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burning like matchsticks in the face of the darkness
 
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Friday, November 17th, 2006

Time Event
12:12a
[CAUMC] devotional: (unconditional) love [2006-11-16]
I walked in tonight and Eric turned and said hi to me and just kinda pulled me into a gentle hug with one arm.  ♥

Trelawney had prepared a faux Thanksgiving (chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, cranberry, cornbread stuffing, gravy) 'cause what with it being Thursday we won't have Group next week.  [There have been at least two rounds of "say nice things about people on your flist" that I haven't done 'cause I overthink, am busy, etc., but I think I may actually do LJ Affirmations next week.]

Michelle came in a bit late and I'd finished eating so I went over and started giving her a backrub while she got food.  After a while it registered with me that she had finished getting her food.  "You can sit down," I said.  She said something and I said, "I promise I'll follow you."  This, of course, was the magic information.  I don't know how long I worked on her back, but I feel like usually my hands get tired fairly quickly and that didn't happen this time.

At one point during conversation, Megan said "wicked" and Michelle said she was turning into a Masshole.  Turns out it originated in Maine, where Megan spent four years before she came to Massachusetts.  We agreed that it's a very New England thing, though.  I commented that Buffy says it once and that jarred me so because they're in California.  Michelle suggested that she could have picked it up from Faith.  I conceded that, saying I didn't recall.  Michelle actually recalled the exact line: Buffy telling Riley, "You look wicked conspicuous" (Google: episode 4.11 "Doomed").  Rock on geek points.

Later she, all excited, said to me, "You probably already know this, but Wil Wheaton has a blog."  (I do know this -- wilwheaton, thanks to samfeasor -- though as I said to her, I don't read it very often.)
her: "I wish he weren't married."
me: "And by corollary do you wish you weren't married?"
her: "Pshaw."

***

We read three Bible passages to meditate on:
Luke 10:25-28 (Love God, and your neighbor.)
John 15:9 (God loves you.)  The version on our handout said "abide in My love."
Romans 8:35, 37-39 (Nothing can separate you from God's love.)

Then we read a printed list of questions, again meditating on each in turn.
Do you understand your relationship with God to be a relationship of mutual love?  If so, how?
What do you perceive separating you from God's love?
Are you willing to accept God's love?
Are you willing to accept that you are worthy of unconditional love?
Can you envision yourself "abiding in Christ's Love"?

The one that stuck with me most was "abiding in love," because that idea of living your life in love seems to me to really sum up Christ's message and also really works for me as a paradigm for living my life and approaching situations.  [Tonight I was thinking about it primarily as a foundation for a sexual ethics, since that's where my brain's been situated recently, but it works generally.]

My immediate reaction to the penultimate question was "no one is worthy," and I was glad that in discussion Megan jumped on that.  Michelle said that from her Catholic upbringing her takehome was less the "God loves you anyway" than the "You're not worthy of God's love;" and Megan said that she has struggled with feeling unworthy of God's love, but that the idea that no one is worthy really helps her.

After the questions, we did silent meditation, focusing on breathing in the Divine Love, etc.  I was completely not focused, so I was surprised when later Megan said that she felt the whole group held in meditation.

Lastly we did a (voluntary) exercise involving standing, eyes closed, hands at your side, and letting people hug you, and not hugging back -- the idea being that it's a concrete way to practice accepting/receiving love.  The people who hugged me were so good.  I feel like I didn't do a very good job hugging people -- in part because some of them were the guys, who are significantly taller than I, so that makes it awkward.

Afterward, Trelawney opened up discussion, and one of her questions was if anyone wanted to share their experience of the exercise.  I said that I liked it a lot but then I'm a very physical touch-oriented person.  (Michelle feigned shock.)

Lori brought up her discomfort with the idea that you are blessed because God loves you, because not only does she feel unworthy, but what does that say about people who are less blessed than she (does God love them less than her?)?  She hesitated to talk about this much, saying she didn't want to bog us down in that sort of eighth grade questions when probably everyone in the group was ten years ahead of her, and while people did encourage her to share etc. (and she did), I regret that I didn't say one of the things I had thought in response to her: that I really appreciated her bringing up the issue of theodicy, because it can be so easy to get wrapped up in all the positive aspects of God as Love and it's good to be reminded of the more difficult aspects of that.

There was the Michelle and Megan discussion listed above.  Megan also said that she wants to focus her studies on the idea of the absence of God, and doing pastoral care dealing with that.  Yeah, we were very impressed.

Trelawney talked about feeling called to tell people that they are loved.  Gesturing at the handout, she said, "And other people say so, too, but they're not as important."

