Thursday, September 8, 2011

Prayer, Service: Sometimes all you can do...

I confess. I really do try to be the kind of person who waits faithfully and patiently on the Holy One. Really, I DO try (smiling at the incredulous noises from those who know me). But sometimes all I want to do is get in and fix a problem. Despite my grandmother's wisdom, patience is not one of my virtues.

When I hear about the child brides in Asia, I want to fly over and rescue them. I want to start a campaign to share our food with the starving in Africa--and, incidentally, get a plane to take it over. I want to wander the streets at night and take some hot soup to our homeless friends. I want a magic wand to cure cancer and poverty and abuse. I want all those good people who are trying to help each other not to have their hearts broken or their spirits broken, either.

But I can't. I can do little things that will help a little. And support those who are doing the big things.

Before, during and after the doing, sometimes all I can do is pray. Sometimes that's all anyone can do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prayer: Family Circle Prayer Time

Today we started what I hope will be a new daily routine for us: Family Circle Prayer Time. This idea came to me a few days ago when we went to Delia's Montessori Orientation and they spoke about the need for consistent routines for the child of 3-6 years of age. One of the many ways that this style of education incorporates that value is to have "circle time" at the beginning of every day. In this time, they greet one another, talk about what they will do today, check in with everyone and set an intention for the rest of the day.

So, I decided that it would be great to apply this model to our own family routine. We already have a well established prayer time at our meals and when Delia goes to bed, so this felt like a great way to continue that pattern. 

We start by creating the space and setting up a circle that we all sit in on the floor of our prayer room. The we light a candle and start our prayer time using the "Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families" form in the Book of Common Prayer. For the scripture reading we read a story from Delia's Children's Everyday Bible" which has a different one-page story for every day of the year. Then we add our own prayers for the day, our loved ones, and ourselves before we sit for a little silent prayer. We conclude with the Lord's Prayer and a collect also from the BCP. I already love this tradition and found it really helped us to set the right tone for our day.

Give it a  shot with you family! 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Prayer, Service: Touching God's Foot

During my sabbatical this summer, I had the great privilege of working
on some icons related to Transfiguration. In Fr. Peter Pearson’s classes, we
wrote an icon of the Transfigured Christ, one of the entire
Transfiguration scene, and a small one of Our Lady of Kazan.

Who says that you cannot touch God? The slow, methodical and
prayerful painting--more accurately the “writing”--of an icon allows
me to enter into the spirit of the holy person or holy scene being
painted. And it is astonishing to realize that my fingers touch the
foot of Jesus or the cheek of Mother Mary through the medium of paint.

Iconographers are fond of saying that in an icon, the light comes from
within, rather than being cast by an external source. Gazing at a
holy face, I sometimes feel that I am in shadow, and long for the
Uncreated Light to shine out on me.

As I continue to contemplate the profound mystery of the
Transfiguration, after having spent weeks with it, I am reminded yet
again that as Christians, we are also called to Transfiguration.
Tabor’s light may glow from the faces of the saints, but it is God’s
intention that it should shine out of ours as well. Part of
our vocation is a commitment to becoming One with Christ’s Light, and
offering ourselves as a channel for that Light to everyone around us.

In my humanity, I have many times when I am cranky, self-centered,
addicted to various things (work, lounging, fill in your own favorite
vice). But if the people with whom I live and work never see at least
a glimmer of Light in my life, I have to wonder about how well I am
fulfilling Christ’s command to carry the Gospel to the world.

The Feast of the Transfiguration calls us to reach out to God and to
set aside those things that shadow us from transfiguring Light. It
invites us once again to pray for the Divine Assistance in making the
changes we need to make, and not to resist God's work within us. And
it comes with the guarantee that some day we, too, will enter into the
joy of the Holy, following in Christ’s steps.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Prayer: Yoga Meditation

As you know from previous posts, I love to do yoga. I find it to be a great gateway to meditation and so I am always looking for new ways to practice it. I recently picked up Tara Stiles new yoga book and found her YouTube channel and her work inspired today's meditation. The question she posed for our guide today was, "If you are always running trying to get where you are going or escape your past, where are you right now?" So, after doing her routine for meditation, flexibility and relaxation, I held that question up in prayer. It was very fruitful and I left feeling like the "now" I am in is grace-filled and loving. Where are you right now? I would love to hear some answers to this one!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prayer: Color a Mandala

Today I needed a little centering, so I chose I new mandala pattern to color. It was very relaxing. Mandalas are a wonderful way to help turn off our busy minds and add colors to represent our prayers.  Here is the pattern I used:

The triangles reminded me of the Trinity. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Worship: Christmas in July!

Get ready for Christmas in July! We will be celebrating the joy of the
Incarnation this Sunday at the 9:30 service with all kinds of fun
festivities. Please bring your favorite Holiday cookies or snacks to share
at the coffee hour where we will be singing carols around the tree. Don't
forget to wear your Christmas finest and/or your tackiest Christmas sweater
for a "Christmas Clothing Contest!" The Joy of Christmas knows no season!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Prayer, Worship, Service: St. Benedict's Rule

On July 11, a number of Christian denominations will commemorate the feast day of St. Benedict of Nursia, often called "The Father of Western Monasticism". In his Rule, written in the mid-sixth century, St. Benedict describes a balanced way of life, dedicated to guiding a community to live in Christ. With its recommendations for work, prayer, study of Scripture, rest, and life together, Benedict seeks to create a school for God's service. In some ways, he might be the patron saint of this blog!

St. Benedict's Rule has been a model for many Western Christian monastic orders. But it also provides a wise foundation for any person's life in Christ. Or for a parish.

His sensible, and sensitive, approach to spirituality is more popular than ever. Keeping in mind that there are cultural differences between our world and the world of the 6th century, a reading of this tiny book, composed with a great number of quotes from Scripture, can help us structure our lives to "prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ. And may he bring us altogether into eternal life." (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 73)

Read more about The Rule at the Order of St. Benedict's bibliographic page on The Rule.

