Sunday, August 29, 2010

...and for the Diocese of Springfield

I had placed the Diocese of Springfield on St. Mary's daily corporate prayer list when it was publicly announced that I was a candidate to be a candidate back in June. When I was not selected as a candidate at the Synod in August, I removed the intercession from our community prayer list (though I continued, and continue, to pray).

Except. It seems as many times as I remove the Diocese of Springfield from a corporate prayer list, it pops up on another. At our 8 Eucharist this morning, once again, in the Prayers of the People, as we prayed for the Church, there those Illinois clergy and people were again, as our Deacon Russ prayed, ".......and for the Diocese of Springfield."

Since this week is when the three candidates will be walking about and meeting the folks in Springfield, I guess the Holy Spirit, once again, knew better than I did who St. Mary's was to lift in prayer. After all, St. Paul did write in his epistle to the Christians gathered in Rome (Chapter 8):

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Pray for Christ's body, the Church, especially for the clergy and people of the Diocese of Springfield as they take counsel together to select the bishop whom God has already chosen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two waitings....over!

August 3, Austin Jack Fain was born.

August 7, the Synod in the Diocese of Springfield selected three men to be candidates for the bishop election in September. The Archdeacon from Springfield and I traded votes for five ballots to see who would be the fourth candidate. The Archdeacon had more clergy votes, and I had more lay. At nearly 10 PM, the Synod decided that three candidates were good enough.

I was delighted to have been strongly supported by the laity of Springfield. My prayers continue to be with them as they seek to make their voice heard. My prayers also continue to be with Springfield that they will elect a bishop who will bring health and new life to that precious part of God's creation.

It was a very difficult process to be in. I had no voice (much less personal) contact with any person in the diocese in the the four or so months that was my time in their election. I knew them only through a very few emails and what I could discover on the website. They only knew me through the nine papers I wrote and the video that my brother so graciously made of me speaking my answers. In an incarnational Church, the important piece of person to person contact was missing.

After the fact, I have had chats with a few lay folks from Springfield. After conversation with them, I am certain that God had me in their episcopal process, once again, for God's good reason.

But the Springfield process has left me tired. Weary.

In God's graciousness, the election was followed by a trip to meet my new grandson--what better healing in the world than holding my first grandchild?

I continue to pray about where God is calling me to serve. For today, once again, God has made it clear that St. Mary's continues to be the place that God is calling me to serve. For that I am very, very grateful.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Waiting waiting waiting

Austin Jack was due last Wednesday or last Friday--the doctor gave Jacob and Lisa both dates. Whatever the case, he's still loving it inside his mom. So we're waiting.

Next Saturday, the synod in Springfield will decide which four of us continue in the process for Bishop. So I'm waiting.
Meanwhile, in three weeks, we'll celebrate 25 years of being St. Mary's, Cypress, Texas. It hit me--I've been rector for half of St. Mary's existence. Who would have ever thought?

I remember the Sunday at St. Cuthbert (where I was a member then) when a group of folks left to go help start St. Mary's. I actually have a notation somewhere in my Bible, next to whatever Scripture we were reading that day: The Departure.

Twenty five years ago! I was so sure I knew what God's will and God's way was. Strangely, God's point of view lined up pretty nicely with mine. Talk about creating God in my own image!

Twenty five years from now, God willing there will be another 25 years, what will I look back at and smile at my foolishness? Isn't God's patience wonderful?

Friday, July 9, 2010

And just like that it's July

I'd gotten behind in reading the Bible through in 90 days. I thought about actually picking the Bible up and reading, but I felt committed to listening my way through.

Then I had a long road trip--back and forth to my mother's farm for the Fourth of July. That got me through Kings and nearly through Chronicles. With my walking partner on vacation, I'm taking the Bible as my walking companion. Then I got through Ezra this morning peeling and freezing peaches. Just like that (well, not really), I'm back on track.

Listening this morning to the story of the returning Exiles and the conflict between them and those who stayed behind has given me pause. The men gathering and repenting of marrying foreign wives and leaving those wives and children is most troubling. Of course, as God provided for Hagar and Ishmael, God can provide for those abandoned wives and children. But what was God's will in this? I am reminded that I must take care interpreting the stories of the First Testament especially when I use them to discern God's take on any given contemporary issue. It seems that finding the meaning behind the meaning is critical.

Listening to these stories in consecutive order over a short period of time is shaping me, and the best preparation I can think of for whatever God has next in store for me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Prayers back and forth

In one of our back and forth emails, the president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Springfield closed with these words: We will keep you, and the Parish Family of St. Mary's, Cypress, Texas in our prayers in the days and weeks ahead.

