Sunday, September 30, 2012

Join the Club

Yes, this is a real photo of an actual place in Wilton, NC.

I doubt if any of you know this, but my middle name is Annette.  I was named after my grandmother, Sarah Annette Whittaker Nash, known as ANN-ette, but when I was young, I preferred to tell people I was named after Annette Funicello.  You know, one of the original members of the Mickey Mouse Club.  After all, Annette was discovered by Walt Disney himself the year I was born.  Most of the people my age knew her not only as a Mouseketeer but also as the co-star with Frankie Avalon of all those Beach Party movies.  

Annette (notice the difference in pronunciation from my grandmother ANN-ette) was part of the most famous television club ever. And then she was part of the inn-est of the in-crowds, those cute girls and guys on those sunny California beaches.  My grandmother, not so much. 

Most of us want to belong somewhere. We want to be around those we feel are like us in some way. Maybe we even want to be around those we wish we were like, as I did in elementary school. Many of us wish we could be part of the in-crowd, the inner circle, the special ones who are known to be in the club to which we want to belong.

In Jesus day, there may not have been Mouseketeers, but there certainly were all kinds of clubs.  From ancient times (and I mean ancient to Jesus even!) disciples would flock around a special master, a philosopher and teacher. They might wear special clothes that distinguished them from the disciples of other philosophers or participate in certain special-to-them rituals. They ate and drank together, sometimes sharing a common cup. They followed their teacher around or sat at his feet, listening to and debating with one another about the fine points of his philosophy in an effort to stay true to the teacher in all parts of their lives. 

And so today we find the disciple John, one of Jesus’ inner circle, complaining to Jesus that somebody who’s not in their club is going around doing the kinds of things their club does without being a member.  Only the Jesus club is supposed to do things in Jesus’ name.  And to be in the club, well, you have to be in the club!  You have to have passed the test and learned the secret handshake or something. You can’t just put on the mouse ears and sing the song and expect to be a real Mouseketeer, can you?

Jesus, however, wasn’t all that interested in this complaint. "Whoever is not against us is for us," he said. Casting out demons is a good thing, no matter who does it. What’s wrong with someone wanting to be known as a follower of Jesus? So what if they haven’t learned the secret handshake? That’s not what Jesus is about.

In fact, Jesus gets pretty testy with his followers here.  Don’t put stumbling blocks in front of those who wish to be in the Jesus club. Don’t set yourselves up to approve or disapprove, to limit membership, to say you’re ok but you’re not, to decide who should be in and who should be out and what they can do and what they can’t.  

Because anyone who wants to will be transformed from within through the power of the Spirit of God when he or she does something powerful in the name of Jesus.  And it’s not our job to decide who can do it or what that deed might be. It’s not our job to define what’s powerful. It might be an act of healing. It might be an act of feeding or clothing or visiting or befriending or house-building or hand-holding or listening.  It might be a small gesture or it might be something much larger. Whatever it is, it is part of God’s transforming work within us and through us. 

So that’s some club, isn’t it, the Jesus club?  Anybody can be in it.  None of us can be in charge of it or make up the rules for it. People will be transformed by it, not because they receive some kind of status but because they will learn to give themselves away instead of keeping themselves to and for themselves.  Indeed not only we, but the world will be transformed when we can move from a stance of self-protection and limitation to a spirit of self-giving generosity.  

You have the power to change the world. Everybody has the power to change the world. 

Collect for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: Scientific Proof about Cats and Dogs

If this doesn't make you laugh until you cry, especially if you are a cat lover, you must be in a coma.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Afternoon Boat Ride Break

Are we there yet?

Morning Psalm

How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! 

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,

my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house!

They will always be praising you.

(Psalm 84:1-3)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just another pretty face

This is a climbing white tea rose Sombreuil. It's also known as Colonial White. Some call it a tea noisette. They are supposed to be very fragrant, but mine's not particularly so.  Apparently people who know about these things argue that somebody got this rose mixed up with another rose and the same rose ended up with two names. Or maybe it was that two different roses ended up with one name and now no one knows which is which.  Either way, it has a beautiful blossom and some fairly wicked thorns and doesn't look like much when it's not blooming.

