Loving Reach

You stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that all might come within the reach of your saving embrace.

So clothe us in your Spirit that we reaching forth our hands in love may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of your name. AMEN

This is one of my favorite prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. The image of the cross as Jesus reaching forth his hands in love, and our response to that reach as reaching out in love, is the center of my understanding of the cross as a symbol of my faith.

The cross is Love reaching out.

Love reaching out in the midst of suffering and when surrounded by anger and hate.

Love reaching out in the midst of hunger and thirst.

Love reaching out in the midst of fear and loneliness.

Love reaching out in the midst of meals shared.

Love reaching out in the midst of friends and strangers and enemies.

Last evening I went to an art exhibition at the Harwood Museum in Taos of Dean Pulver’s work. Dean is the husband of my dear friend Abby Salsbury whose pottery fills my home. Dean’s art medium is primarily wood with a little metal thrown in on occasion.

When I visited Dean’s studio last Epiphany, he was creating work that was part of the exhibit at the Harwood. There was one piece in process that placed me in a deep pause. To me it looked like a cross.

As Dean and I talked, he told me that building a cross had not been his intent. This led to a thought-filled conversation about the layers of personal meanings of the cross. I told him how I felt so often what I hear people say about the cross feels more like a useful personal weapon than the endless and forgiving and healing love of God.

The curved arms of Dean’s art with its ever moving shadows, depending on the cast of the light, spoke to me of God’s multidimensional love. It is beautiful.

The finished art was on exhibit at the Harwood. Once again I was paused. My heart and eyes filling with emotion of its power.

Dean had named the piece Reach.

The light once again played with the structure casting multidimensional shadows expanding the range of the cross.

Each arm is a curve, openly pulling us to its center. It feels like a safe and open enclosure I could nestle in and be held and rest. It’s not soft but it looks comfortable–in the root meaning of the word, comfort, that means with strength. I could sink into its heart.

I looked back on Dean’s Instagram account. It records his process for creating the art we saw completed at the Harwood. I was paused yet again when I saw the special joinery he had to create to connect the two arms of this piece.

Cross upon cross. Cross within cross.

Reaching out in love.

Note: Cross at the top of the blog from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kilgore, Texas.

Gospel Living: Home

I’m having some good thinking days.

After a very busy couple of weeks at work, traveling from Alvin to Jacksonville and places in between, with the bonus of three appointments with the oral surgeon because of a broken tooth, this long weekend trip to New Mexico was a once again reminder of what a fine tour guide God is. One way or another, God gets me where I need to be.

The husband of a dear Taos friend has an exhibit at the Harwood Museum and tonight is the VIP reception–and my best friend and I are considered VIPs! This was all it took for us to plan a trip to our “home” since 2009 at the Casa de los Abuelos (of the grandparents–how perfect a name is that?).

There’s so much that feels familiar about this “thin space” and like so many trips home, we don’t know how much we need to be there until we arrive.

One of the reasons this feels like home is the warm hugs, smiles, and greetings we receive. People we’ve known for one year or over ten are so very pleased to see us. From the baristas at Coffee Apothecary to Marie at Marie Fleur Salon to a welcome text from my sweet friend Abby, it feels so good to be welcomed not for what I do but simply who I am.

This is what Jesus wants to offer all of us. His heart as our home. Our hearts as his home.

Today surrounded by snow outside, fire in the kiva, fresh coffee with beans locally roasted, I’ll spend some time in God’s heart through prayer–so that the remainder of the day I’ll live with my home in God’s heart.

Itinerant Preacher

I’m in Kilgore, Texas this morning. I drove over 200 miles yesterday afternoon through peak, for Texas, East Texas fall. After breakfast at the Hampton Inn, I’ll pack up and go preach and celebrate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Afterwards, I’ll meet with the leadership of the church and listen and dream with them about what God might have in store for them. Then I’ll drive back home dreaming and imagining about how we all can better partner with God and God’s mission.

I love my job.

A year ago today was my last Sunday at St. Mary’s, a place I’d loved and called home for over twenty years. A place where I’d drive three and one half miles each Sunday morning to preach and celebrate and listen and dream.

I loved my job.

In the year of my pause from my relationship with St. Mary’s, what one parishioner described as a gap year, I have only been back once, with permission, to attend the funeral of a beloved parishioner. It is the way of rector partings.

Yesterday, I wrote the Senior Warden and the Interim Rector for permission to worship on a Sunday morning at St Mary’s during Advent. As God would have it, it’s a rare Sunday that has not already been scheduled, and I am open-calendared.

A baby with whom I have two decades of family connections is being baptized, and the parents invited me to attend. I officiated at the baby’s parent’s marriage and prayed with others for years for this precious girl’s birth in into the world.

If given permission, the third Sunday of Advent, I’ll drive the twenty or something miles from my new home, past my old home, to a parish that is now one of the over one hundred fifty I now serve. I’ll worship and pray and dream. And live some of God’s great yeses to prayers.

I love my life.

Oldering Prayer

I hear the swishing sound of rolling walkers moving towards me. I know that the bells calling us to worship will begin to ring soon, and it will be time to pray with the sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

My day begins before the sun rises. The Oblates of our Lady of Grace have early breakfast before joining the sisters for Morning Praise.

The old coffee maker has been replaced by a newer version that now offers three choices–mild, regular, and bold, with parallel decaffeinated options. It is a better beginning to the day.

After breakfast,

we pray in community,

we do lectio divina on a portion of the Rule of St. Benedict,

we have time for quiet,

we pray again,

we eat lunch,

we give back to the Monastery with an act of service (for me, cleaning the walls of the dining room),

we do lectio on another chapter of the Rule,

we pray again,

we eat again.

Tonight after supper, we’ll play games with the sisters and pray one last time in community.

Then sleep.

In the over fifteen years I have come to Our Lady of Grace, most often twice a year, more sisters have died than have professed Monastic orders. The average age of the sisters is 72. The priest who serves the Monastery is nearly bent in half, and celebrates Eucharist sitting in a chair. As are those who worship in our churches, we are all oldering.

In the Monastery, all serve. At Noonday, the average age of the sisters leading worship must near 90.

Yesterday, at Noonday, I heard a quiet voice during the lengthening silence between the chanting of the Psalms, She’s asleep. So while the celebrant dozed, another sister took her place and began the next section of prayer.

Another sister who I look fondly upon, perhaps because she reminds me of my mother with her sweet face, white hair, and blue top, was prepared for her part in the liturgy of reading the lesson. She had placed a special lamp on the the lectern before worship began.

At the appointed time, she carefully stepped to the lectern using her walker, carefully repositioned herself to read, carefully placed a clipboard with a large print version of the day’s text, carefully turned on the light, and with a clear voice, read scripture.

After she finished the lesson from Daniel, she slowly turned off the light, slowly folded it up, and slowly placed it under the lectern. Slowly she placed the clipboard on her walker, slowly turned, slowly returned to her seat, and slowly lowered herself into her chair.

Care full. Slow. It was all prayer.

It is all prayer.

Community Home

When I return to Our Lady of Grace, there are touchstones that let me know I am indeed home.

Sister Mary Luke always leaves a note in my room and some Texas memorabilia she has found on one of her thrift shop jaunts.

Calligraphy on the wall of my room that is a Word to ponder for the week.

The beauty of whatever season it is– it stops me in gobsmacked joy at each window I pass, and lures me outside for walks.

And then the prayers in the Chapel. The sisters invite us to join with them in the dance of the Hours, and it is a glimpse, for me, of worship in heaven.

When we sing and pray and chant the Psalms, we are invited to do so slowly and quietly. In doing so, my voice blends with those next to me and what we hear is one voice. This is always the most challenging for us women clergy. We are used to leading with our voices in worship. Here, “we who are many are one.”

The intercessory prayers in chapel are not a long list of rote individual prayers but a litany of those who are more often forgotten–children in foster care, those who have been abused by the Church, those without health care, those who will die alone, and on it goes–and always with great thankfulness for their benefactors.

And then there is the gracious hospitality. Who goes to a place where everyone is glad to see me? I am filled with the warm welcome and smiles and hugs. This is because Benedictines believe that all they meet are Christ. Jesus shows up every time someone comes through the door.

It so good to be in my Monastery home.

Traveling. Again.

In October I went to Camp Allen in Navasota. Three times.

To Marlin, Texas. Twice. Waco. Chambersville. Tyler. Lindale. Minneapolis and St. Paul. Many miles around the Houston area.

Including traveling home to St. Cuthbert to preach and celebrate Eucharist, the parish that sent me to seminary nearly thirty years ago.

I am a Missioner, after all.

I begin November on my way to Beech Grove, Indiana for an Oblate retreat at Our Lady of Grace Monastery. A week of prayer, worship, and holy reading. Surprises of joy and play.

I am nearing the year anniversary of my departure from St. Mary’s. This is a good week for my spirit and soul to catch up and rest.

This past week I voted for the first time since moving into town. I was struck by the many colors and shapes of people that joined me for early voting. I was reminded by how much I am loving living in a city where everyday I experience the amazing greatness of the image of God.

Traveling. Again.


