September 18, 2021
I went to Mike's funeral this morning. It had been delayed because of the pandemic and so you might think that people had forgotten. But Mike was an amazing guy and when I arrived I was told the parking lots (all thee of them) were full. So I parked on the street and walked a ways and then took a seat at the back of a church filled with Mike's friends.
Mike lived a full and connected life. In addition to family, there were people there because of his military service, and his connection with Boys Scouts and Rotary and the community, and many who had played baseball and softball with him, and those who knew him from church. Two of his sons gave perfect eulogies--ones with stories to tell you about the relationship they shared with their dad. And the preacher started off inviting us all to stand up, put on our baseball caps and sing Mike's favorite hymn: "Take me out to the ball game"! It's the one and only time in my life that my Dodger blue blood will allow me to sing "root, root, root for the Red Sox." That will never happen again!
The preacher went on to say that Mike was not much for formal prayer, even though he faithfully attended his Episcopal church. But in service, and in the moment, he and his crew always blessed each mission they loaded with the 23rd Psalm. It had carried him through those days and all the days that came after. I'll bet you know it:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Do you have a go-to prayer? Maybe the Lord's Prayer, or the Prayer of St. Francis, or even this psalm. Maybe it's just that immediate cry of "Help" or "Thank you." Take a moment now, and say your prayer. Say it for yourself, say it for your family and friends, say it for us all. People of prayer fill the world with the love of God.
A Day of Solemn Remembrance
September 9, 2021
It has been 20 years since that horrible Tuesday morning. I'm sure you remember where you were. I had just dropped off my daughter and the rest of the carpool kids at Mira Costa High School. I generally allowed them to pick the radio station while we drove--it was 20 years ago, so they didn't have earbuds for private listening! As I drove out of the parking lot, I switched to KCRW to listen to Morning Edition on NPR. At that point, the first plane had just crashed into the North Tower so the news was sketchy but urgent. There was no big picture yet.
And now we mark 20 years since that Tuesday morning. We have endured years of war and just now are seeing the end of our longest national war in Afghanistan--a direct result of that day. As a nation we collectively mourn the lives lost on that day, and all the lives lost since. Most especially today I remember the 13 bright young US military lives lost two weeks ago (along with 169 Afghans) in our last days there.
Nine months after the tragic events in New York and Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, St. Michael's noted the loss with a permanent marker that now stands at the south side of our church. You may want to take notice of this marker when you are next at church. And offer a prayer. We remember.
There are other more formal opportunities to remember that tragic day. In particular, Trinity Church Wall Street (which was place for relief, rest and solace during the days following) will offer "A Time and Space for Remembrance and Healing" over the weekend with several events and opportunities for prayer. We will remember in the day our prayers on Sunday.
September 4, 2021
I was never fond of the tree out front in our parkway. It was not very shapely, and it wasn't a flowering tree, and the leaves it dropped were big and messy. They littered the sidewalk and got caught in the other plants. It just wasn't the tree I would have chosen. So when the city worker came by and told us it needed to be removed because it had a split in the trunk, I wasn't heartbroken. But, hmmm... no tree out front? That didn't sound attractive either.
But wait! Since the tree they were removing was in the city-owned parkway, they would plant a new tree for us on the city. Yay! We even got a say in what they would plant. He opened a worn binder and turned to an illustrated listing of trees. I asked about flowering varieties and he suggested a crepe myrtle. And I got to pick the color-- red! So in a few weeks a new smallish crepe myrtle was planted out front.
She was a bit scrawny, with not many leaves. And, truth be told, the leaves were curled and brownish. But I knew she needed to get settled. So we gave her time. Years of time! At least once each year, I'd be in touch with the city arborist asking about the health of the tree. For two years she brought forth only a smallish crop of dry-looking brownish leaves. The arborist assured me she was doing fine. Last year, she had a fuller halo of leaves. But they were still brown and dry looking. The arborist assured me she was doing fine. In the spring of this year she seemed to have more leaves. They still had a brown cast, but at least she seemed to be alive, if not totally well. I didn't call the arborist.
As the summer went on, I have to admit I never noticed the cone-shaped growths among the leaves. They had the same brown-green color and blended in with the rest of the foliage. Until...until...! I stepped out of the car a few weeks ago and noticed a bit of blush on the tree. Those cone-shaped growths were buds--the tree was full of them--and the first one was blooming! Woo hoo! Now as the summer turns to fall, my crepe myrtle is covered with red blooms and she is lovely. Definitely worth the wait.
As I sat out front this morning with my morning coffee and admired her, I thought of the verse from Hebrews--
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
And when I turned to look up that verse (Hebrews 11:1) I realized it is the lead in to the passage about our forebears in the faith - that great cloud of witnesses. It's one of my favorites. In an economy of words--just hints really--It calls to memory so many stories of so many faithful people as encouragement to us in our own faithfulness.
I hope the crepe myrtle out front of my house has many years of blooming ahead. And each year as I notice the blooms burst forth, I hope I will remember the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me... and be encouraged to be also faithful.
What's your sign?
August 11, 2021
Signs will be sprouting up all over town.* I'll have one in my front yard--and I'm eager to know that the quote will be! Will I recognize it? Who's the author? Inspiring, or challenging, or a bit of both?
American authors. Favorite quotes. A treasure hunt through town. It's summer fun and community with a bit of outreach thrown in just to liven up these last days of summer. Wanna play?!
Here's Quest #1
Take a selfie with a Quote Quest 90245 sign,
identify the book and author,
post it on social media and tag the Facebook group
or email the picture to [email protected]
by Friday August 20th to be entered to win this week's prize.
