Saturday, December 27, 2008

1 Christmas

Readings are here.

Not preaching this week but for me Robert Fulghum captures part of the meaning of the Prologue to John in his story of the boy with the mirror:
"Are there any questions?" an offer that comes at the end of college lectures and long meetings. Said when an audience is not only overdosed with information, but when there is no time left anyhow. At times like that you sure do have questions. Like, "Can we leave now?" and "What the hell was this meeting for?" and "Where can I get a drink?"
 The gesture is supposed to indicate openness on the part of the speaker, I suppose, but if in fact you do ask a question, both the speaker and the audience will give you drop-dead looks. And some fool - some earnest idiot - always asks. And the speaker always answers. By repeating most of what he has already said.
But if there is a little time left and there is a little silence left in response to the invitation, I usually ask the most important question of all: "What is the Meaning of Life?" You never know, somebody may have the answer, and I'd really hate to miss it because I was too socially inhibited to ask. But when I ask, it is usually taken as a kind of absurdist move - people laugh and nod and gather up their stuff and the meeting is dismissed on that ridiculous note.
Once, and only once, I asked that question and got a serious answer…

Papaderos rose from his chair at the back of the room and walked to the front, where he stood in the bright Greek sunlight of an open window and looked out… He turned. And made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"
 Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence.
"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.
 So. I asked.
"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?" 
The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go. 
Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.
 "I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.
 And what he said went like this:
 "When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
 "I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. 
"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.

As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light - truth, understanding, knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
 "I am a fragment of a mirror whose design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the black places in the hearts of men - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.

And something from Howard Thurman:
The Work of Christmas
by Howard Thurman

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,

To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.

And what this season is all about:

Friday, December 26, 2008

On the feast of Stephen

Finally catching up on my Christmas sleep deficit. Daughter, SIL, and grandson left on Christmas eve afternoon to arrive by 5 p.m. for services in the log church at Eden. The snow and wind in some parts of the highway made it difficult to see the road in some parts. After a stop in the "saloon" across the highway for nature needs, we had a fun time singing carols to the old pump organ. Grandson played Good King Wenceslas for the offertory.
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Two of the women who were there were born near the church in a log cabin. Their father had helped build the church.

After some spiced cider and several cookies we headed for Rock Springs. Clear roads and the Senior Warden's warm house welcomed us. SIL made mac and cheese to sustain us through the rest of the evening. Carols began at 10:30 p.m. and service at 11. Grandson reprised GKW. The most fun for me was having grandson and daughter acolyting for the service. All dressed in red cassocks and white surplice - they did a great job - daughter had not acolyted for 20 years - g-son - never.

We had a nice crowd - many people I had never seen before - so that was lovely. In the morning 2 of us did Christmas Day service and then back in the car for the drive home. Roads much better tho it was snowing - no wind. Arrived in time to do the opening of the presents. Then after a nap I made gravy and we ate a delicious dinner cooked mainly by our DIL -- who stayed home slaving over the hot stove and oven to feed us. It was a great Christmas gift to me not having to think about cooking when knee deep in Christmas services.

Now it is the day after - kids watching the Grinch (who was featured in my sermon!) along with Superman.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent IV more

As usual the sermon went its own way. God cannot be contained. God tells David I cannot be contained in a house - no matter how beautiful. I am the God of the tents - I live with the people - I am wherever they gather. I will surprise you with my appearance. I can go wherever I wish - be born from a virgin's womb, born a helpless infant and not a mighty warrior, show up where you least expect me. Trevor Huddleston, a white priest in South Africa tipped his hat to a black mother. Desmond Tutu saw his mother being treated as an equal and it changed his whole understanding of his place in the world. Willie Misner, was accepted into art school but then rejected when they discovered she was a woman. She continued her art and gave her gift to others - as we see in the creche in this very church. Many of the figures were made by the children with her help - but this one young girl reflect the joy of a young woman in her acceptance of the gift of Christ born in our midst. Willie took her gift and shared her gift that others might discover their gifts. Trevor Huddleston, in a small gesture of respect - gave a gift from his understanding of the gift of God in Christ. (see previous post)

Today I read about a musical group, Lost and Found Orchestra Bishop Alan Wilson writes about it:
No conventional instruments are involved. An orchestra of 50 (plus choir of 40) produce a riot of co-ordinated, elaboate, messy joy. The instruments are made from a variety of items off a skip (US - Dumpster), including parking cones, saws, crutches, shopping trolleys, rubber hosing and IV Drip stands. There’s dance involved, and presentation is as important as the sound. It’s a whole composite deal, where everyone is someone. It alll sounds a bit like Adiemus, but crazier. To get the best of it, you do have to be there — no mere film can do it justice.

I think we learned something last night —
It’s amazing what you can find in the things people trash — there is music hidden away in everything, waiting for people with the imagination and commitment to release it together.

Anthony de Mello tells us:
Finally I recall the song the angels sang
when Christ was born.
They sang of the peace and joy
that give God glory.
Have I ever heard the song the angels sang when I was born ? ...
I see with joy what has been done through me
to make the world a better place...
and I join those angels
in the song they sang
to celebrate my birth.

Can you hear the song the angels sang at your birth?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent IV

Readings are here.

Mary is the focus of today's readings. We said together the Magnificat - her song about this event that turns the world upside down. A baby's birth that changes the whole world forever.

The reading from 2 Samuel is set up as a conversation between David and God. David has accomplished many things. He has set up a might kingdom. He wants to build a house for God. God seems to laugh at the idea that a human can build a house to contain the presence of God. God says: "Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"

God is the God of the tents - God who moves in the midst of the people - God cannot be contained is a building made by people. The whole universe is not big enough to contain the presence of God. "No," God says. "I am the one who does the building of holy places."

God creates the universe and yet builds a home in our hearts. And in the story of Mary makes a home in the womb of a young woman - a teenage girl. It is all so mysterious and wild - the revelation - just like God to surprise us in this way.

Saly Boyd - a priest in Wright, Wyoming, send me this poem that reflects some of this mystery:

Mary’s Song (A Poem by Luci Shaw)
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest …
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves' voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

Each of us is called to be open to the birth of God within us. To be open to the Holy Spirit making a home in our hearts. Really when each of was born we made this world a place it never was before. Jesus' birth brought changes that echo through the centuries and continues to change hearts and transform lives. But each of us too changed the world just be being here.