Sr. Joan Chittister has written an excellent book with a contemporary translation of The Rule, and some commentary. Selections are available online The Rule of St. Benedict: Insight for the Ages.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prayer: Remembering Our Saints

This morning the Anglican Communion News Service published this little blip:

Today in History: On July 7, 1220, Thomas Becket's shrine was dedicated in Canterbury and became a popular pilgrim attraction.

Now Thomas Becket is my patron saint and this is A Very Important Date. Without it and the attendant popularity of his cult for pilgrims all over the then known world, some of what we know about his story might have been lost.

We sometimes remember the saints who have had an important influence on our spiritual lives only on the Feast of All Saints. Or on their official feast days. But if we look at their histories, we might find many days when it would be appropriate to commemorate them. The saints are living, vital threads in the wonder-ful and sacred Christian tradition. We do well to remember them not only as historical figures but as faithful models who accompany and help us on our journey to God.

And, yes, I'll be singing some of the medieval chants from the Office for St. Thomas on July 7.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Prayer: Online Meditation

Reflection: A few months ago, Ellyn, our former director of Christian Education sent me a link to this great website called The d365 found here. This site features a daily devotional series which were "written especially for students and seek to provide reflections on themes that impact our faith journey. [It is the] hope that in the midst of busy or boring days, this site will create a quiet space in your life for contemplation and prayer." Enjoy this break right from your desk!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Prayer- Celebrate the Summer Solstice!

Earlier in the we marked the summer solstice--the longest day of the year. The celebration of Midsummer's Eve was from ancient times linked to the summer solstice. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. Why not use this fiery moment as a time of "spiritual summer cleaning"  And say good bye to disappointments by lighting them on fire! We all have these little drains on our psyche that seem to keep us from truly letting go of somethings. Well, today  resolve to stop letting disappointments from the past bring you down and hand them over to God once and for all. Started by making a list of these things on separate pieces of paper. Next, light them on fire.You might be surprised how free this can be!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Worship: Bring a Friend to Church!

June 12th  at Trinity's 9:30 worship service is “Bring a Friend to Church Sunday!” Come and help us celebrate on Pentecost by inviting a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or any one you can think of to join us for a service at Trinity. We will be having a special message at the 9:30 service for our children as well as an exciting give away and extended coffee hour. Please bring a desert or snack to share.  All are welcome!

Prayer: Musical Intercessory Prayer

I recently made a running play list for an upcoming race made up entirely of songs suggested by my friends and loved ones. When ever a particular person's musical suggestion comes up on the list, I say a prayer for them. This way, they are blessing me with their music and I am blessing them with a prayer of thanks. Give it a shot!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Prayer: Ascension Day Traditions

Today is Ascension Day! There are many superstitions and traditions surrounding this day. Here are a few of my favorites and suggestions for ways you can add them to your prayers today:
  • Eggs laid on Ascension day are said to never go bad and will guarantee good luck for a household if placed in the roof. Have eggs for supper and give thanks for the birds and farmers who raised them.
  • In Devon, it was an ancient belief that the clouds always formed into the familiar Christian image of a lamb on Ascension Day. Head outside with the family for a mini-sabbath by cloud watching--try to spot the lamb! 
  • If the weather is sunny on Ascension Day, the summer will be long and hot; but if it rains, crops will do badly and livestock, especially cattle, will suffer from disease. Luckily for us, the weather is great! Why not take a prayer walk and give thanks for this glorious day?!
  • According to Welsh superstition, it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day. If you can't take the whole day off, make sure to have a sabbath time built in somewhere to contemplate this Holy Feast.

Worship: Ascension Day

Come and join us on this wonderful Fest of the Ascension! Today, June 2, we will celebrate Jesus' Ascension at 7:30 pm in the chapel. All are welcome! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Prayer- Try Mini-Home Retreat

While the weather is nice, why not try a mini-home retreat outside? Schedule two hours in your day to spend in a mini-retreat. Follow this schedule to put you in a retreat frame of mind:
  •  First 30 minuets Engage in some kind of centering prayer. This could be yoga, the Daily Office, listening to music, journaling, or simply sitting and drinking in the moment.
  • In the next hour, spend some time practicing Lectio Divina.
    • Choose a piece of Scripture for today’s sacred reading—perhaps from Morning Prayer or from a devotional.
    • Ask God to bless your time.
    • Read the Scripture slowly and attentively several times.  It is recommended that you read it aloud at least once
    • Ask God what God would like to say to you today?  It may be a verse, a word, or an idea.
    • What would you like to say to God in response?

  • When you have completed this, spend the next 30 on a nature walk mediating on the way God might be calling you during this time. 
  • After resting a few moments with the Divine Presence, give thanks and go on your way, carrying with you throughout the day the words you have shared.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Worship: God in a Shop

It’s relatively easy to worship God when we are in a beautiful building, surrounded by stained glass, religious art, and moving music. Everything we see, hear and even smell—for those in an incense-friendly liturgical church—is designed to turn our minds and hearts to God.

There is a big world out there beyond the walls of our sanctuaries, and God can seem less obviously present in it. We sometimes think of buying and selling as the antithesis of faith, but if faithful people operate a business ethically, with awareness that “All things come of you, O God,” including the business, merchant work can also be an act of honoring and praising God.

I was recently asked to perform a blessing for a business whose owner is clear that it is a gift from God, that her ability to work is a gift from God, and that the creative talents of the artisans who stock her shop are gifts from God. We prayed for God’s presence in the building, for peace and prosperity for those who work there, and that visitors will also be blessed. So we worship intentionally with our work throughout the week as well as on Sundays and holy days.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Prayer: Endings and Beginnings

A wise person once said to me that endings are as important as beginnings. If we only begin things, we either leave everything unfinished or we exhaust ourselves, trying to do everything at once. The AMEN--let it be so!--at the close of our prayer, sending it forth to God, is as important as is the beginning, when we invoke our Merciful and Holy One.

Endings provide space and stillness, where we can rest and listen, and allow for the germination of new beginnings.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Prayer and Worship: Write an Icon

Some of us are involved in writing an icon this week. Fr. Peter Pearson is teaching us, using an icon of Mary Magdalene, The Apostle to the Apostles. See Fr. Peter's website for more information.

It is amazing to watch the face of a holy person arise from a flat white board. And even more amazing to know that with your brush and paint, your hand is touching the cheek or hair or hand of a saint.

