Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Sixth Day of the O Antiphons: O Come, Desire of Nations, Come

O come, Desire of nations, come
Bind in one the hearts of all mankind,
Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
And be thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Emmaneul shall come to thee, O Israel!

Syria.  Sudan.  Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany.  Bombing during worship at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt.

Each day of this final week of Advent, a tragedy has lit up the news.  It seems particularly fitting that today we pray as we sing:

Please, please God:  Come as King of Peace,
Please, please God:  End our sad divisions, 
Please, please God:  Bind us into one heart.

If we believe that all of this is God's will, and I do, why doesn't God say yes?  The truth is perhaps that it's not that God isn't saying yes, but that we say no. 

I've been thinking and praying about how to respond in a meaningful way to each of the many ways that we say no to God's perfect will.  The past two days I've heard the same answer through conversations with women whom I respect greatly, and so today I share it with you.

If we do indeed believe that God is ultimately Love--fully, completely, perfectly, then it seems that every time we share God's love with others that we become part of God's yes.  If my small, though not truly small, act of love, incarnates God's love, and then that love incarnates another act of love in someone else, and then another, and then another.........would the impossible become possible, one act of love at a time?

Could my sharing of love through some act with a person in Spring, Texas, actually travel eventually to acts of love in Aleppo and Cairo and Berlin and Moscow and Tehran?  When I recall that the love I share found it's way to me by a 2000 year journey from Bethlehem in Palestine, I know that the impossible is possible with God.

How will God come to you today?  

Will it be by sharing God's love with someone who may not even know that he or she needs it?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Fifth Day of the O Antphons: O Come, Thou Dayspring from on High

O Come, thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by the drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, 
O Israel.

Today is the shortest day of the year.  Tonight is the longest night of the year.  It is especially holy that today we sing about Christ,  the Dayspring, and the promise of bringing light to the darkest places of our lives.

In Houston, our shortest days are not that short nor our longest days all that long.  However, when I was in Iceland in May, the only challenge for me was that even though there was a supposed sunset in the middle of the time we call night, it never really got dark; it was always light.  Hotel rooms in Iceland were rated by travelers by how well the curtains would darken the room at night for sleep.  

Today in Reykjavik,  the sun rises at 11.30 in the morning and the sun sets at 3.30 in the afternoon;  however, those four hours in the sun are actually full of darkness.  The shortest day of the year in some places in our world may never have any apparent sun light.

On this winter solstice, we sing of the Light of the Son that goes into the darkest places of our lives and hearts.   For some of us this Advent,  our darkest place is the fear and grief of the separation of death.  In our hymn, we pray as we sing that Emmanuel, God is with us, even there, especially there.

Once again, we sing that in Christ there is no darkness at all, the night and the day, life and death, are both alike in him.

How will Christ's light come to you today?

Today we are invited as we sing to look for Christ in our very darkest moment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fourth Day of the O Antiphons: O Come, thou Key of David, Come

At St. Mary's at nine o'clock this morning, three of us gathered to pray Morning Prayer.  We lit three blue and one pink candle on the Advent wreath, and sat to listen and knelt to pray.

After hearing the lesson from the First Testament appointed for the Tuesday in the fourth week of Advent, we sang and prayed:

O come, thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel.

My soul proclaims your greatness, O God; 
My spirit rejoices in you, my Savior, 
For you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed; 
You, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
 and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you
 from generation to generation.
You, O God, have shown strength with your arm, 
And scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
 and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things
 and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, 
For you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, 
to Abraham, Sarah and their children for ever.

O come, thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel.

