Sunday, August 31, 2008
A Poem for Sunday August 31, 2008
Time to fly back
and go forward in the season
changing time and climates changing
blue beach bike for books and printer wheels
in motion flying through today we are moving beyond
what we know or remember, adding new destinations
to our already overloaded blue car.
We are blue and green swimming fish
in a sea of parents and children highways full
of coming and going, leaving and starting over
hills and twilight and shadows unpredictable
mysterious, honking horns and waving hands.
My tears will fall in the silent shadowed
car seat returning without you, minus your
piles of bright garments and air charged with laughter and
mocking parent scorn, frightened all of us a little moving
apart, moving toward growing up some more.
I will wave even if you don't
look, and I will cry if even if you don't
see me, and I will love you even if you aren't
near me, able to laugh at a tender broken part of you
and me as we spin apart.
We change bikes for books and tans for lamps and exchange
the love we hold for one another, exchange it for a better, newer
larger amount of love which stretches and bends as we bend
and stretch and go around more corners.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Tomorrow is the long haul back to campus, loading and unloading for another year at college. Today is the last Saturday with our youngest. I have gotten used to this process, she being the youngest of three, but I have never grown to like it. I know they need to go away and grow up and do all those kinds of things to be the adult they will be. And yet, the ache to keep her close, to keep her sisters close by, is still very much there. Once they were each part of me, and then part of us. The noise, the friction, the laughter, the bumps and tears - all of it was part of us. And now, here is another moment to remind me that she is totally she -separate from me but related. And I must let her go and not embarrass her or cling too much. I never have been clingy, but I would have been if any of them had let me. And yet I have been so blessed by their lives intertwined with mine, if but for a season, a summer, a weekend.
Today, I want to hold in prayer all of those parents and children who are in this necessary and mysterious time of parting ways. All of those who are letting go and all of those who are escaping. All of those who are finally getting some freedom and those who are aching to see their loved ones again. I want to remember those whose partings have been painful and hurtful and those who can't imagine how lucky and normal they are. I hope we can all remember that God is with each of us, the leavers and the left, the runners and those who are run from. We are embedded in God, despite how lost or alone we might feel. God is recreating a new identity in each of us, a new belonging, a new sense of home. May we all be showered with patience and humor as we change again with the seasons.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Every day I go out in the morning and water my garden. Mostly I have some feeble flowers and some herbs in pots which I plan to dry or freeze for winter use. Our dog Petey doesn't particularly like me watering the plants. She doesn't like water much, except to drink. So she growls ever so slightly at me, reminding me that she would not appreciate being doused by the hose. She will often lap up any water that puddles up on surfaces other than the garden. She loves to be with me when I am out there in the morning but she hates the hose and me watering. She is conflicted about very little, but about water, she demonstrates the complexity of human internal conflict. How often am I thirsty and fail to ask for a drink? How often do I badly need help, but fail to find a way to ask?
Jesus says, "if you are thirsty, come to me and drink". (John 7:37)We often let our pride get in the way of asking or moving toward the one who could resolve our conflict. I can get so tangled up in right actions and attitudes, that I disregard my true need, and articulate only growling. How hard it is for us to admit need, how we humans, fail to know when we are truly hungry or thirsty. We try to fill the emptiness with all sorts of things - but today, we are reminded that there is an open invitation for us. The fountain of life is never turned off, even when we turn away to our own devises.
Today, I want to have the courage to declare my need for God and for help from my fellow human beings. I am often thirsty, and yet I have tried to fill the gaps with my own inventions. Today, I want to confess my need. And today, I want to remember all those who are perfectly needy, hiding their doubts and failures in their professionalism and organization, who desperately need living water and who desperately need to admit to their need. May we all have the courage this day to admit our need for God, and act on that need. May we seek God and one another as we find satiation for our long time thirst. May we be filled to overflowing in our need and vulnerability before God and one another.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This is an awkward time of year. There are lots of transitions and preparation. People getting ready or having gone back to school. Others trying to squeeze out one more moment of summer, trying to keep the vacation time spirit going for as long as possible. When I was a kid, we liked it best when my Dad got us all up early at the beach on the first day of school. We dressed for school, slept in the car and woke at our house, ready to tear off to school for the first day. Deeply tanned, covered in mosquito bits and bleary eyes from the trip, we stumbled into fall without any time for worry. There were no spaces in between for reflecting and reordering. We just moved from one point to the other without any chance for anxiety, planning or anticipation. But there can be danger in no time for reflection, it can leave one without sign posts by which to orient oneself. It can be life lived in a constant state of adjustment to others' signs and directions.
So today, I want to give thanks for time to reflect on where I have been and where I am going. It is often easier for me to just blunder forward and react, but the gift of reflection is the opportunity to find new ways and new words to express God's love in my life. Without thinking I can repeat dangerous behavior and never see the blessings that surround me. I might not be quiet enough to hear the still small voice of God, inviting into the place of rest and trust. May we all have the courage, as we are given the time, to reflect on the beauty and possibility that surrounds us. May we notice the little things that often go by in a blur. May we, as the seasons change, find a sparkle of joy in the memories and a glimmer of hope in the changing light. God, moving in our darkness and light, is reflected in the gentle way the seasons change, leaving us time to adjust and grow. May we celebrate the past days as we open our hearts to the growth that is just around the corner.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
One of the challenges I had as a new bishop was finding churches and meeting spaces I had never before known. Since I was elected to a diocese I had never served in, I was a stranger to most places I encountered. I was diligent in getting very specific directions from my assistant, and also map-questing directions when necessary or as a backup. I didn't have a gps, they were barely available then, and I was frequently lost. I would often feel a real sense of panic, circling in unfamiliar territory, trying to call someone to help me get where I needed to go. I was never ashamed to ask directions but was frequently surprised when local folks had no idea where their local church was. Being lost, whether on a journey or at a crucial juncture in one's life, can be very unsettling and painful. When all familiar landmarks have disappeared, when there is no one on the street to ask, and when no one answers on the other end of the line - well, this can be overwhelmingly difficult. Often times, when seeking direction, God send us in a whole new direction, on a whole new path.