Traditionally, icons are "written" not painted, because they are considered to be a visual form of Scripture. And an icon comes "through the hand of" its writer.

Even at the stage of the line drawing or "cartoon", the icon figure's eyes gaze out at us, while we are looking at them, reminding us of the immediate and compelling presence of the Holy. As an Eastern Church hymn sings, "Come let us worship and fall down..."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Prayer: for a child

We have been praying all day for a lovely little girl, in and out of surgery at least twice today.

Pray for C. and for all the children who are ill. And pray for the medical staff who work with them so tenderly.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Prayer: Grieving for Violence

The news today is full of reports on the killing of Usama bin Laden, some of his supporters and at least one civilian who was being used as a human shield. Whatever your opinions on the issues, this is a time for sober and sorrowful reflection on our human tendency to violence.

Pray that God will comfort and heal the victims of violence. Pray that the Prince of Peace will change our hearts and minds and turn the whole human race away from our violent natures.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Prayer, Worship and Service: Not Slacking

During the days of Lent, we tried to post every day. (We failed, and this provided good fodder for our Holy Week Mea Culpas.) It was part of our spiritual discipline for this holy time, which is traditionally the church's great season of ascesis (exercise).

Now that the joyful feast of Easter has arrived, we're all inclined to kick back a bit, breathe a deep sigh of relief and cut ourselves some breaks. Which is as it should be. The great Desert Fathers and Mothers recognized this. Abba Antony once said,

"It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs." (Thanks to Cistercian Publications, for this quote found here.)

Even the Rule of St. Benedict, that wonderful guideline for life in community, which advises "the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance" (Chapter 49), also legislates periods of rest. St. Benedict is tolerant of our human need for time off.

Times of intense focus and work--both inner and outer--need to be followed by periods of rest and receptivity. Just as a field which is regularly planted needs to lie fallow from time to time, so it can continue to be productive.

Not that anyone is slacking! There are still prayers to be said, services to be lead, the hungry to be fed, garbage to be taken out. Keep praying for 20 minutes a day, worshiping for 1 hour a week, and doing a day of service a month. But be sure you make some extra time for rest.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prayer: For those living in uncertainty

Last week, it was the spring rainy season. Yesterday and today, it was high summer. Tomorrow, flood season, with flood warnings posted. From day to day, we don't know what to expect of the weather. Really, if we are truthful with ourselves and paying attention to the world, we don't know what to expect from life.

For some of us, though, living in uncertainty is constant: will I have a job? will I have any food to feed my children? will this medical treatment help? will the flood wash away my home?

Pray for all those around the world and here at home living in uncertainty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prayer & Worship: Final Know Chocolate Family Service

Why not spend your hour of worship this week in a delicious way?  This Wednesday is the final Family Evening Prayer Service in the NO CHOCOLATE/KNOW CHOCOLATE series. This is Trinity's first ever Family Worship series for Lent and we can't be more excited! The service follows the Book of Common Prayer Evening service with a twist. It begins with a simple song while creating the altar that reflects the teaching of the day. After the readings of the Word, we hear a message, and end with chocolate for all! We will meet again on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 PM. Light supper will be offered at 6 in the Parish Hall followed by a Family Service in the Chapel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Worship: Alive! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and on those in the tombs bestowing life!

No amount of alleluias is enough on this glorious day...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prayer and Worship: Busy in Vigil

While we are feeling sad, dark and empty on Holy Saturday, with no Christ, no community, no hope, Jesus is busy. Unlike some traditions that think of him "resting" or "sleeping" in the tomb during the three holy days, there is an ancient sermon that reveals his work as a poison pill to death and hell.


"Something strange is happening-there is a great silence on earth today, a
great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King
is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in
the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world
began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

"He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly
desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he
has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God
and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon
that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had
created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: 'My Lord be
with you all.' Christ answered him: 'And with your spirit.' He took him by
the hand and raised him up, saying: 'Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the
dead, and Christ will give you light.'

"I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you
and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

"For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a
slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and
beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man
without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I
was a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

"See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I
once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order
to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the
scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back.
See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched
out your hand to a tree.

"I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in
paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain
in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that
pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

"Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly
paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you
in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I
who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as
slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne
formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal
chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are
prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of
heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity."

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prayer: Love Stronger than Death

As we approach the Triduum, many of us are thinking about Jesus' passion and death. The Blessed Julian of Norwich has an interesting, and even revolutionary, take on that. In Chapter 22 of her Showings, or Revelations of Divine Love, she has a conversation with Our Good Lord Christ, in which she understands that Christ's love for us was so great, that he would have died over and over for us if that had been required. His suffering and death took place once in a specific time and place, but the love that prompted the saving Act is eternal. She writes: "I saw that the love which made him suffer is as much greater than his pain, as heaven is greater than earth."

As we contemplate the painful events of the rest of this week, let us also contemplate the immense and everlasting love that contains them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prayer: Every Hour on the Hour

Yesterday I tried a style of praying that I have rarely ever tried outside of a retreat: to pray every hour on the hour for 12 hours (6am- 6pm). This was actually a pretty good day to try this out since I did not have that many appointments. I was really moved by the way this practice helped to change several moments around for me. It would seem that when ever I was getting frustrated or in the need for a mental or physical stretch, it would be time to pray and that would help to reorient the moment toward the Spirit. There was much to be grateful for in every hour of the day, and it was nice to take the time and thank God for that. Tomorrow, try to incorporate this into your day and you will be amazed by how centered you will feel.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Worship: Cliff's Notes for Holy Week

Palm Sunday is one of the hardest Sundays of the year to grasp. I get a sort of spiritual whiplash. We're hailing the Messiah and King, waving palm branches and singing, and suddenly, we are whisked at the speed of light to the foot of a cross, on which hangs a dead ?prophet?savior?anarchist?God?son?brother?friend? I find hope and comfort only in the Eucharistic prayers that follow.

Remembering the bad old undergraduate days at university, Palm Sunday reminds me of a sort of Cliff's Notes for Holy Week. Except that they leave me off at Holy Saturday. They don't quite get to volume two: "Early on the first day of the week..."

