Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Talk about the Passion

Some of us were talking about passion the other day.  We all want to feel passionate about something. We want to care, deeply, and be energized and engaged and excited.

And yet we all have run into passion that has gotten in the way, has caused its owner to lose perspective, has numbed prudence, has been fanned into flames of anger or destruction.

Can one care too deeply for something?   Does the passion that expresses itself via the red face, the shouting or cutting remark really stand in for something else?  Shame? Insecurity? Fear? A heart too sizes to small (to quote Dr. Seuss)? Control issues?

There have been times when I felt passionately about something and somewhere in the middle of my fifth paragraph in conversation about that something with someone else, I suddenly began to have an out-of-body experience.  I suddenly heard myself and thought, this person surely thinks I'm crazy. Or childish. Or just wrong.  I need to shut up.  I can see their eyes glazing over or their lips pursing. But of course I go on to paragraph six because my passion is driving me and maybe I'm not feeling heard.

But then I go off and have a good talk with myself about toning it down, about not caring so much, about just getting on with things without the roller coaster of emotions that comes along with passion.

And then I try to become careful, and measured, to be more even-keeled and philosophical. I tamp down my feelings.  And then I don't take risks; and then I become dull and boring; and then I become less me instead of fully me.

The thing is, there have been times in my past when I let my passions rule me, and the results were not so good. I got myself in trouble or ended up somewhere I didn't mean to be and didn't know what to do about it.  I wondered what a nice girl like me was doing in a place like this.  I admit that there are still times when I'm just afraid of passion.  I'm afraid of being out of control; I'm afraid of being swept away; I'm afraid of looking stupid or getting myself in trouble.

Perhaps that's how Jesus ended up on a cross, because of his passion.  Come to think of it, that's what they call it - his passion.  We read the Passion Narrative twice during Holy Week and we see what happens when things get out of control.

And yet.... And yet God so loved the world.  That's God's passion.  For us.  Out of God's exuberance the stars and frogs and strawberries and the mountains and wild oceans and we were created.  Unbridled passion, that.

We enjoy God's passion for us, I preach it all the time, but we don't really want to end up like Jesus. We don't want to have that kind of passion if it ends up with that kind of result.  I know I don't.  I want some kind of safe passion, but the truth is, I don't think such a thing exists.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Evening Prayer: A Collect for the Presence of Christ

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companions in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

Photo of the Day: Crocus

I have assisted with several funerals this month in our parish. Today I gave the homily at a funeral in church and then accompanied the family to the cemetery for the burial. When I got back to the parish house, this little beauty greeted me from the garden. Matters of life and death are a mystery.

Morning Prayer for Guidance

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of this life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Afternoon

No meditation today - I am away with some of the youth of our parish (and some adult companions) at a ski resort in Virginia.  I hope I will have gotten some photographs to share and no doubt will have some stories to tell.  I hope none of them are about me falling down.  Although I do not ski and will not be getting on skis this weekend, I am perfectly capable of falling down while on my own two feet.

I will appreciate your prayers as we return home today after appreciating the majesty of God in the mountains, in the snow, in fun and laughter, and in the bread and the wine at our morning worship together.

Collect for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Morning Fun

Saturday morning fun! Click the link below and draw a stick man! And take it on an adventure! It's sort of Harold and the Purple Crayon for geeks! Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday afternoon weed/wildflower break

Double header today of these fuzzy grassy things.

One, and many.

Morning Prayer for Travelers

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel, in particular the Bruton Youth Group as they go for a ski retreat this weekend; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter's Bone

Not long ago, I watched the critically acclaimed movie Winter's Bone, starring Jennifer Lawrence, on Netflix.  I will be honest and say that left to my own devices, I might never have watched it, but my husband was interested and even though we often have very different taste in movies, the ones he recommends to me are almost always thought-provoking and they almost always stick with me for a while.