Trevor Huddleston, a priest in South Africa who inspired Bishop Tutu, says: “God himself has entered this world, has been ‘enfleshed’ in our common humanity and has therefore given to every person an infinite and changeless dignity.”

Anthony de Mello writes:
The events of history were controlled
for my coming to this world
no less than for the coming of the Savior.
The time had to be ripe ...
the place just right...
the circumstances ready ...
before I could be born
God chose the parents of his Son
and endowed them with the personality they needed
for the Child that would be born,
1 speak to God about the man and woman that he chose
to be my parents...
until 1 see that they had to be
the kind of human beings they were
if I was to become
what God meant me to be.
The Christ child comes, like every other child,
to give the world a message.
What message have I come to give? ...
I seek guidance from the Lord to express it
in award...
or image...
Christ comes into this world
to walk a certain path,
fulfill a certain destiny.
He consciously fulfilled what had been "written "for him.
As 1 look back I see in wonder what was "written "
and has thus far been fulfilled in my own life...
and for each part ofthat script,
however small
I say, "Thanks"...
to make it holy with my gratitude.
I look with expectation and surrender
at all that is to come...
and, like the Christ,
I say, "Yes, Let it be done"...
Finally I recall the song the angels sang
when Christ was born.
They sang of the peace and joy
that give God glory.
Have I ever heard the song the angels sang when I was born ? ...
I see with joy what has been done through me
to make the world a better place...
and I join those angels
in the song they sang
to celebrate my birth.

What is that song that is your life? How are you singing it? Who else is humming along with you? Listen.

Icon by Laurie Gudim at Everyday Mysteries.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent III

Readings are here.

One of the things I do as I think about preaching is to read the texts early in the week and underline the fragments that stand out for me. As the week proceeds things turn up that seem to speak to those bits. The piece that stuck in my mind this week is Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He writes that to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. Praying without ceasing I can imagine from the traditions of Christianity that tell us to make our lives a prayer. Celtic Christianity offers prayers for every waking moment – prayers while milking cattle, prayers for walking, prayers for preparing food for meals, prayers for mopping the floor as well as grand prayers of the creation and God’s love for us. Monastic traditions balance prayer of work and prayer gathered in community. Like breathing, prayer is done as we go out and as we return, scattered and gathered, sown and reaped.

The psalmist sings of this cycle in terms of loss and renewal. Tears of great sadness and songs of joy are intertwined in lives fully lived. Giving our selves to fully living and loving is opening our selves to wounding but also for receiving incredible gifts.

Praying without ceasing opens us to seeing the holiness shining through every moment not matter how mundane. Paul’s “rejoice always” is more difficult for me – but perhaps it is the result of the praying without ceasing. When we see the holiness in every moment we can rejoice even though grief and pain are a present reality. It does not take away the grief or the pain but gives us a place to lean into God when life feels very unsteady. Not easy to pull off, though. Isaiah, in our reading from Hebrew Scriptures and John the Baptist, in our Gospel, both lived in hard times yet stayed focused on that which really matters.

Imagine a time when a people are oppressed by foreign powers; imprisoned and heartbroken, feeling hopeless. Or maybe if you watch the news it is not too hard to imagine, as it is reality in many parts of the world. This is the world into which Isaiah speaks:
The spirit of the Yahweh is upon me
because Yahweh has anointed me
God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed
bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim liberty to the captives
to release the prisoners
to proclaim the year of the God’s favor
to comfort all who mourn

The people of Israel have lost everything, their place of worship destroyed, their leaders made captives, their land taken by others, their wealth gone. And yet Isaiah comes preaching hope in the midst of despair.

John the Baptist also lives in time when a foreign power holds the country captive, taxing unmercifully, co-opting religious leaders with promises of calm and safety, to maintain the empire. Many are living in poverty or eking out a living from a few sheep and a little land. He preaches a message that hope is coming and has come into the world and is embodied, incarnated in One who is in their very midst, that the light is shining even in the darkest moments of our lives.

Neither Paul, nor Isaiah, nor John preaches of a false happiness but of the deep joy that carries us through good times and bad times.

Jesus promises that if we take on his way of living we can cast off our heavy burdens imposed by culture, by our fears, by our own actions. When we yoke with him – the burden will be transformed into an ease and lightness. On Wednesday I was listening to a daily podcast from Pray as you go. As is the way of serendipity or the Spirit – the message was if we feel joyless and overburdened by our life and work, especially our supposed work for God, perhaps it is because we have taken on something that is not really from God. Perhaps it is not what God is asking of us at all. The mark of God’s call to us is a sense of deep joy in our life and work. It is not a promise of a painfree easy life but it is a promise of peace in the midst of conflict, joy in sadness, and tranquility in crisis. We live in perilous times - although Wyoming often runs opposite to the national economy - many of us are feeling the effects of fear for the future if not right now. Care and Share Food Bank has had more people show up for food than ever - so we are not immune. Staying centered in God will not save us from everything but it will help us to see what is really important and what is not.

Our collect (prayer) for today, the 3rd Sunday of Advent is for Jesus to stir up power and come among us or another way of saying it is "give us the power to see you in our midst and give us the energy to follow you." Sin is the inability to see clearly what God would have us do, the inability to see neighbor as self, to see the creation as God would have it be. Following the way of Christ allows us to see how we are to be in this world and what we are to do or not do. It allows us to let go of our fears. Praying without ceasing is a way of taking off the blinders and being able to rejoice always.

Ted Loder says it this way:

Hidden God, wherever you are, in your own kind of space,
we watch and wait for you to startle us to wakeful
newness in this Advent season.
Come and thrust into us the spirit of daring and courage,
to make flesh on earth a bit of the kingdom of heaven.
Come and lift up the valleys
of our discouragement and doubt and denial
and make level the mountains of our greed and pride,
so we may see your glory revealed once more
in us and in all our brothers and sisters
from the shepherd least to the magi lofty.
Come lace our songs, our shopping, our celebrations
with your mystery and strange magnificence,
and let us sense it in the small, strange stirrings
of the earth and of our hearts, now and always.