We're all waiting and watching, both in anticipation and dread.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prayer: Vow of Silence

Thanks to an overnight case of galloping laryngitis (on the eve of Palm Sunday!), I have taken a Vow of Silence for today, in hopes of restoring my voice for Holy Week. When I need to pause and reflect on each thing that pops into my mind to say, it is amazing to discover how much of it is silly, extraneous, useless. Surrounded by a need for this kind of conscious silence, I am discovering also that I want more external silence. No TV or even music. Just the music of the birds chirping a rain song outside the window and the rush of the wind in the trees. Even the clack of my keyboard seems extraordinarily loud.

There are lots of versions of this quote floating around, but I am impressed with its reality: "God's first language is silence--everything else is a poor translation." I didn't expect to choose silence today, but perhaps it is a gift from the Creator. Perhaps I will hear better today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Worship and Prayer: The fragrance of holiness

This morning the Diocese of Bethlehem celebrated Chrism Mass, at which deacons, priests and bishops renew their ordination vows, and the holy oils for the year are blessed. These oils including anointing oil for the Sick, for the Catechumens, and Holy Chrism. Following the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Paul's chaplain, Deacon George, bottles the newly minted oils into tiny vials for distribution to each parish.

While Deacon George and his assistants toil at the oil-filling machine (of Deacon George's construction), everyone else retires to the parish hall for a Lenten lunch.

I happened to be sitting at a table with a bowl of soup, when Deacon George came in to announce that the oils were ready. A faint fragrance of chrism floated behind him as he passed by.

Ancient tradition has it that holy people are sometimes surrounded by the sweetest and loveliest of scents. Indeed, sometimes even their relics give off the smell of flowers or incense. I hope that God sometimes looks down on us at prayer and worship, and experiences our prayers rising like incense (Psalm 141).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prayer: Dirt, Worms and Humility

Last night, reading the chapter on Humility from the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 7) in an older translation, I smiled to see a suggestion that we should think of ourselves as a worm, and not even human. Actually, I am rather fond of earthworms, who are an important part of our ecology. Any gardener, turning a compost pile, would rejoice to see a plenitude of worms. They turn "stuff" into good, rich, productive humus, fit for growing delicious vegetables, and exquisite flowers. Considering that I am a human created from humus makes humility an appropriate response to the Holy. I don't mind confessing that I am a worm.

(With thanks to the Holy Living, Living Wholly group in Emmaus.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Prayer: Visio Divina

A good priest friend of mine, Maria, has created a truly impressive Lenten Meditation booklet for her congregation. Among the several different types of reflections she has suggested are the different galleries online at the Episcopal Church Visual Art website found here. There are many different collections of art work dealing with topics of spirituality all of which encourage the viewer to engage the practice of visio divina. According to their website:

Refining Fire by Don Forsythe
The practice of visio divina shares its origins with the long-practiced form of scripture reading known as lectio divina. As with lectio divina, visio divina nurtures the spiritual life through an intentional practice of reflection on scripture. With visio divina, visual art and scripture are considered together, supporting the practictioner through the reading of the Word, seeing with the eyes, listening with the heart, and responding in prayer. Contemporary artists address many themes in their work, and often focus on compelling issues that face society today. This is true whether the artist's concerns are hidden or visible in their work. Themes emerging include some we might expect, such as beauty, light, and nature. There are also other themes that might tip us out of familiar ways of seeing our own lives, themes like emergence, suffering, and peace. 

For today's meditation, I decided to try the "Spirit's Fire" gallery and was impressed by the different types of visual arts which were represented. The collection included glass work, paintings, sculpture, textiles and more to capture the very essence of the Holy Spirit's work in our life. I encourage you to go online and pick the gallery which calls to you. Then just let your eyes soak up the Spirit.

Prayer: Get thee to a monastery

In other times, people would often go to a monastery for a retreat.  Such a visit provided the opportunity to step out of the pressures and busy-ness of daily life, to find space and quiet time to relax in God's presence, to pray and listen.  Many of us still do make regular visits to monasteries and retreat centers.

Most monasteries have facilities for guests, because that is part of the service they offer the world.  St. Benedict wrote, "Let every guest be received as Christ."  Most monastic houses are wonderful at that sort of holy welcome.  It is an unforgettable experience to come for the very first time to a monastery, and to be greeted with an attitude of, "Where have you been?  We've been waiting for you to come home!"  I hope I will have such a welcome when I get to the doors of paradise...

Times have changed, though.  There are fewer monasteries. And many of us do not have the leisure or finances to travel to them.  Even more of us feel constricted by work and family demands.  Monastic communities haven't survived for nearly 2,000 years without being creative, though, and some of them are making a concerted effort to respond to the times in which we live.

There are now a number of communities who have an online presence.  Some offer online retreats, which you can do from home.  And some offer the opportunity to experiment with being a monk in the world.  The monastery I'm affiliated with was an early adopter.  Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, South Dakota, developed a thriving online program for Benedictine oblates.  In the past few days, an announcement has come out about a new, exciting possibility.  The Erie Benedictines are beginning an online monastic community.  Monasteries of the Heart has the motto:"A new movement for a new world."

There are also ecumenical monastic communities without walls, like the Community of Solitude.

If you sometimes find yourself with an urgent longing to get away from it all for a while so you can spend time with God, consider a monastic community, physical or virtual. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Prayer and Service: Thank God for meetings...

By the end of the day, I will have had 5 (count'em FIVE) meetings, only one of which was expected.  But each meeting was good, productive, and contributed to the ministry that we do together.  Each meeting let us encounter each other face to face, to explore plans, forestall the errors that we could foresee, turn in a different direction, or keep going full-steam-ahead.  Hopefully under our Good God's wise eyes.

Thank God for the gift of communication!  Thank God for partners in ministry.  And in life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prayer: Praying by hand

Many religious traditions encourage the use of prayerbeads.  The Roman Catholic rosary is perhaps the most familiar form here in America, but the Eastern Church uses a knotted rope; Hindus sometimes use a string made from seeds; Muslim prayerbeads may have the name of Allah written on them; Buddhist beads may be made from the wood of the sacred BO tree, under which Buddha sat to be enlightened.  This is only a small hint of the kinds of prayerbeads out there.  Google prayerbeads and prepare to be astonished.

