Monday, March 31, 2008

At the Gate

I am waiting at my gate at the airport. I am on my way to Albuquerque to speak at a conference that has little to do with the church. I will be speaking to a variety of tribal folks who serve populations of people who have been victims of crimes - mostly violent. I'm embarking on a voyage to a whole new world, a new adventure, and engaging in a role I have never had before. It's Monday and a whole new chapter in my life may be beginning.

Life is complicated and short. None of us knows what skills and gifts God will have us use. We cannot know what the world might need today and tomorrow. We can only offer what we have and ask God to bless it all.

Today, I pray that I can be what God has called me to be. Today, it is enough to be present, compassionate, kind and patient with myself and every body around me. May God use me and this experience to strengthen others and my resolve to encourage others. May God bless all of us today as we travel in uncharted waters, over anxious seas, with troubled hearts and with out familiar land marks.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Low Sunday

One week, it's Easter. The next week we can be staring at the stained glass all by ourselves. The Sunday after Easter is often called Low Sunday - I don't know where it originated but it has always seemed to indicate the attendance one might expect. We humans can quickly forget the power of Easter and get busy doing other stuff.

Easter isn't over. And for some people, Easter hasn't even arrived yet. There are plenty of people waiting for Jesus to come and say "Peace be with you!" There are way too many hungry and homeless waiting to see the marks of salvation and redemption. They can doubt because they have missed so much true connection with generosity and God's love. And it can be hard too for those who follow Christ. Thomas was left out, he had not had the experience of the others. Thomas had not felt the true marks of God's completion of salvation. The world he knew continued to be bleak, even as his friends cautiously rejoiced (in their locked room).

May we have faith this day to see the Thomases among us - those who doubt because their experience lacks the marks of a loving savior. Those who have only experienced lack and abuse, those who have never known love or abundance. Thomases are all around us, even in our faith communities. I pray we have the courage to stay with the doubters, nurture and feed them until their Easter comes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Girls who play Guitar

I was watching a program the other night about Les Paul and the electric guitar. All sorts of famous guitarists were interviewed - they were all men. And it reminded me that although I have taught all of my girls to play guitar, they will always have a harder time being recognized for what they do well. They are extraordinary women, extraordinary human beings. All of them are committed to changing the world for the better. They care, and they are kind. But being kind these days isn't cool. Instead, we are all encouraged to be like the bad boys, play a mean guitar, play rough sports, win at all costs.

So here's to all the girls who play guitar, who play lacrosse with the boys and who swim like fiends. May they rejoice in the way they play. May girls and boys alike be stars for being kind, listening and wanting to change the world for the better. Here's to all the millions of people who change the world by loving justice and not by winning wars. And here's to those who would cheer on the gentle, strong, less recognized but completely awesome guitar players (or whatever expressive art they gently offer to the world)!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Dirt

It is that time of year, on the verge of April and spring. For me, there is an itching, a craving for dirt -to get my hands in it, turn it over, plant seeds - all of the very tactile things that come with planting and growing a garden. Even in this urban environment, with a limited back yard space and poor light exposure, I still yearn to turn every thing over and plant -have the back yard explode with color and food. An explosion of beauty and sustenance. My grandfather WalkingStick was a great gardener and so is my mother. They both have green thumbs, something which I did not inherit from them. But I inherited the need to dig in the dirt and encourage life from dark places.

I have been reflecting this week that God is the ultimate gardener. Desperate to plant and grow, to reseed, to re-enliven, to restore, to heal each of us and this planet, and to bring life and beauty where there once was none. Sometimes, I can forget that God's passion for us is greater than the passions within us - even for digging in the dirt. And I know that I don't have the green thumb that my Mom does, partially because I am not as patient and nurturing as she is. She is willing to weed and to water, to trim and putter. God too, is patient with us, puttering and nurturing until we are able and ready to blossom. My prayer day is that each of us will have the courage and the patience to be replanted and nurtured by God. That we will take root and receive the watering, the trimming and the weeding, always turning our eyes and our hearts towards the sun. I pray that today, just today, we will be patient as God makes new life grow in each of us so that we might be beauty and sustenance for the world around us.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lifeguards and Lambeth

I've spent a lifetime observing lifeguards. At the pool where I regularly swim, they mostly sit still and watch, although they sometimes walk the edge of the pool, stretching and trying to push away the boredom with limited activity. During summers, the life guards at the beach usually serve in pairs, and the youthfulness and athleticism attracts the attentions of adoring young girls and boys. They sit pretty still scanning the water, watching good and bad swimmers alike, young and old, careful and foolish. They look like still photos sometimes (and sometimes they act like they are models in a photo shoot!) but they are trained to watch and move at the instant of danger. Our two younger daughters, Ariel and Phoebe have both served as life guards. They talk a lot about the boredom and the challenge of constantly watching. They are only actors in a drama if there is real trouble.

