Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Fruit of the Vine

Another scene from the wilderness....

Collect for Wednesday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Bless us, O God, in this holy season, in which our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking Flight

Do you have trouble choosing a Lenten discipline?  Do you just do the same thing every year (give up chocolate or meat on Fridays or read a book of devotions)?  Do you spend a lot of time worrying about your motives for choosing a discipline: Should I give up food when secretly I'm hoping to lose weight?

(I once heard a story on the radio about a guy who had a Jewish friend decide for him what he would be giving up for Lent each year so that he wouldn't be tempted to do something self-serving.  But after a few years the choices got a little wonky.  Cinnamon.  Oregano.  Banjo music or something else like that.  Certainly those choices gave interesting shading to the idea of discipline.)

Then there are the "shoulds."  We "should" give up something or we "should" take on something that, frankly, might not be good for us.  We think we "should" because we really believe we're not good enough.  We have to earn our way into God's (or someone else's) good graces.  There are those who come up with a Lenten Discipline that serves as another way of piling on guilt or driving oneself into an unhealthy place of self-denial that's more like self-destruction.  Maybe you seems that post going around Facebook about how maybe girls who are suffering from eating disorders should be encouraged to eat a cookie instead of going further down the path of self-harm regarding food.

I wish for us all to be able to expand our notion of Lenten discipline beyond giving up a food or beverage and/or reading a book.  As our rector said in his sermon on Sunday, we need to find the gifts that God has given us - our unique gifts! - so that we can use them for the good of the kingdom.  And we need to find those things that get in the way of our being fully ourselves, living fully into who God created us to be, and to put them down and never pick them up again.  To shed whatever it is in our lives that blind us and gag us and weigh us down and keep us from being free to be fully alive to and for God.

Now, maybe Diet Coke or chocolate is keeping you from being fully alive to God.  Maybe reading a devotional book will open your eyes to see the kingdom as God would have you see it.  But I think our obstacles are deeper and broader and bigger and far more comprehensive.  And yes, it's a lot harder to do the kind of self-examination that might uncover those obstacles.  In fact, I suspect it's nearly impossible, especially if one tries to do it alone, and in one 40-day period.   At the very least, it feels daunting.

The thing is, though, it's freedom that God wants for us.  Not "just do whatever you want to" kind of freedom, but rather, freedom to let go of things that do not nourish us, that separate us from God and from one another, that stunt our growth and make us crabbed and small.  Freedom to be who God made us to be, no matter what other people might think or demand we "ought" to be.

Freedom is a pretty big concept.  It may well take serious discipline to walk that kind of road.  Maybe you need to start small.

But don't stay small.  God doesn't want you to just be a little bit free.  This Lent, whatever discipline you choose, use it to throw off the stuff that keeps you small, so you can let your own unique heart and soul and mind and strength soar - into the very heart of God.

Collect for Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Grant to your people, Lord, grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only true God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Photo of the Day: Winter at the Shore

Winter has its own special kind of beauty.  I took this photo at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Collect for Monday in the First week of Lent

  1. Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully increase in us your gifts of holy discipline, in almsgiving, prayer, and fasting; that our lives may be directed to the fulfilling of your most gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blessed Madness

Lent Madness has begun.  If you somehow missed all the hoopla, a short recap:  Lent Madness is an online "competition" loosely based on the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament in which saints, instead of basketball teams, are matched up against one another in four rounds and anyone who wishes can go to the Lent Madness website and vote for their saint of choice every weekday during Lent.  The saints were chosen by the "executive committee" of Tim Schenck and Scott Gunn based on input from eight "celebrity bloggers" with the additional stipulation that the saints chosen for this year's bracket had not been in competition during the late rounds of the last two Lent Madnesses.

So far, I am very pleased to see how well people are responding.  There is a real learning component to the game, and people are reporting in the comments on the website and the Facebook page that they are learning and enjoying learning about various saints of the church.  And yet this is a lighthearted Lenten discipline: it makes a game of that learning.