So, too, Winter's Bone.  The basic premise is that a young girl of 17 named Ree Dolly has dropped out of school to care for her younger sister and brother because their father has been imprisoned for "cooking meth"and their mother has descended into some kind of silence.  They are desperately poor, and one of the things Ree does is teach her siblings how to shoot and gut squirrels for dinner.  She has given up her own education for theirs and her own future for the squalid present that her parents have abdicated responsibility for.  Ree learns that her father has put the house and property up for collateral for his bail but seems to be missing.  If he does not turn up at his hearing, the family will be forced off the land and out of their home.  And so Ree goes looking for him.

All of the Dollys are involved in the methamphetamine business in the Arkansas Ozarks.  They live in a subculture littered with scrawny animals and junk cars, and populated by jumpy men and wary women.  And they live by a code of silence and collusion that is meant to protect them from the law.  It appears that perhaps Ree's father has broken this code, and various family members try to get Ree off the trail, first by lying to her and then by attacking her physically.

Still, Ree continues to appeal to them for help.  She figures that blood ought to count for something.  We're kin, she says, and my brother and sister and mother and I are poor and hungry and about to be homeless.  We need help, she says, and you are our kin.  But that kin is so enmeshed in their system of self-protection, that none of them can see beyond their own fears.  They do not see Ree as their kinswoman; they see her as a threat.  And they self-righteously lash out at her.

Still, she persists.  This is a justice issue for her, and she will not give up.  And finally, when she is beaten and bloody and they see what they have done to one of their own, some of the women decide to come to her aid.

I won't divulge the rest of the plot, in case you'd like to see the movie for yourself (and I do recommend it).  But I'm not giving away anything by saying that this story plays out in all times and places because it is very common for a system to be about self-protection instead of kinship.  It is very common for people to be unable to see others as their kin.  We Christians say that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we have a hard time living into that.  We find ways to weasel out of our obligations to one another because we are afraid, because we have surrounded ourselves with our own system that excludes those we fear or don't like or are different and don't live by our code.

And we only realize the harm done when someone is brutalized. 

 Does this sound familiar?  

Morning Canticle: A Song to the Lamb

A Song to the Lamb (Dignus es)

Splendor and honor and kingly power are yours by right, O Lord our God,

For you created everything that is, and by your will they were created and have their being;

And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, for with your blood you have redeemed for God,

From every family, language, people, and nation, a kingdom of priests to serve our God.

And so to him who sits upon the throne, and to Christ the Lamb,

Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, for ever and for evermore.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: My so-called pets

Most of you know that Miss Kitty and Mr Bunny are still in Atlanta with the rest of the family.  So, these are my Virginia pets - The Macalester Scottie, The Cornell Ram, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Attack Bunny.  My niece thought that I should have a real attack bunny since my landlord thinks rabbits are destructive and banned Mr Bunny from living with me here.

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Morning Canticle

The Second Song of Isaiah
Quaerite Dominum

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways and the evil ones their thoughts; And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heaven and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth, 
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So it is my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I have sent it.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


We are not having that cold of a winter here (at least not yet), but we have experienced some chilly days and nights.  While I see many people wandering around with their hands cradling coffee cups, I'm a tea person myself.  I have a small collection of (mostly china) coffee pots and chocolate pots and tea pots (one family heirloom dating to the mid-18th century) and also a couple of tea pots I actually use.  I finished off furnishing my office with the addition of a new china teapot and mugs.  And at home I make frequent use of the set in the photo above, which was given to me by my tea-loving son.

Putting the kettle on is what one does when one doesn't know what else to do.  Drinking in the warmth, holding it in one's hands, is comforting.  And sitting together sipping tea is a way many people experience a connection with one another. It's social and communal and sometimes therapeutic. Having tea is not just about the intake of necessary liquids.

My son and his fellow pilgrims discovered something about having tea as a community building activity when they were in Ireland last summer.  The guys decided to create the nightly ritual of having tea together, and eventually they began inviting the girls and the adults to join them.  Part of it was fun - wearing their button up shirts and arching their eyebrows and maybe extending the pinky finger and all that. But part of it was also probably a recognition of their own need to create community as they were away from home, in a foreign country, trying out some new freedoms and trying on some new identities.

