Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Virtual Retreat

A meditation on the readings for Advent 2C for the RevGalBlogPals Virtual Advent Retreat:

Entering the Advent journey is an invitation to travel, intentionally, into the wilderness – the dark night of the soul. One hopes that the Church guides this journey offering opportunities to pray, ponder, stirred up, conflicted. John, the desert prophet, proclaims the burning chaff, the background to our Christmas shopping. Advent sings of incongruous images - new birth and end of life, the Alpha and the Omega, of oppression and freedom, of despair and ultimately of hope. The path is uneven and twisted, spiraling in to the depths of our being, certain we are lost. And then, quietly, the Spirit of God calls to us, “Awake, arise, my love, my dear one.” The early morning desert sun illuminates the way - through the valley to Jordan’s bank - our God is near. Awake and hearken, let each heart prepare a place for the Word to break in, a child to come anew, whispering peace into you and me. Come, our long expected One, come.

Within in our darkest night
A starless chill
Calling, “Emmanuel
Oh where, are you?”

Within our deepest soul
Astounding one
Cries in the wilderness
the way of the Lord!”

Within our darkest night
A still small spark
Hark! The glad sound calls out
Awake!” Jerusalem

Rise up and give walk in light
from darkest night -
Our Daystar comes, the night

Dispelled, every valley filled,
mountain low, the rough made
A light, a light bathes bright

Discard the garment, sorrow
Arise! Put on the robe
with love and mercy

Photos from the personal collection of Mompriest

Cross posted at the RevGalBlogPals blog.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Most gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up and the clouds drop down the dew: We yield thee hearty thanks and praise for the return of seedtime and harvest, for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of its fruits, and for all the other blessings of thy merciful providence...And, we beseech thee to give us a just sense of these great mercies, such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy, obedient waling before thee all our days....Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page840)

Wishing everyone a blessed day of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The light slants from the south
casting shadows in its wake
startling the afternoon
- a breath of brilliance
before the final
sigh -
and the sun falls
into darkness

Daylight comes late and leaves early
dark more than light,
and yet,
busyness takes over
calling out You must!

while inside
my soul whispers
be still
for just a
be still.

It's Coming Around Advent

Endless indigo
beckoning inward
dark night, soul

another dawn
anticipate warmth
new light life

Wait, pause
Slow down, take time
let the moment

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

I am trying to prepare the discussion for this book, which will appear on the RevGals blog on Monday. I have over three pages of quotes....

and a sermon I wrote about refugees from Rwanda and preached on Pentecost 2008.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

Page 264: It is so easy to spiral into fear toward paranoia. We become the terror that possess us.
Page 253 Compromise is fine on anything that is not essential, but you cannot compromise your principles. You cannot compromise the dream or the dream dies, and you suffer spiritually.

Page 249: The full range of emotion: A bag of skulls, a bag of potatoes, both tilled from the same fields.

Page 248: I I hear William Coffin’s voice: “The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.”

Page 228: If you do violence to me, you do violence to yourself because we are all human beings.

Page 167: I close my eyes. Two images emerge: one man spitting on the prairie dog on the side of the road and Sarah pressing her lips against the dying prairie dog baby’s lips as she gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Page 155 Never postpone gratitude. Ingratitude robs of enthusiasm. Albert Schweitzer

Page 88: If you take away all the prairie dogs, there will be no one to cry for the rain.

Page 18: I believe in the beauty of all things broken.

Page 6: A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Mullygrubs: A RevGals Friday Five (LOL)

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"? If I wake up with a strong case of them, which I have prone to do, Strong coffee followed by my exercise routine (ab work and arm weights) followed by yoga followed by a vigorous bike ride followed by a shower. Then I make myself get dressed in something other than sweats and I put on make up. After all of that I take myself out to eat. In other words I get moving.

However, on other days I indulge in those mullygrubs and drink coffee for hours while readin blogs, in my yoga attire, AS IF I were going to do the above...

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving? For over a month we have been planning to go to a friends house. They came to our house for last year and so we are going to their house this year. However now our son is staying with some friends in the 5th largest city in the USA and they want us to come for Thanksgiving. What to do? What to do? Break out plans with our friends here in order to be with our son there? (which would include 6 hours of driving and my husband works the day before and the day after Thanksgiving)...sigh....unresolved at this point in time...

