Friday, February 29, 2008
Isn't it nice, every so often to get an extra something, like desert or an extra hour of sleep. We only get this extra February day once every four years, so enjoy. Pretend like today is a free gift all day long. What if we all acted like today was a free gift and treated everyone around us like they were a wonderful gift too? What a delicious world it might be. So Happy Leap Year - and take a leap - jump into love with the world and other people. Just for this one day.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
From Atlantic to Pacific -
My perspective has changed. After spending so much of my life by the Atlantic Ocean, I have just returned from two weeks in the middle of the Pacific. Part of my identity is informed and effected by this ocean, but I have learned these past few weeks that all people who live and work by the sea are defined by that same ocean in some way. Tomorrow, I will be able to once again walk on Atlantic beaches, going home to see my mother, speaking at a gathering and taking a brief respite before coming back to northern New Jersey. I have been in motion, and I have changed perspectives so much, I really don't know if I am completely the same person who started out on that journey a few weeks back. There are wonderful people, all along the way and my sense of family has expanded beyond all my knowing.
So here to all of us who are in motion to gain a broader vision, who have set out in order to return home with a new perspective, a new set of reference points, a bigger family and more places and people to call home. The journey makes us weary some days, but the thrill of new and renewed friendships is healing and restorative. May the traveling bring breadth and compassion. May we all find family and welcome wherever we land.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It takes courage to face set backs and forge ahead. It takes faith to get up again when you've been pushed back. It's hard when friends have been lost before their dreams came true. And yet, it is also possible to build even after a storm. It is possible to continue even when the map has been blown out to sea. These are a few of the people that taught me that lesson. They all work for their people. They all have had set backs and challenges, but they keep on forging ahead because They know that God is in their midst. I want to give thanks today for these friends, and for all the faithful friends, present in this world and those who have passed on. They taught me how to laugh even when things seem bleak and ridiculous. May we have the grace today to pass on that gift, real courage in the face of dark challenges.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
So here's to all of us who face a firing squad, a change in life, status or location. Here's to all those who are struggling to be patient with God and with the people around us. Help me, God, to remember the beauty of standing still, of walking in the front door to an exciting and welcoming puppy, to my sweet family and friends willing to walk me through transitions, and all the loving people you have put in my path. My next challenge is the challenge of the next few minutes. Will I live them well and will I love those around me? That is all you have ever required of me. May we all step through the thresh hold and be greeted with love. May we all remember that God is crossing every doorway with us, holding us tenderly on our way to becoming.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Keep Us Safe
In beautiful places there are unseen hazards,
keep us safe from things falling from the sky.
On a perfect day, dark clouds can arise,
keep us from despair when the storms appear.
In the midst of the happiest of families conflicts arise,
keep us from walking away from lifegiving love.
In the gentlest breeze, air born irritants can form,
help us to be grateful for the small grains that polinate our world and bring beauty, perfume and pearls.
In all of the world keep us safe from the things we cannot see but even more from the things we fabricate to distract us from reaching out in love. Our moments are in your hands. Fashion our hearts with wonder and joy.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of
Jesus met the woman at the well and that meeting transformed and enlightened an entire vast community. It all started with Christ's willingness to break taboos, to converse with a stranger, to treat her as an intellectual and spiritual equal (unheard of, in his time) and to share honestly with her. This compassion and integrity changed this woman's life and the course of history for her people. This conversation among strangers, two people whose traditional ancestors were enemies, whose cultures deemed unclean, this conversation invites us into a radically new understanding of where Christ is calling ua. We are called to know our culture and care for our people, but we are called to reach out beyond all barriers, all taboos to share God's love and to treat all other as intellectual, cultural and spiritual equals. For so many of us, this is very hard, especially when our cultures and traditions have been violated, trampled over and considered heathen and ignorant.May we be invited by the Christ who sits at the well, who sits in the common squares, in shopping centers, at the bus stop and in the grocery store to reach out with compassion to the people who draw close to care for their families and communities. May we recognize in all other our need for living water and our relatedness. we are the children of God, and we are called t see all as family.