I think so much of the Episcopal Church views the House of Bishops as a stagnant group of watchers who are too old or inflexible or scared to respond to the dangers we are in. Some people would like to see us in the water at all times, others would have us be the water, a fierce roiling ocean challenging everyone who comes to our shores. In fact, we are, like lifeguards, called to a life time of guarding. In our examination we pledged to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church." In these times, as we prepare for Lambeth 2008, there is much challenge to each of us, lay and ordained alike to keep our eyes on the Gospel shoreline. There is much to concern ourselves in this church of ours, but I would hope our guarding responded to life and death challenges and that we were bodily active in compassion and mercy, the defense of those who have no helper, and constantly nourishing, supporting and praying for all without ceasing. I would hope that our we keep our eyes attuned to the needs of the world around us and would respond as Christ would, reaching out to save the weakest and most challenged among us. We have many people to guard, weak, strong, and head strong alike. I pray that our Church here and across the communion will join in these coming days to watch for and be active in an explosion of justice, mercy and compassion for all those who have no helper, no voice, no strength and no one to rescue them from the harsh surf.

Gracious Father, we pray for your Holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen (BCP 816)

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working if your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (BCP 280)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

She's 30!

It was early on Easter morning, 30 years ago today. We drove in the frigid drizzle, me 22 and Mark 26. We had been married for almost three years and thought we were so grown up and so ready. Emily was born in the early afternoon that day. She was beautiful and perfect and loud. It was more than love at first sight - it was a whole new life for all three of us.

30 years later I can only say that the best thing I ever did was to have her - and her sisters. They have blessed my life with laughter, beauty and challenge. Our lives and living rooms were always filled with dancing, music and hair accessories. Emily and her sisters helped me to grow up and to grow in faith, more than anyone else.

At 30, I couldn't be more proud of her. She has committed her life to enriching others through arts and social responsibility. She takes people right where they are, and the homeless know her as a friend. She is fearless and compassionate. She is brilliant and tender. She is beauty and when she laughs, the rain stops.

My simple mother's prayer today is that all of us can be blessed with children and family as wonderful as my little Emily. May we be known by God as this mother loves her children. With such joy and pride that even the thought of her lights up my whole being. May God's love shine on us all today in thanksgiving for a life radiant with love.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Intimacy and Exposure

We live in a world where some people take great joy in the exposure and folly of others. Some people love to mock and ridicule politicians, actors, church leaders and other public figures who have made huge mistakes in their public words and their private behaviors. We can revel in the exposed intimacy of others and we often adore gossiping about others and tearing them down. Those in the public eye are most susceptible, but most take some private pleasure in the ridicule of coworkers and friends. Human weakness and outright failure seem to give us such pleasure.

All of us have had experiences with public ridicule for our humanity, whether in the present or the past. My children get great pleasure in hearing me tell the story of how I fell down all the steps of the New York City Public Library in front of my fifth grade class. I broke nothing but my pride was terminally wounded. I wished I had died on those steps, instead of having to carry on and finish the field trip. Life is full of moments when our very broken intimacy is exposed for all the world to see.

The good news for me today is that that is exactly where God is with all of us. In the hidden and exposed moments of pure broken humanity. In our huge mistakes as well as our proudest moments. God is with us in the midst of the mess, no matter if we wore clean pants or not. None of get it right all the time and most of us get very little right from wardrobe to relationships. But for today, I hope we can remember that God is with us in the most broken, exposed places, bringing healing and transformation to these wounds we suffer and the wounds we have made.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eater Monday

Easter Monday

It was beautiful, the day of resurrection, children and adults gathered in their finery, glorious music and joyful celebration. Although Easter was extraordinarily early this year, at least in this part of the world, we had sunshine and blue skies. The world filled with hope and celebration.

Yesterday was also a very sobering day. The death toll in the Iraq war reached 4000. So much unrelenting loss, so many broken families, broken hearts and ruined hopes. In the midst of incredible joyous celebrations, too many people were visiting cemeteries where their children were buried. The world still cries out in pain, even after Easter has come. The climb for so many folks is so uphill, that they have either lost sight of the path or given up entirely. So here's a prayer for all those who are struggling to regain their footing on this Easter Monday.

Dear God,
I heard the music and the words and wanted your joy in my heart,
but the tears still come and the sadness overwhelms me.
I went to friends to seek your face,
but they were ashamed of my sadness and sent me on my way.

I cried out in the night and the silence was deafening.
Draw me close, O God, who went down to the grave,
pull me in, O Savior, who took the beating for us all,
bind me, O Friend, who lay wrapped in a shroud and alone,
carry me, O blessed Redeemer, because I can walk no more.

Dear God, hold me until my Easter moment comes,
stay with me as I wait to be lifted up,
stand between me and the terrors of the night,
for you are the God of light and morning,
you are breaking through the silence and the dark,
and no shroud can hold me if I rest in you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008

Today, I share with you a poem I wrote on Easter Saturday 2002, a week before I was consecrated bishop. I was a woman going out early in the morning to talk with God, to try to understand what God had in store for me. I could never have imagined, and yet, there has been new life and love in every day, in every challenge, in every new turning and with every Easter since.