Everyone needs rituals, and if we don't have them already in our lives, we will create them.  They help us stay centered, they give us comfort, they help us have something to do with our hands, they feed us and nourish us in many ways.  We love the familiar, the almost rote activity of doing what we know how to do to mark time or change or to bring comfort and stability into our world.

Blessed be the ritual of tea.

Morning Prayer for Social Justice

Grant, O God, that your hold and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Birds

Today as I was leaving the parking lot for lunch, I noticed a beautiful cardinal (male, bright red, pointy-headed) flitting around the car parked next to mine.  As I got closer, I saw that he was fighting with himself - he was flying over, under and around the side mirror, pecking at his reflection.  When I got even closer, he flew over to a nearby branch to wait me out.

And when I returned a little later, there he was again, this time on the windshield, swiping at his reflection with well-placed beak jabs.

I got a chuckle out of it, but at the same time I winced.  I have to say that I have done an awful lot of fighting with myself over the years.  It isn't pretty.

What I mean by that is that I see in "other people" things that I don't like ... and then if I will take time to reflect, I will most likely realize how guilty I am of doing those same things.  I get irritated about someone's whining about something but if I stop and think about it, I suddenly realize how much whining I am doing myself.  I am whining about their whining.  I get put off by someone's negativity only to recognize, later, my own engaging in negativity.  I don't like someone to one-up me, and so my response is to one-up them.  "I don't like people to act all superior," I think superiorly.

It isn't pretty.

But it's pretty common.

Jesus said, "Be sure to take the log out of your own eye before you go after the speck in someone else's eye."


Morning Prayer for our Enemies

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hearing the Master's Voice

We ask in the collect for the day today (see the previous post) for God to give us grace to answer the call of our savior and to proclaim to all the world the Good News of his (to us, meaning our!) salvation. Our proclamation of that Good News is how the world will understand just what a Big Deal this is, this salvation.  And that Good News does not reflect upon us, but reflects God's glory.  The point of our witness is to point to the goodness and marvelousness of God.

The trick is to be able to hear God's call to us in specific situations and to reflect God's glory in the world in the midst of normal, every day life.  So often we focus on having some kind of conversion, of acknowledging God's claim on us, apart from the rest of our lives.  As if it is extra, this grace and this salvation; as if it is something tacked on at the end so that we know we will end up in heaven.  The part about living out our faith in ordinary times seems harder to figure out.

Apart from standing on the street corner, preaching to the crowds as they go by (which happens even here in Williamsburg, Virginia!), which is not something that many of us feel called to do, how does one witness in every day life? How does one live out the Gospel at the grocery store or the golf course?

The people I know who seem to be witnessing in this way are people who are steeped in a life of prayer themselves.  They engage in regular practices of prayer - the listening kind, not the talking kind - and seem to stay grounded in that listening.  They don't seem to be in such a hurry to make proclamations. But you can tell that they are listening, and they are not only listening to God but they are listening to the people around them.  They always have time to listen.  They always have time to slow down and engage and smile and touch and you can see in their eyes that they care.

It is that caring, that taking time to attend to people (often to people who are hurting), that is the witness.  While many of us are aware of God's speaking to us through Scripture and through nature and through people, many of us also experience God's silence in the face of our outpourings.  I am beginning to see that silence not as non-response but as God's listening.

And so today I commend listening to our companions in the way as a way to witness to God's own listening and a way for us to listen ourselves for God's reminder to us that the world is full of hurt and brokenness and sometimes all we can do in the face of that is companionable listening.

Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Star Wars Movie

This is last year's VW commercial for the Super Bowl, which is one of my favorite commercials ever.  (Not that I have that many favorite commercials, I might add. I'm not that much of a TV watcher. In fact, I don't have a TV in my house in Williamsburg.)  During this video you'll see a place to link to the 2012 VW commercial, which, if you click and watch it, you'll see is connected to this one.  And I'm guessing there is another commercial that will link to it, which we'll maybe have to wait for the Super Bowl to see.  Clever.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday afternoon weed/wildflower break


Morning Canticle: Benedictus es, Domine

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday, a day late

A windy day at the beach!

