An Epiphany Walk

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.

Epiphany lights!

Christ to light the walk. In pain or not. Few steps or many. Thanks be to God.

Epiphany 2018: Not so ordinary time

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I’m in snowy Indiana at the Indianapolis airport waiting for two friends’ delayed planes to arrive.  Truth be told, in the midst of a very busy Advent, Christmas, and now Epiphany, it is good to have time for my body, soul, and spirit to catch up to one another.

I knit.  I listen to Carrie Newcomer’s wonderful music.  I think.  I ponder.

I spent last week mainly in bed with a winter cold.  Trying to stay away from folks in order to not share the gift, it was as good a place as any for me finally to complete my 2016 (I know, very delayed) taxes and submit the paperwork and documentation for the insurance claim for my personal belongings lost in the 2017 Harvey Flood.   Drinking hot tea laced with lemon picked from a friend’s tree and eating soup made by another friend, I relived the Tax Day Flood (2016) and Harvey Floods (2017).  No wonder I was abed!

Yet there was joy, too.  With the sad and painful memories there was much care and love to recall, too.  Having put off facing the pain of the two floods, I had also missed experiencing healing, compassion, and so many gifts.

I had not looked forward to this new year.  This time last year I had hoped (as most of us had) that 2017 would be a better year.  On first glance, it felt like another hard year.  Who wants to do that again?

Although it all too often didn’t feel like it, in this wait in Indianapolis, I see how much 2017 was indeed a better year.  Having flooded twice, moving and giving away and throwing away again and again, I find myself with a freedom I’ve never had in my life.

I’ve never been more certain who I am and what is most important to me.

Each relationship I have is a treasure.  Each thing I own is valued.

I’ve never loved being rector of St. Mary’s more than I do today–I have a playfulness and joyfulness and creativity that I’ve never had.  There is a depth to everything I see and do that would never have happened without 2016 and 2017.

This month I will celebrate twenty-five years of being a priest.  And I feel like I’m only now discovering what that truly means.

It is not ordinary time.

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Third Thursday in Advent: The Longest Night

photo_346_20111219And the darkness did not overcome it© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com)

This is the time of the year when some churches plan what’s called a “Blue Christmas” liturgy. This liturgy is a time for prayer and worship especially for those who are experiencing grief, loss, and suffering.  The season of Advent and Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for these friends when the world puts on a jolly show, though too often this merriness is more false than true.  Coming together and acknowledging this disharmony can be a comfort.

On this longest night of the year, a gift for all of us wherever we are today.  Thank you, The Rev. Jan Richardson, for “serving us with the gift you have received,” (1 Peter 4.10) through art and written blessings.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
with its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.

Get up.

Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow
© Jan Richardson (janrichardson.com)

Diverting in fog

This is the devotional that came into my inbox as I settled into my room at the Portland Airport. I did not find this all that amusing, but I did find it thoughtful.

You see, after two delayed flights, I was on my way to Bend finally last night to be with Jonas when he woke up for his fifth birthday this morning. After we boarded the flight to Redmond, the pilot came out to apologize for the delay. They’d been behind all day because of the fires near Ventura. He had yet more disappointing news–a huge fog had engulfed the Redmond airport, and we were unlikely to be unable to land and would be diverted to Portland.

Needless to say, I spent most of the flight praying the please God please God please God prayer. I listened to my Brave Still playlist created after the second Houston flood. The songs are all about God being present when things don’t go as planned. Thinking about not being with Jonas when he woke up on his birthday filled me with sadness.

I’ve walked this walk with God long enough to know that prayers aren’t magic, but that God is always present.

So here I sit in the Portland airport the morning of Jonas’ birthday. I saw a beautiful sunrise as I boarded the shuttle to the airport from my unexpected sleeping place.

I’ve had the best flat white ever at the airport and a marionberry muffin besides.

And I remember.

Life is like the fog. We can only see a few feet in front of us. All we can do is put one foot in front of us and see what us revealed.

Though I am still hoping that the fog will lift, and I will be able to fly my diverted to PDX flight to RDM to see the grandboys today.

December. Eve of the eve of Advent

Most of my friends are putting up Christmas trees and adorning their homes with festive decorations. The photos they post and share are exquisite.

For a number of years I’ve had a different. practice. At Thanksgiving, days before the beginning of Advent, I walk down to the lake at my mother’s farm and clip blue berry laden juniper branches to take back to Houston to prepare my home for Advent.

