Saturday, December 29, 2012

5th Day of Christmas: The Farm

Yes, I did get home from Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the morning Thursday.

Yesterday I drove to Chambersville (Sabbatical traveling leg # 53) for Christmas with my mother. Being a Southern Baptist, my mother didn't know that the first day of Christmas was Christmas Day and that Christmas isn't over yet. The gift of being an Episcopalian!

My mother greeted me with my favorite meal, pot roast with potatoes and carrots. My daughter from New York City joined us soon after. This morning one of my brothers drove up from Plano, and we had a delicious fifth day of Christmas lunch.

My daughter had asked my mother to make a lemon pie, and she did--using her mother's recipe. It was amazing!

Best of all were the shared stories and photographs and laughter. A very good way to spend the last weekend of my Sabbatical.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Delayed in SLC

I'm waiting for the final flight of my Sabbatical travels. After a last breakfast with grandson Austin, and a final morning holding baby Jonas, I left snowy Redmond, Oregon, around noon for a flight to Portland. I then flew to Salt Lake City which is covered in snow, and my flight home is delayed an hour--I hope only an hour.

This plane ride will be leg #52 of my Sabbatical travels.

I've traveled on big jets and tiny propeller planes. I've flown first class and in a middle seat. I've ridden in a sherut, a small bus, a camel, and in the back of a pick up truck over no road at all in the desert. I've taken my last trip in my 2007 Prius and my first in my new 2012 Prius.
I've taken ferries and driven across the ocean floor at low tide to an island. I've spent a week only walking on an island with few cars. I've rented cars in two countries and three states.

This weekend I take a final road trip in Texas to visit family. Then a week from today, I'll get in my new green Prius and drive the 3 1/2 miles to St. Mary's for my first day at work since August.

But first I have to get out of SLC.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Church in the Snow, the sequel

My son told me last week that he'd like to go to Christmas Eve worship with me, and even knew the schedule for services. So after a lively and delicious dinner at the home of my ex husband and his wife, after the grandsons were tucked into bed, he and I drove through the snow to celebrate Christmas at the church where I had attended Sunday worship yesterday.

It was the first Christmas Eve in twenty years that I had not been responsible for worship for hundreds of people. I was ready to experience Christmas on the other side of the altar. It was sweet.

There were maybe seventy people gathered at 10.30 PM to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The worship was simple--no sung prayers or incense. However the liturgy was done very well, and a nice touch was Christmas lights strung from the ceiling of the nave. They gave us a canopy of light when the other lights were dimmed for the singing of Silent Night, kneeling, after Communion, just as my parish home would have knelt and sang hours earlier.

As I received Communion, the choir and congregation sang Away in a Manger. Only hours earlier I had sung that very hymn to my grandson after putting him to bed. Returning from Communion, I knew that this was truly my best Christmas ever.

In the morning my daughter will join us for breakfast and the tree. Gift upon gift upon gift being with all my children and grandchildren under one roof.

Tonight we prayed during the Prayers of the People, "0 Lord give us the Spirit to know and to love you and gift of joy and wonder in all your works."

God has already answered yes.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Church in the snow

It's the fourth Sunday of Advent, so before I go to church for Christmas, it seemed fitting that I stop and worship in the final days of this season of preparation. So I put on my blue top, my blue scarf, and my blue socks, and drove in the snow to church. It was really, really, really snowing.

I have to admit. When I visit a church, I can't help but notice those things they do well, and, yes, those things done not so well. I'm especially mindful of welcome and hospitality because that's basic church 101. After all, Jesus taught that what we are to do is love God and love each other. He also made clear that the each other we love are not only those we already love but also the stranger, the hungry, the prisoner, the naked, the thirsty--those kind of friends.

Bless their hearts, though the folks at the church where I worshipped this morning preached about being community, the parish didn't quite rise to the occasion.

They were having baptisms today and had special worship booklets. Unfortunately, I wasn't given one. Two passes by the ushers later in the service, and I scored an order for worship, but I was curious that none of the folks around me tried to help when they saw I was a little lost. If I had been new to Episcopal worship, I would have felt quite the outsider.

Then there was The Peace, that part of worship where we greet one another in the name of the Lord. It often becomes a meet and greet for our friends and family. As in so many parishes, The Peace lasted an extended length of time. I greeted those near me, but as The Peace continued, I was left ignored in my pew except for two dear souls who crossed the aisle to wish me peace. I could have gone off on my own to offer peace, but I was curious about what would happen. I am sad to say that several parishioners greeted folks on either side of me without greeting me. I was fine with being overlooked, but how would another guest have felt?