In Acts 10, Peter and Cornelius separately are seeking direction from God. Cornelius gets real clear directions from God through the presence of an angel. Peter too, gets real clear direction from God. "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." The two men have a fateful meeting after Peter has to follow alien men to go to Cornelius' house. Seeking direction can often lead us to very uncomfortable places, places that we would never go on our own to associate with people who are completely alien to us.
Today, I want to be open to God's direction, knowing that I might just be lead to some people and places I would not chose for myself. I want to remember all of those who have lost their way, asking that God might send them angels to tell them how to go and new friends who demonstrate God's love in new ways. I know that there is pain and shame among those who are lost, but God repeatedly uses these moments throughout scripture and in our lives to renew us and bring us home. Sometimes home is a whole new place with very different people. May we all have the courage to seek God's direction, to follow angels and to enter strange households, knowing God goes with us.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
At the wedding on Saturday, an long time friend of mine and uncle of the bride, Mike, played Irish music during the reception with his right wrist wrapped because of carpel tunnel. He was in a good deal of pain but wanted to play anyway. I have encountered a good deal of people in recent weeks and months that have played anyway, not out of some stoicism or bravery, nor some misplaced macho need, but because playing was what they do, no matter the condition. Whether musicians, or clergy or other workers in the field, I have watched as individuals have given their best, even with physical and emotional challenges. They go ahead even with the aches and pains, the barriers and belligerence because that is what they do. That is who they are. And for many, keeping active and moving, even with restrictions means staying alive and offering what we have. The challenge for all those, and there are legions, who play wounded, is to find ways to rest and heal. The hardest thing to believe is that people will let you back in to the game if you take time out to rest and heal.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
In this season of transitions and changes, I want to remember all of those who today have to play wounded, have to keep doing because they are the only income source or parent in the household. I want to remember and lift up those who are weary and carrying a very heavy burden for their community and family. People are counting on them and they feel as if they need to keep playing with injuries and pain for the sake of those whom they love. May we all hear Jesus call to us. May we all accept the rest and the lightening of the load. May we have the courage to rest when invited, knowing that God will find a use for our healing pieces as well as our broken bits. May we give thanks that we can rest and share a lightened load, knowing that God is shouldering our pain and cares right along with us. Not one of us suffers alone, nor plays injured without God playing along with us.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Our daughter Phoebe finished her summer job on Friday and is now getting ready and packing for her junior year of college. We went down to the Point for a wedding on Saturday and I was pressed into service Sunday morning since the scheduled priest at St. Peter's was ill. We had one last afternoon on the beach, one final water ice, one final gathering with friends and family. And then the summer was over and it was time to go home. Pack it up and head into the next season. In my experience, it is always easier said then done, these transitions from season to season, especially when fall is knocking and the lose scheduled, relaxed encounters of summer are replaced by more rigid schedules and inflexible structures. Even the times in my life when the border between summer and fall was not sharp and, like now, I have more flexibility than some years, it is still a huge transition time, full of bittersweet moments and a real tangible sense of loss. There are times when I am still inhabited by the kid who had to be dragged off the beach the very last day of summer, dragging my feet and filling my pockets with sand so as to remember these days. And of course, it was a perfect last day of our summer. Warm but breezy, beautiful blues skies and a warm ocean. That only adds to the hard cruel yank that fall is to me.
So today, I want to remember all of us who are in transitions - between seasons, between employments, between relationships and between communities. I also want to pray for those who have come to an end of a season and sense they will never return. Those who have faced loss and rejection, and those who have had to leave something or someone behind. Transitions are difficult and we all have to navigate them. Some of us do it by kicking and screaming, having to be dragged away with sand in our pockets. Others pretend to move with grace from one season of life to the other. However you do it, it still leaves a mark on our hearts and souls. May we all find laughter and tender moments in these days. May we all forgive ourselves for our sentimentality and our desire to "never grow up." May we let God lead us gently into the next phase of our journey. And may we remember today, that there are many, many others who are in transitions, struggling across calm and stormy seas. They need to know they are not alone in the voyage.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
They have gathered from all over for this wedding. It is an amazing thing to watch family and friends gather for a happy occasion. There is both genuine excitement and anxiety for lots of different reasons. From make-up, tux fits and shoes to how members of different families and groups will get along. Some people are meeting for the first time and others haven’t seen each other in years.
I have known Annie since she was a baby. She and Josh have been together for five years. They are two of the kindest people I have met and it is a genuine privilege to officiate at their wedding. It is a gift to be with friends that we haven’t had a chance to be with in a long time. And it is bittersweet, at some moments, knowing that in the midst of the grand coming together are the vestiges of broken families and relationships and diverging roads and lives. It makes me wonder how one ceremony can draw broken strands from the four winds and recombine for a new reality. Only time will tell how today’s event will play out on the stage of the complexities of families and connections.
