Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Poem: The Almanac of Last Things

The Almanac of Last Things
From the almanac of last things
I choose the spider lily
for the grace of its brief
blossom, though I myself
fear brevity,
but I choose The Song of Songs
because the flesh
of those pomegranates
has survived
all the frost of dogma.
I choose January with its chill
lessons of patience and despair--and
August, too sun-struck for lessons.
I choose a thimbleful of red wine
to make my heart race,
then another to help me
sleep. From the almanac
of last things I choose you,
as I have done before.
And I choose evening
because the light clinging
to the window
is at its most reflective
just as it is ready
to go out.
Linda Pastan ~
(Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 63:1-8

Deus, Deus meus

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
2 Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *
that I might behold your power and your glory.
3 For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *
my lips shall give you praise.
4 So will I bless you as long as I live *
and lift up my hands in your Name.
5 My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, *
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
6 When I remember you upon my bed, *
and meditate on you in the night watches.
7 For you have been my helper, *
and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul clings to you; *
your right hand holds me fast.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Music for Lent: In time of daffodils

I've seen my first daffodil of the spring, so it's time to hear this beautiful song again -

in time of daffodils (who know 

in time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remembering how
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)
in time of roses (who amaze
our now and here with praise)
forgetting if, remember yes
in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)
and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me

Poem by e e cummings
Music by Steven Sametz, director of Lehigh University's choral arts program

Sung by Chanticleer. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Poem: Rapture

Who knows the mysteries of the poppies
when you look across the red fields,
or hear the sound of long thunder,
then the saving rain.
Everything beautiful,
the solitude of the single body
or sometimes, too, when the body is kissed
on the lips or hands or eyelids tender.
Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.
It may be, it may one day be
this is a world haunted by happiness,
where people finally are loved
in the light of leaves,
the feel of bird wings passing by.
Here it might be that no one wants power.
They don't want more.
And so they are in the forest,
old trees,
or those small but grand.
And when you sleep, rapture, beauty,
may seek you out.
Listen. There is
secret joy,
sweet dreams you may never forget.
How worthy the being
in the human body. If,
when you are there, you see women
wading on the water
and clouds in the valley,
the smell of rain,
or a lotus blossom rises out of round green leaves,
remember there is always something
besides our own misery.
~ Linda Hogan ~
(Rounding the Human Corners)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A sermon about courage

As soon as I arrived to serve in my first parish, the rector and I sat down to plan how we would share the teaching of the upcoming inquirer’s class - which parts he would teach and which parts would be my responsibility. 

I was just out of seminary and fancied myself something of a Biblical scholar, so I was really hoping to draw the straw for the classes on the Old and New Testaments. I had my handy chart of Old Testament themes and motifs, my Gospel parallels book, and my notes from my esteemed seminary professors at the ready.

But no. I got church history and the boss took the Bible. 

So we were sitting there in our classroom and the rector began to say, basically, this: The Bible is the story of God calling to us, calling us back, again and again, longing for us, wanting us. It is the story of God never giving up on us but always calling us back to heal us, to strengthen us, to forgive us, to be with us even though we are always wandering away and even though we often fail. And God is saying, the door is always open. You can always come home. I want you to come home. The Bible is a love story between God and God’s people.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what my recent-seminary-graduate-Biblical-studies-loving-self was going to say, but yeah. It is. 

And nowhere in the Bible do we see this longing more poignantly than in Jesus’ words today. Oh how I long to gather you under my wings, like a mother hen gathering her chicks when the fox comes near.

The fox, of course, is Herod, a cruel man of worldly power. The Pharisees come to Jesus with a message that is supposed to strike fear in his heart. Herod wants to kill you. You’d better run away. 

But Jesus does not react to this fear mongering. He just replies, in essence, you go tell Herod that he is not the boss of me. I’m doing my thing, which is making God’s people whole, restoring them to true life. I’m calling my people to me, and how I wish I could gather them to me right now in the face of all their brokenness and grief and tenderness and in the face of all of your noisy fear mongering. 

I’m not going to abandon my calling just because you are trying to make me afraid.

I love this portrayal of Jesus. I love his courage. He knows what’s coming, but he doesn’t look away. I want to be like this, I want to be like Jesus this way. Focused and courageous, sure of my calling.

The funny thing about courage is that it is actually born of a willingness to be vulnerable. And that is not a word most people identify with power, not in this world. Herod would have been terrified of being vulnerable. He would not be in power long if anyone thought such a thing about him.

But this is the picture Jesus himself paints. He wants to gather us under his wings like a mother hen when the fox comes near. This is good news for the chicks, but the mother hen’s fierce love for them makes her vulnerable.

And who among us who are parents do not know this feeling? As soon as our children are born, we become vulnerable in a new way. So that we feel this twinge on the first day of kindergarten, on the day they get their driver’s licenses, when we drop them off at college, when we walk them down the aisle. Can we keep them safe? We pray for God to keep them safe.

And yet, always playing it safe has its own dangers. Stunted growth, a failure to thrive. Playing it safe can cut us off from being our true selves and living our true lives, being the person God made us to be. 

Always playing it safe means that we are always listening out for Herod, that our actions will be dictated by others, and we will lose ourselves, our souls. And so we experience that twinge but we still take them to kindergarten, to camp, to college. We let them get that driver’s license. 

The trick is to always leave the door open so that even if - even when - they falter, there’s a place of safety waiting. We want them to know that they can always come home, and hope that they are willing, because deep down we know that we would die for them. 

And they can explore and experiment and learn and even fail but then get back up, knowing that we are there for them. They become strong and free and not afraid to put themselves out there, to discover and live out their calling.

Lately I’ve been binge reading all the work of Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston (and an Episcopalian) who has been studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame for the last 13 years. She rose to some prominence after she gave a TED Talk in 2010 called The Power of Vulnerability. Her books include Daring Greatly and, more recently, Rising Strong.

Brown asserts that people who are willing to be vulnerable, who are willing to suffer the consequences of being who they truly are, and not what the rest of the world thinks they should be, are people who are courageous, and that in the end they are the ones who are able to live life wholeheartedly - with courage, with heart. We flourish when we are courageous. We keep our rudder when fear knocks at the door. We live from the heart - which we will lift to the Lord in our Eucharistic prayer in a few minutes - when we are willing to be our true selves. 

And there might be a real cost to that. There’s a real danger of being hurt, of being excluded, knocked down, ridiculed, whatever, when we dare to be vulnerable. There’s physical danger, too, as Jesus knew. And yet - the cost is so much higher if we are unwilling. 

For Brown, and for us, community - our faith community - provides the web of connection necessary for us to dare to be vulnerable, to learn to be courageous. We have our soul friends, our faith,  lean on when we are afraid, to provide a safe place for us to gather our courage, to be centers of calm and strength when the Pharisees come around with their fear mongering. 

We need courage to find and live out our calling, to put ourselves out there and be love in the world that needs love so much, to follow the example of Christians from the first days like the Apostle Paul to the Christians of today like our own medical mission team just arrived in the Dominican Republic.

The Bible is a love story between God and us. It can be scary out there. It can be hard to live life with our whole hearts. It takes courage to truly live the life God has given us to live. 

It takes courage to admit that we cannot control the world and we cannot save ourselves. It takes courage to allow ourselves and our friends and family to live their lives to the fullest and be the glory of God, a human fully alive. It takes courage to walk the road to Jerusalem, to risk uncertainty, disappointment, grief, and loss. It takes courage to find our calling and live it out in the world.

And courage requires a willingness to be vulnerable. But see and take heart in the example of Jesus who says: I am always with you, I am always near by, the door is always open, the wings are available for shelter when you are afraid, if you are willing. 

I’m here, if you are willing.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Keeping Warm on Caturday!

We put a bathmat out in front of the radiator in the living room for us to put our wet boots and socks back during the Big Snow of mid-January.

Since then, Sally has decided that this is where she will hang out most days unless she's in the bathtub or on our bed.

Sometimes she puts her paws under the radiator. Other times she has her back (or backside) against it. Here, she is warming the back of her head and shoulders while resting after a vigorous game of swatting the foil toy.

It may be summer before we can move the bath mat. Meanwhile, may all your Saturdays be warm!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Video: Jesus in the Wilderness

Every year for the last several years I've posted this video during Lent. Obviously, I must like it. The drawings are by Simon Smith and the music is from Explosions in the Sky.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Prayer for Vocation in Daily Work

The beach at Bunbeg, Co. Donegal

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of
him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

BCP 261

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Prayer (Gospel for Tuesday in the First Week of Lent)

Matthew 6:7–15

Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; 
for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way: 
Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be your name. 
Your kingdom come. 
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one. 
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 
but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Poem: The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen passed our way last night,
Between the darkness and the light,
And flowers from an enchanted star,
Fell showerlike from her flying car.

And silently through all the hours,
The trees have borne their magic flowers,
And now stand up with dauntless head,
To catch the morning's gold and red. 

-  Dollie Radford

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Psalm for the First Sunday in Lent

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Qui habitat
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 He shall say to the Lord,
"You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
my God in whom I put my trust." 
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, *
and the Most High your habitation,
10 There shall no evil happen to you, *
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over you, *
to keep you in all your ways.
12 They shall bear you in their hands, *
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and adder; *
you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.
14 Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Psalm for Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Psalm 1

Beatus vir qui non abiit

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *

nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD, *

and they meditate on his law day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked; *

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, *

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided  a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy  Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of  notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to 
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. . . . 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shrove Tuesday - Giving it Up

Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras.  All names for this day, the day before Ash Wednesday, the day before Lent begins.

A day to eat all the eggs and butter and oil in the pantry (pancakes! king cake!), to make one's confession (shriving!), to party big before the season of penitence and fasting begins. And a day to burn last year's palms from Palm Sunday, to make the ashes for tomorrow.

I've eaten some delicious king cake today and looking forward to pancakes for supper tonight. In the past, I've participated in a couple of palm burning/ash producing events.  They are often more about the symbolism than about producing ashes.  After all, one can procure ashes from a number of church suppliers without having to do all that pounding and straining any more.  But I like symbolic acts, don't you?

And so as I consider Lent this year, I have decided to do something I've never really done before during Lent, and that is to give something up. Normally, I take something on, often devotional reading, perhaps meditation, or some other addition to my life. Truth be told, I've always been a little weird about the giving up thing. After all, the focus can so easily become about the thing given up and perhaps the physical health benefits that might accrue. And so I've focused more on the building up of spiritual health stuff.

But this year, I realize that I really can't take on something new. I am trying to pare down, to simplify. It is sad but true that I've really struggled the last two or three years with keeping up with a discipline of adding on, with the unhappy result that my Lenten disciplines have fizzled out. So my hope is that I will be able to sustain a discipline of giving something up all the way through Lent.

This, too, is a symbolic act. I am joining with those all over the world who are fasting during Lent. It doesn't matter what we are giving up. The point is to keep the discipline, to be mindful of how I am living, day to day, to practice the age old discipline of fasting while asking the question, how might I make room for God to change me this year?

Fasting alone isn't enough - there must be reflection, too, about how I might turn more toward God and God's abundance as what I truly rely on, as we move together as a church to the cross. And so, tomorrow, we begin.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Poem: God Said Yes to Me

I asked God if it was ok to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

- Kaylin Haught

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Music: Life During Wartime (Talking Heads)

From 1984 - Jonathan Demme's concert movie of a live performance of Talking Heads. There is so much I love about the movie, the band, and this song. I've changed my hairstyle so many times now, I don't know what I look like.

Happy weekend!


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