The women went out early in the morning, that first Easter, with tears and dread to do their duty. They went out early to try to understand what God had in store for them. They saw a most miraculous thing, and heard that Jesus was risen from the dead. Broken, battered and hung upon the cross and now he was alive! They had lived through that torture, were helpless and terrified. When they came running and told their story, people did not believe them. In the midst of the worst horror, God was making the world new, transforming grief and sorrow into abundant life.

May we all, this Easter, where ever we stand, rejoice in knowing that God in Jesus Christ is transforming our duty into joy, our trials into new vision and our tears into bright gardens of flowers. There is still much more to come in our lives but today we can know that God is with us transforming the worst into best, the broken into the strong and the hopelessly lost into a child at home.

Sandbridge Beach March 30th, 2002 Easter Saturday

Seagulls screaming and ropes tapping

Blown by the wind sand rips

Against closed windows

We lean into the gale.

This coming season promises

Some mighty storms

Some powerful hurricanes

And water everywhere.

We bow our heads and keep walking

Shielding our eyes

Our faces from the sting.

This coming season

We will have to face

The tide, the fierce blow

The subtle but insistent stings

Leaning in, walking on.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is one of those moments of being washed ashore, waiting for the tide to rise again and cover me, take me back to safety, to where I belong to the comfortable embrace of the water and the rocking of the surf. Today is like being left out in the sun, bleached out and unable to move. All the time, the absence of moisture and the familiar bakes out hope, accentuates my fragility, catches me at my own game of thinking I can conquer anything because of my own strength and cunning. Holy Saturday is about waiting and trusting. Not my best skills.

Many of us have had time when we felt as ancient as a horse shoe crab, as abandoned on the sand, and as repulsive. Many of us have had the experience of feeling caught on the shore, marooned in dry, lonely places where hurt and resentment can grow like armor. May we today, be reminded that Jesus in the tomb was not a static moment in history for God's activity. Our Holy Saturdays may feel like being washed ashore but there is something more going on. Underground God is stirring the waves. Below the surface God is stirring hearts and minds. In the tomb, God is breathing new life, transforming all the sin and ache into resurrection. Hold on, change is coming. Hold on, God is here in the midst of us.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

I saw crosses everywhere. I was taking a walk on the beach, a walk I have taken alone and with friends and family thousands of times. This early February morning I was alone, with my camera. I had questions on my heart for God. I was struggling with direction praying God to give me guidance. And every where I looked, I saw crosses. God inviting me to keep my eyes on the cross. Keeping my focus on Christ, knowing that in the midst of that horror, in the center of the bloody brokenness, God was (and is) doing a new thing.

Today is Good Friday, and I invite us all to keep our eyes on the cross. I wantt to turn away, really. I can't bear to imagine the despair and the pain that his mother and all that gathered there witnessed. I want to turn away because humanity can be so ugly, cruel and unjust, so very often. But God is in the midst of the absolute worst of it. God is in the absolute worst of that Good Friday and I have to believe that God is in the midst of our absolute worst and most painful trials. I pray that we, today, can keep our eyes upon the cross. I pray to see crosses everywhere, trusting that God is transforming what I can't fix. May we all, this Good Friday, turn to the cross, turn to God who is restoring the unrepairable, mending the torn fabric, breathing life into out dead. May we see crosses everywhere and God in the midst of them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Enlightenment and Humanity

I am reminded today, just how human I am, and how human we all are. I want my life of faith to be solid, every growing, a step by step (or leap by leap) forward progression. I want to be able to get beyond my past shortcomings and fully live strong and faithful every minute. I guess there are days when I would rather not be human, challenged and vulnerable. I imagine that others would prefer this too. Today, as I struggle with debilitating back pain, I am reminded how human and how vulnerable I am. Today, I am so human and fragile - and my frailty can lead me to being disillusioned and disappointed with God.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in Holy Week where we remember the events of the Last Supper, the Betrayal and Jesus' time in the garden. He asks God to take this cup from him. He wants out of this humanity -this absolute inadequacy and vulnerability. Jesus, being fully God, declares for us all the hideously fragile reality of being human. And so today, this Maundy Thursday, I am choosing to seek God in the midst of the pain and vulnerability in my life. Today, I will seek God in the darkened gardens of my life where my friends have fallen asleep to my struggle. I will seek God in the places of weakness, knowing that God has promised to be present and more than adequate for all my needs. May we all, this Holy Week, rejoice in God, who abides in the midst of our broken humanity, who loves us just as we are, and who is constantly transforming that brokenness and disillusion into strength, faith and resurrection.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

And I think it's going to rain today

Something happens in March. The world shows signs of turning, but it struggles. Mild and sunny one day, rainy and harsh the next. Black umbrellas lined up, waiting for a train, and the world seems on the brink of something, but it could go several ways. The sun could break through, with Alleluias on the wind, or the dark wet could entrap us all, with dark bass notes drawing us into a horror movie scene. It is March and Holy week and the world is turning, and when life turns, there is struggle both evident and hidden. It is going to rain today until every drop of water is wrung out. Some one will cry today until every tear is cried out. The world is turning and we humans stand on the brink of terror and rejoicing, wondering how we get through.