Finally, there was the dead battery incident. The snow was really coming down after church, and after a snowy walk to my car, I discovered that I had left my lights on, and my battery was dead. I trudged back into church to ask for help. One person said he'd noticed my lights on (why didn't he make an announcement?), but couldn't help. Another suggested that I call AAA. I am sorry to say that no one offered me any assistance. My son and grandson came and jump-started my battery after a very cold wait.

This is not to be critical of this parish specifically but to share what I fear would be too common a worship experience in far too many parishes. I know that when I return from sabbatical in two weeks my experience will inspire some conversation in my own parish.

All too often we in churches welcome and are hospitable only to people we already know. I do not think that Jesus is pleased when that's how we act.

I was left very sad after worship today. In a world that less and less knows the love of Christ, we in the church must offer our very best for those guests who have the courage to come through our doors.

It is the true meaning of Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making cocoa on a snowy day

Before I came to Bend, my son had one request--could we make the hot cocoa we used to make when he was a boy? He loved the cinnamon in it. I hadn't thought of that cocoa mix in years. It was full of things he wasn't likely to eat now--Cremora, Nestlé Qwik, and lots of confectioners sugar. But if a son wants something at Christmas, a mom does almost anything she can to make it happen. I was surprised to find easily the little sheet of paper with the recipe given to me by a good friend years ago.

Last night my grandson, Austin, and I made Jacob's favorite cocoa mix with some minor contemporary adjustments.
Just like it did twenty years ago, there was plenty to share with friends and loved ones.

Here's our 2012 adaption of my friend Kathryn's recipe:

8 quart size nonfat dry milk
1 pound Ghirardelli double chocolate cocoa mix
1 pound powdered sugar
6 ounces Coffeemate
1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa

Mix together.

The original recipe says to fill a cup half full with mix and add boiling water. Jacob used hot milk instead of water and it was delicious.

It's snowing outside tonight, so it will be especially delicious tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


If you look really close, you'll see snow-covered mountains. Only someone who left 78 degree Houston can really appreciate this. Time to put on layers.

A quick Phoenix lark

Last weekend I flew to Phoenix for our soon to be curate, Katie Churchwell's, ordination to the priesthood. It was in her home parish, St. Peter's, Litchfield.

The ordination was part of St. Peter's regular 5 PM Saturday worship with an Advent wreath, O come O come Emmanuel, and a warm welcome. The music was St. Peter's usual praise music.
It was a service filled with joy.

I sat with Katie's husband, Logan, and baby daughter Addison, who was one of the youngest presenters ever. It was such a gift to spend the evening with those who love Katie so very dearly.

I usually know our curates very well having journeyed with them through the three year plus Commission on Ministry process. Katie's ordination was only the second time I'd met her.

It could only be a God-thing that had this Diocese of Arizona deacon move to Houston to a subdivision near St. Mary's.
Our Canon to the Ordinary ran into her at Sunday worship at another church and less than two hours later (apologizing because I'm on Sabbatical) called to ask if St. Mary's wanted a curate--and a Quin grant to help pay her. After meeting Katie for a long chat at Starbucks a few weeks later, it was a yes.

Since I didn't have to be anywhere on Sunday, it was a gift to be able to fly for an overnight in Phoenix.

Two weeks from tomorrow, I'll return to St. Mary's bringing a new priest back with me. But first I've got to go to Bend to be with my grandsons for Christmas. I'll be meeting Jonas in a few short hours. And in the miracle of wireless and iPhones , I'm blogging this from over 10000 feet in the air.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

He's here!

Jonas Everett Fain was born December 8, 2012 at 11:54 PM. A healthy 6 lbs, 1 ounce and 20 1/2" long.

This Grandma in Texas can hardly wait the 10 days until I meet him!

From the Episcopal liturgy of thanksgiving at the birth of a child:

May God the Father, who by Baptism adopts us as his children, grant you grace. Amen.

May God the Son, who sanctified a home at Nazareth, fill you with love. Amen.