So I enter this moment with prayer and hopefulness, asking God to do what humans cannot – find creative ways to knit us together, the colors and complexities, the distant and the near –so that we might all be blessed by the gifts we have to share. Not a one of us is perfect, and almost everyone at the gathering today has had past conflict with someone else present. And yet, there is still more – more days, more possibilities and more connections to be made. So may this day be one of being open to new capacities despite past failures and losses. There is so much God can do with the broken bits of our lives. And on a day when two people are taking the risk to commit to one another for ever, well, it seems time for us all to try anew to find ways to reconnect for the living and the future.
Friday, August 22, 2008
In the process of clearing out my totaled car and getting a new “previously owned” vehicle, I was going through the bags of junk I pulled out of the car and was startled by the memories some insignificant things jostled. There were old receipts, old map quest directions and lots of beauty and hair products, left by my three daughters. Now, before you judge me as some sloppy person, I must say that I have cleaned out this car over and over again –just not as carefully as I had to in order to let it go. I also found an old metal clergy sign, with a huge magnet attached, the magnet attached to the dashboard sign by old crumbling electrical tape. My Presbyterian minister father had fashioned this for me when I graduated from seminarian and was ordained. He had one in his car all of my life and he was handing down a remarkable artifact and legacy. This find made having to give up my beloved van a little easier.
My father was saved everything. He collected nothing in an organized fashion but instead found uses for things that others would cast off. He was a species unto himself and we called him homo-collectus. He salvaged an old lobster tank from a grocery store, kept it in our basement for over 10 years and then smugly gave it to a young man setting up a salt water aquarium saying, “I just knew this would come in handy some day”. He fashioned a car top carrier out of the bed of a covered wagon. When my Dad passed away there were nearly two dozen motors that he had removed from broken appliances stored in the basement. He knew they would have a use some day. In this age of green imagination and need for alternative energy, my Dad would probably have something in the basement that would solve the energy crisis.
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” John 6:39
Today’s reading from John has new meaning in light of my father and in light of present crisis we are facing. I am grateful to a man who saw everything as a gift and everything with the possibility of usefulness. Jesus says to us today, you are useful, needed, wanted, even if others have put you out to the curb, called you useless or left you out to dry and whither. God’s love is so enormous and God’s creative capacity is beyond our comprehension, that the things and people who are deemed worthless and rejected, may indeed play a central role in the salvation of the world. Today, I want to give thanks for those who have been put on the shelf, marginalized, and deemed worthless. I want to see them with the eyes of our Creator who has promised that they will be useful, raised up and engaged for God’s reign. I want to have the courage to tenderly care for the sidelined, the marginalized and the ignored. May we all remember that the now useless will one day become necessary in God, the people and things that are cast off are beloved of the compassionate Creator. May we all nurture the broken in ourselves and others so that God may use us in God’s time.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"It is I, do not be afraid." John 6:20
In the midst of stormy times - when boats are being tossed by winds, lives are being rearranged by accidents, families are challenged because of balances, children are growing up too fast and are out of reach, when the onslaught is at its worst -it is then we hear these tender words, "do not be afraid." Well, I am not easily comforted when told to not be afraid. I am always comforted when someone takes my hand, or holds me, and listens to me when the burden is too great to bear alone. Most of us respond to touch and tenderness when words and reasons have failed. Most of us need a little tenderness these days, when the winds of fortune have battered, when the challenges of living have exhausted, when simple things have become complicated, this is when words fail and touch and tenderness reach us.
So today, I want to try a little tenderness. There are a lot of hurting people out there, and right here in my own family. There have been small bumps in the road and everybody is surviving, but many have lost their ability to bounce back. It happens to us all. So, just for today, I want to try a little tenderness - with myself, my family and everyone I encounter today. They've been battered, been rowing hard against the wind and are exhausted from the struggle. Every nerve is on edge, every fiber is stretched to the brink. They need soft words, a kind smile, and a gentle touch. They need the tenderness that is the gift of the Creator who sent a gentle son into the world to calm our seas. May we reach out as God reaches out to us, with gentle, tender touch, soft, warming winds and breezes that let us take our rest in safety.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
When they were satisfied, he told his disciples,"gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." John 6:12
Today, a poem seems like the best response -
For all the Fragments
Some moments have been triumphant
celebrations of life's fullness and
successes can go out the door quickly leaving
fragments, bits and pieces of our lives scattered
like ashes, like dying petals, like debris.
We pray and sweat and toil and dream sometimes
we lose sleep in the night aching
for fullness, for plenty, for blessing and abundant
affirmation of the story we tell, the story we live.
We come unprepared with our hands
empty and open, knees bent, head
bowed in reverence and in fear.
We come vulnerable, human, challenged by
success and failure, challenged by need and possibilities
unimagined and lost at sea.
You come to us and invite us to
rest, to a banquet, a fullness where having leftovers
is plenty, being left over is blessing of the lost
ones, the ones who didn't make it to the hillside, couldn't find
the table or the place of plenty.
You saved the fragments from the fire, from becoming
mulch, from being wasted so we could know you
were waiting for us.
