"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hymn: Jesus Loves Me

Image: Alix Boujour

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Spirit tells me so.
Through Her free and gentle grace
I have seen my Savior's face.

Yes, Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me;
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Spirit tells me so.

Jesus loves me, thus I hear
God's my mama, strong and near.
I am free to run and play,
laugh and sing and dance all day.

Yes, Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me;
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Spirit tells me so.

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For my sisters tell me so.
Through my brothers' loving care
I am shown that God is there.

Yes, Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me;
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Spirit tells me so.

Text: Laura Marie Grimes, copyright 1987 Tune: Jesus Loves Me 7.7.7.7. with refrain

I have only realized in recent years that the hymn is a joyous and playful and personalized celebration of the culminating meditation of the Spiritual Exercises: the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. It is especially empowering because it celebrates the sacredness of the mothering vocation and all forms of care for children as well as my and my daughters' and my trans and cis sisters' forgotten and despised radiance in Her image.

It is also part of my ever-deepening, peaceful warrior healing journey from the clergy sexual abuse--enabled and mishandled in a profound betrayal by my beloved Jesuits--which desecrated my initial formation in Ignatian spirituality at my undergraduate Jesuit university. The direct perpetrator was a married Protestant pastor and my adviser in the Religious Studies department--American Baptist by ordination but Calvinist by theology. The first of many dead white men he put in my hands was Karl Barth, who famously summed up his theology as "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." The hymn was inspired when I quoted it to a Jesuit novice friend, long before I knew that I was a victim and not a slut (and Barth an abuser himself), and he passionately proclaimed "B.S.! The bible doesn't tell you anything unless the Spirit speaks in your heart."

It's my very first hymn, written on my first eight day silent retreat when I was 22 and set to the lovely hymn I sang so very many times to children in the porch swing at the Catholic Worker where I lived during our betrothal and then to my own little ones. A dear college friend, folk group co-leader, and junior prom date was in the Jesuit novitiate in Santa Barbara and they allowed an impoverished grad student to join the guys for their yearly retreat--both out of generous spirits and perhaps also due to the fact that on my first visit I ended up violently food poisoned!

Vivid memories include the sublime: dancing the outdoor stations in blazing sunshine, enriching liturgies with one female voice, and a powerful experience of sacramental Reconciliation with one of the formation staff--and the ridiculous:spending a long time on the high dive and eventually chickening out, my friend absconding with me and the community pickup truck to watch a movie on State Street, and (since they didn't even play soft music at meals) having to carry my tray outside to the grass when I got the giggles, magnified by my friend's mugging, at the clanging clinking silverware of a large cafeteria filled with otherwise solemn faces.

At the close of the retreat my novice friend gifted me with the Salvador cross in this photo from Katie's and my last trip to South Bend. It is a unique one I have never found again, hand carried back by another Jesuit, and honors the sacredness of the marital vocation and the image of God in all genders by showing a male-female couple as the body of Christ. I donated it in Rachel's memory--fittingly, on Corpus Christi--to the little prayer chapel in the new married student housing community center the last year we lived there. A genius also chose the small silver tabernacle which shows the hart and hind of Psalm 42 drinking from an overflowing fountain!

Hymn: Living Water

A joyful hymn celebrating the biblical stories of Hagar, the courageous enslaved woman become matriarch of Islam, also beloved by African American Christian theologians like Dr. Diana Hayes, Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, and Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman as the only person to see God and live in the Old Testament; Miriam and her brothers leading Israel across the Red Sea to freedom; John the Baptist immersing Jesus in the Jordan river; and the wise woman of Samaria bringing her village to faith in Jesus after meeting him at the well. It was a gift during my Advent 2012 retreat, when I borrowed an amazing olive wood statue of Photini (the enlightened one, as our Orthodox and Eastern Rite sisters and brothers call her) from my Jesuit director.