What pleases me the most is reading that some families are reading about the saints around the breakfast table and deciding for whom to vote as a family, that some college and youth groups are playing together, that people one would perhaps not expect to find thumbing through the 17th Century "Fox's Book of Martyrs," Catholic Saints Online, or even the new version of "Holy Women, Holy Men" are learning about the wide variety of heroes and heroines of the faith through Lent Madness.  So far, around two thousand people are voting in each round, which is pretty amazing.  I'm positively thrilled!

But let's be clear, there is not any sort of Official and Definitive Ranking of Holiness going on here.  The Church, in its wisdom, has lifted up all sorts and conditions for our consideration of what a life of holiness looks like.  Anyone can read about the saints of the day and decide which one is the most appealing and go to the website and vote - and record a comment about their choice.  It's not scientific and it's not the work of some church council.

And so if your saint does not win a matchup, even though you believe that saint to be vastly more "important" than the other one, it doesn't mean that all those who voted for the other saint are ignorant or that the result will be a throwing out from the heavenly court the Apostle Paul in favor of a "minor saint" whose life story consists only of "tradition."  It means that something about that saint really touched others.  And hooray for that!

Besides, it is still a bit of a game.  After all, last year in the Final Four, Thomas Becket surged ahead of Perpetua (who had jumped out to an early lead) after the blogger for Becket made the claim that he was the inspiration for Thomas the Tank Engine.  (Yes, Scott, I'm still smarting from that one.)

So enjoy Lent Madness for what it is: an opportunity to learn about and discuss in a world-wide online community all kinds of holy people who lived out their faith in their own time AND an opportunity to be really engaged in the process of admiring and maybe even emulating the saints of The Church.  To use Forward Movement's Executive Director Scott Gunn's words, "In doing all this, we are nourishing .... and equipping Christians to share their faith story.  Don't let the laughter and the saints wearing sunglasses fool you. St Paul challenged us to be all things to all people.  Lent Madness is helping us connect with people who won't connect through pamphlets or church suppers.  Lent Madness makes us 'fools for Christ,' but we're definitely for Christ."

I'm glad to be numbered among the fools.  

Collect for the First Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: In the Wilderness

I posted this video last year, but it's worth repeating.

Images by Simon Smith, movie put together by Adam Young, music "To West Texas" by Explosions in the Sky.

Morning Prayer: Saturday after Ash Wednesday

  1. Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenten Fridays: Seashell Break

I am starting off Lent this year with a short beach retreat.  In fact, that's where I am now.  So for our Friday Afternoon Break photo series during Lent, I'll be posting a seashell photo for your enjoyment every Friday afternoon (hence the name).

Pondering creation is certainly a prayerful experience for me, and I hope it will be for you, too.

Morning Prayer: Friday after Ash Wednesday

  1. Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favor through
    the fast we have begun; 

    that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, 
    so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; 
    through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
    one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Many of us puzzle over the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading from Matthew: "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.... "   (Matthew 6:1-3, NRSV)

What's all this about being rewarded, and why is it that the hypocrites receive a reward?   We're pretty sure we're not supposed to emulate the hypocrites here, but, hey, what about their reward?

Perhaps we might put Jesus' words another way:  If you look to the world to reward you for your actions, then you'll get the world's reward.  You'll be noticed, which was probably what you were looking for.   If you do something for show, you'll get a showman's reward.  Perhaps applause, perhaps boos.  If you look to please or impress others, you will get a response from those others.

But that's all you will get, because that's all the world can give you.

But God's gift is grace and peace and the life that really is life.  And that's so much more than the world could ever give.  That's the reward that comes from God, salvation, which is "all" that God has to offer.

Morning Prayer: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

  1. Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


A few years ago on Ash Wednesday, as I was imposing ashes at the altar rail, a young mother and her baby came forward. All of the folks on whose foreheads I had smudged ashes in the shape of a cross had been adults, many of them older adults. And then here comes this fresh faced young woman with a precious little girl. And I thought to myself, I don't want to put ashes on this child. I don't want to say to her, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." I don't want to call her, or her mother either for that matter, to repentance, to a remembrance of her mortality. I don't want to remind these two who are bursting with life, with twinkling eyes and soft skin, that it's time for them to be penitent and practice self-denial.