So here we come, beggars to your hillside,
the left behind leftover gang of lost broken
by the changing tides and winds and we come to you
who has promised a way home.
Here we are with our hands empty
our bellies aching, our eyes anxious and our hearts full
of knowing that you love us
so much that not one may be lost.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
John 5:30a "I can do nothing on my own," says Jesus. He goes on to talk about how his power is through connection to God, his capacities are communal rather than singular. His humanity was completely reliant on God's capacity and the faith and cooperation of the community. I have been thinking a great deal about interdependence and identity as part of a tribe, family and community. This awareness of my interdependence has only been heighten by the events of the past week and my mother's need for my presence and care. She is not incapacitated, she is not without personal resources or intelligence for decision making. But she is still somewhat dependent on others right now, and struggling with what that means for her present and future.
As Americans, we want to believe that we are all independent individuals. The highest achievements and honors in our country often are awarded to those who have "done it on their own." But none of us is really able to do anything on our own. We are completely dependent on our genetics, our capacities, our location, our resources and our communities. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are very dependent on all that is around us and very dependent on God. How lovely then is this statement by Jesus. In the fullness of humanity and divinity, he acknowledged his need for God and his need for others. He speak of his identity being formed and sustained in the inter-relatedness of life - past, present and future. He gives us the power to acknowledge our own neediness, and gives voice to the truth of how we can go forward - relying on God and others.
May we celebrate our dependence today, our reliance on God and those who love and support us in this life. None of us is where we are because of what we have done alone. We are blessed by throngs of witnesses, silent and vocal partners, hidden and revealed caregivers, intimates and strangers. We are related to and responsible for those we love and for those we can't stand, whether it is in our family or our denomination - and we are also dependent on them. May we have the courage today to accept our need of God, our need of one another, and our reliance on Christ to lead the way. May we rejoice this day in our neediness, our vulnerability, because in this, we know we are children of God.
Monday, August 18, 2008
"Very truly I tell you, the hour is coming and now is here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and will live." John 5:25
After returning home from an endless bunch of days, watching and waiting in the hospital, I remarked to my husband that I was completely dead on my feet. That I was worn to a frazzle, and wanted only to read a book and fall asleep. I had done all I knew how to do, and still felt inadequate and worn out. We often hear these words of Jesus, after he is reprimanded for working on the sabbath, as referring to those who have physically died and gone before us. And that is one interpretation. But in the past few days, I realized what it meant to be "dead men walking", living with the anxiety of the end of life, and to want to be raised to new life. I have felt like I was slogging through a trough, wading in a downward facing mud pit. We all come to those places in or lives, when what we face, and what we have to do is overwhelming. We can all feel death surrounding us, and we can feel the terrifying loss of the ability to go forward anymore. These words of Jesus spoke in a new way to me.
I remember a time in my life when I thought I had died. I was a young girl of twelve, and had a very serious but successful abdominal operation. I was several days post surgery, loaded with drugs, and woke to find a man standing in my room, clothed in white and gold, wearing a pointed hat and carrying a scepter. I assumed it was St. Peter. It was actually a Cardinal friend of my Dad's, who stopped to see me when visiting the hospital. I wasn't as much afraid as I was surprised to think about being dead. None of can really know what the after life truly is, but many of us, when life overwhelms us have a sense of what dying is - the light, the energy, the joy, the spark -all of it going out. Into this extinguishing world speaks a Savior - I am bringing life to the dead, hear me. This is not the end, and there is more joy to come. Those are words I needed to hear today. Those words promise a new possibility in this life and new life in worlds to come. I am not one to worry, but the weight of the world can sometimes overwhelm me. But Jesus speaks into this place we all find ourselves -the hour is now. New life is coming, and it is here.
I don't yet know what this new life looks like. I only know that I am ready to listen and to follow. So many roads have been closed, so many towns are no longer safe for habitation. But in the midst of one or several ends, new life is breaking forth. May we all remember today that we are surrounded by those who are worn down by life, pressed down so hard that they cannot see the light. They cannot hear the love and activity of God bringing new life. May we who are able to hear be agents of life for those who have been broken. May we hold them in our prayers as we pray for all those who bear large burdens alone. May love break through and may life return to us all.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
"I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel"...."Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish", and her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:24;28
Over the past months, especially in the past few weeks, I have been feeling very overwhelmed by the things that have happened in my life. It was hard to get turned away from Lambeth for lack of a full time job, and yet God gave me peace with it and time with my family as I kept my brothers and sisters in constant prayer. When my mother and I were in the accident on July 18Th and walked away unscathed, although the car and animals were totaled, I was grateful if still traumatized. The hassle of replacing a car with the little insurance money, all the wrangles of the motor vehicles bureau were annoying, adding stress but I felt like I was finally making progress and moving forward. When my mother was rushed to the hospital and I went flying down the highway, I think I must have felt like the woman in our Gospel story. When Jesus initially refuses her, she doesn't relent, she is fierce. She gets right back up and in his face. "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table," she answers back to his reasoned and fair refusal of her request. She was a woman on a mission - a mission of love. And love won out, even with the young Savior of the world.
