Showing posts from October, 2008

A Question of Anxiety, or the Way to Love?

A reflection on Matthew 22:34-46

One of my favorite television shows is found on the Discovery Channel from 6:00pm to 7:00pm Monday through Friday; it’s called Cash Cab. The premise of this show is a New York taxi driver who hosts a game show in his taxi.

The game show is simple to play. The host/driver asks the riders a series of general knowledge questions and the riders respond. Each time the contestant gives a correct answer they earn prize money. Each wrong answer is a strike against them. Three strikes and the cab ride is over, they have to get out of the cab immediately and they lose all their accrued prize money.

Once everyone agrees to the rules the cab starts the trip and the driver asks the first question. The first few questions are worth $25.00, then after awhile the prize money doubles to $50 and then the last few questions, if the riders get that far, are worth $100. I’ve seen people win over $1000 in just one cab ride. The questions are supposed to be general knowledge …

The Fist

One of the rare but chronic symptoms I experience under stress is a spasm in my chest. The spasm occurs in the proximity of my heart, but it isn't my heart. I've had it checked out. It is caused by a spasm in the intercostal muscles near my heart. These muscles are literally in the intercostal spaces between the ribs and attach at the sternum. When my stress is high, the kind of high stress that comes from a breaking heart, these muscles hurt. They twinge and spasm. You see I have what is called a Trigger Point in the muscle. Maybe the TP is in the pectoral muscle, not the intercostal, but who really cares? I know that the spasms are from a TP because I can feel it, and when I put steady pressure on it, the TP hurts with the same kind of pain of the spasm. But after a few minutes appling steady pressure on the TP the pain ceases.

And so do the spasms.

I think that when under stress my body tightens like a fist, angry and protective and preparing to protect. This is not always t…

Heart Pain

Last night was one of those nights where I thought that everything as I knew it was coming to an end. I continue to be stunned at the amount of intense stuff that keeps hitting the fan in my life. And every bit of it is coming out of the blue and broadsiding me. I never even see it coming.

So after a sleepless night I went to the office to be the "Non-Anxious" presence. And, well, I can do that. I am trained to do that. I lead and guide and hold firm in a gentle and hopefully wise way. But every bit of everything I do feels about has hard as it can be. I trust it will pass.

After work today I went for a massage appointment. I am trying to have consistent massages, at least one every three weeks. I walked in and while talking to the therapist I started to weep. It really doesn't take much for me to cry, sob even. As soon as I open up the compartment, the one I stuff it in so I can be non-anxious and function, it all pours out. Anyway. I was clearly right where I needed to …

React in Fear or Respond in Love


She was a mere nine years old but inside a deep desire was brewing. She longed to be baptized. Her parents were in no hurry and failed to see the urgency. But the girl persisted and eventually the parents consented.

So, on a warm June morning the girl prepared for her baptism. Her denomination baptized everyone, from all the local churches, in the same baptismal font located in a special building in the center of town. Every baptism was by full immersion, a complete dunking into the water.

That morning the girl arrived for her baptism, was assigned a special changing room and given the white gown she would be baptized in. When she was ready she walked out into the baptismal chamber and waited her turn in line. Finally she climbed up the steps to the pool and waited on the side as the person before her was baptized. Next her uncle, who would baptize her, stepped into the pool and motioned to her to come in.

At that moment she froze. Looking at her uncle, and looking at the water…

Ok...the world has not ended....and I'm still breathing

I have said more than one lately that the only way I know how to pray these days is through my breath...or the act of breathing. I am virtually unable to spend time in silence, which used to be my preferred prayer posture....silent...contemplative.

Now, well, NOW I rarely find prayer in words. I never (almost never) find prayer in silence - BECAUSE - I can't find the inner spirit is beyond silence....

So. I settle for breathing.

Yesterday was a dreadful day...but I lived through it. We all lived through it.

I thought I was through the worst of it....but silly me....I should know better.

Last night another parishioner began an emotional bleed-out...I swear I experience something like this about every other week....some parishioner having a melt down about something, usually not life threatening, but well, for that person it feels as though life as it is known is being threatened....

Generally they are about things like implementing new security measures to prote…

Speaking of Sin

Lately I've started to think about Barbara Brown Taylor's book, "Speaking of Sin." I don't have a copy of it here, it's at the office. And, I haven't read it for about 5 years....(guessing here, like I said I don't have a copy so not sure when it was printed).

The point is, as I recall from her book, she argues for the necessity of a language for sin. She says that we have become a society that brushes off sin, ignores it as a reality and writes it off. People don't want to go to church and feel "bad" so let's don't offer a confession and absolution.

I remember this topic in a conversation at seminary, lo some 12 years ago. I think I argued, then, for confession, but not at everyone of our daily Eucharists. I thought it would be good enough to have it once or twice a week, so it wouldn't become rote and meaningless. Others wanted it less, while others wanted the confession included in every Eucharist.