On days like today, I am reminded where love waits. Love waits in the shadows, in the recesses of our hearts, even when we thought it was all gone. We humans think that love can be used up, but it can't. Love sometimes needs to crawl under the covers and rest, just like we do - but it comes back as the world turns and as we turn our faces up to find the sun. Our Creator abides with us in the underground darkness, in the recesses of tombs, undercover, in the shadows, while rebuilding our hearts and our capacity. I think it's going to rain today - I know it will. But I also know that this darkness and wet cold moment is feeding and strengthening growth. Preparing each of us for the abundant turning, for love breaking forth, for the coming of new life even in the midst of grief and isolation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Harp

This harp was found in pieces, in the basement of the church where my father served for 28 years. I was five months old when he began his ministry there. Someone had donated it, left it behind and although he tried to locate the owner, he was never able to. My father was born and raised in Syracuse, so when he went back to visit his mother , he took the harp with him since it had been made by the Clark Co. in Syracuse. They repaired it and he brought it home for me to play. I had a harp teacher for several years, a very important musician who play with the New York Philharmonic and she terrified me. She wanted me to hold my hand correctly and she was forever pushing me and challenging me to work harder. I was a chubby, awkward preteen, who was easily terrified by powerful women and I was also somewhat lazy about practicing. Although for years I didn't play it, this harp has gone everywhere with me. This small Celtic harp, green and gold and rickety is part of me, and it makes music even when I have left it silenced.

Several years ago, in Delaware, as a gift from my husband, I started taking harp lessons from a man who played in a Irish band. He taught me in his home, he taught me to play by listening and repeating. He let me make mistakes, and told me to not worry about the music on the printed page - to just feel the music and the resonance of the instrument. After my first lesson I cried. Not out of sadness but for the great release, for the sheer joy of playing music where the learning (and all the mistakes) were an honored part of the process. I had spent years feeling I would never be good enough to play. I found I could play a little and that was enough for one day. I took many lessons thereafter and got better, and loved the practice time. In recent years, as I have gotten so busy as a bishop, I have let my harp playing slide. But this week, it became clear to me that my harp has been waiting to sing, has been aching to make music -just as I have.

And so, I will practice and make mistake and enjoy all of it. Because my harp reminds me, as a constant friend, that a little music, offered even with mistakes, is still a gift. It changes my breathing, decreases anxiety and invites joy. May you invite joy today, may you invite music today - however you can. For in this life, God doesn't ask us to be good or perfect, just willing to try. And just being willing to try can change the world.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is a very important feast around my house. It's not a day to drink and be stupid, like most Americans imagine, but rather a day to remember the incredible gifts we have been given, in heritage, language, art and family. All of our married life, my husband (Mark Gallagher), has made a habit of taking St. Patrick's Day off from work, and I have tried to do likewise. Not so that we can party, but so that we can listen. To one another, to music and to the sound of those who have gone before reminding us to take care.

This photo was taken in KellyBegs, in County Donegal adjacent to the Gallagher fishing fleet. When we have visited there we will sit and listen to the water and the birds, the fishermen and the people milling around a small port town. There is much to learn from their commitment to the water and land, people and family. Life can be harsh and money often short but there is always a greeting, always a story. And there is a solemn but joyful commitment to life which dances on the wind.

May we, this St. Patrick's Day 2008, not try to worry about dying everything green, but remember to listen to the life around us. May we rejoice in the gifts and challenges we have been given. May we find in the stark reality of our lives, warmth and story in abundance. And may we remember to listen for the new life which dances on the wind.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

For Palm Sunday

For Palm Sunday and Holy Week

I am reminded as I prepare to preach, that the Palm Sunday liturgy starts with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and it ends with his death upon the cross. The most lovely and the worst of human capacity all retold in the same drama, all part of the same moment in time. We walk through Holy Week, through this terrible drama, desperately hoping for Easter, worrying that Easter will never come.

My life has seen a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes good friends can become treacherous overnight. Sometimes enemies turn and lend a hand and change the course of one's life. Living in this human frame, we are all tossed between beauty and horror, and often find it hard to hold on. It can be a scary ride. My prayer as we enter into this holy week, is that each of us can gain a hold on the constancy of God. In the midst of turbulence, we might hear the solid promise of a loving God. That each of us, in the dark might sense the light breaking in our hearts.