Today, I want to remember all of those lost sheep who have no mother, no daughter, no community, no fierce warriors - no one to champion their healing for them. Many of us have, at times, felt like lost sheep, the excluded and the left behind. We have all felt like the unwanted, the one refused at the door of the healing gate. We have all, if we are honest, given up on the expectation that God will hear us. So today, I want to remember those who have been left out, feel lost, or who have given up. They are in our midst, are in our family, and in our communities. They are us, sometimes. May we hold them in prayer this day with the fierceness of a mother pleading with Jesus for her daughter. Despite his continued rejection, she says, "O no you don't! God says she is loved and worthy of healing!" May her faith, her zeal, her passion be our faith, zeal and passion for those who have lost their way. May we be advocates for those who have lost their way, lost their voice, and lost their trust in the structures and systems that have pushed them away. For all the right reasons, Jesus pushed her away. But love took the day. God's love made all the difference. Transforming love that can even transform the mind and heart of the Savior of the World. May we live this day confident in that love, confident in God's fierce love for each of us lost sheep.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
This morning my daughter Phoebe and I went to her work to collect her bike. I had picked her up last night in my car since a storm was threatening. When we got there early this morning, the bike was missing from the bike rack where she left it. All summer long she has been riding several miles each way from my mother's house to her job. She also zooms all around town on it to visit with friends and spend time on the beach. The one speed beach bike has been customized with stickers, a cup holder and a second hand basket. Nothing special and very personal. I have been proud of how she has survived the summer with just bike wheels (lots of college kids would be wanting a car by now) and how much she cares about the environment. This loss is not really so financial, as it is, personal. Especially in the midst of a week with some trauma. I am reminded how small things can throw off the balance of large loads when they are dropped in the wrong time and place.
When the police officer came to take the report, he told us, with some surprise, that he had just been here the other day. He was one of the officers who attended when my mother fell, and he made sure she got to the hospital. I realized that both of us were weary with the heavy burden we had been carrying. The worry about my Mom, who is finally home but who will need care, the transitions back to college and the upheavals in our lives- all of these are heavy burdens some days and they make us weary. It was good to have a glimpse of one of the people who helped my Mom. It was good to have a glimpse of feeling others were helping and we were not alone.
The words of Matthew 11 came to mind. "Come unto me, all you that are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I pray today, that I can remember and live today as one who can go to Jesus with my burden. That whatever I am facing or carrying, he will provide rest, comfort and support. I want to live with the thankful recognition of the great cloud of witnesses that surround me, even when the burden seems to overwhelm. And may we all, remember that Christ has promised to shoulder our burden, lighten our load and give us rest.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Hospital food is always a challenge. My mother complained about it, even when she was being fed in the Emergency Room. I have to agree with her that overall it’s bland and confusing, with high sounding names to grey looking food. But she has eaten everything, pretty much, although she misses her own cooking and her own coffee. I think they do what they do on purpose, so that no one gets comfortable with the cuisine or service. I also ache for anyone that finds eating in the hospital truly a step up for them. My Mom said even a plain hamburger at home would be better than this.
I am reminded of the story of Peter on the rooftop with a vision. He learns a lesson and teaches the whole church about welcoming the gifts of strangers, the food of other cultures, and they ways of other people. For a faithful Jew everything that wasn’t kosher and keeping the laws was unclean – including people and they should be avoided completely. But God showed him that God would make the decision about clean and unclean. God would provide for the inclusion and welcome of strangers and their ways. The hospital is a strange place. A neighbor, a roommate not of your own choosing and stuck with strangers to wait on you, cook for you, and heal your wounds. And yet, in the midst of this, I am learning something new about the capacity of strangers. I am learning that God’s healing is often born by those we would not expect, and from remarkable, unfamiliar places. The food may not be great, but what is offered is more than adequate, and is the salvation needed for the day.
And so, as I head off to the hospital for one more day of sitting by her side, I ask God to help me to receive all the good gifts this day has in store. I ask that I can receive without restriction and enjoy without comparison. May we all see with the eyes of Peter, and receive with the heart of God.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
As I have spent the last few days in the ER and then in a hospital room with my mother, I have watched her as they cleaned her wounds, did tests, changed IV ports – all of this she takes with great calm. I get a chance to look closely at her hands and her eyes. I have washed her body and rubbed her back. An intimate knowledge of the one most intimately tied to me.
I am reminded that we are this closely connected with God. A visceral, tangible connection, often hidden in our own personal expressions and then suddenly reveal in a subtle moment. A whisper, a sigh, a gesture are revealing the intimacy of God’s connection to us. Those who look for signs may now find spectacular moments, but those who are present with another, know the connection as real and visible. “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”(John 14:11) God revealed in relationships of love and connection. Today I pray for the strength to see God’s love in the small gestures and words around me. I ask for the courage to acknowledge and be grateful for the real signs of God’s loving presence. May we all this day, know our connection to God as a living, tangible and real connection – as real as mother to daughter, father to son, and sibling to sibling. May we believe this day that we are in God and God is in us all.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Yesterday, I was returning from a complicated but finally successful trip to the DMV to get my car registered. My youngest called to say my Mom had fallen and she was being taken to the hospital. I stopped at home and picked up a few things and immediately headed to the hospital. The few hours between my home and hers - there was nothing to do but drive (reasonably if possible) and pray. Sometimes, we can consider our actions and plan things out, and sometimes we can only do one thing, and deal with the day we are dealt.
