Friday, November 30, 2012

Nearly Advent

This time of Sabbath is nearer the end than the beginning. As I move from this time of holy rest to returning to my community renewed, it is fitting that this last month will be in the midst of Advent--that most countercultural of church seasons. Filled with the color blue for hope, and words like expectation, waiting, silence, listening, promises revealed and fulfilled.

For over fifteen years I've come to New Mexico with my best friend during Advent. The last three years we've stayed in a beautiful small house called La Casa de Los Abuelos, the house of the grandparents. Which is what my best friend and I are-- grandmothers. This Advent I am waiting for the birth of a particular child-- my second grandson, Jonas.

My image, my icon, as I start this season of mysterious expectation is a fresco I viewed at St. Mary's, West Jefferson, North Carolina, during my fresco pilgrimage earlier this month. This expectant Mary, stopped on the road, one hand cradling the new life to come, and the other hand raised in greeting? blessing? fills me with quiet thought.

A very good place to be in the House of the Grandmothers, this cold November morning.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanks. Giving.

The plan had been for me to drive up to my mom's sometime Thanksgiving week.  My mother had been a little under the weather for a while, so we'd planned a simple Thanksgiving day.  My brothers and I, and the bonus of my nephew, Andrew, were going to have a quiet, feasting day together.  Which happened.  Except I wasn't there.

Turns out early in the week I came down with a cold.  It's actually pretty amazing with all of the traveling I've done during the Sabbatical that this was the very first time I'd been sick.  However, Thanksgiving Day found me in in bed or on the couch at the Rectory.  Alone.

First time in 61 years that I'd been alone on Thanksgiving.  It was strange to look outside the window and see cars parked in front of neighbors' houses, people moving in and out with smiles and hugs and arms full of food, and to be inside still in my pajamas.

I'll be honest.  I had a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself.  I'll admit it.  But then I got out the basket of cards written to me by members of St. Mary's and read their kind words and prayers.  I had a grilled cheese sandwich, made the proper way browned in butter on top of the stove.  Less you feel a bit sorry for me--a  grilled cheese sandwich is one of my most favorite foods, especially when made with homemade bread (baked by me from a cookbook given to me by my wonderful daughter, who, by the way, is featured this month in the Ladies Home Journal) and cheese brought back from my trip to Iona.

I had cookies that same daughter had made for my birthday that I'd frozen away for a special occasion.  I had an organic honeycrisp apple--perhaps the best apple God ever created. I had my drink of choice--sparkling water, and it all felt like a feast to me.  I had phone calls from my son, my daughter, cousins in Virginia, a nephew in Brooklyn, and my best friend.  I knitted.  I watched dvds.  It wasn't the Thanksgiving I'd wanted to have, but it was definitely a day that was easy for me to give thanks.

To top the day off, a friend sent me a Thanksgiving letter written by the Bishop of Atlanta--and his words of wisdom are worth sharing with any of you who have muddled through to this point.
The Right Rev. Rob Wright wrote:

Thanksgiving Day ~ November 22, 2012

"Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices...."

Today many of us will sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. Just before we dine, we will bow our heads and voice our gratitude to God for food and family and fellowship. This we ought to do. We have been so blessed!

But, go further this year.

This Thanksgiving, in response to all God has done for you, do that which God asks of us. Tell the children and grandchildren of the wondrous deeds of God. Read Psalm 78:1-7 to them. Tell them why you follow Jesus. Tell them the difference it makes.

Further still.

This Thanksgiving, ask God for the courage and grace to make peace with the family member you struggle to love. Ask God for the grace to forgive a longstanding hurt inflicted by a family member. In thanksgiving to God, let it go.

Yet more.

This Thanksgiving, choose one issue that tugs at your heart: homelessness, domestic violence, child poverty, etc. Serve the people in that circumstance for one year, until next Thanksgiving. Do this in thanksgiving to God.

I commend these to you this Thanksgiving, mindful of the words we pray each morning:

" ...We pray give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives...." BCP pg.101

I thank God for you,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Fresco of the Running Father

This part of the Sabbatical was all about the frescoes.