There are Anglican prayerbeads as well. For many years, our prayerbead ministry has been offering workshops on praying with and making prayerbeads, because people find it so powerful literally to hold their prayers in their hands.  Using prayerbeads as we pray can help ground and focus us, so our mind is less likely to wander.  They can help our restless body to still itself.  And as we hold them, they remind us that praying is something we do with our body and mind, as well as with our spirit.

Many prayers lend themselves to use with prayerbeads: The Lord's Prayer, the traditional Hail Mary, the ancient Jesus Prayer.   Some people like to take a verse from Scripture to use.  Experiment!  Just pray.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Prayer and Service: For the poor, neglected, old, sick....

Today we celebrate the feast day of William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers.  The collect the church has written is amazing, and especially applicable to those of us who are concerned with those in need.

God of justice and truth, do not let your Church close its eyes to the plight of the poor and neglected, the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, the lonely and those who have none to care for them. Give us that vision and compassion with which you so richly endowed William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers, that we may labor tirelessly to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today, pray for all those listed in the collect, for those who work with the needy, and follow up your prayer with doing something concrete--no matter how small-- to help.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Prayer: In the Hurly Burly

It is deafening here this morning. Delivery people are bringing bread and cake in.  Vegetables are arriving.  Eggs already here.  A full crew making lunch for 150 in the kitchen, clattering, calling, laughing, dropping pans.  And a bunch of student workers.  Kids and parents arriving for playgroup.  Printers printing.  Phones ringing.  Doorbell jangling throughout the building.  Calendar alarms chirping.  Organ practice on the other side of the wall.  Footsteps overhead.

In four hours it will be utterly still, and the building will be almost empty.. 

When I can't find God in the still, small silence, I can pray a blessing on everyone working hard in the midst of the joyful noise.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Worship: All you works of the Lord....

...praise the Lord! So says one of the Morning Prayer canticles, the Song of Creation. O heavens and all waters above the heavens, sun and moon and stars of the sky, every shower of rain and fall of dew, all winds and fire and heat, Winter and Summer...praise the Lord.

Birds and dogs and cats, with the trees and newly sprung flowers...praise the Lord.

Dawn and dusk, with brightly shining noon and deeply silent midnight...praise the Lord.

Let the people of God...praise the Lord.

And let me, too, in my creatureliness, praise the Lord.

You can find a lovely way to praise the Lord by watching EagleCam--a pair of eagles, raising their eaglets, in view of the camera.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Service: Trinity Soup Kitchen

Our mission station here at Trinity is, "Feeding all in body, mind, and soul." One way that we live into that mission and follow Jesus' mandate to feed the hungry is through our Soup Kitchen which feeds about 150 people daily. We can always use help cooking, serving, and cleaning. Feel free to come by and help in any way you can. We are open Monday through Fridays at 8:30-2:00. The only requirements are that you are at least 16 years of age, wear a head covering & closed-toed shoes, and have a willingness to serve.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Worship and Prayer: A bouquet

At every worship service, St. Francis de Sales used to collect what he called a "bouquet", a verse or prayer that he could take with him, to meditate and pray on until the next service.  What a lovely idea!  Try it for a week or two and see what a beautiful creation you have discovered!

(Thanks to Norvene Vest's *Preferring Christ", p. 126, for this idea.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Worship: From Afar

Circumstances sometimes prevent us from worshiping with our faith community: illness, travel, work, family concerns.  If possible, during the worship hour, imagine yourself there with your brothers and sisters.  Do the readings for the day, sing a hymn or three, pray God's blessing on each face you see in your mind's eye.  Pray for the concerns you know they all have. And pray for yourself as part of this vibrant worshiping community.  Give God thanks for the grace of needing and wanting each other's presence, and for the spiritual community we feel, no matter how far separated we are..

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Service: Not throwin' no rocks in nobody's path

I recently heard a story from a parishioner who attended an elderly person's funeral.  When she spoke to another elderly friend of the deceased, the woman said, "Well, now, she was never throwin' no rocks in my path."  In the moment, I laughed, but the phrase stuck with me. 

We don't always have the ability to help someone actively.  But we can always refrain from throwing rocks in their way.  Another way of being kind and treating people in a Christ-like way.  I'd be proud if someone said that of me some day.  Sometimes not doing is as important as doing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Prayer- Confession is Good for the Foolish Soul

Lent is often thought of as the Liturgical Season most associated with the act of Confession. In that spirit, I will share this April Fool's confession with you inspiration for your own Lenten journey. Yesterday, before work began, I was doing an internet search for April Fool's Day pranks ideas. I had never actually pulled one of these types of pranks before and I was hoping to find a really good one to pull on some poor, unsuspecting person. Instead, the joke was on me when I clicked on a site that had a virus on it. I did not realize that this was the case until later in the morning when I kept getting bombarded with pop-up virus notes. At that point, I knew that I had to call in Mo. Laura to fix the problem that I made, and when I realized that it was probably because of the silly search I had made, I was totally abashed! Yet, she spent the time to help clean up the computer and even had a good laugh with me. When we confess something, we are admitting that we are human and that we need help to get out of the holes that we dig for themselves. Today, spend some time in conversation with God asking him for help fixing the problems in our souls that we have created in our foolishness.

Prayer: For those in need

This beautiful prayer comes from Catholic Relief Services, via our friend Jon Rinnander in Tucson, AZ.  Surely another example of the foolishness of Christ and of God's kingdom.

In the poor and lowly of the world,
let us see Christ.
In those forced to leave their homes because of war and 
let us see Christ.
In children who go to bed hungry and who cannot 
attend school,
let us see Christ.
In those who are living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases,
let us see Christ.
In immigrants and refugees, seeking freedom and hope,
let us see Christ.
In those who are orphaned or abandoned,
let us see Christ.
In the elderly who are forgotten,
let us see Christ.
In those who struggle to find meaningful work,
let us see Christ.
In those who work for justice and peace for all people,
let us see Christ.
Let us pray:
Jesus, teach us to recognize your presence in those 
who are in need.  May we give of ourselves in service 
to them and so hasten the coming of the Kingdom 
you have promised, where you live with the Father 
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  

Prayer and Service: Be a fool!