When I arrived at the emergency room my daughter Phoebe and her friend were with my Mom who was in a neck brace and still covered in some blood she lost when she hit her head. The ER was crowded to overflowing, as it often is in the summer. My mother was alert and aware but exhausted from the ordeal. We are now waiting through tests to find out what causes her to fall and what she might have to do in the coming days. Nothing is certain, but still we can pray. She is a remarkable human being. Strong and faithful - and willing to take each day as it comes. There is a remarkable besuty in a person who is confronted by great trauma and is able to find a way to lovingly get through the day. She kept her eye on others, treats the nursing staff with kindness and appreciation, and takes the worst in stride. I think all she can do sometimes is to pray. And it seems to work.
So, as this day ends, or as the last two days which have run together end for a brief moment, I ask God for the courage to pray. To expect that if I can do nothing else as we watch and wait, still I can pray. I ask your prayers for Betty this day, and for all of us who watch and wait as skilled professionals do their best to find solutions and bring comfort. May we all have the courage to pray.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The past few days have presented some dramatic skies, with layers of clouds, moving at different speeds, spreading shadows and exposing sun and storm, one right beside the other. The cold fronts and summer warmth have been colliding, no clear winner just dramatic and unpredictable weather. There is much beauty in the unsettled skies and much portent. At any moment we could run inside for cover or out into the day and revel in the clear bright daylight. The changing sky can captivate me with wonder and at the same time trouble my soul.
These are days, when, as the light changes and the earth begins its slow rotation to fall, I think about the future and where I am going most often. I believe it has to do with being programmed young, when August meant some serious thought given to returning to school, to getting school supplies and clothes and trying to do better this year than last. Or maybe just have more friends this year than last. Whatever it is, I tend to start thinking of the future seasons and where I am going when August comes. This year, unlike most, the road ahead is not clear. Where I am going is as changeable as the skies these days. And amidst my ancient need to gather school supplies grows the question of what supplies if any I should be storing up. Where is God directing me to go?
For all of us in transition times, and these are transition times for many, including our church, we can take heart in knowing that we are followers. Jesus loses patience with the religious leaders of his day when they ask for a sign. They ask for a sign almost immediately after thousands had been fed and there was tons of leftovers. In the midst of abundance, of God's indulgent provisions, we too can ask for signs and overlook the present abundance and call to service. I take heart that we can follow Jesus, knowing that the road we travel, the way that we follow, is paved with abundance and miracles. Not too many clear futuristic visions but rather, food enough, company enough, healing enough, love enough for today. I pray today for the courage to enjoy this journey, the insight to see God's abundant blessings in my life, and the patience to savor each step of the journey. I ask that we can all live this day with a sense of Christ's followers - we do not have to store up for the future, but instead walk in the way of Jesus, looking, not for signs, but for opportunities to serve others on the way. For the steps ahead will be clear, as I see and respond to the gifts and needs of those who I encounter on my journey. May we all be blessed this day with encounters that help us to follow and rejoice.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Some days I feel like an old goat. Stubborn, rigid and not interested in anything but the tasks ahead. We watched at the County Fair the other day as young people tried to show off their prize goats for the judges and we saw how difficult a task it is. Goats want to go their own way. They don't herd easily, don't line up cooperatively, nor do they enjoy being examined. They want to be left alone and are, at the same time, bright and very curious about other beings. They are stand-offish and yet they have lead stomachs, can eat almost anything without ill effects and have incredible survival skills. They would make great world travelers, if they weren't so cranky and uncooperative. Today, after a long few days of travel I am feeling like an old goat. Stubborn, rigid and glad to be in my own surroundings.
Nicodemus came to Jesus (John 3:1-21) in the night as an old goat. He was very curious and understood a great deal of who Jesus was. And he wanted to know from Jesus what to do to have life. And Jesus told him he had to be born again. Nicodemus was an old goat. He liked his own surroundings, he was comfortable in his world and with his belongings. He did not want to begin again, be vulnerable, dependent on others, dependent on God. Like Nicodemus, we can hear Jesus answer and pull and jerk away. We mostly like being old goats, and I for one, have a hard time, being born of the spirit, born of God, vulnerable and newborn, reformed, remade and restored in the image of God. So I am challenged this day, after a long traveling session to be born again, to be made new in Christ, despite my own desire to control the world and others and reform them to my ways. May we all have the courage to acknowledge that we want life our own way, and move beyond that to accept Christ's tender gift of life made new - reborn of spirit, with all the vulnerability that comes with life as a child born of the spirit of God. It's easier being an old goat - Lord give me the strength today to be a tender lamb again.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Yesterday I watched a tractor pull for the first time in my life. All of the vehicles were antiques, many faded in the original glory of their colors – generally reds, greens and white- and some have been lovingly restored and repainted. One looked like all the bits had been assembled at the last minute, borrowed and transplanted from other tractors, and when it drove by one had a sense that it was literally held together with chicken wire. The competitors in this event were almost entirely men, although there were a few women in the bunch. There were several classes of tractors as they were all weighed ahead of time, and each competitor took their turn pulling the weighted vehicle they had hitched up until their tires lost traction and they could go no further. It was enchanting to watch the slow progress and the cheering crowds with some individual moments of glory.
The gospel for today reflects a time when Peter followed Jesus, until he lost traction and could go no further. Peter started sinking fast. He was trying to follow but his capacity got the best of him. Many people think Peter got scared and lost faith as he followed Jesus walking on the water. Often, this story is one of those that people consider a story of faith failed. For me, it is a story of what happens when we lose traction, when we get to the end of our capacity and start to sink. Jesus intercedes. He reaches out his hand and takes Peter in tow. When Peter can go no further, God takes his hand. This is a encouraging gospel moment for me. When I can do no more with the steam and power that I have, God intercedes on our behalf. My failure and limits are the invitation to God’s activity and completion. May we all take courage today, knowing that God will supply what we can’t. God only asks us to offer what we have.