But of course, I did. And afterwards I recalled the reading from Matthew (6:16) where Jesus says that whenever one fasts one should not look sad/somber/disfigure the face so that people can tell one is fasting but rather should wash one's face and anoint it will oil. Which is the reading for Ash Wednesday anyway. And there is the prayer that the celebrant says before the imposition of ashes:

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen. (BCP 265)

That first half of the petition is what I had been thinking of - the ashes as a sign of our mortality and penitence - but the child made me aware of the joy that lies in the second half of the petition. It is only by God's gracious gift that we are given everlasting life. The sign of the cross traced upon our foreheads in ashes is not only a sign and mortality and a call to penitence, but it is also a sign that God has give us the most wonderful gift of all - life. Life now and life everlasting. As Origen said (loosely), we come from God and we return to God. That we should repent of our living a life that turns away from God is obvious. But I realized also that on what I put on the face of that child was the mark of promise and life in God.

I mistook the ritual of the ashes as marking someone for death. And it is the reminder that we are mortal, but it is also making plain that death is not the end of the journey, as will become obvious at Easter. The call to repentance is not so that we will make ourselves miserable but so that we will strip away the things that weigh us down and keep us from knowing God and loving one another and loving ourselves. The call to repentance is a call to free ourselves from bondage to those things that keep us from having life abundant here and now. The call to repentance is to ask us to look for those things and to cast them off gladly.

The little girl, at a year old, did not need to repent or understand her mortality. But like the rest of us, she did come to be marked as one who belongs to God and who will return to God in the fullness of time.  She came to be marked with the promise, just as she was marked with oil at her baptism. She served as a reminder to me and to all who saw her that all of this stuff we do during Lent is to help us live into true Easter joy.

Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you,
God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012


I pride myself at finding patterns in things.  I like to "fly at 60,000 feet" in my world and see the bigger picture and look for patterns, for threads, for the individual stories that make up the whole, whatever that whole may be.  I like to see how things fit together. I think that's all good.

The thing about patterns in every day life, though, is that one has to have some distance - in every sense of the word - to see them.  It is only in retrospect, often, that patterns in one's life become more clear.  That clarity is useful in helping one break negative patterns, but it is often missing in the confusing present.  And, taken to the extreme, patterns become restrictive to the point of being pre-destinatory.  (I'm thinking of John Millington Synge's play Riders to the Sea which made a huge impression on me as a college student studying literature.)

Of course, there are positive patterns, too.  Recalling them helps bolster one's self-esteem and resolve, providing a matrix out of which growth and excellence and all sorts of good things come.

As Lent approaches, and I wonder what my disciplines will be in addition to committing to daily prayer and self-examination (which I already do, mostly, but hope to do more faithfully and intentionally during Lent) and, of course, playing Lent Madness, I wonder if I might not take a break from so much looking back and placing things into patterns.  I wonder if it has become navel-gazing.  I wonder if it is keeping me from being more forward looking.  I wonder if it is keeping me from living fully instead of helping me do so.

Probably not for the whole of Lent, but for the next few days, I hope to give the churning wheels in my brain a rest.  I think they are tired of spinning this way and that.  Maybe I am due a season of a kind of rest and restoration right now.

We'll see.  Because, of course, I'll need to look back after a few days and see what pattern is emerging and go from there.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Flash of Divinity

On the Sunday before Lent begins, which is also the last Sunday of the season after the Epiphany, we always read an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus as the Gospel lesson.  It is both the culmination of the themes of Epiphany (the manifestation of the Divine on earth, a vision of the Light of the World) and a foreshadowing of the Resurrection - a moment of dazzling white - just as we stand on the edge of the season of Lent.  Transfiguration Sunday and Easter Sunday bracket Lent, standing brightly on either side of that season of penitence and discipline like the pillar of cloud that went before and after the Israelites as they crossed prepared to cross out of Egypt and into the wilderness.

The story about Jesus flashing his divinity on the mountain peak is peopled not only by Jesus and Elijah and Moses, by also by dull disciples who do not know what to make of this scene.  They are hardly to be blamed.  To stand next to the flame in this way invites not only wonder and awe but long reflection.  What does it all mean?  We need time to absorb and process and get it fixed into our minds.  And so Peter wants to build a booth, to make a way to stay there for as long as possible.  To bask, to luxuriate, to just be in the presence of the Divine.

