Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Newest Book Project

This is the cover of a new book of homilies and reflections for Year C, the liturgical year that begins on December 2, 2012.  The book is the brainchild of Roman Catholic Deacon James J. Knipper of Princeton, New Jersey, and features homilies (also known as sermons) by a variety of Christian folk, both lay and ordained, who represent several different denominations. There's a sermon for each Sunday in the upcoming year plus several notable feast days.

Proceeds from the book benefit several homeless ministries in the New Jersey area.  (Click here to read about the four charities that will share the proceeds of every book sold.)

I am very pleased to be among those who contributed to this effort.  As you can see, it's quite attractive, and you haven't even seen the artwork inside yet! I hope you'll consider buying a book, both for your own use (there are some really terrific and thought-provoking sermons) and to support the ministries to the hungry and homeless in New Jersey.

Here's the link to the publishing house where you can buy a copy for yourself, one for your church library, and a few more to give to your friends.


Collect for Grace

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have 
brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your 
mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome 
by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of 
your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Visual Evening Prayer

For those without power in or after the storm, Lord hear our prayer.

Collect for St. Simon and St. Jude

The ceiling at St Simon's Episcopal Church, Conyers, GA
O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Big Storm Rolls In

I took this photo a couple of years ago at Atlantic Beach, NC, as a thunderstorm was rolling in.

We have a bigger storm rolling in now, one that covers a lot more of the country and has the potential to become a superstorm should it collide/combine with a couple of other weather systems coming down from the Great Lakes and elsewhere.  Plus, it's a full moon and so the tides are especially high already.  The potential for flood damage from the storm surge is of particular concern.

So far, we here in Williamsburg are just getting a lot of rain. We have rivers on either side of us - the James and the York, but the city itself is built on a ridge on the peninsula.  Father down into the Tidewater areas of Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, etc. there's even more water around already - the ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, several rivers, creeks and marshes.  The flooding of some streets in low-lying areas has already started.  When the wind gets up, things could get trickier, particularly if it knocks out power.  On the other hand, the chance of our getting hurricane-force winds is fairly low.

When stuff like this happens (or more to the point, while we are waiting for stuff to happen), nervousness breaks out. Should we stay home even though nothing's happened yet? Should we cancel things like church or school or meetings or airports or public transit? How do we determine what's essential and what's not? And who makes those decisions?

Different people answer these questions in different ways.  The situation calls for a great deal of forbearance, I believe.  And calmness.  And generosity.  

Meanwhile, it's always a good idea to pray. Pray for those who must make decisions about what to do.  Pray for those who have died in this storm as it tore through Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean islands.  Pray for those who are flooded out or suffer damage from high winds. Pray for those hardy souls who will be working under very difficult conditions to get power restored to those who will undoubtedly lose power because of the storm. Pray for those who are caring for the sick and the elderly, working in hospitals and nursing homes and other care facilities. Pray for those who are without shelter.  Pray for those who are afraid.  


Collect for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Morning Music Video: Even More Local Jazz

Here's the Jeffrey Cox Quartet playing Jeffrey's arrangement of John Coltrane's song Naima at The Velvet Note jazz club in Alpharetta, GA on October 7, 2012

Jeffrey Cox, trumpet
Andres Rovira, piano
Andrew Sommer, bass
Jordan Holiman, drums

Thanks to Jordan's father, Mike, for recording the concert and posting his videos on YouTube.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday New York Minute

Halloween is coming. Have you unwrapped your witch yet?

Collect for Alfred the Great

O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; 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 Alfred, the 9th Century king of the West Saxons, here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

News from the Pond

Remember me talking about the duck with the lame foot? (That post is here.)  Well, this is he, a few months ago, before his (male) colors were fully showing. It it fascinating to watch the ducks take on their adult plumage. They all look the same as ducklings and teenagers, and then the males get a curl in the tail feathers, and then the heads start to take on the distinctive mallard green, and then the stripes and spots disappear.  Like most species, they go through an awkward phase of adolescence between the fuzzy cuteness of being little and the elegance of adulthood in which they sometimes look like their former selves and sometimes look like adults and mostly just look like something in betwen.