I love thinking about the Diocese of Springfield not only praying for me as a nominee but that they are also praying for St. Mary's, too. I particularly appreciate this because after I was announced as one of the nominees, we (at St. Mary's) added the Diocese of Springfield to our list of daily intercessions.

No matter what happens with the election, I can't help but think that God is delighted to see two groups of people connected with another through their prayers. It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns:

As Christ breaks bread and bids us share,
each proud division ends.
That love that made us makes us one,
and strangers now are friends.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Luke 1. 37

So I've got a second blog going. Actually, it's not my blog but one for the parish where I serve. It's just that right now I'm the one tending it.

The parish is beginning The Bible in 90 Days Challenge this Sunday. We created the blog as another way to encourage the parish in this great summer activity. A group of us started on Wednesday (though the official kick-off is June 6). We're having great fun with it and Sunday, on what has become known as our "commitment wall" in the nave, all of us who have accepted the challenge to read the Bible through this summer will sign our commitment.

I decided that listening was going to work better for me, so I've decided to download the week's readings at I started Wednesday and simply by listening while driving between parish tasks I'm to Day Four already. I'm trying to get ahead because I figure sooner or later I'll get behind.

I've read the Bible through before. I did a year reading plan through my parents' church a long time back. I reckoned that it was time I do it in one sitting (0ver 90 days) again.

Oh, and the title of the parish blog? Luke 1. 37. Read the verse for yourself and see if you can figure out why this seemed the perfect title for a blog encouraging our walk with Christ.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whilst on the way to pray

The last two Sundays I've preached on the passages from Acts 16. I love those stories about the earliest days of the Church. I found especially intriguing the detour that Paul and Silas had on their way to pray (by the river? in Lydia's home?) where they did indeed pray, but not in anyway they could have imagined when they got up that morning.

Of course, I talked about those places God takes us when we think we've got our day well-planned. Of course, because I preached about those surprising detours, that before I'd even signed the parish register after the 5:30 PM Eucharist, my plan of home for dinner and a little tv after a full day of work was not to happen. A friend of a parish family had suddenly died, and they had no church home. Could we help? Of course we could.

Thus the week was full with rearranging schedules, meetings with the man's extended and estranged family, coordinating lay volunteers, and doing one of those funerals that I like to call "evangelism funerals". I call them evangelism funerals not because we have an altar call or come-to-Jesus-moment, but because people who would never be in church, are. It's a great opportunity to share Christ's hospitality, love, and comfort. The parish does these funerals for strangers so very well. The Daughters of the King (our women's prayer group) provides wonderful hospitality, and many others in the parish do their part in living Matthew 24. 34--36, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

I'm in the midst of another "whilst on the way to pray" moment in my personal life. Things are full of joy in the parish, and I've never been happier at St. Mary's. I'm off to Portland next month for my first grandson's baby shower, and my daughter has just quit her day job to work full time on her book.

But during Lent a couple of people approached me about being in another bishop search. I was not in any hurry to go through the process again, and was ready to say no, when Holy Spirit twists and turns ended up with a conversation on Maundy Thursday (of all days) that led me to know that I had to say yes. I was most hesitant because I did not want to put the parish through a search process again, but it appeared that all would be very private until right before the final candidates were named in August, and the election would be held soon after that in September. If I were not made a candidate, there would be no stress at all to the parish.

But it turned out not to be so private. Today the diocese posted on the diocesan website the names of the 15 priests who have been nominated by a member of the clergy and a lay person, have written nine papers, and submitted videos of those responses being made orally. The process is to be all public from the very beginning.

So here I am again in another bishop search. I know the process in Connecticut was the most challenging thing I'd ever done in ministry and one of the very best, too. I know how much I've grown and changed in the past year from being in the Connecticut episcopal election. I know that being part of this process is once again being obedient to God--being willing to change the direction of my life in order to serve God.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Peonies at the Farm

I drove to Dallas this week to make a video with my brother. I had done this a year ago when I was in the process for bishop of Connecticut, and it wasn't any easier the second time, but it was affirming to see how much I had grown and changed in a year's time. I was answering questions about my call to ministry, and I am much clearer and more centered about who I am called to be--with the best two words to describe it as missionary and deacon.

My brother makes films for a living, but he's been making videos of my family for about 40 years. He's an Episcopalian, too, and so we had some very good conversation about the questions and answers.
The bonus was driving another hour or so north to spend a few days at my mother's on her farm in Chambersville--land that has been in the family for over 150 years (a long time by Texas standards). She's so far out of town that she only has dial up internet, so we had to drive into town to Starbuck's to find a place for me to send some emails. This was a new adventure for her.

Then we had a very good time together. We gardened and cooked and laughed. She worked on the quilt she's making for her great-grandson, Austin Jack, due in July, while I knitted away on my grandson, Austin Jack's, baby blanket. Firsts (great grand and grand) for each of us! I'll be going to Portland in June for his baby shower.