Friday, August 8, 2008
For all who travel, either by car, plane, boat, rail - or any other means of transportation -there is as much to rejoice and wonder in as there is to be wary of. May we today enjoy every face we encounter, every expression of God's beauty we find, and every hidden village and homestead where people love and live. This world we travel through can be ignored, avoided or enjoyed. My prayer is to find a way to enjoy the journey and rejoice in the little twinge of anxiety at the pit of my stomach. I am alive and blessed with family, friends and a community of faith. And the open road and the world is ahead of us to explore. May we each this day find expressions of God's beauty and creation where ever we might roam. May fear be put to rest, may our eyes and hearts open and may we see the splendid gifts that surround us.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I did battle with the DMV and lost yesterday. It seems that one slight mistake takes volumes of paperwork to overcome, and one accident, no matter what the insurance companies promise, take months to rectify. I've never had the best of luck when it comes to having all the right forms at state agencies, but yesterday was worst than most. Someone with a little bit of power wielding it as if they were the queen of England during the height of the Empire.
It has got me thinking about authority and power. How the weakest people when given a little bit of power, lord it over others. The strongest people, when given some authority, hold it gently, and are willing to share it and give it way if necessary. I have known priests and bishops of both kinds, and to my disappointment, there seem to be more who wield power than hold it gingerly. The most wonderful leaders, and the most influential authorities are, for me at least, those who are invitational, welcoming and not enamored of their own power. Too often, a little bit of power goes to one's head, and the role and person become enmeshed to the down fall of everyone.
In this very political season, both in the Church and in our country, I hope to have the eyes and heart to see and know true leaders. Leaders who walk humbly with others, not over others. I pray that God will infuse the Church with a deep humility, knowing the little authority clergy and bishops have is a gift of God and entrusted by the people. May we show our children, in this generation, that power does not have to mean abuse, that leadership is not domination and that those who lead can share their authority and power lovingly with others. As I wait for my new used car to be registered, and it will be, some day, may I have the patience and kindness to interact with those whose authority is so minuscule that they feel the exercise of that authority to be life-giving to them. May we all hold what authority we have lightly, that God may use us for the transformation and healing if the world around us.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Later this month I will be performing the wedding for a couple. I have known the bride all of her life and she is marrying a wonderful, loving man. It is a privilege to preside at the ceremony, and yet, I always wonder if folks really understand what they are getting themselves into. Most people want to skip over the bad and scary bits and always tell me they never fight. These two, on the other hand, might be young but have been through some really hard things in their young lives. They have no problem with honesty or the scary bits.
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain with him. Before their eyes he is transfigured and they witness Moses and Elijah with their eyes and hear the voice of God with their ears. They saw God's possibility, God's reality in Jesus just after he told them he had to die. They go down the mountain and head off for Jerusalem. And they are terrified, and don't understand most of it. They are silent about it until much later. They were present for the thrilling part but also extremely present for the worst moments of their lives and in our history.
Relationships of love, whether bound by ritual or not demand from us our willingness to go down into the dark places, to sit with another in the worst of times as well as in the best. I believe that the three disciples went to the mountain with Jesus, not because they were the best disciples, but so that these three would have a transforming and beautiful vision that would carry them through the worst. They were ready to bolt when things got tough. We are all ready to bolt when things get tough. But in the midst of our toughest times, our most painful struggles - the poverty, sickness, and death parts -God provides us with a transforming vision of love. A glimpse of the situation or person transformed. We get a glimpse of how God see them, us and our situation, through the eyes of love. My prayer for today is that for every dark place we have, God will provide us with a brief glimpse of mountaintop glory. That we might see, just for a moment, as God see us. That we might have the strength to stay and not run, but abide in the darkest moments knowing that God is already bringing about a new situation, a relationship, a transfigured possibility for us all.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Most of the Bishops who have been blogging were those who attended in England. I had a very different perspective, being a bishop and yet being at home, watching the rise and fall of the tides of reporting and speculating for all corners. I was not in the water, but rather watching it, from a different perspective but with eyes alert and my heart open. I am grateful that the tone over all was positive and no battles broke out openly. I am somewhat sad, but not surprised, that we are moving to legislate a relationship that is a gift from God. And I am hopeful that despite all the vexing anxiety that proceeded this meeting, we can relax a bit and remember that God is fully in charge and that love takes the day, every day.