So, is this just a shameless plug for the latest community event/Rotary & Kiwanis fun(d)raiser? Could be.
Or could it be a challenge to take it in a new direction? In certain circles (oh, not generally Episcopal circles, but some!) people ask, "What's your favorite Bible verse?"
So let me ask, What's your favorite Bible verse? Can you quote it? Do you reach for it in times of trouble? Do you pray with it? What does it mean to you? Would you share it with us?
Let me start... it's John 3:17. Oh, I know that everyone loves to quote John 3:16. It's held up in stadiums and plastered on every surface that will accept printing. And I love it, too. But the reason the next verse is my favorite is because it stretches it out:
Indeed God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through him.
To me it speaks of God's love for everyone. That we are all God's beloved. And that if God loves all y'all so much, I should probably try, too. And live that way. And shape my life that way.
So, how about you? What's your favorite verse? Let me know.
Maybe we can have Bible Quest 2021!
The Olympics, badminton and Mary
August 6, 2021
I first played badminton (just as you did I'll bet!) in the backyard with the neighbor kids. I was not any good at it. And neither was anyone else. The wind blew the "birdie" around and it seemed a slow and rather insipid game.
When I was a senior in college I was notified that if I wanted to graduate on time I needed to carry 19 units in my final semester. It was pretty easy to get to 18, so I needed to find a one unit class. Enter badminton. Sure! I can do that. Show up at the gym twice a week and bat that birdie around. I had no idea it was the fastest and most strategic racket sport or my fellow players would be world class, international students who played the real game. I scraped out of there with my one unit, and my dignity was intact only because I'd likely never see those students again.
Later in life we belonged to The Badminton Club in Manhattan Beach and played with some good players. Our kids took lessons and went to some competitions. And every four (or this time five) years, I have looked for badminton on the Olympics broadcast. It's really fun to watch! But most often, when badminton comes up I find that people are dismissive because they have never experienced the fast and furious game, just the lazy backyard variety.
So when I saw this sports commentary by Mary Carillo yesterday (even though it's 17 years old), I laughed out loud. I shared it with my husband. And my kids. And now I'm sharing it with you. I'm not going to claim any big (or even tiny) theological insight here. Except possibly that God loves our laughter. And I hope you find this good for a nice, long laugh!
Let's talk about Easter eggs
July 22, 2021
Looking back over the year I notice that I had a musing about Christmas right in the middle of Lent. It was the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25--so I had a good reason! So why not talk about Easter eggs today? There's an equally good reason as today is the Feast of Mary Magdalene.
"Huh?" you might say. "I don't get it."
Well, one of the enduring traditions about Mary Magdalene concerns the first colored Easter egg. You can often see this when you see an icon of her--those stylized paintings that are sometimes called "windows into heaven." When you talk with someone familiar with icons (for example, Fr. Alexei from St. Andrew's Greek Russian Catholic church down the street from us) they can show you the special details that identify the subject of the icon. So if the figure in the icon is holding a red egg you can be sure it's Mary Magdalene.
The tradition of picturing her with a red egg comes from the legend that she preached the saving story of Jesus in Rome to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar. After she used an egg to illustrate the resurrection of Jesus, he proclaimed that a human could no more rise from the dead than the egg that she was holding could turn red. And at that moment, the egg became a brilliant scarlet--and he became a believer.
Of course, this is a dear story about Mary. But it is merely a window into the life of one of the greatest witnesses of the life of Christ. Perhaps she did travel as an evangelist to Rome and preach the good news to the emperor. We don't know for sure. But we do know that Mary Magdalene was healed by Jesus, her life was transformed, she became a faithful follower of his ministry, and is the only person named in all four gospels as being first to see the empty tomb on Easter morning. In the Gospel of John she is the first to see the risen Christ and Jesus sends her to tell the others--and so she is sometimes called "the Apostle to the Apostles." (The word apostle comes from a Greek word meaning "sent.") She is considered by the Eastern Church to be an equal to the Apostles--and perhaps, as the Apostle to the Apostles, first among them.
And so we give thanks for her life and witness today.
July 15, 2021
"It's a spinner. I buyed it with coupons, so it's mine."
So we began a game of spinner on the glass top patio table. Who could spin the longest. Who could spin the fastest. Who could make the spinner move the farthest, or stay in place. Whose spin would wobble, or be fast and even. Then we began the games of "steal the spinner" and "hide the spinner." A small spinner offers so many opportunities for an almost-six-year-old and her Grammy.
It was a lovely, warm summer evening, staying light until an almost-six's bedtime. Just the two of us sat there after dinner, playing and laughing. It's not to say that she is always so easily engaged. But with Grammy's attention and a new skill in hand, we played for almost an hour.
It was so much fun that she asked to resume the game this morning. And Grammy added a new twist. After stealing the spinner I declared it a ring, or a barrette, or an eyepiece. Each time I was firmly rebuffed. "No! It's my spinner." A new twist extended the game and the time together. Just the two of us.
This was new playtime for us. I had not seen my granddaughter since things closed down for COVID-19. She has grown and is able to stay and play for an extended period now. Such maturity. And such honest and gleeful laughter. It was pretty much the best part of the visit.
I wish I could be like an almost-six more often in my prayer life. Honest, joyful, engaged, playing with the God who loves me and gives me life. Focused, yet willing to see the other opportunities in prayer. It could be a very short unicorn horn, if I only let it. It could be that God enjoys just my company and joy sometimes. No asks, no confessions, no griefs to share. The God who loves me invites me out to play until bedtime. If only I can see it and be it.