Ben Long is an artist whose medium is the fresco. He has created a group of frescoes using this ancient practice in North Carolina in both public spaces and churches. My best friend and I did a three day road trip to see these frescoes.

The frescoes in churches were usually on the wall behind the altar so that they greeted you as you entered the worship space and were the focal point throughout worship.  Imagine celebrating Holy Eucharist with a lively fresco of that meal inviting you to be a part of that first communion with Jesus and his disciples.

One of these frescoes is in the chapel of Montreat College and is inspired by the parable of the prodigal son. The jealous brother. The dancing servants. The ecstatic father. The fresco features each detail of the parable.

It's the gospel appointed in the daily office for today, Luke 15. 11-32.

I am struck that this scripture was selected to be the place of a kind of lectio divina in a space where college students gather--men and women who are in a time in their lives when they are especially searching for the meaning of life.  Do they feel like prodigals?  Like dancing servants?  Like jealous brothers or sisters?  Do we?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A quiet day in Georgia

After a road trip from the Convent through North Carolina seeing extraordinary frescoes (more about that later), I am staying at dear friends' home on a ridge in the southern Appalachians Mountains.

Today we took a walk by the Tallulah River. Last glimmers of fall color peaked through the trees. It was exquisite.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Silence: Day Three

I ended my silence today with Diurnum (Noonday Prayers). But first I sat in the Chapel and prayed the St. Mary's directory--lifting each person's name in prayer. I was saddened that four more of our family are now in the place of Light Perpetual--John, Suzanne, Susanne, and Lou.

Later today I'm off to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit another Woman Touched by Grace, Sally.

It's a beautiful fall day and, as always, God is very good.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Silence: Day Two

As an introvert, I require times of solitude. I love people. I love being with people. However, I process information by being alone.

Silent retreats aren't difficult for me. During this triduum of silence, I have been encouraged to go beyond the familiar silence of my whispering mind to that deeper place where God alone dwells.

So this retreat is a time to be with the Beloved. The One who loves us so very very much and will wait with us for an eternity to open our hearts to that love. Silent only to God's voice.

In silence I eat with Beloved. In silence I walk with the Beloved. The Beloved sits with me as I read and I write. The Beloved is with me in my resting and my rising.

In the quiet, I am reading Scarlet Music, a novel about the twelfth century abbess, mystic, poet, composer, prophet, healer, and artist, St. Hildegarde of Bingen. Here, freshly translated, is one my favorite quotes.

....but I stretch out my hand to God to be sustained by him like a feather born on the wind.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Silent Retreat

I flew to Augusta, Georgia, yesterday on what may be the two easiest plane trips of the Sabbatical. I was picked up at the airport by Sister Miriam who delivered me to St. Helena's Convent in time for Vespers.

St Helena's is the home of the Order of St. Helena, an Episcopal community for women religious which, as God would have it, celebrated the anniversary of their founding today.

I have wanted to come here since the earliest days of the planning of my Sabbatical because St.Mary's uses their excellent inclusive language version of the Psalms, the St. Helena Psalter. This began as a field trip of sorts which has led to a three day silent retreat.

A am a little over half way through my Sabbatical, and it is time to be alone with the God of love.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Ending a lovely visit to Oregon in Portland at Stumptown Coffee. My flight to Houston leaves at 11.30 PM, and charging my phone here, journaling, and knitting is more pleasant than doing it at the airport.

I rode the shuttle from Bend to Portland first thing this morning (riding buses is a Sabbatical sub theme). I rented a car for the day so I could spend some time with one of my dear Women Touched by Grace friends.

WTBG is an Eli Lilly Foundation Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant for women clergy that sent me and 29 other chick pastors on retreat six times in three years at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana, once in Italy, and a couple of post grant bonus retreats. It was life-changing.

Being with Laurie was the perfect way to end a spirit-filling trip to see my family in Bend.

Much much much more delicious than even this delicious cappacino and fig and fennel scone.