A friend gave me a volume of Wendell Berry’s poetry for Christmas. In it are a series of poems he wrote as he looked out his window. I’ve been joining him at his window during Lent. Looking out. Looking in.
Christine Valters Paintner writes about receiving rather than taking photographs as a spiritual practice. The sense of opening my heart to what I see and letting it rest there in the form of a photograph is inviting. Phones with built in cameras make this easy to do.
I’ve noticed that windows are often in the shape of crosses. For some time I’ve been receiving cross-shaped windows, both looking out and looking in.
This week away I’ve gathered some of these window crosses into an album as a Lenten practice. Looking out. Looking in.
Looking through a cross at the sunrise as I awoke this morning. A cross to welcome me to a new day.
Looking through crosses into the kitchen where my friends are preparing me a delicious meal.
Looking through a cross as a cloud allows me to see only that which is most near me.
Looking through a cross as spring overcomes winter.
Wendell Berry writes, I have always loved a window, especially an open one. I’m inviting God to teach me about God’s love as I receive these crosses, looking out and looking in windows. With the cross, windows can always be open.
When my home flooded a second time, some folks, wanting to be kind, said things like, It must be easier since you’ve already been through it before.
I thought about this when a friend posted on Facebook about losing her hair a second time as a result of a new chemotherapy protocol. My heart broke with her as she showed a picture of her beautiful hair once again on the floor of the shower.
In case you are wondering, second time around isn’t easier. Getting through a trauma the first time and coming to a place of acceptance of a new normal, is a good place to be. For me it was a feeling of victory and achievement and joy and a big high five to God.
When the same thing happens all over again, and brings friends alongside, it is devastating. Devastating. Really, God?
Yesterday I travelled out in the Georgia countryside to see a field of daffodils that a woman at church had told us about. Sloping down from an abandoned home was a hillside awash with yellow.
In this part of Georgia, daffodils have naturalized with abandon. One plants a few bulbs (or many) and watches them increase, often in unexpected and unlikely places.
I imagined owners of this now empty home decades ago planting a few bulbs around the door. Over the years, each Spring the daffodils bloomed, and then died. Hidden underground, the bulbs appeared ugly and dead. Yet unseen, beauty gone, the bulbs held bits of life curled up within.
Rock–looking, the daffodils bulbs divided. Squirrels moved some to new places. Primarily, rain and flowing water carried most to other locations.
Year after year a rhythm of apparent death and ugliness followed by green and yellow beautiful surprises.
This is the rhythm we walk through each Lent. A dance of apparent death and ugliness and of beauty and eternal life.
Helped along by holy waters–baptism, tears, and, yes, even floods.
We’ll be going to early worship tomorrow and I’m chalicing! I can’t wait to serve you the Cup.
This was my best friend’s answer when I asked her about our church plans for my very first day of vacation, a visit to see her and her husband at their beautiful home in the Georgia mountains.
What time will we need to leave? I asked.
7.10, she replied.
That would be 6.10 AM Houston time. Earlier than I usually leave for church on a work Sunday.
I’ll admit. A Sunday off lie-in sounded sweet.
But my very best friend was sooooooo excited about taking me to church with her. She has a fabulous new Rector, and she wanted to serve me communion for a change.
So of course I went.
But I was thoughtful. Whenever I have the rare Sunday choice about going to church, I get a fresh understanding about the non-automatic decision it is for almost everyone else. I get how easy it is to rationalize other plans on a Sunday.
Today I went to early church because I wanted to be present for my best friend. I’d like to think I would have found worship in community later that day if I hadn’t.
Because why isn’t being present for God enough? I know, I know. I can be present for God anywhere anytime. But worship also means being present for God’s friends. Worship also means being present for God even when it takes a little extra effort. Especially.
I loved worshipping in my friend’s small town church, sitting next to her husband and my friend, Evan. The sermon was excellent. My friend served me communion.
Without my push out of bed as the sun rose I’d have missed it.
And I was back home in time for brunch, a walk by the river, and marathon movie watching in preparation for the Oscars.
O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them: Give us grace to entrust
to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with all who grieve. Surround us with your love, that we may not be overwhelmed by our loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I don’t own a gun.
I’ve never even shot a gun.
So I understand that it’s relatively easy for me to say that we must address our laws surrounding the right to bear arms, gun safety, and gun responsibilities. Which is why I want to join in prayer and conversation with those of you who do own guns. Those of you for whom having laws changed may have a personal cost.
I write these words with the image of a woman with an Ash Wednesday cross on her forehead crying outside Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
I write this words after praying four times yesterday, with so many of you:
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness, the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives.
Our self indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work.
And we prayed: We confess to you, Lord.
Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done. For our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty.
And we prayed: Accept our repentance, Lord.
In January, when the first school shooting of the year occurred, it was my intent to post the names of those shot, and pray for by name not only the victims of gun violence but all the ones who thought that using a gun was the best answer to their broken and angry hearts.
I didn’t get around to it. Accept my repentance, Lord.
I believe that praying also requires my response in some way. I know that my actions may be God’s answer to prayer.
Accept my repentance, Lord, for every time I have not been your answer to prayer.
I am reminded of the words of the Daughters of the King:
I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do. Lord, what will you have me do?
Here’s where I begin today. Twenty two million children live in homes with at least one firearm (National Center for Health Statistics, 2000). There is a program called Be Smart for Kids that teaches ways for our homes to be safer for children and to reduce child gun deaths. I’ve contacted a member of our parish who is active in this ministry, and we will host a session at St. Mary’s.
