Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ist Days of Christmas in Bend

Being an Episcopal priest, I love that Christmas starts on Christmas Eve and lasts another twelve more days. I'm spending the second through sixth days with my family in Oregon. Getting to spend a Christmas Sunday with family is the best fourth day of Christmas I could have had. 

Christmas Sunday was my daughter-in-law's birthday,  and she requested Sue's eggs for breakfast--a favorite recipe of mine from a friend in New Mexico that got included in my daughter's second cookbook.  For those who are keeping track, it's yet another Sue's Eggs sighting as the recipe is shared around the globe. 

The grandboys spent Sunday morning before church playing on their new tables and chairs with the magic sand I'd given them for Christmas. Turns out it's much messier than advertised so vacuuming was part of clean up plus changing clothes a second time before going to church. 

Going to church as a family may be the very best gift ever for a grandma priest. Having someone else be completely in charge and then having the joy of sitting with my son and daughter in worship was a Feast of the Incarnation. 

I've spent the last two days playing with my preschool and toddler grandboys while Mom and Dad were at work. We had quite a snow storm and played in the snow this morning--very bundled up since it was 7 degrees. 

We've read a lot of books, cooked from
Austin's new cookbook, and made marshmallows. We've played with trucks and blocks and created endless art.  We've had lots of chats and had a slumber party while Mom and Dad went on a date.  The grandboys know how to make coffee in the Keurig so I've enjoyed my morning cups prepared with love by one grandboy or the other. 

I'm packing up tonight and full of joy as well as sadness. Today's SSJE word is incarnation. I've certainly started the Christmas season in the midst of the Incarnation:  with a not so ordinary family experiencing Love in the most extraordinarily quotidian way. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

2nd Day of Christmas in SFO

The words no one ever wants to hear. 
Your flight has been cancelled. 

About the time I should have been climbing into bed at my son's house in Bend, I was climbing into my bed at the Homewood Suites at San Francisco Airport. 

I'm on an early flight to Portland, and my son is driving over the mountains to pick me up. Thanks to United, I had a gourmet breakfast with my food vouchers. 

It's the second day of Christmas. How  will Jesus' love be incarnated today?  At least there was room for me at inn!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pilgrimage continues elsewhere: Second Saturday in Advent

All packed and on the way to pilgrimage in Houston. 

Yesterday was filled with lasts. 

Last, for this trip, early morning fire and cinnamon toast. 

Last, for this trip, blue corn cheese enchiladas, this time shared with a dear friend, Sue, whose egg recipe is featured in my daughter's newest cookbook. 

Last hike, for this trip, in a path scattered with snow and ice. 

Home for a prayer ritual involving herbal tea and St. Hildegard from an Advent retreat that's been part of my daily pilgrimage. So very much better shared with a friend. 

Early morning drive to Albuquerque with a glorious sunrise. 

Last, for this trip, cappacinnos along the way. 

So very thankful for this pilgrimage. 
So very hopeful and curious about the pilgrimage ahead. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pilgrimage to Taos: Second Friday in Advent

My traveling friend has been fighting a cold, and had been quite a trooper.  We'd been waiting for her to feel well enough to hike and yesterday was the day. 

There are many amazing hikes along the Rio Grande Gorge, and the one she'd wanted us to do for two years was La Vista Verde Trail. It's a two and one half mile round trip trek that takes you back and forth along the Gorge. 

As is our custom, we began our day as our pokey selves. We started the day with morning devotions and quiet, cinnamon toast before a fire, and Advent card making. Then of course we needed to eat lunch before our hike (yet another plate of blue corn cheese enchiladas). Since we were on the north side of town, there was a gallery to pop in where a friend was showing her work, followed by a couple of quick errands to run. 

Darting and lunging and detouring on our pilgrimage way, our arrival after the thirty or so mile drive to the trailhead was not until almost three in the afternoon. This put the day perilously near the early sunset, but we set out with confidence. 

We were almost immediately welcomed on the trail with a trinity of big horn sheep   who seemed content to allow us to walk beside them within touching distance. 

We were the only travelers on the trail. It's a point of trust when walking in a place never walked before with limited signage. The trail seemed to go away from the Gorge rather than closer, so we had to watch the path with care. Footprints from other hikers were always welcome. 