Friday, February 22, 2008
One of my favorite hymns is "Just as I am, without one plea". It came to mind last night as I was sorting through the pictures I have taken on this journey. I really don't like to look at pictures of myself. Even when I was a child, I often appear awkward and goofy, at least to me. When I see others in pictures, I revel in their beauty and how photogenic they are, but I am always dissatisfied with my own image. I criticize myself for my shape, my smile, the look on my face, my messy hair, my general awkwardness in the world. I was struck finally by my own self centerness, and how God is much more concerned with how much I love than with how much perfection I present in any moment or picture. So here's a prayer for all of us who struggle with who we are, how we look and get ashamed or provoked by our visible (and invisible) imperfections.
You take me just as I am because you made me, just as I am.
You created the sun, wind, oceans and stars in their infinite
Variety and beauty, just as they are
And you have made each person, every child, every one of us
The creation you would have us to be.
Help me to be thankful for you loving me
Help me to see how you love me as a good parent loves their child.
O God, I ask you to help me to keep my eyes on you
Help me to turn away from wishing I was somewhere else
somewhere different, or made in a different way.
Help me to see with your eyes and heart
So I may turn and see your creation and all the people around me
with the eyes and heart of a loving creation
And I might reach out my hands in love.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I have been in several islands in the past few days and will travel to one more tomorrow. As I was looking over the many pictures I have taken, I was struck by the many elbows that the bays and inlets of these islands create. One site I saw was that of the leper colony, a place of beauty, completely isolated from civilization, in the midst of paradise. So many hurting people over many generations suffered and died there. Many never saw their families again after they went to the leper colony. And yet they were wrapped in the arms of God, tucked in the elbow and under the wings of the God that loved them and cared for them in the worst of their loss and isolation.
I pray that no matter how isolated or alone you might feel, you might remember that God is shielding you, holding you as a protecting parent would a treasured child. May we all rest in the loving arms of a loving God who reminds us that we are never alone, never abandoned, never without tender mercies. In that I can take my rest.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Some times, we struggle to see the smallest evidence of Gods promise in our lives. We all have those days when, even with good directions, we can't make out what is right in front of us. I am reminded today, that my job is simply to keep looking. Trusting that God's beautiful creatures surround me, the human kind and the swimming kind - and that if I keep looking I will see all sorts of wonders.
May we all remember to keep looking, even when things are dim or confused. I pray that each of us might see wonders before our eyes, in the faces of our families, friends and all the strange and wondrous creatures that inhabit our world.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
The words rung in my ears and in my heart, although I had hear them many times before. Read in St. Michael's Church on Kauai, I was stung by this powerful and terrifying directive from God. The promises that follow are wonderful but leaving my parent's land and my father's house brought tears to my eyes. I had to get it together to preach, but those words have rattled around all day as I have ventured with new friends and people who were sharing the intimacies of their lives with me, so far from my home.
I am not delusional, I don't for a moment think I am Abrahm. I know this was an historical promise, and that it is both contained in a time and a culture. But I also believe that the scripture is a deep treasure, always providing connection with ancient people who teach me their wisdom and turn my perceptions around to God. My father's house - that wonderful federal style farmhouse, dating back to the 1820's, white clapboard, a block from the Atlantic Ocean. My Dad and Mom bought the house before I was born, we spent every summer and holiday there and my parents retired there. My Dad passed away in 1994 and my mother at 85, still lives in the house. It is a place where I feel known and loved, and where I know the geography in the dark and generations of people. That home is permeated with my Dad, a gentle giant, faithful pastor, great father and the house rings with his laughter and booming voice still. And yet today I heard God's call to leave my father's house.
I have no good words or insights for what to do with that. The last thing I want to do is pack up and move, leave the familiar, especially in these times of great upheaval. I miss my Dad alot these days since it was he I called when I needed real advice. I miss his ability to cut to the chase and tell it like it is. So, all that I can do is pray for direction. God promises to show us the land and make us a blessing. So for tonight, that's what I am going to do - pray for God to act as GPS to my wandering soul, and as a balm to my body which aches to be home.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
A prayer for travelers and parents separated from their children,
the sun has set again and I am on a journey that takes me far from home.
the days begin and end without familiar laughter and anxieties
ringing through my halls.