Before Christmas arrives, I love observing Advent. The image I’ve held in my heart for years is a very pregnant Mary pondering and waiting, with hope and uncertainty held together in open hands.

Blue being the color of hope, and being the color Mary most often is depicted wearing, for the first twenty four days of December my home is full of blue.

Yesterday I clipped and arranged juniper branches gathered at Thanksgiving last week. placed them in bowls and vases, on table, buffet, and mantle throughout my temporary home in Tomball. It’s nearly Advent!

However, this year I had not gathered the branches my self. My injured ankle prevented me from walking the uneven terrain to clip the branches. Instead I remembered to ask for help. My nephew and niece and brothers lopped off limbs of brown, green, and blue for me.

This year my Advent preparations are a concrete reminder that we are invited to not wait alone. Together we hold hope and uncertainty in shared and clasped hands

Thankfully walking in the wilderness. Again.

God set me on the path of healing again. Turn me to the rising sun when I need to be inspired. Turn me to the wilderness when I need to be lost. Turn me toward the world when I need to work. Turn me toward the mountain when I need to retreat. So that on turning I find Your loving grace all around. (Prayer by Becca Stevens in Love Heals)

A week ago, walking on uneven ground, I sprained my ankle. The pain of healing has slowed me down. The injury is not a surprise as I walk in the wilderness of this second flooding in less than two years.

Several people have commented that it must be easier handling the second flooding of my home. Some say that since I know the drill it must not be as difficult.

These are very kind and very caring people, and because they love me I think they may hope it’s easier.

But as a friend commented, a second broken arm hurts as much as the first. You may know better how the healing process goes, but the familiarity does not make it easier.

As Becca Stevens writes, I am back in the wilderness again. I am lost, but I learned tools in the last flood that assure me that what is lost will be found. I do know from the first flood that there is great beauty in the wilderness. 

I wish I were not back in the wilderness, but I know I am being found.  I also know that there is the beauty of love, companionship, unexpected gifts, and abounding grace.

Yes. It hurts. And still I am thankful.

Another new year


I am nearly home. Two more flights, and I am back to rebuilding my home, and walking wth the people God has called me to serve at St. Mary’s and the Diocese of Texas. 

I’ve been so very aware during my time in Iceland of the juxtaposition between my life this past two weeks and the hardships folks were bearing back at home. In the midst of receiving two weeks of beauty and care, I’ve been listening for what God is giving me to share with others. 

Having lived a year of rebuilding on every level of my life this past year after the Tax Day Flood, I knew that I would need to rest deeply to prepare for what was ahead. I did not deserve the trip; I hadn’t earned the trip. It was pure grace. 


 I have been immerced in kindness and beauty and generosity on my trip. 

I am grateful for this birthday gift as I see what God has in store until the anniversary of my birthday this time next year.  

Heimili. Home. 

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I am remembering all of the homes where I have lived.   They are each places tied to important moments in my life. 

A little rent house in Waco where I was brought home from the hospital.  A house on Colcord in Waco where I met my brother, Austin. 

An apartment in south Dallas while waiting for our new home to be completed.  Our home at 1808 Swansee,  Dallas 32, Texas, where I met my other brother, Richard. My home at 4012 Fountainhead, Dallas 75234, where I was married. 


 

An apartment on South Oak Cliff Boulevard where my daughter Lisa was brought home from the hospital.   

An apartment on South Walton Walker where I commuted to college. 

A townhouse on Olde Forge where I drove to my first teaching job. 

My first house I owned on Valleywood in Carrollton.

My new home in Houston on Beechmoor where I brought my son Jacob home from the hospital; where I was made a postulant for Holy Orders; and where I served in my first parish. 

St. Mary’s Rectory on Laneview where I’ve lived the past 20 years. 

And in the past year, I’ve had seven temporary homes as a result of two Houston floods. I am very grateful for each of these temporary homes and the hospitality each represents. 

However, I’m a person who values finding a place to live and staying put. Benedictine spirituality calls it stability. 

Even when I travel, I usually look for a home base and day trip out so that I go back to the same place, my away home, each night to rest. 

I do not like to move.   Yet changes and chances of life have given me new homes that have each been a part of who I am becoming. 

Yesterday, at my hotel home in Reykjavik, the hot water in the bath wouldn’t turn off. The staff tried to fix it three times, but it only seemed to get more scalding. The staff asked if they could move us to another room. It would be an upgrade. 

