I’m nearing the end of a nearly two week vacation spent mostly with the grandboys. The opening parenthesis of the visit was at my mom’s farm for a partial family reunion with 3/4 of the Bend family, my daughter, the Chambersville team, and half my Brooklyn family which included the newest member, Jack Hardin Jernigan, known as Apple Jack. The parenthesis is closing with a trip to Oregon to bring the grandboys back home.

A week with eight and ten year old boys is one the best ways to clear out my brain and open my heart to inspiration. Lots of LEGOs, lots of art, lots of books, lots of smoothies and pop cycles, lots of movies, and lots of other joy mixed in.

Our first visit to a movie theater in over a year was as safe as it could be—we were the only ones in the theater (Peter Rabbit 2–👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻). [Jonas says I should do 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 up]

The trip to the anime museum brought out my inner protective grandma because of the tenuous COVID protocols. We are not done with the pandemic, no matter how much we want it to be done, and I have two grandsons who can’t be vaccinated yet (but that’s a sermon for another day about loving others and than what’s more convenient for *me*[and I could quote scripture about seeking to rise to the other’s best]).

We were watching a King Kong movie when the grandsons decided they wanted to evacuate to what the older boy called “soulful and heartfelt”. The younger added “heartfilled” which became our new movie criteria.

Heartfilled has become my new pondering word.

On the final Sunday of their visit, I was trying to decide about church. I wanted to be sure we went somewhere with safe protocols that would also be kid friendly. A lazy Sunday morning with worship online sounded lovely. And then I remembered what I used to say to reluctant worshippers when I was still a rector—we don’t go to church for what we will receive (though that’s a bonus)—we go for what we give to God and to others.

Oh. Right.

We joined the community of Holy Family HTX for sweet, welcoming, thoughtful in person worship. One grandson said that he felt the closest he ever had to God.

A stop at VooDoo donuts on the way home was a bonus.

Heart. Filled.

Sitting a spell: A Litany for Memorial Day Sunday

I’m sitting outside with my best friend enjoying coffee at our favorite coffee place. I’m thinking about those who have died in service to our country as I read the news on my phone.

I begin to pray for peace that overcomes anger and hopelessness.

I pray for all those who have died in wars.

I pray for those who have been left behind to grieve.

I pray for those who make difficult decisions that bring peace.

Poppies outside the Harwood Museum of Art

I pray for those who have died from the pandemic.

I pray for those who have been left behind to grieve.

I pray for those who have the power to make decisions that can bring health and safety to others.

Our Lady of Guadalupe by Toby Marfin

I pray for all of those who have died by guns and other weapons.

I pray for those who have been left behind to grieve.

I pray for those who use violence of any kind as a means to communicate; that God will heal their brokenness.

I pray for those who have the power to make decisions; that they will make sensible laws and systems to deter violence of any kind.

The Virgin Guides Us Down the Road by Nicholas Herrera

For whom else shall we pray?

Sitting a spell on a Saturday

It may be spring in Taos but it’s feeling like a summer day—Taos style. That means that sitting and walking and eating outside is a delight.

Yesterday, after massages, masked (our therapist, Bonnie, told us that we were her fourth and fifth clients since she had to close at the height of the pandemic), my friend and I were able to eat on the patio of our favorite restaurant.

Today is market day in Taos. My friend and I were front and center when the market opened (the sun is awakening us at 5.30), and the sights and the conversations were full of generosity. I can sit a spell when walking a market if I allow myself to be present with whatever and whomever is in my path.

Buying bread from a local baker and finding the surprise of the art on the bread.

Another vendor giving my friend and me snickerdoodles. Just because.

A conversation with a local gardener about all beautiful scented things. Followed by a conversation with her husband telling me about the gift of being married to her for over fifty years.

A man from the Pueblo who makes all sorts of things to care for our skin and body, gifting me with a lavender soap when I said it was my favorite scent.

Another vendor giving me a small bouquet of flowers after yet another conversation.

Who knew that sitting a spell could result in receiving such generosity.

Brother David Steindal-Rast wrote, “Prayer is not sending in an order and expecting it to be fulfilled. Prayer is attuning yourself to the life of the world, to love, the force that moves the sun and the moon and the stars.”

I’m wondering if a sitting a spell life is in fact prayer—attuning ourselves to Love and the life of the world that is the place where Love choose to dwell.

The Gift. The Generosity.

Sitting a spell: lilacs, peonies, and llamas

Honeysuckle New Mexico style

I’ve found that I’ve been angry recently. A lot. I said something about that to my friend on the drive up from the airport to Taos, and she replied, “Yes, you have begun a lot of our conversations with ‘I’m really angry about……’”

Well. That’s not a look I’m going for but like so many things we don’t like hearing, it’s the truth. Granted, anger can easily turn into depression for me, so getting my anger out in non-hurtful ways is a good thing. I am in hopes that this long weekend of sitting a spell will help me to clear out some of the anger.