After about forty five minutes we arrived at the edge of the Gorge where we were greeted with not one but two benches for rest. After praying the afternoon office, we realized it was nearly four, and the sun had moved behind the mountains. Though we had nearly an hour of light left, the air was beginning to chill. It was time to return. 

Knowing we'd been a bit foolish with beginning the hike so late, I was mindful that we were in the middle of nowhere with only sweaters to keep us warm, some water, and phones without service. 

Poorly planned as we'd been, I'd been praying and meditating this week with St. Brendan the Navigator who'd journey with God and a few monks; they had sailed without a map in a coracle for seven years. Somehow I felt safe. 

Which I was--or covered in grace, I should say, despite my lack of thoughtful planning.  The vesper light drive home took our breath away. 

Safely back to Taos, we enjoyed our annual tradition of cappacinnos at the Taos Inn, then home for soup before yet another fire, and Advent stockings, our annual gift exchange. 

Pilgrimage to Taos: Second Thursday in Advent

No wind at the window, no knock on the door 
No light from the lamp stand, no foot on the floor 
No dream born of tiredness, no ghost raised by fear
Just an angel and a woman and a voice in her ear 

Oh, Mary, Oh, Mary don't hide from my face 
Be glad that you're favored and filled with God's grace 
The time for redeeming the world has begun 
And you are requested to mother God's son 

This child must be born that the Kingdom might come 
Salvation for many, destruction for some 
Both end and beginning, both message and sign 
Both victor and victim, both yours and divine 

No payment was promised, no promises made 
No wedding was dated, no blue print displayed 
Yet Mary, consenting to what none could guess 
Replied with conviction, "tell God I say yes."

This is the Annunciation hymn that we're singing at St. Mary's this Advent. I first sang it in worship on Iona this fall and when I heard the words, I knew it was to be shared. 

The words keep playing in my ear, and so when I walked a labyrinth in Taos earlier this week, this was the song I sang, particularly the verse, 

Tell God I say yes. 

Of course, like Mary, we have no idea what that yes will mean. Still, with the breath of prayer, we are requested (I love that choice of word in the hymn) to say yes. 

At Iona Abbey, in the Cloister, is this amazing sculpture. It is called "The Descent of the Spirit."  For me, it is the Annunciation. For me, it is about saying yes. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pilgrimage to Taos: Second Wednesday in Advent

“If your journey is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous. Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren't trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn't the real thing. The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion.”  Phil Cousineau in The Art of Pilgrimage 

Although I use vacation days to travel each year to New Mexico during Advent, my traveling companion and I have journeyed to this holy place for over fifteen Decembers, and it has become more of a pilgrimage than a vacation. 

I've traveled this year with a heart full of grief. The gift of serving in a parish for seventeen years is the deep relationships that are formed within the parish. 

But with the gift comes great sorrow when those we love die. Since I came here last year, three children of St. Mary's have died, and before I left we celebrated the Burial Eucharist of a longtime parishioner.   

As God would have it, last evening one of the precious friends I visit each year in Taos told me that this past June she was diagnosed with cancer and has but a few months to live. 

We stood in her studio as the light of the day dimmed towards night, and we talked about dying and death. About heaven. About walking with those she'll leave behind for but a while in these final earth days. It was holy time. 

This morning, as my traveling friend and I were planning our day, she unexpectedly showed up. We spent the morning in our casita in front of the fire chatting. There was nothing more important to do today than that time to be together. It was holy once again. 

Christine Valters Paintner says it better than I:

The pilgrim is not going on a vacation to relax and unwind from the stresses of daily living. Each moment brings a new invitation. Can we stay present enough to see what is actually showing up in this moment rather than being attached to how we want things to be?

So this day continues. A lovely walk to town for my daily meal of cheese enchiladas. This afternoon a little arts and crafts. Tonight another friend will gather round our table for conversation and meal. 

Unless the pilgrim's Advent path takes us somewhere else. 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pilgrimage to Taos: Second Tuesday in Advent

Yesterday's travels took us first to lunch in Abuquerque at a restaurant chosen from parishioners' high recommendation, then a stop in Santa Fe at a new coffee place, Iconik, for beautiful cappacinnos and the purchase of luscious cinnamon rolls for this mornings's breakfast. 

After the exquisite, peaceful drive to Taos, we shared dinner with friends who welcome us each year with their hospitality. 