My friend was concerned I wouldn’t want to move, but we had to be able to take a shower. 

So we stuffed all our belongings into bags and suitcases, and the staff came to help us relocate. 

Instead of a lovely, small, but more than adequate room, we were moved to a luxury suite on the top floor with a terrace.  I must add that my friend had used points from a credit card to book our four nights, and we had paid nothing for our more than fine room.   Now we had a suite with an amazing view, and still it was free.

Rachel Sage sings a song about home:

Home is where you’re taken in.       
Fearlessly breathing with the wind.    
 Home is where you set your spirit down.   
 I’m at home in all this beauty.        
 Everything about it moves me
I may be from another place but home is where I am now
Where I am now. 

    For now, I am learning for home to be wherever I am now.   I am learning how to put my spirit down and make any place a home. 

    When I return to Houston on Thursday, I will move to another home.  

    The truth is, all homes this side of heaven are temporary. They are only places to prepare for the home with a view beyond imagination. Everyone will be upgraded, and it has already been paid for. Free for us all. 

    Photos are from my travels around Iceland yesterday and today.   My heimili or home for now. 

    Sunday morning in Reykjavik 

    Today is church.  My friend and I walked the half mile uphill in the cold and rain to worship. It was glorious. 

    As I entered the nave, the choir was practicing.  As beautiful music surrounded me, I lit candles with prayer intentions for friends, family, and neighbors. 

    The liturgy was in Icelandic; however, the usher gave us a warm welcome and handed me a guide to worship in English. 

    Grateful for the printed guide, I thought of Molly and Jennifer back at home.  I was appreciative for the difference it makes to have a person sitting right beside who is familiar with the service to guide us through. The paper, though very well-intentioned, is not as helpful as a neighbor.  

    Worship, no matter what the language, is still centered with God,  and I knew pretty much what was going on and could chime in English at appropriate moments.  The sermon was preached with enthusiasm, but except for hearing Mary and Martha mentioned,  I hadn’t a clue. 

    After worship, we walked around the corner for cappacinos and a light lunch at our favorite local coffee spot, Reykjavik Roasters. 

    It was a good morning. 

    Between crucifixion and resurrection 


    Yesterday I stopped. Stopping allowed some time for feelings to rise about flooding–my own and the many, many more from places near and far.  The smaller sadness of my heart being broadened and deepened by the greater sadness of my neighbors flooded throughout our world. 

    Recently I’ve thought of the words of a friend who flooded for the first time from Harvey.  My friend said that he had always loved the sound of waking to rain–but that quotidian joy had been destroyed by the new association of that sound and the feeling of stepping off his bottom steps into the waters of a flooded home. That’s what disasters and tragedies can do–take something we love and pair it with something painful. 


    I experienced that on my trip. I love waterfalls, but on this trip to Iceland the sound of rushing waters has become connected with seeing the destruction of flood waters in my home. 

    When my friend wanted to go visit nearby waterfalls yesterday, I decided to stay in our lovely hotel and knit and tend to some flood matters in Houston. 


    Later that afternoon when the sun had come out, I asked my friend if she wanted to return to the waterfalls and take me with her. Of course she did–she’s that kind of friend. 


    As we approached the stunning beauty of the falls,  I could feel my heart and soul fill with sadness at the same time my eyes were filled with the extravagant view of waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. Pain and strength and healing all at once. 


    As we drove back to our hotel, we spotted a lovely church just off the road. It was in the midst of an installation by a local artist whose sculptures are worked in the local rock. 


    Inside this exquisite church, the altar, baptismal font, and lectern were all his creation. 


    Over the altar were two sculptures–one of a crucified Jesus and the other of a resurrected Christ. 

    This is where I stand. Between the suffering of Jesus and the light and joy of the resurrection.  It is the place I am, and it is holy. 


    Filled with the beauty of our very brief in miles road trip we returned to our hotel to dress for dinner. 

    As we waited and waited and then waited some more for dessert to be served, good conversation with laughter was enjoyed. Turns out, the chef really did have to bake my cake!  Halfway though enjoying it’s luciousness, we saw two photographers running through the lobby and outside the front door. Hurrying from our  table, leaving our food behind, we went outside to see the green swirl and dance of the Northern lights. 

    If the cake hadn’t needed time to bake, we’d have missed the lights. 

    The suffering Jesus. The resurrected Christ. 

    And the place in between.