Ted Loder, _My Heart in My Mouth

Sunday, November 30, 2008

things I have done and left undone...

Padre Mickey, Fran and Caminante played on their blog. The things I have done are in bold.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band --Does an orchestra count?
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world --been to both
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset --both - many times.
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors --both Norway and Scotland
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language --does taking a class cancel this out?
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke ---and hope I never do!!
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt --take all our visitors there.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain --if you lived in Oregon you would never kiss if not in th rain!
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie --a professional video anyway
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies --well really Camp Fire mints.
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving - did ride in a stunt plane
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - did see the holocaust museum in DC.
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job -- always quit first!
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Advent - yes! Updated - more calendars

And here are some more ideas:
ABC on Advent video here.

The Church of England has an Advent Calendar to assist with contemplation of the season here.

Trinity Wall Street offers a calendar here.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC) here.

Download to your iPod Advent08 at iTunes.

BBC Advent Calendar

H/T to Eileen and Episcopal Cafe.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mixing and stirring

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five meme is the Mix and Stir - since we will probably be on our own for Thanksgiving I am looking forward to not cooking - but give it a try and send your link. Fun stories of Thanksgiving - one year the whole family was at our beach house and we were cooking up Thanksgiving Dinner. About half way through the turkey roasting, our power went out. I said, "oh that's okay, we can use the microwave" - the kids looked at me like I had lost my mind - duh - a microwave need electricity! The power did not come on for several hours but the turkey was cooked and juicy from roasting in the heat of the closed oven and wrapped in foil.
1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?
Yes, I have a Cuisinart Food Processor. When I need it, I love it. Shredding large amounts of cheese is one of the uses I find handy.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)
Mostly use the shredding blade and the mixing knife blade thing.

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?
I have a standing mixer - heavy duty - great for mashing potatoes. Also have the hand held - for quick stuff or whipping cream once a year!

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?
Don't use the blender - gave it away. Use the Cuisinart if I need to blend stuff.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?
My grandmother's old cooking fork with a wooden handle, about the size of a regular fork - just right for scrambling eggs, sauteing and stirring, testing veggies for the just right stage for eating - not too soggy not too raw. I can almost feel her presence as I use the fork.

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?
The oven - now ours is broken so won't be using it at all!!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

...and now you can have a puppy

President-elect Barack Obama's full acceptance speech in 2 parts - best line - now you can have the puppy I promised - to his daughter.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Congratulations to all who worked so hard to make this day happen! Prayers for our country and all the leadership.

Reflection for elections

For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

At last silence
from the incessant
political ads
Now I wait
my rock.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What to wear to weddings - updated

Readings for Sunday October 12 are here.

Isaiah writes:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow,
of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,

This seems a precursor of the wedding banquet we hear about in the Gospel but this version in Matthew is very troubling. It is not the Jesus we like - not the inviting presence who continually seeks us even though we turn our backs on him over and over. What can this mean - all this talk of murdering and casting those without proper garments out to weep and gnash their teeth?

The context of this passage sheds a little light on what Matthew may be trying to convey to us. The setting is the last week of Jesus' life. He has been proclaimed as the long awaited Messiah at his entry into Jerusalem riding on the donkey, with palms and shouts accompanying his procession. Next he casts out the moneychangers in the temple. On his way he curses a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season. Just before today's parable Jesus tells of the stewards of the vineyard who kill the son so they might take over the land. Now we hear:
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, `Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

The Gospel continues in this way until Jesus dies on the cross. It is unrelenting in its march through stories of separation and judgment.

Matthew writes at a time when the church was beginning to take shape and in some places was experiencing persecution. It is often regarded a "manual" for church leadership. When hearing these stories Matthew is often speaking to the church and the issues facing it, using temple leaders and stewards of the land as code for any leader that falls away from his or her vows to God. Examples tell of leaders who abandon their responsibilities to the community to make personal gain, those who think they are okay no matter how they act because they think they are the "in-crowd," who kill the messenger who tells the truth of their behavior, who worship things more than God, who abuse those who look to them for truth and hope, those who are in the outer darkness even when they think they are doing God's will. The same issues we face today as we struggle to be God's people here in Rock Springs, Wyoming or wherever we find ourselves.

The wedding banquet is the ongoing invitation of God to live in the kindom of God here and now - it is not about the afterlife for the most part. The banquet is open to all but accepting the invitation is also accepting a Way of life. The man without the proper wedding garment has accepted the invitation but does not accept the fullness of the banquet. He is there but not fully. This is the journey of us all.

At first we may hear of God's offer but find other things to do that seem more important. When we realize we are in the place of weeping and saying to ourselves that we have somehow missed the point of life's meaning - we go back to the table. Even then we stray from what we know to be true and have to return again and again. All the people in the parable are us - at different points along the way. We find ourselves off the path, our lives seem like death and desolation - but then we catch hold of our invitation and return to fullness of life.

Paul in the letter to the Philippians offers a prayer for us as we seek our way back to the dream of Isaiah where all our tears are wiped away:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Well - I did not preach this sermon - emailed it to the church - too bad I could not email myself. Roads were closed with many feet of snow and blowing and drifting on the pass. I did have the thought that perhaps why the Cubs lost was because they did not have the right wedding garments!!

Painting by James B. Janknegt

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oh the places you'll see....

Last spring, our daughter called to say we should take a trip to Scotland together. Scotland is the birthplace of my maternal grandmother. We had gone to Norway a few years ago to see the birthplace of my father so it only seemed right to balance our family tree. She bought the airline tickets and left the itinerary to me. I planned our pilgrimage by thinking of people and places I wanted to see. Now we are home and our ions are beginning to coalesce in one place I am surprised by the depth of the experience and the sense of the Spirit that I encountered and which lingers.