July 8, 2021
Sometimes all it takes to evoke a book (or a movie) is a key word or phrase. Here are some of my favorites:*
Scoop for imagination
I won't grow up!
I'm sure you have yours, as well.
Sometimes a brief quote may be all we remember about a book. Take the book of Amos (one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament). I've heard it reduced to a favorite verse: "Let justice roll down like waters" without remembering that there are strong words from the prophet before those words come.
We will hear from the prophet Amos this Sunday. And so I remembered this "Psalm of Amos" that I wrote some years ago. It gives a bit of context and I hope a bit of relevance to the prophet's words. May you read them and ponder how this ancient prophet speaks also to us.
A Psalm of Amos
Prosperity condemns Israel.
Those who feed on the fat of the land
do not see their starvation of the poor.
Their eyes are dimmed and darkened by indulgence;
They have no vision of justice for all God's people.
Their blindness affronts the heart of Yaweh.
It is a shepherd who feels the burden of God's heart;
A tender of sycamores who proclaims the message of Yaweh:
"Israel, O Israel, I nurtured you in the wilderness
and now you come to me singing
with burnt offerings you have stolen from the poor.
My heart is not in you.
"Oh that you would let my justice flow from you like a stream
and my righteousness to all people like an endless river."
Our eyes are dimmed and darkened by indulgence;
We have no vision of justice for all God's people.
Our blindness affronts the heart of Yaweh.
Can we listen to one who groomed fig trees?
Can we hear the ancient words of a shepherd?
The prophet of Yaweh is yet our prophet.
Harken to the words of Amos and live the heart of God.
*The books are A Wrinkle in Time,
Anne of Green Gables, A Christmas Carol, and Peter Pan.
A Joy Doodle Bird
July 1, 2021
If you are old enough, you remember the Coca Cola slogan, "The pause that refreshes." I was never a Coke fan. We didn't have soda pop in the house growing up and I never developed a taste for it.
But right now, I often crave the pause that refreshes. All too often it's a mindless scroll through my Facebook feed or the News app on my phone. No real refreshment in either of those. So I was delighted to explore a new and creative resource on the NPR website... a Joy Generator.
Really! I created my Joy Doodle Bird in just a couple of minutes. Do you think I have potential as an artist? No matter. As it says, it's not really the result, it's the creativity that stimulates and soothes the brain.
And I wrote a poem...
the action of Now
sends the gliding
Again, it is not likely to get me nominated for a poetry award. But fun. And simple. And I'm still smiling.
There are all kinds of opportunities in the Joy Generator. It makes me think of the fruits of the Spirit. Joy is number two on the list according to Paul in Galatians.* Perhaps the Joy Generator is a pause that can refresh you, too, and open your heart to joy and awe and the love of God.
Take a break. Open up. It is joy!
* The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
June 24, 2021
I used to go to a morning class at El Segundo Athletic Club. I'm thinking I should probably do that again now that we can go back to gyms... but I digress.
The class was challenging but friendly and social. We all had a good time sweating together. Nancy was a regular and often my partner in exercise. She was tall and funny and sarcastic, and always had something interesting to say. And she wore clever tee-shirts. Just my kind of woman!
One day she came in with a shirt that said "LIVITCH" on the front--with no explanation. I had to ask. What does it mean? Of course, Nancy had a story. While we walked to the treadmills she told me it was a reminder for her. One of her teaching buddies always said, "Live each day" as a way of reminding people how precious and short life is. And so at his wake, all his friends took turns toasting him and then ended with "Live each day." But after a few rounds it became shortened and condensed (and probably slurred) into "Livitch." So after the fact they had these tee-shirts made to remember him and to remind them. Livitch--Live each day!
That class is a distant memory. And I haven't seen Nancy in years. So I was saddened to hear that she died a few months ago. But her memory lives on for me. And so as I think of her and give thanks for her life, I am reminded to livitch.
Life is precious and short. Choose to livitch.
And now, a word from our Bishop...
June 18, 2021
Here's the lead from Bishop Taylor's pastoral letter this week about returning to in-person worship.
I believe it is now prudent to say that all our missions and parishes may adopt the CDC guidelines.... Under CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated people can resume most of their ordinary activities, including virtually all those associated with worship, fellowship, meetings, teaching, and service at our churches.
...And what it means for us
The vestry met on Wednesday to discuss how to go about reopening St. Michael's for in-person worship. Here's the top line news:
St. Michael's will reopen for regular Sunday morning worship with services of Holy Eucharist at 8am and 10am on June 27th.
This Sunday, June 20th, we will livestream our service on our Facebook page from St. Michael's at 10am as we have been doing for the last several weeks. And we will continue to livestream our 10am service on our Facebook page for any who choose not to attend in person.
Here are some other points Bishop John made:
* Adults who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated are beseeched to mask up and socially distance or, if you prefer, to worship remotely.
* All who are vaccinated are welcome to sing in church.
* For the vaccinated, handshakes and hugs are welcomed but by no means required. Since they require a dance step, elbow bumps are fun.
* Since children under age 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, try to avoid all direct physical contact with them; elbow bumps are fine, but no hugs or handshakes.
* The Presiding Bishop asks that we continue to serve communion in one kind only as he and his colleagues discern the best way to honor our Anglican heritage of the common cup in the shadow of pandemic.
We are glad to be back. And in celebration, I invite you to watch (again) this riff on the King George song from Hamilton about coming back to church. Enjoy!