Morning Canticle: Ecce, Deus

The First Song of Isaiah
Ecce, Deus
Isaiah 12:2-6

Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you 
is the Holy One of Israel.

Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: 
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's Underneath

This is what is left when clematis flower petals fall off.  Striking, no?

Here it is with petals.  Quite lovely, but in a very different way.

We all of us have outer selves and inner selves and some kind of structure that holds it all together physically and also something that holds us together spiritually.

It all has its form (of some kind) and function (of some kind) and it all has its own beauty.

When our lovely outward petals fall off, we have something else that is also beautiful in perhaps a different way.

As I get older, I become more interested in the part that's underneath.

Morning Canticle: Magna et mirabilia

The Song of the Redeemed
Magna et mirabilia
Revelation 15:3-4

O ruler of the universe, Lord God, great deeds are they that you have done, surpassing human understanding.  Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth, O King of all the ages.

Who can fail to do you homage, Lord, and sing the praises of your Name? For you only are the Holy One.  All nations will draw near and fall down before you, because your just and holy works have been revealed.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Photo of the Day: Pet Investigation part 2

Miss Kitty checks on the back yard goings on.

Morning Canticle: Te Deum

You are God 
Te Deum laudamus

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father: all creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
                   Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
                   heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
                    Father, of majesty unbounded,
                    your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
                    and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man and set us free
you did not shun the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of each
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
                   Come then, Lord, and help your people,
                   bought with the price of your own blood,
                   and bring us with your saints
                   to glory everlasting.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Photo of the Day: Pet Investigation

Mr Bunny moves in for a closer look.

Morning Collect: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Come and See!

John 1:43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

Nathanael has a moment of sarcasm here.  Or perhaps some kind of partisanship, I don't know.  Maybe he's just the master of the witty quip - we all know people like that, who can, in the blink of an eye, deliver sharp and dead-on commentary to the delight of all in company.  Nazareth? Oh yes, that place. Ugh. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? he says. And everybody giggles and nods.

What I like in this passage is Philip's response. Philip doesn't get all huffy or defensive. He doesn't engage Nathanael in a debate. He doesn't even call him on his slightly curled-upper-lip comment.  He just says, "Come and see."  See for yourself, have an experience of the other, before you cast judgment.  Only he doesn't say the last part, the slight rebuke. He just says, "Come and see." Philip trusts that Nathanael will have an experience of Jesus and understand.  He doesn't need to issue a warning.

I don't know what kind of person Philip was before he met Jesus, but it is interesting to note that Philip's comment (come and see) is the same as what Jesus said to Andrew and another of John's disciples in his first encounter with them.  Philip is already doing what Jesus would do: not engaging in harangue or partisanship or argument or witty quips but inviting people to experience and see for themselves what Jesus is all about.

We're all full of quips and witticisms. But when it comes to following Christ and sharing the Gospel, our well-timed delivery and even our eloquence are secondary at best.  As the saying goes, preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words. And perhaps, still, as few words as we need. How about just "come and see?"

Collect for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday morning music: Praise my Soul the King of Heaven

On Saturdays, the suggested canticle for morning prayer is always the Song of Creation, which begins

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, Praise him and highly exalt him forever.

And every section repeats, Praise him and highly exalt him forever.

This is a song of praise if I ever heard one.  The Westminster Abbey Choir sings "Praise my Soul the King of Heaven."  Listen out for the soaring descant on the last verse.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday afternoon weed/wildflower break

During the season after Epiphany, the "Friday afternoon break" photo series will feature representatives of that fuzzy category "weeds."

Recognizing that one person's "weed" is another person's "wildflower," depending on the person, the plant, and the location of said plant, I will simply say that the photos I'm using in this series are of "stuff that grows beside dirt roads in the countryside."  But that didn't look so swell in the post title, so we'll go officially with "weed/wildflower" and remember that, as in all things, insofar as it is necessary (and that question itself is totally up for grabs), God will in the end determine and separate the weeds from the wildflowers.

Here's a dandelion, gone to seed.  Resist the temptation to blow on your computer screen!