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family? We will have the traditional Turkey with mashed potatoes and gravey, salad, green bean cassarole, pumpking pie...I am to bring some other kind of dessert and am thinking a homemade apple pie. But I also have a ton of lemons picked off our lemon tree and am wondering if I could use those in some way? Unresolved at this point in time...

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday? I like it. I like to get up and watch the parade, prepare the meal (Usually I have been the hostess), eat a lot, enjoy some good wine, and then collapse at the end of the day when everyone has gone home and watch an old Christmas movie. The next day I like to go to a movie and put up my Christmas tree.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for? Lots of challenges lately in my life and in the lives of my family. Grateful we all keep going.

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.I suspect her thanksgiving would include a house decorated in vibrant reds and oranges. The food would be traditional except for a fancy homemade cranberry sauce and an unusual sweet potatoe dish. My mother used to make a different sweet potatoe dish every year. One year she mashed the sweet potatoes and added brown sugar and cinnamon, then formed the mashed sweet potatoes into a ball around a marshmellow and rolled the ball in corn flakes, then baked them until the marshmellow was melted. I don't remember if I liked them, but I do remember them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Prayer by Gertrude of Helfa

Lord, in the presence of your love, I ask that you unite my work with your great work, and bring it to fulfillment. Just as a drop of water, poured into a river, becomes one with the flowing waters, so may all I do become part of all that you do. So that those with whom I live and work may also be drawn to you love.

Gertrude of Helfa, Germany, 1256-c.1302

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is It Wrong?

This morning I am drinking my coffee from a large mug decorated with a couple of snowmen, Christmas tree lights, and snow flakes. The temperature outside is probably 50 degrees at 8:30am, but before long it will a sunny 79 degrees. November and December find me yearning for chilly weather, snow, even some cloudy sky days. Is it wrong?

When I was in Chicago a few weeks ago I delighted in the chilly overcast days. I sat in a Sweet Tomatoe's restaurant drinking coffee with a friend and my daughter and happened to mention this. They, those who have more overcast days than they like, just rolled their eyes. I found however that the cloudy day was easy on my eyes and I appreciated the comfort of wearing a sweater and jeans.

There is a part of me that misses those wintery days when a blizzard locks you indoors. There is a part of me that simply cannot imagine putting up a Christmas Tree when it's sunny and 70 degrees.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders: Christian Formation for the Missionary Church

The highlight for me of the Gathering of Leaders was a presentation offered by The Rev. Dr. Christopher Beeley, professor at Yale Divinity School (in Patristics, I believe). Christopher spoke from The Works of John Newton, "Grace in the Ear" from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark (the parable of the Sower), letter XI. John Newton is the author of the hymn known as "Amazing Grace." He was a ship owner and slave trader before becoming a priest in the Church of England. He went through a mighty conversion, worked to end the slave trade and spent his last years as Rector of united parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolchurch in London.

Beeley focused his presentation on a three step process of faith formation offered by Newton and developed from a reflection of Newton's on the parable of the sower. The first step is "Desire." A person wanders into a church one Sunday morning because....and we were asked to offer up a variety of reasons a person might wander in and HOW they would feel. A person might feel "elation" and "joy" or "relief." The sense of desire propels one into church with a sudden surge of awareness of God's grace and love. This first phase is like the Hebrews freed from Egypt, it brings with it a sense of elation. While the sense of desire and God's love persist they also change with time leading to the second phase.

The second phase is "Conflict." This is the "dark night of the soul" phase where one wrestles with God, with faith,and often faces challenges that were not experienced in the first phase of Desire. If Desire is marked by elation like that of the Hebrew freed from slavery, this phase is marked by a sense of being lost, the Hebrews wandering in the desert for 40 years. One might think upon entering the phase of Desire that all one's problems are over, but in fact, they may just be beginning. This is a time of growing more dependent on God and deepening our trust as we travel through one challenge after another.

The second phase leads to the third phase. Newton is careful to spell out that one is not necessarily a better believer or person in one phase or the other, rather one's sense of dependence on God increases through each phase. To me this phase sounds a bit like what the Buddhists call "Detachment." This phase is marked by a shift in emotions where one becomes less emotionally engaged in the challenges and more able to view them with some distance, having put one's trust in God.

For more information on The Works of John Newton go here. You will find his ideas on these three phases beginning on page 171, "Grace in the Blade."

Our group felt strongly that these phases, A, B, and C were not linear but perhaps a spiral that repeats over and over through life.