I am in strange hallways, with unfamiliar sounds and signs,
and I have more than once looked for familiar faces in the crowds.
You have blessed me with a family, showered me with people to share life with.
You have given me a new heart and new youth in their living strong.
You have fashioned each of them to be expressive, beautiful friends,
creative and loving, full of compassion and righteous scorn.
Help me to live in the journey of missing them.
Help me to hear their heart beats on the wind.
Help me to sleep and dream of the laughing faces
giggling at my foolish thought that we are apart.
Help me to rest in the knowledge that our hearts beat as one,
as we all are in your heart and held close as we all venture into new worlds.
Several years ago I traveled with my mother to Oklahoma. It was shortly after 911, and during Advent. My tribe has asked me to come to my homelands to pray with my people. It was a warm and embracing event for all of us, but I noticed my mother had an overwhelmed look on her face at the end of the service. I thought at first she might be coming down with something. I asked her, and she told me that, when the Children Choir was singing Christmas carols in Cherokee, she remembered every word and was able to sing along. She was transported to her life as a small child, sitting on a relatives lap, singing and speaking in her native language. I saw my mother in that moment as a small child, and the time we spent in Tahlequah was one of connecting with all of those things she remembered with such joy. She was transformed, she was fully a child, safe, trusting, full of wide-eyed adventure, seeing the world as a gift. She was born again.
I am convinced that we are daily invited to be born again. To open our hearts and minds to God's abundant love in our lives. We are daily welcomed to be like small children, seeing the world and each other as possibility, rather than threat. For all of us, that can be a daunting task. The world isn't a safe place, and we think if we can just control our environment enough, we will be safe. But only God is in charge, and we can never really control our days, let alone our whole lives. Nicodemus thought the same, he just wanted to do things right. But Jesus invited him to be transformed to that vulnerable child who can trust God in every moment, in every day. Be born again, he invited him, be transformed into the child you were created to be, totally dependent on the activity and love of God.
I struggle with trust. Many people do. My prayer is that I can daily be born again. That each of us can wake to the possibility of God in the face of our human limitations. I pray that all of us can wake, renewed, reformed, a vulnerable and receptive child of a God who loves us more than we can imagine, more perfectly than any human parent, and who wants for us the fullness of live on earth and in heaven.
Friday, February 15, 2008
High Surf Advisory
I have been now a little over a day in Honolulu. I am staying in the heart of the tourist area of Waikiki. And I have only seen the beach and ocean at a distance. The surfing report on the evening news says the waves are exceptional because of the winds and tides. I am looking forward to a moment of respite when I can enjoy that expression of God's creation and power.
I will spend my time here, listening the stories of the people. Native people who have hstorically and personally suffered greatly and who still struggle to find ways to have their voices heard in government and church situations. Their waters are turbulent, the winds have changed and in this season of transition, they are anxious, leery and hopeful. Trust and confidence in any structure doesn't come easy - it has to be earned by the people of the land and water.
My prayer for today is that I can listen, to the roar and whispers, to the tears and laughter, to the silence and the questions and find the Creator's love in our midst. I pray only to be a shell, a vessel, a conch to herald the voices and gifts that are already in such abundance among these very warm and welcoming people. May we, today, be instruments, played by GOd, for the renewal and healing of all people.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
A Prayer for those of us who are parked some where that is neither our destination or our home.
You created everything around me, including this place where I do not want to be.
I am an in exile, in this unfamiliar city, and want so much to be anywhere but here.
It is dark, and I cannot make out the signs to take me on the next steps of my journey.
I am alone, and I do not revel in waiting on others.
But you are my Creator, you fashioned me and sustain me.
You made this foreign place, and you dwell with strangers as well as friends.
Help me today to see your imprint in every path and sign.
Help me to see your face in each of the strangers I meet.