We were using the translation of the Song of Mary provided from the breviary of the Order of Saint Helena, an Episcopal religious community for women (yep, Episcopal nuns).  I love this translation of the Magnificat because it has been reframed to make it a prayer, using the second person pronoun to address God, rather than the third.  This also opens our hearts for God to be gender neutral and expands the possibility of the mystery of God.  I believe that singing is a way to pray, and rephrasing the Song of Mary to make it a more intentional prayer is helpful as we listen to God's answer to our question for this fourth week of Advent:

How is God coming to us today?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Third Day of the O Antiphons: O Come, thou Branch of Jesse's Tree

O come, thou Branch of Jesse's Tree,
Free them from Satan's tyranny,
That trust the mighty power to save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

 I can recall the first time I ever learned about the Jesse Tree.  It was early days in my walk in the Episcopal Church, and I was learning about the difference between Advent and Christmas.  At St. Cuthbert, when it is was still housed in temporary metal buildings near Bear Creek, during Advent we created Jesse Tree ornaments tracing the lineage of Jesus through the Hebrew Scripture.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel, is also a journey through the Scripture Jesus would have known, read, studied, and loved.  Each verse has ties to the First Testament, and if those passages were important enough for Jesus to know, read, study, and love, they are for us, too.

Jesse's Tree in the hymn connects Jesus to his ancestors, those cloud of witnesses that were part of who he became.  Ruth married Boaz, and they had a son named Obed.  Obed had a son named Jesse, and one of Jesse's sons was David, who became King and was the fixed hope of the Jews for the coming Messiah, who Jesus is.

At this time of year, most, if not all of us, feel connections to those we love and see no more.  For some, this grief is still so sharp that this season brings more pain than joy.  We sing today, as the antiphon for Mary's song of the world being turned right side up again by the son she will bear,  that we carry our sorrows, but not as those who have no hope.  Today as we sing, we pray for the trust to know that in God there are no longer graves but a new birth and a life after we die.  For some, this may be at best a small comfort, but it is truth.

So we have the courage to sing:

Rejoice!  Rejoice.
Emmanuel:  God is with us.
Israel:  God prevails.


My grandson, Austin Jack, at  the grave of his great grandfather, Austin Jack Jernigan.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Second Day of the O Antiphons: O Come, Thou Lord of Might

How will God come to us?  

At St. Mary's today we will offer this question as an oblation, a prayer that offers our lives to God, especially each day this final week of Advent.

As we listen for the answer, we are invited to sing the O Antiphon appointed for the day.  Today we will sing the verse for December 18, verse 4, before and after praying Mary's Song.

O come, O come, thou Lord of Might,
Who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

My soul proclaims your greatness, O God; 
My spirit rejoices in you, my Savior, 
For you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed; 
You, the Almighty, have done great things for me, and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you from generation to generation.
You, O God, have shown strength with your arm, 
And scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, 
For you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, to Abraham, Sarah and their children for ever.

O come, O come, thou Lord of Might,
Who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

How will God come to us?

Rejoice!  Rejoice! 
Emmanuel, that is, God is with us.
Israel, that is, God prevails.

The First Day of the O Antiphons: O Come thou Wisdom

I'd never paid attention to the O Antiphons until I read Kathleen Norris' account in The Cloister Walk of searching during Advent for a place to hear them sung.

How could I have missed this?  The most common hymn we sing during Advent is Hymn 56, "O come, O come Emanuel."  And there, beginning for December 17, clearly beside each verse, a date is clearly written, as well as rubrics at the bottom, The stanzas may be used as antiphons with "The Song of Mary" on dates given.

Since the passage we are hearing from Isaiah tomorrow for the Fourth Sunday of Advent contains these words: Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7.14), and the Gospel being like unto it:  Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel (Matthew 1. 23), I've spent some time this week thinking about Emmanuel (the spelling from the Greek) and Immanuel (from the Hebrew)--both meaning God with us.

One author I read said that in her parish a question was posed the last week of Advent in response to this hymn:  How will He come to us?

I believe we have a gift this final week of Advent. Beginning today, we can ask each day in prayer:  If God is indeed with us, how will Jesus come to us today?  The answer is found in singing a verse from the hymn appointed for that very day.

Today our verse is this:

O Come, thou Wisdom from on on high,
Who orders all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice!  Rejoice! 
Emmanuel shall come to, O Israel.