The point of Beeley's presentation was to spur a conversation and our thoughts on how to provide Christian Formtion programs in our churches that address where folks are along the spectrum of these three phases. What kind of programming and or ministries can we offer those who are in the state of "Desire" - thinking more clearly about what newcomers might really need? And then what kind of ministries and programs can we offer to those in the "Conflict" phase or the third phase of "Contempltion?"

It left me thinking about how individuals go through these phases, but I also, I think congregations do too. Some congregations are mostly in one phase or another at any given point in their life....and if so what does that mean for leaders? More on this idea later.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Friday the 13th Friday Five

From Sophia over at Revgals comes this Friday Five:

1. How is this Friday the 13th looking for you? It's is a rare cloudy, blustery day here with hints of rain, although that won't happen...a few sprinkles, maybe. It's a day off for me and my husband, but no plans yet.

2. Have you ever had anything unlucky happen on Friday the 13th? I suppose one could say that I've had lots of "unlucky" things happen in my life - but I don't think any of them are related in any way what so ever with the 13th of the month falling on a Friday.

3. Did your family of origin embrace or scorn superstitions? Not really. I had a great grandmother who was a Christian Scientist, and she had a deep belief in the power of prayer. My mother had no belief in prayer. This despite her deep love and affection for the grandmother. So, I suppose I could say that prayer was embraced by some of my family and scorned by others. And, so for some, prayer was like a superstition.

4. Are there any unique or amusing ones from your family, region, or ethnic background? No, none I can think of.

5. Do you love or hate horror movies like "Friday the 13th"? Hate.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders Part 3

The Gathering of Leaders conference focused on what it means to be a Misional church. Much of the initial conversation is now old news for those of us who have been doing church for a number of years, but later on the conversation deepened. We began with the typical questions a church must ask of itself: "Who are you?" and "Where are you going?" and, "What do I/we need to put aside in order to be who it is that God intends for me/us to be and to go where God intends for me/us to go?"

I have found that churches may look at these questions but many do not take the time to consider them and answer them with depth and insight. To do this a parish needs to understand how to pray and discern corporately as well as individually. As clergy and lay leaders our role in this process is to build trust with the congregation and discerning group from which the discerning work can take place. The leadership needs to also take care of all pressing needs - whatever those may be. A common phrase used in this conference to guide clergy in new calls, "Don't move it, dust it." In other words don't change too much, just clean it up a bit.

The next thing we discussed was the need to build a common language. Church folk often presume that people new to the church know the language, or that they should know it. How can we be intentional to make sure our language is clear: narthex, sanctuary, Lord's Prayer - traditional or contemporary (You mean there are two versions?), and so on.

Ultimately we decided that the Missional process requires intentionality. It matters less what that is specifically, rather it matters that a church have an intentional process for articulating and living into its mission. What is the character/nature of the parish? Help people know who the church is, what the church "does" and how each person can be a part of it. I think that is the most critical - "how can I be a part of this?" No secret entrance process, clear ways in. Give new members parish mentors then move that new member into becoming the mentor for the next new member and so on. Create professional formation, don't be lazy or haphazard, tell the parish story, the Christian story, and teach a common vocabulary.

Regarding new members: for those of us familiar with church - spend some time thinking through what it is/was like to be new to church, what it's like to be unchurched or dechurched. Ponder what it takes to
1. physically go into a church
2. what might a person expect from the church
3. why would a person go to church
4. will the person understand the language used, verbally and written
5. is there helpful signage
6. what "hoops" does a person have to go through to become part of the congregation - to find folks in common and join areas of interest

Lastly, we consider how the Twelve Step Program is effective in addressing the above questions: It has a clear mission, process for entering, process for mentoring, process for getting involved, and offers a real hope for transformation and new life. Some concluded from this Gathering that looking into the methodology of Twelve Step Programs is critical to forming an understanding of how we in the church might help church become more "user-friendly"...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders part 2

The impetus for this, Gathering of Leaders series, stems from the work of Bishop Payne, retired from the Diocese of Texas. The purpose of the Gathering of Leaders is to assist in the empowerment, support and development of such leaders. To this end, the Gathering provides a place for leaders to come together without contentiousness and partisanship to share their love of the Christ and of the Church, to empower each other through mutual encouragment, to deepen their skills as transformational leaders, to establish networks which will aid their ministries, and to clarify their understanding of God's emerging vision for the renewal of the Episcopal Church.