But the whole thing lasts for just a moment.  Many of the people who report having had something like a vision experience it as a momentary flash.  An idea, a feeling, a warmth or light or presence appears, perhaps clear as day, perhaps simply a fleeting "something" behind the eyes, and then is gone.

And we are left with the image, the thought, the feeling, whatever it is, to ponder in the days to come.

So ponder we will during Lent.  What does it mean for us and for the world, this Divinity that shows up in flashes here and there? Will our Lenten disciplines be aimed not at trying to keep the Divine in one place but to seek and try to recognize it in all of the places where we go?

Divinity shows up unexpectedly, for a moment, here and there.

Lord, give me the eyes to see it.

Collect for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: Does the Church Have a Future?

Diana Butler Bass tells us (courtesy of Day1) about the signs of hope she sees regarding the future of the church. Listen to her story about what happened on Ash Wednesday last year in Chicago as we prepare for Lent ourselves.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday afternoon weed/wildflower break

Pink stuff.

Morning Prayer: Janani Luwum

O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep: We give you thanks for your faithful shepherd Janani Luwum, who after his Savior's example, gave up his life for the people of Uganda. Grant us to be so inspired by his witness that we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ, who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Being Attentive

Look closely at this photograph.  What do you see?

I see that it was windy - very windy - and that wind whirled a tuft of beach grass round and round.  And I see that a raccoon came by some time afterward.

I could have easily missed this sight, but it happened that I was alert and attentive as I walked along the boardwalk to a beach I'd never been to before.  I knew I was somewhere new and different and I was tuned in, ready to see everything I could see.

If we are to see God's hand at work in our world, if we are to sense God's presence, we must be attentive. We must be tuned in to the God channel, ready to see and hear and otherwise become aware of it.  Otherwise, we go blindly by, not seeing and not noticing.

And, frankly, it's a lot easier to do such a thing when you are alone on a deliberate walk, as I was the day I saw this little story played out in the sand.  There are usually too many distractions and distortions swirling around us, vying for our attention, tempting us to veer off and follow something else for a while. Some of these distractions are part of the landscape of our busy lives.  There's always a lot going on.

And some of them are internal distractions.  Worries.  Anxiety.  Speculation.  Nursing wounds.  Nursing grudges. Things that make me withdraw into myself instead of opening myself to God without fear.

What joys - often simple joys - there are to be seen, noticed, discovered if we can tune in to the God channel, remembering that we do not have to protect ourselves against God, whatever else is going on in our lives.

Morning Prayer 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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Teapot Tales

This ironstone teapot belonged to my grandmother's great-grandmother, who emigrated to Georgia from England sometime around the turn of the 18th century.

Now it's mine.

It's not particularly valuable, but I treasure it all the same.  Oh, the tales it might tell!

Morning Prayer: Thomas Bray

O God of compassion, you opened the eyes of your servant Thomas Bray to see the needs of the Church in the New World, and led him to found societies to meet those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of Christian knowledge; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Morning Prayer for Those We Love

Almighty God, 
we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, 
for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things 
than we can desire or pray for; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2012


So it finally got cold and snowed here.  A front moved through very quickly and between the time I went left the grocery store and got half way home yesterday afternoon, the temperature dropped ten degrees and it began to snow very hard.

Everyone slowed down and drove carefully, and it was really beautiful...

It was just about sunset, so it was getting dark, and the white snow was flying through the air in big wet flakes.  At every stoplight, I watched the birds hopping around in the medians, gathering up some grub before moving into the shrubbery.  The most beautiful sight was that of two geese flying overhead through the snow, their figures black in the gathering gloom, contrasted against the driving white snow.  Perhaps they were flying to shelter, or perhaps they were playing in the snow themselves, taking a joy ride through the wind salted with snow.

It was a wonderful drive home.

In the end, we only got a thin covering of snow, but even that small amount muted the usual world-noises and it was a quiet evening.  In the morning, I found bunny tracks all over the front porch.  Wish I had thought to put out a carrot, although I'm pretty sure the landlord does not condone the wild bunnies any more than the pet ones.

Snow gives us a chance to see the world just a little differently.  Familiar places are changed.  And we discover new things (like that the neighborhood bunnies have visited) we wouldn't have seen otherwise.  A change in perspective, even a small one, broadens our horizons.

