Friday, October 31, 2014

A Poem for All Hallow's Eve

Hallow-e'en 1915

Will you come back to us, men of our hearts, to-night
In the misty close of the brief October day?
Will you leave the alien graves where you sleep and steal away
To see the gables and eaves of home grow dark in the evening light?

O men of the manor and moated hall and farm,
Come back to-night, treading softly over the grass;
The dew of the autumn dusk will not betray where you pass;
The watchful dog may stir in his sleep but he’ll raise no hoarse alarm.

Then you will stand, not strangers, but wishful to look
At the kindly lamplight shed from the open door,
And the fire-lit casement where one, having wept you sore,
Sits dreaming alone with her sorrow, not heeding her open book.

Forgotten awhile the weary trenches, the dome
Of pitiless Eastern sky, in this quiet hour
When no sound breaks the hush but the chimes from the old church tower,
And the river’s song at the weir,—ah! then we will welcome you home.

You will come back to us just as the robin sings
Nunc Dimittis from the larch to a sun late set
In purple woodlands; when caught like silver fish in a net
The stars gleam out through the orchard boughs and the church owl flaps his wings.

We have no fear of you, silent shadows, who tread
The leaf-bestrewn paths, the dew-wet lawns. Draw near
To the glowing fire, the empty chair,—we shall not fear,
Being but ghosts for the lack of you, ghosts of our well-beloved dead.

-- Winifred M. Letts (1916)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photo with Commentary

This herring gull is in transition. 
The tail, wings and back say adult herring gull; the spotted head says juvenile. 
(The messy look is courtesy of high winds on Martha's Vineyard last week.)
These birds take three years to mature and they gradually go from very spotty and stripey to solid gray and solid white with just the polka dotted tail for an accent. 

This reminds me of our children during that phase when they seemed to be more like adults in some parts while still like children in other parts (both physical and personality-wise). 

There are days when I feel as if I haven't finished maturing, either. There are parts of me that aren't quite grown up yet. I can't decide if this is a failing or a good thing. Or at least a neutral "everybody is like that" thing. I certainly know that God's not finished with me yet. 

Morning Canticle (Gloria in excelsis)

American Beautyberry

20    Glory to God    Gloria in excelsis
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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: If I fits ...

This is the harbor seal version of the old cat meme: if I fits, I sits.

Several of those guys were resting on rocks in the harbor at Woods Hole, Massachusetts last week. Thank goodness for sanctuary.

Morning Canticle (Surge, illuminare)

11    The Third Song of Isaiah    Surge, illuminare 

          Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19

Arise, shine, for your light has come, * 

    and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. 
For behold, darkness covers the land; * 
    deep gloom enshrouds the peoples. 
But over you the Lord will rise, * 
    and his glory will appear upon you. 
Nations will stream to your light, * 
    and kings to the brightness of your dawning. 
Your gates will always be open; * 
    by day or night they will never be shut. 
They will call you, The City of the Lord, * 
    The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. 
Violence will no more be heard in your land, * 
    ruin or destruction within your borders. 
You will call your walls, Salvation, * 
    and all your portals, Praise. 
The sun will no more be your light by day; * 
    by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

 The Lord will be your everlasting light, * 
    and your God will be your glory. 
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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hot off the press! (Almost!)

What better way to come back from vacation than to announce the publication of this wonderful book?

The third and final volume of homilies and reflections, one for each liturgical year (or cycle), by a group of preachers (ordained and lay, from several denominations) who call themselves the Homilists for the Homeless, is printing right now. I am pleased to have been part of this project for all three years alongside such heavy hitters as Richard Rohr, Jim Martin, Rob Bell, and this year Martha Sterne, one of my heroes and mentors (and who baptized my children).

Click here to go to the publisher's website where you can preorder the book (and/or the other two books in the series - you can get a boxed set of all three), which we hope will be shipping within two weeks, just in time for the beginning of a new church year November 30th. Not only are they a great resource for preachers, but also the weekly reflections tied to the lectionary make for thought provoking devotional reading for anyone.

Remember, all proceeds from these books go to several charities that work to address both the needs of homeless people and the underlying causes of homelessness in our country. Also, we are proud that both of the previous books have won awards from the Catholic Press.

Thanks for your support!

Friday, October 17, 2014


Time for another break from the blog - this time so Tom and I can go on a trip together! I may post while I'm away, or I may not. Looking forward to some R&R.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Flower Photo

Last of the roses at the end of the day.

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)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Weather Change

The weather is pointing toward cold.

Collect of the Holy Angels

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 251)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Cat Photo

Bella plays her iPad game. The red dot appears and moves around and she has to catch it. She likes this game, brought to her by my friend Brenda. Also she learned that if she just sits on the iPad, she scores a lot of points.

Hope you have some fun in your day today!

Morning Prayer for Agriculture

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so
that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who
work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that
we may all share the fruits for the earth, rejoicing in your
goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 824)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Collect for Stewardship of Creation

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 259)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Some Thoughts about the Outer Darkness

Last week, many of us gathered in our church to hear Barbara Brown Taylor talk about darkness, about her experience literally learning to walk in the dark, which is the title of her latest book. She pointed out that while much of our tradition focuses on light as a symbol of God’s presence, there was also some tradition that suggests that one can also find God in the dark, but perhaps only when we are in that place where we have nothing else but God to rely on.

But still, for many of us, the outer darkness, a place beyond regular darkness I guess, is where we do not find God. Many of us experience the absence of God in the outer darkness.

I’ve been in the outer darkness before. And I experienced it as being profoundly disconnected - not only from God but from everyone.  I experienced it as a place where I was numb, a place where everything was dull and I was tired and hopeless. I was bound. I think the absence of hope was probably the worst part of being in that outer darkness all alone.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul asks, “Who will separate us from the love of God?” And he goes on to say that he is convinced that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” But when I hear that I sometimes think, “yeah, but I, I myself, can separate myself from God, even if God will not separate from me.” And sometimes that’s just what I do.

John of the Cross describes the dark night of the soul as the place where we go through the kind of pain that accompanies true growth into spiritual maturity. It can be painful to grow, I know, and you probably do, too. I remember as a little girl the pains in my legs that woke me during the night - my mother described them as “growing pains.” According to the Mayo Clinic, even though this is a real thing, “growing pains” aren’t actually caused by growth. The Mayo Clinic declares that growth actually doesn’t hurt. But I beg to differ. Physical growth may not hurt, but personal and spiritual growth that requires shucking off of our outer shells that leaves us feeling naked and vulnerable most certainly can. Sometimes I think that the way I end up in that outer darkness is that I wish to avoid that growth, and that’s why I feel so numb and alone. 

Most of us who experience the outer darkness didn’t mean to go there. We don’t really want to be there. We just end up there because the world has become too much and we are in pain as we try to cope with it.

Jesus knew something of that outer darkness. That’s where he ended up for a while himself, cast there by those who were offended by his message of love for all people, his habit of breaking down barriers, his teaching that everyone belongs to God and that God is about healing and reconciliation and not about violence. Jesus was abandoned and cast out for a time, too. And he felt forsaken. But he wasn't forsaken.

And so, even though I feel alone and numb when I am bound in that outer darkness, I am not really alone. I am not ever really alone. Because there is no place where God will not go to be with me, nor with you. Not even the outer darkness.

Collect for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23)

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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Afternoon Sandcastle Break

Wish you were at the beach? Me, too!

But, next best thing. I'm headed to the mountains! Enjoy your weekend!

Collect for the Renewal of Life

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the  night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive  far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having  done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may,  when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 99)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Bird Photo

Sanderling almost skids out of the photo on this landing.

Collect for the Future of the Human Race

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us
dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before
the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes
for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in
making provision for its future in accordance with your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 828)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Sunshine after Rain

After a rainy night, lovely sunshine on the raindrops this morning.

Collect for Quiet Confidence

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee,
to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou
 God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 832)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Night Prayer

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day,  who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 134)

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)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Night Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

(BCP 134)

Collect for Travelers

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel [in particular _______________]; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 831)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22)

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 4, 2014

Let's talk about race

(This essay was written by my husband, Tom. He speaks for both of us on this subject, and I'm proud to post it here. My daughter in law posted it on her blog, along with a great picture of Tom and me, which you should check out here.)
Reflection on a Wedding - and a Killing
On a beautiful warm afternoon of Sunday, August 10, 2014, my son, who is 24 years-old and white, married a 23 year-old Black woman in an outdoor service performed by an Episcopal priest in Piedmont Park in the heart of midtown Atlanta, Georgia. On the previous afternoon of August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an 18 year-old Black youth, died after being shot six times by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. As a 63 year-old lifelong resident of the South, I have been jolted by some contradictions inherent in these two events. The wedding was a personally joyous occasion for all involved, which was all the more to be celebrated because in 2014 it was not at all newsworthy. In the South of my youth, my son’s marriage would not merely have generated considerable notoriety and social stigma, it would have been illegal. Even if the couple had been legally married in a northern state, they would have been guilty of a crime had they then returned to Georgia and resided together.
Not until 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court held, inLoving v. Virginia, that “anti-miscegenation” laws violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, could a “white” person in any of the former Confederate States legally marry any person with even a single “non-white” ancestor in the past four generations. The language used by the Georgia Supreme Court in a post-Civil War case discussing the state’s anti-miscegenation law expressed the typical view that such laws were not only permissible, but were a necessary expression of “natural law” and a reflection of God’s will:
“…moral or social equality between the different races…does not in fact exist, and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it. There are gradations and classes throughout the universe. From the tallest archangel in Heaven, down to the meanest reptile on earth, moral and social inequalities exist, and must continue to exist throughout all eternity.”
Lest anyone conclude that the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967 merely reflected a new national consensus of moral revulsion against these overtly racist laws, polling at that time showed that 72% of adult Americans still believed that inter-racial marriage should be illegal and almost half (48%) favored criminal penalties for married inter-racial couples. Forty-seven years later – and how far we have come.  . . . Yes, indeed. . . And yet. . . .
And, yet, once again: the too-familiar news story of Michael Brown, another young, unarmed Black man dying at the hands of a public servant who has sworn to serve and protect; dying in a manner virtually unheard of in most of the modern industrialized world – being shot by a police officer. The “arc of the moral universe” may in fact, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “bend toward justice,” but that bending arc provides cold comfort to the families of Michael Brown; of Eric Garner; of Trayvon Martin, of Oscar Grant; of countless Black men and youths whose violent deaths resulted at least in part from intentional or implicit reactions to the color of their skin by persons with both the power and means to inflict mortal injury.
My just-married son casts a fairly imposing physical presence: six and a half feet tall, a very muscular 200+ pounds. I imagine that, were he inclined to do so (which I hope and believe he is not), he could physically scare or intimidate other people. Yet it has never occurred to me that, as his father, I needed to have a serious discussion with him about potential dangers to him caused by other peoples’ (including law enforcement officers’) possible fear or negative reactions to him, based on his appearance. In recent weeks, I have been dismayed to learn (both through the media and directly from Black men) about several variations of “The Talk” that parents routinely deliver to their Black sons to aid in their survival when (not if) they are stopped or otherwise confronted by police officers. I have learned about the very specific directions given to Black sons regarding, among other things, language and tone of voice to be used, proper placement of hands, announcement of intention and request for permission before removing registration papers from an automobile’s glove compartment, and questions to answer and not to answer.
In my own experience (as a white male lawyer), I aim to be courteous and cooperative with law enforcement officials with whom I interact, but I do not believe I would hesitate to express my disagreement with and resist inappropriate, personally insulting, or illegal police conduct. What has now become apparent to me is that caring parents of Black youths, in the interest of their children’s very survival, typically find it necessary to insist that their own sons act in a submissive, if not humiliating, manner that precludes their maintaining any personal dignity, much less actively asserting (or even passively exercising) some of their basic rights as American citizens.
I wish I could feel confident that, should my son and his wife decide to have a family, their own children’s experiences, opportunities, and personal safety will not be adversely affected by still-existing, socially constructed, racial definitions and stereotypes. (To anyone who questions whether such definitions still carry great weight; consider the family background of our “Black president.”) I hope that that my son and his wife will not one day have to deliver The Talk to their own child. My inherent pessimism, exacerbated by the events of Ferguson, suggests that we will not arrive at such a point in my or my son’s lifetime, because we in “White America” appear resistant even to acknowledge, much less to address, the foundational role and continuing impact of our nation’s legacy of white supremacy, and the many ways that implicit racial bias continues to impede our attainment of a just society. Yet my spiritual and hopeful side, inspired by the very un-exceptionality in 2014 of my son’s wedding, reminds me that transformations – both individually and societally – are possible. Some have happened, even in my own lifetime.
Thomas A. Cox

Thursday, October 2, 2014

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)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: This Guy!

This guy has an eye on you. So be good!

Collect for All Christians in their Vocation

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

(BCP 257)


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