***

Affirmations:

Lori mentioned what I said about the exercise, and how I was so frank and open, and at this point I was grinning because I've gotten that a lot as an Affirmation, but then she started talking about it being so honest and how a lot of us really yearn for that but don't/can't articulate that desire and that my saying that had made her both more aware that she wants that and also that it's okay to say that.  I was sorry that she had to leave early or I totally would have made it a point to hug her afterward.

When Mike went to affirm Michelle he said something about how they must have given each other like fifty Affirmations over the time they've been doing this.  So when it was Michelle's turn to affirm Mike, Lori quipped, "It's number fifty-one.  Better make it good."

Trelawney had complimented my earrings before dinner, and there had been some brief conversation (Michelle and Lori and me) about shopping, which I had actually completely forgotten about, and at the beginning of Trelawney's Affirmation of me I thought she was gonna talk about my "zen-like resistance to consumerism loop" (tm offbalance), but instead she said that I make an effort to look nice etc. but don't allow myself to be "owned" by that concern -- that I could just totally reject the whole thing and wear clothes that have no physical appeal, etc., but I don't.  Which I hadn't thought of, but which is definitely true.

I did look pretty today, btw.  Earrings, button-down light green blouse, black dress pants, and my boots.

A number of people Affirmed my smile etc., and Andrew Affirmed my presence -- that I exude positive energy without even having to say much (which is a nice way around the fact that I contributed very little to the discussion, so there's not much material to glean an Affirmation from, but he opened it with saying that he had thought about Affirming my stance on shopping 'cause he too is always looking for ways to minimize that experience, so it definitely wasn't a cop-out Affirmation).
I'm not used to thinking of myself as a joyful person (despite having this sort of thing as an Affirmation any number of times), but it's accurate to a large degree so far as how I am at Group.  Things like "You have a beautiful smile" show up as Affirmations a lot, and I suspect that it's the kind of atmosphere the space encourages (though it's possible that it also just draws people who tend that way).

Eric remembered his "awesome" Affirmation of Trelawney from last time.  He said that she's like Neo in The Matrix (hi, helholden, I totally thought of you 'cause of your post last week), that she refuses to accept the inevitability of bad situations, insists on working to change that -- and that belief that things can and should be better, helps to make them so.  That was a pretty awesome Affirmation, and I restrained myself from any self-deprecating quip about how there's no way whatever Affirmation he had for me could even come close.

But he did a terrific shift in tone and said that tonight the word that came to his mind for me was "balance."
My self-Affirmation had been about how I had spent time with friends this past weekend and it hadn't been super-structured/planned and I was able to just enjoy spending time with them.  He invoked that in his Affirmation of me, saying that there is a time to be purposeful and a time to chill.  [The usage of "purposeful" here bothered me a little bit, because for me it's so connected to words like "intentional," and I think I can be really present with my friends and everything outside of structured activity, but I think that's me projecting my issues, since "purposeful" definitely does imply something other than "sharing air," as my mother says.]  He said that another time I had talked about finishing something and I was very much doing it an an appropriate pace and knowing I would get it done and being on top of it and not stressing and etc.  [I think this was last week about getting my Ulysses assignment done, which, hi, ironic, 'cause last night I was very conscious that I should be starting my reading and I totally wasn't.]

In her Affirmation of Trelawney, Michelle talked about her power as a leader etc.
Michelle: "If you told me two years ago that I would be calling God 'She,' I would have laughed at you."
Trelawney: "You did."

Edit: Oh, and Meredith was v. tired, and her Affirmation of Eric was (I kid you not) "warm and fuzzy."  ♥ /edit

***

And when I walked home, it was raining (lightly).  Rain was predicted for today, and I brought an umbrella to work, and it did not rain either on my way to or from work.

Bedtime now.  Will respond to comments during work.

***

Edit: One thing I was thinking about during the evening was a recent post by likeadeuce (on Astonishing X-Men #18) in which she says, "there's a fair amount of research to suggest that a person who has been in a physically and emotionally satisfying relationship is actually more likely to find that again than someone who hasn't. The way we operate emotionally is something we learn from experience, and that includes knowing how to love, and be loved." There had been some conversation about feeling God's love in our lives, and of course my reaction is to think of God's love as demonstrated through other people -- and as corollary, the idea that we are to be manifestations of God's love ("God's arms" as PB said in a sermon my mom is fond of recalling, IIRC).

Also, particularly around the issue of believing in God's love for us, I was thinking about how musesfool (I think) often talks about characters for whom it's not in character to say "I love you" often if at all, and how sometimes they say it in different words and sometimes they just show it. Then the next day I was reading a selenak post on AXM 18 and was struck by this comment thread in particular.

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