I'm glad to have found this photo among the ones I took during the summer so you can see his foot and see how he looked back then.

All of the ducks have left the pond now, except for two.  This guy, and a female companion (!) have stayed. I'm guessing they will spend the winter here. I am glad that he has found a mate and will have and be company!  Some folks have been coming to the pond with cracked corn to feed them, so I'm sure they will do well during the winter months when the pond grasses are more sparse.

Here's what the happy couple looks like now, all grown up, swimming in the pond this week. (This is a reasonable facsimile, actually, but you get the point.)

Morning Canticle: Song of the Redeemed

 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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Fluff

I have no idea what this is. (Click the photo to enlarge.) It's a vine, so it's not anything like a dandelion. Anybody know?

Morning Canticle: A Song of Praise

A Song of Praise   

Benedictus es, Domine 
Song of the Three Young Men, 29-34

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

Glory to you in the splendor of you 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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Question of the Day: Where are you going?

In what direction are you headed this day?

Up? Down? Out?

Deeper into the heart of things?

Are you going the way you want to go? Are you running away? Are you looking forward?

Are you looking back?

Wherever you go, you are not alone.

Go with God, my friends. Go with God.

Collect for St. James of Jerusalem

Grant, O God, that, following the example of your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

To read more about James of Jerusalem (also known as James the Just and the brother of Jesus), click here.

There are many people named James in the New Testament. Here's one attempt to sort them out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The view on Sunday

A lovely fall afternoon! Hope you're enjoying your Sunday afternoon, too!

Collect for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

All Saints' Abyssinian Orthodox Church, Manhattan

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Morning Music Video: More Local Jazz

Here's another video from my son's concert in early October.  This is Daylight, written by ColdPlay and arranged by the jazz pianist Taylor Eigsti.

As I mentioned last week, three of these guys are seniors in high school and the pianist is a junior.

Jeffrey Cox, trumpet
Andres Rovira, piano
Andrew Sommer, bass
Jordan Holiman, drums

Thanks to Jordan's father, Mike Holiman, for posting these videos on YouTube.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday New York Minute

What's New York without pigeons?

This guy is showing off for a girl.  Another pigeon girl, not me. Hence the puffed up look. I wonder if that actually works?

Collect for Henry Martyn

O God of the nations, you gave your faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to you who gave them; 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 Henry Martyn, translator of the Scriptures, here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Bird Photo

A royal tern landing.

Collect for St Luke

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; 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.

Read more about St. Luke the Evangelist here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Angel Wings

Collect for St Ignatius of Antioch

Almighty God, we praise your Name for your Bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray, the willing tribute of our lives and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read about Ignatius here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


These are double crested cormorants flying south along the Atlantic Ocean from their breeding grounds in the Great Lakes region to wherever they're planning to spend the winter.  In this series of photos, all taken over a matter of two minutes, they are reorganizing.  During the long flight south, the birds take turns being in the lead section of the V-formation in which they fly. The birds in front have to work the hardest, while the birds in the back get to coast.  So, periodically they regroup so that the fliers in the front get to move farther back while more rested birds take on the responsibility of the lead fliers.

It is fascinating to watch this happen. They know instinctively how to rearrange themselves way up in the air while flying.  I can't even understand how marching bands make themselves into shapes on a football field with their diagrams and videos and vocal instructions, much less how birds make themselves into a V no matter who is in what position, all while flapping wings and soaring hundreds of feet above the ocean.

What I do understand is the notion that the flying group is a community and that each depends on the other.  Cormorants are among the large water birds who mate for life, and they have a highly organized society. They somehow understand the fairness of the system of flying in which individual birds take the lead for the whole group only for a limited amount of time before trading places with other birds.  They share the responsibility for the success of the group, and they work cooperatively. What each does is for the good of the whole, and there are many benefits to being part of that kind of community.

This is the natural order of things with cormorants. This is the way God made cormorant society.

We humans seem to have a little more trouble with the whole "good of the whole" part. Working as an individual for the good of the whole, recognizing the value of the health of the whole for everyone doesn't seem to be innate for us. Which is sad, because I think that's the way God hopes for human society to be as well.