Dear God,
find me in this dark hour,
hold me as I face the worry and the shame.
Listen to my heart, it races in this terror,
my breath is halting, and I am afraid.
But you God, are the Creator of light and dark,
you bend the rainbow and stir the breeze
so I might hear music on the night wind.
Help me to lie down and take rest in the midst of this tossing,
help me to rest on troubled seas,
help me to rejoice in the morning
for you are doing a new thing, you are making all things new.
Help me to hold tight for one more day,
so that I might sing praises in the morning light . Amen.
"Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? ...Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as one of these." Matthew 6:28-29

Yesterday, I noticed that all sorts of green life was pushing through the earth. Though March is still very cool, all of the sudden life is springing forth even though the ground is very cold. Someone, a long time before us, planted bulbs everywhere in our yard and now, they are getting ready to explode in color and life. I have been lamenting that easter is coming so early this year, but then amazing things even when the world seems out of sinc and off its axis. One very early Easter, 30 years ago this year, our first daughter, Emily was born. The world changed forever for us, that early easter, so long ago -and I am ever grateful to God for her.

Sometimes its hard for me to maintain a positive attitude in the face adversity. This season has had its share. But I am reminded that God is ever faithful, every day, even when I can't see it or feel it. God only asks me to look around and notice that life is springing forth even when I am not experiencing it in my own life. The signs of God's love are all around us, magnificent in their subtlety perhaps, but no less touched by a magnificent Creator.

So today, I invite us all to notice the signs of new life, however small they may be. A smile from a normally negative person. A song on the breeze, sunlight filtering though a smudged window. I invite us all to notice God's love in every breath we take, and to remember that God is as close as breathing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Finding a Voice

The House of Bishops Choir
It has taken me several days to find a means to reflect on my time at the House of Bishops. I was anxious about going, since I don't fit into any of the usual categories these days. I was pleasantly surprised by my colleagues genuine concern and affection. My imagined sense of isolation was just that. We struggled as a House over some very grave issues, listened to each other well and spoke with candor. And when the time came to make hard decisions, we did what was necessary. It was a remarkably positive experience for me, even though I had expected otherwise. That doesn't mean that my employment circumstances have changed, but rather I learned who I am is much more than that.

One of the most supportive and sustaining parts of the House of Bishops, for me, is the choir. Our director, Dent, takes us as we are, and helps us blend and make worship real. Far from a performance, he invites us all to engage the spirit, to listen to one another, to let the music be our response to God's invitation. Some folks have solos from time to time, but we concentrate on being one voice together. We are stronger that way. And so it is for the House of Bishops. My take is that we are growing into a choir, not a house that sings with one voice, but one that blends well, and one that lifts each other up and encourages the whole. We are there for the service of others, and we are growing together in this challenged time when the world perceives an impending schism. Each voice is needed, each is made better by the capacity to blend with others and respond to God together.

I am not sure what the future has in store for me or for the church, I can only say that I have a renewed sense of God in our midst -in the midst of a choir. We each have various skills and capacities, but God's desire is for all of us to harmonize together -not so that every voice is lost - but so that a powerful and greater tune might be heard. I went reluctantly and came home rejoicing in possibility. I was one lone voice and discouraged but I came home hearing music. My prayer today is for each of us to remember that we each have a range, a note, a perspective to share. Only when each note in the chord is voiced does true music and worship happen. Only when we offer what little we have can God transform it into a meal for the masses.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Whisperer

Mark is one of those rare people with the rarest of gifts. He is not simply a dog whisperer, the super nanny, or the pied piper. He is a gentle soul to whom all living things are drawn. Animals know he will respond to them and so they listen. He takes special care of the weakest and treats every human being and any living thing with dignity. He never looks beyond another, nor does he love others for what he can achieve from the relationship. He is an easy and ready companion, bringing laughter and music to everyone he encounters. I just spent five days at our House of Bishops meeting and found no one who is as gifted and blessed as he is. He can be overlooked by self-aggrandizing people, but anyone who has a real heart is drawn to him.

I am married to a modern day St. Francis. As with the original St. Francis, his gentle loving kindness propels others to follow his example. He never puts his own needs first, but listens daily to the cries of creation around him. His quiet nature and care for others means he rarely gets the recognition or the thanks for all the hard and loving things he does for others.

I am so fortunate. If there is someone like him in your life, I hope today you will remember to thank that person for taking you just as you are, for listening to your heart, and for caring for your simple needs with great pleasure. Saints don't come our way often, but when they do, they are messengers from God who help us remember that we are loved and part of a larger family of God. The God who creates and welcomes all of life as a rare gift and a lifetime friend.

A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is
hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Terribly Human

I am not one to get involved in commenting on politics and politicians. Today, you cannot go anywhere and not hear reporters and everyone else having something to say about the untoward (and possibly) illegal behavior of the Governor of New York. On my car radio this morning, they were reporting from a green market in Brooklyn on what people on the street were saying. Because his image was so very clean and ethical, the news of his fall from grace seems to invite glee and delight. People revel in others failure. The governor is terribly human, publicly disgraced and folks can't get enough of it. There is an atmosphere of a tawdry circus and everyone is going on record with judgments.