John, when asked, said he was not the Messiah, but the one 'crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord!' Some bishops get to thinking that they are the Messiah (it is a dangerous personality trait in all clergy), and forget that all of us, clergy and lay alike are crying in our own wildernesses, 'prepare the way of the Lord'. The blessing of the end of Lambeth is that bishops from all over the world, who serve in relative autonomy and isolation, saw that there were human beings, like themselves, of many diverse cultures and approaches, who are proclaiming and preparing the way for Christ. My hope is that we can all remember that even when we feel all alone and left to our own devices, that there are leagues of people across the globe, preparing hearts and lives for Jesus Christ. None of us is asked to be the Messiah, nor are we to tame the wilderness alone. In fact, there will always be wilderness in our world - challenges that darken daytime, dense traps that bring on fear, voices that harm our spirits as well as our ears -and God has promised to be with us in the midst of them. May we rejoice this day, knowing that Christ is solving what we cannot, Christ is moving in stone hearts, God's love is turning barren desert into living waters. May we watch the waters together, keeping ourselves safe from the torments and traps of rhetorical and theological tides. May we not be carried away in the rip tides, which come and go, but may we ride out together the storms, knowing that God is acting for us in the middle of the storms we face ahead. May we face these together, knowing that our relationship is a gift from God for the mutual benefit of our various and diverse communities.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Yesterday, and all weekend I was without internet access so I wasn't able to add to my blog all weekend. I have thought and prayed about what to say about the conclusion of Lambeth and its outcome. I have been praying daily for my brothers and sisters while they were there. Some days it was harder than others, since I had been excluded from attendance at the last minute on a technicality. But I am one of them, no matter where I am, and have been faithful to pray and consider their work as they gathered. It was hard for lots of folks to be there, and for lots of folks not to be there. The reasons for pain and dislocation were as complicated as the people involved. And yet, with all the challenges, folks came together, prayed together, ate together and were changed by what they encountered along the way.
Yesterday, was cool and beautiful, so we took a long bike ride, meandering by familiar places, stopping for a sip of water and closer observations, as needed. After an hour or so, we came upon a small heard of pigs, sheltered in a acre plus fenced area, right in the middle of town. We watched them play and eat and frolic around. I was reminded that someone had said to me that the chances of the Anglican Communion remaining intact was as likely as "when pigs fly". But yesterday, as I watched, they ran and flew through the air. OK, so not high off the ground, but they were airborne for split seconds. I realized, in those moments, that often we want miraculous resolutions, huge battles and huge wins and we fail to see the minor miracles going on around us. Minor miracles that affect real and lasting change. Yesterday I found out that pigs fly, if but for a second at a time. And we humans, are capable of soaring, if but for a few seconds at an interval also. We are able to glimpse each other as God sees us, without the chains and bindings of our fears and self-loathing. We have moments when we know that God is completely in charge and we can float on that buoyant knowledge, if but for a moment. We are capable of beautiful, tender moments (even if we are bishops) and the outcome of these moments do last a life time and change the known world.
May we each today have the courage to soar. May we take flight with the joy of God in our hearts. May we treasure the very little moments when the weight of the world is lifted and God is completely in charge and we are lifted up. May we have the patience to wait for take off. May we have the vision to acknowledge these small miracles in our lives. May those who are traveling this day know God's mercy and protection. And may we all rejoice in the momentary glimpses of life eternal in the presence of our loving Creator.
Final Prayer for Lambeth
Wondrous and Loving Creator,
the whole of your creation wakes and waits, groaning for completion in you. We have been broken open, time after time, and you have restored and refreshed us. Give us a glimpse of your freedom this day. Give us as foretaste of your justice. Make us all, those who travel and those who stand and wait for travelers, open to your loving capacities. Transform us into beings of light and love this day. Make us sing with your joy. Make us instruments of your praise, vessels of your endless abundance and carriers of your infectious and redeeming love. Breath your love into all of your creation this day, so that the world might know your loving presence in every moment. Through Christ who has made us one family around this world, Amen.
Friday, August 1, 2008
As a Cherokee woman, I have grown to be very wary of contracts, treaties and covenants. That's my own bias. But throughout our history, no paper ever held an individual, institution or government to what was promised. No one can be forced to do what they agree to, and the alone paper historically has forced no one truly to be faithful. Only God's love and spirit can inspire us to be faithful and constant, seeking reconciliation, relationship and joint mission. As a woman, the marriage contract or covenant, until very recent history, has been an agreement between two men over property. There was no protection for the women, ever. Yesterday I watched and read about the true relationships building within the gathering of bishops. I read about tears and apologies, about desire, compassion and hope. I remembered seeing the image of dear Bishop Tutu, during the truth and reconciliation hearings, weep and moan as he listened to what had gone on. It is our hearts, and our willingness to not be the experts, but the agents of change for Christ's kingdom that will make our schisms things of the past. It will be our willingness to hold ourselves lightly and take one another to heart that will be God's desired reconciliation of our world wide church.
Among Native communities, we often talk about doing something, not just for our children and grandchildren, but for the seventh generation yet unborn. My sense is that the work we do now will be felt down through the generations. I believe that we, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, are called to model a new kind of church leadership. No longer princely or authoritarian but compassionate,sharing, teaching, learning, listening, relational leadership. Leading with the heart. Listening and praying with the heart of Jesus. I pray today that we might all have God's grace to step back from edges and into each others arms. I pray that I might be strong enough to listen, and in truly hearing, might have a new heart for God and my brothers and sisters across the Communion.
Dear God of love,
you breathed life into the darkness, breathe your spirit upon us this day. May we be feverish with our zeal for you and our love for one another. May we run to the side of another, and may we also take time to listen to the whole story. May we laugh at ourselves and ask forgiveness when we blunder. May we today be models of your love as we live in relationship with one another through Christ our Lord, Amen.
look on your children this night as they fall into their rest. Let them be reminded of your steadfast and constant care. Renew their capacity for love and forgiveness. Restore their broken spirits. Help us all to rest this night in the loving heart of Christ who gave his life for us, Amen.