Help me to rejoice in this detour as I learn a new way to trust,
a new way to walk in a strange land.
Walk with me today and I will never be alone.
Help me sing songs of joy and I will always sing for you.
Hold me close and I will never be afraid.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I am about to embark on a journey. No matter how old I get, I always feel more like a child than an adult when I set out alone. I wish someone was there to hold my hand. I hope there are kids that like me when I get there. I hope I don't fall down or do something that is truly embarrassing. I would sometimes rather be a small child, lying around on a summer day in my bathing suit, playing a pickle I grew in the garden. My daughter Emily, shown in this picture at age 4 (almost 26 years ago!) knew then, and knows now how to enjoy the days of lingering afternoons and playful dreaming. But now all days are for that. Today, I have to leave home and embark on an adventure, which is both exciting and scary, familiar and totally new. And I am doing the first part alone.
So, to all of you who have to venture out alone today, remember you are not alone. You are not alone in the desire to stay home dreaming in a safe place. You are not alone in the anxiety of facing a new place and using a rusty set of skills. You are not alone in fearing falling or embarrassing yourself. And you are never alone, for God is with us. May we all pray today for those who travel, nearby and far. May we remember that sometimes crossing the street, or forgiving a family member are hard journeys. Each of us venture out alone. Each of us goes with our trembling hand secure in the sure and steady hand of God.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Each of us has a different understanding of extreme challenges, in the weather, with our health, with our finances or our family. Each of us has only the experiences, gifts and challenges that surround us. And some days are bleak, no matter how warm and sunny it is outside. Our common humanity sighs in this bleak midwinter, where ever we are, wanting more for ourselves, our family, our community. We want to be stronger, sleeker, and more in love with one another and life. And yet our frailties and poverty are most visible in the extremes of winter.
So, what do we do? Listen to the poets, the musicians, the painters, who express their story in their art, so that we can be connected with each other and God. Christina Rosetti, who wrote the great Christmas carol "In The Bleak Midwinter", ends her poem by say, "what can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. What I can I give him, give my heart."
Our poverty, lack and need somehow are most evident on cold and challenging days. May this day be a sign for us to share what we have with God and one another - our hearts.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Lent has started and it is time to take inventory of our humanity. Time to reflect on our inability to fix anything. Time to reflect on our real need for God. None of us is carved of stone, none of us is perfect in any way, but always living in the very limitedness of our humanity. The psalmist pleas, "create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." I can't fix my broken heart, my arrogant spirit, the years of abuse, inflicted by others and by self, the troubles I've invited or the damage that has befallen me. I can only plea to my Creator, to refashion and heal me. I can but open myself to the heart of God, knowing that Gods activity is always restoring, always healing, always pouring justice over our world and our lives torn by selfishness and injustice.
May this first Sunday of Lent find us all ready to ask God for the healing we need. For the solutions we can't bring about, and for the justice that we cannot create by ourselves. May we be human, and invite God to be God.
Friday, February 8, 2008
I have come to realize that my mother taught me long ago that we do what we do, and keep doing what we do, by water and the holy spirit. Her baptism, marked by water, makes part of God's family and the holy spirit keeps her battery charged when her spirit flags. She has had her share of grief and sorrow. She lost my Dad 14 years ago this week, she lost my sister 18 years ago - but she keeps on with great joy. She is never afraid to ask others for prayer, and she always is ready to pray for others. She is always open to new relationships and tenderly cares for the people God has put in her path. She lives by the water, ever turbulent, ever changing, but also always restoring, and always carrying us on to other places of joy and adventure. My mother takes it all in, gives thanks for every day, and lights up the room when she comes in.
