Monday, February 27, 2012

Finding Scallops in Tybee Island

Since early days of the Church, when followers of Christ went on pilgrimage, they attached scallop shells to their clothing to identify themselves as pilgrims.  I'm told that they would also carry a scallop shell. Because they were pilgrims, folk that they met along the way were to offer them food--but only enough to fill their shell so that no hardship would be placed on those sharing their own provisions.

At our Ash Wednesday service I handed our scallop shells to those who gathered to worship that day as a sign of their Lenten pilgrimage, particularly our parish commitment this Lent to worship fully (attend worship weekly in Lent, and three times during Holy Week).

Now that Ash Wednesday, a Daughter of the King gathering, and the burial of a beloved parishioner are over, I'm on my annual Lenten retreat in Tybee Island.

This morning I joined my parish family at St. Mary's by worshipping fully at All Saints Episcopal Church, Tybee Island, Georgia, where the worship was sweet and grace-fillled.  In the stained glass window near where I prayed and sang and listened was ....  a scallop shell.

This afternoon walking on a gray-filled, very windy, very chilly beach there were few birds, fewer folks venturing out, but of course...scallop shells.  I picked up a few as a reminder that, like the ridges on a scallop all return to a central point, the variety of our walk with Christ will lead us, with God's abundant Grace, to the place where he dwells.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

                   from TS Eliot's poem, Little Gidding


Friday, February 17, 2012

Homesick Holy Communion

My daughter was in town this week.  She was here on business and much of the business involved eating out.  That's her story to tell another time, but I want to tell how her story has blessed me.

Since she was a little girl, my daughter has wanted to publish a book. In elementary school, the students were encouraged to write books, and I have her earliest efforts. After she graduated from college, her occupation always involved writing in some way or another--from working in a children's book store to being an editor on a magazine.

Two years ago my daughter signed a contract to write her first book, and quit her day job to spend full time writing. Of course I was as proud as I could be, and I spent an inordinate amount of time bragging.  My friends were very patient with me.

I've told my daughter that I believe that God's call on her life was to write about food and fellowship and friends and family.  After all, didn't Frederick Buencher write,  The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet?  (Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC)

Her book came out this fall and its success is as much as I imagined it would be--and more. Several national periodicals chose it as one of the top ten cookbooks of the year, and yesterday, as she and I were on our way to lunch, she discovered that a the book had been nominated by a prestigious organization for a national award.

What makes my daughter's book so special is that it contains recipes that remind her of home, friends, and family with accompanying short stories and her own exquisite photographs.  It's stunning to read, to cook from, and to simply enjoy looking through.

My daughter's stories of food and home touch a common spot in all of our hearts.  The connection of favorite foods to familiar places with people we love is a universal hunger.  Eating is essential to life--and not only physically but emotionally and spiritually, too.

I suspect that's why Jesus seemed to always be on his way to and from a meal.  Think eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Think feeding thousands of folk at a time.

I suspect that's why Jesus chose as his final activity on the night before he died to share a meal with the beloved men who had walked with him as disciples for three or so years.  It's why he told them to eat the meal again and again to remember him.  It's why we're told specifically about the meals he served or ate after his resurrection, and the time that his disciples knew him in the breaking of a loaf of table bread.

We are all hungry for good food with good fellowship.  I believe that hunger is rooted in our hunger for communion with the God of love. I believe that every time we sit with folks we love to eat a meal that Christ is indeed there--whether we ever know it or not.  My daughter's book reminds me of those common communions.  I believe its success is because it touches others in the same way.  Yes, I am proud of my daughter indeed.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentines Everywhere

One of the things I do to stay healthy is to make greeting cards.  My best friend and I started card-making together over fifteen years ago when she still lived in Houston.  Even though she now lives in Georgia, we still plan trips that will have card-making as a planned activity.  Every Advent we go to New Mexico for a week and make Advent (not Christmas!) cards.  Every Lent we go to Tybee Island, Georgia, and make Lent (not Easter!) cards.  Being a priest, I do love to be liturgically correct.

When she lived in Houston, my friend and I  made cards regularly. Since she moved to Georgia, my card-making is more haphazard.  It has dropped off now that I usually have to create cards all on my own. God knew what God was doing when God created us to live in community!

Making cards is a kind of therapy. Last summer we were on a trip and one of us was feeling grumpy.  We had a great idea to create some everyday cards.  The process of creating something, especially something beautiful, to give to someone else, is one of the best ways to move from a cranky place to one of peace and joy.  But of course, creating is part of being made in the image of God, the Great Creator.  But of course, Jesus did say to love our neighbor, and what neighbor doesn't love receiving a beautiful handmade card? (Okay, there was a person once at church who said not to bother her with a card, but that's another blog.)

My best friend came over for a couple of days at the end of January with two purposes:  to see all the movies we wanted to see in preparation for the Oscars and to make Valentines.  In two days we packed in three movies and a stack of Valentines (though, I must admit, some of mine are waiting for their stamps and will be day or days after Valentines).

I often  like to put Bible verses on my cards.  I finally found one that I especially like for Valentine's:

Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another.
Proverbs 27. 19

May you see a beautiful reflection in the face of those you meet today.
Valentine's Day blessings!