One has to put up with a lot with rose gardening. Often I think I don't much like or need a particular one after its thorns have ripped another shirt or I've had to crawl around for way too long to try to get the weeds out from under it. Then it bursts into bloom again and I forgive it and wonder how I ever thought I would be able to give it up. Long ago, if a plant wasn't working for me, I'd dig it up and throw it out or give it away.  But with the roses, they have to die and stay dead for me to give them up. (I did have one that mostly died but a part of it lived so I replanted it.)

I miss my roses, even as I don't miss the weeding and all. I hope I'll get to see them in bloom next spring!

Morning Psalm

Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, nor anything like your works.

All the nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord, and glorify your name.

For you are great; you do wondrous things; and you alone are God.

(Psalm 86:8-10)


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Bath time!


Morning Collect: Lancelot Andrewes

Lord and Father, our King and God, by your grace the Church was enriched by the great learning and eloquent preaching of you servant Lancelot Andrewes, but even more by his example of biblical and liturgical prayer: Conform our lives, like his, to the image of Christ, that our hearts may love you, our minds serve you, and our lips proclaim the greatness of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Read more about Lancelot Andrewes here.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Praying for Fictional People

Have you ever found yourself praying for people who only exist in books? Or maybe on TV?

We can get very involved with the people we meet on pages (electronic or old-fashioned paper ones).  Sometimes, this is a diversion. Long ago, my brother got hooked on soap operas for a while when he was laid up and swore that watching people with those kinds of problems always made him feel better about his own situation.

Sometimes I submerge myself into a series that I can watch/read all in a row (as opposed to waiting until the next volume/episode is released). I want to know the whole story and stay completely in the story for as long as I can.  This may be because I have a tendency to hyperfocus (my husband calls it "obsess" which is a little harsh, don't you think?) on things. Or maybe it's because when I was little I had imaginary friends and now I just count fictional characters as friends.

Whatever the reason, getting deeply involved in a story serves all sorts of purposes. It helps us work out our own stuff sometimes. It allows us to engage in a kind of fantasy life. We may meet characters we would like to emulate or be friends with (Jeeves? Mr. Darcy? Nancy Drew? Buffy? The Maggie Smith character on Downton Abbey?) and we can observe how they do things with an eye to emulate them ourselves.  Or, getting deeply involved gives us a place to go to take a break from our own cares and anxieties and life in someone else's life for a while. But, I think, that's not all there is to it.

Long-time readers may remember a couple of posts I've done on books last summer in which I compiled lists of clergy detective type novels, which seem to be very popular with the ordained crowd. (See part one here and part two here.) As it turns out, at our recent book sale, I found three of the seven highly recommended Clare Fergusson novels by Julia Spencer-Fleming, and bought them.  They were not the first three, however, and so I had to order those, plus the last one, from Amazon to get started on the series, which everyone said should be read in order.  (I strongly agree.)

Well.  I was hooked pretty much 50 pages into the first one (In the Bleak Midwinter).  I stayed up late, got up early, and indulged in a couple of pajama days and plowed through all seven books in a matter of two weeks or so.  I won't go over the plot summaries or anything like that here (you can find them easily enough online), but here's what hooked me: the relationship between Clare Fergusson, former Army helicopter pilot and now Episcopal priest, and Russ Van Aylstine, the married chief of police.  The mysteries to be solved were interesting, and Ms. Spencer-Fleming is to be commended for mixing things up so that each novel has its own format (for example, the use of flashbacks, or alternating voices, or similar situations in parallel stories, etc.) rather than using a standard template formula for all of them. The dialogue is wonderful (and often laugh out loud funny, as when the chief compares the priest to a donut at a dance) and the characters are well-drawn.  But it was the relationship between the priest and the chief that really stood out.