May you live today like Betty - by water and the Holy Spirit. Take every day and every person as a gift, enjoy every morsel of food, every child or person God puts in your path - and remember that prayer can be offered for everyone and everything, at every moment.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
This morning I had the opportunity to walk the beach in the early morning. I was alone, it was a breezy day, and the winter light was direct but soft. This beach is home to me, at the end of the street where my mother lives, in the town where they have had their home since before I was born. It is the one place I can walk and immediately be reminded of where my treasure is, and what is truly holy and lasting in my life. It is home and the power of wind, water and waves takes my breath away and settles me down. I hear my name called, I remember the people whose lives have intertwined with mine, and I know I am home and never alone. My treasure, is not this place, but in the power of this place to make me belong in the arms of God. To be surrounded by love, beauty and solitude and to not feel abandoned, lonely or afraid. I am aware of my powerlessness and my dependence in this place. And I am reminded of God's love sufficient beyond measure, revealed in this corner of creation.
This Lent, I hope to live every day reminded of this treasure. This Lent, I pray that we can all find those places to walk where we hear our named called, that we can be among those who remind us of our intimate belonging, and that every new day might bring us closer to knowing God's love in our lives.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
A visit to New Orleans must include beignets and cafe au lait. A sweet, rich treat any time of day. Today, the day before Lent begins, is the day, where tradition dictates that we get rid of all of the fat (and sugar) before Lent starts. Most people usually deal with this tradition by overindulging and partying. Today is an especially big party day in this part of the world since there will be a parade down the canyon of champions for the Super Bowl winning New York Giants (who play in the Meadowlands in New Jersey!). A day to overindulge in sweet, fat and gloating. Whether in New Orleans, New York, New Jersey or anywhere else, many of us will eat pancakes, wears beads and overindulge in richness before adhering to the stricter lifestyle of Lent.
I was in New Orleans in September with the rest of the bishops of the Episcopal Church. Our fall meeting was held in New Orleans, and we spent a day, helping to rebuild the city and ministering to folks who have been devastated by the hurricanes. As we fanned out across the city on that Saturday, I realized that we have little to offer, and the people had so much to teach us. The cab driver who drove my husband and I from the airport, who was well into his seventies, gave us a very personal tour of his neighborhood and told us his story of surviving (in his cab) for several days, not knowing the fate of his family. For a brief moment we were able to be first hand in the wake of destruction through his eyes, through his story. With all the richness of music and culture that surrounded us in New Orleans during that visit, I was daily reminded of the brave cab driver's story and the ongoing trauma that is his life, and the life of so many.
For many of us, who watched the destruction at a distance, the shock of what happened there was overwhelming, but it didn't linger. And yet, there is destruction and need all around us, every day. For most of us Christians, who indulge this day, and who move on to a Lenten discipline tomorrow - we have the power of choice to forget the reality of others and engage in out religious observations with a remote smugness. But plenty and want live right next door to one another, and as we celebrate and gloat, or as we are strict and observant, our neighbors are in unrelenting want. We live right next door to substantial, ongoing, and overwhelming need.
May this Fat Tuesday be the beginning of our indulging our neighbors in our plenty. May we be austere with no one, but our own self-indulgence. May this day we see and hear the stories of those in need around us and rise up to share our blessings. The love of God is revealed most often as we share bread with others. May God's love be abundantly evident today, especially in our neighbors (the un-victorious, the un-indulged, the overlooked, the set-asides, the survivors with lingering trauma and loss) who we so rarely acknowledge with God's abundance. May God bless us in the coming season with hearts that turn beyond ourselves.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Waterfalls of Falling Waters
(A-ma Ga-lo-s-guh in Cherokee)
My mother was reluctant to give us Indian names as children. There had been a lot of trauma in her growing up days, and so some things of her past she kept at a distance. I was born Christmas eve 1955, so they named me Carol Joy. I liked my name as a small child, loathed it as a teen, and as an adult, rejoice in my name, since I like to sing so much. I thought it was the closest I would ever get to having a Indian name.
Native people put great weight in names, and names often signify a great attribute or a significant event in the life of an individual within the larger community. So, Carol Joy (literally, song of joy) seemed o.k. with me. I still yearned to be connected with my people in naming, but I didn't want to bother my mother with it. Fortunately for me, my younger sister suggested to her that it was not too late to name us. So, at Christmas this year my mother carefully offered me the name of waterfalls, or falling waters - Amagalosguh. I live for water, the ocean, the sounds and senses of water falling and moving. I am never more alive than when I am next to, or better yet, in water. My mother will be 85 this week. It is a perfect name, and a perfect time for naming. God's time is always right, even though I may have a different sense of time. As I move through a time of discernment, this new and ancient name, encourages me to touch deeply into my soul and into God's creation within me. It reminds me of the source of life and power in my life.