This morning, ready for those luscious cinnamon rolls, with a shriek from my friend, we discovered that ants had found our breakfast treat. Ants in Taos!  Who would have imagined? What a jar to start the day. 

But then there was God. We had bought artisan wheat bread for meals at the local grocery. We found butter in the refrigerator and raw sugar and cinnamon in the pantry. The cinnamon toast God provided was the perfect start to the day. 

So much of my life has been about how my very good plans go awry, and how God always, always steps in. 

A very good start to this Advent walk. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Pilgrimage to Taos: Waiting and Expectant

Early start after a short night, I'm 
at the airport waiting to board my flight to Albuquerque to meet my best friend for our +17th annual Advent trip to New Mexico. 

Meals planned with old friends, star ornaments to create, hikes, many blue corn cheese enchilada meals ahead, cappuccinos, Advent card making, massages, Advent devotions and reflections, adventures and rest. 
Who knows where God, the best guide ever, will take us?

Meanwhile, today My grandson Jonas is two years old. My heart is full of love and thanks for this precious little boy.   His Aunt Lisa took this photo--clothed in Advent blue.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Prayers at the close of a thankfilled day

The Lord almighty grant you a peaceful night and a perfect end. 

Photo taken with iPhone and my brother's telescope!

An abundance of thanksgivings

For God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  
2 Corinthians 9.8

And so I am thankful for God's abundance in my life. 

For more invitations for Thanksgiving meals than I could join in a feast of days. 

For construction workers who will eventually get the roads that lead to my mom's an easier way to come. 

For first responders caring for all those whose holiday has been disrupted by car accidents. 

For fall color to revel in as I sat and waited for accidents to clear on the highway between Houston and Chambersville.  

For my CSA and a bounty of vegetables that I'd most likely never buy on my own, but now can be transformed into delicious sides to share with my family. 

For my daughter's wonderful cookbook which provided the best recipe for collard greens, ever. 

For my children and grandchildren so far away--but with whom I've had good, good conversations this week. 

For a digital age that makes it easy for video chats with my two grandboys. 

For a day to be with my mom and brothers and niece and nephew and whoever else joins us around my mother's family table. 

Now it's time to roast sweet potatoes and prepare mashed potatoes. And to continue to overflow with an abundance of thanks.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Grace: Hospitality, the sequel

Since it never got beyond the 20's and there were snow flurries all day, the labyrinth did not get walked to ponder hospitality yesterday.  God provided another prayer walk of reflection.

When I arrived at my morning session after not attending Eucharist, the two Sisters who were teaching were talking about the inspiring homily given by Sister Mary Luke.  Oh no. 

Sister Mary Luke is the Sister to whom I am closest.  We have much history over the years since she visioned and began Women Touched by Grace of which I have been part since 2003. We women clergy have called her our priest, and she has a stole that is created from fabric given by each of us in the first WTBG class. 

Not only had I missed Holy Communion, I had missed hearing the words of my sister and priest. 

When I saw her later in the day, I told her of my disappointment and of my struggles with being welcome at the Roman Mass. She reminded me what she had been telling us Protestant women clergy since she met us--that we were very welcome at Christ's Table always at Our Lady of Grace.  In fact, I recalled that the very first time I ever experienced a woman (Episcopal) Bishop presiding at Eucharist was in the Chapel of Our Lady of Grace eleven years ago at the first Women Touched by Grace communion service.  

Today after Morning Praise I stayed for Mass.  Before the liturgy again, I heard a whirring sound as a shade descended over a large window above the door. This is the first day this week that we have seen the sun, and the sunlight streaming through the large window over the Chapel's open doors was blinding dear Father Matthias. 

And then we rose for the Gathering Hymn. A hymn which I know by heart because it is in the Episcopal Hymnal. It was written by a member of The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston, my home, and the tune is called.....Houston. The hymn was I want to walk as a Child of the Light.  I was welcome. I was home. 

When we sang the Sanctus, the hymn before the Eucharist that connects us with the angels and all who sing praises to God in heaven, it was the same Sanctus, Land of Rest, that we sing at my home at St. Mary's.  I am welcome. I am home. 

As Father Matthias continued the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, he prayed words about unity and communion and for all clergy and for all faithful people. To God I am always welcome. To God I am always home.  