We were also basking in the news that my daughter has a very good book deal for a cookbook based on her blog--it will contain her fabulous photography, her delicious recipes, and great stories. It's a very fine moment in a mom's life when both children are doing very well.

To top everything off--the peonies were blooming at my mother's. I drove back to Houston with my car full of their fabulous smell.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Touched by Grace Extraordinaire

This is my tenth visit to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove Indiana. I came eight times as a Woman Touched by Grace, part of a Lilly Foundation Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant which funded twice a year ten day visits to the monastery for a group of thirty women pastors. Each time we sang the Office with the sisters of Our Lady of Grace, had a different speaker which presented tools and tips for being healthy clergy (the Lilly Grants for SPE were given with the premise that healthy pastors make healthy congregations) and had time for massages, walks, field trips, play, and Covenant Groups.

My ninth visit was last fall. I came six days for the first session of three year preparation to become an Oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

This time I came to be one of the "speakers" for the second Women Touched by Grace group. This group of twenty women have gathered five times at the monastery. This is their last session under the Lilly grant.

This second Women Touched by Grace pastors have nicknamed themselves Women Touched by Grace Extraordinaire. It was better than being called WTBG Second Class.

However, after praying and playing and pondering and painting and being with these women, I'm not sure that second class is not a very good thing. After all, in the world of movies, the sequel is at times better than the original, or as good in its own way.

A few years ago, because of connections with a friend, I got to fly first class several times. I also used miles to upgrade on a couple of long trips (it's the only way to fly to Turkey!). I always say that no one appreciates first class more than I do. However, on a recent flight, a very unusual thing happened. There were many open seats--but all of them in coach. As I walked through the packed first class cabin, every seat was taken, but those of us in coach (ie second class) could each have our own row, and even empty seats behind us so that we could recline our seats without acting as if we were the center of the world. We had two flight attendants serving us (as opposed to the one in the packed first class). That day, no one appreciated it more than I did to be in the comfort of second class.

So to those twenty women pastors of Women Touched by Grace, the Sequel, Second Class, Extraordinaire: Susan, Patti, Janell, Karen, Kim, Miriam, Yolande, Janet, Mary, Haeran, Susan, Jane, Michelle, Deana, Nancy, Karen, Margaret, Susan, Laurie, Nancy, and Sister Mary Luke and Sister Betty, you are each gifted in extraordinary ways (and I speak from experience). More importantly, you are abundantly touched by God's grace. What could be any better than that?

Touched by Grace, you are women touched by Grace,
From the hand of God, from the heart of God,
Who sends you forth, who sends you forth to serve.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A couple of Lenten gifts

During my Lenten journey I discovered a podcast and read a book that were Lenten treasures. They are too good not to share.

For the past several years, I've gone to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana on retreats. My next trip will be Easter Tuesday. One of my favorite moments after arriving is the first time I walk into the chapel for the daily office. When I join the voices of the dear sisters singing the invitatory and the psalms, my spirit melts.

I discovered a podcast of another Benedictine Monastery that posts the offices of Lauds (early morning) and Vespers (evening) daily. Though they pray a little faster and have less silence than the sisters of OLOG during worship, the sound of these sisters singing takes me back home to the monastery. It's been a great Lenten companion.

I love finding books and music that have a spiritual twist, especially when they are firmly rooted in the non-religious market. My favorite non-traditional Lenten book is Lambs of God by Marele Day. It's a book about knitters in a monastery. The knitting sisters are a closed order on an isolated island that are unexpectedly visited by a priest who wants to close the monastery and make the island into a getaway for the rich. What I love most, besides those knitting sisters and their sheep, is the way that these women keep the liturgy of the hours and the holy seasons without watches or clocks but simply by following the growing and waning light. The story is neatly tied together with a few twists and a satisfying ending.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A lenten hat

A few years ago I went to Nova Scotia with my best friend. While poking around a knitting shop in Baddeck, she spotted some yarn that she thought would make a cute hat. Though I'd only knit one other hat (for a baby and with my knitting friend Kathryn's help), of course I was delighted to be able to do something nice for this dear friend. How hard could knitting a hat be? I tend to overbuy yarn, but the knitting store helper in Baddeck assured me that the skein of yarn was what it had taken for the "model" hat.

The two year hat saga began. Experienced knitters can predict each twist in the plot.

It was thinner yarn (actually sock yarn) than I usually used so I was knitting on what, for me, were tiny needles (give me chunky yarn and size 12 needles!). The yarn also liked to unravel a bit so I had to be careful not to split stitches. After a year of knitting off and on, with the minor trauma of that final web of double pointed needles, I proudly delivered the one skein hat to my friend. She was ever so grateful.