Morning Prayer for Fridays

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy 
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Q&A With Getting #Married Author Meredith Gould!

We're on a roll with books this week!

Today's post is an interview with my friend Dr. Meredith Gould (@meredithgould), Roman Catholic self-proclaimed gadfly, sociologist, author, and founder of the #chsocm (church social media) blog and moderator for most weekly tweetchats.  Her personal blog is More Meredith Gould and you can find out more about her here.

Meredith married Episcopal priest The Rev. Dan Webster (Canon for Evangelism and Ministry Development for the Diocese of Maryland) on November 5, 2011.  Their wedding was a major social media event, having been planned and celebrated via Facebook, Twitter, and Meredith's blog, and gathering friends and family from all over to attend the ceremony both IRL (in real life) and virtually (via U-Stream).  I attended IRL (meeting both Meredith and Dan for the first time in person!), but I also participated in the pre-wedding stuff via Facebook and Twitter.  

Meredith's new book Getting #Married has just been published (print and electronically), available through CreateSpace and from Amazon.  Her book is both a "why-to" and a "how-did" with suggestions and questions to consider about using social media for wedding planning and to make one's wedding a public event as weddings traditionally are supposed to be!  

Ready for the interview?  Read on....

So, Meredith, even though you’re a social media pro and I'm sure it just seemed natural to use social media for your wedding, was there an initial thought, issue, or event that sparked the impulse to make yours a Very Social Media Wedding versus simply using social media for some publicity and personal enjoyment?

A series of events plus a personality quirk got me keen on using social media and other online technologies for everything wedding-esque. Events include conversations during and in between church social media (#chsocm) chats about the value of social media.  I was especially “sparked” by conversations about the propriety of using it during or for worship. 

For everyone who declares it distracting and wrong there were others who argue social media is helpful and a tool for evangelization. I’m one who says there’s a way to use social media in a way that enhances the sacred and how we absorb liturgy.  

I’ve also learned over the past four years of involvement with social media (early adopter!) that these are ├╝ber-experiential media.  Telling people about social media just doesn’t work, showing does.  Providing an experience of using social media wisely and well with care and propriety is more compelling than endlessly arguing about it.  I figured (and Dan agreed) that our wedding would be a perfect living demo laboratory. It was!  I wrote Getting #Married to describe and explain the why of it, as well as the how.

The personality quirk? I’m always trying to make a point! Charming or annoying, depending on your perspective/tolerance.

I know you're a big fan of The Holy Spirit.  What surprised you the most about using social media for planning and celebrating your wedding?  

BIG fan of the Holy Spirit. Veni sancte spiritus!  I was totally unprepared for what came our way via Twitter and Facebook. Deeply moving . . . to grateful tears.

As you know but your readers might not, my “day job” involves providing social media strategy and editorial services for the healthcare industry.  I’m blessed with a large, far-flung community of colleagues, one of whom organized a #tweddingshower from 3:00-6:00PM the day before.  She invited folks in the #hcsm #hcmktg and #mccsm communities to tweet well-wishes.  I set up CoverItLive to capture everything tagged #3xCharm and #tweddingshower during that period of time and was deeply moved by the support and love of community.

I was also surprised and delighted by how people from different parts of my life got to know one another because of social media.  Later I’d discover how a friends in Oregon, Michigan, and Maryland chatted about crying while watching the exchange of vows. That could not have happened without U-Stream and Twitter.

By your own admission, there were times (thankfully few!) when your inner Bridezilla threatened to upset your equilibrium as the wedding date drew near.  How were you able to use social media to deal with that all-too-common aspect of wedding planning?

Ah yes, my Dr. Bridezilla moments.  Glory be, etc.  I mostly used my personal blog for times of head-exploding aggravation, then linked those posts to Twitter and Facebook to share the love.  Early on I found a fabulous image of Godzilla dolled up in wedding gear and would post that at strategic times.  I mostly used images and YouTube videos to convey whatever fit I was pitching, rather than writing it all out in a post.  My little way of practicing the impending  role of Clergy Spouse.  Thanks be to God!