We shall be free
June 11, 2021
Every year, there’s an award ceremony that I really enjoy from start to finish. Oh, I admit to watching the Emmys and the Oscars. But with those ceremonies I find that what I’m really interested in is the results—who won—and much less the show itself. That’s not my reaction to the Kennedy Center Honors.* I know in advance who’s being honored. And it’s the Gala itself that is fun to watch. Usually I know about some of the artists, and others not. But always the tributes to these performing artists are heartfelt, related to the work of the particular artist, and most entertaining.
And so, this week, I watched the Honors Gala and the tributes to Debbie Allen, Dick Van Dyke, Midori, Joan Baez, and Garth Brooks. Honestly—not being much of a country music fan—I wasn’t expecting to be moved by the tribute to Garth Brooks. And I was surprised. Gladys Knight closed the show with a rousing (literally, everybody in the audience got on their feet) rendition of Garth Brooks’ anthem “We Shall Be Free.” As I say, I’m not much of a country music fan, so I didn’t really know the song. But the lyrics are moving. Here’s the first verse:
When the last child cries for a crust of bread
When the last man dies for just words that he said
When there's shelter over the poorest head
Then we shall be free
Listen to Garth Brooks sing with the Muppets.
Really, you shouldn't miss it!
What a Hoot!
June 4, 2021
Jane Goodall, primatologist, conservationist, and activist, has been awarded the 2021 Templeton Prize celebrating her work at the confluence of religion and science... and perhaps that's something to hoot about. I think it's a hoot that this reserved 87-year-old can show us how it's done!
But more significantly, this award honors her achievements in exploring the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. In reflecting on her work, Dr. Goodall says
“The most important part of being in the rainforest
is the understanding of the interconnection,
that every little species has a role to play.
I like to think of this tapestry of life in the forest.
If this little species is removed,
then a thread is removed from the tapestry.”
She goes on to opine that when we remove enough threads, the tapestry falls apart. It makes me think of the house divided against itself - Jesus' parable for us this week. And perhaps our house is larger than we imagine.
Listen to Jane Goodall reflect on how her sense of the connectedness of all creation has influenced her work and mission. Then take some time to read our lessons for Sunday.
The most solemn of holidays
May 28, 2021
Unofficially, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer season (you can wear white shoes!), but officially it has a much more solemn meaning. Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and many Americans still observe the day by visiting cemeteries, decorating graves and participating in parades. Yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, members of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment placed American flags next to each headstone.
In honor and recognition of all of our fallen service members, a joint resolution of Congress in May of 1950 requested that the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace. And so, today, President Biden issued this proclamation:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.,
President of the United States of America,
do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 31, 2021,
as a day of prayer for permanent peace,
and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day
as a time when people might unite in prayer and reflection.
We will pray on Sunday in thanksgiving for the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom--and ask God to bless us with peace. And in light of the presidential proclamation our service on Monday morning will be at 11am so that we may join with people throughout our country in praying for peace.
God, give us peace by making us agents of peace. Amen.
Kumquats and lemons and limes, oh my!
May 20, 2021
I am about to go out and harvest kumquats from the tree in our backyard. We have several varieties of citrus - lemon, lime, sweet lime, orange and this newest one, a dwarf kumquat. It's been growing for three years and this is the first year of a reasonable harvest. The fruit is small - I think the smallest citrus - so it takes a few to do anything with them. Unless you just want to pop one into your mouth and bite down for that explosion of tart sweetness. I do that, too. But today I am looking for a good harvest to add to a batch of mixed marmalade. It will be made from primarily homegrown fruit, but I will have to add a store-bought orange to the mix. Citrus does not all ripen at the same time, so now that my kumquats are ripe, the orange tree is bare.
The only thing I put up is marmalade. It's my favorite "jam" -- although marmalade is considered a particular type of fruit preserve and not technically a jam...or a jelly. Marmalade includes too much water to be a jam, and it is not strained clear, so not a jelly either. Just marmalade. I make the effort of canning it because a recipe is too big to allow for anything else. What else could I do with 10 half-pints of marmalade? And after having tasted this recipe, shared with me by my 87-year-old landlady while I was at seminary, store-bought seems quite tasteless. So I have to make my own -- for me and to give away. The recipe includes lots of chunky peel and the three-day process ensures that the surrounding set syrup has remarkable flavor. Amazing on toast, or an English muffin, in marmalade bread, or as a glaze for chicken or pork. To think that I will have to wait three days to taste it!
But it is a meditation, too, offering a bit of respite from the real world. Harvesting is slow. Washing the fruit. Slicing the peel and collecting the juice. All before putting in the stockpot to sit and steep for a day. Tomorrow I will boil the fruit mixture and let it steep again. Finally, on day three, I will add the sugar and boil it down before filling the jars and finishing the canning process. It takes time to make good marmalade.
What are you up to that takes some time and offers you space to meditate and and pray? It may not be marmalade (I hear there are people who don't like it!) but something that frees your mind and spirit. Knitting, baking, playing music, taking a walk or a bike ride, polishing the car. Whatever suits you is a fine choice. I hope you find a way today - or tomorrow - to take that time and open your heart to God. Now more than ever.
Here's an on-line version similar to Sigrid's recipe. Feel free to mix up the fruit. I do!
O, What a Day
May 13, 2021
It's Ascension Day. Always a Thursday. Always 40 days after Easter. Always a Feast Day of mystery. The description in The Acts of the Apostles is pretty straight forward.
As the disciples were watching,
Jesus was lifted up,
and a cloud took him out of their sight.
