have I asked myself that question a LOT in this life. It's about suffering, and what that does to a soul. Can a person really have a vocation to suffer? Doesn't sound like a very post-modern idea, does it? What would that look like now? How will it effect the suffering person, and those around her? Does Christ want us to suffer for Him? With Him? That's what my character Gina is about to explore.

So, I may or may not be here much. We shall see. I'm praying for the grace to be here, but you should know that when it's bad, it's really bad. And it's bad. If I have to take most of my energy to survive, I will. I have to.

But I love y'all. I truly do. I'll be praying for you.

pax et bonum!

p.s. more on the Franciscan thing later. I think I've decided on the lay monastic order I want to be a part of. Stay tuned for the big reveal, even if it takes a minute for me to tell you.