Congratulations, Meredith and Dan, and here's to many years of happiness together!

Morning Prayer for Guidance

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: 

We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, 

that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, 

but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pssst! Wanna buy my book?

Dear Partiers,

Today's post is a shameless plug for my new book! OK, it's not totally my book, but I am one of several contributors to Walking with God Day by Day, a collection of short daily devotions (365 of them!) which has just been published by Forward Movement.  And it is yellow, which is my favorite color. And I'm the author featured on the back cover, which made my mom really happy.

If you're like me, you may have meant to start the New Year off right with a new book of devotional reading, but you might have not actually gotten around to procuring actual reading materials. But, it's still early in the New Year, and to sweeten the deal, The Rev. Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement (and fellow celebrity blogger from last year's Lent Madness fun) is offering you, my Large Party readers, a 25% discount on the book.  And if you were thinking of some devotional reading for Lent, well, now you've got a chance to get way ahead of that game.  

(And speaking of Lent games, stay tuned for news about the new, bigger, more-r improved Lent Madness this year! It turns out that our fun with Perpetua vs. Thomas Becket last year was one of Fr Tim's most-read posts of the year, which means that Lent Madness is going to get its own blog this year! And of course you'll want to vote for my saints! But I digress.)

So, here are Scott's instructions on how to get the discount: order via Forward Movement's website or call (800-543-1813). Just use the code AUTH25, and they'll reduce the price of the book by 25%. Alas, the "antediluvian website" (Scott's term, not mine) won't show the discount right when you order, but they'll take it off when they process the order.

Or, if you want to get the book right away so you start your daily devotional reading RIGHT NOW, it's also available on Kindle and Nook (no discount, but it's already cheap there).
Below is a sample of what you'll find in the book - a sneak preview, if you will, of one of my reflections. I assure you that the other authors' contributions are even better and they will make wonderful spiritual companions for you throughout the year. I've really enjoyed being part of this project - it was fun to write and fun to see the book published and now really meaningful to stop and read from it every day.



“Journey” is an important theme in religious life. The followers of Jesus called themselves followers of the Way. Jesus called himself the Way. We have a vast tradition of pilgrimage in fact and literature—from fourth-century Egeria’s diary from Jerusalem, to Chaucer’s fourteenth- century Canterbury Talesfrom imagined English pilgrims, to modern day pilgrims young and old in Iona or Assisi or walking the Camino Real through Spain.

In that other great religious tradition, sports, there is also the theme of journey, on-the-road-to, which is ubiquitous in the sporting world. In the spring, NCAA basketball teams will be on the road to the finals in New Orleans. During the Olympics, feature stories traces various athletes’ journeys to the Gold (medal). Every year there is a“Road to the Superbowl.”

Many of us characterize our spiritual life as a journey and our- selves as pilgrims, seeking God, seeking the Holy, seeking, seeking. We call ourselves seekers. We place ourselves, or sometimes simply find ourselves, on the Way. We know that life is a journey; life in God is a journey; life together is a journey.

What do we hope to find? Is the destination the thing, or is it about the journey? Was Jesus “On the Road to the Cross?” Is Advent the “Journey to Christmas” and Lent the “Journey to Easter?” Are we willing and able to hold them both, journey and destination, in tension—developing the eyes to see and the ears to hear the wonders and the mysteries as we move among them—so that in the end, wherever and whatever that end is, we know we have come near the heart of God? —Penny Nash

Morning Collect for Quiet Confidence

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, 

in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: 
By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray,to your presence, 
where we may be still and know that you are God; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

After Epiphany

Many of us are a little sad to put away our Christmas decorations, even if the sadness is more about the tedium of packing everything up and lugging it into the attic or wherever it all goes than it is about the end of the Christmas season.  Then there's that layer of dust that is left behind that must be dealt with at some point.  (I haven't actually dealt with it at my house yet myself.)

Still, after a few days, I like the clean, plain, uncluttered and undecorated windowsills and the regained counter space and the spare plainness of January after the beautiful excess of December. I like the simplicity after the sumptuousness. I like seeing the basics right there in view.  I feel encouraged to strip down to some basics in myself as well.