Collect for Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

"Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God's grace shall never be put out." (Hugh Latimer)

Read about Latimer and Ridley here.

Read about Thomas Cranmer here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More DuckTales

Well, I've lived here for a year now, so I am not befuddled by the sudden decrease in the population at the duck pond.  I know that they fly south for the winter.  Some are still around - the youngest ones, I think, some of whom are still a bit in the process of changing their feathers so you can finally tell which are the males and which the females.  But generally, fall is here and the ducks are starting to take off.

The other afternoon it was sunny and warm and I sat by the pond on one of the benches for a while near the end of the afternoon, finished with my walk but not ready to go inside yet .  The young ducks still come over when one sits on the bench, hoping for some cracked corn or other such duck delicacies.  One of them was hopping, and I saw that there is something wrong with one of his feet. It was misshapen and he was holding it close to his body.

After the other ducks departed upon the discovery that I in fact did not have a bag of cracked corn on me, the injured duck settled down for a nap about two feet away.  He tucked his beak into his back and closed his eyes.  I guess he felt safe.

When a neighborhood child came along with her wagon, the duck quickly woke up and hopped away to the pond, jumping in and gliding toward the center, his hurt foot still hanging useless against his belly.  When the danger had passed, he returned to the sunny bank in front of me and resumed his nap.

It made me sad to see him, even though he was obviously handling his disability well.  I thought of what my dad might have said about him (a fox will get him soon enough) and remembered the tension I often feel about such things. I feel sorry for hurt animals, and I know that they die and are eaten or starve or whatever; I know that "nature is red in tooth and claw." That's kind of how life is.  I know that and for the most part, I accept it. 

But I don't have to like it.  I'm still sad about the death of my pet rabbit and seeing an injured duck just made me sadder.  I wonder if he will fly south or will stay in the bond all winter. And if he does, won't he be alone? There was a lone male who stayed most of the winter last year, too. And I felt sad for him, too.

Life is hard. We have to learn to rejoice in the moment, enjoy the beauty, while still recognizing the injustices and sadnesses and somehow not letting them overwhelm us. It's a delicate balance.

I always felt that my dad thought my tenderheartedness was a flaw.  I ought to be tougher, he said.
But I'm not, and there it is.

Collect for Teresa of Avila

O God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

"Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours."

Learn more about St Teresa, 16th Century Spanish reformer and contemplative, here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Considering the birds of the air...

Yesterday, I went on an all-day outing to my favorite outdoor  haunt, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a strip of earth situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay, about an hour and a half away. I try to go at least every six weeks or so to get in some beach time (which is also serious prayer time for me) and to make sure I'm spending some quality time outdoors. The refuge is interesting any time of the year to someone like me - there are all kinds of critters to see any time I go.

This time the most prevalent critter was the swallow.  Hordes of swallows filled the air over the shrub-filled open fields. They would roost in the trees for a few minutes only to rise up as a whole and swirl overhead again, swooping and diving and speeding past. I never could get a photo of an individual swallow, but you can get a glimpse the effect of the concentrated mass of them in the photo above - except imagine about twenty times what you see here.  They filled the sky over and over again as I walked the three miles of open field trail through the interior of the refuge.

As I watched them flocking to the trees and rising to the sky and soaring and speeding past, I wondered what it is like to be driven by the kind of instincts and innate knowledge that migrating birds are. They take on the incredibly arduous task of flying thousands of miles each year, of dealing with the elements and predators and sickness and death without the kinds of comforts we humans rely on - warm beds, hot drinks, soaking tubs, books to read. The lives of animals are different from ours, but they are still complex and they still end in death, sometimes with suffering.

And so it was good to be among alien creatures on a beautiful day on earth, knowing that for now we are alive and together and that God has given us all that we need or will ever need.

Collect for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Morning Music Video: Local Jazz

This video is a shameless promotion of my son and his music.  He's the trumpet player. The group is The Jeffrey Cox Quartet, and they played a sold-out concert at The Velvet Note jazz club in Alpharetta, Georgia, on October 7, 2012. Over the next several Saturdays, I'll be posting videos from the concert here.  Jeffrey wrote two of the songs (including this one, called Connection) and arranged several of the others.

The musicians are:

Jeffrey Cox, trumpet
Andres Rovira, piano
Andrew Sommer, bass
Jordan Holiman, drums

Andres is a junior in high school and the other three gentlemen are seniors.  Thanks to Jordan's father, Mike, for recording and posting these videos on YouTube.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday New York Minute

This is part of an exhibit at The High Line park in Manhattan called "Lilliput."

(Read about the whole exhibit here.  Here's what the article says about this piece:

Japanese artist Tomoaki Suzuki (b. 1972) is known for small wooden figurative sculptures depicting real people with distinct urban style. For Lilliput, Suzuki will present his first outdoor sculpture, Carson, a young man wearing a black leather jacket and tight pants. Usually one-third of human scale, Suzuki’s sculptures update the traditional technique of wood carving to a contemporary multicultural style.

Personally, I thought this was Tom Petty when I first saw it. But no, apparently, it's "Carson." Perhaps "Carson" is Tom Petty's tiny doppelganger.

I'm looking forward to my next walk on the High Line - I see something different every time!

Rest in Peace, Sweet Mr. Bunny

Our beloved pet Mr. Bunny died on 10/11/12.  He was nearly eight years old. He was sweet and funny and very curious. He loved blueberries and jumping on the couch and running up the stairs (but not down). He was a free-range bunny and he resented being locked up in his cage, so we only did it when it was necessary for his safety. His favorite place was his cardboard castle, which was an upside-down box with a door cut out. Well, actually, he had a great edible house, too, but he ate it.

We loved him a lot. All of you who have loved pets know how we feel.

Here are a few photos from his life with us.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Interview with Brenda Keller, Author of A Monk in High Heels

This is the book.

My friend Brenda Keller has just published a book - A Monk in High Heels (living a cloistered life outside the monastery).

The book is short and funny and sad and serious all at the same time. Which is kind of how Brenda is (including short, just like me!). Her voice shines through in the book as she chronicles part of her journey back home, as she puts it, her journey through some tough questions and her quest for a deeper and more meaningful connection with God. This journey was not to retreat from the world but to learn from monastics how to be faithful in the world.

We thought it would be fun to let her voice shine through on the blog as well!  So here are a few questions I had for Brenda to give you a sense of who she is and what her book is about.

How did you end up going to a monastery in the first place?
I had a professor in college who always talked about visiting one about an hour from where I went to school.  I don't remember even hearing about a monastery before that point.  She always made it sound like a peaceful retreat place and that year I was in desperate need of exactly that!  I got brave enough to call and ask one day and, as they say, the rest is history.

Why did you keep going back?
Two monasteries in particular became home base for me spiritually.  I found myself seasonally almost seeking God in the quiet and warmth of such a holy, safe place.  It became the only place I could be completely honest with God.  So, when I couldn't figure things out, was very frustrated especially spiritually, or just needed some room to hear myself think, I would go for a few days and reconnect.  I used to go several times a year (need it or not!), but since I joined the Episcopal Church in recent years, I haven't been back as much.  I think much of what my soul craved that I didn't even realize from the monastery was the liturgy.  Now I'm fortunate enough to be a part of that all the time. 

What is the hardest part of "monastic life" to live out in your uncloistered life?
Meditation!  My definition of meditation is just quiet communion with God and whether that noise is literal or just inside my head, I find it very hard to be still.  It's no easy thing to sit with hard questions and trust God not only has the answers, but ultimately is the answer.  True monastics make it a priority to be set apart on a regular basis.  Like on purpose!  I have an entire room in my house set apart for contemplation, I have no tv and no internet at home, and it's still hard.  There's always going to be distractions.  My prayer often is that God would help my mind listen only to his heart. 

What made you decide to write a book about your experience?
I didn't mean to write a book in the first place!  I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's true.  For several years my experiences, especially conversations and interactions with the monks, were very private to me.  I liked not having to share them.  But, over time I would mention this or that and people always wanted to know more.  As modern as we claim to be, I think our souls still yearn for the ancient practices and to connect with God in simple but profound ways.  I started a blog series on monasticism and got a bunch of e-mails from people desperate to know God like the monks do.  I started writing down my experiences, mainly for them, and the rest is history!  It's not my story as much as it is the monks who have dedicated their lives to true monasticim.  I want people to know about their lives.  The ministry they have there forever changed my relationship with God.  You can't really thank people for that, but this is a start.
This is Brenda.

Who are you hoping will read the book?
I hope the book is not so religious that it's unfriendly and just funny (snarky) enough for people to relate.  There's a reason people don't discuss politics or religion!  But, I think the same things that were drawing me to the monastery in the first place still draws people.  A lot of people are sick of the quick fix.  They want the lasting, deep relationship with God that sustains when life is hard.  And that takes work!  There's no three easy steps to being spiritual, unfortunately!   I want ordinary people to read this book. People who love God and people who are currently a little ticked he hasn't shown up yet like they hoped.  While I absolutely don't think God is anything to make fun of, I think life is.  And I especially think the spiritual life is hilarious.  This book doesn't laugh at God or the monks, but it puts my humanity front and center as I trip and stumble on my way to the heart of God.  I like to think at several points in my journey He laughed too.

Order "A Monk in High Heels" here.

Read more about/hear more from Brenda on her blog: Peace Love Jesus and Coffee.

Collect for Philip, Deacon and Evangelist

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Read more about Philip the Deacon and Evangelist (not the same as Philip the Apostle!) here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hanging in there!

A bee plays on the hummingbird vine.

Collect for Vida Dutton Scutter

Most gracious God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in your Church witnesses who, after the example of your servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand firm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Read more about this educator and activist for peace here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What's on your mind?

Facebook asks this question in the line where you update your status. What's on your mind?

I have so much on my mind I can hardly keep it all straight.

Too bad I haven't been able to organize my thoughts into much written reflection here. Seasons come and seasons go and apparently I'm in a fertile-and-creative-but-disorganized season.

The short answer is that people and places are on my mind - my family, my two homes, my parishioners, my friends and colleagues, my church. My calendar is filling well into next summer with family events - such is the life of the parent of two seniors (one high school and one college), not to mention some fun events and parish life events. Life is full, my heart is full, and my schedule is full.

Which is all great, except that one needs time to rest and reflect as well. I'm hoping to get back into the reflection groove soon.  I know that I need it for my own soul's sake.

Meanwhile, really, what's on your mind? Conversation starters welcome!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Collect for Church Musicians and Artists

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in
heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through
art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on
earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty,
and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for
evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Photos from Jeans and Jazz

My son played at the Jeans and Jazz worship service this morning at Hapeville First United Methodist Church in Hapeville, Georgia (Rev. Paige Pritchard, Pastor, who was one of my seminary classmates). It was World Communion Sunday, hence the flags on the altar.  The other musicians are the regular trio who play at the church. 

Tonight my son and his own combo are playing at The Velvet Note, a new jazz club in Alpharetta, Georgia, to a sold out crowd.  We're getting ready for a cookout to feed all the friends he bribed to buy tickets. I'm glad I was able to be in Atlanta this weekend!

And here's Jeffrey with my friend, Paige. Thanks, Paige!

Collect for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Morning Music Video: Braille

I just discovered Lisa Hannigan, the Irish singer, a week or so ago when I watched the Neil Jordan movie Ondine - this song was featured during the closing credits and I was hooked. (BTW, Ondine was a delightful movie, about a fisherman who hauled a woman up in a net; his daughter thinks the woman is a selkie (a seal who has shed its skin to live on land for a while), and for reasons of her own, the woman allows that fantasy to go on (and yet be constantly questioned) for most of the movie.

Anyway, enjoy the song.  It might be hard to catch the lyrics in the video, so here they are:

For you, I leave my light on. 
To do its best against the storm. 
And you came in like the tide in. 
And I knew that we could keep each other warm. 

You bring crocosmia and fuschias.
And I sing your name into the night. 
A king of salt and stones, your compass, 
It swings from you to me tonight. 

We'll swim without a word between us. 
Our breath held in. 
We reel in love in the ocean, 
Braille on our skin, on our skin....

I fill a glass with what you've gathered, 
Although they wilt against the window pane. 
And the morning sees you off with nets to scatter, 
You will come in with the tide again. 

We'll swim without a word between us. 
Our breath held in. 
We reel in love in the ocean, 
Braille on our skin, on our skin.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Afternoon New York Minute

For the next couple of months, the Friday Afternoon photo series will feature scenes from Manhattan.  I got a lot of great photographs on my last short trip to the city during the summer, and I am planning another quick trip there in November.  So, a few glimpses of New York on Fridays for a while.

This is a copy of Michaelangelo's David.  Wearing a Missoni onesie.   The sculpture is a collaboration between the Spanish artist dEmo and Luca Missoni, the fashion designer who is often known by the zig-zag pattern of the type shown here.

This statue was installed in the Missoni store in Madrid in 2010, moved to Barcelona for a while, and was in Manhattan (on 14th Street near the High Line Park) when I was there in July.

It was scheduled to depart in September. Wonder where he will go next?

Visual Morning Prayer

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A few words about Francis

Every year at the beginning of October (how did it get to be October!?), we remember St Francis of Assisi, who died somewhere around October 4, 1226.  On Sunday, at the 9:15 service, we will bless pets (and perhaps a colonial horse or chicken), an activity that is usually associated with Francis.

There's a lot of stuff that is associated with Francis, some of it probably true and much of it more in the line of undocumented tradition.  Some make him out to be something of a Dr. Doolittle, talking to the animals, or a early-adopting hippie cavorting around singing about Brother Sun and Sister Moon.  There are stories of his stripping himself naked and handing all his clothing back to his father in a dramatic acting out of his renunciation of the world and embrace of Lady Poverty. He may or may not have been taken prisoner in his early twenties, and he may or may not have brokered a peace accord between Christians and Muslims in Palestine.  He is portrayed as both very simple (see, above, cavorting) and as a major player in the Roman church, traveling about Europe and the Middle East making deals of various kinds.

Francis is one of the Western world's most popular saints. And he does seem to have been pretty well-known in his own time. Many young men and women were drawn to his embrace of poverty and barefoot itineracy, at least for a while.  They were drawn to the joy with which he lived his life, a joy that was grounded, oddly enough, in his giving away all his possessions. It turned out, however, that most people discovered that living happily in poverty, that actually being free of possessions and worldly cares, that embracing a life of embracing lepers (another activity for which Francis was famous) was really hard.  Really, really hard.

The Gospel reading for today features lines of scripture many of us know well: "Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  But if you know this scripture from the Rite 1 Liturgy for Holy Eucharist, you may remember it a little bit differently: "Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you."

The first translation suggests coming to God and handing over one's burdens, maybe for good.  An idea that has great appeal to many of us who are overwhelmed and unsure about how much emotional stuff we can carry and for how long.  There are times when I realize I'm trying to be responsible for things that are not my responsibility or things that are simply beyond my capability, and I am relieved and comforted by the invitation to simply lay those things down at the altar, to give over to God the things I cannot bear myself alone.

But when it comes to Francis, the joyful man who gave away everything and eventually even received the stigmata, the marks of Christ's wounds in his own body, I think the older translation is more suitable.  Come to me with your heavy burdens and I will refresh you.  I will infuse you with what you need to go on, refreshed, renewed, recharged. 

Could this be the key to how someone could embrace poverty and live the way Francis lived? Knowing that God would always be there to refresh him, no matter how dire his circumstances? Is that how he was able to be joyful while begging for his bread and doing without the comforts of a home and shoes and decent clothing?  Because for him God is there at every turn, not to take over or invite him to give up his work but to offer refreshment?

Well, that's something to think about, not in a "I have to bear everything and keep on going until I drop because that's what taking up my cross means" way but a "I am free from bondage to money and power and privilege and can focus on the least of these because I know God will renew me whenever things get tough" kind of way.  Francis was filled with love for others because he knew he was filled and would be refilled every day with God's love for him.  

Why wouldn't he be simply glad?

Collect for St Francis of Assisi

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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