The Apostle Paul liked to call himself a Fool for Christ.  And reflected that following Christ seemed like foolishness in the world's context.  What could be more foolish than people  knowing their actions would lead to a terrible death, carrying on for the sake of faith, and for obedience to God?  St. Thomas Becket comes to mind.  And the Blessed Oscar Romero.  And hundreds and thousands of martyrs and Confessors.  All of them following faithfully in the footsteps of our model, the ultimate Holy Fool, Jesus.

Today, pray that we will have the courage to hear the call to faithfulness, even if in some people's eyes it makes us a "fool".  Do at least one foolish thing to help someone in the name of Christ: pronounce God's blessing on a stranger; hand a ticket taker in a toll booth a piece of candy and wish them a blessed day; carry groceries for someone; make a random "April Fool's Day" call to a member of your parish.  If even giving a glass of water in Christ's name is a blessing, surely a small act of service in honor of Christ God's Fool will be, too.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Service: Wrestle with Angels

All of us, even those confined to a bed, work.  Our work may involve managing a huge company, a Sunday School class, a family, or even just our own healthcare.  An old Russian singer-songwriter Bulat Okudzhava wrote, "Work is work, there's always work." 

Sometimes our work is easy, and wonderfully fulfilling.  Especially when it involves making life better for others in some way, our work can seem like holy service.  For which we can be most grateful.

But what about the times when work is drudgery?  When it is hard and slow, and requires vast attention to detail?  What about the times when we do not see our work as valuable, maybe because others don't see it as valuable?  Then it's difficult to be grateful for work.   And it might cross our minds that it is punishment.  Could it be that the toil spoken of in Genesis 3 is our lot?  When work feels a lot like the exhausting wrestling with angels much stronger than we are, what to do?

The truth is that none of us know completely how our efforts affect others.  It's lovely to feel good about our work, and to receive lots of good response to it.  Sometimes, though, it's only long after that we discover the impact we have had on other people.  As we wrestle with the angels at work, maybe the best thing is to pray that our work, whatever it is, will be of service to God and to God's people.  After that, it's God's responsibility to use it in the best way.

Returning over and over throughout the work time to this attitude requires discipline--more wrestling with angels.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prayer- Plant Seeds

This is the prefect time of year to start seedlings in preparation for our gardens. This year, in my family, we have labeled each seed with a prayer intention for ourselves and others. As each seed grows, we have asked God to nurture both the seed and what/who it represents. In this way, God is planted in our yard and in our hearts.

Prayer: Mothers and Fathers

In the past week, three parents of staff or volunteers have died.  And my mother is ill, so parents are on my mind. 

All of us, whether we know them or not, like them or not, adore them or not, have a mother and a father.  At least some of what we are comes from them.  Let's pray a blessing on our own parents.  And pray for all of us who are parents.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Worship: Going to the Hospital

I spent the weekend in the hospital with various folks from the parish.  This prompted me to ponder the saying from (I think) Mike Yaconelli who wrote in Messy Spirituality, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” I've encountered the analogy of the church to a hospital many times over the years.  Certainly Jesus as the Great Physician, the Great Healer,works here.  What intrigues me today is the thought that all of us present at our services need healing, and many of us have received healing--some of us over and over (what else is confession and absolution, after all?). 

It is Good News that we have this spiritual hospital available to us.  And another piece of Good News that we are welcomed into the company of others who are being healed. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Worship: In This Together

As I look out over the Sunday congregation, I know for a fact that someone has just discovered she is pregnant, another couple just got engaged, someone is fighting a deadly disease, someone's parent just died, someone is pondering ordination, someone is thoroughly engrossed in the process of spring gardening, someone is struggling with addiction, someone is joyfully celebrating years of sobriety, someone is having problems with their kids, someone has the BEST child, and so on.  The list of who we are is endless.  And sometimes it seems we are more different than we are alike.  Some of our ancestors even fought each other!  We're not even all here for the same reasons.  (All those who are here for the Mystical Feast raise your hands?  All those who are here for coffee hour raise your hands?)

But we all find ourselves in this place at the same time.  There is great benefit in having a limited foretaste of the wonderfully varied congregation which will gather to praise the Holy One at the end of time.  Truly we can sing, even today, "All Creatures of Our God and King...O, praise God!"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Prayer: Smoke and Flame

This bit of wisdom arrived in the quarterly newsletter of Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE): 

Amma Syncletica (4th century) said, "In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God, and afterwards, ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first they are choked by the smoke and cry, and by this means obtain what they seek. So we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves." 

Do not, then, let the smoke or the tears blind you to the kindled flame in your heart but, rather, draw near to the warmth of the love of God.

--Many thanks to Fr. Cliff Carr for this post.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Prayer: Write the Scriptures

The ancient practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) invites us to interact with the Holy Scriptures, to appreciate them literally as the Word of God addressed to us.  Many times we read quickly, sometimes superficially, to gain information, to be entertained, to find out the end of the story.  Sacred reading is not like that.  We are invited to linger with God over God's word, to let it soak into our spirits, engage our minds.

One of the ways to slow down and take the holy words into myself, is to write them.  My eyes read the scriptures, my heart waits for God to make them alive in me, and my body also participates as my hand moves across the paper, forming the inspired words.  For those of us who learn kinesthetically, this is a particularly powerful practice.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prayer: Turn Worries to Wonders

So many of us are running around carrying our worries and our burdens. Today, when you feel yourself worrying about the little things of life, offer them up to God and then give thanks for something else which is a joy to you. You will find that this will help shift your attitude from one which is burdened to one which sees wonders and blessing everywhere.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Prayer: Watch with Christ

We all have sleepless nights from time to time.  Instead of lying there fretting, or listing everything we need to do that we will be too tired to do sensibly, consider spending that time with Jesus.  He knows all about watching and waiting.  Pray for those who are sleeping peacefully.  Pray for those who are awake, also.  Pray for the sick.  Pray for the poor.  Pray for the troubled places in the world.  And pray that God's rest will enfold you.