And this is a good thing.  So I am glad that it snowed and I saw things differently because of it.

Morning Collect: Absalom Jones

Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear; that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servant Absalom Jones, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Evening Prayer

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

Collect for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you:
Mercifully accept our prayers; 

and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, 
give us the help of your grace, 
that in keeping your commandments we may please you 
both in will and deed; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday afternoon weed/wildflower break


On pokeweed.

From which we get
poke salet or poke salad.

Which is toxic to mammals unless you prepare it properly.

My advice?
Don't eat it.

Morning Collect for Peace

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace,
and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel
for the nations of the earth,
that in tranquility your dominion may increase
until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

(BCP 258)

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The warm winter has meant early flowers in the South.  In Atlanta, we had cherry trees blooming at New Year's.  Here in Williamsburg, the daffodils are in full bloom around town now and trees are thick with buds.

I have always loved daffodils.  When I was growing up, we always called them jonquils.  Then I started hearing people say they were a kind of narcissus.  According to The Flower Expert, there is no difference between daffodil and narcissus, but jonquil is one of the cluster blooming varieties.  Whatever.

One of the reasons I love daffodils/narcissi/jonquils is that they are yellow. Yellow is my favorite color, as many of you know.  It's a happy, warm, sunny color.  Daffodils/narcissi/jonquils are, too, among the early spring bloomers.  Sure, the crocus is the first bulb to burst forth in bloom, but they're so tiny!  And tulips are beautiful, but we couldn't grow them in Atlanta except as annuals.  Daffodils/narcissi/jonquils they come back every year, often in larger numbers and make a big splash .  And I'm all about the big splash.  Especially during the gray days of February.

We had quite a few types planted at our house when I was growing up.  There were the large, pale white ones that were very cool and regal.  The little cluster ones (jonquils, I know) on their thin dark green stems - some of them were all yellow and some white with yellow trumpets.  The garden variety all-yellow ones in big bunches.  My favorite was the one called "Scrambled Eggs" (some folks call it "butter and eggs").  I guess officially, they're "double" flowers. In roses and camellias, we're used to doubles and less familiar with singles, but the opposite seems true for daffodils.

So enjoy a little sunshine during these gray days of February and look around for some daffodils in your neighborhood.  Or if you live in a place where they are not blooming now, just Google "daffodil photos" and see if you don't feel better.

Visual Morning Prayer

Taking wing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Passage Tomb

Passage tomb at Newgrange,

Morning Canticle: Venite

Venite    Psalm 95:1-7

Come, let us sing to the Lord; * 
   let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation. 
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving * 
   and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, * 
   and a great King above all gods. 
In his hand are the caverns of the earth, * 
   and the heights of the hills are his also. 
The sea is his, for he made it, * 
   and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, * 
   and kneel before the Lord our Maker. 
For he is our God, 
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. * 
   Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Houses and Home

I like to walk in neighborhoods and look at the houses.  I like to do this nearly anywhere, including at the beach when I imagine what it might be like to live in the houses I walk by.  I imagine what the people who live there are like and what kind of decor they have.  It's always nice - their furniture is nicer than mine and they have oriental rugs and wainscoting in the kitchen and interesting architectural details that aren't nuisances.

One thing I haven't done much of yet here in Colonial Williamsburg is walk around the historic district.  The times I have started out to do so, I almost never have gotten very far.  Often it's because I run into someone and get into a conversation and then my time is up. Or I have an errand to run that puts me in my car instead of on the street.  Sometimes I need to get some lunch and the historic area is kind of crowded.

The other night, however, I decided to take a stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street about sunset.  By that time, all the venues (except the taverns) are closed and the tourists are pretty much gone.  We do have street lights and it's quite safe to wander around after dark.  So I walked all the way down DOG Street (as the locals say) and back in the gathering dark.

Without people on the sidewalks, I got a good look at the houses as I walked by.  Some of the houses are actual houses that people are living in, while others are used as replicas of colonial shops and the like.  It was quite pleasant, both to walk through the neighborhood and to do my usual imagining.

