Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost



"But when the Counselor comes, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit will guide you into all truth." John 16:13

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in power on the disciples as they were gathered in Jerusalem. They had been huddled together for many days, afraid of the authorities. They had not been able to do anything but gather and pray, and maybe a little bit of fishing. They were simple people who had lost their leader and friend, and whose grief was great. They remembered well what he had said, but they were still afraid and without a way forward. They continued to pray.

They continued to pray and the Holy Spirit came upon them first in a very public and bold ways, and then in more quiet subtle ways. The church began among frightened unsteady people who remembered to pray and believe. Love and power came in their midst because of what they did. we have God's love and power in our lives because of their faithfulness.

May we who might feel our faith is not enough, rejoice. May we who are anxious, frustrated or in pain, rejoice. May we who need a kind word and support be glad. For God's Holy Spirit is for the weak and the bold alike. God's comfort and reassurance is for all of us. God's undiminished power is working in every single one of us, through us, and through the unique gifts and circumstances we bring. So may this be a day of Joy, for the Spirit comes for the timid and the fearful alike, giving us the power to love and to be transformed even in the face of the greatest adversity.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Living for now




We are in the early stages of packing up for our move to Harrison in little less than four weeks. It is overwhelming, to figure out where things should go, what should be packed first and by whom, and worst of all what stays behind and how to get rid of it. They say that moving is one of the top ten stressors for individuals and relationships. It is very hard to pack up any household even in the best of times. This is a very positive and exciting move for us, and will all that, it still remains overwhelming. I find myself being more irritable about small things.

I also remember a story from my older sisters life. The house she was renting was slated to be demolished to make room for a highway. She was devastated as she had lived there for many years, both as a married person, then long after her divorce. She was really hard pressed and felt incredibly sad. Then she realized that she could take what she wanted, have a farewell party, and let what remained be bulldozed into the ground. She felt maybe the things of her past, the remnants of her failed marriage, all of it would be buried forever. She would never have to look things over and pack any of it again.


"Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall." Luke 11:17


I am reminded today that even though the task of packing and moving is overwhelming, the point of this is to strengthen our lives together and strengthen the community that has called us. We can take this task on as if it is a division, or we can take it on as a way to learn the path of a new life. A new community. We can use this time to build our relationships or tear them apart. I ask God to give me the strength in this stressful time to do the work of building up and deepening relationship instead of dividing and conquering. The stress of this time is a gift to be vulnerable and completely reliant on God and one another. I pray that we can be a house undivided. That we can stand back, still and confident in the love of God working in our lives.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sisters



I have (or I should say had) three sisters. My sister Pegi died in 1990 from cancer - a cancer which began as cervical cancer. My oldest sister (Sherry) is 17 years older than my youngest (Betsy). I think of how different we all are, and yet we also share many common characteristics. All of my sisters have advanced degrees and have made a mark in their chosen fields. All of us have committed ourselves to the support and empowerment of Native people. When Pegi died, the school where she taught was out in full force for her funeral, and they offer a scholarship in her name. Two of us had children at relatively young ages, and two of us were more mature when our children arrived. Two are Marys and two are Marthas. Being one of the Marthas, I struggle with this passage more than most. If Mary had been in the kitchen helping her sister, well, they would have been ready before Jesus got there. And maybe, just maybe, if they had been ready, Martha could have relaxed along with Mary. She could have broken the taboos, like her sister, and sat with all the men. She might have opened her heart to the love of her Savior rather than fussing and worrying about what was not done. And maybe, just maybe,Martha got too caught up in the tasks, and didn't recognize the world shattering, barrier breaking, life transforming invitation that was coming from Jesus - to let go of women's work and sit with the men to receive the living word of God.


" Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’" Luke 10:38-42

It is often too easy for those of us who are hard wired as Marthas to let go of the details, and rest in the company of Jesus. He does not gauge our worthiness by how much work we do, or how much we accomplish. Jesus considers us all worthy. Worthy to sit in the places where women did not once belong. Jesus says we are worthy to take our place in church leadership and governance, despite the culture and context, and regardless of our race, gender or orientation. Jesus just asks us to come in and be part of the living word of God, which is transforming, healing and grace. Jesus asks us all to put down our lists and take up our hearts, so that we might listen to the needs of others across the world. Jesus offers us love which spans all barriers and we would forget it, so that we can get our work done. Jesus asks us to sit and listen until we know and are able to do the work of God.

Today, as I dive into the packing process, I want to listen to Jesus. The tasks feel overwhelming. There is so much to do. And in this transition time, I want to focus on what Jesus would have me do and where he would send me. This Martha needs to learn to be more of a Mary in this season. May we all choose the better part, to listen and be loved by God.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Visitors


Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ " Luke 10:25-28


On Tuesday morning, my mother and I went out to plant flowers on my father's and her father's grave. We had fully intended to do this on Memorial Day, but it was very hot, and I thought we should wait for the cool of the early evening. The early evening brought rain and so we waited. The next morning was drizzling and gray but very cool, so we took our trowel and the plants and headed out. Knowing that the cemetery maintenance folks will probably mow these plants down at some time, we took only a few to plant close to the headstone.