As a note, Israel, besides being the name of a country, besides being the name of Isaac's son who was also named Jacob, Israel literally means may God prevail.  

So we are invited to sing this last week of Advent, in these final days of preparation for the Incarnation: 

Rejoice.  Rejoice.  
God with us
 shall come to us
 O may God prevail.

If God is indeed with us, how will God come to us today?


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thoughts the morning after the election

When I went out for my morning walk this morning, it was gray and drizzly.  My street was full of trash, and as I looked down the road towards the neighborhood school, I saw leftover campaign signs from yesterday's election.

Sleep deprived as many, if not most Americans are this morning, the weather and the view on my street matched how I was feeling.  Gloomy.  Surrounded by garbage.

So I did my walking prayer.  Thoughts rose to God:  My anger and frustration that my home, the Rectory, seven months after the Tax Day Flood, had not yet commenced its restoration.  My sadness for all people who are angry and afraid of what the future holds for them.  I beseeched God for the strength, God's Strength alone, to help me lead the community entrusted to me to be instruments of reconciliation, peace, and Gospel living.

I prayed for our newly elected leaders and for all of those who had the courage to put themselves forth with unbelievable vulnerability and were not elected.

When I returned to my becoming less and less temporary home, I went indoors and put on my work gloves.  I grabbed a trash bag and went back to the street.  I picked up soiled sacks of MacDonald's waste, a Lone Star beer can,  dirty napkins, a spent bottle rocket, and an empty Vodka bottle.

And I wrote a note to our newly elected president in my head:

Sir, you have vowed to unify our broken nation in your acceptance speech this morning.
As I write this, the majority of our American citizens who voted yesterday did not vote for you.  Please know they will hold you to this early morning promise.

Meanwhile, this one chick priest is already picking up the trash and will continue to work for a country where we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of human being.

No exceptions.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Prayers of the Saints on the Eve of the Election

I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately.  He died in 2008, and the last person he ever voted for was Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary.

My dad was a lifelong Southern Baptist.  He was a deacon in the Baptist Church, and at least two of his pastors wrote of him in their books;  their words were about how he had inspired their own spiritual journeys.

One of his tasks the last year of his life was to read the Koran in its entirety.  He could no longer easily hold a book, so he sat at his computer each morning and read chapters from the Koran, in addition to the Bible, as part of his morning discipline.  Daddy was curious and wanted to understand folks who believed differently from him, so he read and he listened.

Daddy was a clinical psychologist, spending much of his professional career serving veterans as Chief of Psychological Services at Veterans Hospital in Dallas.  A president of Texas Psychological Association, he was nationally respected.

Daddy led an effort in Texas to require that psychologists be accredited. Before this effort, any person could simply claim to be a psychologist and take clients, whether they had had proper preparation and training, or not.  He had seen the deep damage that poorly educated therapists could inflict on those who were the most vulnerable, and he was an instrument of change.

In this election season, I've been wanting to talk with my dad.  As both a Christian and a psychologist, he always had interesting insights into the people who served in government and those who put themselves forth as candidates.  He had a gift of wisdom that clarified.

I've wondered what he would say about Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump.  I know that he would have been respectful, because that was a value he held.  Daddy would have had some sage insights about their personal motivations.  He would have helped me understand the anger and fear of the American public, and would have offered me wise counsel about how I could be an instrument of God's reconciliation and peace.

In this season of All Saints, I am especially aware of the prayers in heaven of all of those we love and see no longer. I have a keen sense of my dad's prayers for all of us.  That includes his prayers for Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton.  A veteran of World War II, I know how much he loved our country.

When I voted last week, as I made my selections, I thought of my dad.  I miss him so much.  I'm grateful he's praying.

Monday, October 17, 2016

On my way with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

On Tuesday I received an urgent call at the office from a parishioner.  His wife, who had had life-threatening complications following heart surgery, had taken a turn for the worse.  Could I come and bring her communion and pray with her?

Of course I would.  Before I left, the staff circled around me and prayed, and I got in the car to drive to the hospital.  I was half way there when another call came in.  It was the wife of a sweet man who attended worship from time to time at St. Mary's.  He had just died--could I come and pray?

After offering her words of care, I told her our curate could come immediately, and before I had arrived at the hospital to see one parishioner, Alan was on his way to be with another.

It was that kind of day.

It's been that kind of year.

Friday I was on my way to meet with the contractor who is hoping to begin work very soon to restore the Rectory, my Tax Day flooded, now gutted, home.  I had a little extra time before we were to get together, and I stopped at Starbuck's for a bite of lunch and to check emails.  In my inbox there was a particularly negative email that left me feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach. I'm actually pretty good at not letting those type of words have any lasting effect, but this was the latest in a series of less than helpful emails from a person who is supposed to be helping me negotiate the rebuilding of my life after the flood.   I allowed the unkind email to color the rest of the afternoon and evening.

It was that kind of day.

It's been that kind of year.

On Saturday I was cooking,  and I cut my hand grating some cheese. We've all had one of those small cuts that bleed and bleed, and then open up and bleed again every time you accidentally hit it.  I knew that this could be a problem when celebrating Eucharist the next day (not wanted to bleed into the Blood of Christ), so I went looking for bandaids.

The thing about losing most everything below waist level in your home is that you keep discovering ordinary things that you no longer have.  Thankfully, I had remembered this before my grandson came to visit in July, and I had made sure that I had basic first aid items in supply for the cuts and injuries of a five year old boy.

That meant on Saturday that the only bandaids I had were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bandaids.  As I put a green bandaid with a ninja turtle over my cut, I had to smile.  Good memories of my grandson's visit surrounded my heart.  It also felt good to have a symbol of power (be it a cartoon figure) pop up in sight each time I used my hand.

I celebrated Eucharist on Sunday with a liturgically correct colored Ninja Turtle bandaid.  The sorrow in my heart, the grief in my spirit, got a little abated by the silly bandage each time it came into view.

That bandage represented the many more kind and caring words that I receive from parishioners and friends and families and even perfect strangers.  That bandage represented that most cuts and hurts, cared for, heal. That bandage is a reminder of how God's (not so) small gifts of joy can be a raft in a flood of tears.  That bandage reminded me that with God, I have all the Power I need to face any challenges that pop up on the Way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

State of Grace: Sharing a birthday with Judah

Yesterday was my birthday.  My best friend had flown into town on Saturday so we could take a road trip to Marfa to celebrate.  God had a different road trip in store for us.

A member of the parish, Judah, age three, drowned during a family cookout on Saturday night.  After much heroic effort, professionals were able to restore his heartbeat.  Our curate, Alan, and I spent Saturday evening and early into Sunday morning with the family as the medical professionals stabilized Judah.  Sunday, Russ, our deacon, was with the Browns while Alan and I walked this hard road with our parish family back at St. Mary's.

Monday, my birthday, my friend and I were up before dawn to drive to the Medical Center.  God gave us a beautiful sunrise for the nearly two hour drive into town with the other early morning commuters.  A stop for coffee on the way was blessed by a birthday call from my mother.

My friend spent most of the day in the PICU waiting area, listening to family members, fetching food, and being a pastoral presence.  God used her skills as a hospice volunteer to provide unexpected, unplanned care.  This was not the trip she'd planned for this Monday, but this was the trip  God had placed her on, and Ginny was beyond gracious.

I spent my birthday mostly in the PICU with Judah.  I sang and prayed with him, and felt a cloud of witnesses who had gone before us surround us in the room.  In particular, I was aware of the praying presence of Jamie and Andy, two other young people from St. Mary's who had died before we were ready.

Conversations with medical personnel, with family, and with Judah as he prepared to die were the most holy way I could have ever shared this day. Time and again, God put me in the path of the right people to gather and to provide information, to pray, and to offer unexpected ways of support and to offer God's care.