Because I am spending more time in a smaller circumference on this vacation, rather than travels hither and yon, I am having time to read.

I started my third book yesterday (!) while waiting for my friend to finish her massage.

On this trip I’ve read:

And now I’m a few chapters into

I love that I can check out ebooks from the library and download them to my iPad. It’s a light weight way to carry a library of possibilities when I travel.

I’m also having more time during quiet mornings to read the myriad of devotions I receive via email and apps each day. All via iPhone.

A daily email, though not one that would be classified as a devotional, almost always gives me deep spiritual pondering. Its from Seth Godin, and this morning’s gave me pause:

Politics is organized sparring about power, without much regard for efficacy or right or wrong.

Governance is the serious business of taking responsibility for leadership.

When we have a chance to speak up for governance we strike a blow against politics.

Dedication, resilience, and concerted effort have saved us before and they can save us again. Except once again, it’s up to us to speak up and do something about it.

These words had me write a letter to myself in my head. I am one of those leaders after all.

If our country was indeed founded in the belief of the unalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,

Do the decisions I make forward life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Not only for me. But most particularly for others?

Am I, a woman of great privilege, willing to give up some of my privilege for others? Or at least share? Or at least work to break down the walls and open the doors that keep those privileges selfishly close?

And it’s so easy for me to see how someone with many guns might harm other’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, what choices do I make that harm someone else’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

What about me?

(From the Harwood Museum: Judy Chicago: The Birth Project)

Priority Traveling

When my best friend and I were deciding in July whether or not we could make our trip back to Iceland and the Faroes, part of what we did was imagine all the steps (metaphorically and literally) we’d have to take. We finally allowed reality to meet romance, and we realized that although it was possible for us to go the Faroe Islands, they would be enjoyed more father down her healing road.

And that’s how we came to decide to do a “pilot” trip instead. New Mexico was an easy flight from Georgia and Texas, and we had a wonderful and familiar place to stay.

And that’s how we came to learn about priority travel–the way we can travel when one person has less mobility than she’d like.

There’s priority parking.

Priority chairs on wheels a friend can push when walking a museum is not possible.

Priority gardens out the back door when the circumference of miles usually journeyed becomes feet.

Priority hiking of 70 steps out the front door to see our neighbors, the llamas.

Priority body care including hair cuts, facials, and today, massages.

A day short of a week into our trip, we still have half a tank of gas, most of that used driving from the Albuquerque airport to Taos.

Priority travel has been about listening. Slowing. Asking for assistance. Receiving help. Nearly unceasing prayer. And lots of laughter.

From Agnes Martin’s gallery at the High Museum:

Friendship. Perfect Day.

Sacred spaces

Today I had the gift of starting the day early (time zone difference!) doing FaceTime Live prayers. Usually I’m rushing into the office for prayers. Today I walked out to the casa garden to pray.

It’s a gift to gather with friends across the miles and hold those we love in prayer. Today the bells rang from a church down the street as we began our prayers.

Yesterday, on the way home from an outing, we passed by one of those tiny Roman Catholic churches that are so frequent in New Mexico. Another find only a few blocks from the casa. We stopped, hoping to go inside to pray. Sadly, as is so often the custom, the door was locked.

Sunday on the way to worship at St. James, a man in a tie dyed shirt had approached us as we were getting in our car. He asked us if this was where the overflow parking was for the Hanuman ashram.

Well. No it wasn’t, but it got us curious. After church, we googled “ashram near me,” and discovered there was a Hindu temple one block away. All the years we’ve come here, and I never knew.

We decided to make a stop at the ashram after the pause at the chapel of San Antonio de Padua. I was a bit uncomfortable going into such a strange place. How would people respond to us? What were the rules?

We drove through the gates and parked. It was quiet and peaceful. Yes, taking a breath. It’s more or like monasteries I’ve visited so very often. Of course I can go in.

Remembering to take off my shoes, we walked in. A woman was kneeling before Hanuman-ji chanting a prayer in a language I do not know accompanied by an instrument I did not recognize.

It is a holy place. After our own prayers, we went outside to watch a peahen and a peacock. Other members of the community joined us to watch delightedly with us. One was wafting incense before her. We were greeted with smiles.

As we left, a man was entering to pray. He removed his shoes, rang a bell hanging above the entrance, knelt to touch the threshold, and then reached to touch the transom.

I was thoughtful of the outward spiritual practices that are clearly stated as unequivocal.

Washing before entering the sacred space. Shoes off. Body postures. A meal offered everyday at noon to which all are welcome.

As I walked the path around the temple, two sticks had fallen on the path. In the position of a cross.

What holy, sacred thing is Christ speaking to me here?