The Gathering of Leaders is committed to the following core values:
>The Missionary call of Christ
>A hope-filled vision for the Episcopal Church
>Respect for differences
>Creative and innovative leadership
>Spiritual and numerical growth
>Peer learning

The opening session unpacked what this means. The GOL brings together transformational leaders from across the Episcopal Church for mutual encouragement, sharing of ideas and reflection on the spiritual and leadership challenges of ministry today. Participants include bishops, priests, and lay people of demonstrated leadership potential who have at least 15 years of active ministry remaining in their leadership careers. Those who gather agree to respect differences in theology and approach and to leave disputes about divisiveness church issues at the door. Each gathering is limited to 40 persons.

Leaders are encouraged to come to one Gathering a year. The broad theme is, The Missionary Church. Each year the Gatherings will have a theme based on the broader theme. This year the theme is "Christian Formation in the Missionary Church." Each gathering will include Bible study on scripture and questions related to the theme. We looked at Barnabas as an example of missionary discipleship and leadership and reflected on readings from Acts. We also had several presentations from clergy doing missional leadership: from traditional old churches on the East coast doing innovative things to an emerging church in LA. We had a wonderful theological presentation by Christopher Beeley, a prof at Yale, on Christian Formation. I'll write more about that later as it was my favorite part of the conference. We also had time for worship and for panel presentations by bishops and seminary professors. All in all it was quite excellent.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders

A few weeks ago I attended a three day conference called, "Gathering of Leaders." It's premise calls lay and ordained church leaders to gather and reflect on that which brings us together, our common mission as disciples of Christ. To do this we set aside that which might divide us, choosing to acknowledge that all that divisiveness is, in the end, fleeting and futile. Or, as Mary Oliver says,

" ...and how could anyone believe
that anything in this world
is only what it appears to be."

In other words, there is a mystery of God's grace at work and we only see dimly what that mystery might be. Best then to focus on how we are being called to bring forth God's grace and love.

It was a wonderful three days of sharing and exploring. I'll share some of that here in a series of reflections over the next few days or so.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Driving Home

The wedding last Sat. night was delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed officiating at it and spending some time afterward mingling with the guests. My husband was with so that made it even more enjoyable for me. The next morning I rose, not nearly as early as I intended, and began my journey to return Ollie, the giant puppy, back to his rightful owner, my daughter. This meant driving to Chicago. And back.

Our drive to Chicago was uneventful although seemingly endless. I drove straight through stopping only for a four hour nap at a rest stop east of Amarillo Texas, and about seven other breaks (every two hours) to walk the dog, stretch, and eat. It simply seemed to be too much to try and find a hotel to accommodate me the dog. And the rest stop in Texas (I knew from [previous experience) was clean and secure. The stops are staffed with security folk who watch monitors all night. I felt comfortable enough to go inside and wash my face and brush my teeth. Returning to the car I put the seat back, so I was nearly in Ollies lap, pulled out my pillow and blanket and took a comfortable nap. The next day was another long one, landing me around 7:30pm at my daughters townhouse.

Ollie, who has been living with us in Arizona for six weeks, did not realize that he was home. That's because our daughter had moved and I was taking him to a home he'd never been too. His first response upon getting out of the car and seeing J's shadow in the light of the door was to bark. Protectively of me. That is until she said, "Ollie"...and he realized who she was, "Mom." He jumped and flipped and brushed up against her - oh, it was so cute.

The week went by quickly. I saw my brother who has cancer and my in-laws. I saw a couple of friends and got my massage table back. It's been on loan to someone for about four years...

This morning I sadly left Chicago to return to Arizona and promptly got a speeding ticket. It was a lapsed moment of passing a truck and not paying attention as I drove into a speed trap...a sneaky one at that. About four of us were pulled over all in a row. sigh. It's my first ever. I wonder if it is a bad omen?

Now I am resting in a hotel in Weatherford, Oklahoma, about half way, or 900 miles of the 1800 mile trip. In a week's time I will have driven over 3600 miles..... Without a big dog I can stay in a hotel and look forward to a good nights sleep. I've showered, done some yoga, read email, and am drinking some delicious tea (Chamomile nights) sent to me by a friend - you know who you are. It's perfect and has helped me feel like I have stopped. The first little while out of a car after 13 hours of driving one feels like one is still in motion.....but now, I've stopped, and am feeling sleepy.

Tomorrow I'll drive the rest of the way home.

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...