One of the most lovely prayers in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer understands:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Service: World Water Day

Today is World Water Day and to celebrate, try doing one small thing to help cut back your water consumption. For example, put a plastic bottle filled with water into the cistern to reduce the volume per flush. This can save gallons and gallons of water ever year.It may not take a full day, but it is certainly a good way to serve God and honor his creation.

Prayer: For World Water Day

Today in your prayers, give thanks for the gift of water and pray for those who have no access to clean water. Try using this prayer:

Holy God, our Living Water and our merciful Guide, together with the rivers and seas, wells and springs, we bless and magnify you. You led your people by the pillar of cloud and fire through the sea, and provided them water from the rock. We thank you for the gift of water. The Holy Spirit moved over water in the beginning of creation. In water, your Son Jesus received the gift of baptism and was anointed by the Holy Spirit to lead us into the way of everlasting life through his life, death, and resurrection. Gracious God, you have called us into a community of faith. We are called to life by you and to sustain life with you, the source of life and creator of every being. We pray for those who struggle every day for their daily supply of water: in the slums of Brazilian cities, in the deserts of Africa, in the townships where clean water does not flow. We pray for those who experience floods and for others in desperate need of water. We pray that those who are fortunate to have an abundance of water do not take your gift for granted, or fail to heed and understand the cries of people who need water for life. Amen

Used by permission of the Lutheran World Federation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prayer: Pondering Lent

St. Benedict said in his Rule: "A monastic's life should be a perpetual Lent." (Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 49)  What would that be like?  I suppose it depends on what you think Lent is *for*.  A Carthusian monk wrote:
"Our 'fast'…consists only in removing the obstacles to our profound conformation to Christ." (From Advent to Pentecost: Carthusian Novice Comferences)  Pray today for God to remove those obstacles.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Worship: Walking around in Circles

Being in the pew is a wonderful way to worship--time to sing, pray, read, hear a reflection on the Scripture or topic of the day.  But it's not the only way.  Take, for example, the Labyrinth, an ancient form of walking around in circles.  There is no one right way to walk the Labyrinth.  Some people walk in solemn silence; some dance joyfully.  Kids especially "get" the Labyrinth.  We see them dashing in, only to slow as they near the center, and often pause for a moment of rest, before returning to the beginning.  While each of us walks the Labyrinth on our own, we also journey together with others who are walking.  Sometimes people pass us, sometimes we slow down to a crawl behind a walker moving more slowly than we do.  Just like life.  We walk prayerfully, worshipfully together in God's presence, traveling toward the Holy.

More information about the Labyrinth can be found at Grace Cathedral's Grace Cathedral's Labyrinth site.

There will be a Labyrinth walk at Trinity, today  (March 20) at 5:00.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Prayer: For Families

Spend some time thinking about your family.  Pray for each of them by name, asking that God will bless them in the way that is most wonderful for them.  And pray that each will be open to the rich blessings God wishes to pour out on them.

Remember those who have died and pray that they will continue in God's peace. 

Pray for yourself, as part of this family.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Pray for the whole human family, united in relationship with our Good God.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Service: Bring the world in

This evening, we will host a local music club's annual membership concert.  They need three times the space they have in their small venue, and we need to bring the world within the church walls, rather than keep it outside.  Filling our building to capacity with people who are not familiar with us is no joke, and will require many volunteer hours, demand extra of the staff, and patience from everyone--concert-goers and volunteers alike.  Consider how you can volunteer to help your faith community bring the world inside.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer and Service: Be extra kind

"Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some battle."  This wonderful quote was attributed to St. John Chrysostom. If you talk with even one person today and give room for listening, you will certainly hear about their battles.

Or to put it another way, as a very ancient and holy woman said to me, when I served her as a chaplain: "If you expect to go 75% of the way in any relationship, and the other person goes 75% of the way, maybe just maybe you'll each end up going 50/50."

Words to live by in the hurly-burly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Praying in the Rain

I woke up to the sound of rain on the eaves this morning.  It's a "soft day", as we used to say, of mist and drizzle.  Perfect spring weather to wash away the grit of end-of-winter, and to encourage the crocuses, snowdrops and other early flowers.

Give thanks for this gentle rain and pray for those for whom it is a hardship.  Give thanks for God's mercy "which droppeth like the gentle rain", to quote Mr. Shakespeare.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prayer and Worship: The Daily Office

Especially during Lent, many churches offer morning or evening prayer.  It is wonderful to read the psalms, hear the scriptures and pray with brothers and sisters, in the same way the church has been doing for centuries.  And it is comforting to think that as we pray or sing the psalms, we are using Jesus' prayerbook.

When you can't get to church, or if there are no services near you, pray the office on your own.  Many denominations have a form for it.  Here is a helpful online site in English y en espanol: Mission St. Clare.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Message from the Mother Ship

Fr. Scott Barker, from Christ Church, Warwick, NY, gave us the idea for this blog and for the 20 + 1 +1 program.  Christ Church's website has a whole section on this, which you can find at .  They have a lovely Lenten meditation that changes each day.  Please consider visiting for a moving graphic message.

Prayer: The Names of God

Write down all of the names for God that you can think of. Next, do an internet search to find out how many more there actually are. Finally, spend some time with your list to see which names are important to you and why.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Worship: Safety in Numbers

St. John Chrysostom taught that the evil one tempts us when we are alone (as Jesus was alone in the wilderness).  When we are surrounded by the community of the faithful, we are much less like to succumb.  As he says, "flock together continually, that we may not be open to the devil’s attacks.” *

A great reason to flock to church on the first Sunday of Lent.

*St. John Chrysostom's Sermon 13, on Matthew 4:1.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Service: Making a more beautiful season

Walk around your neighborhood, picking up trash.  Walk around **anyone's** neighborhood.  Make the new season's coming more lovely.  And remember, as we move into Lent, to pick up the trash in our hearts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayer and Service: For Japan

Pray for the people of Japan, and for everyone affected by the earthquake and tsunamis.  Pray for those who are aiding them in every way they can.  Pray for those of us whose only way to assist is to pray.

And while you are praying, keep praying for ChristChurch, New Zealand, and Haiti.