Too many artistic portrayals--including the large one in a lovely outdoor plaza at my graduate alma mater) showing her looking shamefaced, reflecting the mistaken exegesis of her as a great sinner rather than a Torah observant widow or involuntary divorcee driven to concubinage by sexism and injustice (since only men could initiate divorce and sexual slavery to one man or many was the only recourse for an abandoned woman without a family for refuge). This one instead showed her confident and radiant, striding back to her village with vase on shoulder ready to become the first evangelist to a despised people. The closest image I could find is above, though the seller amusingly names her the "Sumerian" Woman at the Well, of which there were certainly plenty too!

1. Living water from the womb of God,
Springing forth from desert sand,
Where a mother fleeing from abuse
Found the way to freedom’s land.
May we see your glory face to face,
Feel and share your saving power,
Claim your justice and your gentle grace,
Bursting forth in radiant flower.

2. Living water from the womb of God
Parting to set captives free,
Where the siblings called to lead them forth
Sang and danced for liberty.
May we use our gifts as you inspire,
Speak your truth to evil’s might,
Cross the desert led by cloud and fire,
Wait with patience for your light.

3. Living water from the womb of God
At the river of rebirth,
Where the cousins born to prophets bold
Cast your fire upon the earth.
May hear our Papa’s loving voice,
Close our ears to tempters’ lies,
Seek your wisdom in each daily choice,
Keep your truth before our eyes.

4. Living water from the womb of God,
At the well in noonday sun,
Where an outcast and a rabbi
Shared the sweet truth of the One.
May we know your Spirit deep within,
Living water, fiery dove,
Shout your good news to friends, foes, and kin,
Freed to preach and heal and love.

Text: Laura Marie Grimes, for Rev. Dr. Debra Myers, copyright 2012
Tune: Beach Spring 8 7 8 7 D (God of Day and God of Darkness)

A Child's Calling

My brilliant Katie Rose wrote this poem in honor of her sister several years ago in response to the traumatizing, spiritually bankrupt one which several well-meaning people sent after our precious Rachel Marie was shattered like a vase of precious perfume and gathered lovingly into the arms of Mother God who rages and weeps with us every rime a child is slaughtered by the evil of the world.

I have a little child for you to care for and protect
She will be quite wonderful, your own and much blest
Will you make sure this little girl is cared for in her life?
I know not when she’ll be taken from you with much pain and strife

“We will do as you ask, Dear God, but only hope that you”
“Do not call her away from us to soon – we love her, that’s true!”
“But leave her with us for a long time, and then you may take her away”
“Please let her stay with us as long as she may”

Oh my children, please understand this – I will not take her away
That is the job of Satan, a horrible one I say
He whispers to people, telling them lies and to do dangerous things
And eventually, if they give in, the death toll shall ring

But sometimes if someone is old and sick and in a lot of pain
And lived a happy, long life – then I will call them away
But while they are young and bright, no, that’s not my decision
I preach against Satan’s lies, and weep when people don’t listen

“Ah, we are glad to hear that you are not a cruel God”
“That steals children away before they’ve had their lot”
“We will take care of this girl and love her to the end”
“And be glad that the child’s calling doesn’t come from Heaven.”

Ave Verum Corpus

By Nick's godmother and the eulogist at Rachel's funeral, from the memory book my grad school best friend put together for her first birthday after our car accident when she was a radiant nursing toddler.

Feb. 22, 1994

Rachel,

The day you were born I was having a chemotherapy treatment. I was lying on my back with I.V. lines and needles twisted into my arms. I knew in the secret place of my heart where friends talk without words that your mommy was lying in a bed having you. I imagined her struggle breathing and pushing through a long labor and I said prayers for her as I lay there in my bed.

Your mommy and I had talked about being afraid of pain and I knew as I felt the hurt in my own body and cried--that day she was hurting in her body too. So it was a body prayer really I ushered pushing you gently through your mother's tunnels in my mind. Come on little one, you can do it; Oh dear Laura, may you feel your strength and courage--your body sturdy as a building, holy as a place of prayer. Hold tight mothership, you are about to launch a precious life raft out to sea. It was all about survival for you and her. But you were meant to be given to us.