After the dismissal, I sat in silence in the chapel. I heard the whirring sound again. Sister Marie Therese was raising the screen. The sunlight poured in. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pilgrimage to Indiana: Benedictine Hospitalty

Although those following the Rule of St. Benedict keep vows of conversion, stability, and obedience, central to the Rule is hospitality. Over and over the little Rule teaches from one perspective and yet another that we treat all as Christ.  

I've had much to ponder about hospitality. In the parish where I serve, we've been having struggles (or perhaps I've been having struggles as the Rector) with what treating all as Christ means, particularly with those who are a step different from us. Elders with serious issues of aging, folks in emotional distress, people who see the Christian journey from unique perspectives.....hmmm, I suppose that includes almost all of us. What does it truly, truly mean to live my everyday life loving, really and truly loving, my neighbor?

I write that as the Holy Eucharist is being celebrated in the Monastery Chapel. The Prioress, who is the leader of the Monastery, not the priest, has said that we who are not Roman Catholic may come to Christ's Table.  Yet, we Protestants know that this is contrary to the teaching of the Roman Church. So every time there is Mass, I struggle:  do I come or do I stay away?  

Yesterday, I knew that my heart required the feeding of that Holy Bread and Wine, and so I stayed for the meal. This day, pondering Hospitality, I prayed the morning office in community, and then left with most of the other Protestant Oblates. 

I'll walk the labyrinth later today and continue to pray. I know that whatever God reveals, it will start with my own heart loving others as much as I love God. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pilgrimage to Indiana: Oblate Retreat

 I have followed the Rule of St. Benedict for several years. A few years ago I made a formal commitment to keeping the Rule by becoming an Oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana.  I had looked for a Monastery nearer my home with which to be associated, but as God would have it, this place of community, an easy two hour flight from an airport thirty minutes from the Rectory, is the place where I have made vows of stability, conversion, and obedience. 

Each year the Oblates who are unable to come to the monthly meetings are invited to return for a week "intensive". We live in community at the Benedict Inn, worship three to four times each day with the Sisters, and have classes each morning and evening. Evenings are spent in fellowship with the Sisters, the other Oblates, and Inquirers who are discerning if they are called to make vows to follow the Rule. 

I missed the first session in order to attend Vestry at St. Mary's Monday night. My plane did arrive in time to pray Noonday Prayers with the Sisters. I've worshipped in that chapel hundreds of times, and it is a place of great joy to sink into their sacred rhythm of prayer, song, the Psalms, a brief reading from Scripture, silence, and blessing. 

At Evening Worship we were invited to renew our vows of Oblation. Signing a brief statement of intent, prayer by the Prioress, an oral declaration, and a blessing from the Sisters--simply, but deeply felt, I promised to make the Rule of St. Benedict part of my personal Rule of Life for the year ahead. 

Of course, in a community that values a balanced life, after a day of work, prayer, and study, it was time for recreation. Tables filled with Sisters and Oblates and Inquirers, we played games, ate pumpkin pie, and drank mulled cider.  No one knows how to laugh and have fun more than the Sisters. 

Our day compete, with a night of rest ahead, we prayed Compline. 

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us asleeping, that awake and asleep we may watch with Christ.   

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pilgrimage to Iona: My pearls of life prayer

I wrote about the Pearls of Life prayer beads in an earlier post and how I've been praying with them as a place to center in prayer.  During my pilgrimage to Iona, the landscape of my travels came to represent those beads of prayer.  I share them with you.

The God Pearl

   You are boundless.  You are near.  You are light, and I am yours.

The Silence Pearl

    In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The I Pearl

   I am a drop in God's sea that reflects the sky.

The Baptism Pearl

  I am your child, my God, help me grow, help me mature.

A Silence Pearl

 In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The Desert Pearl

 Cleanse me so I will be clean.  Heal me so I will be whole.

A Silence Pearl

 In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The Serenity Pearl

Help me really live, not only exist.

The Silence Pearl

 In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing. 

The First Love Pearl

Open me now to the strength of love I long for.

The Second Love Pearl

God, help me love.

The Mystery Pearls (there are three of these)

 Large or small, I entrust the secrets of my heart to your care.

Large or small, I entrust the secrets of my heart to your care.

  Large or small, I entrust the secrets of my heart to your care.
The Night Pearl

 Be close to me in darkness so that I find the light.

Another Silence Pearl  

   In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.

The Resurrection Pearl

Every breath me in you you in me.

A final Silence Pearl

  In God's silence may I be--quiet, still, craving nothing.