Today, I am reminded just how human we all are, and how complicated and confusing it is to be so terribly human. Our desires and distractions daily collide with our faith and moral obligations. We know right from wrong in their simplicity, but none of us lives in a totally simple world. Being terribly human gets all of us in the end. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." We often don't make the right choices along this human journey, even when we have the best intentions. When the pressures of life, when illness and role encourage us to disassociate from our true selves, when fame, respect and glamor seduce us into believing we can do anything, when we fall so hard over known obstacles and addictions - it is then when we need the redeeming, transforming, forgiving love of God the most.

My prayers for this Lent have focused on "letting go and letting God." When I try to control my life completely and map my right course, this is often when I make my worst mistakes. My simple prayers of letting go help me to invite God's desire into my heart. God's desire is for us to love and forgive others as we have been forgiven, taking no pleasure when others fall. God's desire is for us to pour love, inclusion, hospitality and forgiveness on all we encounter. Letting God, for me, means taking no delight in the downfall of others. Letting God means giving up on judgment, and opening myself to radical forgiveness.

May we all be invited today, just for today, to let God - let God be the judge, let God be the one from whom our paths and decisions originate. We are all so terribly human and so desperately in need of God.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Coming Home

Today, I arrived home from the House of Bishops. I came home a day and a half early since my youngest daughter is home on Spring Break. We have limited time together and I wanted to make the most of it. She drove my car, picking me up at the airport. She jumped out of the car and ran to give me a hug. There is nothing in the world more divine than to have someone run to greet you, with arms outspread and face alive with radiance. I am so blessed today. The ultimate gift of love and welcome home needs few words more. I am so grateful for the expressions of love and family. So here's a little prayer for all of us facing all sorts of homecomings.

Dear God,
I sometimes don't know what will greet me when I walk through the door.
I sometimes worry that no one will notice that I've entered the room.
I sometimes wish that everywhere I went I could be surrounded by loving family.
I often feel the lack of love expressed and wonder where it has gone.
But you are the God who created me and delights in me.
You come running every time with arms outstretched and face alight.
You, are the eternal, loving parent, who notices everything and rejoices in my life, even when there is only silence around me.
In thanksgiving for your overwhelming acts of love, help me, this day, to welcome each and every person I encounter as a long lost relative, a child returning, a mother coming home.
Help me to run for them, reach out for them, smile for them.
Help me to reflect a piece of your finite love in my very finite being.
Give me the strength to rejoice in all your creation.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Jesus Coming Soon

Some days the sunshine is a wonderful blessing enough to get me through that day. Other days, I want more, I want Jesus to come and straighten out the whole mess we're in. But today, I found out that Jesus comes in the midst of strangers becoming friends and old friends becoming angels and miracle workers. I am always touched when someone reaches out a hand to another, but today, I felt that touch over and over. In conversation and in gesture, God's love was abundantly evident. I don't know when Jesus is coming, but I am glad that today I had many glimpses of the reign of God.

May we all be lifted up by sunshine and by the radiant smiles of children around us. May laughter encircle us, may a loving touch, a warm gesture remind us all that God is so very near.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Faithful Sisters

The reading for the last Sunday in Lent is from John's Gospel. It is the story of the raising of Lazarus and the faith of Martha and Mary. It is a look at Jesus in the midst of those he was closest to, while a politically charged religious argument was swirling around, threatening his life. In the middle of this intense drama we hear Martha say to Jesus, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." John 11:27 Martha is clear in her faith, amidst her loss and the keening of the mourners, she is able to see her dear friend Jesus for who he is, her vision clear despite all of the overwhelming press of real life.

I have been reminded over and over again of the faithfulness of sisters - my sisters, there are four of us and three of us are still living. My sisters have always had the capacity to see clearly the true gifts in others, and have always been able to declare them loudly. My sisters have always given me faith -strength in the midst of all that is swirling around. I am reminded of my sister bishops, who hold each other up in prayer and are always ready with support and faithful encouragement. And I am reminded of my daughters - three wonderful sisters who in every age have loved each other fiercely, had held each other tight and have faithfully defended each other despite their differences. Beacons of light and faith. I have been blessed with Marthas and Marys and a legion of women who have taught me so much about love and faith. In the midst of intrigue, stench and the noisy crowds of life, these many women declare God's love and activity in my life - in all our lives. For them I give God great thanks today.

On this international day of Women, as the day ends, may we all give thanks for the women, the sisters in our lives who have faithfully and tirelessly loved fiercely and well. May we give thanks for their declarations of God's incarnation in the midst of the world in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Thanksgiving for their smiles and laughter, their hospitality and cups of tea, their stories and their songs. I am so blessed because of their witness.