When the time came late in the day to make the kind of decisions no parent ever should have to make, I was ready to offer all my years of living to this family.   The words holy, holy, holy kept whispering in my ear.

After it appeared things were in a stable place, I left to have dinner and to travel home for the night.  My friend had found a restaurant to celebrate my birthday near the Medical Center with the lovely name, State of Grace.  Because we were between meal times, we sat at the bar and ate food that cannot be aptly called bar food--a feast of sumptuous smallish plates.

Drinking club soda in preparation for the long drive home, we began a conversation with our server, Ed.  As we told him the story of my unexpected birthday with Judah and his family, he gave us words of good wishes.  Then he poured me a large flute of champagne, and as he served me, he said, "I'm not done with you yet!"  He said he would be bringing us dessert, and then offered us cappuccinos.  Turns out Ed didn't bring us one but two different desserts.  I don't know when I've enjoyed a birthday dinner more, which included receiving a hilarious text from our bishop.  I was truly in a State of Grace.

My friend and I were on our way to walk a labyrinth to wait for the traffic to clear when we had a call asking us to return to the hospital.  The final tests would be completed that evening to determine whether or not Judah was dead, and clergy presence would be helpful.

So with prayers for energy, we returned once again to the Medical Center.  I was there to support the family and friends holding vigil in the lobby, and to encourage their own self care during this time.  Then our bishop arrived for a visit, and we were at Judah's bedside finishing our prayers when the medical personnel told us the test results--Judah's brain was no longer alive.

We stayed as the family processed and began to plan the next part of Judah's life journey--deciding to give whatever tissue and organs possible to other folks so that their lives could go on, and their family and friends would have the gift of hope and joy.

Eighteen hours after I had awakened on my birthday and begun this state of grace, I got in the car to drive home.

When I awoke this morning, grateful for the birthday God had given me, and one I would never ever planned, I realized that there was yet one more birthday the day before.  I now shared a birthday with Judah.

In the Christian faith, we have three birthdays:
The day that we are born into this world.
The day that we are baptized and born into the family of God.
The day that we die, and are born into eternal life. That third day is the day that we become saints in God's kingdom.  September 26 is now St. Judah's day.

With a heart full of sadness, I celebrate your day, Judah.  You are in the truest State of Grace.

Friday, September 2, 2016

My heart is the cross

Tomorrow I travel back to Houston. Flying, not walking. 

While on retreat, August became September, and in the Georgia mountains I saw the first tiny glimpses of fall.  Today Hurricaine Hermine brought cloudy skies and cooler temperatures, and I wore longer pants and an extra layer when I walked. 

The gift of delicious food prepared for me from local ingredients in a beautiful setting has been spiritually nourishing. The meals with friends always included good conversation and laughter. 

Sitting amidst the trees on the porch to write, to read, to pray, and to knit (and eat those meals with my friends) has been a place of peace. I've felt creative ideas bubble up; the good ones will remain, and perhaps bear fruit. 

On the morning walk along the Tallulah River today, we played In My Heart is the Road and did our prayer dance. This  afternoon, after a stop at Osage Market for peaches, we walked a labyrinth at the bottom of the ridge at yet another Presbyterian Church, this one in Wylie, Georgia. 

This labyrinth overlooks the highway, and I walked the moss--covered path as trucks and cars raced by down below. This path has surprises of rocks and crosses and acorns and green plants and strange mosses.  The labyrinth is built on the slant of the earth, and my steps were a series of ups and downs. 

When I got to the center, I created a cross from twigs that scattered the pathway. As I placed my simple cross on the center rock, I prayed.  I was reminded that what the cross means for me is to offer my whole self to God.  That's what Jesus did:  offer every bit of himself to God.  Our lives, and how we choose to give them to God, are the cross. 

As I walked back from the center, each step was a prayer for all the other cross walkers in my life.  When I returned to the entrance to the labyrinth, a brisk breeze began to blow. My head told me it was the very edges of the hurricaine. My heart told me it was a blessing from God. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Walking a retreat: In my heart is the road

In my quiet on the porch during this mountain retreat, I'm continuing to spend time slowly moving through Christine Valters Paintner's, The Soul's Slow Ripening:  Celtic Wisdom for Discernment.  Todays's reflection was the invitation to dance with Betsey Beckman. 

I'll be honest.  Though I enjoy dancing, the day on this retreat that I have to watch one video, take time to learn a dance that is a movement prayer, and then do the dance is the one I find most challenging. I always feel closer to my spiritual self afterwards, but it's a real journey to get there. Hmmm. Not such a bad thing. 

Anyway, today the video was filmed at a retreat center in New Mexico, and since that's a place that is part of my rhythm of annual travel, it felt like home. Then, Betsey's instructions were simply to let the music guide your feet as you listened to the song provided--doing it once contemplatively, and the other playfully. 

I downloaded the song by Richard Bruxwoort Colligan to my phone. The words were inspired by Psalm 84:

In my heart is the road
And I will not be turned
In my heart is the road
Bless my feet on the journey
To Jerusalem, to Jerusalem. 

On the river walk today, my friend and I played the music and danced the Psalm. 
Yes, in a public place. We were filled with joy as we let our feet do the praying.   Playing and praying. They are good spiritual companions. 

When I began my retreat this week, I didn't imagine that taking steps would be a central theme. But beginning at the airport in Houston when I walked between terminals because I had extra time, and happened on a surprise sunrise riding down an escalator; to the labyrinths of recycled glass, an Eagle Scout project, and hidden crosses; to an invitation to dance; I've been praying through my feet. 

I'm walking on holy ground. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Walking a retreat

Today I walked two paths. 

This morning I walked the river walk, a rails to trails project near Tallulah Falls. I walk here often when I'm visiting my friends; they walk it most everyday. 

In these last days of summer in the Georgia mountains, it was a rainbow of green. My walking friend is recovering from a foot injury, and it was good to walk a slower pace. 

On this day, gone were the "stations" I'd seen on prior walks on this path nestled in a state park. Last year, some soul or souls had tucked small rocks with Scriptures and words of grace along the walkway.  State officials, I'm told, didn't approve and removed them almost immediately. I always look in case one or two have been replaced. 

This afternoon, we walked the labyrinth at the local Episcopal Church.  The parish has a dedicated gardening guild, and I was particularly impressed by the herb and flower cutting gardens. Folks are encouraged to snip flowers and herbs for their own enjoyment, and the church has placed a little box with scissors and plastic bags to invite sharing. 

The labyrinth was moved when the parish did some renovations. Now built around a tree, it backs up to a neighbor's home. A beautifully crafted fence separates the church from the homeowner. One has to look very carefully to see a cross woven into the wooden screen. 

In Georgia, where words about Jesus are rampant, posted and painted on most any available spot, I was thoughtful about a public path where the Good News had been openly proclaimed, and removed, and a church that shared the Good News in nearly hidden ways. 

It made me wonder about St. Mary's and whether or not we choose to be stealth Christians. Do we proclaim the Gospel so openly that others are offended, or do we keep our Good News so quiet others may only happen upon it if they really really know where to look?

Perhaps rather than walking one path or the other, there is our own unique way.  May we be faithful to that as we proclaim by word  and example the Good News of God in Christ. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Walking towards my retreat in stages

I'm now seated on my friends' screened back porch surrounded by tree tops. I've been traveling towards my retreat in stages.  The trip to the porch was via two labyrinth walks. 

The first labyrinth was at the Presbyterian Student Center at the University of Georgia in Athens. It was created with recycled bottles; being a college student project, it appeared to be largely recycled beer bottles. The second was an Eagle Scout Project at a Presbyterian Church in Commerce, Gerogia.  

