Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Reflection

Sunrise? Sunset? 

It's always a beautiful day at the beach. Photo taken January 2013 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Beauty

When I lived in Atlanta, I have a wonderful garden with many old garden roses that bloomed nearly year round, thanks to the warm (and probably getting warmer) climate.  Four or so years ago, this was my advent wreath, filled with these beauties from my front yard.  It only lasted the first two weeks, but they were a lovely two weeks.

Among these are Duchesse de Brabant, Pearl d'or, Mme Joseph Schwartz, Souvenir de St. Anne's, Sombreuil, Blush Noisette and Old Blush.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Evening Prayer


Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Waiting with Sherman

Today we enter the season of Advent, four weeks of holy waiting for God to come to us again. We are called to sit in the place of anticipation, to be alive to the present moment of the season of not yet. But I have to confess: waiting makes me crazy.

All my life, I have had difficulty with waiting. When I’m hungry, I want to eat right then. When I’m ready to leave the house, I’m standing at the door in my coat, impatient because everyone else is checking phones or still putting on shoes. Sometimes my difficulty with waiting plays out in my body. My legs get twitchy and I can’t sit still.

And more serious waiting - to see how things are going to turn out - for an acceptance letter or test result, to see how someone is going to recover from trauma or how the country is going to fare under a new administration - can be excruciating.

I want to be present to the present, but when I am really anxious, my instinct is to withdraw and agonize alone. 

A few days ago, I came across a newspaper story about Sherman the Donkey. Sherman had been kept pent up in a small mucky stall without much care and was in danger of dying when a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, man took him in with the idea of rehabbing Sherman into a running partner. (Apparently, running with donkeys is a thing.)

When Sherman arrived, however, he could hardly even walk. His hooves had grown so long that they resembled elf shoes. He had parasites and rotten teeth and matted fur. According to the vet, he was 8, but he seemed to be 80.

Sherman’s anxious new owners called around for help from neighbors who knew more about animals than they, who are Philadelphia folks only a couple of years into their new rural life. Someone came with a hacksaw to trim Sherman’s hooves. Another came to pull rotten teeth and another to bathe him and cut or curry out the matted fur and parasites. Still another attended to raw skin and bloated belly.

His bodily needs taken care of, it was time to wait and see if Sherman would respond. He needed to walk and to eat if he was going to even live, so his owner put all the other animals out to pasture, leaving Sherman alone, hoping he would want to explore his new home. But instead, all Sherman did on his first day was stand still beside the barn, head hanging, as if, the writer said, he was waiting for execution. He needed something else.

That something else turned out to be a goofy goat named Lawrence, himself a rescue with ears malformed from frostbite, who came in with the sheep from the pasture at the end of that anxious first day and immediately noticed poor, sad Sherman. Lawrence went right to the donkey, sniffed him all over, and then lay down at his feet. He stayed there all night. 

By the end of the following day, Sherman was walking and then eating with his new friend. Before long he was even running. He was going to live - and more than that, he was going to thrive in his new community.

Of course, I got to find out that Sherman was going to be ok in a matter of minutes, but the lesson from this story could not be more clear to me: waiting is best done with a friend.

I have always tried to do all my serious waiting alone, fighting my twitchy anxiety under the cover of darkness. I have not wanted to be accompanied in my darkness, choosing instead to withdraw or to be reactive in such a way that keeps others at a distance. I have not wanted to need someone to really sit with me in hope. But that is exactly what I do need. 

Someone to just sit with me in hope.

At the end of all our waiting, God says, comes new life. This is the Advent story. And it can be my story, too, if I will but believe. Whatever my worry, even dread, I do not need to live in that place alone.

Welcome, Advent.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Fiddling

We're eating our big Thanksgiving meal today, so I'm headed to the kitchen to cook.

Meanwhile, here's some fiddle music. Enjoy!

(This is from A Prairie Home Companion last week. Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan, Chris Eldridge, Greg Garrison, and Roy Wooten, play a medley of fiddle tunes — "Brushy Fork of John's Creek," "Angelina Baker," and "The Mason's Apron")

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the
fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those
who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of
your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and
the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 246)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Fall

The Thanksgiving holidays generally mark the peak of the fall color. So here's the last gasp before it's time for lights and decorations and the gathering darkness ....

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Night Prayer

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy  defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

(BCP 133)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ the King

Almighty and everlasting God, 
whose will it is to restore all things 
in your well-beloved Son, 
the King of kings and Lord of lords: 
Mercifully grant 
that the peoples of the earth, 
divided and enslaved by sin, 
may be freed and brought together 
under his most gracious rule; 
who lives and reigns 
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, 
now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Caturday Flashback: Testing the waters

Bella loves the bathtub,
with or without bubbles.

Here's a flashback to her kitten days when she first began to help test the water before bath time.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Music: "Aquarium" with a view

You'll easily recognize this piece, Aquarium, from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. Even though I've played the piano all my life, I am still intrigued at how it looks from this angle!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Melchisedek

I'm going to two (count 'em!) Celebrations of New Ministry (i.e., installation of a new rector) this week, which reminded me of this 6th century mosaic in the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe (near Ravenna, Italy). Presiding over the altar is Melchisedek, along with Abel on the left and Abraham/Isaac on the right. The hand of God directs all things from the heavens.

Melchizedek was, in Genesis 14:18, the "King of Salem" and "Priest of the Most High God" who offered bread and wine to Abraham as he was returning from battle after defeating four kings. The early Roman Christian church referred to this as a Eucharistic offering. 

Melchizedek is also mentioned in Psalm 110 and in the Letter to the Hebrews. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A prayer for the evening

O God, you 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)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Poem (from Endymion) (and a surprise wedding)

Do you see the wedding?

from Endymion

Related Poem Content Details

A Poetic Romance

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its loveliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing 
A flowery band to bind us to the earth, 
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth 
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, 
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways 
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, 
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall 
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, 
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon 
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 
With the green world they live in; and clear rills 
That for themselves a cooling covert make 
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake, 
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: 
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms 
We have imagined for the mighty dead; 
All lovely tales that we have heard or read: 
An endless fountain of immortal drink, 
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink. 

       Nor do we merely feel these essences 
For one short hour; no, even as the trees 
That whisper round a temple become soon 
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon, 
The passion poesy, glories infinite, 
Haunt us till they become a cheering light 
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast, 
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast; 
They always must be with us, or we die. 

       Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I 
Will trace the story of Endymion. 
The very music of the name has gone 
Into my being, and each pleasant scene 
Is growing fresh before me as the green 
Of our own valleys: so I will begin 
Now while I cannot hear the city's din; 
Now while the early budders are just new, 
And run in mazes of the youngest hue 
About old forests; while the willow trails 
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails 
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year 
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer 
My little boat, for many quiet hours, 
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers. 
Many and many a verse I hope to write, 
Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white, 
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees 
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas, 
I must be near the middle of my story. 
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary, 
See it half finish'd: but let Autumn bold, 
With universal tinge of sober gold, 
Be all about me when I make an end. 
And now, at once adventuresome, I send 
My herald thought into a wilderness: 
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress 
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed 
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Testimony (A sermon)

In my Bible study class, we have been reading from the Old Testament prophets. It’s is pretty tough stuff, filled with images of unrelenting warfare, destruction and desolation; stories of people streaming away from smoking cities, seeking refuge; of people being rounded up and led away into exile, with hooks around their necks. Amid all this, the prophets were engaged with an existential question: If God is on our side, then why was the the center of our life together (the Temple) destroyed and God’s people scattered or taken captive?

Various prophets voice various “reasons” for the destruction. Some cite wrongful worship: You have bowed down to idols, they say, and have been unfaithful to your God. Others cite political maneuverings: You put your trust in, and made alliances with, Egypt or Assyria instead of trusting your God. Still others point to injustice in society: your leaders push aside the people they are supposed to be caring for to get to the food and water first; and you yourselves, like heedless animals going to the river to drink, thoughtlessly foul everyone else’s water with your feet. You trample the poor and the needy and do not care for the widow and orphan or show hospitality to the alien in your land, and therefore God is turning the Divine face away from you, they say.

It’s a complicated mix of religion, politics, governance, and morality.

For me, this election season has been something of a parallel to my study. It’s felt like a long siege, rife with accusations, dire predictions, handwringing, and angry blaming. On occasion I have participated in all of the above, and on occasion I’ve just tried to keep my head down, hoping that once the election was over, the anger and fear would abate. 

But it has not. 

Many of us are not comfortable with this level is discord and wish to move past it quickly. We are polite Virginia Episcopalians and there’s a certain veneer under which we place our differences. But Tuesday’s election results made this perfectly clear: we the people are not united, and calls to national unity right now, while no doubt made in good faith, are like rushing to put a band-aid on a broken heart, like asking a still-shaking victim to gloss over abuse to make an abuser feel better. Some among us are truly grieving. And some among us - some of your own fellow parishioners who have gotten in touch with me and other staff here - feel unsafe and afraid, for themselves, their children, their friends. And some among us may be very surprised and frankly bewildered by the feelings of others. We do not all see things from the same vantage point and perhaps have not yet learned to truly hear one another. 

But here we are in church together, listening for the word of God, wondering what are we called to now, as the people of God, in this divided nation?

Today Jesus says this: In times of upheaval, you will be given an opportunity to testify. And by your endurance, you will gain your soul. 

This is a time for us to testify to our faith. And here is the testimony I believe we - you and I - are called to give, no matter which political side we are on: That God is love. That God says the outcast, the poor, the alien, the lost are precious. That we - you and I - denounce hateful language, bullying, threats, intimidation, bigotry of every kind, harassment, contempt, vandalism and violence. That we - you and I - stand up for the powerless and marginalized and take their situations seriously. And I mean that literally - if you see someone being talked to or treated badly, say something. But say it directly to the person who is being hateful, without resorting to hate yourself. 

Testifying is not just about using words. We - you and I - are called to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned, to welcome the stranger. We are called to work for their welfare as well as our own. We may have to think pretty hard, and get way outside our comfort zones, to determine exactly who are neighbors are and how exactly we are needed to love them. We are called to sometimes actually go stand beside someone who needs protection - even to go out and find them so we can stand beside them, remembering that perhaps we do not know them and so need to develop relationship with them - and to teach our children to do so, too.

We always are called to do these things, of course. This is our work for life as followers of Jesus. But our testimony to and in the world as faithful witnesses of the Gospel is crucial now, in the wake of such obvious division. This is a time for the Church to be the Church - as a body and for us as individual Christians - and shine the light of Christ as brightly as we possibly can, by our words and our deeds. And by our endurance, we will gain our souls.

Most of the prophets spoke not only of destruction, but also of reconciliation and restoration. And of course eventually that’s what we all hope for. God is going to bring good out of chaos, in God’s time. Swords will be beaten into plowshares and we will not study war any more. God will return the people from captivity. There will be no more weeping or children born for calamity, and the people will live in peace. The vision of the new Jerusalem, where there is no more hurt or destruction, is a vision we desperately need to hold on to. God will have a beautiful new song for us to sing, some day, a song of delight to which even the rivers will clap their hands.

Some day. But right now, with God’s help, we the people of God together have work to do.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


Three weddings and a cat. 

Well, two of them are the same people - my mom on her wedding day and my mom and dad on their 50th anniversary.

Tom and I are looking young on our wedding day. Bella seems doubtful that it's even us.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Music: Suzanne

I first heard this song in 1968 by the folk rock band Spanky (Elaine McFarlane) and Our Gang on their album "Like to Get to Know You." It was a long time before I heard Leonard Cohen sing it himself.

The Our Gang recording was an interesting and more layered production, and it's always the one I think of when I think of the song (you always do that, don't you? remember the way you heard or saw something first), but in the end, it feels right to post Cohen singing it himself at the Isle of Wight, his first tour.

My favorite verse is the second one:

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said, "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Cohen died this week at the age of 82. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Crashing, rising

I love to watch the terns fishing. They hover, they crash, they lift out of the water, trailing droplets, silver fish in beak, and with a tiny shake of the tail, fly off to enjoy lunch.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A poem for November 9

This is the poem that is engraved on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. It was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and placed on a bronze plaque on the statue's base in 1903.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-Emma Lazarus

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Prayer for an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 822)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Prayer for our Nation

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 820)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

What I did today: The Feast of All Saints'!

Today we celebrated the Feast of All Saints' and baptized twelve children between two services. At the later service, I was the celebrant and we invited all the children in the congregation who wanted to come help me bless the water in our beautiful new font. As you can see, there was a big crowd (eight were baptized at this service) yet was plenty of room all around!

This little guy was pretty excited about the water, so I tipped him toward the bowl and he immediately put his hand in. 

What a joy to welcome these little ones into the household of God. And no better day to do that than All Saints' Sunday! Thanks to our communications director, Sarah Bartenstein, for the photos!

P.S. To those who worry about our celebrating on November 6, we also held a service on 
November 1, which, in our parish, is a service held especially for those who have had a death in their family or among their friends during the past year. It is a contemplative, candle lit service during which all who wish to do so light a votive candle that is placed on the altar and remains there during the Eucharist, a visible sign of the great cloud of witnesses who surround the throne of God. Our Sunday All Saints' celebration is where we sing For All the Saints and baptize children.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Thursday's bird is on the run

I know plenty of people consider gulls to be nuisances or common.

But look at the style here: mini dots on the head, big dots on the tail feathers; ruffled bustle; yellow stockings.

Beauty on the beach.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Brussels sprouts in the wild

I love Brussels sprouts. 

I love how they grow on these stalks. They look like the bells at the symphony, the ones that sound like sleigh bells.

Not everyone feels the way I do about Brussels sprouts. It takes all kinds.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Collect for the Feast of All Saints

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

(BCP 245)


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