We began in Torquay on the south coast of England, the “English Riviera.” Staying with friends whose guest room overlooks the sea, we spent a few nights getting into the time zone and seeing the sights of the area. Little did I know how Victorian churches were decorated on the inside: a wild cacophony of striped pillars, painted ceilings, and bright colors. Every inch of St. Luke's is covered with images or designs.
After a fire, the ceiling was repainted and Sputnik was included. Around the font a scene of ponies and farm animals had been added. Traveling further out to the moors we crossed the river Dart – hence Dartmouth, Dartmoor, Dartmeet. (duh).

At Exeter (on the river Ex) Richard Hooker’s statue dominates the churchyard and town square as his writings dominate Anglicanism.

Noting the current economic news, the trip to Alyth, Scotland was reassuring in an odd way. Alyth was the town where my grandmother was born. People told us that it was not much changed on the main street and millworkers cottages where she lived until she was about 14 years of age. The closing of the mills to centralize weaving into the larger cities seems to be the impetus for their emigration. Her mother was a power loom weaver and her father was a slater (roofing with slate). The roof over their heads was dependent on working for the mill owner. No mill, no job, no home. It puts modern life in perspective. At church on Sunday one of the hymns was one that was sung at my ordination – serendipity or Spirit?

From nostalgia touring we went to the Island of Iona, home of Columba and Celtic Christianity. More smashing of icons of the mind as we learned that Columba banished all the women to the Isle of Women – nearby but off “his” island. So much for inclusion in that branch of Christianity! Throughout the trip we noticed the merging of old and new in religion, however. For instance, in the wall of the convent built in 1200 is a Sheila na gig.

When the walls were covered perhaps it was not as noticeable but now as the weather takes its toll it is clearly there. I wonder if it was a gift or a joke for the nuns from those who built the building?

Fingal’s Cave was a wondrous as Mendelssohn’s overture portrays it as we discovered on a boat trip to the Isle of Staffa. Towering columns of hexagonally formed basalt from ancient lava flows form the walls and roof.

From ancient Christianity off the coast of Scotland we traveled to Chester Cathedral to see a modern sculpture of the Woman at the Well and Jesus.

I had caught a glimpse of it on the internet and it was in my heart to see it in real time and not just virtually. It is more than amazing. The artist captures the longing of God and humankind for intimacy with one another. As we entered the cathedral once again the same hymn from my ordination was heard as the choir practiced for Sunday. It is not an old chestnut so I have to wonder at hearing it twice in one week, once in a united Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational church and once in an Anglican cathedral. Is it a message from the Spirit or just chance encounter?

It was a trip like that – things just turned up as we journeyed together – mother and daughter. We connected with sites and sights, our history, old friends, a cousin, and new friends until now only known on a blog or listserve. We made reservations for a bed each night – usually staying at least 2 nights or more but did not overplan our days. We left time for the Spirit to appear, whether in the opportunity to see a concert by a well known folk duo or cream tea with a cousin in the Kensington Gardens' Orangery. And we learned if you have to sleep in the same bed with someone who not your usual sleep partner – order two duvets!!!

Slide show of a few photos here.

H/T to Episcopal Cafe where this was first published.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Home on the range

Ever wonder whether life in Wyoming might be dull? The Casper Star Tribune reports on a little excitement in Casper. We had a Mountain Lion who came to visit our neighbors down the road. They had their dog food stored outside on the porch and the lion thought he had found a good place to hang out.

Don't tell a certain VP candidate!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman - dies at 83

Sad day for those of who are fans of Paul Newman.
Ten-time Oscar nominee Paul Newman, creator of iconic movie anti-heroes in "The Hustler," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," has died after a battle with cancer.
The 83-year-old screen legend with the piercing blue eyes died Friday at his farmhouse near Westport, Conn., said publicist Jeff Sanderson. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

Some of his movies are remembered here.

Missing those blue blue eyes. Rise in glory, Paul.

Slideshow here.

HT to Mad Priest.

Friday, September 26, 2008

An apple a day...

Today's Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals is all about apples in honor of Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman). Legend has it that he planted apple trees all over the country. Don't think he came to Wyoming but in the early days of settlement the University of Wyoming planted experimental apple orchards in many protected high mountain valleys. You can still find them when out hiking about.

We often use the Johnny Appleseed grace at camp. Listen and sing along here.

1. What is your favorite apple dish? (BIG BONUS points if you share the recipe.)

A slice of apple with a slice of a good cheddar and my iPod Touch!

2. Have you ever planted a tree? If so was there a special reason or occasion you can tell us about?

Yes, we planted just about every tree on our 4 acres. With our middle child in the backpack wearing a sunbonnet to protect him from the Wyoming sun, we planted trees from the Conservation service, they were all in a little bundle and now they are 20+ feet tall. My favorite tree planting story, though, is about an 80 year old friend who planted apple trees in her back yard. She was essentially blind and would not live many more years but it was her statement of hope for the future.

3. Does the idea of roaming around the countryside (preaching or otherwise) appeal to you? Why or why not?

I guess it appeals to me as that is what I do as a supply priest. See this reflection on my travels. Much of my blog reflects on this traveling.

4. Who is a favorite "historical legend" of yours?

Jane Addams: A real person who has taken on legendary status - co-founder of Hull House.

5. Johnny Appleseed was said to sing to keep up his spirits as he travelled the roads of the west. Do you have a song that comes when you are trying to be cheerful, or is there something else that you often do?

I recite Romans 8:38-39 "...nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus" or Isaiah 43:1b-3a "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior"


Here are photos from our trip to England and Scotland. More comments soon. Add your questions in the comments.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Here it is!

The long awaited photo of Mad Priest and Mrs. Mad Priest and dogs (okay you have seen the dogs before but they are even lovelier in "real" life).

More on our trip to the UK soon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

Just spent a week at the beach with the g-kids (ages 2 and 5 months) and their parents - our younger son and our daughter in law. Tomorrow our daughter and I leave for England and Scotland. We will visit friends in the south of England, then go to Alyth, the birthplace of my grandmother who emigrated to the US when she was 14. Following that we go to Iona for a few days and on to Chester where we stay in a library! St. Deiniols. Then back to London where we hope to catch up with a cousin who lives there and another friend. It is a leisurely trip - mostly staying several nights in one place with no real agenda. Just will see whatever crosses our path. We have train passes and will not be driving. More when I return - hope to get some photos to post.