When our girls were small we used to sing them to sleep with this song. " Lay down, sweet sister, lay down and take your rest. Lay down your head upon your savior's breast. I love you but Jesus loves you the best. And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight." Goodnight to all the wonderful women and men who have been beacons of faith, and to all of us journeying to live resting in the loving arms of the savior of the world.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Petals under foot

I am in Texas and the House of Bishops Spring meeting has begun. I am always touched and astounded among the greats of the church, to realize many of these people are my friends. We pray together and we listen to God working in our midst. But mostly, there is lots of laughter, lots of catching up and lots of concern about our lives and loved ones. Sometimes, in the busy work of life, in the midst of personal and communal anxiety, its easy to loose site of the love that surrounds us. It is easy to not see the petals strewn underfoot. The subtle and beautiful pinks of midsummer that remind us of Gods sweetness and mercy in the midst of our labors. On all of life paths, God is throwing beauty at our feet, in the sky and everywhere we turn.

I pray tonight for eyes to see the beauty and friendship that surrounds me. As I labor up steps and listen to difficult conversation, may I remember that God is looking after my path, providing love and beauty all along the way. May we all have a moment this night when we can see the petals strewn in our path and remember the sweet love of God, who loves us well while we sleep and dream, and who loves us well while we labor in the vineyards.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Into The Woods

Tomorrow morning, very early I will board a plane to fly to Texas for the House of Bishops Meeting. Then I will transverse a great distance into the woods to finally arrive at my destination. Into the woods, to pray and deliberate with my brother and sister bishops. It always seems like some parts fairy tale, some parts board meeting and many parts confusion. There is great joy in seeing old friends and there great anxiety in what we have to face together as a Church. It is a complex occasion, both solemn and festive, both deliberative and prayerful.

I am always stirred with hope and nervous expectation when I go, this time being no different. My circumstances are quite different but my commitment to this church and my colleagues has not changes. It is something like going back to school after a long break. There is much to learn, but the hope is in the relationships renewed.

May God bless us as we renew our relationships with one another and with God. May our prayers outshine our attitudes and opinions. May our hearts be open and our lips hesitant, except when we sing. As I go off to the woods, I think of all the people I leave behind. Pray for us, and I will be praying for you. If we hold hands in prayer, maybe the dark woods won't seem quite so scary.

Making Tough Choices

I live in the land of diners and all across North Jersey people will argue over which is the best for milkshakes, meatloaf and fries -everybody has a favorite diner and favorite diner food. They can be very loyal to one place. I am the kind of person who likes to go to a variety of diners, trying the specials of the day, if I'm feeling brave or something standard like a burger if I am not. It all comes down to choices. Most diner menus are so large, glossy and multi-paged, that I feel overwhelmed. My husband and I often have to ask the wait person to come back several times as we stew over the myriad of choices before us. It can be overwhelming. I know that there are some people who know exactly what they want and never waiver. I am not like that and Mark isn't either. We like to experience the full range of choice and opportunity. We usually end up narrowing our list to two items we both want, and then sharing them when they come. Neither of us, then, has to make a really tough choice.

Sometimes though, life presents tough choices. Six years ago this April, I was consecrated Bishop and took a vow that I would take my place in the councils of the church. I am honored to do so. But this spring meeting of the House of Bishop starting tomorrow is another thing entirely. It's a bit of a tough choice to go when I go without the support of a diocese. And it can be tough to face my colleagues when I don't know where God will call me next. But most of all, the hard choice comes when I know that my youngest daughter begins her break from college on the same day I fly to the House of Bishops. That's the tough choice. What mother should choose to go to a meeting when they can spend sometime with one of the greatest gifts and miracles in her life. All three of my girls are gifts and miracles, and I have had to make some tough choices throughout my ministry, to honor my vows as priest and bishop and to honor my responsibility as their mom. It is a choice that has always torn me in two.

As usual, I tried to find a creative compromise. I am coming back early from the House of Bishops so that I can spend as much time as possible with her. It will still be hard to go, knowing that she's home. Home and family are always my first choice. My prayers today are for all of us who have to make tough choices, who have to do our best to care for and love our families while we honor our professional obligations. So here's a short prayer for all those who are making tough choices.
Dear God,
you have given me so much in those around me,
you have blessed me with love and support,
and I am grateful for every new day.
You have also called me to this field
you have given me honest and honorable labor,
and I am blessed to have a way to offer my talents to others.
Today I am torn, wanting to go and to stay,
wanting to be in both places, not wanting to have to choose.
God, go with me and stay behind for me.
Protect those I leave and love
and protect me as I go forth to serve as I am called.
You are my strength, my redeemer, my rock.
Today, I need all of those and more.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Riding the Waves

I like to ride the waves, although I don't use a board. During the summer, I love nothing more than to body surf during high tide, riding wave after wave, being slammed on the shore, face and bathing suit full of sand and pebbles, then jumping up and doing it all over again. There is a listening and a feeling process that goes on. One has to be sensitive to the pull of the water, feeling it rise and swell, jumping into the massive movement at just the right instant. It can take years to master, and I have had a lifetime of practice. I still have to be careful to listen and to feel, to give myself over to the process knowing that I am not in control at all. Knowing that the best ride comes from giving myself over to it.

Yesterday, in this blog, I wrote of the circumstances of my own personal journey. I was astounded by the response I got - by the outpouring of love and genuine concern and support. At first, I thought I said too much, or that I was too transparent. Today, I realize that it is the process of giving myself to the massive movement of God's activity in my life, remembering that I am not in control and that the very best I can do is listen and feel, diving in as best I can. What I learned yesterday is that there are many people who are caught in rough waters, and feel unable to ride the high surf, or make it to shore. None of us wants to control the winds, the tides, the works of Gods church, but we want to be able to offer what we have to the movement of God's love in this world. We want to offer what we have, want to listen, feel and dive in.

My prayer is that today we can all remember we are not alone. Jesus calms storms and reaches out to the ones who are sinking. Sometimes human institutions, boats, lifeguards and all others fail to notice the need. But we are not alone in Christ, and there is a hand and a teacher reaching out for us all. May today you reach out your hand, dive into the movement, knowing that we are all being held up in the loving arms of a loving Savior.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Raising My Voice

Over the past months, since my tenure in the Diocese of Newark ended, I looked diligently for a place to be a Bishop and to serve God and the Episcopal Church. It has been both a painful and exhilarating journey, one of encountering God's love in so many out of the way places, and having so many doors in the Church slammed in my face. This journey is not complete, but I have come to the banks of the river, a place of resolution, that place where it has come time to decide how to continue forward. A place to raise my voice and to chart my own direction. I never fit into any of the standard molds of the church. As a Cherokee, mother, wife, writer, musician and artist, there have been times when the Church has desired my gifts. Now is their season of ambivalence. When the Church and the world most need creative, complex leadership, it seems as though the single dimension, cardboard cut-out, party line is the color of the season. So I will let others sport the colors and I will find my own design, raise my own voice and forage in strange lands for the sustenance I need. I am frightened, but I am not alone.

I hope to keep singing and writing and serving Christ in all people that will have me. I will find new ways to incarnate God's love in new and foreign places. The Church that I love and willingly serve seems unable to embrace me right now. I will not stop loving the Church or her people, but rather forge more relationships in new ways, so that I might sing and share the Gospel. It is a scary time, but I have a sense of life breaking forth. May all of you, on the bank of the river, on the edge, left behind, and cut off remember that God is in the midst of the people on the edge as well as those in the center. God's love is most powerfully known when broken people break bread together. May we share our voices, our love and our dreams knowing that our gifts are from God and the world desperately needs courageous, complex voices crying in the wilderness and outside of the Church walls.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I Don't Feel Like A Train Anymore

"I don't feel like a train anymore, I feel like the tracks..." is a John Gorka song that holds a lot of meaning for me these days. This morning, like most mornings, I drive my husband to the train, kiss him, tell him I love him and send him on his way. I watch him ascend the rickety, paint-peeling stairway to the platform and watch him board the train in a long line of other, mostly black clad somber commuters. I wave one last time. Off to work and back again, most evenings much too late. Like the track, I have to watch as people and trains come and go, but I seem to stay permanently waiting for another train. Most mornings, I want to yell after him, tell him to come back, tell him he doesn't need to go anymore. After all these years, I just want to spend another pretty day with him. I want to share the sunshine and the infinite variety of light and shadows, laughter and compassion, and all the other mysteries that unfold during any given day.

May God bless us today with loving companions with which to share the light of day. May God provide us with loved ones who return, day after day, to embrace and be embraced. May God give me the strength to tell all my stories to him at the end of the day.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

When I was growing up there was (and still is) a wonderful Amusement Park called Playland within a few miles of our home. There was a rink there, where during the winters I took skating lessons. During the warm late spring and early summers, we would thrill at the opportunity to go on rides - to be thrown around, in the air, whizzing at high speeds seemingly out of control. We would willingly give up our tickets, run to the ride and be strapped in by some bored teenager. And then we would scream and spin, going sideways, up, down, everything disorienting and precarious. How wonderful and lovely it all was.

At times my life seems as if it is out of control, and I am thrown around, strapped in, whizzing at high speeds and constantly turning. Right now, my future is not sure and so what might be an amusement ride in another season, seems much more like a mighty frightening terror coaster. So it is for many people. I am reminded that these times of turning, of changing seasons and locations can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I know that God is in the midst of all of the seasons and changes, and yet it can be hard to see God when I am whipping by, out of control. I want to keep my focus on seeing God's love and creativity in the midst of all this turning - and yet it is a challenge for me.

May the turns in our lives not frighten us but renew us. May God be revealed not in the end but throughout. And may each season, and every day, be one of new joy and revelation. Sit back, relax and enjoy. I am learning again that I was never in control to begin with. God give me the courage to enjoy the ride.