Service: Donate to Episcopal Relief and Development for disaster relief.

Worship: Attend a Taize Service

Taize chant is a wonderful opportunity to experience both sung and body prayer (since chanting involves your breath, your lungs, your diaphragm, your voice, your mouth, your eyes, your ears).  Brief prayers or verses of Scripture are set to simple melodies, designed particularly for those of us who are not trained singers.  If you ARE a trained singer, even more wonderful.  The quiet, repetition of the chanted prayer allows the meaning to sink deeply into our minds and spirits.  Replace those annoying commercials playing over and over in our heads with a sacred phrase!

Taize prayer is particularly moving when done with others--we hear both ourselves at prayer, and our praying community with us.

For more about Taize, visit the Taize Community's website and listen to some samples.

There will be Taize chant around the labyrinth on Sunday, March 20, at 5:00, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem.  It is co-sponsored by Trinity and a spiritual director from College Hill Moravian Church.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Prayer: for "Enemies"

Spend 20 minutes today listing the people who get your goat.  Ask God to bless each of them by name.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An Ash Wednesday State of Mind

Meditation for Ash Wednesday

On Sunday, as I listened to the prayer for the burning of the palms, I had a strong sense of being moved slowly, but inexorably, out of Epiphany and into Lent. I am grateful that the church in her wisdom knows that like the apostles on the mountain of Transfiguration, we need to be encouraged to move on to the next thing God wants us to experience.

The obvious thing that we learn on Ash Wednesday, and continue to contemplate throughout Lent is what we hear a dozen times as we kneel and the clergy go down the line, imposing ashes: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  We tend to forget we are dust, until something happens to pull us up short--like an illness, or an unexpected event that shakes us out of every-day-ness. 

This reminder that we are mortal can seem ominous.  I remember walking in the colonial cemetery near the house where I grew up.  There were sayings on the gravestones: like “Together for Eternity” on a married couple’s stone.  Or the oddest: “Behold me now as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I, as I am now, so you shall be.  Prepare your life and follow me.”  YIKES!  Did this come from one of those Victorian gothic novels? 

But in fact, the cemetery was a peaceful and serene place, and very beautiful.  It was deeply carpeted with creeping thyme that had escaped from the Shaker gardens nearby.  Walking on it through the rows of stones gave comfort to tired feet, spicy fragrance to the nose, and the glory of an acre of tiny purple-red flowers, above the glittering green leaflets.

Surely, if God wanted to walk in a garden on a still summer afternoon, it would be in this garden, filled with honeybees.  I am certain that the Holy One is very fond of it, and I often felt the Divine Presence there as a child.

Like Ash Wednesday does, it gives me pause to think of a place dedicated to mortality as a place of beauty and comfort.  Every year, I am tripped up by the Episcopal Church’s collect for Ash Wednesday.  It begins: “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made.”  HATE?????  God hates or does not hate????  What a relief to know that God does not hate our mortal selves.  God does not hate the plants that grow strong and then fade away only to spring back after the winter is done.  God does not hate the dry and barren desert that explodes into bloom after a rain.  God does not hate the rocks that crumble into sand and create lovely soft beaches.  “You hate nothing you have made.”

God MUST be English.  What an unbelievable understatement!  Not only does God not hate what God has made, God apparently loves it so much that God decided to become part of it!  God chose to put on a body like ours, created of dust, and subject to all the infirmities of that dust, including even temptation.  And sorrow.  And pain.  When Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop, he was wearing that body of dust.  When at his baptism, the heavens opened and the voice of God called him the Beloved Son, he was wearing that body of dust.  How wonderful and how awe-inspiring that God loved us in our mortality enough to allow the Son to assume mortal flesh.  What a miracle!  In some ways, the Incarnation is more miraculous to me than the Resurrection.  I can understand God resurrecting the Son.  I find it harder to fathom God wanting to become mortal human.

Part of what Ash Wednesday is about is recognizing who we are and who we are not.  There’s an old joke about a parson who is constantly complaining to God about the state of the world, and informing God about how to fix it.  Eventually the Almighty gets tired of hearing him.  In the middle of one of the parson’s rants, a huge booming voice rings out: “John.”  “Yes, Lord,” says the man, feeling satisfied that finally God is here to talk to him in person.  “John,” roars the Voice again.  “Just one thing.  I am God, and you…are not.”  

 The Ash Wednesday Prayer over the People says, “Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind."  What gives us a quiet mind?  It is achieving an Ash Wednesday state: awareness and acceptance of the reality that we are indeed wonderfully and fearfully made, but that we are fallible humans and we are not God.  This is also a definition of true humility, knowing and accepting that reality.  We become unquiet when we are dissatisfied with who and what we are, and begin reaching and grasping for something else.  Even more, we become unquiet when we won’t recognize that we sin, and need forgiveness over and over. 

As we begin Lent by confessing our sins, receiving absolution, and being reminded that we are dust, let us find comfort in the knowledge that that is all we need to be.  We don’t have to be God.  God made this beautiful dust, and rejoices in it.  God longs for us to find peace in what we have been created to be: beloved children and heirs.  St. Seraphim once said, “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.”  May that peace reign in us and spread throughout the world.

Ash Wednesday

Today, as we begin, here are some suggestions for Prayer, Worship and Service.

PRAYER: Remember we are dust.  But dust that God loved enough to inhabit.

WORSHIP: Attend an Ash Wednesday service.

SERVICE: Volunteer in a health care facility, or make a call to someone who is ill.  Be a loving voice to someone who knows how much they are dust.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

20 + 1 + 1 = RENEWAL

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will challenge ourselves to pray for 20 minutes each day, to spend one hour a week in worship, and to serve others for one day each month.

Prayer can take whatever form you prefer.  What is important is not HOW you pray, but THAT you pray.  While we hope that you will worship at your home parish, if you are traveling, experiment by visiting another faith community.   Service can be done one whole day a month, or a few hours at a time.  There are always people and organizations who need our assistance--we only have to let ourselves be aware of them.

Anyone, young or old, can participate.  As a way to get started, during the season of Lent, we will post one way to pray or to worship or to serve each day.  Let us know how you are practicing 20 + 1 + 1.