When I get back - we will have our DC kids visiting with their 3 year old and 5 month old (only she will be 6 months old by then).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

XIII Pentecost

Readings are here.

At our Church Camp we had a sign by the swimming hole that said NO WALKING ON THE WATER. Thinking back on it now, maybe was there to remind us of the dangers of a natural swimming hole, the importance of checking on our "buddy," not to dive off the cliffs around the water, as there might be an unseen rock, and that we should use the mind and body God gave us to swim safely and watch out for one another. Now the camp just has a No Diving sign. Not quite as inspirational as the old sign.

Whenever I read this Gospel, I get the earworm, "Here Comes Jesus" by Sonny Salsbury, found in Songs.

Here comes Jesus, see him walking on the water,
He’ll lift you up, and he’ll help you to stand.
Here comes Jesus, he’s the
master of the waves that roll.
Here comes Jesus, he’ll make you whole.
Here comes Jesus, he’ll save your soul.

With that little tune running through my mind, each lesson has a bit that stands out for me.
In 1 Kings, the story of Elijah:
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

In Romans:
But the righteousness that comes from faith says, "Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or "Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart."

And of course the Gospel of Matthew with the story of Jesus, who goes off to be by himself and sends the disciples off in a boat. When he walks across the water to join them, seeing that they are "battered by the waves" and "the wind is against them," they are terrified. The blog OCICBW reflects on this passage as telling us about our life after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension.
In our reading today Jesus sends his disciples away because he needs to be away from them and they need to be away from him. This action alludes to the time when Jesus will leave them to be with his Father in heaven - when it will be up to the disciples, and those who will come after them, to continue the work of the Son.

This will be difficult and dangerous work. Their boat will be rocked by wind and storm. Many of them will die because of their commitment to the gospel. But, although Jesus is physically no longer with them in the tangible way he had been during his ministry on earth, in order to have the power to continue that ministry, the disciples have to know, that Jesus, in a very real way, is still with them. That when they are in their metaphorical boat being bashed by the waves that would destroy them, Jesus is walking beside them and will be there to pull them out of the metaphorical sea should they fall in. This story is about faith and love. Christ’s faith in us and love for us and the necessity of our faith in and love for God.

Putting this together with the other lessons, I think it also reminds us that our conception of God and how God will act are very limited. Elijah looks for a big production number and gets the still small voice. Paul has discovered that God is not out there, somewhere, delivered to us from on high or from the authorities (whoever they might be).

Jesus is not chiding us for our inability to walk on water, but our need for the spectacular, the miracle, to prove the existence of God. Stepping out in faith, waiting out the storms of life, rejoicing in life and love wherever we find it - these are the very near, on our lips and in our hearts, signs of faithful living.

Another hymn comes to mind:
Jesus calls us over the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”

As of old Saint Andrew heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”

Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Savior may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I should be sermon-ating but instead I am procrastinating by playing the Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals.

1. What is your sweetest summer memory from childhood? Did it involve watermelon or hand cranked ice cream? Or perhaps a teen summer romance. Which stands out for you?

Lying on the grass with my brothers at night in front of our house in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland. (think Beverly Cleary books) In those days, before light and other pollution, we could see the stars of summer. I felt like I could fall off the earth into the universe.

2. Describe your all time favorite piece of summer clothing. The one thing you could put on in the summer that would seem to insure a cooler, more excellent day.

Shorts and a white T shirt are my favorite summer wear. I would wear them under my alb if I did not have to take it off for coffee hour!!

3. What summer food fills your mouth with delight and whose flavor stays happily with you long after eaten?


4. Tell us about the summer vacation or holiday that holds your dearest memory.

Taking our kids to the Oregon coast every summer with no TV, days on the beach making sand castles, and jumping the waves.

5. Have you had any experience(s) this summer that has drawn you closer to God or perhaps shown you His wonder in a new way?

Writing essays for Episcopal Cafe, especially ones that are more reflective about life in Wyoming or hanging out with our grandchildren. I have one today (Friday) about a recent week with our nine year old grandson. Shameless self promotion!!

Bonus question: When it is really hot, humid and uncomfortable, what do you do to refresh and renew body and spirit?

It is so rarely humid in Wyoming unless a rainstorm blows in for a few moments, but if I were in Oregon - I would go to the coast where when it gets hot and humid inland, it gets foggy and cool at the beach - and I am headed there in a week!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shooting the Messenger

The Times has a blaring headline: US female bishop Catherine Roskam: male prelates 'beat up wives'. As reported in Lambeth Witness #7, Bishop Roskam said:
We have 700 men here. Do you think any of them beat their wives? Chances are they do. The most devout Christians beat their wives..., many of our bishops come from places where it is culturally accepted to beat your wife. In that regard, it makes the conversation quite difficult.

What she is saying is that statistically if you have a large group of men, some may beat their wives. As one reads the story in The Times it is clear that Roskam did not say what was written in the headline.

Bishops were quick to deny that they beat their wives, although no one accused them. In the United States, it is known that 1 in 4 women suffer abuse, so it is statistically likely that some of those who in inflict violence are bishops. In fact I know of two myself.

This is the classic "shoot the messenger" strategy. Figure it out, 650+ men, wives requesting separate seating during a session on gender violence, almost universal acceptance of wife beating around the world (check any women's shelter in the US), could it be possible?

For a report on domestic violence from Human Rights Watch, click here.

In a bit of synchronicity, here, today's news from All Africa:
Antananarivo-Brazzaville-Bujumbura-Geneva-Khartoum-Kinshasa-London-Lusaka-Nairobi-N’jamena, 31 July 2008. African Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to remember that gender-based violence is one of the most serious and widespread violations of the basic rights of women, particularly on the African continent. Gender discrimination is both one of the causes and an aggravating factor of the consequences of violence against women, thus contributing to the perpetuation of impunity of such cases.

The signatory organisations call on African States to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on women’s rights (the “Maputo Protocol”), harmonise national laws with international standards and take all necessary measures to fight against violence against women by tackling the general context of discrimination which encourages such violations and which perpetuates the marginalisation of women, particularly as regards their access to justice.

