Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's with my mom

Up early early to drive to the farm to be with my mom for Valentine's. I arrived before noon, and she was ready with homemade soup made by her and my brother's homemade bread. It was a lunch full of smiles.

One of the things I rediscovered on a daily basis on my Sabbatical was joy. Waking up with a smile joy. Fruit of the Spirit joy.

Since joy is linked with the work of the Holy Spirit, I've decided to take on joy this Lent. I was retaught by that same Spirit what gives me joy during my Sabbatical-- knitting, baking for others (well, as long as I can lick the bowl), being with my grandboys, dancing, having endless time to sit in my prayer chair meandering through spiritual practices.... That's a start.

Today, besides the joy of being with my mom, which included walking with her about this property that's been in the family over 150 years and seeing the first spring blooms, I baked two kinds of bread. With small servings for me since Weight Watchers is also a Lenten discipline ( every year we begin again.......).

There's a Lenten trend here, this second day of Lent. Bread in communion with the people I love--three Eucharists at St Mary's yesterday, a home communion, breakfast bakery communion with my friend, and now more bread communion with my mom.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Every year we begin again.

Lent began at 4.50 AM and me getting ready for our 6 AM service. This year we're using the Eucharistic Prayer from the Diocese of Jerusalem at all Eucharists. It feels good and right to pray with our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem this holy season.

We added our own St. Mary's version of "ashes to go" to our 6 AM and noon Eucharists. All who wished were sent out with little vials of ashes and prayer cards to share with those who sought an encounter with Christ but might not make it to church today.

I took my ashes to go with me for breakfast with one of my dearest friends at a local bakery. When I got to the bakery, there was only one of the bran muffins my friend and I both prefer so we decided to cut it in half and share it. She remarked that Richard Rohr encourages a type of fasting where one eats half of what one usually eats and prays during the time not spent eating.

Cutting the muffin in half and sharing it was a kind of true communion. We prayed our lives through our conversation. We ended with me imposing my friend with ashes, and then sending her with my vial of ashes and prayer cards to take on her hospital visits today.

I had originally planned to take my ashes to go with me to share at the place where I get my nails done. Turns out that I had my own version of ashes to go as eight of us sat at our little tables, and my ashed forehead started a conversation among largely strangers about where we would worship this Ash Wednesday and what our Lenten practices would be.

At the close of our noon service at St. Mary's, we only had three ash vials left. I can't wait to hear everyone's stories of how they shared God with others today.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thanks be to God

One of the things about being on a journey with Christ is that more often than not we do not see the direct results of our ministries.  It's only over time that we begin to glimpse the quiet results of a prayer or a sermon or a class taught or, most often, a forgotten comment or gentle touch.

So I want to tell about a woman whose quiet ministry of prayer and service has had such abundant fruit in the Kingdom of God.

Cheryl Quintero was one of the first persons I met when I was called as rector of St. Mary's. I remember her greeting me with a loaf of homemade bread and a smile and kind word.

Cheryl has many gifts, but I consider her greatest is her gift of prayer.  In the tradition of the Jerusalem women whose lives were considered a prayer, much of what she does is prayer in action.

Cheryl moved from Texas over ten years ago and has been living in Montana.  In her Christmas letter, she told me that she would be visiting Cypress in February, so I wasn't expecting her when I heard her voice speaking down the hall from my office the last week of January.  I jumped from my chair and ran to greet her.  She had only recently arrived in Texas, and she and her husband had stopped in for a quick visit to St. Mary's.

Are you like me that sometimes you don't realize how much you miss someone until you see them again after a period of absence?  Cheryl is in town for a month to visit family, and since she's been here, she's made St. Mary's her church home.  It is as a see her once again in worship, at meetings, and Bible studies that I am reminded how very, very much I've missed her prayer-filled presence and support.

Last Sunday, Cheryl came with cake to visit the Junior Daughters of the King, our ministry of prayer and service for the girls of our parish.  Our Junior Daughters chapter is not named for one of the more well known Saints of the Church but the Cheryl Quintero Jr. DOK in honor of her ministry at St. Mary's (she was one of the first Daughters of the King when it began at St. Mary's over fifteen years ago).  The girls had never met Cheryl, and meeting her was a reminder that saints of God are ordinary people, too.  She had brought bookmarks for each girl with the Aaronic blessing written on the back:.

"The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look turn his face toward you and give you peace."
                                        Numbers 6:24-26

As God would have it, the Junior Daughters had also signed a special card for Cheryl with these very same words on the front!  

I told the over twenty girls gathered how Cheryl's ministry of prayer and her own servant leadership had been foundational in creating this very active group of girls who study Scripture, pray, and serve, and are themselves leaders at St. Mary's.  When I spoke these words, Cheryl did a true cherylism--raising her arms in the orans position and quietly saying, Thanks be to God.

Yesterday Cheryl was back at St. Mary's for the Wednesday Morning Bible Study.  Week after week, a group of more than two dozen men and women gather for prayer, study, and fellowship.  They have become a koina community who serve the parish in a variety of ways and have several active outreach ministries. As I saw Cheryl joining the group of over thirty yesterday, I remembered that she had been part of our original daytime Bible study fifteen years ago.   In the first days, we met on Tuesdays, and week after week I would pray that at least two people would show up.  Cheryl was front and center praying for this study to grow.

When I shared with the group yesterday that this lively, active group of Christians were enjoying the fruit of Cheryl's faithful prayers, she did her cherylism, hands raised in orans, a gentle, Thanks be to God.

Cheryl is not perfect, of course, but she is faithful. I have been grateful that she has been able to return and see some of the fruit of her ministry in her years at St. Mary's.  This is a rare and precious gift.

I write these words because they are encouragement for us all of us.  I pray that each of us will get a glimpse into the difference that we are making right here right now in God's kingdom.  

As we all raise our arms in thanks and say, Thanks be to God.