Well, you may be thinking.  Priest and married-to-somebody-else guy? Hmmm.  But work with me here.  Clare and Russ are similar in many ways. He may be an agnostic long-time cop and she may be a newbie priest, but they recognize something in each other that deeply resonates. Their vocations call upon them to deal with all sorts of stuff other people simply can't imagine. They have this fierceness (maybe a holy fierceness) about them. They have codes of honor that they are trying their best to live up to. They're conflicted about many things and at the same time determined to honor the vows they have taken - him to his marriage vows, her to her ordination vows.  Neither of them is willing to let things slide, and they hold themselves and each other accountable, and it is often a struggle.

Their story and their relationship evolves over a period of three years and watching them work through the things that happen around them and to them (not to mention the ever-present sexual tension) in their professional and personal lives kept me plowing through the novels with barely a break. It wasn't just that I couldn't wait to see how things would turn out; I was amazed at the way each of them was able to be so emotionally raw and still keep going, to see how blind they could be to themselves while being so perceptive about others.  And I was constantly reminded of how we balance the unthinkable with the sublime.

Their dealings with one another are set beside other relationships that show just how strong these two are - often (but not always) in contrast to many of the other people in their community.   As you move through the books, you see how difficult things are for everyone, how hard it is to be honest, to trust, to figure out how to be faithful in every sense of the word, and you see just how honest the two of them are determined to be with one another, no matter what the personal cost and no matter what is going on in the world around them.  Not only Clare and Russ, but many of the characters in the books are complex rather than stock or caricatures, and adding in the gallows humor that makes up the daily life (even in extreme situations) of both cops and priests, made the series a pleasure to read.  And yes, I'm a sucker for a good, complex, love story.  One that successfully unfolds through seven books has to be both good and complex, like life itself, and I admired the way Ms. Spencer-Fleming handled this story arc.

And there's another piece to this - the background of Vietnam (for Russ) and Afghanistan/Iraq (for Clare). Many of us were only tangentially touched by these nonetheless defining pieces of our national life. But there were many who were more than touched - it was more like being branded - by these realities.  War is hell and nobody who is thinking thinks otherwise.

So, you might ask, have I actually been praying for Clare and Russ and the other inhabitants of Millers Kill, New York (the setting of all the novels)? No, not exactly. But yes, sort of. Their struggles have been in my thoughts as I go through my own days. Life is hard and figuring out how to deal with things like death, betrayal, greed, stupidity, carelessness and the cost of those things - many of them things no one should have to deal with - is often on my mind and maybe yours, too. And how we can honor those depths without sacrificing the joys and the challenges of the here and now. I have been praying for real people (including myself) who are beset with all sorts of burdens and anxieties, including the inner struggles about our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and failings.

If you've read this series, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. And if you haven't, I recommend them.

Morning Canticle

Let them praise his name with dancing!

(Psalm 149:3a)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Now the Day is Over...

Now the day is over, 
night is drawing nigh.
Shadows of the evening
steal across the sky.

Monday Morning Visual Prayer

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst.  By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.

(Psalm 104:10-12)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

And they were afraid to ask him

Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

These are the beginning verses from today's Gospel reading from Mark, the Gospel in which nobody understands Jesus. Mark's attitude seems to be that nobody ever could understand Jesus until he had been crucified and raised - that the post-resurrection Jesus is the true Jesus and that we cannot understand him except through that lens.

That isn't to say that what Jesus said and did during his life was not important.  Just that people couldn't understand him or what he was doing during his life. Only later.

Meanwhile, back to the reading for today, Mark tells us, for neither the first nor the last time, that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying.  And, he adds, they were afraid to ask him.

Why were they afraid to ask?  Why is anyone ever afraid to ask?  Afraid someone (in this case, Jesus) will be mad?  Afraid of what the answer will be? Afraid we will get in trouble over the knowledge we gain by asking? Worried we will be shaken out of our certainties or our denial?  Fearful at the possibility of our picture of the world being rearranged like the colored bits in a kaleidoscope?

When I was younger, I was often afraid to ask. I didn't want to look stupid. I didn't want to admit I didn't know something. If I didn't know something, and I asked, would the person I asked tell me the truth? How would I know? I didn't like the feeling vulnerable that comes with asking.  I'd rather figure things out for myself. I'd rather appear to be knowing instead of ignorant.