As I learn the names of those killed and injured, I will list them on my blog and we can pray.
Today I pray for a name I do know: Nikolas Cruz, a sheep of God’s own fold, a lamb of God’s own flock, a sinner of God’s own redeeming.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
I should have known that today would be a different sort of day when my morning coffee was served by a man with a name tag reading, “Jesus.”
It so happens that this is one of those calendar days where I know exactly where I twenty-five years ago. Today, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. About this time twenty-five years ago I was on my way to John+ and Pam Bentley’s home for a pre-ordination dinner with the people I loved the most.
This morning, after getting delayed by a train on the way, I met a dear friend, who was present on that day, for breakfast. She greeted me wearing a red jacket, in honor of my ordination (red was the ordination color back in the olden days).
As I went to fill my cup of coffee, the man named Jesus came to refresh the urn, and it gave me great pause. My coffee was served today by Jesus as the sun rose outside Rao’s Bakery.
The day that has followed has been the most quotidian of days. What else should it be?
I knitted my daily prayer. My friend and I prayed Facebook Live morning prayers from our breakfast table. I stopped at the rectory to drop off some tiles and talked to the men who are rebuilding my home a second time in less than a year. I let the workers know I was praying for them everyday.
I sent financial documents to the diocese in order to be considered for a new curate next summer; I emailed another set of back up documents for a request for a Harvey flood grant from the diocese. I worked on finding a new Parish Administrator for St. Mary’s. I visited the bank to update paperwork for St. Mary’s accounts.
My lunch appointment had to be rescheduled because my friend had the flu. My appointment with my spiritual directee was rescheduled because it slipped off her calendar. I’m meeting tonight with a couple whose unborn baby has died.
I had a good chat with my mom. Sadly, she isn’t coming to the celebration of my ordination on Sunday at St. Mary’s. I’ve been thinking a lot about her and my dad, who died several years ago, because they were such an important part of my ordination journey; I’ll miss her on Sunday.
It’s been the most ordinary of days. Things planned. Things unplanned. Praying all the way and all the day.
That’s what it means to serve as a priest. Each day of twenty-five years.
Traveling small you can see large things.
This has been a small vacation. By small, I mean that once my friend and I made it to the Casa in Taos, we stopped.
In the past, when my friend and I travel, besides the miles it takes to arrive at our planned destination, there is so very much to see that most days are spent on lengthy road trips to fabulous places.
This trip we’ve settled in and have traveled no farther than fifteen miles. Staying small, I’ve experienced big things.
A frozen Rio Grande River
Farmer’s Market at Taos Pueblo
Tea and knitting
Home cooked diner with friends
Sangre de Christo sunsets
Arise! Shine! Your light has come; the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.
Though darkness covers the earth and gloom the nations, the Lord will shine upon you.
God’s glory will appear over you.
Nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning radiance.
Lift up your eyes and look all around: they are all gathered; they have come to you.
Your sons will come from far away, and your daughters on caregivers’ hips.
Then you will see and be radiant; your heart will tremble and open wide,
Your gates will be open continually; day and night they won’t close,
Violence will no longer resound throughout your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.
The sun will no longer be your light by day, nor will the moon shine for illumination by night.
The Lord will be your everlasting light; your God will be your glory.
Your sun will no longer set; your moon will no longer wane.
The Lord will be an everlasting light for you and your days of mourning will be ended.
From Isaiah 60 (CEB)
Good morning, God. This is your day….
My first prayers this morning were in front of the fire with my community across the miles through St. Mary’s twice each day Facebook live Daily Office, a ministry gift from the Harvey floods.
As Becca Stevens writes, Mercy is clearest in hindsight.
Today is an unscheduled day. Wide open with possibilities and invitations.
My friends back in home in Texas are having a rare snow day. Wide open with invitations and possibilities.
Wherever we are, until we gather again for prayers at day’s end, may we hold each possibility and invitation in our hands as God’s gift of Mercy.
I am your child. Please show me your way. AMEN
I’m sitting at my very favorite coffee spot in Santa Fe. I’m thankful I can walk with no pain again.
I’ve been healing from an ankle injury since before Thanksgiving. Nearly healed during Advent, I reinjured my ankle in a fall, and have been walking with a limp since.
Last week at the monastery, I took my first walk in nearly two months without pain. That first walk was Our Lady of Grace’s labyrinth. It was not lost on me that this first walk was a prayer.
Like many of us, I count my steps each day. Walking in pain, my step count rarely got over 5000 steps since November.
Yesterday between church and travel, I was what Fitbit calls an overachiever–over 13,000 steps. It was not lost on me that these many steps were made in the midst of serving at St. Mary’s and traveling to play and rest.
Today I begin my Epiphany walk in New Mexico. There is always a retreat aspect to my trips. This year I am walking through two important Epiphany anniversaries in my ordained ministry walk. Twenty years ago on the Feast of the Epiphany, I was installed as Rector of St. Mary’s. On January 25, I will celebrate twenty five years of ordained ministry as Priest.
When my friend and I arrived in Santa Fe last night, we were surprised to see the Plaza still lit with festive lights. Our expectation was that these lights were put up in Advent and would be removed after Christmas.
Christ to light the walk. In pain or not. Few steps or many. Thanks be to God.