Not sure if I would argue…

Someday: Mary Oliver

The possessive hummingbird at the feeder in our backyard...he chases off all the other hummingbirds...


Even the oldest of the trees continues its wonderful labor.
Hummingbird lives in one of them.
He's there for the white blossoms, and the secrecy.
The blossoms could be snow, with a dash of pink.
At first the fruit is small and green and hard.
Everything has dreams, hope, ambition.

If I could I would always live in such shining obedience
where nothing but the wind trims the boughs.
I am sorry for every mistake I have made in my life.
I am sorry I wasn't wiser sooner.
I am sorry I ever spoke of myself as lonely.

Oh, love, lay your hands upon me again.
Some of the fruit ripens and is picked and is delicious.
Some of it falls and the ants are delighted.
Some of it hides under the snow and the famished deer are saved.

(Red Bird: Beacon Press Boston; 2008)

This day is going to be a difficult one, for reasons I cannot say, pertaining mostly to my son. I am anxious and crabby and deeply sad. A…


As I watch the Presidential debates I am distracted by thoughts of leadership. (Ok, I admit, I am finding the debate between McCain and Obama to be a bit dry).....

Anyway...What is good leadership? What kind of leadership do we, will we, trust? I think the answers to these questions varies from era to era, from politics to society to religious institutions.

Before I entered the process for ordination I spent many years in the arts community working in theater and dance production and then in Interior Design. I saw myself as an artist, not the typical artist using paint or ink, pottery, glass, or metals. Rather I saw myself as an artist portraying and bringing forth human emotion, human experience, human hope, in the lights I used to illuminate dance theater or later, as I naively thought, in the furnishing of homes for the wealthy. (yeah, I don't know what I was thinking there - except perhaps that being an interior designer was a means to an end for me - a way for me to get "…

Holy Chaos

That's what I called our worship services today, Holy Chaos. We had our annual pet blessing, a service held on Sunday morning, in the context of the worship service, Eucharist and all.

Some folks suggested, earlier this week, that we bless the animals in the beginning of the service so that those who wanted to leave afterward, could. I declined that suggestion. In my mind and experience, (I've done pet blessings every year in church for the last 10 years), the blessing of our beloved pets falls squarely in our worship in the same order and manner of the other rituals of sacrament. True, blessing our animals is not a sacrament in the way that Baptism is or Eucharist. But because we are blessing our animals in church there is something sacred, sacramental about it. I placed the pet blessing in the same order of worship as a baptism or the wedding vows - at the end of the Liturgy of Word - following the opening prayer, the scripture readings, and the (very brief) homily, after th…

Women, the Conscience of the Church?

This morning I drove north about an hour to attend the Diocesan Convention for the Episcopal Church Women (ECW). Our Bishop and his wife were scheduled to speak about the recent Lambeth Conference. (Lambeth is a conference held every 10 years, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury and held in England. Lambeth Conference is non-governing entity, intended for study and fellowship). This was the second time I have heard the Bishop speak about his experience there and I am getting the impression that it was, perhaps, a real eye-opener for him.

The Bishop and his wife spoke of their experience of the small group work, a Bible study held every morning of those three weeks, except Sunday. After the Bible study (done Lectio Divina method) the small groups would talk and share stories. One of the things that made this year different is that the Bishop spouses, 98% of whom are women, were also invited into Bible study. It seems the Janie Williams, wife of the current Archbishop of Canterbury…

More About Leaders...

My friend and colleague read my blog and sent me another email elaborating on the Harvard Business Review on Leadership:

"Here’s a bit more that struck me from the essay, written by Abraham Zaleznik, Professor of Leadership emeritus at Harvard, called “Managers and Leaders: Are they Different?” Published in the “Harvard Business Review on Leadership” Harvard Business School Press, 1998

“Managers tend to adopt impersonal, if not passive, attitudes towards goals. Managerial goals arise out of necessities rather than desires and, therefore, are deeply embedded in their organization’s history and culture.”

“Leaders adopt a personal and active attitude toward goals. The influence a leader exerts in altering moods, evoking images and expectations, and in establishing specific desires and objectives determines the direction a business takes. The net result of this influence changes the way people think about what is desirable, possible and necessary.”

“Managers relate to people according to…

Leading On Eggshells


A friend of mine sent me an email that included this:

"I thought about you yesterday as I was reading a collection of essays on leadership published by Harvard Business School. One writer emphasizes the differences between a manager and a leader. A manager, he said, copes with complexity through the accomplishment of daily, necessary tasks – in short, maintaining things as they are. A leader, on the other hand, is concerned with change – articulating its vision and ensuring its accomplishment, not by imposing it from above but by developing it from among the existing staff, getting people excited about the future. Organizations need both managers and leaders; it seems to me that what you are doing in small town big church is providing leadership – exactly what they need."

Reassuring words from my gifted and knowledgeable friend as I struggle to claim my voice in this new place.

In that same Alban Institute conference (previous post) the facilitator Susan Beaumont to…