But when artists over the centuries have tried to capture the image of Jesus' ascension, the results seem to me to be overly literal and often a bit hamfisted. Although there are many lovely Renaissance and modern images to consider, I often have trouble seeing in them the power and mystery of this stunning event. What is it to stand on the mount and watch Jesus ascend into heaven?
And so I am gobsmacked to see (even via YouTube) the work of Anish Kapoor in Venice’s Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. As described on ArtWay.eu website, this installation is
wholly abstract, yet uniquely challenging
in conveying something of the experience of the Ascension....
Visitors to the Basilica can stand, as Jesus’ disciples would have stood,
In the cathedral, as on the Mount of Olives,
something strange and unprecedented is being witnessed.
Immaterial smoke has become a twisting, rising column...
capturing for the individual onlooker something of the sense of awe and mystery
that must have overwhelmed those first disciples.
Take a moment to watch Ascension. And make sure you are listening, too.
The violin and the soprano are stunningly gorgeous as they help evoke
the great mystery of the Ascension.
A jew, a seminarian, a nun and a civil rights activist walked into a cathedral...
May 6, 2021
Yes. That's right. Or at least they gathered on the Human Rights Porch, an alcove in the Washington National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church. In a remarkable vision, the designers of the Washington National Cathedral left uncarved limestone in several key spots, allowing for new people and ideas to be honored across time. And a new face is now in place.
Last week the likeness of Elie Wiesel was unveiled in the fourth corner of the alcove, joining the existing sculptures of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Sister of Mercy Mother Theresa, and Episcopal seminarian and freedom rider Jonathan Daniels, who died saving a young Black woman in Alabama in 1965. A Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel dedicated his life after the war to the pursuit of human rights and to ensuring the lessons of history should not be forgotten.
Can you imagine their conversation?
As they sit together on the porch, I suspect it's not what they have to say to each other, but what they have to say to us that is important. Just by their presence, these four individuals--valiant warriors in the fight to lift up the rights of others--encourage us to join the fight.
I rejoice to be part of a tradition that makes room for new saints and new visions of God's beloved community. And I'd love to have a glass of sweet tea on the porch with these folks. Wouldn't you?
You are but stardust...
April 22, 2021
...and to stardust you shall return.
In the 13.9 billion year history of the universe, stardust has made it's way to earth. And so in the story of Genesis 2, as God forms humans from the dust, stardust is shaped into human form. I find that astonishing. In the great economy of the universe, everything is recycled and new things are forever born of old stuff--including you and me.
Look at the night skies:
Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
counts them off,
calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
and never overlooks a single one?
Each one of us is precious to God. As God calls the stars by name, God calls each of us as well. We are named and claimed by the God who is love. The awe of this overwhelms me. And shames me, too.
How often, O God, I disregard others.
How often I only focus on myself and those I know and love.
How often I forget that you love us all.
Not just my family.
Not just people who look like me.
Not just American citizens.
Not just the pretty and the educated.
Not just the good ones.
Not just the nice ones.
Not just the happy, sane, successful ones.
Stardust, every one of us.
We are all God's from the beginning of creation.
How can does this make a difference to us?
How does this call us to live?
In this moment of reckoning, Richard Rohr writes this prayer for us, our nation, and George Floyd:
God of Truth
We thank you today
For the Justice of this moment and a
Judgment according to
You have again
Inspired action that
Brought down the arrogant and
Called the powerful to account.
May this give all people hope for our healing—together!
May you free us from our
Need for vengeance.
And clear the field to be ready for new seed.
April 15, 2021
It's Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball!
Even if you don't follow baseball. Even if you can't tell a double play from a double header, you likely know his name. Jackie Robinson is arguably the best known best man to play professional baseball. He is regarded with respect and awe in the sport and beyond. His number 42 has been retired throughout major league baseball. That means no players in the majors wear number 42 any more--except today. In professional baseball games today every player, coach and manager will wear #42.
International superstar Chadwick Boseman, who died last summer, portrayed Jackie Robinson in what has been called his breakout role in the biographical film 42. It's a great baseball flick. I recommend it.
Mr. Robinson and Mr. Boseman are American and international heroes. And undeniably Black men of a certain age when they achieved fame. Beautiful, talented, respected and honored--they are Black men in America. But by some they were also vilified and feared. They represent the best of us and also call out the worst in us. And, to our great shame, these are not just issues of the past. We see them around us every day.
How is it that our fears overcome God's love in us?
How is it that we so often fail to see the beauty and humanity in one another?
How is it that we reject the witness and call of Jesus to love one another?
How can we be instruments of resurrection in these days?
I know these may seem complicated questions.
for the love of God!
may we seek and find answers.
May we love one another in the love of God.
April 1, 2021
The forty days are almost over. Today begins the Easter Triduum (Latin for "3 days"), the conclusion of Holy Week and the final three days of Lent. These three holy days--Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are days of prayer in preparation for the great Festival of the Resurrection on Easter Day.
Each day has its own character. Today, Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the gift of Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Tomorrow, Good Friday, is the day of Jesus' crucifixion. On this most solemn day we bow our heads in awe and sorrow. The sacrifice that Jesus made, freely giving his life for us, is the ultimate gift of love. And on Saturday, we wait. We wait with the disciples. But as they waited in confusion, we wait in expectation. On this side of Easter, we know that morning is coming!
And so we enter into these days of preparation with thanksgiving. Knowing once again that in great love Jesus died for us... and Jesus lives. Alleluia!
I invite you to observe these days with us.
Only nine more months 'til Christmas!
March 25, 2021
Goodness knows I'm not rushing the season. I am consumed by preparations for Holy Week and Easter. I can't even imagine Christmas. But today I have to.