Today's Gospel reading from John (chapter 1:19-28) finds the Pharisees asking John the Baptizer, "Who are you?"  For John has confessed and asserted: I am not the Messiah and I am not Elijah and I am not the Prophet like Moses.  And the Pharisees want to know, "If you're not the person we're expecting you to be, who are you then?"

When you strip off the decoration, when the party is over, when you get down to the basics, who are you, then?

That can be a tough question at certain times in our lives, particularly in times of change. After a move, a new job, a new child or children flying from the nest, marriage, divorce, aging, retiring..... life is full of change and after each change we have to reassess and reevaluate.  Who am I now?

But the basics stay the same.  I am a child of God and for whatever reason, God cares for me.  That stays the same.

Morning Prayer for the Right Use of God's Gifts

Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us 
all that we possess: 

Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, 
and, remembering the account which we must one day give, 
may be faithful stewards of your bounty, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Monday, January 9, 2012


I don't find it hard to reflect on life any more (the idea of, much less the proceess of, reflection having been pretty much non-existent until I was well into my 20's), but sometimes I still find my reflections to be more like wisps and half-formed ideas and thus hard to write about.  Being in a new place, I also feel that much of my reflecting needs to be done over a longer period of time. Wouldn't want to go off half-cocked and all of that.

Also, I find I need some distance in order to properly reflect on something.  I need to not be in the middle of it.  And while it is true that sometimes an insight just arrives almost magically in my brain or in my heart or in my soul, it is especially true that I need to be intentional about reflecting. I need to set aside time and place for looking back at the day or the week or a situation or an incident and let those insights bubble up from within.  I well remember a trusted mentor telling me that the answers I seek are always inside me, and I just need to make room for them to come to the surface.

Beach time is reflection time for me.  A trip to the beach, a walk on the beach, gives me that time and space for prayer and for reflection.  Everyone has their special places, their thin places, and for me, oceanside is one of those places where I find this wonderful confluence of atmosphere, sound, smell, and tactile experience (I simply must take my shoes off, no matter how cold it is, to walk in the sand along the water's edge as if it were holy ground).  The rhythmic sound of the waves, the birds' cries, the crunch of the sand underfoot aid my inner ear and heart and eye.

And the beauty! Oh, the beauty!  Water, sand, vegetation, shells, and all the birds and their activities! Fishing, preening, resting, floating, diving, eating, flying... the birds at the beach remind me that life is full of doing and not just thinking or wishing or regretting.  I think that's a good backdrop for my reflection time.

If you've read my blogger profile, you will see that I try to go to the beach as often as I can. And I am pleased to say that I now live just over an hour's drive from the ocean.  I spent the afternoon on Saturday at a National Wildlife Refuge where all sorts of birds (and other wildlife, including a marsh rabbit who allowed me to hang out with him while he grazed) flock in the wintertime.  And I plan to go back often.  This is the closest I've lived to a beach since I was in college. I think it will be good for my soul. Very, very good.

Where is the place that is most conducive for reflection for you?

Morning Prayer for Joy in God's Creation

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand

in all your works;
that, rejoicing in your whole creation, 
we may learn to serveyou with gladness; 
for the sake of him through whom all things were made, 
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Overwhelmed by Joy

All throughout Advent and Christmas, we have been concerned with the story of the anticipation and fulfillment of prophecy in the coming of the Messiah.  Isaiah has proclaimed loudly that salvation is coming thanks to God’s mighty arm, that justice is coming, and that our salvation will be beautiful, and comforting, and it will be like coming home again after being set free from a long and oppressive slavery.

And then the utter shock that that fulfillment came in the form of a human baby born to a young and unwed mother in a stable surrounded by animals.  The shock that God comes to us as one of us, as one of the least of us, really, in stature and in the class structure.  The shock that God breaks through the heavens and comes to us to live among us, to live with us, to live for us, beginning as a little tiny child with no place to lay his head.

Everyone is amazed.  “How can this be?”  Mary asks, speaking for all of us.  How can this be?