When you lay sleepy as a turtle in the sun inside your momma's shell, we felt your wings sprout. You were a talisman of survival for all of us really. The Gulf was on fire, boiling oil exploding smoke that kept our violent hearts in darkness all winter. We feared a nuclear nightmare might unleash and hold the whole planet hostage.

My own flesh was a battleground, abnormal cells had raged out of control threatening my life and we prayed. Before my surgery we gathered and prayed and sang. Your mommie sat in a cotton shift with her guitar across the room in her belly where you lived. She had long wavy hair that was curled tight on the ends from the August humidity. She had long slender fingers that pulled music from the guitar strings. Your daddy sat there too in his sweet silence. He is like a cat, watchful, quiet, knowing inside.

We were sad because we all were thinking about death. My death--our death--all the times that we are reminded of impermanence. We were remembering people we've said goodbye to that we loved and people we would miss if we left. We were thinking about our fear of pain body pain physical suffering and emotional pain the deep wounding that only the loss of another human being can cause. We were thinking about the grain of wheat that dies so that the bread of eucharist can be shared and we were hopelessly lost in the mystery of pain and the paradox of love. So we invoked the Christ who himself is a koan but the only answer we know.

But you stirred when you felt your mommie's beautiful voice vibrate as you clung to her ribs. And like we were told in the story of Elizabeth and Mary, something magical happens when a child stirs like that in her mother's womb.

The room became full of light from your limbs and as you tongue clucked you called forth your guardian angels. We are told to stay close to the guardians of children for their faces see the glory of God up close--more clearly than any other angel.

After we prayed we came to rub your mommie's tummy...to touch you snug and safe in that little houseboat. You radiated light and life and we did not want to forget from where we came and to where we are returning.

On the day you were baptized you loved the water, like a fish lost in the naturalness of the waves Who is this coming up from the desert, shining white? (Canticle of Canticles 8:5). The angels were lost in admiration.

At your party I got to hold you a long time. You were so tired from all of your friends' congratulations, you fell asleep in my arms while we were on a walk. Mommy was afraid someone had run off with you because she didn't know where we were. But I wanted to take you to a place apart and tell you that sometimes we must be alone and still and quiet. I know you noticed the hyacinths and took them deep into your lungs. I hope you never forgot that smell.

I am grateful you only knew trust. And that you allowed so many people who begged to hold you to touch your spirit. You left behind a legacy of nuzzles burned into the hearts of all your friends!

We still do not understand your leaving us. Such an illumination more beautiful than the moon...but as quick as a heartbeat and you are plucked from this earth.

Our feeble voices have not recovered. Never will. Fingers, whispers in the night sometimes forget you are gone. We do not learn well or easy the messages of death. But you have planted something on this earth that is patient. That is free. It pulls us out of our shame and our cynicism. We forget, but when we go away to listen, we see a little girl rising in us with unbroken promises on the shoulders of a shepherd (for you are a little lamb)

and we lie down at night
safe
and remember
our memories have filled this book
as love filled our hearts
with sweet sighs
and little hands that we can trust.

Your friend forever,
Jacquee Dickey

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Five Faves: Homeschooling

My first five faves--welcome to anyone coming from the linkup!

This is my first year homeschooling my daughter Katie, and though we have both had a bit of a learning curve it's been an amazing experience overall and one I am so grateful the Spirit invited us to. I am using my skills as a college and grad school professor to create a program that is a total win/win: more academically rigorous than a conventional high school, with a shorter finish time by going year round, and also way more enjoyable for both of us!

1. Roadschooling. In the immortal words of Amy Welborn, we're not homeschooling to stay home! We began the year with two and a half weeks driving the gorgeous coastal round trip from my parents' home in Ventura to my BFF's in southern Oregon. For her spring break from Precalculus at the community college ComputerGuy drove us across the bridge from our home in the Detroit area to catch the Windsor-Montreal train and meet up with wonderful spiritual sister. And once we have finished our semester the three of us have the amazing privilege of a three week trip to Europe. We fly into London, Chunnel to Paris the next day, fly to Israel where CG spent a life changing college term, then to Spain where I will trace the footsteps of Ignatius, and then fly back to the British Isles.