Today on our church calendar we find the Feast of the Annunciation. Of course it's precisely 9 months before we celebrate Christmas on December 25... Mary is perfection!
This lovely image of the Annunciation by He Qi includes some traditional elements-- Gabriel peeking in through the window with the announcement, lilies bursting forth in bloom, the dove overshadowing the scene. But I am fascinated that Mary is not reading a book as in so many imaginings of this scene. Here Mary is playing a flute. I don't know why. And this delights me. Mary and music. I'm smitten. And think of my favorite hymn for this Feast Day. Listen.
And then, even as we approach Holy Week, I invite you to pray. It's really a good prayer for Lent, too.
as your messenger came to Mary
with words of your favor
and the pledge of wondrous new life,
may we, in our day,
as ready to serve you,
and as willing to bear the life you offer,
for the blessing of our world.
From Revised Common Lectionary Prayers
© Augsburg Fortress
I've been shamrocked!
March 17, 2021
Maybe it's happened to you, but only if you're lucky! An updated and much more fun version of teepeeing a house... Shamrocks appear in your yard, blooming for St. Paddy's Day.
And so today, my yard is decorated with shamrocks, the inside is redolent with the aroma of the slow-cooking corned beef, and there's a sweet article in the L.A. Times about kids and St. Patrick's Day.
St. Patrick is a universal saint. Everyone seems to be happy to claim him.
(Yes, he lived in the 5th century.)
(He went back to share the good news of the gospel with people who had held him in slavery.)
He's got lots of great myths around him.
(Did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland?)
And he tackled explaining the mystery of the Trinity with a shamrock.
(Well, according to Lutheran Satire -- "explaining the faith by making fun of things" -- that's a heresy. Find out why.)
So raise a glass of green beer and eat your corned beef (neither of which seem to be Irish!) and enjoy St. Patrick's Day. And someday, you may be lucky enough to be shamrocked, too!
You don't have to check your brains and the door...
but there are consequences
March 11, 2021
Although some modern religious traditions may reject science, that has never been the Anglican way. The leading lights of the church have always been an inquisitive bunch! As that great Anglican theologian Robin Williams has said, #7 of the top 10 reasons to be an Episcopalian is:
You don't have to check your brains at the door.
And so, just last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has invoked the confluence of science and faith as critical for our world.
I speak as a Christian.
Jesus teaches us that there are no greater commandments
than to love God and love our neighbour.
To abide by those commandments as a Christian today is to step up to
the challenge of climate change and connected environmental crises.
The relationship between science and faith
presents us with a very real and a powerful route to lasting, major change.
Our global reach, our commitment to local communities and our hope
combined with the knowledge and expertise of science
can forge a powerful alliance.
As faith communities, my prayer is that we might stand together,
emissaries of hope and love,
calling for God’s justice and peace upon this precious world.
Now is the time for action.
Let us pray today, for this precious world and our work to do.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
O happy day!
March 4, 2021
Well, it's a day late... but nonetheless...Oh happy day!
It's a little bit rainy.
My house is warm.
An apple fritter graced my breakfast tray.
Oh, happy day.
A cake was delivered.
Balloons and presents, too.
And singing. Did I mention singing?
Oh, happy day.
Cards from my mailbox.
Now lined up on my table.
Lots of good wishes.
Oh, happy day.
It is a happy day.
And the Beatles came to sing!
Oh, happy day!
Dare Mighty Things
As the world watched in awe, cameras onboard provided a view of the overhead canopy and the rover Perseverance gently touched down on Mars. The parachute had a message. And the JPL engineering team had a challenge for the world.
You might notice the pattern that's on the parachute here. Distinct patterns are useful in helping us determine the clocking orientation of the parachute. Also, the contrasting sections can be useful in tracking different portions of the parachute as it inflates. In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts and our engineering can inspire others. Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose. So we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work.
Within hours the message came back. The red and yellow sections of the 'chute were in alpha-numeric binary code and when put together they read: Dare Mighty Things with the GPS location for JPL in the outer ring.
I suspect this is a challenge for us all. Jesus invites us to live our fullest lives and dare mighty things. What could be mightier than daring to live a life in Christ? A thought for Lent.
As We Begin Lent...
February 19, 2021
Perhaps you are looking for a Lenten discipline this year and would like a recommendation. Well, what's a pastor for?!
I'm sure you've heard about giving things up as a Lenten discipline. It reminds us of the privations Jesus endured during his forty days in the wilderness. And the thought is that as you reach for that chocolate (or glass of wine or cup of coffee), you are reminded of Jesus and think in that moment to pray with him. Of course, there all kinds of things you might give up that aren't in the food and drink category... television, Facebook, or swearing come to mind. If you are so inclined, giving something up may be a helpful way to remind you in unexpected moments throughout the season that God is with you.
Another approach is taking something on during Lent--some kind of daily practice that draws your heart and mind to God. With that in mind, we sent out Journey through Lent calendars as a way to (literally) color the days and give you ideas for something to do each day in Lent. And of course, Lent Madness is a unique way to learn about the saints who have gone before. I'm a fan of the silliness and the sincerity, and the daily prayers.
Speaking of daily prayers, you could commit to joining us for our weekday services throughout Lent. We offer daily offices four days a week on the St. Michael's Facebook page:
Monday at 8am for Morning devotions
Tuesday at Noon for Noonday prayers
Wednesday at 5pm for Vespers
Thursday at 8pm for Compline
Or you might choose to take on learning a Bible passage, perhaps Psalm 51 or Psalm 23. Living with them day by day through the season will write them on your heart. Having "go to" psalm is not a bad way to grow in Lent.
