Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Twenty Four Project: Labyrinth Walk

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to find and walk labyrinths.  There is a great website that helps you locate labyrinths near you.  I'm still hoping that one day (soon!) we'll build a labyrinth at St. Mary's, and I'm always curious about how communities create labyrinths--there is a world of materials and designs.

On my trip to North Carolina, I found five labyrinths to walk in two days:
  • Outdoors beside the Stations of the Cross at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
  • Outdoors at the Cancer Hospital of University of North Carolina Health Care (where I prayed for those fighting cancer, their health providers, and those who love and support them)
  • Outdoors at another Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill that had been built as a scout project ten years before and not maintained; I could only walk to it, not on it because the path was no longer visible due to lack of care (I know, there's a sermon there)
  • Outdoors at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham
  • Indoors at Calvary Methodist Church

Each labyrinth had it's own gift of prayer, but the one at Calvary was added as a recipient of the 24 Project,  the 24@ $100 giving mission I began in January in response to twenty four years of priesthood. The project will be coming to a close later this month in anticipation of my next project in celebration of twenty five years of ordination to the [transitional] diaconate.

Calvary Methodist is one of those precious churches that seems to have fallen on harder financial times and is faithfully seeking its mission amidst change.  Their labyrinth was in the basement of what appeared to be the parish hall.  It had been created in the floor itself by linoleum square tiles placed in a rectangular pattern in the Chartres design.  (I wondered:  Why didn't we do that at St. Mary's when we replaced the tiles in our upstairs gathering space?).  What I loved about the labyrinth was all of the events that happened on top of the labyrinth--with most folks, I imagined, not even knowing about the prayer foundation upon which they stood.

When I had called about walking the labyrinth, the administrative assistant told me that there were chairs arranged on it, and the room was set up for food distribution and medical and social services that afternoon. Could I wait until after that event, and their volunteers would move the chairs so that I could walk the labyrinth?  How many layers of ministry can you count here?

But there was more:  When I went to do my prayer walk the next day, the administrator told me that on Sunday afternoon that space was used for two different worshipping communities.  What holy stewardship!

So I gave $100 from the 24 Project to this faith-filled community--followers of Christ who have taken what they have been given as abundance and used it to cast wide a net of God's love.   The labyrinth at Calvary United Methodist may not be the very most beautiful by outward appearances, but it is definitely one of the very most exquisite by God's reflection through it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

God's Good Traveling Mercies

After an hour wait on the tarmac in Houston before taking off,  I finally arrived in North Carolina. My friend was waiting to pick me up so that we could do the three hour drive to our concert. 

We stopped about halfway to get some bug spray for the outdoor venue.   Afterwards, my friend met me at the car with the question, "Could you stay another day for a concert?"  

Turns out that the concert we'd both traveled many miles to attend had been cancelled due to bad weather.  It was rescheduled on Wednesday night, a few hours after my flight home. 

Remembering I'd put this trip in God's good hands at four that morning, we peacefully grabbed a bite at the local burger place and pondered what to do next.  On a whim, I called United once again. Yes, they were happy to change my flight to the morning after the concert, and since I'd already been inconvenienced by a cancelled flight, they'd wave all fees. 

Now I'm coming back on the early flight Thursday, home in plenty of time for my Thursday appointments. 

It was lovely after a day of travel having a quiet evening chatting and laughing at the hotel. Today I am on slow time in Durham.  I have a conference call in a few minutes, but I'll do it outside drinking coffee at a favorite place of one of my clergy friends. 

Then I'll see what the day has in store.  God is the best travel agent ever.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Unexpected Road Trip

The news you never want to wake up to at 3.30 in the morning for your 7.30 AM flight:    CANCELLED. The good news was that I'd been rebooked on the flight arriving at 10.30 tonight except the purpose of my visit was to attend an Indigo Girls--Joan Baez--Mary Chaplin Carpenter concert that would have been done by then. Sigh.

A very helpful United agent helped me find alternate flights that would get me there in time. So I'm going to Raleigh via Charlotte, and my friend waiting for me in Durham is driving over to pick me up so we can make it to the concert. Road trip with a bonus of a first class upgrade!

And when it looked like at 4 this morning that I was going to miss the concert I did remember to pray--for God to get me where I needed to be today.

Thanks, God. Traveling Mary is on her way to a concert in North Carolina.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lenten Retreat: Standing to be blessed

This is my last day of retreat on Tybee Island.

My friend and I were up before dawn for the walk to the beach to see the sunrise.  Then we sat on a swing that faced the ocean and did morning prayers to greet the new day.

Returning back to the Blue Bird Cottage, enjoying the first coffee of the morning,  I continued to read and pray.  As is my custom when I travel, I prayed a month's worth of the St. Mary's daily cycle of prayer.  I love holding the name of each St. Mary's parishioner in my hands and heart and lifting them to The Holy One. It's a particularly good practice as I prepare to return to be with them for worship in the morning.

Yesterday afternoon I sat at the table the looks over the marsh and created a few cards.  As the sun set, I held friends and family in prayer.

Having time to wander through devotional practices this second week of Lent, I found writings of Mary Oliver to read; an Anglican website with a poem to read each day of Lent; a couple of new daily emails to subscribe and enjoy; and, of course, my quotidian spiritual practices.  Holding prayer beads I'm using for Lent as I did Centering Prayer each morning was especially precious.

My friend and I decided to live as simply as possible this trip--traveling less, eating out rarely, and not shopping except for groceries.  It is Lent, after all.  This morning, as we prepare to pack up, we'll eat whatever food we have left.  The money we've saved will go to the local Tybee food bank (we decided that a cash gift is probably a more useful for the ministry than going and buying groceries to donate).

We've let the light be our clock.  We've allowed the rhythm of the day be our schedule.  We've laughed a lot.

My Word for the week has been a line from Mary Oliver (Evidence:  Poems):

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lenten Retreat: Slow Time on Tybee

One of the most frequent questions I've been asked this week is, "So what exciting plans do you have for today?"

My friend and I usually respond first with silence and then say something about walking on the beach or making cards or being quiet.  The very kind folks usually follow up with a list of delightful suggestions of things we should do.  I am grateful, but those kinds of activities haven't been what I've been looking for this trip.

I've been thinking about the need to do things.  I have a job, which I love beyond words, that is full of  things done, and more often, left undone.  I am aware of how every choice I make has consequences, not only for me, but for a host of other people. I get a lot of feedback when those choices have unintended consequences, both positive and not so positive.  It takes a lot of thought and even more prayer to go though each day as a priest.

These past eleven months I've had even more things done and left undone because of decisions about rebuilding the Rectory.  I've gotten to a point that when friends ask me to make a choice, if it really isn't a big deal, I want them to make it (Which seat do you want?  Where do you want to eat?  Which movie shall we go see?).

On these five days on Tybee Island, number fourteen of what began as a vacation lo that many years back and has become an annual Lenten retreat, I find myself on slow time.  I love not having the clock tell me when to get up and having no schedule to follow.  My friend, who went through the flood, literally, with me, is going through her own healing process post-Tax Day Flood, and is in sync with floating through these days.

I've floated into new places this year.  This morning instead of getting up to see the sunrise, I slept in.  I was rewarded with flocks of birds in front of my cottage--herons, egrets, cardinals, and even bluebirds.

Yesterday, on our one, and most likely only trip off the Island until I fly home tomorrow, at breakfast at one of my favorite places in Savannah, Back in the Day Bakery, while enjoying the most delicious breakfast biscuit I've ever eaten with a luscious, foamy cappuccino, a woman dressed in very simple clothes stopped on the street, and appeared to look longingly at us eating our fabulous upscale treats.  After she began to walk away, on what I believe was a Holy Spirit nudge, I went out to offer to buy her breakfast.  If she was hungry, how could I eat this extravagant meal?  Alas, she was gone from view.

I looked out and saw several men on the corner, gathering because a mission that provided resources for them was across the street.  How could I keep from sharing?  As my friend and I left, a took a hundred dollar bill I keep hidden in my wallet for emergencies, and went inside and gave to The Old Savanah City Mission.  #15 of the 24 Project.  

After lovely pedicures at a spa in Savannah, my friend and I decided the other things we'd thought about doing--visiting an art museum, shopping at SCAD, lunch at a favorite local barbecue place-- were things that could be left undone.  Largely, I'll admit, at her urging, we returned to the Island in time for the Thursday healing Eucharist.

I'm accomplishing what I think God has in store for me this retreat in Lent:  time for my soul to catch up with my body.