My father is buried in the veteran's part of the cemetery (headstones like at Arlington) which was festooned with flags. My Gramps is buried at the edge of the church cemetery under a simple, almost flat, marker. We visited my Dad first, and were grateful that the rain had made the ground soft for our planting. Then we headed over to find my grandfather WalkingStick's grave. It is a little tricky because the stone is flat to the ground and hard to pick out from the road. But as we scanned the edge of the cemetery, we saw a big round, brown rabbit, Tsi-s-du, standing watch over the grave. There was no flag planted, although he was a vet. He served during World War I with the British Red Cross Service. Tsisdu (pronounced Jeesdu) waited until we had seen the headstone and were making our way there. Then the little critter slowly loped off, turning and stopping several times until we arrived at our destination.

We are meant by God to be caretakers and neighbors of one another. When we fail to do that, we fail to really love God. But God, who loves us so much more than we can imagine, still finds helpers when the humans of the world aren't able. We needed a guide and were sent the little rabbit. Did I mention that when my mother was a child their dog was named Tsisdu. Love, even though gone from this visible and tangible frame, do not die, but lives. Even when we can't receive it or know it, God's creation becomes the hands of love.

May today be a day of visitors and strangers. May we, like the good Samaritan that Jesus tells the rich young ruler about, offer our help and hands where they are needed today. May we love, a least a little, the way God loves. And may we know that all of creation echoes the love of the Creator, willing to help us find our way, love willing to live beyond death and all the boundaries we build.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Young Theologians



Years ago, when we were living in Boulder, Colorado, there had been a big turnover in the theater staff where Mark was working. Our best friends had been let go and they were heading back east. I was very young and our daughter Emily was a little over two. I tried to keep my feelings to myself but when we were sitting together, I started to cry a little. I was young and a long way from home and feeling very sorry for myself. My little daughter looked up at me and said, "it's all right Mommy, Jesus is our friend. He's gonna make it all right." And she wiped my tears away. I couldn't help but smile and wonder at the theologian that sat in front of me at that moment.

It is very easy, in times of transition, to be overwhelmed with the anxiety and anticipation of it all. And there is also loss that comes with every transition. But some how, God finds a way to find us in the midst of our sorrow and remind us, often through young ones that it will be all right, because God is with us and we are never alone, even when we feel so very alone.

"‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.'" Luke 10:22

Today, I want to take each step remembering that God's spirit is revealed to my infant, vulnerable self. That God is with me in every moment and I could miss God's presence by trying to be in charge, proud without humility. Instead, today, I want to admit to my need and rely on the great theologians in my life - the children and my children. They remind me that God doesn't ask me to be right and in control all of the time, but to be honest and open. God asks us only to love and to ask for what we need. May God give us all the strength to receive the spirit as small children - with the eyes of wonder and a heart open to love.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Storms


The storm that has been hovering and steaming up the past few days finally arrived. It woke me in the middle of the night, with heavy rain and loud wind. I am staying at my mother’s in Cape May Point. The elements are very real here being in this tiny peninsula of land at the end of New Jersey, jutting out into the ocean, nothing to buffet us. It is beautiful and breathtaking here by the ocean. It is also loud and insistent, real life and real elements can never be put aside. I have known this place all of my life and still it intrigues me and moves me and sometimes wakes me in the night.

“The one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like the foolish person that builds their house upon the sand. The winds and torrent came and hit that house and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:49

From a very young age, that parable has always been vivid and real to me. The same year my sister Betsy was born, I witnessed parts of houses flowing through the streets, parts of streets missing and complete houses gone from the landscape. Storms mean business here, and no one can afford to be foolish, although many try since they have not seen a storm like that in over 40 years.

I pray that today I might remember that the words I need to follow are - love (even my enemies) and do not judge others. It is hard to live with out judging and holding animosity towards others. But it also stirs up awful storms in all of us when we hold hatred and judgment in our hearts and makes our foundations weak and shaky. It also draws away time and energy from joy. So today, as the winds blow and the seas billow and everything is stirred up, I want to live a calm and loving life grounded in the sure foundation of God’s love for me. I want to navigate the rough seas of human interaction knowing that negative judgment and hatred only tear at my foundation but that love can always build it up. May we all have the strength today to walk face into the storm knowing that God’s love is our sure and steadfast foundation, a shelter from all storms.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Solving Mysteries


"Holy Father protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as you and I are one." John 17:11
We are leaving this morning, having packed our bags and prepared for the ride home. We spent our last evening talking about the coming transitions and how we can move through the days ahead. Once we get home, we will begin a long month of preparation for our move to Harrison. All of this is very exciting, but also very challenging -the packing and sorting, the getting rid and going through - and we want to do this well. With some peace and tenderness. This time away has offered us a time to talk and listen, to walk and explore and to be strangers and discoverers in a new world to us. And it has been a sort of training for what is to come. We have listened to each other and solved a great deal of practical puzzles we have ahead of us. Time away is that kind of blessing, time to listen to the heart, time to rely anew on each others' strengths.

Jesus is praying for the ones he loves, knowing they are facing tremendous changes ahead. The disciples have no idea what is ahead, and Jesus asks that they are bound together, knot together as one so that they may be protected by love and te strengths they have been given.

This last Sunday of Easter, it might just be time to learn again the importance of prayer, and how important the practice of praying for every situation is. Jesus talks to God for others and I want to practice prayer as my response to all the challenges and new puzzles and mysteries ahead. I want to learn from Jesus to pray for every challenge, so that we can be surrounded by love as we pass through to our next chapter. May we all remember that God is listening to our hearts. May we all be ready to pray in every situation, knowing that this prayer is a gift from God.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Welcoming



"Then Jesus said to them, ' whoever welcomes this little child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the one who is least among you all-that one is the greatest.'" Luke 9:48

Welcoming

These walls are high thick
with all the ways you won't let them in thick
with history blood and triumph thick
with people rent asunder and set aside.

These attitude are walls thick
with experiences of strangers thick
with misjudgments, misunderstandings thick
with the mistakes of the past that cling thick
like layers and layers of dust.

These days are an invitation thick
with possibilities ripe and thick
with new leaders and banners thick
with the colors of welcome and inclusion.

These moats are dry and the walls once thick
now crumble when love comes
thick with thieves and sinners and children thick
with the poor the prisoner and the outcast thick
with the love that offers all for our sake.

This love is thick with us we belong
we are thick with God when we welcome the least.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Waking Up



"Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him." Luke 9:32
Yesterday we spent all day at Canterbury. It was a long train ride on a glorious day, and we stayed through the Ascension Day Eucharist at 5:30 in the choir if the Cathedral. It was a splendid day, and today has dawned no less bright. How wonderful it is to be drenched in sunshine early, as the day begins, only to have the opportunity to explore the world before us. This old city is new to us and so we have the chance to be explorers in the old world.

Luke's gospel tell the story of the transfiguration. Jesus goes up the mountain to pray and takes his disciples with him. They do what they always do - fall asleep. This all to familiar act of Jesus - they had been there, done that - led them to assume nothing new was going to happen. And yet, they awoke to find Jesus surrounded by the founders of the faith, and the light of the glory of God. They were stunned for the didn't expect anything new, but instead they had a glimpse of the true nature of Jesus and the powerful presence of the love of God.

Today, as we explore this city, I want to be reminded how easy it is for us to miss the amazing among the familiar. Last night as we sat in the cathedral and listen to familiar words, I noticed the ancient seat of Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury. I couldn't help but wake up a little, and listen more, to the awesome promises of God's love alive throughout the ages. And so today I want to go forth looking for that light, looking with awe and wonder for the amazing love of God in the streets and underground that have become familiar. I pray that God will have me see all that is there, and more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Bridge of Sighs


"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:49

Yesterday we took a train to Oxford, the fabled home of great learning and learned people. The city was bustling, people going every which way, students and fools on bicycles riding at break neck speed. The ancient walls and beautiful churches spoke of millions of hours of classes and teaching, uncountable hours pouring over books and notes. And yet, there was very little heart really, and this little bridge between one building and the next called the bridge of sighs, caused me to sigh. So many of the great minds of the country and the world gathered into one small village really, but it isn't this village that can raise one child. The homeless were everywhere, just asking for a bit of dignity for themselves and their family.

Today is the feast of the Ascension when we celebrate Jesus' leaving earth one final time with instructions for his disciples to wait until they received power. Hr disappears from their sight having given them every instruction necessary for their lives and mission. But he also told them to wait until they were given power. I think too often, we don't realize we have received power and we wait some more, fearing that we lack something. Or we need something more, that we need to huddle longer. At least it seemed to me yesterday that all the problems of the world were just outside the gates of these beautiful, historic places and the smartest people in the world are waiting for more.

Today we travel to Canterbury and we go as reluctant and expectant pilgrims. I want to travel today with my eyes wide open, seeing the people and reaching out where ever God puts me today. We may be pilgrims -and the idea of an indigenous(Cherokee) pilgrim sounds really funny to me-but we are also people empowered by God to serve others, to love the world with the heart of God. May we all have the strength today to share what we have been given the power to love, straight from the heart of God.

Consider


"Consider the ravens:They do not reap or sow, they have no storerooms or barns; but God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" Luke 12:24

Yesterday, we explored the banks of the Thames, including the Globe theater, the remnants of the Rose theater and St. Paul's Cathedral. The ancient foundations of earlier cities were visible with the river at low tide. We immersed ourselves in theater and history, looking at historical costumes and ancient script outlines, the precursors of stage managers and clip boards. I was touched to see what I have only read of close up. And I am moved to understand how brief our visit here is, and how brief our visit is upon this earth. After viewing part of Romeo and Juliet, I am reminded how only love is universal and timeless.

Jesus asks his disciples to consider ravens and lilies - how God provides and how beauty is completely present. Worrying and wishing are not living, and can discount the generosity and care of God. How much more valuable are we than birds? Jesus reminds his followers and us today to live fully in the moments we have been given and God will provide. God loves us more than we can ever know, a love so great that time and geography can never erode.

Today, as we again walk in historic and ancient places, I want to give thanks for the people who have walked here before and who lived lives of service and prayer. People who offer their art and minds to others. People who entertained and taught so that we today might know of God's real presence in my life. May we all be invited to consider -love which supplies our needs and knows no bounds, and which considers us more precious than all the beauty man and God can create.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaching Prayer


"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?" Luke 11:13

There was just a pigeon on the window ledge outside our room. At first, from across the room it sounded as if the bird had gotten in our window, there was so much noise. I finally realized that she was a mom, protecting her young ones, scaring off the frightening humans just beyond the glass. The protective love of God in the heart of a smelly bird. Across the wide ocean, so long away from home, I cannot help but think of my children, praying for them and worrying about them all the time. Sometimes, it feels as if am not much more than a loud, smelly bird, but I sure do know what it is to love my children, to have the heart of God in my chest.

Jesus is teaching the disciples to pray and first he gives them what we now call the Lord's prayer. Then he tells them that they need to ask, to seek, to knock and they will receive, find and have the doors opened. It is really hard for them to believe that God is truly listening and desiring to fulfill the needs of the people. Our human masters shut the riff raff out, turn the common people away and close the door to the needs of others. But God, not like our human masters, God is listening, anticipating, hoping for our cries. God is aching to touch the needs of the people. God is aching as a parent aches to help their child.

Today, I want to spend my day in prayer. With each step I take, I want to ask God and talk to God about all that goes on. I know that as a mom I love nothing more than to have my girls share with me, tell me their needs, talk to me from their hearts. It is a gift to know them. And so, today, I want to live as if God really wants to know me, really wants to hear all that is within me. Jesus described God as a loving perfect parent, but few of us trust that description. Today, I want to trust that understanding of God. May we all have the courage to live out our prayer, walking and talking with God, asking for every breath we take, and being thankful for the abundance of breaths and days we have been given.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weary Travelers


"In fear and amazement they asked one another, 'who is this? He commands even the winds and the water and they obey him?'" Luke 9:18-27

Weary Travelers

We tuck our maps and books into bags
wrap in raincoats toting umbrellas reading
signs overhead and in doorways
climb uphill from embankments still
turning the wrong way.

When we sit out the storm the light returns
only to trick us into going without
being caught in the rain soaked and dripping
we laugh down the sidewalk and fall
into foreign doorways.

We listen to accents and search foreign faces
leaning on bus windows peering in
tube trains and national rail doorways
platforms with signs and whipped
with wind and dust.

We climb up and down
train platforms and bus stops
the world all new we gather in and lose track
we drop our guard turning wrong
asking for directions once again.

The clouding sky the constant portent
and yet we are secured in this shell
this tiny boat which has no right to sail
and yet by God's breath continues on
rising with the waves leaning
with all storms.

Like damp seagulls we cling to rocks and piers
screeching occasionally, raising prayers and
protest on the wind, asking and aching for direction
we wait for the sun to dry us
the light to illumine our way and the return
of our morning strength.

O Creator of life and life we sink our heads
into the deep down of your safety
fold our hopes into the night dress
tuck our expectations and failures away for the night
asking for rest, sweet salve and healing rest
to tend our weary bones.

O You who control even the wind and waves
listen to these trembling disciples
for we sometimes feel swamped, verging on drowning
and we hear only your soft breathing
your face resting sweetly in the helm.

O dearest one, who suffers more than we can know
help us carry the suffering to your feet,
help us see these strangers as friends
help us build a boat of faith big enough
to encompass the world you show us,
wide enough to glide across storms and pliable enough
to grow and stretch with the seasons.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Notting Hill


"This is my commandment; Love each other." Luke15:17
Today we moved from a small hotel room on the edge of Hyde Park to the Anglican Communion Office at St. Andrew's just above Portobello Road. We spent the afternoon walking around, sometimes in sunshine, sometimes in the rain, looking at the shops and the people. Just trying to take it all in. The temperature was cool and the wind was blowing so we took refuge from time to time in a coffee shop. Time was spent sipping tea and watching the world go by. And then a frantic stop in the grocery, which was jammed with people, trying to get their marketing done before it closed at 4PM. Our hostess here is very welcoming and we are making ourselves at home. We have been well cared for. And I am reminded how simple it is to care for others, to show love but also how easy it is to neglect others and to seem unloving or indifferent. I wonder if our Communion troubles really reflect a lack of love or at least a sense of neglect?

Jesus is preparing his disciples for ministry and for his departure. They were on the cusp of becoming autonomous where they once were a very closely associated band. They were a family really, and the family was breaking up, growing up, and facing the hardest days ahead. Power and protection were coming, but they would have to live through Calvary and Gethsemane first. Jesus was trying to help them understand that the best way to make their ministries thrive was to love one another. Each to their own ministry but with constant love for the others. Our love and devotion for one another is the sign of God's blessing and continued power. Would that we could remember that in these trying times. If hospitality and love were our first mission, how could our individual missions grow?

Today, I am grateful for this experience of being far away from home and yet right in the middle of it. I have no idea what I will finally learn from this experience, but I know that my love and appreciation for others across the church has already deepened. We have been completely dependent on others today, and their love and hospitality has changed our view of things. May we all have the courage today to love -relying on one another for strength. May we trust God when we are far away from home, or when our homes are being torn and changed. In the darkest of hours, Jesus instructs us to love one another - from that all strength, mission and ministry will come.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

London Day One

There will be no pictures today because I am blogging from an internet cafe around the corner from our hotel. The cafeis full of young people, excited by life and ready to explore. Mark and I arrived late morning yesterday, and got to our hotel around two in the afternoon. After exploring the neighborhood (we're adjacent to Hyde Park and Queensway) we had a nice lunch and dinner and went to bed early and slept long. Today we have explored Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, St. Martins in the Field and Charing Cross Market. Lots of walking and lots of crowds but every minute was a splendid mix of being lost and found in this incredible city. The research will begin in earnest on Monday, so we're taking the weekend to get out bearings and to figure out the bus and Underground. We hope to take some long train rides too.

Life is an invitation to explore. God makdes us all different so that we can grow beyond out rigid understandings and learn, no matter how old we get. I feel genuinely grateful to have this time to be overwhelmed by the new and foreign. I feel blessed to have this time to hear the stories of so many people who are willing to help me understand their ordeals so we can make life better for many. I am most grateful that Mark can take this journey with me, as we challenge ourselves to conquer new terrain, new foods, and facinating new ways of functioning. Tomorrow we move to the Anglican Communion headquarters and will have more complete access. In the meantime, I ask God to bless us every step of the way, so that we might be instruments of life and love. And I pray for all my fellow travelers, where ever you are. May God grant you the awe and wonder of a child as you venture forth today.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

34 Years




"God is love."


Mark and I were married in Relay Maryland 34 years ago today. Our wedding took place in a small church on a Thursday morning. It was a small gathering of friends and family and we held our reception on the church lawn. Mark could only get a long weekend off from work so we married on Thursday and drove to Cape May Point for the weekend. We stayed at my parent's house for our honeymoon(without any electricity the first night) since we had little money for elegant hotels. We had a splendid, quiet time, visiting with friends, feeding the ducks, walking the beach and eating out at the few open restaurants. It was a perfect honeymoon. And now, today, 34 years later we will be touching down in London for a 10 day trip as part of my research. We hope to have plenty of time to explore London, as well. We have always been content with small adventures, even in remote places. The wonders of the world are often found in common, simple things.

Today, I want to give thanks for the greatest blessings in my life - love made manifest in Mark, Emily Ariel and Phoebe. The vows we made all those years ago have taught me much about the love of God in my life. The years have deepened our love for one another, has brought us children, some challenges and abundant laughter and joy. I want to give thanks for all the fellow travelers we have encountered over the years, who have shared the wonders of the world with us in common simple things. May this be a day of rejoicing for us all, since love has found us and continues to seek us out.

Telling the Story


"So the man went away and told all over town what Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39

Today would be my Dad's 92nd birthday, if he had lived. We lost him at age 76, while he was still active and telling the story. My father was a real character- a Presbyterian minister, a navy chaplain, a father of five - and most of all a devout Christian. He didn't take his faith for granted nor was he ashamed, and although he had retired in 1985, he kept busy, helping out at various churches in the area and leading a healing conference every summer. He loved to entertain people and he loved to tell stories. He would hoist a child up into his lap, usually one of his grandchildren and just start telling a story from his life, whether true or only slightly exaggerated. He knew God's love in his life and told that love story all over town.

Jesus heals a man who had been demon possessed sending the legion of demons into a herd of swine. This is a man who had been chained and guarded by his family. He was a danger to himself and everyone around him. But Jesus changed all that, and he came to Jesus in order to know what to do. He had spent so much of his time in agony and out of his mind, he didn't really know how to take the first step. So Jesus told him to tell his story. Simple. Tell the story and everything else will follow along.

And so today, I want to follow Jesus' instruction. To tell my story as I go along, and not worry about the details beyond. It is so easy for me and others to get wrapped up in details and future planning that we forget the right now. We forget to be grateful and tell our stories. So today, I ask for strength to tell my story and to let Jesus direct my steps. The journey ahead is a big one. But I know if I tell what I know and follow Jesus, all will be well. May we each have the courage and tenacity to tell our stories and to follow Jesus. God's love surrounds us, and by living our stories and gratitude, we can make that love evident wherever we go.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Calming the Storm



"And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm." Luke 8:24

My Dad loved going out on little boats in the big ocean. When I was young he co-owned a boat with another navy chaplain. It wasn't terribly big, but it allowed six or eight people to go out on the water for the day to fish and to enjoy the sunshine. Invariably the clouds would move in and the winds would pick up and we would have to race for the safety of the harbor or canal. My Dad never seemed to worry and would chide us if we worried. He would calm us by putting us to work, helping him bring the boat in, teaching us how to deal with the swells and the wind in our little boat. He had enough experience to be confident in himself. And he had enough faith to be confident in God.

Jesus disciples were men who were confident on the water, and yet, the storm that came at them rattled their confidence. It must have been like nothing they had encountered before. And Jesus slept through it all, only waking when they shook him awake. More water and wind came at them than they had ever experienced, and yet Jesus was able to call to the wind and they water and they calmed themselves. The disciples had to learn who was in charge, who had the skills and gifts to overcome even the storm of the century. Jesus was in charge then and continues to be in charge of the wind and the waves - all the storms of our lives.

Today, facing a doctors visit I do not want to attend, I feel a storm brewing in my soul. I and whipped up and stormy. So today, I want to place my full confidence in Jesus, trusting him to be in charge of this day, the doctors and nurses - all the wind and the waves that I face. I ask God to be with each of us today in all the storms that we face, knowing that Jesus is right here with us, speaking directly to the storm. May we all have a deeper level of trust as we ask the maker of heaven and earth to stand in the breach for us. And may we, when things are calm, give God the thanks while we stand in the breach for others.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Holding Fast



"But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance." Luke 8:15

Today I am going to speak for the ECW - Episcopal Church Women in the Diocese of New Jersey. These are the folks who do all the work in the Church, the women behind the scenes, the ones who labor faithfully to serve others. I have always found that the people of greatest faith are not often the ones celebrated for their charisma but are those who work without a spotlight on their labors. They do it for love and they go the distance.

Today, I want to be counted among those who hold fast, even when the challenges and transitions seem overwhelming. I want to learn from the ones who have held fast and endured. I want to learn from others who know how to trust God in the darkest hours while they continue to love and care for others. And I want to give thanks for Church women everywhere who stand in the background or on the side. They are good soil, they bear fruit with patient endurance and they do it for love. May we all learn from the example of those around us who a re good soil, holding fast so that love might flourish.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Love's Annointing



"And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment." Luke 7:37-38

When we were small, my mother always had a handkerchief in the ready to clean us up. When I was a bit older she would keep a wet washcloth in her purse during long car rides, in case there was an emergency clean up. Now we have all sorts of disposable products, but then, you had to be more prepared and think ahead. I remember not wanting to get dirty, only so I wouldn't have to smell the wet washcloth which got sour as the day and the heat wore on in an un-air conditioned car. It is true, though, we let very few people touch us and wash us up. It is very personal and intimate. No matter how embarrassed I was by my mother's washcloth, she was my caregiver and I knew I needed her. Her verbal expressions of love were eclipsed by her tender, hands-on approach to mothering.

A woman comes to Jesus and anoints him. She weeps and kisses him and wipes his feet with her hair. She had made some mistakes and everyone knew her as a sinner. And yet she was grateful for God's forgiving love that she had found in Jesus. She only knew that she had to show her thankfulness by being, but for a moment, his care taker, his servant. He allows her this expression, as he understands her need to give completely and without words. The folks around want to shame her and keep her from Jesus. The proud religious leaders thought she was beneath them. But Jesus allowed her into the most tender of places, the most tender of moments, so that she might know her forgiveness and healing as real.

Today, I want to give thanks for all those who have shown God's love by caring for me and for others. The selfless folks who work in soup kitchens, at church dinners, who visit the elderly and the ill, who work with their hands for others who have lost their strength. May we know Christ and our forgiveness as we tenderly care for others this day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009



"I am the vine, you are the branches." John 15:5

Today is Mother's Day and I can't help but think about how much my mother has influenced my life. She taught me countless things over the years - how to sew, how to bake pies, make jelly,hang clothes on the line, iron, paint - to name a few. My mother was a life long Girl Scout. When she was a child she participated in scouts, then as an adult she became a leader and on the Council. She is always teaching and sharing her faith and experience with others. But most of all, she has taught me by example that the two best things to get through life are prayer and laughter. My mother has an infectious laugh, and she loves to be silly with children and grand children. She also prays constantly, for every body and every circumstance.

Jesus reminds his disciples the visceral connection they have to God through Jesus. Like a mother is connected to a child through an umbilical cord, so are we tightly connected to God through Jesus. The separation that we feel is but temporary, and God is constantly caring for us, nurturing and feeding us, strengthening us for the work ahead.

I am especially grateful today for my Mom. She taught me to be rooted in God, to count on God for everything and to pray in all circumstances. And she taught me to laugh and be joyful, despite the present circumstances, since God was caring for even the small things in our lives. May we give thanks today for all those who have taught us to know God and love the people around us. And may we laugh and enjoy one another this day. For God gives us mothers to remind us to live, God makes some of us mothers so that we might laugh with joy, and God invites us to be intimately connected so the world might know love this day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Say The Word


"But say the word and my servant will be healed." Luke 7:7


I have spent much of this evening and parts of today attending alumni gatherings. This is my 20 year reunion and there were just three of us from my class present. Lots of conversations, story telling and laughter marked today. Lots of words, mostly celebratory and tender. But I am reminded today that what we say can be very critical to the success of others.Sometime today people told stories of not being understood, and not always feeling safe. How much do we actually learn from what is said,and how much more we learn from the actions and behavior of others? I believe we learn the most by imitating and following others. If we come up in a trusting and secure environment, we tend to recreate that space but if we come up in unsafe places, we can also recreate those dangerous situations. Lots of good words were said tonight. Lots was left unsaid. I was so glad to see many old friends, many of whom have modeled love in their lives. For that I am forever grateful.

Jesus was taken aback by the faith of the centurion. He told Jesus that he only needed to say the word and his servant would be healed. This centurion had lots of practice putting faith into action - putting his money where his mouth is. He trusted Jesus because the structure around him was reliable and trustworthy. His solid faith was a gift from others.

Today, I want to live as one who provides a solid faith and structure for others. I want to live like the centurion who trusted the word of Jesus. And like Dorothy who finally trusted the words, "there's no place like home." She too had come up in a place and among people who lived their faith. Not flashy but solid, dependable and loving, day in and day out. This is how I want to live. And I ask God for the strength to live my faith today. And everyday. May we all have the courage to ask Jesus for what we need, and trust him at his word.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good Trees




"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers." Luke 6:47-48

When our children were small, we would take them apple picking several times in the fall. It was a genuine treat to be out an open space walking and talking together, while we picked wonderful ripe apples right from the trees. One of the things about going to a well tended orchard is that there is often a great deal of fruit to pick. We would lift our kids up when they were small, but most often they could fill a basket to overflowing quite quickly from where they stood. All too often they wanted to keep going when we had quickly picked all that we needed. Several orchards we have been to have long poles with a small basket on the end to pick apples that are high in the trees. We all loved practicing with the poles and trying to pull down high apples. Mark and I still go out and pick fruit whenever we get a chance.

Jesus is teaching his disciples about daily living and loving ministry. He wants them to understand that their daily practice is important. If they are humble and loving, as God requires, there will be humble and loving fruit from their ministry. Likewise, if their intention is for power and control, that fruit will be manifest also. It is easy for us humans to talk a good talk. Jesus is calling us to walk the walk. We must prune and tend our orchards daily, ridding ourselves of the violence and anger that we hold on to. Jesus invites us to let those thing drop and rot so that we can live abundantly by love.

Today, I want to remember all those people who walked the walk and taught me to live my life with forgiveness and compassion. I pray that I can follow their example, setting aside bitterness and anger for the compost pile and feeding my ministry with love and compassion for others. May we all be strengthened by God to bear good fruit. May we humbly love others, so that the world might know that God walks among us, walks the orchard, planting the gifts of love and transformation in our hearts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Loving Enemies



"But I tell you who hear me. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6:27-28

I have never taken up any betting game like poker because I know that things show on my face. Some people are excellent at masking pain and betrayal, and they can go through life never being asked what's wrong. But I am one of those unlucky people who show the world. It makes it hard for me to be a good politician. On the other hand, people can see care and compassion on my face, and for many folks, that is an invitation to share their stories with me. I am grateful for being someone who is approachable.

The ACC or Anglican Consultative Council is meeting this week in Jamaica. They are hashing out the hard issues facing our Church and Communion. Some strident folks, some politicians - and a whole lots of opinions are being aired. I wonder what would happen if we found a way to truly follow Jesus in this one. What would happen if we truly loved our enemies and prayed for those who mistreated us?

Jesus is up against a religious hierarchy and a world that masked human weakness behind rhetoric and rules. Folks felt safe when there was an order and total control. You know what side you're on and who to hate. But Jesus comes and sets the whole assumption of power aside. He invited his disciples and those listening to live with love for the other side, to offer up everything to the other, and to live without taking sides. An impossible task, for them and for us.

Today, I want to try to see the heart of the other. I need God's strength to have compassion and care for those who would harm me. I want to do more than forgive and forget. I want to learn to love those who do not love me. An impossible task, I know. But this is an undertaking for a life time and I expect that I will have to totally rely on God for the power to love my enemies. May we all have courage today to ask God to help us love those who are impossible for us to love. And may our attempt at loving our enemies be a daily, on-going practice. What a wonderful world it would be, what a wonderful Church and Communion we would have, if some of us truly loved our enemies.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blessed Are You



"Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man." Luke 6:20-22

I am getting in my car in a few minutes and driving to Cambridge, Massachusetts for one last stay at seminary. I have been the Procter Fellow this semester and have had some time to research and reflect while I was there. I can back and forth to home, and found it harder to go back every time. Not because I wasn't having a fruitful time, nor that anything negative happened. Instead, I was sick several times and went to and fro rather weakened and discouraged. I have felt as if my best effort wasn't enough. Along with that, my seminary experience was challenging for me spiritually and emotionally, and although that was long ago, it still inhabits the space for me.

Jesus teaches on a level place beside a hill side. I have always imagined these words were said on some mild afternoon when the world was covered in flower petals and folks could sit in soft grass. Ever the romantic, I know. But Jesus is talking to the people and the disciples, right where they are. In the midst of their hunger, their sense of failure and misunderstanding, their abject confusion with the life God has given them. He promises them that they are blessed, even when it doesn't appear that way. Even when all signs are to the contrary, Jesus says they are blessed.

So, I can set out today, knowing I am blessed, despite all of the signs to the contrary. I can engage the project one more time, despite the challenges that I have faced, knowing that I am blessed even in the midst of struggle. We can all set out today, no matter what we face, knowing that we are blessed by the love of God. We can go forward, trusting that God is blessing us, no matter what the rest of the world is doing. May we all have the strength today to share that blessing with others. May we scatter bright petals on their way, so that for a moment, they might know that they are beloved and blessed by God.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Little Food



"One sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat the kernels." Luke 6:1

I had the opportunity to drive from the retreat center in Wichita to Kansas City with one of the Deacons of the Diocese of Kansas. Allen, who heads the Episcopal Community Service in the diocese gave me a wonderful tour of Kansas City and told me about the ministry that is being done every day in the city. Some 400 people are fed every day. And several grocers and restaurants are very generous with the food they supply. One grocery regularly provides berries for the clients meals, even during the winter. Allen shared with me that some one had remarked that they didn't eat berries during the winter. And yet how kind and extravagant to provide ripe berries in the harshest season of want. It would seem to me a sign of God's grace and abundance - berries in winter.

Jesus gets in trouble with the religious leadership of the day for letting his disciples pick a few ears of grain on the sabbath. They were grown men who knew their laws. But they were hungry. How easy it is to judge others, and how hard it is to be hungry. Jesus encouraged his disciples to be full so they could be strong for others. It would seem that God's love is not found in rules but when we meet another person's need.

Today I would like to put the needs of others as my first priority. I want to be the person that brings berries in the harshest of days. We all need signs of God's abundance and sweetness. We all need to know from others that God is drawing close. May we, who have so much, be sweetness for others today.

Good Shepherd




“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10 :14-15

Sheep are not the brightest animals in the kingdom, and yet throughout the gospels Jesus describes his relationship to people as shepherd to sheep. What might seem like a gentle, innocuous profession to some, I have come to realize that being a shepherd is a very courageous life style. It’s not glamorous, rather just the opposite. Sheep are best at wandering and keeping them safe from themselves is a real challenge. Having good, loyal working border collies is a great help. Having a strong back and strong hands is crucial. And getting up in the middle of the night is not uncommon, going out in bitter weather to find one who has wandered out of the pen and been injured. It is not a profession for the easily bored, or for those who aren’t willing to go the distance.

In our Gospel for this Sunday morning in Easter, Jesus tells his followers of his commitment to them, and they get it. Their world was defined by shepherds and they knew the difference between a good and bad shepherd. They knew the crucial role shepherds played in their economy and they understood what it meant to have Jesus as their good shepherd – it means life, good pasture and someone who will go to the ends of the earth, even sacrificing life for the sheep, for all the sheep. A shepherd is not a superhero or a glamorous soldier-warrior type. A shepherd is much more. A shepherd cares for life, for feeding and nurturing, for safety and preventing disease. A shepherd, like a good parent, is watchful and attentive.

Today, I want to understand the Good Shepherd as the disciples did - Jesus as the one who cares for all of us and all our needs and Jesus as the shepherd involved in our daily living. Jesus said he is part of our going out and our coming back. And Jesus says he will bring us safely home. Sometimes, especially in challenged times, we have a hard time trusting God with the completeness of our lives. And yet today, I know I need to do just that – trust him for everything. May we all have the courage to follow the Good Shepherd and be part of his flock. We are loved and known, treasured and care for, even when we are not very bright and acting very foolishly. Jesus has come to care for us all. May we seek his fold and enter with joy this day.

Note: This was written yesterday while I was in Kansas but there were technical difficulties at the retreat center and I was not able to post it. I hope to write again today, so come back, if you are able. Blessings, Carol

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Touch



“When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, ‘if I just touch his clothes I will be healed.’” Mark 5:27-28


Touch. A basic part of our human interactions, but now we are very scared of touch. As the news of swine flu has intensified, people everywhere are getting anxious about the cost of touching another person or being in close proximity to someone who might be ill. My own sister was worried that my bronchitis might actually be swine flu. She was momentarily afraid for her children. I had spent part of a warm Saturday with them having a great water gun battle. We are all so in need of touch and yet, rightly so, we have to live in this time where human touch just might be the enemy.

A woman who had bleeding problems reached out and touched the cloak of Jesus. She had heard of him and knew that if she could get close to him, she would be healed. And she was, and Jesus knew her in that simple touch. The power went out from him to her and he sought her out. He knew her by touch and she fell before him in fear, mixed with overwhelming gratitude. The contact with Jesus made all the difference in her life. Where once she was and weak and pained outcast, now she had was strong since she had touched the source of love. She knew Jesus, and was never the same.

Today, I want to remember how powerful touch can be. I want to remember how many people are rarely embraced and never patted on the back. I want to be an instrument of compassion this day in a time when we are fearful of one another. May God grant us all the strength in this time of epidemic anxiety to rest in the loving arms of our Creator, and to embrace the lonely and the outcast in the power of love.