Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Morning Jazz

I never get to post my son's music stuff any more now that he's playing in places where they don't record video very often, but here's some great stuff from some of his former colleagues. This is a combo made up of musicians who play with the Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra in Atlanta. They are a group of very fine players.

Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra (RYJO) is a program for high school age Jazz students at Georgia State University. Program Director Dr. Gordon Vernick. Combo Director Kevin Bales.
Josh Achiron, guitar * Griffin Dangler, bass * Morgan Guerin, tenor saxophone * Adi Handach, drums * James Robertson, alto saxophone * Andrés Rovira, piano * Danny Wytanis, trombone *
Songs: Speak No Evil by Wayne Shorter, Think of One by Thelonius Monk, and Eye of the Hurricane by Herbie Hancock. 

This video was recorded by Luis A. Rovira at Georgia State University's Florence Kopleff Recital Hall March 28, 2014



Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Afternoon Gentle Rain from Heaven Break

One of the things that happens when the day is misty and drizzly is the formation of droplets on all the flowers. This lovely and almost glowing little impatiens greeted me this morning, reminding me of the Shakespearean soliloquy I had to memorize in 9th grade:

"The quality of mercy is not strained - it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath."(Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice)

Enjoy your weekend.

Collect for the Harvest of Land and Waters

O gracious Father, who openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let thy Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show thy loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what thou givest, that men and women everywhere may give thee thanks; through Christ  our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 828)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photo

There's a tufted titmouse in this tree. Can you find it?

Collect for Ascension Day

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

(BCP 226)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Alternate View

The front of a rose is always beautiful. But the back of this one is, too.

Morning Canticle


Glory to God in the highest, 
    and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King, 
almighty God and Father,

    we worship you, we give you thanks, 
    we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, 
Lord God, Lamb of God, 
you take away the sin of the world: 
    have mercy on us; 
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: 
    receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One, 
you alone are the Lord, 
you alone are the Most High,
    Jesus Christ, 
    with the Holy Spirit, 
    in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Evening Prayer

Support us, Lord, all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work done; then Lord, in your mercy, give us safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at the last. Amen

(From the New Zealand Prayer Book)

Visual Morning Prayer

You give them their food in due season.  (Ps 145:15)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Music for Memorial Day: Lux Aeterna

In the U.S., today is Memorial Day, the day we remember those who have died in service to our country (in contrast to Veteran's Day, in which we thank those who currently serve or who served in the past).

In honor of the day, and to offer prayer for the dead, here is the Introit from Morten Lauridsen's beautiful modern requiem Lux Aeterna.

Thanksgiving for Heroic Service

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 839)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday Morning Movie: Bess

I was fortunate to see these two (Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis) sing this song - Bess, You Is My Woman Now - on stage last summer in a Broadway production of George Gershwin's opera Porgy & Bess.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Thanksgivings

I've had limited time for posting much more than photographs here for a while. Life is very full, happily so for the most part (although a stubborn sinus infection has been a less happy addition to the mix), and I have much on my mind and in my heart, even if I can't seem to get any of it "on paper."

What I do want to say on this Friday is that I am more aware than ever of the gifts that have been given me through my ministry as an ordained person over the last few years. Some of them have been immediately recognizable and apparent, while others have taken a while to mature and to show themselves. I give thanks for all who have walked with me and guided me and taught me so much, all of which has helped make me ready to be where I am now and in the future as well.

I've always prided myself on being an enthusiastic learner. I have always loved books and school and I am almost embarrassingly nerdy about enjoying conferences and clergy days and other gatherings in which I am exposed to new information and get to be around other people. Still, I can be resistant when it comes to learning new things. Because in certain arenas, learning something new may suggest that one has something to learn, and that can be uncomfortable to someone who wants to appear "together" and knowledgable and wise. So it's a delicate balance, learning and being wise and knowledgeable, being competent and yet open to new ways of being and doing. Adopting an attitude of being open, of course, is always wise, and doesn't take away from what one already knows. But I have sometimes found the way through all of those layers to be a little challenging.

On the other hand, birthdays sometimes help in this regard. Recently I had a birthday, and although it wasn't one that ends with a zero (that's next year, thank you very much), I am taking the opportunity to try to be both older and wiser, which somehow frees one from some of the need to know all the things. I am trying to be happy knowing what I know, recognizing that much of it is truly valuable, although the fact that lyrics to many an anthem from the 60's and 70's (summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street!) seem to be indelibly stuck in my brain gives me pause for just how much room there's going to be for more weighty information going forward. What I know is helpful and how I can build on that will be delightful for me and for those with whom I wander in this transitory life.

Further to the timing of this reflection, I now have a date for moving to a new house in a new city where I've already been working for six weeks in a fantastic church. And so, having announced this to the world, I begin the deliberate work of physical transition, packing up and closing down one home while preparing to settle in to another. I imagine that in future days, I'll want to post about some last things, last impressions and last experiences, from this place I've called home for nearly three years.

So that's what I'm thinking about today. As I stand in this place of both looking back and looking forward, I give thanks for all my teachers, those who taught me officially and overtly as well as those who taught me occasionally and even by accident and sometimes against my will. I give thanks for my experiences, knowing that even the awful ones have been transformed (thank you, Jesus) into something life-giving and that the fantastic ones are precious gifts from God. I give thanks for my mistakes, for they have often taught me the most.

And I give thanks for all of you who journey with me here, who encourage me and laugh with me.

Enjoy the weekend.

Visual Morning Prayer: Listening

How will we listen for God today?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photo: Nesting

The other week, my family and I went on a walk along the James River here in Richmond. I was fortunate to be positioned in a place where I could watch this prothonotary warbler gathering materials for its nest in a tree stump beside the walking path. The bird flew to the river bank, picked up some moss, and brought it back to the stump, hopping in through the top, then placing the nesting material in the nest, then popping out through a knothole. 

After the bird finished working on the nest, it perched on a nearby branch to sing for a while.

Visual Morning Prayer

Come, let us sing to the Lord!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Visiting the Snack Machine

Mockingbird visits the local snack machine.

(Thank you God for daily bread.)

Collect for Peace

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

(BCP 258)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo

This is a spotted sandpiper. Easy to see how it got the name. I took this photo last week at the James River, which flows through Richmond VA. Apparently this is a fairly common type of sandpiper, but this was my first sighting of one. It's always exciting to see a new bird for the first time!

All God's creatures .... 

Collect for Alcuin

Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; 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 Alcuin, most important figure in the Carolingian renaissance, here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Now the Day is Over ....

Backlit Baby Duck

Collect for St. Dunstan

O God of truth and beauty, you richly endowed your bishop Dunstan with skill in music and the working of metals, and with gifts of administration and reforming zeal: Teach us, we pray, to see in you the source of all our talents, and move us to offer them for the adornment of worship and the advancement of true religion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Music Video: Petruschka/Piano

Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is getting a lot of attention this year because this is the 100th anniversary of the first performance (well, last fall was). But my favorite Stravinsky piece has always been Petruschka.

This is the piano version, three movements that are not transcriptions of the original ballet but new pieces based on the ballet, played by Juja Wang. The piece is very athletic (perhaps appropriate for a composition about a naughty puppet!) and the camera angles give you a great look at her technique.

Stravinsky wrote the piano version for Arthur Rubenstein in 1921, ten years after he composed the symphonic version. He wanted to write something that would be very difficult so that Rubenstein would like it. Stravinsky himself found it more than a little difficult to play.

The three movements are: "Danse Russe;" "Chez Petruschka;" and "La semaine grasse."


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photo

Sanderling comes in for a landing. 

Collect for Those We Love

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

(BCP 831)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Cleaned Up

Tufted titmouse bathes after the rain.

Now all dry and presentable!


Exodus 33:18-23

Moses said, "Show me your glory, I pray."  And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, 'The LORD'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But," he said, "you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live."  And the LORD continued, "See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock;  and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by;  then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Friends

I went out to the pond last Saturday to find some new ducks there. I first noticed a large, very dark, full-grown duck. Beside it was something that looked like a balled up bag or something. And then I saw a little mallard duckling's head pop up beside the balled up something.

Fortunately, I had my camera with me and via the zoom lens discovered that the balled up something was actually a large fuzzy yellow duckling.

I watched them for a while and got closer to see that the large black duck was iridescent - black and blue and green all together. I'd never seen such a duck. (I looked it up when I got home and discovered that it is a Cayuga duck.)

All this was very curious until a man came along and explained that he had brought the ducks to the pond that morning. He said that the black duck had been living in a barn for a year. The large yellow fuzzy duckling would grow to be a white duck, and the mallard baby was one of several that he brought. (I expect that the fuzzy yellow one was someone's Easter present.)

The others had already followed the mother mallard, who had lost all but one of her babies last week, into the drainage pipe where she sleeps at night. He said that the ducklings were cheeping in their box and when the mother duck heard them, she began quacking herself and then the ducklings could hardly wait to get out of the box and run to her - all but the one who chose to stay close to the yellow duckling.

Family is what you make it. I hope they will all like their new home. 

Morning Prayer for Use by a Sick Person

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. 
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.

(BCP 461)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Now the Day is Over ......

I know this is a little early, but I'm pretty much done today.

Good night!

Collect for Knowledge of God's Creation

Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with
all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and
the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we
probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know
you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your
eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(BCP 827)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Compare and Contrast

As any of us who have ever been in school know, “compare and contrast” is a typical way of coming to grips with a wide variety of subjects. It is both a learning tool and a tool used to measure what one has learned. We may have written or read essays in which two philosophers or philosophies are compared and contrasted. Or two musical styles or two historical figures. How are these similar, and how are they different, and what do those similarities and differences tell us?

This week I checked out some web pages offering help in composing “compare and contrast” essays and even offering potential topics in case you have writer’s block: Compare and contrast the on-screen Harry Potter to the Harry Potter of the books. Or compare and contrast a starting pitcher and a reliever, or Fred and Shaggy, Star Wars and Star Trek, mitosis and meiosis (I’m not sure why my search engine brought that one up), Christianity and Judaism.

Today, Jesus himself shows us an exercise in compare and contrast, to consider the good shepherd vs thieves and bandits; the voice of the shepherd vs the voice of the stranger; self-serving vs abundant life.

People hearing Jesus talk about shepherds and sheep would have compared his words to those of the prophet Ezekiel, who warned about bad shepherds who did not care for God’s people, who left them to fend for themselves, who pushed the weak out of the way and scattered the flock, who fouled the flock’s water and trampled their green grass. God spoke through Ezekiel to say that God was just going to take over the job of caring for and protecting the sheep after the bad shepherds, the bad kings of Israel, had abused them, exploited them, using the sheep for their own gain. The fact that Jesus says these things just after the Pharisees have pushed out of the synagogue the blind man who Jesus healed would have hit home. You will remember that story in which Jesus restores sight to a blind man and the Pharisees are angry because Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. They interrogate the man and his parents and argue that Jesus cannot be from God because he broke the Sabbath laws, so he must be controlled by a demon or even that the man wasn’t really healed. They are blind themselves to the miracle of God’s healing and restorative work and instead stir up a controversy in which the formerly blind man ends up barred from his community - scattered - and his parents would be too except they were too afraid to get involved.

Jesus invites us to compare and contrast God’s work of healing and restoration, of the promise of abundant life - the central, overarching tenet of Jesus’ mission - I came that they might have life and have it abundantly! to the Pharisees’ work of dissolution, narrow thinking, and technical nitpicking. He wants us to see that it’s pretty much all contrast. 

And he also invites us to compare and contrast the voice of the shepherd with the voice of the stranger. 

How many voices there are out there, vying for our attention! Voices that contradict what the Psalmist tells us, that we have a shepherd who protects us and cares for us and provides us with everything we need so that in fact we lack nothing. I shall not want, the Psalmist affirms. 

But so many voices in our world want to train us to want everything that we take those voices to be normative. We want all the things! 

I find it very easy to get mixed up on this. What is abundant life if it isn’t a life in which I have all the things? I can go to the store to buy one pair of shoes and happily come home with three. Ah, that’s life abundant.

Except it isn’t. When I begin to think that having a closet full of shoes is what makes life good, I am following the voice of the stranger who is interested in making a profit off me. The products those voices want me to buy may well make my life nicer or easier or prettier or more comfortable, but I must remember that that stranger has his own well-being, not mine, in view. The stranger needs me to listen to her because I and my buying power can be the means to her success. 

Jesus wants us to compare the voice of the shepherd who knows us, who loves us, who has given and will continue to give us more than we can ever ask of imagine to the voice of the stranger who tempts us to think in terms of scarcity instead of abundance and encourages us therefore to pad our own nests to excess in order to protect ourselves from want.

The voice of the stranger calls us to worry about making sure we get our slice of the pie, to think in terms of limited resources, to live as if we do not dwell in the house of God but in the house of  the rugged individualist who first needs to look out for number one. The stranger assures us that we don’t need to worry about whether others have shoes because that’s their own problem but that we do need to make sure we have more than enough ourselves. The stranger warns us not to give too much away because of “what if, someday?” The voice of the stranger says: You can never have enough!

But our shepherd is Jesus and he is all about abundance. Remember the hundreds of gallons of wine at Cana, the thousands of loaves of bread? Remember how he said, don’t worry about what you will wear or eat or drink? Remember how he brought Lazarus back to life? The psalmist says, God will set a table for you that overflows with goodness right in the middle of all the troubles in your life and will be there with you. Our relationship with this shepherd is based on intimacy and trust - because the shepherd knows us by name and has our well-being in mind rather than his own. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

And so when we listen to the voice of our shepherd, we are not only comforted, but we are also challenged to live into that life of abundance. To let go of our anxieties and realize the freedom we have to create and give because we truly know that there is indeed enough and that when we give we will be given more, not that we will simply have less. To not only realize how much we already have (and so to shut out the voice that says we never have enough) but to begin to look around and see those for whom abundant life has not yet become a reality. And once we see them, to begin to wonder how we might share from our own abundance so that those members of God’s flock also may eat at the overflowing table set in the midst of their troubles. 

I was talking this week with Stan Barnett, our kitchen ministries coordinator, about how impressed I am with all the delicious food we provide here at St. Stephen’s to anyone who wants to eat - Wonderful Wednesdays, Community Suppers, Capital Campaign dinners, coffee hours, breakfasts, luncheons. Gary and I have talked about the summer community suppers on the lawn and how we want people walking by to see us eating together and know St. Stephen’s as a place that brings that kind of abundant life to the neighborhood. I know it can be difficult to manage all of that, and it doesn't just magically appear like manna, but it powerfully symbolizes that table in the midst of troubles, it brings to life the wedding at Cana and the thousands of loaves. Our tables overflow here through our own generosity in response to God’s overflowing goodness.

And there are other ways we can be life-giving to those whose lives have been diminished for whatever reason. Making our space here fully accessible, not just partially so, to people with mobility issues is another example, as is offering healing prayer on Sunday nights. 

Our shepherd wants to lead us into that place of abundance. Let us listen to him and not to the voices that preach scarcity. Let us compare and contrast imagining opportunities to be a community of abundance versus focusing on our narrow and self-serving anxieties. Let us without fear compare and contrast the gifts we have been given to the gifts we have to give. 

Because the Lord is our shepherd and we shall never be in want.

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

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)

Morning Psalm

(Psalm 25)

7Gracious and upright is the LORD; *
    therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8He guides the humble in doing right *
    and teaches his way to the lowly.
9All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness *
    to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
10For your Name's sake, O LORD, *
    forgive my sin, for it is great.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday Morning Music: Fleck, Meyer, Hussain

Two songs played by three great musicians: Bela Fleck (banjo), Edgar Meyer (double bass), and Zakir Hussain (tabla) at a Symphony Orchestra of India concert in 2013.

The first song, by Hussain, is Bakar (springtime). The second, by Fleck, is Happy Drum Drum Monkey Girl. What a treat to see these masters play.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Afternoon Baby Duck Break

We have six new ducklings at the pond this week! One of them spent some time this morning playing with something - not sure what it is, but it was fun.

Enjoy your Friday!


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