When we arrived at our Casa, after we’d unloaded the car, we took a walk to see if the llamas that lived nearby were still there.

The gentle walk was framed by flowers I rarely see in Texas.

And a flower that is new to me

And then. Our neighbors the llamas. Which we named Hillary, Kamala, and Stacey.

Sitting a spell can be a slow walk taking time for a pause and yet another.

Sitting a spell

One of the priests I serve with has been teaching us to sit a spell. The invitation is to slow down and listen as a way of building relationships. For me it’s a way to turn walls into bridges.

I’m taking a vacation which is a fine way to practice sitting a spell. I’m meeting my best friend in New Mexico for a long Memorial Day weekend.

I began my sitting a spell (literally and metaphorically) on the plane over. I always have lots to do to fill the time when traveling, but this trip I decided to put my books and games aside and sit a spell and look out the window. The entire flight.

As I sat a spell and looked out the window, I put my music library on shuffle and, as a song met me where I am, I put it on a new playlist I titled Not Ordinary Time.

The airport was full to the brim with travelers. Plane after plane was queued up waiting its turn on the runway.

Sitting a spell for the two hour flight, the changing landscapes outside my window rivaled any art I’ll see in the museums that will be part of my visit. It was a lectio divina from miles above the earth.

A priest. Again.

The last time I celebrated Holy Eucharist was at a Wednesday Eucharist in the Diocesan chapel in Houston during Lent, 2020. Two days later the office closed because of the pandemic, and we moved home to work.

For a couple of weeks. Ha.

This third Sunday of Easter, 2021, I will celebrate the Eucharist at St. Paul’s in Navasota, Texas.

Once ordained a priest, always a priest (unless renouncing my vows or being deposed). However, this is the weekend I begin doing priestly things. Again.

First I will travel to Camp Allen on Saturday afternoon to teach at Iona School for Ministry. It will be my first time to teach in person since 2020. As God would have it, I am teaching a class on Reconciliation of a Penitent.

After I preach and celebrate and meet with the Vestry at St. Paul’s, I will return to Camp Allen to meet with the Small Church network on Sunday and Monday. A few members of my team will be leading congregational leaders of churches with less than 75 members to process what they’ve learned during the pandemic and how they can apply that to what God is leading them to do next.

It will be my first time to be part of leading an in-person retreat in over a year.

After thirteen months of driving almost nowhere, I’ll be back in my office on wheels—also called my Prius. Doing prayer and lectio divina on the Diocesan roads.

But first I have to finish my sermon for tomorrow and my PowerPoint for tonight. And ponder again what it really means to be a priest.

carbonated holiness

Anne Lamott says that laughter is carbonated holiness. These past four days have been bubbling grace. Topo Chico, club soda, and Mountain Valley. I feel covered in sparkling water as I return to work tomorrow. In a good way.

Everyday was a new museum exhibit.

Afternoons praying with the Sisters of our Lady of Grace.

Knitting. Reading. Chit chatting. Walking.

And yes. So much laughter.

In the already, still and not yet of the beginning of the second year of the pandemic, I am grateful, so grateful, for this masked, socially distanced, vaccinated opportunity to travel. I yearn it for others as well.

Four days of contemplating art and craft created by all sorts of others was an immersion into the presence of the Creator who began it all. And then when laughter was so often a part, too, that is Holy.

Back where it ended

My best friend and I have been traveling together since 1992. Even when she moved to Georgia in 2003, we still were able to go on trips together, usually at least once every season.

Not imagining that the country was about to close due to the pandemic a year ago, we had decided to take what we call “a lark” to one of our favorite museums, Crystal Bridges, in Bentonville, Arkansas. We wanted to view an exhibit, All Things Being Equal, which featured the art of Hank Willis Thomas. It was a deep exploration of the African American experience.

Little did we know that it would be our last trip together for a year. Little did we know how the exhibit would inform what would unfold in the months ahead as the pandemic deeply exposed the even more serious divides of color, economics, and access in our country.

So many times as my friend and I moved through the year cancelling trips planned together and others to visit family, we would be ever so thankful for that quickly planned and taken trip in February, 2020.

Newly vaccinated, one year later, we booked our first trip together for a new exhibit at Crystal Bridges, Crafting America. This exhibit celebrates the stories told through that which we create with our hands.

The exhibit features craft by people who are both native to our country and who immigrated from a variety of countries for a variety of reasons.

One piece that gave me pause was a chest of drawers created by Gentaro Kenneth Hikogawa, a man imprisoned in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II. Needing a place for storage in that prison, he used scrap lumber and packing crates to create something of great beauty. It now sits in a museum and tells a story.

Another part of the exhibit displayed “beaded prayers.” For the past twenty years, Sonya Clark has invited others of all ages to create prayers from scraps and beads to express grief, hopes, and dreams. Over 5000 people from thirty countries have crafted duo prayers—one to keep and one to join the communal artwork.

The exhibit covered four walls, and the room shimmered with holiness when I entered. Each little creation had a story from the depth of a person’s heart.

We may think of crafts as being second to art. The exhibit reminded us that the root of the word craft means “strength” or “power.” In this year that has passed, so many times I have had no words for the depths of my feelings. This exhibit reminded me that there are many ways to express thoughts and feelings through hand work.

From baking bread to cleaning dusty blinds to hand written letters to songs sung to paths walked.

We can find strength. We can find power.

Thanks. Be. To. God.

And it’s still Lent

I have decided that we have been in a continuous Lent since Ash Wednesday 2020. It’s a continuous Lent in that we have been on a wilderness road for the past year—full of uncertainty, surprises, dangers. And full of unexpected joys, provision, and God’s ever presence.

As we liturgically observed a new Lent this past week, it was the first year in forty years that I have not received the imposition of ashes. Without water, internet, or electric power, I decided to create a new practice. For this wilderness year.

A palm cross left from some other year’s observance fell out of a basket as I was tidying up. I decided to burn it as I worshipped via a concert viewed on line from Holy Family HTX. This was my Ash Wednesday worship.

A new Lent.

This first Sunday in Lent I am sitting in an airport preparing to fly to Dallas to visit my mother. She turns 95 tomorrow, and I haven’t seen her since my birthday in September.

I joined the sisters of Our Lady of Grace for Vespers last night for my worship. How grateful I was for electricity, internet, and water, even if it had to be boiled first.

A new Lent.

I’ve got my office in a rolling bag, and I’ll try working from my mother’s house.

A new Lent.

Surprises. Unexpected joys. Provision. And always, God’s presence.

Are you alone?

Christmas Day Eucharist was always my favorite of the 12 Days of Christmas worship.

Entering the sacristy on a quiet morning. The church still full of the smell of incense from worship the night before. Celeste, the music director, and her family providing extraordinary music with at least three different instruments.

The people who came were always a mishmash of folks—some who had worked on Christmas Eve, people who wanted a quiet service, always a guest or two, and those alone for the day.

This year I’m one of those alone for the day.

I had planned to travel Christmas morning to Chambersville to be with my family. My vision isn’t great right now (cataract surgery in January!) so flying felt like the safest way to get there. My daughter was picking me up at the airport (masks on! windows open!). I couldn’t wait to be with my family (masked! outside whenever possible!). But I did the math (circles from pods! ages of us folk!) and listened to the beseeching of our mayor (please only be with your immediate family!).

Twelve hours or so before I was to depart, I cancelled my plane ticket.

Overcome with sadness, a kitchen full of baked goods and presents to be delivered in person, how was I going to do Christmas? Alone?

Granted, this is not my first Christmas alone. For the past twenty five years, Christmas Day was a work day, and family gatherings were usually scheduled for other times. Frankly, on a number of years, I was so tired from the Christmas worship marathon that napping like the baby Jesus in the manger was the most delicious way to spend Christmas Day. But this year, like so many of us, the feast I want was personal touch—being WITH people I love.

As I have done so many times this past nine months, I began to pirouette. If not this, where is the invitation?

Christmas Eve, I joined a friend for Instagram worship, lighting every candle in my house as I listened. Then my Bend family FaceTimed with me before and after I joined them via online worship at their church.

Still, I was so so very very sad when I woke up on Christmas morning. I texted with one friend and another and then got dressed and went to Eucharist at the Cathedral ( reserved seats! many feet apart! masked! no singing!)

As I entered, the usher who was to seat me in a safe place, asked, “One?”, and I heard, “Alone?”

The liturgy began with words I knew by heart. I began to cry, gently. Grief, yes, but also in delight at the beauty of the space, gratefulness for how much more I had than I didn’t have, and just the abundance of doing the best thing one could do on Christmas Day—adore Jesus.

Today is the second day of Christmas. I’m still a little sad. I’m still a little lonely. I’ll box up the presents I was going to hand deliver and mail to my dear family in north Texas. I’m going to drop by some folks’ homes that might enjoy some of the Christmas treats I had made to share with my family.

2020 is the year we all were invited to become prima and primo ballerinas and ballerinos as we mastered pirouetting. Yes, we lost a lot. As for me, in the midst of so much loss, I can see a longer list of what I am gaining as I, we, learn new dance steps.

And I am not alone.

We are not alone.