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Iconography: story telling and praying with paint

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 In the summer of 2020 I planned a sabbatical. It was to begin with two weeks in Ireland, Scotland, and England. Eight days were supposed to be in a storytellers retreat with Kathleen Norris and Gareth Higgins near Belfast. We were supposed to spend the days hiking and learning about the art of story telling. However, the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down and the retreat to Ireland was postponed to 2021. As a parish priest I think of myself as a story teller. I tell the stories of faith and retell them in a way that intends to draw connections between the experiences of the divine that people had thousands of years ago, and wrote into texts that became scripture and biblical, and our lives today. I do not hear those ancient stories as literal and factual, rather I hear them as inspirational and informative, guiding me and others into  interpreting our experiences of the divine and telling our stories of God's faithfulness in life and creation. The story telling is not without p

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany and some thoughts for the annual meeting post 2020

 Scripture:  Mark 1:21-28 Our scripture readings this morning share a common question: how to live as God desires? To help us understand how to live as God desires, the readings begin by describing what it looks and feels like to not live as God desires, to go against what God hopes for. Going against God’s desires looks like demons, it looks like eating food that creates the conditions for food injustice, it looks like doing things that create the conditions for racism, poverty, hunger, and other things that cause systemic disparity in the world. Many of us contribute to the problems of the world without even knowing we are doing so. These are our demons.   Let’s reflect a bit on who God is and how we know what God desires: Scripture tells us that in the beginning of creation God existed. Who is God? God is known as the source of all creation, the energy source, the creative source, the ultimate Being of life, however one depicts what that means.  So, in the beginning there was

Star Words

 For as long as I can remember a group of my clergy colleagues have participated in an annual January event with their congregations called "Star Words." Each member of the congregations receives a star shaped piece of paper with a word on it. I have done this three times, preparing sheets of paper with star shapes and random words inside the star. I've cut out each star, put them all in bags, and invited people in the parish to draw out a star on a Sunday morning in January. People are encouraged to pay attention to the word and wonder how it defines or describes their year.  Last year the star word I picked was "song." I have wondered about this word. How would song describe or define 2020? At first I had no idea. It was certainly a more challenging word for me to imagine than previous words I'd picked, like "Truth" or "Joy."  As 2020 unfolded a few things happened. First Covid forced us into sheltering at home with on-line worship only

December

 

Unraveled back together

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  Unravelling. We have spent the summer reflecting on stories in scripture of people whose lives are unraveling. When a life unravels everything is upended and it may seem as though God is nowhere to be seen. Yet the stories we have heard remind us that God is very present even in the unraveling. God does not cause the chaos, the circumstances, the unraveling. Life circumstances cause the unraveling. But God is in the mix, helping people restore their lives and make meaningful, substantive changes to adapt.   The three readings in our scripture today are no exception. Each one of these three characters is, or has experienced, unraveling in their life. Let’s begin with Job. This is a man who had lived a very safe, comfortable life. He was blessed with riches of land and money and family. The story begins with the Satan, a member of God’s executive council, making a bet with God. The Satan says, I bet I can make Job stop believing in you God. And God says, you’re on. So the Satan cause

Time

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 During the eight days of the first leg of this mini-sabbatical and during the nineteen days of this leg, I have made it my intention to slow down, to let time just unfold. I have spent countless hours sitting in a chair observing the water as it shifts and noticing the algae bloom as it moves and reveals the current of the water. I have spent countless hours being attentive to the Great Blue Heron, and captured it’s statuesque beauty in photos. I have laughed at the squirrels and given thanks every morning when the baby rabbit appears with the mom. I have been awe struck by the beauty of the morning sun rising over the water and the graceful colors of nature in morning: pale pink, blue, green. I have read, and painted icons, and been still. I have tried to let time just unfold, to let time be long and leisurely.  And yet, time has flown by. I am almost packed. Soon I will load the car, tighten the cables holding the kayaks in place on the roof, and lock the door behind me. By noon I w

completion

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 Time is a curious sense of reality. Minutes, hours, even days, can feel like an eternity. Yet weeks, months, and years fly by. I can hardly believe that I have come to the end of this 19 day mini-sabbatical. Tomorrow I pack up and leave this little cottage. I will miss my mornings watching the sun rise over the water and the busy birds and rabbits as gather. Fall is in the air because the blackbirds are here, part of their twice yearly migration. They amaze me, so many all at once. The squirrels and rabbits are not pleased to have to share this space with them.  The water quality here has been tricky. Every day the algae bloom drifts in and then drifts out. Some days it gets stuck in this corner of the lake, getting thicker as the current and wind piles on more and more. Then, within hours, it all drifts away. Usually it floats under the road and to the other side. Sometimes it floats down to the other side of this inlet lake. The algae bloom is disgustingly dirty, bits of trash stuck