May you be reminded today that you are named, as God's own child, by whatever name you are called. We each have different manifestations and gifts that are the mark of God's activity in our lives. We are rock, and falling water and God's hands and servants in this world. May we all rejoice in our identity which is firmly planted in the heart of God, this day and always.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
For Mark and all my family, friends and friends yet to know
I remember holding it above my head and shaking. Shaking away all the wrong turns and awkward squiggles. The sweet in-taking of breath. The endless do-overs. I want to give you an etch-a-sketch for our lives. We tried and made some wrong turns or crossed a line. We went up when down would have been a better choice. I held the knob too long and a gentle slope became a tower. We had squiggled messy, artless, lines of regret. We have focused on the foreground and lost the subtle beauty of the background. I would give you an etch-a-sketch. The power to hold the box and shake. Shake the anger and regret, the past, out of control attempts at beauty and expression. I would give you an etch-a-sketch and endless do-overs. I would give you a way for the mistakes to count for nothing and the promise of a clean slate for everything.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
A Day where a ceremony is designed around a sleeping animal, who wants nothing to do with being dragged out of slumber to find a shadow (or not). Tomorrow is the Superbowl - another struggle to cast a big shadow (or not). Here's to a life without winners and losers, without shadow, without competition which makes someone feel small. We don't need any more crushed souls in this world. We don't need any more arrogant victors. May your day be fill will the blessing of a community that shrugs off comparison and judgment and sees you and everyone with the loving eyes of a loving God.
Friday, February 1, 2008
When Pegi was diagnosed, she was quite brave and kept teaching and doing all the things she loved to do. The cancer took hold but she fought valiantly. The doctor proposed a risky surgery, a last ditch effort, and Pegi was willing to try anything. My parents had been with her for several weeks, and I went to join them while she went through this grueling ordeal. I flew from Baltimore to Miami, anxious to see her, worried about what I would face. The chemo and radiation might have ravaged her. I was terrified that all my dignified, well-trained clergy skills would fly out the window and I would fall apart. I fretted and pray the whole plane ride and even in the car ride and walking the hospital halls.
When I found her room, I gingerly, anxiously, pushed open the door. My beautiful sister, who I admired for her class and gorgeous face and whose long dark hair had been her trademark, was completely bald. She smiled as I walked in. My parents, sitting on either side of her, were holding her hands, leaning in, radiating love and concern. A brilliant, radiating light was everywhere and she was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I knew in that moment that her life was ending. And I knew in that moment that life was just beginning in a new way for her. I got strength in that moment, a hopeful vision to walk that journey with her. Pegi got through the surgery, but the doctor told us there was no hope. She lasted about a week, never getting the chance to leave ICU, or to see daylight again. And yet she smiled and reassured us to the end.
I held onto that moment, especially after she died. I had felt for a moment, as I imagine those three overwhelmed disciples did. God was bringing new life, in the midst of the hardest battles of our lives. We might lose someone to physical death, but God was holding them very, very close. I knew I could face that final walk with her, and with my family because there was Jesus, transfigured for us all, reminding us of the real promise of life breaking the hold of death. It didn't make the grief any less. That moment just helped my life and grief to be more authentic.
Today, in this rainy winter first of February, let us remember that God's light surrounds us. Every morning when I see the sun rise I remember Pegi. She lit up rooms and hearts. God, dwelling in our hearts, can use the smile that we have, our skills and compassion, so that the pain of the world can be transfigured. My sister's light, powerful, beautiful and strong, was the willingness to live fully with courage and humor. She shared what she had, and we are blessed and encouraged by her living. She gave what she had in living and in dying. She is light forever. May today, you find those who show you God's light and promise of light, even in the midst of great pain. May light surround you today.