Or maybe you just need a daily prayer to recite. A short and simple one can be easily learned and brought to mind at any time. Here is one I especially like for Lent--it's from The New Zealand Book of Common Prayer:
God of the desert,
as we follow Jesus into the unknown,
may we recognize the tempter when he comes;
let it be your bread we eat,
your world we serve
and you alone we worship.
Of course, there are also books to read and Bible studies to join. You might consider joining our Zoom Bible study of the Gospel of John.
So many options! And these are just a few of them. The point of the season is to draw nearer to God day by day. Choose a practice that feels right for you and lean into God this season of Lent.
February 12, 2021
They were all in agreement. Everyone of them. They acknowledged the man at the back of the chamber with a standing ovation and then unanimously voted to award Eugene Goodman (shown at left) the Congressional Gold Medal--the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States Congress.
I consulted my personal sources (Google and Wikipedia, if you must know 😊) to find an image of the medal. And found out that there is no generic image. Each medal is uniquely designed for the person and achievement for which it is awarded. Many of the awards use the face of the recipient on the obverse and a visual representation of the achievement on the reverse. For example, John Wayne's Congressional Gold Medal has two iconic images of "The Duke"-- his handsome face on one side and astride his horse galloping through Monument Valley on the other. It will be interesting to see the reverse of Mr. Goodman's medal. How will they choose to depict his bravery?
But I digress. My happy place today is that it can be done! They can come together--Senators and Representatives one and all--and agree on something for the good of the nation. Every single one of them! Hallelujah!
Losses (and giving thanks)
February 5, 2021
Just one year ago this week, I left with family and friends to fly across the world and share a ship (and a 24 hour open buffet!) with several hundred of my new best friends.
So many things about that sentence seem strange now:
Boarding a plane - with no anxiety.
Being welcomed at an international destination.
Sailing on an ocean liner - again, without anxiety.
Sharing an open buffet.
Gathering in close quarters with hundreds of strangers.
When we returned, I wrote a children's book for my granddaughter about our trip--and
of course she is the star! (If you can't the be star of Grandma's book, when can you be the star?!)
The book talks about crossing the dateline... and blames Eleanor for "losing" Tuesday--
When Eleanor Lost Tuesday!
As I mark the passage of the strange year that has just passed, the title of the book makes me think of our year just passed. Did we all lose 2020?
There is no doubt that we lost a lot. Some of us more than others. Many lost jobs and livelihoods Students lost in-person education, and college students that blush of independence that comes with the first experience of living away from home. We all lost the ease of going out to eat or to church or to visit friends. And tragically, at this writing, more than 450,000 people in our country have lost their lives to the virus. There is no doubt that in serious ways, we all lost in 2020.
But I wonder if there are things we can salvage from the year. Did we gain anything? As I think over the year and the changes we had to make at church, I realize that I am profoundly thankful.
Here are just a few of the things that make me give thanks:
I am thankful for our vestry and the work they have done this year.
I am thankful for the music Adam records for us each week.
I am thankful for daily prayer and people to share it with...
and the services offered in our Book of Common Prayer.
I am thankful for everyone who has recorded prayers or readings for our services.
I am thankful for our children... and our Christmas service!
I am thankful for technology that allows us to be together--even if it's virtually.
I am thankful for the faithful folks who have continued to do things that keep us going...
counters and altar guild; proofreaders and mail crews;
and those with no title who just help out whenever it's needed.
I am thankful for our school and the teachers and director who have kept it going...
and have provided essential help for other essential workers.
I am thankful for the people who value our St. Michael's community
and have given more knowing that some others need to give less.
I am thankful for each and every one of you.
I am just thankful!
Thanks be to God! Truly. Thanks be to God. It is the God of love and abundance and peace
that fills my life with the ability to be thankful.
I pray that you can feel thankful, too.
January 29, 2021
Do you ever read bylines? You know the small print that tells you who wrote the news article you are about to read. My eye usually skips right past the byline to get to the story. Just about the only time I go back to check out the byline is when I have a reason.
I vehemently disagree! Who wrote this?
This is just silliness! Who wrote this?
More than one grammar error! Who wrote this?
But there are very few news writers I deliberately seek out. News isn't like my favorite book author. It seems more like a commodity. Whoever wrote it, okay, it's just the news. I'm looking for information not inspiration.
There was one notable exception for me. Sharon Begley. Whenever Newsweek had a story by Sharon Begley I could hardly wait to read it. I'd skip my usual page through and go right to her article. It was guaranteed to be timely, interesting and a great read. And then, years ago, I read about a new photo book:
The Hand of God combines inspiration for the mind and spirit
by juxtaposing what Astronomy magazine has called
“the most beautiful astrophotos ever taken”
with illuminating words of scientists, poets, and theologians,
introduced by an essay from award-winning science writer Sharon Begley.
That title. Pictures from the Hubble. Quotes from scientists and poets. Essay by Sharon Begley. Sold! I bought it. And I still like it so well that it sits out on the side table in our family room. Her essay is brilliant.
I hadn't seen her work for awhile, and really didn't know if she was still writing. And so I was delighted to see her name on an article in my newsfeed this week. And then devastated to read that she had died just after filing the story.
Sadness filled my heart. I didn't even know her, but she gave me so much. Thank you, Sharon. May you now see clearly the hand--and face--of God.
A Favorite Moment
January 23, 2021
I don't know what (or even if) you had a favorite moment from the presidential inauguration last Wednesday. I had several:
The poem and reading by poet laureate Amanda Gorman was stirring and beautiful.