The glass bottle labyrinth required me to pay attention. A couple of the bottles had broken, and the outer path of the labyrinth was so near the fence it felt as if I were walking a balance beam as I carefully placed my steps. 

Students rushed by on their way to class as I prayed, and the sun shone through the glass, painting the path colors of green, yellow, and gold. 

The second path was smalI and simply--created with pavers and crushed stone.   At the entrance it had a sign that read:

Peace be with you---Jesus
Luke 24.36

Quotes by Jesus are always good to ponder on a labyrinth walk. 

It was a very brief walk, but the path was narrow, and once again, walked with attention and care. 

For years, I've wished for a labyrinth at St. Mary's. The Junior Daughters of the King have wanted to build one. Another parishioner proposed creating one as his Eagle Scout Project. Both were delayed as we finalized the master plan for our property so that we would know the best spot to place a labyrinth.  Today as I walked these two paths in Georgia, both created by young people, I began to think about, and pray about, a labyrinth for St. Mary's.   

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Five Day Retreat

After a Sunday of pure joy as we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary, I'm off for a five day retreat. I am grateful to St. Mary's Vestry who gave me extra days to process our post-flood lives. I am grateful to staff who tend our parish-life so that I can be away. 

I have my knitting, books and music on my iPad, and comfortable clothes. I'll stay with dear friends and ponder and pray and be open for God's good gifts and surprises. 

When I return, fall at St. Mary's will be it's usual whirlwind. I'll begin teaching at the Iona School for Ministry and continue facilitating First Time in Charge, the Diocesan mentoring retreat for curates. We'll select a contractor, and begin restoring the Rectory, and I will prepare to move home. 

This is a week to prepare to begin again. 

I am thankful. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Eve of Everything Changing

It is the eve of St. Mary’s annual celebration of the Feast of St. Mary. For fourteen days, we’ve prayed daily for God’s presence in the lives of each member of our parish family.  Tomorrow, as we come together for worship and fellowship, we begin to listen for another year of God’s yeses.  And God’s noes.

Today is the day before everything changes.

After over sixty years of walking with God, I am keenly aware of how quickly things can change.  In small and not so small ways.  It is thought-provoking to think about where we are one moment, and then it seems as if one thing happens, and everything changes.

One minute you are pregnant.  The next minute you are holding your baby in your arms.
One minute you are driving to work singing along with the radio.  The next minute you are changing a tire beside the road.
One minute the power is on, the next moment a fire hits the local power plant, and you are without electricity for eight hours.
One minute you have a bowl of milk, honey, and melted butter, then you add yeast, and the next minute there’s a bubbly mixture ready to leaven bread.

The truth is, we know that it is not only one minute of passing time for changes to occur.  All of those one minutes are actually a myriad of minutes involving an assortment of people and actions.  It can feel like like a snap of time, and everything changes, but we know that each change is the result of layers of choices and decisions.

Each minute is a moment of change, an opportunity for change, based on a trove of factors.

Prayer in the mix may be the most important change agent.  After that, comes our own yes and our own no in response to God’s yeses and noes.

Today, take a moment to pray.  It will take less than a minute.  And, yes, everything will change.

Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. 
Strengthen the faithful,  arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.
Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Second Wednesday of the Vigil of St. Mary's: A Sabbath

Today is my Sabbath and I am at my mother's farm, having celebrated my brother's birthday with dinner last night, prepared by my mom, and eaten with her and both my brothers. Of course the dinner included pie, very delicious pie, made from pears from my mother's neighbor's tree.

Today, after the long drive yesterday, I rest. 

Sabbath, in it's theological meaning of stopping and ceasing to work, offers an invitation to enjoy the fruits of all of the labor of the past six days. I love that Sabbath allows me to have open spaces to allow good things to bubble up. To experience delight outside the whirlwind. 

For most who read this blog today, it is another busy work day. I pray that you will find a few minutes or even an hour this day for an open space to find delight and simply be. 

As I rest, I will continue to pray:  

Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. 
Strengthen the faithful,  arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.
Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen