Friday, May 30, 2008

Setting Sail on the High Inland Seas

We are on our way to Rochester for the consecration of the new bishop - Prince. I am really looking forward to it, as he is a wonderful, faithful man. I will also have some challenges -being part of a group of bishops after so long of a removal -with no end in sight. The seas feel rough and the wind is picking up.

Some days require no travel, no challenge, no mystery. Today all will come in to play and possibly more. The only thing I know is to face into the wind, keep a firm grasp on the tiller and pray hard. God will have to do the rest.

Some days I crave a simple road, a simple place, a simple life. But God has called me and I have tried to be faithful. It is hard some days to be faithful when the church seems bent on rejection and marginalization. This journey will have glorious, exhilarating moments, but it is not without great dangers. Even a skilled navigator could be surprised by what I am wading into. So, today, I will pray whenever the breeze picks up in my heart. When the waves below start rolling, I will sing. That is all I know to do. If you are on rough seas today, remember that we are never alone. God is in the midst of us hearing our prayers and smiling with our songs.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weeds Among the Wheat

"Then the weeds appeared as well." Matthew 13:26

My husband and I spent part of Sunday afternoon turning over a garden for my mother. She is very clear that, at 85, she still wants to do the planting herself, but she needs help with the garden preparation. It was a warm, pleasant afternoon and we took turns digging up the accumulated weeds and raking the soil clean. I was amazed at the amount of spores, seeds, vines and other methods that weeds have to get in the midst of a well cared for garden. They were out there, well ahead of everything, staking their territory by any means possible. Weeds are the hardiest plants in the kingdom.

After Sunday, it makes even more sense to me that Jesus told the story about the weeds among the wheat. An enemy plants the weeds and they thrive, and the caretakers want to rip all the weeds out. But there are tender, food bearing plants that would be destroyed, if the weeds were attacked at the wrong time. Growth and possibility would be broken and stunted forever. In the best of lives, with the best intentions, bad stuff happens and takes root next to all the good, threatening to overshadow the good. But in our haste to right wrongs, we can do permanent damage and destroy that which can feed a throng.

So God's world is concerned at all times with the weakest among us who have the capacity to grow into gifts for the world. We can, in our urgency to clear the problems, destroy the best part of our communities and lives. God lives in the gray areas, asking us to give it time and to trust the Creator to complete creation. We always want to fix what we can't see in completion. God, who sees each of us completely, knows the timing of our growing and our yield.

For today, I want to be patient and gentle with myself and others, resisting the urge to rip out the weeds in my life. I want to practice tenderness and watchfulness today, as there is so much to learn from the created world. Growth happens, despite my own restrictions and the weeds that are attempting to choke me. Today, I want to trust God to care for me, as a gentle farmer, knowing that the fruitfulness and yield will come in God's time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

One Bright Morning

Yesterday was an oppressively warm day, with violent storms and equally violent sun. Everything was intense about yesterday. On days like that I have a hard time feeling productive and positive. This morning, the day broke cool and bright, with a muted light, a muted reality and I could gently fold myself into the day. Today, I expect I will be able to accomplish something.

Each of us has days and situations that are impossible. Like yesterday, there was too much storm and drama to feel positive and productive. When my children were small, we loved a book in which a little boy has a bad day and frequently says, "I think I'll move to Australia." Getting away, flying away from it all, is often what we fantasize about when we have conflict and relationships that are seemingly impossible. And yet, wherever we go, we take us with us, troubles and challenges and the whole of who we are. The last line in that book says, "some days are like that, even in Australia".

The good news for me is that we take God with us too. Whenever our frustration mounts and the desire to flee rises up I am reminded that I can talk to God right where I am. And if I flee, God goes with me too. I love that hymn which goes, "One bright morning, when my life is over, I'll fly away." But it also reminds me that when I finally get the kind of day or life or situation I want, it probably means everything is resolved and my time on earth is over. Ever day is a challenge and every day is an opportunity to do what small thing we can do. God doesn't expect miracles from us, God expects to be relied on by us for the miracles. And when the bad days pile up, that's probably when we can call on God for the biggest miracle of all - joy in the midst of struggle.

May today be one bright morning for you, full of possibility and progress. And if it's not, maybe today is the day to call on God and expect a big miracle.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pray for Everyone

When I am at my mother's house, I often sleep in the front bedroom which faces east and is flooded with light early in the morning. It is flooded with light at night too, if only for a brief second at a time. The lighthouse shines its beam directly in the window regularly and rhythmically as it performs its duty around the clock. Visitors, who stay in that room, will often wonder if someone has been outside with a flashlight at night. The lighthouse functions in bad weather and good, shining for those lost at sea, for those safely on the ground, and for everyone to navigate by and return safely to shore. With the coming of technology that has made the lighthouse less efficient a tool, I am reminded that faithfulness counts for so much more than efficiency.

In 1Timothy, Paul writes "I urge that with supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high places, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity." Like the lighthouse, we are called to pray for everyone, no matter whether we like them, agree with them, or if they intent to do us harm. Our peace comes from praying that everyone returns safely to shore. Our joy comes from being a faithful beacon of God's love, shining for everyone, in every season without rejecting some, and focusing on others. Like that lighthouse, we do our best in constancy, not necessarily in efficiency. God calls us to be beacons of hope in dangerous and peaceful times.

Our church and country and in the midst of troubled seas. Politics calls all of us to take sides, to chose - to be right or wrong. And politics are not bad in themselves. But, if they keep us from praying for strangers and enemies,as well as friends -our own peace could be lost. If we focus on efficiency and not on love, our joy may be stunted. My prayer for today is that I can pray for everyone, praying for a life of peace for us all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

So Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

Yesterday, I went to church at St. Peter's in Cape May Point with my husband, mother and youngest daughter. It was a beautiful, early summer day, mild and cool and the place was full of old friends and visitors. The Gospel for the day was from Matthew 6. "Consider the lilies of the field." The challenge from Jesus is to not worry, in spite of the anxiety that seems to be at the core of our humanity. At the end of the service, surrounded by loved ones and friends, I felt buoyed up over my future and assured that I did not have to worry. Everything was in God's hands.

After Church we went to the cemetery to put flags on the graves of my Dad, my Uncle Dawson and my Grandfather WalkingStick. It was such a beautiful day, I stopped before we left to take some pictures. My new camera, a wonderful gift from my husband at Christmas, decided to stop working and actually break entirely -so that I cannot use it at all. Less than a hour after that wonderful reminder to not worry about things - clothing, food, possessions, job - I was upset and undone about a possession. Now. to be fair, this camera is something that I consider a part of my art and expression, and carry it with me constantly. But, it is still a possession, and I was very upset. In my life it seems, as soon as I learn a lesson, or take God's word to heart, something happens that threatens to undo my commitment and faith. After stewing for a little while, I looked around, and saw my wonderful, vibrant mother, my beautiful, feisty daughter and my incredibly loving husband, and the incredible day - and heard Jesus' words again. "Consider the lilies of the field...are you not of more value than they?"

We all have challenges that make us worry and stew. Life is often terribly unsettling. When finances and future on the line, it is hard not to worry. I am here to remind myself and all of us that God is actively caring for us, clothing and feeding us, fixing our broken parts, mended our hearts -even when we can't see it, don't believe it, and feel to close to the edge to even try. God is inviting each of us, me included, to take a breath and let go. Let go to the one who clothes the lilies and feeds us all. May we all breath in so that we might receive abundantly the blessings of God.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

"For those in peril on the sea"
On this Memorial Day weekend, I think of all the people who have put their lives on the line for others. I am the daughter and granddaughter of veterans. My Dad was a Navy Chaplain and my Gramps served in the British Army since the US military wanted only a handful of Indian men. Today other people's children, parents and loved ones are in harm's way for the rest of us. Sometimes the conflicts are justified, sometimes not - and yet having life on the line still is the same.

As we travel and celebrate, I am reminded of the serious consequences of a few leaders selfishness, greed, unchecked desire, overzealous religious fervor or the need for retaliation. In this most recent conflict we have lost over 4000 troops and the number still is climbing. They are lives that can never be retrieved. I am also reminded of how politics doesn't solve anything, and lives get put in the balance for ideas and control.

My prayer as I travel this holiday is that I can remember the serious and tremendous gift that others -both immediate family and total strangers - have given me. They have offered their lives. Christ offered his life for the world. For Christ's eternal gift and for theirs, I am eternally grateful. And I pray for those who are still at risk, in sea, sky, and desert -amidst conflict not of their making. They want to be home with their families, like all of us. May God give us the grace to end conflict and live from here on out with a humble heart.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Safe Am I

All yesterday I had an old hymn running around in my head. "Safe am I, safe am I, in the hollow of his hand. Sheltered ore, sheltered ore, with his love forever more." I remembered it as someone's favorite hymn, but I couldn't recall who it was or when I learned it. I traveled to my mother's house yesterday evening, and I asked her about it. We began singing it together. She did not at first remember, but then we pieced it together. I must have been three or four when I learned it and it was Mrs. Rutherford's favorite. She was our next door neighbor and Sunday School teacher. She's been gone for years now. I don't know why it came to me yesterday.

Today I sat with my second oldest daughter while her boyfriend had surgery. All went well, and he's now home recovering but they were both very anxious and worried. They had never been through anything like that together before. "Safe am I" kept going through my head today, as I tried to remember singing this song so many years ago. Last night I dug through old hymnals and music books at my Mom's. We never found it in a hymnal, but did find the simple orchestrations that my siblings must have played. A long thread of memory brought forth through to a present moment, and for what?

God has a peculiar way of reminding us of the promise of fidelity and constancy. Something in my being, something in my constitution wants me to remember right now that God's love has been evident in my life for a long time. And people who loved me taught me well. I might not always be strong in faith at every moment, but the faith that was planted in me has deep, deep roots and is held up by ancient psalms and promises. God's abiding love. God's faithfulness in the smallest of people and the smallest of times (as well as in the most momentous).

Tonight, as I am finally home from my travels for today, I am reminded that each of us can ignite or extinguish the light we have been given. May God give us all the strength to reach deep down to the strong, loving roots that we have been grounded in, and share that light and love with the world. We are all called to remember the old songs, and sing them in new times, for there are many who have never heard them and many more who need some constancy and shoring up right now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Contemplating the Shire

Several years ago, when things were very challenging in my ministry, I used to refer to going to a particular meeting as "going down to Mordor". There was always an ominous, tense feeling in the approach, and the background theme music in my life seemed to darken immediately. Yesterday someone wondered out loud whether I wasn't trying to "return to the Shire". I have never thought about myself as a hobbit, or really one who gets wrapped up in fantasy and literary imagery. But I am contemplating the Shire - that place where life and love happens, where tender people have full lives and where the truth can be written down in its time.

I stand in a unique place and time in the history of the Anglican Communion. As the only Indigenous female bishop throughout the Communion, and among the first women to be elected bishop, I also have a unique perspective on the Church. It has not been a very welcoming place, and there have been a number of battles that have been waged against my kind of folks. We have tread where we don't belong, some people think, either silently or out loud. I have gone to Mordor way too often on behalf of Christ whom I serve. Sometimes the best place to go is to the Shire, so that the stories can be shared and the truth told. So that lives can be restored and relationships healed and bodies mended. And new dreams and visions can occur.

I invite us all to consider where God is calling us today. To our battle stations, or to the place of healing and transformation? To the place of conflict or the place of growth? I know that God is calling me to tend my garden and to grow new fruit for the reign of God. That requires a place of water, light and tender care. Battles destroy gardens, tear up tender plants and mash down all life. I want to be an agent for the restoration that God has in store for each of us and our Communion. God grant us all the strength today to be tender gardeners in God's fields.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Forest of Confusion

I had dinner with someone last night who asked me what I was doing and I stuttered and presented a tangled mess of things and ideas. Our conversation continued and I was able to be clearer about the past and present. Coming home on the train, I thought about the several kinds of places I find the most peaceful. They happen to tangled and twisted places.

When I was a child we have a favorite hide out in the dunes on the beach. The bushes and brambles had grown up so that we had a natural club house. The sun was filtered, the noise (and our parents calling us) was muted, and we could talk and laugh and dream to our hearts' content.

This picture is from a dense, low forest in Ireland on the grounds of Lady Gregory's estate. I was immediately quieted there, and immediately wanted to whisper and sit quietly as I did as a child. I like thickets and enclosed spaces that have twists and turns and which let in light. I think that was what I was trying to describe last night. Life in the ticket, which is not terribly clear to anyone on the outside but which is lively and creative, hidden in plain sight.

I believe God's work is often like the thicket. Activity hidden in plain sight. God's work is rarely a star showboating or winning athlete, but is a quiet, creative labor, a labor of drawing in, gently repairing, gently listening, gently healing until time comes full circle and it is time to move on. I often wish for more dramatic moments of God's activity when I am feeling frustrated. And dramatic moments have surely happened in my life. But the daily activity, the reconciling and healing seem to go on quietly, gently and in good time.

May today be a day seeing into the ticket. Seeing into the twisted, obscured placed, realizing God is working there. God is working hidden in plain sight for no less than the reconciliation of the whole world. May I have courage to believe in what I cannot see of feel, knowing God is most active in the still of the night, in the whispers on the wind, in the thicket and brambles of our lives.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Full Moon Over Manhattan

One of the wonderful things about living where we do is that we can have spectacular views of New York City. On a clear night you can see the skyline from our corner. Last night, a full moon hung over the city. As we got out of the car, returning from dinner, my husband pointed it out and went and got my camera. How easy it is to fall head over heels with something in the distance, so beautiful and so iconic. I thought of the song we used to sing to our girls when they were young. "I will draw a ring around the moon, I will draw a line from star to star, I will sing a pennies worth of songs to tell them how in love we are." Love is an easy thing to sing about but a much more complicated thing to demonstrate and live out.

Yesterday, I was supposed to have a test but when I showed up there was more paperwork I was supposed to have brought with me and so everything is postponed. I was very frustrated and hungry when I left the hospital. It is easier to think about demonstrating love when things are picture perfect. Yesterday, nothing but the moonlight seemed picture perfect. Meanwhile the cough seems to be subsiding, and yesterday I kept wondering about God's love and my life and what is being demonstrated in these days. My answer came in the moonlight. I could have ignored that moment, I could have missed it. Mark pointed it out to me. We stood in the street taking pictures. Pictures that cannot capture the beauty of the moment. And for me, that is love demonstrated. Seeing beauty at the end of a frustrating day. Stopping to sing about silly things we used to do. Being present and tender when the world turns a cold shoulder. Listening for the heart and not the words alone.

May I have the strength from God today to see beauty even amidst frustration. May I sing, even when it seems silly. May I reach out and be present, even when there is a storm of anger. May I bring warmth when cold cruelty has set in. May I listen with a mother's heart. May I have the strength to do these things, not because I want to be a saint or a martyr, but because God first provided them for me. Others were my breath when my breath was gone. May today, I simply return the favor to another as a demonstration of my love for God. God, who despite my own hurt and disbelief, continues to pour on the beauty, pouring on the love.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Testing 1, 2, 3

These past days and months have seemed like times of constant testing. My mother promises that when a faithful person feels most tested -when everything seems a challenge and people who should be friends act like enemies -God is drawing very close to a person and the devil is working over time. I don't know for sure but I do know the past year has felt like a constant test of my faith, my patience, my body and my resilience. I had read the psalms for strength and prayed with an open heart.

Today I have to have a CT scan for a mystery illness that has plagued me for months. I have been coughing and have lost my voice repeatedly. All of the medications they have tried had done little or nothing. And so today, what I can write is not a story but a poem, a psalm, a song of praying to the Lord to be rescued and delivered.

A Psalm of Testing

I am reaching up in darkening skies
reaching to you with bent limbs reaching
to you with my rough voice and my twisted trunk reaching
to you who brings light to the world.

I am carved with the initials of the world, I reach
down to wipe away scars but dust blows in every crevice reaching
inside bringing muddy stains of fear and failure reaching
my limit, my capacity to bend with the gales and reach again.

I am fruitless and without leaves reaching
beyond this season to your summer, your warmth reaching
to my roots and soul, warm water nourishing and providing leaves
and branches, blossoms and fruit, shade for all who reach
this place of cover and embrace.

I am one in a forest and you, are designer and refiner reaching
around us to reshape us like wet clay on a wheel spinning
and grounded, healing the cracks and bubbles that hasty movement
and anxious rattled hands have scarred reaching
a place where I need to be remade completely, centered again,
pressed down again, until I am able to reach up again cradled in your hands.

I am your child, your creation, O God and reaching
to you like David and others before me I ask to be guarded as the apple
of your eye and hidden in the shadow of your wings until I reach
that moment, that time when my testing is done and my flourishing
begins again in you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Signs and Wonders

Last night I heard a wonderful sermon preached about Jacob,
wrestling, in the middle of a sleepless night, with a stranger. A stranger that he later understands to be God. Janet Broderick preached this sermon during a U2charist at Grace Van Vorst in Jersey City. She reminded us that Jacob had a limp from that day forward and that we, like Jacob are to do our ministry, our daily walks in life with our brokenness available, our humanity unhidden and as a witness. A witness to God's touch in our lives, our witness to the reality that God doesn't call perfect people but broken ones, and as a witness that we are not God, but that God touches everyone.

I am one of those people that are only too aware of my own shortcomings. I have always been awkward, not graceful. I have always been messy, not presentable. And I have always been chubby and round, not skinny and fashionable. It took me years to accept who I was, and how I was made. And to find God's love for me in the midst of my own awkwardness. It took longer to accept the fact that God would call someone like me to be a priest and then a bishop. I didn't fit any standard, whether race, size or gender. And so I too have wrestled with God.

Jacob feared his brother whom he had cheated. He had a right to be afraid, he was a thief and a cheat. When Jacob met his brother, Esau was kind and forgiving and Jacob said -"for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God -since you have received me with such favor." Jacob had gotten a new name in his long night of wrestling, but also a new understanding of God. Jacob knew that seeing the face of God was to be received with such abundant favor, not rejection. And his brother's welcome brought to his heart again the face of God - abundant welcome and favor.

May we today have grace to walk with our limps, with our true brokenness showing, knowing that God receives us with true abundant welcome and favor. Whatever we are wrestling with, whatever we are anxious about, whatever mistakes we have to face up to, whatever horrible things we have done to our family - whatever- God receives us with favor, not rejection. And if we can be assured of this than we can return the favor by sharing it with others. God's face is radiant with acceptance, forgiveness and welcome. May we have strength today, to accept that we are looked on by God as beautiful welcome children, and share that with our very needy neighbors, family and friends.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Brooding over the Water

I am always astonished how the physical world can remind me of where we are in the church year. Maybe, it's me looking for the connection. Maybe, the preacher is always on the look out for an illustration. Whatever the cause, the connections seem to be there for me.

Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday, that day when we celebrate the wonder and mystery of God as three-in-one. Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the living family of God, all one and yet manifest in three clear and separate understandings and manifestations. Not a multiple personality disorder, but the reality of God experienced by humans- in the flesh and beyond the flesh, in time and beyond time. The creator of time, space, being and nothingness.

Whenever I ponder the mystery of the Trinity and creation, I am reminded of the many sunrises I have witnessed over water - over the ocean, mostly the dark, brooding, cold Atlantic. It always reminds me of Genesis 1 -"and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light.'" Every day, the brooding of God, breathing over creation and there is day and night- a separation between morning and evening. God's three persons, then, becomes for me a clear representation of the complex and multi-faceted way that God reaches out to each of us and to the whole of creation. God, dividing day from night, flesh from spirit, time from the infinite, also reconnects the relatedness of creation through three persons in one. At any given time we are unable to take God in completely, but God comes to us, completely, in parent, child, and spirit. We are the object of God's simplicity and complexity. We are the goal of God's three -so that we can be one with God.

May our brooding over the coming days, be connected with God's brooding over us - reaching out to us in three loving, complete persons who want for all creation to be connected and fulfilled together. May we find us all today, in relationship with God through whichever way we can receive God's love. The Triune God, reaching out to us, wants most of all to reconcile to God and to one another.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Let It Rain

I have spent most of the day walking the streets of New York City after a meeting with my editor. The sky had been dark and sending drizzle but now it is serious - it's pouring. I walked the streets from my meeting to the train station, watching people and wondering about what God is calling me to be. I walked and wondered as I watched other people running with umbrellas, sure of where they were going and who they are. And there I was, looking around, taking it all in, and wondering what God is calling me to be and do. I am a wife, mother, bishop - a daughter, a Cherokee and a writer. A published writer. And presently unemployed - which is part of the cause I my wonder.

I don't have any forthright answers. All I know today is that it's raining, and maybe that's enough. Today I was able to walk, to take in the sights and sounds and had enough to get home, safe and sound. Maybe that's enough. Maybe God is calling me to be satisfied with the limited visibility of the present. Let it rain. Let the water soak in deep, let it flood over all of the dry and desperate land until it yields new soil with abundant fruit. I've never been good at watching and waiting. But today, as the rain spills down in rivulets, may I recognize that God is watering me too in the process. That God is planning on a yield and a crop I can not yet see, and a journey is being set forth on a road that is still submerged.

May all of us, who are wondering, watching and waiting - be comforted by the rain - or at least, let it rain. May we let it soak in that we are surrounded by the ocean of God's abundant promise, the deep waters of God's love, and the warm spring downpour that will bring new harvests in new lands.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Second that Emotion

Today is our 33rd wedding anniversary. In 1975, we were kids, 19 and 23, feeling grown and certain about life. We fit into no mold, were both exceptionally creative and complex. None of our friends were getting married in those days. We got married on a Thursday in the late morning at Relay Chapel in Maryland. My Dad and Father Frank presided at the wedding. Jimmy Owens sang, "I second that Emotion", acapella and Jerry and Peg Cohee played guitar and recorder for our procession and recession. Our friend Craig came in a tie and overalls and someone's dog wandered in during the ceremony. Mark's brother Phil read John Donne. Our daughters, looking at the pictures call it "their hippie wedding."

In all the years since, and all the challenges we have had, one thing I know for certain - that was the single best thing I ever, ever did. Nothing has ever made me doubt that. In fact, as the years have gone by, I wonder how I could have been so smart about him when I was so dumb about so much else. Mark and I married 11 months after we met. I think both of us knew very quickly that we belonged together, that we loved each other and that we were just silly, quirky and creative enough together, to face the coming days with some grace. How did we know? And where does that grace come from?

I think the simple answer is that both of those are gifts from God. Like all gifts they can be opened and used, celebrated and cherished or tucked away. I guess I was so grateful for Mark that I never wanted to tuck anything away. I knew how incomplete I was without him. I cherish every minute we have had, and look with great hope for our years to come.

Marriage is a mystery after all these years. God has blessed us with three incredible daughters and incredible memories. We may not be wealthy but we are abundantly rich in blessings - friends, family, love and laughter. Our relationship is a gift, a mystery, a sign and symbol of God's presence and blessing with us. Never to be taken for granted, always to be cherished. When the days have been dark, he's been there for me. When illness struck, we held each other close.

May God bless our coming days and help us to be a witness to God's love in our lives. From foolish young adults to gratefully foolish middle aged people, God has made a way for us, blessing us with laughter and forgiveness. May God enfold each of us today, with that mysterious constancy of love - which is so undeserved and so necessary for our lives.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Strawberries Wars

When I was a little girl, early in the summer, my Nanny and I would have this early morning ritual. I was up early with the sun, being very small, and would go out creeping through the garden looking for newly ripe strawberries. I was always hoping to gobble them up before anyone caught me. As soon as I would gather up my red, glistening loot, Nanny (my mother's mother) would lean out of her second floor apartment window and call my name in her lilting voice. "Bring them up here at once," she would say, "and I will pour on the cream and sugar." Although I always secretly wanted to keep my collected berries and gobbled them down unwashed - the thoughts of the additional heavy cream and sugar - would have me scrambling up her stairs. She got what she needed - some young person to gather the crops my Grandfather had planted - and I got what I wanted - more sugar and cream. It was our daily, early morning ritual and we acted it out faithfully.

Now, I would like to suggest that each of us could have kept what we had for ourselves. She could have used her authority as my grandmother, rightly punished me for taking the strawberries without permission, and kept them for her enjoyment alone. Or, I could have been the willful child that I was and stuff them all in my mouth at once, letting juice run down my face, savoring the spoils of victory. Instead we both agreed to a dramatic, symbolic competition which resulted in a joyous celebration for us both. Every morning she watched as I picked, waiting to call my name at just the right moment. And I, picked and gathered the dewy berries, anticipating the delight of cold cream and sweet, sweet sugar.

Much of life calls us into competition over commodities and prizes. Whether the best jobs, the best parking spot, the bragging rights or the White House -we are all inclined to compete and keep the spoils for ourselves and use our authority to take away what others have labored for. I would like to believe that the kingdom of God is more like my Nanny and me than the competitive world we live in. I would like to believe that God is hoping that we will find in one another a way to compromise for the betterment of all. I truly think that God's desire is for those who pick the fruit to be fed by those who oversee the labor.

The Church has become, in recent days, a political battleground for supremacy of theology, political correctness, and right actions. Although we claim, as Episcopalians, to be liturgical people, embedded in the living drama of the Eucharist, we fail regularly to find the a way to live in the dramatic tension which, in relationship and sharing with others, leads to a joyous celebration for all. If each of us holds on to a hope for single victory, either as an individual or a cause, we take away the sweet shared meal that God has prepared. I don't think we can come to the table alone and victorious. The meal was set forth in radical compromise and the loss of life. So too, should we be willing to share the spoils, the gathered fruits, the unearned grace, the sweet cream of others' labors, so that God's love might be made real and tangible. We can all enjoy the drama of competition, but God asks us to know that the competition is a game with no winners. We are victors only in our willingness to share, our ability to offer the gifts we have, the joy of relationships across the ages - these are where God's love and true victory is known.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Some days there are clear cut tasks and some seasons demand a specific job with a specific goal. This Tuesday is not like that. I have time to ponder. I have time to wonder and to dream - to make the bed, fold laundry and to let my thoughts fly. There is nothing specific in my head today, but everything is there, like rested children waiting for a school bell. I know when I open my mind and heart to the dreams and hopes, they will come teaming in along with all the others lost ideas, with their scrapes and bruises heading straight to the nurses office.

Today is a day for letting all the kids - the ideas, hopes, dreams and possibilities have a play day. A day for losing control and letting out. The rain is over and the sky has cleared and everyone needs recess, including thoughts and dreams. Even possibilities need light and air. We all need space to breath.

So may to day be a day of setting the dreams free to play in the back yard and in the park. A day for possibilities to fly kites, to do experiments -without committing to any major decisions. God is Creator, one who broods over water and wind, engaging senses and space to express something more than the mere pieces -light and sound, motion and color. God is doing a new thing in all of us and I feel encouraged today to let the pondering and the playing begin. For these activities are prayer - the conversation with God. They are the dance of love with the Almighty who created every fabric of my being and the world around me. They are the holy work of people who are known and loved by God.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Teach Your Parents Well

My daughters have learned a great from me, both by word and example. They can imitate me better than any one on earth, and can tease me mercilessly because they know me so well. And, they have taught me much more than they can ever imagine. I had four degrees but they have been my most effective and knowledgeable teachers - they know and love me and want to encourage my capacity more than anyone in the world. Some times for parents, me included, it is hard to accept our children's teaching. And yet, their lessons, so intimate and loving, are the lessons we most need. The hardest question I have to answer from my daughters is this - Why do you put up with that? I have taught them well that no one and no institution has the right to treat them like less than a full participant, but I often fail to challenge the church and others in the face of blatant discrimination and exclusion. I have worked for so long to bring inclusion to so many that I sometimes overlook it when it happens to me. And I think it is hard to be one's own best advocate.

But I have taken in the lesson of my daughters. I may not be able to answer their question fully today, but I do understand where they are pointing me. They are directing me to be clear and vocal in the face of careless exclusion. They are teaching me to raise my voice when it might be easier to be silent and compliant. They are teaching me to be the fierce and honest woman I have taught them to be. So, I hope that people will be patient with me as I grow into these new learnings. My daughters have taught me that if I accept misbehavior towards me then I am accepting bad behavior for many others too. If I truly want to empower others, I have to be my own best advocate. The Church and other institutions (and individuals) might not like to hear it, but it's true. We all need to face our corrupt power, our racism, and our willingness to ignore the marginalized. A few in the Church have tried to marginalize me because I don't fit a particular mold, theology or political ideology. They want me different or off to the side. But I am here, smack dab in the middle of the church I love and I am not going anywhere. I will "take my place in the councils of the church" because not doing so would be dishonoring my vows as a bishop.

I do not know yet where their lessons will lead me. I do not know what actions I will take. I know I will keep praying for God's guidance. I know I will keep believing that God is active in my life, that the Holy Spirit is stirring up a new mission, and that Jesus will not leave me but will lead me to the next place. May we all take courage in knowing that the people who love us want desperately for us to thrive. And may we know that God's constancy and activity is for our thriving. May we learn the lessons of our children and know that God is actively seeking our full inclusion, our full voice, our dreams fulfilled.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Heart of God

Life and breath - my mother gave me those things and I am forever grateful. But those normal biological gifts pale in comparison to her faith, her constancy, her laughter, her insight and patience. How can we measure the true gifts we have been given by our mothers? For me, and for many other people, I know that my mother is the one person who loves me exactly how I am, even when she has been hoping and praying I would grow out of something or get beyond some other fad or relationship. My mother is the one person who sees beauty hidden underneath the dirt and grime, the tears and anger expressed. My mother is the the one person who can still touch my hand and change my heart. What a gift to have some one love us so much, with so much forgiveness and insight. How blessed I am that I still have my mother here on earth, and I can talk with her and she can give me counsel and pray for me. I am really fortunate.

Today is Pentecost, the day when the Church was born - by the power of the Holy Spirit the fledging church leaders, the followers of Jesus - moved from followers to empowered leaders who could speak directly to the people. God, through the Holy Spirit gave them strength and insight to do miraculous things, despite their human limitations. God the Holy Spirit, mothered a fledging church to a point where they could take steps out into the world with a strength, power and beauty they did not possess before. The Church was birthed, as we are birthed, through pain and patient waiting, and then was present with a loud rush, lungs full and the power of breath and life. We are truly fortunate and blessed that the birthing of churches and missions (as well as individuals) is an ongoing process and an act of God's fiercest love for each of us. The love of parent to child. The love that gives life and breath and constant encouragement. The love that sees beyond the grime and muck to the real person, the real potential, the living beautiful proclamation of God's continuing presence in the world.

May this day, I be full of gratitude. For my mother, and for her willingness to constantly encourage a feisty, creative child. For my mother's love that reveals the heart of God. And for my daughters, without whom I would not understand the heart of love, the heart of God, or the great gift that is my mother and them - and the great gift of my loving husband and partner, who helped me understand deeply a love that bears no grudge, but prays constantly for life, breath and grace. May we all, mothers and daughter, fathers, children, husbands and friends, be reminded today of God's love breaking through all the barriers and hidden places bringing life and strength and breath and voice to us all.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Collecting Youth

I am on my way to college to bring our youngest back home for the summer. There is nothing more wonderful than a house filled with the sounds of family and a washing machine going non-stop. I have been a Mom with kids at home so long that I am still a little bit at sea when there is no a child home with me. Times change and children grow and our home takes on new sounds and new pervasive quiet. And I want to shake that up and collect youth so that the walls reverberate with life.

For today, I take on the challenges of this journey, knowing that life will be different after today and not like it was in the past either. Each collecting time is a time of recognized change. She has grown and changed and so have we. The familiar will be a little awkward, the comfortable will be tested. And we will all be learners and testers in this process. For today, I am going to enjoy completely collecting my child and all her belongings. She will bring new stories and new dreams and hopefully I will have some to share of my own.

May we, who live in families, no matter how grown or spread apart, remember that we are known in the relationships we foster and renew. We are at our best when we change and grow together and God is known in the midst of our two or three gathered together. For all of us on a journey this day - safe travels, and safe home.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A View From the Back of the Ferry

It's raining today. I often think about all the rainy, rocky trips I have taken across the Delaware Bay, riding the ferry, either going or leaving home. On a beautiful day during the summer, tourists will oooh and ahhh - but for those of us who use it as transportation, for commuting and the like, it is no more or less an indication of our state of being.

It's raining today and the back of the ferry is loud with the churning motors and the insistent seagulls. They hope the churning turns up a meal or two. They have nothing of their own, just what they can scavenge while others are coming and going. I am not on the ferry right now, but I feel like I am today. Being carried from one side to the other, not sure if I am leaving or coming home, not sure which shore is safe anymore. There are ruins from my past on both shores. The Church is no longer a safe harbor. I am setting out on a journey and I do not know if I am coming or going. Only Gods know.

What I do know is that it's raining today. A good day to stay indoors and let the rain run down the window panes while I sort through the mess on my desk. As I wade through the clutter and find my way to the next steps, I will keep in mind those noisy gulls. They have nothing but what is churned up and left behind. I am responsible for what I leave behind. In this time of moving on out of my comfort zone, to a new adventure I don't know where, I am reminded to go carefully. There are others following behind. They need what is churned up, they need direction too. I will keep looking out over the stern, not to see where I have been but to stay connected with my fellow travelers, those who are journeying too, and hoping for God's blessing - hoping for even enough to get through the day.

So, it's raining today. God is watering, growing us, hiding us in the shadow of his wings for a season, for a time. As we watch the water behind us, may we take shelter in the knowledge of the one who provides the water, and the nourishment, and the way forward. I do not know where God is leading me. I only know that it is raining today, and that this rain will water deep roots. Deep roots that will be the sturdy base, the support, the summers food and strength. From the back of the ferry, on this new journey, may we remember that when the boat docks, she will turn around, and those who were last will be first, and the stern will be the bow, and a new day is dawning.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Come Back Tomorrow

Some days, when the world is in full bloom spring, and the light and breeze are magnificent, it is easy to be hopeful and cheerful. Most days I can find ways to celebrate what and who God has given me. Some days, like today, it can be much harder. Last night I got a call informing me that something I was hoping for had not come through for me. Despite the reasonableness of everyone involved, it felt like rejection. And this morning it still does. Some days it is harder to go on than others - whatever we are facing - certainty or uncertainty.

One thing I know for sure is that God does not reject us -nor is there a requirement to be some one else or dress some other way. God's constant love does not restrict, rather, it constantly expands to include the complex and strange, the quirky and unique, along with those who are fashion disasters. God's love is for those of us who can't see our way forward today, as well as for those who have a plan for everything, and think they are in complete control. God's love is present when we feel good about today, and when we don't. God's love is real even when we can't even imagine a positive future after many frustrating days.

Today, I invite us all to remember that in the face of rejection, our God loves each and every creation - including each of us. God loves us more completely than any good parent, any great artist. God, the creator of the expanding universe also has expansive love for us when our lives implode. Today, all I may be able to do is find a hand to hold and listen to an old favorite song. But in those simple things, God's love is broadcast through me and through the world. In holding tight in the midst of hard times, I know that God's love is active too. Active on behalf of you and me and of all creation. There are no rejects or failures in God's creation, and hold on, for the seasons are turning and God is working just around the bend.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Platform Colors

I drop my husband off every weekday morning at the train so that he can ride to work. Many, many others do the same, and there are many people gathered on the platform waiting for the train to arrive. At certain times there are hundreds of people lined up. During the winter, particularly on the bleaker days, they seemed like crows hovering on a branch, all dressed in black, their somberness and the weather's dreariness united. On any given morning, it could seem like the opening of a horror movie, with ominous music playing in the background.

A funny thing happens as the weather changes. People change too. There is very little black, but the entire commuter crowd is alive with colors. Their bleak body language may not
have changed, nor their half-wakefulness, nor their routine resenting of the commute, but they are no longer dark clarion crows waiting for a meal, but rather, petals of hope dotting the platform. They have changed their colors, if not their hearts.

Today, I am reminded that hope lies in the activity of hope itself. As I am cheered by the exterior of people I do not know, my willingness to smile and believe in the goodness of others actually brings it to reality. The activity of belief, changing clothes for the seasons, in some ways, make the season possible, makes hope and faith possible. The acting in faith, make what we pray for possible.

Today, I want to act like it is spring, like all that I have been waiting for is coming true. I am going to change the colors of my platform, from somber to light and know that in the act of believing, God is breaking forth with color and promise. I pray that we can all know God's color and promise breaking forth in our lives today. Today, may we delight in the the colors of the season, knowing God is doing a new thing in us, and in our world.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What did I miss?

Our front lawn and sidewalk are covered with pink petals. Lively white blossoms were in evidence all over my mother's town -signs that there will be plenty of beach plums for harvesting come late summer -there were things in bloom I had never noticed before. I have been thinking a great deal of late about how much I have missed in the past years in all my busyness. Did I just fail to notice? Am I that forgetful? Or is something else going on? Is there something within me that is reforming me, remaking me, asking me to see the world again, as for the first time? Is it possible that God can remake these aging eyes, this aging heart?

I have always considered myself an observant person. I have thought that I was paying close attention to the subtleties in people and in the world. But, in this season, God is teaching me that in this sabbatical time (albeit time not of my own choosing) there is so much for me to learn about the world and about myself - and in those lessons to learn whole new things about God. God is in the midst of the minuscule as well as the huge. God's love is for the insignificant as well as the significant. My oldest daughter Emily suggested yesterday that we can either be happy or have an important job. I think she is teaching me also, as God is teaching me in these days, that I can focus on self-importance or on gift. I can wallow in what should have been or rejoice in what is surrounding me. I can embrace the immediate and real beauty or I can sideline it, expecting something more glamorous.

For today, I want to focus on the immediate beauty and gifts that surround me. I want to celebrate that which I have had nothing to so with creating, but which is around me and is truly a gift from God. My family, for one. Their constancy and love make my days possible. The audacious beauty of creation in this season - the soft light and brilliant colors of spring. My friends and companions on the way. I am blessed with incredibly faithful, loving and humorous people who keep me smiling and encourage me to continue on. May we all be blessed with new eyes, new hearts and the ability to notice the overlooked or assumed beauty in our lives. May today,we see the gifts around us, and rejoice, be happy in the gifts God has given us - nothing is more important than that!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Walking a Fine Line

Today's gospel, the ascended Jesus, the awaiting direction, the praying family and friends gathered in the upper room - all of it looks back after the extraordinary events of Pentecost. Sometimes, looking back, it all makes sense. But rarely, looking forward, do the pieces we can see and know make sense. When we ask, what is God calling me to do? Or where is God calling me to go?, we often don't get a complete answer. Only later do all of the answers and pieces make sense. Most of us who strive faithfully to follow Jesus, find ourselves in these times of walking a fine line between insight and despair, of hope and expectation and sheer knuckle-whitening anxiety. The gospel writers tell their story from the distance of completion. But we, like them, have to live on that fine line, that tight rope, between going and not yet, between call and directions, between summons and instructions, between faith and power. They hint at the waiting, reminding us that Jesus told his disciples that they could do nothing until the power came - until the Pentecost moment. In between, they were to work at loving one another, loving the world they had been given, and gathering constantly to pray.

So, on this Sunday, as we anticipate a week of work and goals, let us remember that we can do nothing without God's power. When we walk this fine line, this liminal space between call and concrete direction, may we be given the strength to love one another fiercely, love the people we share our small planet with, and pray without ceasing. Some day, we will look back and describe for others the touch and leading of Christ in every step we took. Now, we step out in faith and love. We can thrust our arms wide for balance, we can use all of our professional gifts and strengths, and through it all, we will have to rely completely on God.

May we all have the courage to use what we have, knowing that God is the supplier of the direction, the way, and the completion. May we mass our energy into going it with others, loving the companions who are on the road with us, knowing that they might just be as clueless and afraid as we are at times - and - knowing that God will supply the road, the map, and the gentle rests on our journey.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Walk on the Beach

A walk on the beach became a gentle talk with God. The mild temperature yesterday allowed me to walk on the beach with our dog in tow. She's afraid of the waves but fascinated with every other bird and smell that flies by her. The ocean is both home and holy for me - helping me to take inventory, to wonder and pray. So, we walked and watched the surf and birds. The few fishermen were content to let their lines bounce in the waves. In the gentle morning light, I talked to God about the future and what I might do in the coming days.

I would love to say I got clear answers and specific direction. But, in fact, I got a sense of reassurance rising on the wind. A sense of God's support and activity and invitation to trust. To believe that all of the past days and all of the present are working together to clear a place for the future. I understood that I don't need all the answers, just a willingness to put one foot in front of the other - and to trust.

So here's to a day of trusting in God's spirit. God's spirit workinbg in individuals and in the world, bringing about positive change and clear direction. Today, I will put my hand in the hand of God. Knowing that my humanity is always ready to grasp it away, wanting to control and direct my own days. But, for today, I am going to try to let God take control and me take one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other, and let God be the director of the larger story.