I haven't entirely outgrown this unfortunate trait, but I can say that it has been and continues to be tempered by my curiosity.  Maybe not insatiable curiosity (a la Kipling's The Elephant's Child) but certainly strong curiosity.  Mix that with being in a relatively new place among new people, I find it much more comfortable to ask things than I used to.

But I certainly feel a resonance with the disciples here. They were with Jesus, drawn to him for some inexplicable reason, and they saw all sorts of amazing things when they were with him, and maybe they just didn't want to know what was happening or maybe they were just afraid to break the spell, or maybe they were afraid he would call them stupid and leave them in the dust, miserable and inadequate, because they just didn't get anything, really. Maybe they felt that they were frauds and didn't want to be exposed as such.  Maybe they understood enough to know that they didn't want their world to be shattered.

And so they kept their mouths shut and continued along the way.  I understand.

Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: Life During Wartime

In 1984, director Jonathan Demme released his concert movie Stop Making Sense, filmed in Los Angeles over three days of concerts by the New Wave band Talking Heads. I loved that movie, as did many critics, some of whom hailed it the best concert film ever.

This song is Life During Wartime, and it may be that the "dance moves" the band employ during the song are a reflection of one of the last lines in the song, "...try to stay healthy, physical fitness, don't want to catch no disease..."  David Byrne, the singer and central nervous system of the band, is simply amazing here. The song was written by him, the bassist Tina Weymouth, her husband the drummer Chris Franz, and keyboardist Jerry Harrison.  The majority of the Talking Heads' songs were credited with having been written by the four core members of the band.

It also reminds me that in 1984 I was in pretty good shape from all the dancing I did. I always hated running, but I was happy to run in place along with this song!

Anyway, enjoy.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Afternoon Boat Ride Break

Color-coordinated Circle Line Tourists zoom up the Hudson River

Morning Collect: St Matthew

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Read more about Matthew here.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photo

The Royal Tern strut.

Morning Collect: John Coleridge Patteson

Almighty God, you called your faithful servant John Coleridge Patteson and his companions to be witnesses and martyrs in the islands of Melanesia, and by their labors and sufferings raised up a people for your own possession: Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many, your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read more about John Patteson, who lost his life in his battle against the slave trade in the Pacific territories, here.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Lunch

A great blue heron carries off a bullfrog for lunch. I was fortunate to get a shot of it as it flew through the fountain. I personally don't eat frog but the herons love them.

(I know, yuck.)

Morning Collect: Theodore of Tarsus

Almighty God, you called your servant Theodore of Tarsus from Rome to the see of Canterbury, and gave him gifts of grace and wisdom to establish unity where there had been division, and order where there had been chaos: Create in your Church, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read more about Theodore of Tarsus from last year's Lent Madness matchup between Theodore and Paul here.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No Turning Back

Red-tailed hawk

There's been a lot of talk (or should I say much has been written) about the need for church folk to let go of their idea of a "golden age" of their parish, during which all the people were good looking and all the children above average (to steal from Garrison Keillor).  First of all, because there wasn't a golden age, and second because even if there had been a golden age, it has little or nothing to do with today's reality.

I certainly hear that when folks talk about families today in church. It used to be that the mothers (and occasionally the fathers) were expected to teach the Sunday school classes for their children. That was just the way it was done.  But that expectation was built on the reality for many (and even then, certainly not all!) families where one parent worked outside the home and the other, pretty much always the mother, did not and therefore had time and perhaps the inclination to be more involved with volunteering at church (and school).  

Now, most of our families have two working parents. That's the new reality. And no amount of wishing that children didn't have to be in day care or that parents would decide to volunteer just as much as their parents did will change that. It makes me sad when I hear someone complaining about parents/children/families today (they are doing it wrong) and then wondering why there aren't more families in church. I'm not sure telling families they are doing it wrong is going to attract them to church, even if they were doing it wrong. 

But more importantly, are they doing it wrong, really? Life is different now than it was 50 years ago. Different doesn't mean wrong. Sometimes it's just different. Day care is not just for the mother who has no other choice. Day care is a legitimate and life-giving choice for many families. Having two parents who feel fulfilled in their careers is not a negative for most of the two-career families I know. Sure, there are compromises, but that's true in every family and every family configuration.

There's no turning back. So let's stop spinning wheels wishing things would go back to that shining but mythical golden age and be the church with the people who are the church just the way they are and not the way we wish they would be.

Morning Collect: Edward Bouverie Pusey

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant Edward Bouverie Pusey, we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read more about Edward Pusey's very interesting story - among other things, about how the Eucharist was reclaimed as what Anglicans do on Sunday - here. )

Monday, September 17, 2012

Now the Day is Over....

Sunset over the Chesapeake Bay

Morning Collect: Hildegard, Abbess and Mystic

God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation, and show forth your glory not only with our lips but in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read more about Hildegard von Bingen here.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Some thoughts about speech

No one can tame the tongue.

So says the Letter of James in today's Epistle reading.

That's pretty discouraging, isn't it? But I know it to be true. I can hear things coming out of my mouth that my brain has told me not to say and is still telling me not to say even while I'm saying them. Only after we get burned (and sometimes not even then) do we begin to hesitate before blasting off - in one area at least. We may have to learn all over again in another area.

In the Letter of James, we pretty much get just the negative about the tongue. Oh yes, we use the tongue to praise and to curse, but that's an indictment which only implies that we ought to lean toward blessing. How might we actually, affirmatively think about how we use speech?

One suggestion comes from Psalm 45, an interesting psalm that seems to have been written for a royal wedding. I particularly like the translation found in the New International Version (NIV):

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

One of the "dynamic equivalent" translations (i.e., one that takes a few liberties with the individual words in Greek but ) says "my tongue is like a skillful poet."

So what would happen if we, instead of focusing on our tongues as lit by the fires of hell, readjusted our focus on our tongues to think of them as being like skillful poets ready to expound on noble themes?

Of course, one thing that might happen is that we begin to be considered Pollyannas. Everyone loves a bit of snark here and there.  A sharp tongue often is the weapon of a sharp wit and a sharp wit adds a lot of spice to the world. I love wit, myself, and enjoy the game and challenge of it.

But I find more and more that I need to bite my tongue more than I need to use it to send out biting wit. As a child, I was the one who talked too much. I still talk too much, and listen too little. It is hard to listen when I'm busy thinking up the next riposte. I easily get caught up in the verbal repartee and then I'm thinking about myself and not about any one else (other than perhaps to laud a worthy opponent).

In everything, moderation, then. A little wit goes a long way. 

Indeed, my tongue can be like a skillful poet focused on noble themes, and my ears can tune to the cares and trials and fears and joys of others much of the time, but only if I will let go of my need to control the conversation and broadcast my own worth and intellect and wit. I'll never be the wittiest or the smartest or the funniest, so I can drop out of that competition and reconnect my tongue to my heart and to my brain and to my ears.

Easier said than done.

Collect for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: The Aurora Borealis

This is a real-time video of the aurora borealis ("Northern Lights") filmed back in January during a solar storm.  Lovely images. I remember when I was very young, we saw something in the sky to the north that people said were the Northern Lights. The power of suggestion and the unreliability of memory (not to mention the location, in North Carolina) make me unsure if indeed what we saw was the aurora borealis, but I like to think we did.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Afternoon Boat Ride Break

Waiting to head out of the Bald Head Island Harbor

Morning Collect: Holy Cross Day

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photos: Going slow, going fast.

A sanderling forging a path through the water....

and flapping furiously to dry off.

Morning Collect: Cyprian

Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read more about Cyprian, 3rd Century bishop and martyr, here.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Pigeon Man

The pigeon man in Washington Square Park, Manhattan

Morning Collect: John Henry Hobart

Revive your Church, Lord God of hosts, whenever it falls into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders like your servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember today; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken your people to your message and their mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read more about John Henry Hobart, the third Bishop of New York and the founder of General Theological Seminary, here.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Heart New York

This is the One World Trade Center Building, still under construction in Manhattan. 
I took this photo in July. As of August 30, the building has now "topped out" at 104 floors 
and is scheduled to open in about a year.
Once again, a "World Trade Center" building is dominating the skyline.

Here's a link to some photos of the building from different heights and angles and viewpoints from Buzzfeed.  There's no place like New York.

My prayers are with those who mourn again today.

Morning Canticle

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness 
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: the Lord himself is God;
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

(BCP 82)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Now the Day is Over.....

Night is drawing nigh....

Morning Collect: Alexander Crummell

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Alexander Crummell, whom you called to preach the Gospel to those who were far off and to those who were near. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Read more about Alexander Crummell, a graduate of Cambridge and founder of the Union of Black Episcopalians, here and here.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gathering Together Again

Black-backed gulls hold a conference in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The fall program year is beginning at many churches this week. Now that summer vacations have come to an end and the traditional end of summer/beginning of fall three-day weekend (also known as Labor Day) has passed, people are gathering together at church again.

It can be frustrating to those of us who don't take a "vacation from church" in the summer to acknowledge that others do, but they do, and we put many of our programs on break during June - August (this is a chicken/egg deal - do we break because of low numbers or are numbers low because of the break in programming?).  Some churches hold a "rally day," or "start-up Sunday," or other similarly-named event early to mid-September to signify that we're back in business at church and to remind people that it's time form them to get back into the habit of church going. Not that we weren't in business before, but .... well, you see the difficulty of holding the ideal and the pragmatic in tension here.

At any rate, we, too, are back in business and our kitchen ministry prepared a scrumptious "Welcome back!" lunch at church today, complete with fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, salad, and too many wonderful desserts, and I was pleased to see the turnout. I was pleased to see how many more people were in church services today. And I think people were pleased to see one another, too, judging by the noise level during lunch. The young people sat together; some parishioners brought guests; and the joyful noise of the youngest set reminded us all that a community like ours is always changing and growing and renewing, thanks be to God.

The fall is a time to start again, anyway, even for those of us who are no longer in formal education programs. New habits, new routines, new clothes, new projects are on the agenda for people of all ages come September. Everything feels new and fresh, even the weather!

It was good to gather together again. As I approach the first anniversary of my call to Bruton Parish Church, I look forward to seeing what this new church year holds for all of us.

Collect for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: You Just Have to Watch It

This is a fun mashup of video clips from Nick Park's claymation movie The Curse of the WereRabbit (2005) featuring his beloved characters Wallace and Grommit and the music from the Dutch rock band Focus called "Hocus Pocus" that was a big hit when I was in high school back in the early 1970's.

An unlikely pairing, but one that oddly seems to work. The music captures the drive and competence that lives in Grommit (the dog who doesn't speak but Gets Things Done) combined with the more off-beat silliness that Wallace exhibits (the man who goes on and on about cheese and invents machines that tip him out of bed and dress him in the mornings).

(The video was put together by a YouTube contributor called "Darthmelproductions," whose videos are described as "products of a crazed mind." Isn't the internet great?)


Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Afternoon Boat Ride Break

In the New York Harbor

Prayer before Breakfast

Untitled sculpture by the late Keith Haring in Lower Manhattan

Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for you
give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I've about decided that I don't like the idea of "balance." A balanced diet, "fair and balanced" news, balancing work and family. The word makes it sound as if living well is a matter of walking a tightrope or perching on the head of a pin, giving precisely the right amount of attention to every little thing so that things don't get out of, well, balance.

It is true that things get out of balance, that we lose our footing or feel wobbly or precarious, but I am not sure that the answer is to walk a tightrope.

I like the idea of "integration" better. We integrate family, work, healthy habits, spiritual nourishment, play, intellectual growth into our lives, we don't put them into a pie chart. We make choices that are based on the whole person and not just one aspect - or sometimes for the whole family and not just one member. Sure, sometimes everyone needs a turn. Everything has its season.  And everything works together.

But if living a "whole" life is like walking on a tightrope, making sure each part balances out the other parts or is somehow in opposition to the other parts, then I think it will be a lot more stressful.

Semantics, I suppose. But I find the distinction useful. Hope you do, too.

Morning Collect for Those Who Influence Public Opinion

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many
voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where
many listen and write what many read; that they may do their
part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and
its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Fresh Catch

Morning Collect for Guidance

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday Bird Photo: Indigo Bunting

The other weekend, my husband and I walked all around the Yorktown battlefield. Battlefields are remarkably devoid of life, generally, which is, I guess, pretty ironic. One can go around with a park ranger to hear all about the battle lines and charges and retreats and such and see the movies with still pictures or re-enactments in the museum, but outside all one sees are quiet, empty fields and lumps of ground that were "earthworks" with a trench on one side.

Still, we did see some birds and butterflies in the shrubby areas around the battlefield's edges. I managed to catch this indigo bunting - a bright fluttering blue spot in an otherwise sea of stillness and green - just as it was doing one of those nanosecond landing/takeoff again maneuvers. They are lovely birds, not raucous like jays, and less flamboyant than their cousins the painted buntings. I've seen a number of the indigos here in Virginia, and so I consider them local beauties.

Morning Collect: Bishop Paul Jones

Sandwich tern

Merciful God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in this and every land witnesses who, after the example of your servant Paul Jones, will stand firm in proclaiming the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Read more about Bishop Paul Jones here.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Well, the week-long setup and sale of a mountain of books has come to an end. I enjoyed all of it except for the fact that not every single book found a new home. But a goodly number of them did, and it was a joy to watch people go through the tables, looking for all sorts of things.  Some folks were looking to replace a favorite book that had been loaned or lost or damaged. Others were looking for gifts for friends and family. Some were looking for specific titles and authors, while still others were simply hoping to be delighted at finding something interesting.  It was fun to watch college students gravitate toward the classics and children ferreting a good storybook out of the somewhat jumbled piles.

At times, even when there were quite a few people browsing the tables, the room would get very quiet. There was an intensity in the looking. The books were arranged, somewhat, but still it was necessary to focus in order to take in what was before one's eyes. Not to mention that people were reading - reading the book jackets or back covers, reading the first chapter. The quiet was the familiar quiet of a library filled with people who are immersed in books. I loved it.

Most of us have some standards or codes or at least preferences about what we read. While a few folks I know will read just about anything, others of us are more particular.  ("I don't do India," says Judy, for instance. I myself stay away from books with "kill" or "die" in the title, and, actually, would read English period novels almost exclusively if I didn't think anyone was watching.  Fortunately I usually respond positively to urging from friends to try something else.)

The mysteries and thrillers (which we pulled out and gave their own section in the sale) were the most popular section, I think. I like a good mystery, although I'm not much into the CIA thrillers and such; my taste leans more toward Brother Cadfael and Lord Peter Wimsey than Jason Bourne. I scored three of the six Clare Fergusson, Episcopal priest and sleuth, novels by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  (Unfortunately, they were not the first three, so they'll sit in the pile until I procure the others.) A whole lot of Clive Cusslers and David Baldaccis and James Pattersons made their way into other people's tote bags.

Most everyone says that they love mysteries because they can live in another world for a while. People like puzzles and like trying to solve them.  I guess that's true, although in my experience most of life is something of a puzzle, even without spies and forgeries and heists. I, too, like to live in another world for a while, and so I prefer to read in big chunks rather than a few pages or a chapter a night. That parceled-out kind of reading keeps the story at arms' length. I want to dive right in.

And so I spent the day today diving right in, finishing off a novel - People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (a mystery about books!) - this afternoon. Tomorrow it's back to work. Much needs my attention in the next few weeks; the book sale was a lot of work but it was also almost like a vacation. I was living out an alter-ego. (In my fantasy life, I'd be the owner of a cute little bookshop that somehow wasn't about to go bankrupt like all the other cute little bookshops out there.)

Meanwhile, I've got a pile of books I'm looking forward to reading - or more accurately, I've got a bunch of stories in which to live for a while, something like an alternative universe of stories to hear and puzzles to ponder if not solve.  I'm looking forward to carving out more afternoons like this one.

Collect for Labor Day

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Night Prayer Antiphon

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.


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