Probably not surprisingly, it was a little different imagining people who might live in these houses.  Were they people who wear jeans and flip flops or something more like period dress?  Who would live in a house on DOG Street, anyway? Is it weird?  Do people have modern furniture in them?  (I wondered about my leather couches and chairs and whether they would "go.")

I definitely need to do this more often, to begin to feel more at home here.  I am at home in my rental, and I'm at home in my office, but I still don't quite feel connected to Williamsburg itself.  I haven't quite embedded myself in the community yet.  I think it might be best done on foot.

Morning Collect for Cornelius the Centurion

O God, who by your Spirit called Cornelius the Centurion to be the first Christian among the Gentiles: Grant to your Church such a ready will to go where you send and to do what you command, that under your guidance it may welcome all who turn to you in love and faith, and proclaim the Gospel to all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lent Madness is Coming! (So, how does it work?!?)

Remember last Lent when we played Lent Madness?

Well, it's baaaack!  Or at least it will be back in just a couple of weeks - beginning on "Ash Thursday," February 23.  This year Lent Madness is bigger and better, with the help of Forward Movement and several more Celebrity Bloggers (you may remember that I was one of the four C.B.s who blogged the final four round last year).  Lent Madness now has its own website ( and several posts are already up about this year's tournament.  Leading up to the actual beginning of Lent Madness, L.M. founder Tim Schenck and Forward Movement's Executive Director Scott Gunn will be posting a video conversation each Monday about how things are shaping up, and once the competition begins, they'll do some Monday morning quarterbacking.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Lent Madness (or who didn't quite get what it was all about last year), it works like this....

Well, first, maybe I should explain the name. Here in the U.S., we have something called March Madness, which is a phrase used to describe the annual NCAA college basketball national tournament.  Most of this single elimination tournament takes place in March and folks from all over love to get the initial brackets with all the teams and their match-ups listed and pick winners for each round.  Some of this may involve betting, which of course we do not encourage her at The Party unless the proceeds go to charity.  Offices run pools (I know, that's really betting pools), as do some families (including mine!).   It helps keep up interest in the games when you have a team to pull for.

OK, so what is Lent Madness?  During Lent, we also have a bracket but instead of basketball teams, we have saints.  You can see this year's bracket here.  The purpose of this game is to help us learn more about the saints, those holy folks who have gone before.  So every week day, there will be a matchup between two saints, and you go go the website and read about the two, and vote for your favorite right there on the post.  At the end of the day, the polls will close and a winner will be announced who will go to the next round.

There are two ways you can play.  First, you can print off a bracket, get together with some family, friends, youth group, Canterbury group, foyer group, staff.... you get it.  Have everyone fill out a bracket by predicting who will will each round.  Have someone keep score for the group and at the end, give a prize to the person who had the most wins.

The actual who-wins part, though, takes place on the blog.  Each weekday, go to and, as mentioned above, read about the saints and vote for your favorite.

And what will be on the website each day?  Celebrity Bloggers (there are 8 this year - read about them here) have, for the first round, written biographies of the saints, along with a picture of some kind.  This is how you'll learn about the saints.  The second round, the Saintly Sixteen, will take things a little deeper - we'll offer up Quotes and Quirks about each saint still in the running.  The Elate Eight round will feature Saintly Kitsch (you won't believe some of this stuff - or maybe you own some of it!).  And the final four - well, that could be a saintly slugfest. With wings and haloes, of course.  Because this is a devotional tool, remember.

So that's it.  We've had lots of publicity this year (which you can read about on the website) and lots of folks are joining in.  I hope you will, too! Like Lent Madness on Facebook.  If you have your own blog or website and would like to put a Lent Madness widget (like the one on my blog) on your blog (which I hope you will do!), see how to do that here.   Be sure to bookmark the site on your computer.  You can sign up by email to subscribe, or you can put an icon on your iPhone or iPad, too, which will take you directly to the site from your home screen (thanks, Scott!).  (To do that, go to the website on your phone or pad, and you'll see a little arrow thingy that instructs you to tap it to make an icon for your home screen.)

Our Canterbury Group at The College of William & Mary will be playing as will our youth group here at the parish.  I hope your group will, too.  Lent Madness really is a great way to become familiar with those heroes of the church.  We may be giving up the alleluias, but we never give up learning more about our faith and tradition.


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