Recent reports by OMCT and its African counterparts on the status of women and violence against women in Africa:



Executive Summary



Democratic Republic of Congo



UPDATE: Bishop Nick Baines of Croydon commented in his blog:
I felt a bit sorry for the media people. They have built today up into the day the explosion would happen and the Anglican Communion would collapse in on itself under a weight of sexual tension. But it didn't and we didn't. Mind you, this might have been an appropriate and just reward to the Daily Telegraph for its scandalous, misrepresentative and deliberately sensationalist article about wife-beating by bishops. The American bishop who had been interviewed was horrified to see what the press had done and explained herself to the assembled bishops in the afternoon session. Welcome to the British media! She should sue the journalist concerned. And the journalist should ask whether this sort of story really satisfies any sense of professional integrity.

Mama brags

Our son on youtube - he is the one in the suit:

To see all the videos click here. Check out all of them but the Coffee one and the outtakes are especially funny. Our other son contributed ideas to them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

USA according to me

Poor blog has been neglected lately - I have not been preaching the last couple of weeks and the news from the Lambeth Conference is busy on Episcopal Cafe has been non-stop, especially since half our team is on vacation. So I saw this on our daughter's livejournal and thought I would post my version - I see I have four states left to visit.

visited 46 states (92%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Five - blogosphere

I have been busy with our visiting 9 year old grandson (better than a workout at the gym). Non-stop activity since last Sunday eve - he leaves tomorrow :-(
Also busy with all Lambeth all the time at Episcopal Cafe.

RevGalBlogPals has a Friday Five - play along if you wish:

So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?
"seashellseller" comes from the tongue twister - she sells seashells down by the seashore, and "what the tide brings in"comes from walking the beaches of Oregon picking up bits that drift in on the tides.

Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog?
Not really except that our family does not post the grandchildren's names or photos.

Any stories there?
some in sermons or things I find.

What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun?
Of Course I Could Be Wrong, Padre Mickey's Dance Party, Santos Woodcarving Popsicles

What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals blog of course!
OCICBW, Wounded Bird, Episcopal Cafe

Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?
Our daughter and her friends.

Bonus question: Have you ever met any of your blogging friends? Where are some of the places you've met these fun folks?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pentecost VIII

On the base of the Statue of Liberty are inscribed the words from the poem of Emma Lazarus written in 1883:
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!"

Random thoughts towards a sermon. Readings are here.

This week I am thinking about Rebecca. I spent some time looking for information on women in her day. I found this item.
It was probably in this period that women enjoyed greatest freedom and prestige. The stories in Genesis and Exodus showed them as independent and strong, smart and tough. They displayed leadership and initiative. They almost always got their way when they wanted something. Rebecca, for example, is clearly in charge of her own destiny, both in deciding on her own future, and in shaping the future of her clan.

This was probably because women were necessary for the survival of the tribe, and they knew it. They did a wide range of tasks, without which the clan or family simply could not have managed. They moved freely in society, and were not confined within the home. The Bible stories show that they spoke and acted confidently.
Their contribution to the culture of the time was significant. The stories as we have them in the Bible were edited much later by male priests, but there are hints that women had a thriving cultural tradition of their own. Many of their stories dealt with families, children, food supplies, security/safety and home-places. All were matters that related to women’s spheres of influence, and some scholars suggest that many of the stories of Genesis were originally women’s stories, preserved by women in the clan.

As well, women played an active role in religious matters. The concept of monotheism was just beginning to develop, but many women probably worshipped a fertility goddess, the Great Mother, source of plant, animal and human life. Ancient Near Eastern religions certainly had fertility of the soil and animal life as one of their main focuses, with priestesses who served the forces of Nature (the power of river and rain water, abundance of crops and animals, etc.)

The laws of Hammurabi, a famous law-maker and king of Babylonia, provide insights into the lives of women in this period. There were laws to

protect the rights of women in marriage
protect women against rape
define the punishment for adultery
define the just treatment of women who were slaves
regulate the behaviour of sacred women who served in the temples
lay down conditions for divorce, etc.
Another source of information about women and their lives was provided by love poems and lullabies of this period.

Rebecca is clearly a woman who takes her destiny into her own hands. She chooses Isaac and from the text she is is only wife, unusual in those days. She decides that Jacob will be the better leader than Esau, although Esau is the elder brother. She tricks her dying husband to make it possible for Jacob to become first in line. We might think, wow, how can the Bible hold her up as someone to be remembered and honored with her own story? Was God behind all this or is it happy accident or is there a message about making things come into being by nefarious means? Things I think about when reading the stories of the heroes of the Bible. They all seem to be flawed.

This it the weekend we celebrate the founding of the U.S. - certainly we have had some flawed leaders in our history - yet we celebrate the freedom and system of government that has developed. We pledge to defend and protect and extend those freedoms to others. There are always those who say we have to keep it for ourselves - don't let any more in or give any more freedom to others. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said - the arc of heaven bends towards justice - so the tide of freedom rolls on.

Jesus in the Gospel for today finds the religious leaders trying to protect God by many burdensome laws. People chide him for eating with all sorts of people. They compare him to John who was strict in his religious duties. Of course they did not like John either - too strict.

Andrew Greeley, a Roman Catholic priest and author, tells this joke:
There was some discussion in the Vatican about ordaining a woman priest—in Ireland, b/c they've been running things for 3000 years anyway. They sent her to the edge of County Mayo—so far out that the next parish was in Long Island. She bonded with all the womenfolk, but for the men, it was a bit of a strain. So one comes out and says, would ya like to come out in the fishin' boat tomorrow. It was a glorious day—they have them occasionally in Ireland. She got into the boat and the lads, in they forgot the boat, so she walks on water to get it and says, now get on with your fishin'. And he turns to his friend and says, they send a woman priest out to a fishing parish and she can't even swim.

That seems to be the dilemma that Jesus has. He breaks through it in his usual way of turning the world upside down. He quotes from Wisdom, that it is deeds that show the ways of God's world. There is an easier way - walk with Jesus, follow him, open the doors wide, feast with all who wish to feast. Let God be the host - we are the servers at the table - waiters and waitresses - who pass out the bread of life and wine of the Spirit. The yoke of this service is light and easy.

Bishop Tutu says - who knows what can happen when we sit down at table with one another. There is no limit to the possibilities.

Wendell Berry writes:
We Who Prayed and Wept

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Those who will not learn
in plenty to keep their place
must learn it by their need
when they have had their way
and the fields spurn their seed.
We have failed Thy grace.
Lord, I flinch and pray,
send Thy necessity.

P. 211 in Collected Poems: 1957-1982

It's all about me!

HT to Doug and Grandmere Mimi.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Books - Friday Five

RevGalBlogPals has a reading meme this week:

1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?

Not so much - long summer days full of light and outside activities don't leave much time for reading. Winter with its short days and a nice fire are better for reading. Mostly I "read" while driving to church on Sunday - books on CD or tape -- 2 hours there and 2 hours back give lots of time for a book. Harry Potter was great on CD as was the Philip Pullman series.

2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?

Not since I got a terrible sunburn doing that!

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?

I loved reading as a child - Anne of Green Gables, all sorts of book series, mostly I hated it that our library had books divided into "boys books" and "girls books" - it was always a challenge to me to take a book off the boys shelf and check it out.

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?

Mysteries, mysteries, mysteries! Reading a new Marcia Muller now (on tape!)

5) What is the next book on your reading list?

Whatever I can find for my flight to Nashville - probably a mystery. I have a bunch of "serious" reading to do but they sit in piles around the house. I do want to read the Manga Bible though - it is in my bag to take along..

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Holy ground in cyberspace

Many of you already know much of what is in my latest essay on Episcopal Cafe from your own online experiences. I write today on how EfM Online has been working and building community around the world. Students from South Africa, Korea and other places tell of how it has made them feel more connected to one another while taking their journeys in faith.

Read it here

Thursday, June 19, 2008


What every blogger needs!

HT to Grandmere Mimi

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Five - surf's up!

RevGalBlogPals had an irresistable, to me, Friday Five. I love the beach - the northern Oregon coast is my psychic home - my home of the heart. Here are the questions if you want to play.

1. Ocean rocks, lake limps? Vice versa? Or "it's all beautiful in its own way"?
The basalt headlands and sea stacks are breathtaking. Haystack Rock is a favorite.

2. Year round beach living: Heaven...or the Other Place?
Heaven except for the winter rain, rain, rain.

3. Any beach plans for this summer?
Definitely - a beach run - only 1000 miles from here

4. Best beach memory ever?
Hard to pick one. Playing with our kids when they were small, sandcastles and a complete map of the coast of Washington and Oregon with our oldest grandchild, one of the kids saying "who put all this sand here for me?" Church camp at Gearhart in High School where I discovered church was more than Sunday services.

5. Fantasy beach trip?
Don't need fantasy - have been to the best - Cannon Beach, the beach in Puerto Rico at full moon, and the beach in Tanzania at Oyster Bay. This summer I go to the beach in the south of England and to Iona.

Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what the beach means to you.
Any song from Missa Gaia.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

IV Pentecost - more

As I was driving to Rock Springs I was listening to NPR - Sunday Weekend Edition - and the broadcast of this week's This I Believe really resonated with what I ended up saying in my sermon. Read it here.

Colin Bates is a resident service assistant for people with mental disabilities and a student at Pennsylvania State University. He's finishing a degree in English and will pursue a MFA in creative writing. He lives in Bellefonte, Pa., with his cat, Cleo.

Most of my friends have recently graduated from college. Every so often, one will call me up to grumble about their new job, telling me how underappreciated they feel, or how they're not achieving the success they wanted. I enjoy listening to them. I think that's what friends are for. But it also gives me perspective on my own work.

I work with two developmentally disabled men, my bosses essentially, who each have profound mental retardation. They're loud without being able to speak. They're violent without understanding the consequences. They can't bathe themselves. They can't cook or work a job. Their behaviors range from catatonic to aggressive.

As a resident service assistant, I go to where these men live and help them in everything they do — bathing, dressing, cooking, feeding, cleaning, going to the bathroom — from the moment they wake until they go to bed. It pays nine bucks an hour.

Underappreciated? Try having your hair ripped out while changing a diaper. Try having the meal you've prepared thrown at you. Try being spit on.

The funny thing is, I love my job. I do. I know I'm young and still have a lot to learn, but here it is: I believe in helplessness, which is to say I believe we need other humans.

It isn't enough to be what our society has dubbed as successful. What we really need are others around us engaging, nurturing, listening and willing to sacrifice their time and agendas. I don't care if you're the CEO of a multibillion-dollar company or a single mother with five kids. Nobody is completely self-sufficient and so, in that way, we are all helpless. We're helpless unto each other.

The cool thing about the guys I work for is that they make their needs explicit. Things that take seconds for most of us, like changing socks, can take hours for them, but their vulnerability isn't a handicap so much as an example. Being with them, encouraging them — "Yes, the socks are on! The socks are off!" — puts things into perspective.

Most of the people I know are embarrassed by what they can't do. They see it as a sign of weakness and consequently walk around with burdened hearts. For my generation, the notion that success equals fulfillment has been pounded into our brains as if it were the truth. My generation is being told that if you can't do something alone, if you're not smart enough or capable enough, then you've failed.

So far, the turning points in my life have not been the times I succeeded at something, but the times I've whispered, "I'm lost," or, "Help me," or, "I need a friend." In becoming helpless, I've allowed myself to be shaped and supported by those who love me — which makes helplessness a gift.

And I have my bosses to thank for it. We've discovered the joy of helping and being helped. I believe sometimes our vulnerability is our strength.

Independently produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

IV Pentecost

Readings are here.

Jesus is having dinner with the disciples and the usual suspects - sinners and tax collectors. Sinners were those who could not live up to the strict religious laws of the time. Those who could not keep from being "unclean" according to the rules of their religion. This would include any who came into contact with outsiders, blood, death, or who did not live up to the purity laws of the day. If you had a stall in the market place, or worked in a job where you touched unclean things - you were considered a sinner. Only the very wealthy had the leisure and ability to stay "clean." Tax collectors worked for the hated Romans - making their money by collecting taxes and adding on their "salary." It is really quite astounding for a person like Jesus to be eating dinner with such a motley crew. It is as if the most popular group in a social setting chose to hang out with the least popular. It is like when those with power and privilege - give it away to those without, taking second place or lower.