And everyone is somewhat fearful. What can this mean? People were afraid to come too near God and too near God’s messengers - conventional wisdom said that if you looked upon God, you would die.  You would not be able to withstand being in God’s presence - not because God means to hurt us but because of the vast difference between humanity and divinity.  Frail humanity would wither away in the presence of the awesome Almighty God the way ice melts on a hot sidewalk.

But “Fear not, Mary,” says the Angel.  “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife,” says the Angel.  Don’t be afraid, shepherds, at the sight of a chorus of winged messengers in the sky but go and see for yourself what has happened, for to you, for you, the savior has come.  And the wide gap between divine and human has been bridged.

And so the story has been filled with surprise, and the response has been tinged with fear.  And there have been many words of gentle reassurance.

But today come the wise ones, the Magi, astrologers or Zoroastrians or jugglers or kings  or fools - whatever they were, they come from far away, bearing symbolic gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

And they are neither fearful nor surprised.  Rather than being shocked and amazed about the baby, they are expressly looking for a baby!  “Where is this child who has been born?” they ask. Not, “OK, where is the king? Oh, wow, look it’s a baby!”

They were looking for a baby.  And when they found him, they were not at all surprised about his age or his class or his living arrangements.  They were overwhelmed with joy and they fell to their knees and opened their treasure boxes   They found what they were looking for.  And their response was overwhelming joy and generosity.

Maybe this is why we call them wise men. 

Contrast the reaction of King Herod, the Empire’s man in the capital city.  He and all of Jerusalem were filled with fear at the news the Magi brought.  His response was to hold himself apart, suspicious, jealous, murderous even in his extreme fear brought on by the news of this child.  He cared deeply for his power and his influence - his job and all the stuff that comes with it - and he was terrified at the prospect of someone taking any of it away from him.  And so his response was to plot murder.

It’s easy to see this contrast and think, well, duh, be like the Wise Men and not like Herod and all of Jerusalem!

But I suspect most of us are more familiar with fear than we are with joy.  We are more acquainted with the feeling of squeezing our hands shut than loosening our grip on our treasure chests.  We know that physical sensation that comes from deep inside when we are afraid of losing what we have.  We are often not sure what we are looking for but definitely sure that we don’t want to find that it’s about somebody else.

Joy seems like a luxury, something for children or at least the child-like, those who are not burdened with the fears that creep around the edges of our lives, waiting to pounce.  Joy seems imprudent, often, and even inappropriate. How can we play our harps and sing songs of Zion when we are in captivity in Babylon?  How can we rejoice when there is so much grief and so much pain and so much death and so much anxiety and so little certainty?  How can we be generous when we don’t know if there’s going to be enough for us?  

We may not plot murder, but we are well acquainted with fear.

But look at what fear does.  It makes us suspicious.  It makes us stingy.  It makes us hold ourselves apart.  It makes us mean.  

And it makes us unable to experience real joy. The kind of joy that overwhelms, as scary as that prospect might seem, being overwhelmed, which might feel like being out of control.  But joy is a gift from God and not something to be afraid of.  Good tidings of great joy, the angels said. Joy, joy, joy, goes the Christmas hymn. Joy is also a feeling that comes from deep inside, and it leads not to clenched hands but to open treasure chests.  It leads to generosity and it leads to life.

Think of the scene in the 1951 movie of Dickens’ Christmas Carol when Ebenezer Scrooge, masterfully played by Alastair Sim, wakes on Christmas morning to find that he is alive and still has time to send a fat turkey to the Cratchett household, to give his housekeeper a raise, to reconcile with his nephew, to live his life in the joy of the knowledge of his salvation.  His whole being has changed, his face, his body, his outlook.  He giggles, he dances, he is overwhelmed by joy and he opens his famously tight fists and casts his treasure before a little child.

He is overwhelmed by joy.

The wonderful poet Mary Oliver has this to say about joy even in the face of the angst and loss in our lives in her prose poem “Don’t Hesitate” -

She says, “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.  Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.  Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”*

Joy is not made to be a crumb. 

(*from Swan, Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver, Boston: Beacon Press 2010)


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