Thursday, July 30, 2015

Grandma Texas in the air again

 The Value of Things. 

When things are valued too much, they lose their value because they nourish a never-satisfied craving for more. Conversely, when things are received as gifts from God and used obediently in service to God, they are enriched with gratitude. As sages have said, contentment lies not in obtaining things you want, but in giving thanks for what you have.  (Arthur Simon)

This is my fourth trip this month--Chambersville, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, and now California  on my way to Oregon for Austin's #5. 

Traveling is a spiritual discipline for me. We can plan all we like, but there are always surprises. That's why I seek to look at these travels as pilgrimage--a place to find God in new ways. 

That being said, I love the little luxuries that can be present during travel. On this first long leg to San Francisco, I used travel miles to upgrade to first class. And I struggle. Is it being Christ-centered to place myself in such a place of privilege?  

As I was easing through security and then boarding with my premier status, I wondered about the ever so many others who are grateful simply to have a seat. To make it through security with time to spare. I pondered: what if I chose to board last (certainly a modern hair shirt)?What if I offered my good seat to someone seated in a middle seat near the back (a hair shirt indeed). 

I didn't. I haven't. My so-called servant heart hasn't surrendered my aisle seat in first class. I'm enjoying my glass of sparkling water as others board. Having not to fret about breakfast has been sweet. And then there's the hot towel.  

I know that some folks would say to me:  You deserve it. Or you earned it. Or even, well, you paid for it. 

Truth is, I don't deserve it and I didn't earn it. I didn't do anything special to have the resources to upgrade.  It just is. 

The best I can do is be supremely grateful for my privilege. I can search for how I can serve those who have so much less privilege than I. 

Still.  I am a pilgrim, so I pray. I give thanks for all that I have. It is so very much more than enough. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Enough: Dream


The vision is here, the dream is here, the unseen presence is here. What we are to become is dancing along with us even now, just out of sight. If we listen, if we are attentive, if we are obedient to this new, true self in Christ, it will lift us overhead and help us fly.

-Br. Mark Brown

Up early to walk the labyrinth as my prayer this morning. The labyrinth was created when the sisters transformed their tennis court in celebration of their fiftieth anniversary.  A dream prayed and lived and now shared with the world. 

My prayer walk continued over to the peace garden. Rain last night had left large pools of water. 

The sister who walked with me yesterday evening took great delight in one particular flower called the cardinal flower. It has a large red spiked bloom, and the plants once covered the Indiana prairies.  

When the peace garden was created this past year, the gardeners had planted a few starter plants.  Sister Jeanne's dream was to harvest the seeds, germinate, and transplant the seedlings with abandon. 

She proudly showed me her tiny seedlings for the cardinal plant. The seeds themselves are smaller than a grain of salt, so the fact the flowers grow wild is quite a work of God. She told me of the challenges and trials of getting the seeds to grow and the many that had not made it though too much water or too much sun. 

As we walked together, what delight she exuded whenever she spotted one of these red spikes, walking purposefully to one after another, and admiring each that she found like a long lost friend. 

There are so many dreams in the peace garden.  As I walked back to the monastery, a dove landed in front of me. She wandered through the flowers as if there were beauty enough for her, too. 

Friday, July 10, 2015


The opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It is enough. Katie+ preached about enough on Sunday, and enough has been my prayer word here at Our Lady of Grace. 

One of the things I've learned in the twelve years that I've been praying with this Benedictine community is about true hospitality. When i am here with the sisters, My spiritual practice is to receive whatever I'm given as a gift, and to know that it will be enough. 

Today we worked hard visioning how to grow and fund Women Touched by Grace, a time apart for women pastors where they live in Benedictine Community, and through a rhythm of prayer, rest, study, and play are refreshed in order to transform the churches they lead. I am passionate about supporting women clergy in their ministries and so this has been good work. 

Tonight after Eucharist, Evening Praise, and supper with the sisters, I took a walk to the newly created peace garden. The sisters, with generous help from the community, are returning three acres of the monastery grounds back to the prairie. They've planted native plants, and welcome the insects, birds, and animals that are thriving in what is their natural habitat.  

One of the sisters joined me in my walk around the peace garden and told me stories about the variety of plants that are beginning to return home. 

One plant was called, I believe, a cup plant, because the leaves form a kind of cup that catches water that can supply drink for birds and insects. Enough. 

I sat and prayed for the people I carry in my heart. A bench. A breeze. Beauty. Stillness. Enough. 

Amidst home and work, prayer and beauty. Enough. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Back Home at the Monastery

After a full morning at St. Mary's, I caught an afternoon flight to Indiana and then traveled onto Our Lady Of Grace Monastery. I'm here for a two day conference with five other Women Touched by Grace, two Benedictine sisters, and a facilitator to vision how we can fund future Women Touched by Grace retreats. 

There have been three WTBG retreats so far, underwritten by the Lilly Foundation, but now we have to find fresh opportunities for stewardship in order that other women clergy can have this time apart in Benedictine Community. 

Meanwhile, tonight, before the work begins, weary from work and travel, I feel home. 

I've walked the labyrinth, and now it's time to rest.  

Stopping to watch what Jesus does

In the mountains of northern Georgia, I stop. So I can watch what Jesus does. 

The phrase "watch what Jesus does" is from a Richard Rohr quote that I read yesterday morning from a daily reflection I read on my mobile device called inward Outward. This little devotional comes by email and is one of the two that are part of my morning quiet. I also read a thought for the day from the Iona Community and the Forward Day by Day which has a convenient link to the Daily Office. 

Because I can read these holy words on my phone or tablet, this morning practice can travel with me wherever I go. 

Today it is a screened porch on. a green mountain ridge. 

Yesterday it was a table in a cafe in Atlanta. 

The day before that it was waiting for the plane in Houston. 

Having filled my heart, spirit and soul with words by people holier and wiser than me, I pray that I can more naturally make part of the the rhythm of the day to be Jesus for others and to see Jesus in others.  I'm watching. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Watch what Jesus does

Up early before the worst heat hits to walk to breakfast at Cafe Jonah. 

Plotting the way on our iPhones, my friend and I realized the cafe was a five minute drive but only a fifteen minute walk.  Why do I automatically drive without thinking about walking as an option?  Jesus was quite a walker, after all. 

Twists and turns and three thousand steps and we were there. 

My prayer during this vacation has been to do as Jesus does. I'm not pleased with how often I can get irritated by others. I've been in a lot of crowds and lines--at the game, waiting for and riding on Marta, at the movie, and the like. My quotidian--self without a collar (and sometimes with) can be so cranky. 

My prayer has been to be patient and kind and delight in the people God puts in my path. Sometime I say yes. Sometimes I have to say forgive me. 

Walking back to the hotel, a man pushing a baby buggy with his life possessions responded to my greeting with, "Beautiful smile."  Oh yes. Thanks, God. 

Too many steps to walk to the mountains, we're on our way by car for more beauty. Everyday. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Occupying unoccupied time

At the Marta Station waiting for the Gold Line after the Atlanta Dream game. A happy final for Tulsa. It's 10.30 PM after a large day. 

First twenty four hours of vacation has been all about doing the local. 

Three potters. Two local coffee roasters.   Three local eateries. One kiddie cup of ice cream. A water station that included free sparkling water as an option. 

Two movies. One museum. Lots of laughter. 

Yesterday and this morning in Athens. 
This afternoon and evening in Atlanta. 
Tomorrow to the mountains. 

So very many courteous folks abound. Offering seats on trains and other public spaces. Opening doors. Providing kind directions.   

But first I have to catch two more trains and walk to the hotel.   

The Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Vacation: To be unoccupied

For the next seven days I am a vacationer.   I am unoccupied.  I am on an extended period of recreation. 

Starting with uneventful travel this morning to the airport and now seated in an exit row all to myself. 

Work to do list complete. 
Pastoral phone calls and texts done. 
Katie+ and the fabulous St. Mary's folks tending God's people.
Plants watered. Dishes done. 

Inspired by Katie's+ sermon yesterday, I am off to be a disciple in unknown and unexpected places. I do have a change of clothes and money in my wallet, but I'm ready to see where God, my tour guide, takes me. 

O God, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Grandma's House

 I call with my whole heart; Early in the morning I cry out to you. 
From the Morning Psalm, read from my mother's front porch with my morning coffee. 

I'm always struck with how God works out timing. I come to visit my mom almost every year around the Fourth of July, and this year's planned travel dates got rearranged by a rescheduled dental appointment. 

But as God would have it, I am here to help my mother with some family business that I'd have missed had I come when I'd wanted to be here. It's nothing my mom couldn't do on her own, but it's good for me to be here to support her. 

Today we close on the sale of my Grandmother's home in Sedalia, Texas. That's outside Westminster, near Anna and Van Alstyne. We're selling five acres of land and the house, but will retain a big portion of farm land. 

It's bittersweet. Grandma Blanche died thirty years ago. Good renters lived there for several years, but they've moved, and it's time for the burden of maintaining the house to be removed from my mom's shoulders. 

Grandma Blanche taught me much about prayer and the Bible and serving God. Every summer of my childhood included a visit to her farm. In fact, the first time I served in a church was at Vacation Bible School at Westminister Baptist Church. She gave me a book about the missionary, Lottie Moon; it was reading that book over and over that would lead me to hearing my call to ordained ministry. 

Those visits to Grandma Blanches's are filled with so many memories--all joyful. A dining room table laden with food mostly grown by her, a bounty prepared just for the two of us. Sitting in front of the TV watching whatever I wanted, shelling black eyed peas.  Riding around in her 1940 Ford, holes in the floorboard that gave a great view of the chalk rock road flying beneath us.   Receiving one of her big bosomy hugs that smelled of her garden. Her head thrown back as she laughed with exuberance. Most of all I remember how much she loved me and delighted in having me around. 

Grandma's white frame house represented that love for me. It's not the love, of course.  That's a treasure in my heart that lives everywhere and always. I'm sad to finally close that door in my life, but the door of those memories is wide open. 

It was Grandma's love that taught me so much about God's love for me. 
A bountiful table. 
An open Bible. 
Quiet prayer in the morning. 
Delighted laughter. 
Love no matter what.