No surprise, of course, the hat was more like a beany than a hat that would actually keep my friend's head warm. Of course she was gracious about the size, but it was too small to really be useful.

We were going back to Baddeck in the fall, so I took the hat back to the shop to see if they had a second skein. Of course they didn't, and of course the yarn could not be found elsewhere. I finally decided to rip out and add additional inches with some some solid yarn that complimented the stripes of the hat.

Unknitting and knitting I was near the end once again when I made a mistake on the double pointed needle part and just put the hat away until I could face it once again. From time to time my friend would kindly ask after the hat, watching me knit through other projects.

When I decided to start a major poncho project for my daughter, and then with the happy future opportunity of a blanket for the grandbaby due in July, I knew that I needed to get the hat finished first.

And so I carefully ripped out once again. I carefully knit and unknit and finally finished the hat. It was pretty cute. As I careful wove in spare threads and trimmed them, I was aghast when I accidentally cut the thread too close and made a cut into the hat itself. The best I could do was applique a small design over the hole ("Is this your logo?" asked my friend) and finally send it on.

She says she love her hat and that it looks adorable. But the twists and turns of knitting and unknitting and knitting and repairing the hat is a pretty fine metaphor for my own spiritual journey: trying something just a bit beyond my comfort level--then making my share of mistakes and do-overs, and in the end--something new and stunning.

Not a bad place to be traveling during Lent.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Emptying and Filling

There have been several bonuses from the Bishop of Connecticut search. One was to change my spiritual discipline regarding food this past July (via Weight Watchers online; so easy to do with an Iphone App!). That's working well. There's over 30 pounds less of the unhealthy part of me right now.

Another bonus was to be to seriously look at all the stuff in my house. The possibility of packing up and moving would have been a daunting task if I were elected Bishop of Connecticut. When I wasn't elected, I knew that I had a nudge to go ahead and get started on the clean up. Why wait to move to enjoy my cleaned-out home?

The last week of 2009 I got seriously started. This week I took eight garbage bags full of stuff that wouldn't be considered garbage to Goodwill.

It felt so good that I decided that one of my spiritual disciplines this year would be to intentionally clean out one place in my house each day and to put at least one item in the give- away bag daily.

Saturday I cleaned out my requests for donations folder. If you're like me, you get an awful lot of invitations to give. I tend to store those pleas in a folder and sit down and go through them all at once.

This rare week of not having to write a sermon or prepare a Sunday School class gave me a full morning. On this year beginning, I went through each request prayerfully. End of year giving from my generous parish made my Discretionary Fund full, and I wrote checks to over a dozen ministries.

From my own pocket, I wrote more checks to support my local PBS television and radio stations. I've also decided to sponsor a child with Big Brothers Big Sisters NW (my son tells me that time donations are up, but that money donations are way down).

I was inspired to sponsor a child in thanksgiving for the new grandchild that will be born in our family late this summer. I may have gotten the idea from my best friend from her own Project Georgia Grace.

Georgia Grace was my friend's first grandchild. There's nothing more fun, I'm told, than buying treats for a grandbaby. Of course, like so many children, Georgia Grace really had enough of most everything. So my friend made a rule: Every time she bought a gift for Georgia Grace, she had to buy an equal item for the local assistance ministry. Isn't that a great plan?

In the same spirit, I'll give some money each month for a child in the Portland area as I share the abundance that I know that Grandbaby "AJ" already has.

Meanwhile, I invite you to join me in the clean out/give away daily discipline. Emptying and filling, receiving and giving are very good things.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Another year of grace

I've stayed silent from the blog since returning from the election. We've finished Pentecost, Advent, and Christmas, and now we are days into Epiphany.

I've had wonderful gatherings with family at Thanksgiving at my mother's "farm" and another family gathering Christmas at the Rectory. My son Jacob finished his year with AmeriCorps and is now a full-time employee with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Portland. His wife, Lisa, has returned to school preparing to become a medical assistant. They are both expecting their first child, my first grandchild, this summer. My daughter, Lisa, continues to WOW with her wonderful photographs, recipes, and food writing.

In 2009, I was invited to be part of five processes in five dioceses for bishop. I was invited to be part of two processes for parish rector. Some invited me, and I said no; others invited me and then said no to me. I also became a postulant seeking to become an oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

At St. Mary's for the twelve days of Christmas, I was beyond thankful to be with those folk that I've been loving for thirteen years. Gathered with my family at Christmas, I was beyond thankful to be home with them.

Now what will God have in store for 2010? I would never, ever imagined what 2009 would have become, so I'm ready for the great surprises God has for all of us.

The Scripture which is my prayer is from Jeremiah 31. 3, 4:

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel