Monday, September 30, 2013

Faith and Fear/Fear and Faith

This is a presentation I made to our adult education class, which is a six-week series based loosely on a 2007 book by Dr. Scott Beder-Saye called Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear. The first part of the presentation last week was by a clinical psychologist on fear - how it works and manifests itself in our bodies and our minds. We do have things to fear but often our fears are well out of proportion with the actual dangers. My part was to talk about the Christian response to fear.

Back in the 16th Century, Thomas Hobbes said that “fear is the glue that holds us (as a society) together.”

Well before that, God said to Moses, fear not, for I am with you. And the prophet Isaiah said to all the people, fear not, for God is with you.  And the angel said to Mary, fear not, for God is with you.  And Jesus said, so, don’t worry about your stuff or even your life. Jesus says, leave things behind. Jesus says, be like the good Samaritan. 

Jesus breaks all kinds of rules established by the world and breaks through barriers set up by the world in order to BE God’s healing and reconciling love in the world. And he knows there are consequences of this: Jesus said, take up your cross and follow me. He suffered consequences and so will we.

He didn’t say, I know the world is scary, so go build yourself a shelter and hunker down. He didn’t praise the levite and the priest who fearfully passed by the man lying, beaten, beside the road or the man who built barns to secure his big harvest. 

But the world is scary. There are things to be afraid of.

Following Jesus then entails figuring out how to find the courage to act faithfully despite our fears so that we can live fully into the Gospel imperative.

The author of the book we based this class upon, Scott Beder-Saye, has three suggestions about how to deal with our fears.

The first is to trust in Providence.

The second is to build and belong to a community.

The third is to learn, in light of these first two points, to be a people who take risks.

So. Providence. Belief in Providence (the belief that God is in control of all events) is not so popular these days, mostly due to the questions that flow from the classic idea of Providence:  if God is directing all the activity in the world, then what about the Holocaust? What about the disasters? What about tragedy and death? Is God making all these things happen for some reason? Is God punishing us? Is God arbitrary and mean?

But if we reframe how we look at God’s activity in the world based on what we know about God through the person and story of Jesus of Nazareth (which is what we do as Christians), then we have to see resurrection at the center of God’s activity. God is about resurrection. But there is no resurrection without death, which in Jesus’ case, is brought about through fear. The Romans and the Jewish religious leadership were afraid of Jesus and they put him to death. That was not God’s doing. 

But the resurrection WAS God’s doing. God is not about causing disaster, but God is always working to redeem disaster, to redeem death, to redeem brokenness and bring about something good. 

Example: Joseph and his brothers. They sold him into slavery, but Joseph rose to prominence and was able to save his family and thus the whole future of the Jewish people during the famine. You meant it for evil, Joseph told his brothers, but God made it good.

So belief in providence means that even if something awful happens, God is working to bring new life out of that awfulness. God is the Lord of History but that history is still and always being made through God’s continual calling out goodness.

Second, build up a community of hope. Community is the antidote to fear because fear feeds on isolation (unless the community becomes a mob, which is why I said community of HOPE). Community says: we are there for you if the thing you fear happens. We will be there for you if you try something and aren’t successful. We are here to cheer you on; we are here to support you; you are not alone. We believe God’s promises. This gives us courage.

Story: when I had cancer. The community was there to help me with medical info; to accompany me and my husband through it all; to help us take care of our children; to bring us food for weeks and even months later. 

The support we received helped me see that even if something happened to me (even death) the community would be there for my family. This helped me not be afraid, it helped me hold on to my family a little more loosely and with less fear, so that we could all live into what we believed God made us to be. Being embedded in a hopeful community has given my husband and me and our children confidence to step out into the world to live out our various callings. 

Third, learn to be a people who take risks: If you believe that God will redeem even the worst thing that could happen; if you are embedded in a community of hope that will be there for you; then you can take risks. 

This is not about being stupid but it is about living into the story that says there are things worth dying for, that love is as strong as death, that we are called to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, that we are called to embody love in a very broken and desperate world in ways that are not padded with self-protection. We cannot truly love if we cannot allow ourselves to be vulnerable. A life focused on safety is not much of a life. There is nothing compelling about a story that says if love gets risky you should back off.

Many of us have loved the Chronicles of Narnia books. In those books, the Pevensie children learn that the Jesus figure, Aslan the lion, is not a tame lion. He isn’t safe. But he is good and he can be trusted to bring about good, even in the midst of disaster.Yes, they died in the end. But they are brought to a beautiful place where there is no more violence and suffering.The promise was fulfilled.

An example in our parish of taking risks is the winter shelter. Many of us had to really push through some fears about safety, about vulnerability, about our ability to deal with people we thought might be scary. But the risk paid off in a big way for us as a parish, for many of us as individuals, for our shelter guests, and for the Williamsburg community.

Jesus, who asks us to take up our cross and follow him, calls us into goodness, not into safety. 
We live in a world that tries to convince us that we must pursue safety first or else we are bad parents or bad children or bad teachers or bad spouses. 

But the world is not safe and we can never ever eliminate all risk. Bad stuff is going to happen despite all our efforts.  And, believe it or not, good will somehow be brought out of it.

And the risks we take by living out love instead of hiding behind our fears will be worth it because God is with us.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lazarus and the Rich Man, a Sermon

(This is a sermon from 3 years ago. I think it still stands.)

We have been seeing these last weeks in the Gospel of Luke continuing admonitions about wealth and how it is to be used.  The message is clear:  use your wealth in this life for the benefit of others.  We are called to lessen the loads of those who are under the thumb of whatever holds them hostage; we are called to be lavish in our rejoicing for them like the prodigal father and the woman who found a lost coin and threw a party.  For Jesus told us last week, you cannot serve God and wealth.  And the letter to Timothy reminds us today:  The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  
Luke has a special message about money and stewardship and wealth, and to drive the message home, today we see the poor beggar Lazarus who died, starving and diseased, at a rich man’s very gate while that man ate wonderful meals and wore fine clothes and slept between clean linen sheets in his comfortable bedroom.

This is a scary story.  It makes us fearful about whether or not it is God who fixes the chasm between the destitute and the rest of us in the next life because of the chasm that exists between the destitute and the rest of us in this life.  As I said last week, the gap between rich and poor today is the highest it has been in the fifty years such statistics have been charted; in the light of the Gospel story today, we might feel uneasy about this.
I don’t think the divide in Hades, that chasm in hell, is the point of this story, though, for then it would just be about us and how we ought to be afraid of God.  This story shows us a person with a name, Lazarus, one of God’s beloved, who suffers the consequences of the self-centered habits of a nameless one on whom fortune obviously smiled but who choose not to see Lazarus.  Real people suffer because others do not or will not see them in their need; the message is that we ought to have compassion on others.  The Scriptures have always told us this - read the Old Testament prophets and hear how God rails against those who sell the needy for a pair of sandals and crush the destitute into the dust.  And Jesus echoes the prophets’ warnings through the stories we’ve been hearing these last weeks.  How we use our money and our time and talents matters in God’s economy.   This is our calling as God’s people - to be for others.  Jesus urges us here to attend to the message.  To hear and to be held accountable, now.
I don’t think it is God but the rich man himself who spent his life digging that chasm, just as Scrooge and Marley spent their lives forging and adding to the heavy chain that Marley the ghost rattled in the face of Scrooge when he appeared to him on Christmas Eve.  We, like Ebenezer Scrooge, are to take heed now and understand we are meant to use our wealth in whatever amount or form we have it for the benefit of others and not all for ourselves.  God’s own people are at risk because of our self-centered ways.
This story from Luke today makes me think, too, about how easy it has become to insulate ourselves from the destitute. We have laws that keep people from sleeping on our porches.  We can spend our money putting fences around ourselves so that we don’t see what’s outside them.  We can buy our way out of having to even cross paths with the poor.  We have air conditioning so we can keep the windows closed and stay inside and watch TV.  Those of us who don’t take public transportation don’t mingle with people of every class and situation on the bus or subway but drive alone in our cars with the windows rolled up, and we can ignore those people on the side of the road.  I remember in Atlanta before the Olympics, the city got busy moving the homeless people out of the line of sight.  Out of sight, out of mind.  
And maybe, just a tiny bit like Scrooge, we might think that institutionalizing people is the answer.  That will keep them off our doorsteps and into the hands of professionals.  And it is true that some problems are so big it takes a something bigger than we are to address them, especially addiction and mental illness.  
But here is another truth:  Most of us are not hard hearted and mean.  Many of us just really do not know what to do about the unrelenting need we see out there in the world.  It is so overwhelming, and we wonder what we can even do to make a dent in it.
And often we worry, too.  We worry that the world is full of people who are trying to con us out of our money, who will just waste the money on booze or drugs, who will give us a sob story and then hop into their Cadillacs and drive away, laughing, at our expense. We worry about being taken, and so we allow ourselves to get drawn into side issues and away from a place of compassion.
We just don’t know what to do.  And so we may end up not doing much of anything at all.  The need is so great and we want to use our resources wisely.  We don’t mean to seem hardhearted about the chasm between rich and poor on this side of death.  When we strip away our fears and defenses, most of us really do wish to be able to make a difference in the lives of the downtrodden.  But we are beset with worries and we are distracted into side issues.
And so we insulate ourselves.  We learn not to see, we learn to shut out, we learn to avert our eyes.  We imagine we are not equipped anyway.  We focus on other ways to be “responsible” with our assets.
This week the comic strip Doonesbury has taken on this very topic by having the billionaire investor cum philanthropist Warren Buffet visiting one of his billionaire buddies to enlist him to pledge with him and Bill and Melinda Gates to give away half their fortunes before they die.  The guy he visits this week, Jim, tells him no as soon as he walks in the door.  “No, Warren,” he says.  Buffet says, innocently, “No, what?”  Jim says, “I’m not giving away half my fortune to eradicate some random disease in Africa.”  Buffet says, “Eradicate a whole disease?  My goodness, why wouldn’t you want to do that?  I’ll get you a list.”  Jim replies, “OK, bad example.  I meant something pointless.”
And then he goes on to give all the reasons why he’s not going to join the philanthropy effort.  His family, his reputation, his need to feel powerful in response to the people who dissed him when he was a kid.
How do we learn not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk?  How do we learn how to use our power for others?  We may not feel that we are as rich as the rich man in this story, or Bill and Melinda Gates, but then again, if you make $35,000 a year then you are in the top five percent of the richest people in the world.  The people at the Global Rich List website point out that for the same amount of money it might cost me to buy a new cell phone I could buy an entire mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.  The people at Episcopal Relief and Development remind us that $15 buys a mosquito net that can save three children from contracting malaria, a disease that killed a million children in 2008.
Why wouldn’t I want to do that?
Of course, helping people halfway across the world is sometimes another way we ignore the person who is lying right outside our gate.  We have to learn to not be afraid to see them, too, and to have compassion for our nearby neighbors, too, and not just for children in other countries we see in magazine and internet ads.  We have to learn how to share our wealth and advocate for the downtrodden among us in addition to sharing with and advocating for the world’s poor.  This is not an either/or but a both/and thing.  Nor is it either/or that we help as individuals as opposed to becoming part of something bigger than ourselves to tackle problems too large for us to address individually.   It all needs doing.  And why wouldn't we want to do it?
But first we must learn to open our eyes to the need in the world without becoming overwhelmed by it and shutting down, either by averting our eyes altogether or by focusing on reasons why we can’t share or why people don’t deserve to be helped.  And I’ll be honest that it is really easy to become overwhelmed in the face of unrelenting need.  It’s easy to be afraid or get discouraged and to think that we can’t really help anything or anybody, so why bother.
This is why we pray every week after we receive the bread and the wine from this table for strength and courage to love and serve God.  It takes strength and courage to get past our fears and engage in service to others.  It takes strength and courage to be in relationship with people who are different from us.  It takes strength and courage to recognize our own dependence upon God and our interdependence with others.
Two last things come to mind:  First, we are all in need ourselves of love, of sustenance, of relationship, of a place in a community.  If we can see that we ourselves need these things, then it becomes easier to see and respond to the needs of others.  We find that we have a kinship with them after all.  And second, if we have anything at all, then we have something to share.

I once heard a story about a woman who saw a young boy scavenging in the dumpster behind a fast food place as she was about to drive away.  She stopped and handed him her bag of fried chicken and got back into the drive-through line to order another meal for herself.  When she passed by the dumpster again, she saw the little boy sitting on the curb, sharing his fried chicken meal with a little cat.
The chasm is there, but we can stand in the gap.  When we know that we ourselves are in need, we can more easily see and respond to the needs of others.  And if we have anything at all, then we have something to share.

Collect for the Nineteenth 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 28, 2013

Saturday Morning Movie: Bunny Jumping!

Enjoy watching this rabbit show jumping exhibition! Bunnies do have fun jumping! And checking out the fridge.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fountain Break

This is part of a small fountain in a little side park in Savannah, GA. It's made of only a couple of pipes, and the water just spills out of them like this. There's something so refreshing about it.

Enjoy your Friday!

Collect of the Holy Cross

Clonmacnois, County Offaly, Ireland

Almighty God, whose beloved Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption: Give us courage to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 252)

(the BCP notes that this prayer is especially appropriate for Fridays)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Now the Day is Over.....

Have a good night.

Collect of the Holy Eucharist

Taken at St Stephen's Episcopal Church, Oxford NC

God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion: Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 252)

(the BCP notes that this prayer is especially appropriate for Thursdays)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Find the Bee

See it?

This was taken a couple of Thanksgivings ago when a warm spell brought out a flush of flowers and woke up the bees. 

Collect of the Incarnation

Another detail from the mosaic benches outside Grant's Tomb in Manhattan

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 252)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pastoral Care at the Five and Dime

I live in a small city (or is it a big town?) of about 15,000 people, although our population swells during certain times of the year due to the College schedule and, of course, the many tourists who visit us.

I don't see my parishioners everywhere I go every day, as I might if I lived in a town of 5,000, but I do regularly see folks from church in restaurants, Target, the gas station, the grocery store, etc. Sometimes they don't recognize me, particularly if I'm not wearing my collar. I'm out of place for them (and sometimes they are out of place for me, too!). But often times they do.

Running into a parishioner while we are each doing our daily errands (and some of them are still a little surprised that I shop or get my hair cut in the same places they do) allows us to check in with each other in an informal way. I may see someone who's been ill or on a trip or about to go on a trip. We can catch up for a few minutes without the formality of making an appointment or calling with a specific purpose in mind.

Not long ago, I met up with someone who had lost a spouse in the last year buying a new kitchen appliance. We waved and I sidled up to his buggy to check out this new gadget. We acknowledged, with very few words, that this was part of his moving forward through the grief, learning how to do a new thing with every day living. The wife was the one who ran the kitchen, but now the widower is learning how. I asked how he was doing, and he said he was doing ok. Going to try out this new thing and see how it goes.

Some days I think I should just wander around town, bumping into people all day, seeing how they are really doing, having short conversations that may or may not lead to longer ones. On the other hand, folks bump into me in my office, too, having come to the parish house for other reasons, and those conversations are good too.

Either way, I am honored and privileged to be a part of the lives of my parishioners, for they are certainly a special part of mine.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Funnies

Because it's Monday afternoon, and I think I speak for many who could use a laugh on Mondays, here are Donald and Daisy duck in mosaic.

These are part of the mosaic benches all around the outside of Grant's Tomb in upper Manhattan. Back in the day, Donald duck was a staple in my cartoon-watching childhood and many a friend started out his or her youthful "impersonation" career by trying to perfect Donald's voice, which sounds like you've been inhaling helium and are talking through/with your cheeks. 

Incidentally, the original voice for Donald was created by Clarence Nash (no relation). I never tried it, though. I'm convinced I couldn't mimic a mime. But I always enjoy friends who have that talent - it's like caricature (the visual kind) via the voice.

Thank you God for humor, creativity, and experimentation.

Collect of the Holy Spirit

Almighty and most merciful God, grant that by the indwelling of your Holy Spirit we may be enlightened and strengthened for your service; 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 251)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Collect for the Eighteenth 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.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fountain Break

A close up view of the top of one of the matching pair of fountains in front of the library at Columbia University in Manhattan on a sunny day.

May you be refreshed on this Friday afternoon.

Collect of the Holy Trinity

Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace to continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 251)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Morning Music: Little David

Detail from the Chapel in Riverside Church, Manhattan

Above is a depiction of King David, before he was king, playing his harp for King Saul, who suffered from melancholy. Saul used to say that only David's playing could ease the King's mind and soul. That didn't stop the King from trying to kill David later on, though, as the two of them wrangled for royal leadership.

And below is the St Olaf 2011 Music Camp Choir singing a great arrangement of the gospel song "Little David Play Upon Your Harp." The video is just the names of the singers, so you can look at the King and his harper while you listen.  Enjoy.

Prayer After Worship

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the words which
we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through
thy grace, be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may
bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and
praise of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 834)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Wings

I am totally amazed that this creature can fly with that solid body and those nearly nothing wings!

Prayer for After Receiving Communion

Detail from over a door in the chapel at Riverside Church, Manhattan

O Lord Jesus Christ, who in a wonderful Sacrament hast left
unto us a memorial of thy passion: Grant us, we beseech
thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and 
Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of
thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 834)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prayer Before Receiving Communion

Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you
were present with your disciples, and be know to us in the
breaking of bread; who live and reign with the Father and
the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 834)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Evening Prayer

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the 
strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead: We 
thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and 
humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. 
Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who 
died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. 

(BCP 124)

Collect for the Answering of Prayer

Almighty God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son's Name: We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ear to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 834)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Too Busy to Party

Today, Jesus presents us with a matching set of parables about things that are lost and found, the sheep and the coin, in response to the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes who do not like it that Jesus parties with sinners.

The stories are about God - who God is and how God is. God is utterly reckless in pursuit of the lost - like a shepherd who will not stop searching until the lost sheep is found, like a woman who tears the house apart looking for a lost coin. 

This reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways.

Would you actually leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness to find the one? Would you really sweep the whole house, at night, and throw a party just for one coin, probably spending the whole amount of the coin’s value on the food and drinks and party hats? 

Probably not. God’s love looks crazy. And the stories are meant to show that indeed, God is flat-out crazy about us - all of us.

But not only that. At the end of each story is the part about how the shepherd and the woman call together their friends to rejoice because the lost has been found. Even the angels in heaven rejoice with the friends at the restoration of each and every one who has been found. Maybe you think of heaven as a place of quiet tranquility, but no, it turns out to be a big old cosmic party. 

Jesus makes it plain that we are to join the party, to join in the rejoicing, because God seeks out the lost and finds them, even if they didn’t do anything to be found other than to become lost in the first place. Rejoicing is the proper response to God’s graciousness, not only to us but to all.

But look who’s not rejoicing. The Pharisees, who, bless their hearts, are truly faithful people who want to be obedient to God, it’s just that they are often too busy trying to parse the rules. So Jesus calls them out for not rejoicing that God’s searching has resulted in restoration of the lost to the community.

All this talk about being lost reminds me of a quote that can be found on many a Facebook profile page in the “about me - favorite quotes” section. It’s from a poem by J.R.R. Tolkein, the first line of which is “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”

Not all those who wander are lost. True. And if we turn that around a bit, we get this: not all those who are lost look like they are wandering. Also true. 

In truth, many of us get lost. We just don’t look like we are. The Pharisees here are lost, even though they consider themselves righteous. They are too busy parsing the rules of their faith practices to make room for something new, to make room for spiritual growth. They think the lost are the ones who look like drunks or adulterers or corrupt cheaters, and usually we do, too.

But the upright and earnest can be lost, as well. We become lost when we are too busy to pay attention to God’s claims on us, even the claim to party like it’s 1999 because that crazy God of ours has brought yet another sketchy lost soul into our midst.

We are lost when we are too busy to make space for God in our lives, to make room for God to do a new thing. When admittedly good things like jobs and families and hobbies and even church expand to become our sole focus, we have gotten off the path. We are wandering, even though we look like solid citizens. When we are consumed by our work, singularly bent on climbing the ladder; when our lives are ruled by our children’s activities schedules; when we narrow our focus to the arcane; when every time someone asks how we are we answer, almost proudly: “I’m just so busy!” we are lost.

There was a time in my life when I definitely was lost, the ugly kind of lost like the prodigal son rather than the ditzy bucolic kind of lost like the sheep or the “oops, I fell through the cracks” lost like the coin.  And then I was found, through no action of my own. It was humbling and life-saving and I still rejoice that our God is so crazy about us, seeking us endlessly, no matter how ugly-lost we might be. 

I am not in that place any more, thank God. But I still wander off the path. The times I am in the most danger are often times when everything looks great. When life is moving right along, all systems go, and I’m trying to do everything and manage everything and get an A in everything, including at being a priest, and next thing I know, I’m lost again. I’m too busy to see God’s gracious hand at work in the world and to rejoice; I’m too driven by my calendar and too focused on sticking to my principles to make room for God to drop in on me and change my life. 

In fact, I don’t really want God to change my life. I worked hard to get it all fixed up like it is! So I don’t make any room in myself for God to reach me. I fill it up with being busy.

But God never stops trying to reach me. God never stops trying to find you. God never stops rejoicing when we turn our faces Godward again, even though God knows we’re going to wander away again soon. It turns out we need to be found more than once.

If you know you’re in a bad place, take heart, God is searching for you even now.

And if you’ve fallen into the trap of being too busy, of focusing on getting an A in everything, of climbing the ladder and being in the right groups and pushing yourself and your family to have perfect resumes, and all for a good cause! God is searching for you even now, too. 

Because God is crazy about us and will do anything to find us. Thanks be to God!

Collect for the Seventeenth 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 14, 2013

Saturday Morning Jazz

Here's jazz pianist Robert Glasper, accompanied by Taylor McFerrin and Derrick Hodge
playing his arrangement of Packt Like Sardines In a Crushed Tin Box by Radiohead. (Yes, you heard the Jeffrey Cox Quintet play this a couple of weeks ago.) Love the percussion by beatboxer McFerrin - he's a chip off the old block! (His dad is Bobby McFerrin.)

This is a "one mic, one take" video, too. Cool.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fountain Break

This is one of those small burbling garden fountains at an inn in Mexico Beach, Florida. I took the photo just after sunrise, in the morning "golden hour." I like how the bubbles form and float away. 

May your afternoon be peaceful and sunny.

A Prayer Before Worship

Altar in the Chapel at Riverside Church, NYC

O Almighty God, who pourest out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.

(BCP 833)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Prayer for the Evening

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows
lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is
hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest,
and peace at the last. Amen.

(BCP 833)


Some months ago, I resumed practicing yoga after a very long (maybe 35 years?) break. Now I go to yoga classes several times a week; occasionally I do some of the poses and stretches at home, but I really do prefer the classes with a teacher leading us through a session.

In addition to the physical aspect of practicing yoga in a class, there are two things that really stand out to me about them.

The first is the spiritual aspect of practicing yoga, which is definitely emphasized by our teachers. I find it a wonderful way to empty my mind of worries and to find some peace while I reconnect with my body. The language the teachers use, though, reminds me that for many people, this is as close as they come to having a spiritual life. In addition to emphasizing self-care and physical well-being, there's a lot of talk throughout the class about connecting ourselves with the power of the universe, about opening our hearts to the universe, about finding peace and comfort. Sometimes we are led through guided meditations which emphasize these things.

As these things are being said, I sometimes note the somewhat religious tone. Ah, yes, I think. People want to find meaning in life and to connect themselves with something bigger than they are. That's pretty much what I think many of us seek (and, one hopes, find) through actively belonging to a church community. We come to church to find some peace in a chaotic world, to find some comfort when things are going badly, to connect with the powerful love that is so much bigger than we are, love that sustains us through good and bad times. Many of us meditate or practice contemplative prayer (with some physical rituals/actions like intentional breathing or use certain postures) for these same reasons.

The second thing that stands out is the emphasis on the word "practice." In particular, today's teacher reminded us that the word "practice" means that we are not on stage. We are not expected to do every pose or movement perfectly every time. We are not performing. We are practicing. We are imperfect, seeking to do what we can this day, knowing that another day we may stretch further, hold a pose longer, but even if we never do any of those things, all will still be well. We will always be practicing.

I like that. I like the idea of letting go of a sense of preparing for some kind of performance and simply doing what we can do this day. That "practicing" is really "living" but without the expectation of perfection.

Does that mean we never "improve" or that without some kind of pressure or stress we will never live up to our potential? I don't think so. I think there's plenty of that out there in the world, anyway.

Rather, I think that regular practice does encourage us to live up to our potential, but does so in a way that also encourages us to be compassionate and less anxious.  We still have mirrors in the room so that we can check to see if our form is correct - not for perfection's sake but so that we are getting the stretch  or strengthening we are aiming for without injuring ourselves.

I am imperfect, and I am always practicing, and that's really fine with me.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo

A conversation between a ring-billed gull and a herring gull, 
possibly on the quality of the popcorn they've been eating.

Collect for Protection

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and
prayers, and dispose the way of thy servants towards the
attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the
changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be
defended by thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 832)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Evening Prayer

Grant us, Lord, the lamp of charity which never fails, that it
may burn in us and shed its light on those around us, and
that by its brightness we may have a vision of that holy City,
where dwells the true and never-failing Light, Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen

(BCP 110)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Collect for the Sixteenth 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 7, 2013

Saturday Morning Music: A Classical Garage Band

Another Tiny Desk Concert. This a Time for Three, a "classically trained garage band," as they put it. They were classically trained at the Curtis Institute of Music, which is one of the finest classical conservatories in the world. The members are Zachary De Pue, Nick Kendall (violins) and Ranaan Meyer (double bass). They like to improvise and to play what they like.

The songs in the set are: Banjo Love, Sundays, and Don Don.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fountain Break

Whoever thought up the idea of fountains that children are actually encouraged to play in was a genius.

This one is in Boston at the end of the reflecting pool at The Mother Church, of which you've seen several pictures these last few days. It's quite an oasis in the middle of busy Boston.

Enjoy your Friday!

Another Collect for Guidance

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

(BCP 832)


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