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew goes on with even more surprises. A member of the religious establishment comes into this mix to ask for help for his daughter. What love he must have for his daughter - to risk his position and status in the community for a girl child. Jesus does not question his presence or his request but jumps up to respond. On the way to the man's house, a woman- perhaps emboldened by the actions of Jesus, risks all to touch the fringe on his cloak.

As Jesus arrives at the house the crowd laughs at him for thinking he can save the dead girl. He breaks through that wall of laughter - and reaches out his hand to the girl. Over and over Jesus breaks through the religious and societal rules to bring healing to those who reach out to him.

These readings speak to those of us who feel unworthy because of the circumstances of our lives -- there is nothing (as it says in Romans 8) that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God has broken through all the walls of our lives in Christ. There is no longer a payment system - where we must do something to obtain this mercy and healing. The Psalm tells us this, Abraham and Sarah tell us this. Each proclaims and trusts in the promises of life even in the face of enemies or old age. No matter what we have done or not done - the door is always open to God.

In response we are called, as the Body of Christ, to also be open to others who come into our lives. Healing of the world will come through these actions.

Picture from the catacombs.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Visitation

Mary and Elizabeth Icon by Laurie Gudim

Monday, May 26, 2008


Remembering on Memorial Day - 4082

HT to Bruce in Portland.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Readings are here.

I read in the news that once more we are suffering "compassion fatigue" or perhaps the US economy and worries about gas prices are tightening our generosity impulses. But what if we suddenly found everything swept away and we were totally dependent on neighbors around the world? What if our own government, like the government of Myanmar, was controlling most avenues of assistance? How would we cope? How would we hear the words of Jesus from our gospel today?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith?

Would we say - oh right, sure Jesus - easy for you to say with all those women providing for you along the way so you and your disciples can go on walkabout.
Yet - it was those who were barely making it through each day - who are the ones Jesus is talking with. Jesus talks about money and wealth more frequently than any topic except prayer. His concern is that we become so fearful about our money and things that we fall into loving things and using people instead of loving people and using things.

Jesus offers a variety of views about money, not all are about giving everything away but all are concerned about our anxiety and tendency to live in a scarcity model of being. In the parables, Jesus does not condemn wealth but he does condemn greed. The rich fool stores everything away and then loses it in a moment of bad luck. the unjust steward does not treat those under his control with the same justice as he is granted by his employer. In the story of the rich man and the poor man - Lazurus - it is the lack of concern by the rich man for the poor man outside his door. In the great judgment scene in the Gospel of Matthew, it is those who give material aid those who are sick, naked, in prison, or hungry who are blessed. And although he tells the rich young man to sell all he has and give it to the poor, in the story of Zaccheus - the tax collector is praised for repenting of his greed and giving only half away. The Gospel of Luke tells that good stewards are the ones who invest wisely and make money. The diversity of sayings from Jesus shows that Christians are called to reflect on the gifts we have been given and evaluate our use of them.

One core of Jesus' teaching is that in community we do not have to fear and hoard. Comes around, goes around is a way of life. When I am down - you help me up, when you are down, I reach out a hand.

Recently in Basin, Wyoming, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church showed how this can be done. A family's mother and daughter were in a terrible car wreck. The mother died and the daughter severely injured. A short time later the family house burned to the ground taking everything in the fire. Although several members of the extended family and their families were living there due to job losses and other events - no one was injured. But they were left destitute with only the clothes they were wearing. St. Andrew's and the community rallied to help them. A fund was set up at the local bank, a house was given to the family for shelter, food, clothing and groceries poured in. There is still the grief of loss of life and goods but the love shown by all through these gifts will carry them through the days to come.

Now what happens in a place like Myanmar where the whole community was devastated by a cyclone and the aftermath of flooding and loss of life? Where the government is not helping its own people? Where is the community when everyone is in the same condition? This is when the church can also be community for one another. After Hurricane Katrina, and the tsunami in South Asia and the earthquakes in Pakistan, Episcopalians came forth with amazing generosity and already Episcopal Relief and Development is working with partner churches in Myanmar to help with emergency needs. Although the government until this weekend was blocking aid from the US - ERD was able to work through Anglican churches in the region to get tents, blankets, fresh water, building supplies, medical care and other needed items in through trusted sources in the Anglican Communion. We, then are the neighbor in whom they are entrusting their hope.

You might say - but they are mostly Buddhists or Muslims - our church there is so small and our presence so tiny. When someone asked the Christians in Pakistan why they were helping all those "others" - they looked dumbfounded - and said - that is what Jesus teaches us. We are here as a witness to the love of God in Christ - it is not what we get in return, or that we are often persecuted for our faith, it is about showing what we believe. And so it is that we witness our faith through our gifts around the world. Somedays I think - will it never end - all these needs - I feel like the Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar with all the lepers clinging to him - "heal me, touch me, help me" they chant. And the truth is it will never end - Jesus was right - the poor with always be with us - but it is not just a poor person - it is a moving target - someday it might be me or you - as you know from when the terrible fires stopped short of destroying homes in the Green Knoll Fire.

So, there are two messages in this sermon (which my homiletics professor would tell me is a real no-no!!) One is about the inserts in your bulletin and doing whatever you can to assist Episcopal Relief and Development in this current crisis in Myanmar. The second and long term point is about the evaluation of our wealth and material goods in terms of Jesus call to worship God and not money. When we worship money and things we become fearful and anxious, when we put it in its proper place we are freed from fear and anxiety. We can consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and live in the present moment. We can plan and provide for ourselves and our families but without the tight grip of fear -- we can hear the words of Jesus saying:

"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." And we can rejoice in the beauty in this day - which may be the only one we have.

UPDATE from our diocesan listserve:
Dear Friends,

I just signed a check for over $8,000 to be sent to the Durney family in Basin. Once again our diocesan family has made me proud. God bless you all for your generosity.

Faithfully yours in Christ
Bruce Caldwell
Bishop of Wyoming

Jesus and money ideas from Mastering Mammon at Text Week.