May God the Holy Spirit, who has made the Church one family, keep you in peace.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Praying our lives this day in Santa Fe

After a cold morning walk to breakfast (it's grand being able to walk where I want to go rather than drive), I was off searching for the labyrinth of the day. The Cathedral of St. Francis had one outside the entrance, except this morning it was roped off with yellow tape in anticipation of workers coming later to put up a giant wreath.

Slipping under the caution tape, my friend and I decided to start our prayer walk before the workers showed up. Next thing we knew we were joined by a mother and daughter who were walking a labyrinth for the very first time. The daughter quickly decided to take the short cut to the center, but the mother continued to walk thoughtfully. Because she saw us walking, the woman had an unexpected time of prayer. We all felt blessed.

The wonder continued. The New Mexico History Museum had an exhibit of pages from the St. John's Bible thoughtfully curated with photographs of New Mexico sacred spaces and a quiet space within the exhibit for meditation.

The exhibit did an extraordinary job of describing the huge community of artists and theologians who have worked together for over ten years to create the first handwritten and illuminated Bible in five hundred years.

It was truly sacred space.

Brother Curtis' words express how I feel about this day:

The real quest for our prayer is to learn to pray our lives. It’s to practice the presence of God in every moment, every place that we move, every person whom we touch, every word that we speak or hear.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Until next year, Casa De Los Abuelos

Today I leave Taos on a road trip to Chimayo for lunch with a friend, then on to Santa Fe for two days and nights.

This has been the most joy-filled of my trips to Taos. Waking to extraordinary sunrises, rich morning quiet, long walks each day, crafting, blue corn red chile cheese enchiladas, daily labyrinth walking prayer, and beauty beyond measure.

Taos friends asked if I'd be back next year. Was I done with Taos? Absolutely not. My traveling friend and I have two new hikes on the to do list and a coffee card ready to be filled. Here are some of my favorite Taos images.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Living Light

Coming to northern New Mexico for so many years, I have made good friends by happenstance. The path from one friend to another new friend to yet another is joyfilled mystery.

This trip I met Lenny Foster.

Some of our friends participate in an annual art show during Advent called Taos Folk. This year's visit I was attracted by photography called Healing Hands. Turns out that the art was done by Lenny, and we were told we must go to his gallery a couple of blocks away.

As I walked through his gallery, I was attracted to the back room. Dimly lit, it felt like a sacred space. It was indeed.

Lining the walls were Lenny's photographs of hands of people from all over the world. Old hands. Young hands. Hands holding hands. A rainbow of colors. Many were holding or touching some talisman of healing--like prayer beads, paint brushes, herbs, pottery, an apple. It was when I came to the black and white photograph of an older woman holding her Bible, that my heart caught. It was at that moment that I also met Lenny.

It was a holy moment of sharing faith and stories. The photograph that had touched my heart was of his mom's hands. He and I talked about bringing his exhibit to Houston. We'll see what God has in store.

And the name of Lenny's gallery? Living Light. What better place to meet a new brother during Advent?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Every year we begin again

As we drove home last night in the sunset, I remembered that it was New Year's Eve, and by the time we made it home another new year would have begun in the Church calendar.

How did I spend my new year's eve?
Up at sunrise for morning coffee
Quiet holy reading and gentle prayer
Walk into town for fresh bagels and coffee
Walk to visit a dear friend
Drive to walk a labyrinth outside of Questa
Another long drive to be still in one of the most beautiful places in creation, Valle Vidal
Painting and picnicking and walking and deeply looking at the winter beauty

Than the big decision. To end this year, do we return the familiar way or try a new way? Usually we travel with GPS and atlas, but for some reason, not this day. Of course our app-filled phones had no service. Remembering holy words written by the Rev. Barbara Taylor, we decided to go the wilderness way. To allow ourselves to be lost.

Almost as soon as we decided to drive the unknown way, we were met with the most extraordinary vista. Then as we drove the unpaved, washboard road, elk, deer, and wild turkeys crossed our paths. Each time I thought the surprises were done, God popped out yet another good gift.

We were never in truly any danger and were never truly lost. We had a full tank of gas. We were on a Kit Carson National Park service road. It was not so much about being lost, but about trusting God.

I ended the year recalling how I began the year. Here in Taos, seated at the dining room table of the Casa, I said yes to God about allowing myself to be a candidate for suffragan Bishop. At least I thought that what I was saying yes was about. But in fact I was only saying yes to God to go the unmapped road. And oh, the vistas I've seen along the way.

Today another year begins. Another day to say yes.