Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallow's Eve in Bend

While my daughter rides out Hurricane Sandy in safety at the rectory, I'm in Bend for Halloween (which is a holiday I really don't care for, but is delightful when a two year old dressed as Curious George does it) and for Jonas' baby shower, and most of all, to simply be with the Bend Fains.

All treats today!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday in Chambersville

After nearly two weeks taking Sabbath at the Rectory, I'm traveling again. Yesterday I drove to my mother's in Chambersville, Texas. It's right outside McKinney, and her mailing address is McKinney. Even though my iPhone local weather thinks I'm in Celina, I know I'm in Chambersville. That's because it's named for my Greatgreatgrandfather Elisha Chambers, who came here from Indiana in 1847. That's a long time in Texas years.

This morning Mother and I went to the local Methodist church. About thirty people gathered for fellowship, singing, and listening to Scripture. The time of prayer was one where we truly shared cares and joys and concerns. The pastor travels between two churches each Sunday morning, and she gave a lovely sermon of honesty and encouragement.

All over the world there are church communities like this one--small only in the world's eyes. The little church was well-cared for--neat and tidy and obviously loved. Each person, including me, a stranger, was met with a warm word and a touch. There were only a handful of children, and all had a place in the worship, too. It was and is the Body of Christ.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sabbathkeeping on Laneview

I'm home, and for one delicious week I've kept Sabbath at home. The lovely surprise has been each time I remembered that I have no place I have or need to be.

Like yesterday. I took a walk with a friend. Our conversation was still going strong when we came to the end of our three turns around the walking path. Did I have time to walk around again?
Did I? I did.

Walking daily has been part of my Sabbatical rule of life. Near my house is a no longer new walking trail along the bayou. I've never made time to explore it, but now I have the gift of time. I began my exploration earlier this week. As I walked this new trail, this was the Scripture I contemplated:

Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A rainy trip home

For the two weeks we were in Scotland and England, we saw almost no rain--it waited until the final drive to the airport. It feels like grace.

For the past six weeks I have traveled to some of the most extraordinary and inspiring places on earth. My head and heart are full.

Now quotidian time begins. Tomorrow I begin to Sabbath at home for a while. My next trip will most likely be to Oregon for Jonas' shower.

I need time to put all of my thoughts in order. My photos of the Holy Land will arrive around the first of November via a friend of my brother's who will pick up my no longer lost camera in Tel Aviv and deliver it to Houston.

As I begin the second of my three flights home, I am filled with peace and gratitude. Even with four hours sleep!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leaving England

When the tide turns and the causeway from Holy Island to the mainland is opened soon, I'll leave this beautiful place and begin the long journey back to Houston.

We've been doing all of our worship at St. Mary's seated in choir, that is facing one another. In the pew there are cards with a blessing for those leaving the island; those leaving the island are encouraged to request the blessing at their final service.

Last night after Evening Prayer (which ended outside overlooking St. Cuthbert's Island while we prayed prayers in honour of him), I let the Vicar know that today would be our final time to join them for worship. At The Peace this morning he asked if we still wanted the blessing. I certainly did!

At the close of the service he invited my friend and me up for our blessing. He also invited anyone else who was taking leave. Another man came forward. My friend and I smiled because our blessing allowed another to be blessed, too. God's abundance for sure.

Here are the words of St. Mary the Virgin parish's blessing:

To the prayers of the island saints we commend you.
May God's angels watch round you to protect you.
May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you for all that lies ahead.
May Christ Jesus befriend you with his compassion and peace.

May the Lord be a bright light before us.
Be a guiding star above us.
Be a smooth path beneath us.
And the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be with you this day and always.

Go in the peace of Christ:
Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Large Day on Holy Island

It was cold and sunny today which made it great for walking and cappuccinos.

The day started with Morning Prayer followed by Holy Communion at the parish church, St. Mary's, and ended back there for Evening Prayer. The worship concluded with a procession outside to the statute of St. Aidan where we closed our prayers. The walk back to my Bed and Breakfast was along the causeway as the sun set.

I spent time this afternoon walking around the ruins of the Benedictine Priory. I was thoughtful about the many ruins of once vital Christian communities I've visited on my Sabbatical. Although the buildings no longer stand, I believe that the effects of the people's prayers and worship and acts of service continue to be alive and bear fruit. I believe our lives are better because of their anonymous and hidden faithful acts.

I pray the same for what we do.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Another Holy Island

All connections neatly made, I'm now in England on Lindisfarne, after waiting nearly thirty years to arrive The church my family attended for many years was St. Cuthbert in Houston, and I have longed to come to this place he called home.

An Iona connection is that St. Aidan, who founded the monastery here on Holy Island, came as a missionary from Iona. Cuthbert followed him years later as Prior and then Bishop.

Another interesting tidbit is that Christianity came to Scotland from Ireland via St. Columba at Iona thirty or so years before St. Augustine came to Canterbury and founded a monastery there.

Goodbye and Hello

Bittersweet leaving of Iona this new day. I'm off to another Holy Island in another country, Lindisfarne, a place to whence (love using the Brit words) I've wanted to pilgrimage for nearly thirty years.

So I'll have one last bowl of porridge, then take a ferry, drive across Mull Island to take another ferry to Oban, then drive across Scotland to England, timing our drive to cross the causeway to Lindisfarne with the low tide or there will be a long wait till the next low tide.

For whatever God has next in store.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving on Iona

Except they call it the Harvest Festival

Anyway. This Sunday morning, the whole island, including all houses of worship and the school children, celebrated the harvest with worship at the Abbey.

This is my last full day on Iona, and I'm a bit sad to be leaving. It was lovely to wake up today without an alarm, have a leisurely breakfast, and to walk by the sea to worship where my only responsibility was to worship.

My friend and I like to arrive early, and this morning there was a cheerful, excited hubbub before worship as all the participants made final preparations. I decided to go sit in the side chapel, the Quiet Corner, for my own preparations. It was sweet to remember all I love and light candles for them, resting in the still place within my heart, as those gathering to worship made their own joyful getting ready sounds.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The fire of the Holy Spirit

As we walked across the pasture to morning worship at the Abbey, I heard a distant beep beep beep. As we got closer it sounded louder and louder, much like the fire alarm that had gone off during worship Thursday evening when incense filled the Abbey. Apparently they are very serious about fires here on Iona. We were bustled out with great haste on Thursday night.

When we entered the Abbey today by our usual back door, not a candle was lit, and the space was empty and quiet except for the fire alarm. We could see people gathered outside and joined them, much to the horror of one of the Iona community who, on seeing us come from inside the church, went to stand by the side door to prevent others from entering the back way.

There was laughter and conversation as the cold wind blew, and fire fighters came in and out, unable to find the source of the alarm. There was talk about praying outside, but after yet one more false alarm, we were in our places near the 9 AM start.

I am mindful this day of the way the Holy Spirit is with us whether we hear the fire alarm or not, whether we feel the bite of the wind or not.

After worship today, I went to sit in the Quiet Corner, that side chapel reserved for silent prayer. Everytime I go in there, my heart feels the blanket of prayer that seems to never leave that space.

As I sat there in prayer, I heard the sound of wild geese out the window. Fitting, somehow, since the Iona community has as its symbol of the Spirit a wild goose.

Fire. Wind. Wild geese.

The Holy Spirit is with us.

As we sang this morning,

"Give me courage when the world is rough
Keep me living though the world is tough;
Leap and sing in all I do
Keep me traveling along with you.
And it's from old that I travel to the new
Keep me traveling along with you."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Walking mindfully

There was a big storm in the night--howling, screeching wind and pounding rain. It was good to be inside.

On Iona, the ground is always wet and the paths always have puddles, but the walk to the Abby for morning worship had to be done with extra care today. One misstep on slippery rocks or into a puddle would get the day off to a not so good start.

So I walked towards worship with extra attention and care. Mindfully. Prayerfully.

I've been trying to live all the minutes of my day with more attention and care. Mindfully. Prayerfully.

The walk to and from worship as the sun rose once again over this wee island began a rhythm which I hope, I pray, will be my spiritual practice for the rest of the day.

Mindfully. Prayerfully.

Oh. And I didn't slip or fall.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A walk across an island

Yesterday was one of those rare sunny all day long days on Iona, and my friend and I took a walk across the island. The small paved road turns into a gravel road which turns into a path which ends at the sea. The shore is covered in extraordinary rocks, all colours, large and small, all worn smooth by water and wind. Like baptism and the Holy Spirit.

It is a custom on Iona to take one of those rocks and throw it into the sea, throwing with it those things we want God to help us let go of in our lives. The tossing of the rock is the prayer.

I carefully chose my prayer rock and gave God all that was hurting in my heart and threw it into the waters of the blue sea.

As is also the custom, as I walked from sea to shore and back to the path, I chose one rock to take with me to remind me of new beginnings in Christ.

Today we hike to the north end of the island to yet another beach. Along the way, the plan is to scale the highest point on Iona, all three hundred feet. Rain or shine we walk and see what God has in store.

As St Augustine said, "All shall be Amen and Alleluia."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A large day in Iona

The sun is streaming in the window as I sit enjoying a cappacino.

I had an email from a member of my parish who thought she might be intruding on my Sabbatical if she responded with a comment to my blog. Absolutely not!!!! It's great to know someone is reading these wee iPhone blogs.

It is a walk by the sea up three hills, across three streams, and through three gates to take the short cut for morning worship at the Abbey.

There are three houses of worship on the Isle of Iona (Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, and Iona Community) which schedule their worship so that a pilgrim can attend all six services a day. I've been a bit more selective so far--choosing one morning and one evening worship each day.

There are many other moments and places to stop and be with God. It is a Sabbatical after all. Today I'll be using a book written by a member of the Iona Community, Around a Thin Place, as my devotional guide. I'll be hiking to the crossroads, Machair, and Hill of the Angels--and whatever adventures God has in store.