Monday, September 29, 2014

Pilgrimage to Iona: Begun!

Whenever you read about folks' trips to Iona, there is always conversation about how you really, really, really have to want to get get there.   Of course if it were easy, it wouldn't be a pilgrimage. 

The screen in front of me says that I'm two hours from Amsterdam. As I look at the little screen, the icon of the plane is actually nearly over Iona. But I'm not there yet. Because it's a pilgrimage. 

From the chair where I sat in the Atlanta airport waiting for it to be time for me to board my plane, there was a poem written in a variety of languages.               

From the seat by the window
We peer through the viewfinder to all that is visible
Ascending, as we reflect on what we left behind and what is yet ahead
........We are in awe.

Outside my window it is black. Dark. Night. Nothing is visible. 
Not a bad thing. 
Because I'm on a pilgrimage. 

 I am the LORD…
Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you home . . .
Genesis 28:13, 15


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Birthday Trip to Kearney, Missouri

Another year to serve God, with God's help. 

The day started with my St Mary's friends and several hundred guests at our annual Fall Gift Market. We started the event inviting our guests to join us in a prayer circle, and I am deeply moved, always, by the heart felt prayer requests. Then I walked the Market, greeting and following up, making a prayer list to send to our Daughters of the King. By the time I left midday, our prayer shawl chest was empty, all of our knitted shawls having been given to our guests after healing prayers. 

Then I was off to Kansas City, Missouri for my nephew's wedding. My birthday evening was spent with much of my family at the rehearsal dinner, with fabulous chocolate cake for dessert. Happy birthday to me!

My daughter was in the midst of her book tour so, sadly, she couldn't attend. But her tour had brought her through Houston twice, and she and I celebrated early. Her gift included a fabulous pie. Happy birthday to me!

Among all the gifts of the day, perhaps the best gift was being asked to officiate at Dominique and Nathan's wedding. Their pastor had had to bow out less than two weeks before, and we'd spent about five hours on FaceTime over the past week doing premarital preparation. It was holy time. 

The service was held in a pasture at her aunt's farm in Kearney outside Kansas City.  

One of the things I'm mindful of when I officiate at a wedding is that something really happens. The couple come into the liturgy and God truly does something. A powerful shift happens and they are not the same. 

Dominique and Nathaniel had this great idea that folks should gather and park at the farmhouse and then walk across the lane and down a country road to a field where the wedding would be held. It was about a half mile walk and there were cars for those who couldn't make it the whole way. I positioned myself where the road divided in two to point the way. What better work for the priest to do?

The walk to the wedding and afterwards back was perfect. We had traveled to a place like pilgrims and returned to the party blessed. 

Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Preparing for Iona: With the Daughters of the King

The Daughters of the King is a group of women committed to prayer, service, and evangelism. At St. Mary's last night, a dozen or so of us met for our monthly gathering, and we took a little pilgrimage to Iona. Two weeks from today,  I'll be on the Isle of Iona, and it's a joy thinking of those wonderful women being there with me--in thought and prayer.

I've been a Daughter of the King myself for about thirty years, and I received a scholarship from the national organization when I was in seminary.  I have a Daughter's cross as part of the design of my green Ordinary time chasuble. When I became a Daughter, only lay women could be Daughters, and it was a while after I was ordained that female clergy could be an active part of the Order other than as a chaplain.

In light of that, I'll admit that one of the things that  was precious to me when I was a candidate for Bishop was picturing a Daughter being part of the Episcopacy.  I'm not sure if that's happened. . . . yet. That's a door for another woman to open. 

For the Daughters, and others, who didn't join us last night, here a few treasures for your own virtual pilgrimage to Iona:

A Scripture:

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.   Jeremiah 6.16

A Song to sing:

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:

And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me: Refrain

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know: Refrain

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

 Words: Sydney Carter
Music: Southcote by Sydney Carter, arranged by Lionel Dakers
Words © 1971 by Stainer & Bell Ltd. (admin. byHopePublishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188).

A thought about "thin places" from Jan Richardson:

From ancient times Celtic folk have called such places thin places. In the physical landscape and in the turning of the year, thin places are spaces where the veil between worlds becomes permeable, and heaven and earth meet. It's not that God somehow becomes more there than in other places, but rather that a veil within us falls away; we recognize and receive the presence of God with a clarity that can be difficult to come by in our daily lives. 
Thin places abound in the Celtic landscape. Over the centuries, many of them have become places of pilgrimage, sites where the veil has become ever more thin as people persist in coming to offer the prayers of their hearts.

A Prayer Attributed to St. Columba who founded the first Christian community on Iona in the 6th century:

Let me bless Almighty God, whose power extends over sea and land, whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books to calm my soul; I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates.

Let me do my daily work, gathering seaweed, catching fish, giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers, sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God.

Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell, serving the King of kings.  AMEN

Friday, September 12, 2014

Preparing for Iona: A Surgical Sidepath

This is a blog written whilst on drugs--prescribed painkillers, that is. 

I had some minor surgery on Tuesday, and have spent these last few days with ice packs, soft foods, and lots of sleeping. I am blessed with good health, but the very few times I've had anesthesia it does leave me rather cotton-brained. 

I pretty much cleared my week and good that I did.  I've had holy time this healing. I've laid in bed with earphones on and listened, really listened to music--iTunes had a free download of the new U2 album, and I've also enjoyed the new discs from Francesca Battistelli and the Rend Collective. 

I've had time to pray the Hours with the new book of prayers from Church Publishing, Daily Prayer for All Seasons. I've also worn my Pearls of Life prayer beads on my wrist and prayed using them (these prayers were very helpful as I went through my surgery and the recovery, by the way;  Yeah! centering prayer). 

I've watched movies and read a novel. I've prayed for a lot of people. I've worn the prayer shawl made for me by a dear parishioner years ago from yarn she had left from other prayer shawls. 

Friends have restocked my refrigerator with yogurt and eggs. I even had a burst of energy and thought how good pudding would taste. And then I thought of my mom's chocolate pie, and thought--we'll that's pudding, and actually made one without the crust!  Smoothies, mashed potatoes, guacamole, soup, and Harriets's baked oatmeal--ah, the world of adult food that doesn't have to be chewed!

I feel surrounded by love and care.  Texts of prayer; a few cards; a phone call from my mom; sweet emails and notes on Facebook (a lavender labyrinth photo from Katie+). 

I've missed some things I loved/wanted to do, but I'm full of joy for the unexpected time to do some things I never, or hardly ever do. 

One of which was remembering a friend from seminary, Patricia Clark, a poet who died a few years back, as I prayed a prayer she wrote a night or so ago:

Hidden God, ever present to me,
     may I now be present to you, 
            attentive to your every word,
            attuned to your inspirations,
            Alert to your touch. 
Empty me that I may be filled with you alone.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Preparing for Iona: Pearls of Life

I have a basket full of prayer beads.  The basket itself is a treasure because a dear friend knitted (or is it crocheted?) it for me.  Over the years I've bought a variety of prayer beads and quite a few more have been given to me--some of those hand made especially for me as well.  I am abundantly blessed.

As I get older, I feel the need for less and less new things.  I've got piles of books I haven't read, and enough stuff to fill a large house.  In fact, I find myself trying to give away more than I take in.

However, a week or so ago I bought some new prayer beads.  I'm going back to Iona at the very end of September with my best friend for a week of praying and walking the rhythm of that Holy Island.  I was perusing the Wild Goose website, the publisher of the religious community that lives on the island, and came across Pearls of Life.

Each of the eighteen beads or "pearls" on the bracelet represents a prayer.  This litany of prayer was created by Bishop Martin Lonnebo of the Swedish Lutheran Church while stranded on a Greek Island.

As I prepare for my pilgrimage to Iona, I've been praying one bead each day as part of my centering prayer practice.  I traveled to the desert today.

Each bead is called a pearl because each prayer is that precious.  The beads in my bracelet are actually glass and ceramic beads handmade from India through a fair trade company.  I've been thinking that it might be fun to create my own.

Because I wanted to share the whole scope of this prayer circle, here is the entire prayer litany:

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 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.

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.