2. Personalization, part 1: Nicholas. Totally took a homeschool approach with him though it looked very different. He is very social and extraverted so loved going to brick and mortar school. He had a complete alpha male personality that did not want me to be the boss of him, so didn't want me telling him what to do in even more areas. And that came out in lots of verbal aggression so I needed six hours a day break from that too! So with him we did a lot of early community college--starting with Spanish spring quarter of eighth grade!--and he was able to graduate a year early *with* a year of college credit and go away to the dorm to be the boss of himself! He then spent a semester playing his computer game on scholarship, took one off to work, and is joyfully returning to school with new motivation and focus generously assisted financially by his generous Grimes grandparents. I continue to be his "academic manager" and had a great time figuring out the pre-reqs he needs to take while ramping up his GPA at the community college in Lansing this summer with a goal of transferring to MSU or U of M. He and my mom will both be here for Mother's Day and she will help him move to his apartment and furnish it from thrift shops.

3. Personalization, part 2: Katie. I can tailor both core and elective courses to her passions and interests--above all the culture and language of Japan--and learn both with her and, to her special delight, from her. We study literature by listening to audiobooks in the car while she reads along--another win-win because it's great fun and uses time we'd be in the car anyway but also goes much more in depth because we can hit pause at will and discuss in detail. We started the semester with Pride and Prejudice and are now on to Northanger Abbey, which is a lot of fun. Recent discussion highlights include 1) her comparing John and Isabella Thorpe to the Malfoys; 2) my explaining the meaning of maudlin and its derivation from Mary Magdalene when the reader pronounced the eponymous Oxford College the British way 3) my making a joke about not being Lydia Wickham and her mentioning that she felt like she was in a secret club of people who knew what that meant and 4) her marveling that she heard damn but saw d---. I explained that in Regency England that was a serious swear that no proper lady or gentleman author would include and she quipped that her uber-sensitive-on-that-subject dad is channeling that time period! She takes after my earthier side of the family so we discuss using it like spice--for occasional accent and very respectful of context and people's feelings. I am grateful to have cut down a lot, as befits a woman in public ministry, since the vividly remembered Lenten confession inspired by my son's vocabulary in second grade, which I had to admit was definitely not coming from my co-parent!

4. Family bonding. This is especially precious given the very short earthly stays of her older sister and younger brother. We love spending the days together, coming and going to our different commitments, doing our own work in the living room with laptops--her in a small green recliner and me on the recliner couch--and periodically sharing funny bits from Facebook. My sister-in-law is an all-four-kids, all-twelve-years homeschooler and we often compare notes as we walk her dog up and down Lakeshore Drive. We are theologically very different as she is a conservative Protestant--we laughingly agree to disagree on women's ordination and LGBT issues--but share a passion for girls' education and empowerment. And we've had some wonderful highlights with my mom, who set an example of lifelong learning when she went back for an English MA and then studied a couple years of French just for fun. Fall literature was Shakespeare so she rented the Branagh-Thompson Much Ado About Nothing while we were there and took us to a fantastic production in Griffith Park. And when she and Nick are here for Mother's Day we will watch Bride and Prejudice to help finish up the Austen unit.

5. Inspiration for personal learning. After we finished our marvelous fall semester of seven, count them, Shakespeare plays I have continued to listen to others in the car--probably eight or ten so far. Taming of the Shrew isn't that bad--I totally think Kate is tongue in cheek at the end--but Antony and Cleopatra, which no one talks about, is horribly sexist in making a powerful and effective queen into a hysterical nymphomaniac. And Merchant of Venice is as profoundly offensive as I feared. Though even worse because it's just terribly boring is Coriolanus--its only virtue is making Julius Caesar seem to have a gripping plot in comparison--and it's the first one I am turning in unfinished. I love Katie's thirty second summary of JC: "Should we kill him? Yeah, let's kill him. We got away with it! Uh-oh, people are pissed--here comes a war. Damn we lost...(all fall on swords)!" I've also begun planning a semester of African America Women's Literature down the road which has me inspired to try and start reading a lot of important books I have meant to get around to for too long. Total, total, joy.