Just as she is.
A woman vice president being sworn in by a woman Supreme Court justice.
Joe Biden's heartfelt and honest address.
Amy Klobuchar's quip about J. Lo being the opening act for Chief Justice Roberts.
The normalcy of it all. I've seen this before.
Thank God I can see it again!
And then there were the fashions! You can't avoid the Bernie memes. His jacket-and-mittens Vermont fashion statement was a distinct counterpoint to the color and couture of the day. I loved them all. Red and white and blue... and yellow. What a striking yellow coat Ms. Gorman wore! But I have to admit I was swept away by Lady Gaga's billowing crimson skirt beneath the close fitted navy cashmere bodice. And she sang! It's worth hearing again.
But what was with the brooch? The oversize golden dove brooch dominated her left shoulder. And garnered at least as many comments as the 13 foot wide red skirt. There were a few guesses as to what it meant, if anything. But Lady Gaga made clear her own intention in a tweet.
A dove carrying an olive branch.
May we all make peace with each other.
A Day of Service
January 14, 2021
The federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. is traditionally a day of service. Sometimes it's hard to find an appropriate service project, and especially these days. But on Monday, January 18, 2021, L.A. Works will continue a longstanding tradition of organizing Angelenos in service and activism (virtually and in-person) to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
You (and your kids!) can participate! Join in one of several projects at this event designed to build upon the anti-racism movement. It can be as simple as packing a few lunches for the homeless and delivering them downtown. Or as elaborate (and fun!) as taking a tour through the fully recreated National Mall in Minecraft (that's an online game that allows players to create worlds of their own--or so I'm told :-)
Click to figure out how you'd like to make this a meaningful holiday. And while you're at it, take a listen to Audra McDonald singing Lift Every Voice and Sing - fabulous!
A Day of Darkness--The Feast of Lights
January 8, 2021
During the first centuries of the Christian Era, some places observed the winter solstice on January 6. To oppose pagan festivals celebrating the day, Christians chose this day to celebrate the various "epiphanies" of Jesus' divinity.* And so the celebration of the Son of God replaced celebration of the sun.
Ironically (or sadly or disgracefully, or abominably... choose your own adverb), in our country on Wednesday--the Feast of the Epiphany, one of the greatest lights of our national experiment in self-government was desecrated by a violent mob of insurrectionists. In an attempt to overrule the will of the people, protesters destroyed property at our National Capitol Building, and in the process lives were lost and the light of our nation wavered. This day will sit among a handful of other national days "that will live in infamy."
So the question arises, can we reclaim this day? A day of deep darkness and destruction and death. I believe we can and we must.
Our national experiment is founded on God-given rights, but ultimately our hope rests in God. I believe we must turn to God in humility and seek God's help for ourselves and our nation. I believe we are called to prayer--and we have prayed and will continue to pray each time we gather online between now and January 20 for our nation and the peaceful transition of power. And each of us can pray individually as well.
you made us in your own image
and redeemed us through Jesus your son.
Look now with compassion on the entire human family;
and particularly this part of the family in the United States;
take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts;
break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love;
and work through our struggle and confusion
to accomplish your purposes on earth;
that, in your good time,
all nations and races may serve you in harmony
around your heavenly throne;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And I believe we are called to action. To open our eyes in the light of Jesus-- who on the Feast of the Epiphany was made known to the world beyond his own people--and recognize and work toward a nation that fulfills our national promise. A place where there is liberty and justice for all.
So I encourage you to choose in this Season of Epiphany what you can do to make our nation a more just place for all.
Show God's Love in the World.
There is much we can do and many places we can do it. Choose to do something--so that the light of Christ rather than the darkness of evil will shine forth in our nation.
*These showings of his divinity included his birth, the coming of the Magi, his baptism, and the Wedding at Cana where he miraculously changed water into wine.
The Christmas Star
December 18, 2020
It is not just us, you know. The world celebrates light. It is likely that early humans feared the total disappearance of the sun as the days became shorter in higher latitudes, and so created ceremonies to cajole the sun into returning. Stonehenge, that dramatic and ancient monument of astronomy, is set up to frame the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice and the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice.
And this year there will be an extra moment of light in the night sky. Just after sunset the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will grace the sky. This is the closest conjunction of these gas giants visible on the earth since 1226 AD. And to have it happen at Christmas is a special gift of light as we celebrate the coming of Jesus, the light of the world.
Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan notes, "Astronomy gives you a different kind of perspective on the universe, which is different from our day-to-day experiences. Things are going on above us all the time. They mark eras. ... It's an important connection between generations."
That Christmas Star that the Wise Men saw... an important connection between generations.
Singing in the dark
December 11, 2020
Lessons and Carols, the famous Christmas service from King's College, has been celebrated for more than 100 years. This service tells the story in scripture and carols about the loving purposes of God.
Over the years churches throughout the world have adapted the service for their own use. Here at St. Michael’s we have offered a briefer service of Lessons and Carols on the Third Sunday Advent for many years. But this year, no choir... and so it seemed, no service. Even though that decision was quite reasonable, as we have moved through the Advent season, I found that Lessons and Carols was one thing I was not willing to forego this year when we have given up so much. We couldn't do it as we usually do, but could we do it in some way?
Well, I think we can. So on the Fourth Sunday of Advent--next week, December 20th as we come to the darkest day of the year--our morning service will be Lessons and Carols. We'll sing more than usual, hear a good bit of scripture, and have the privilege of hearing some of the gorgeous voices in our congregation. On this shortest day, when the darkness comes early and long, we will sing about hope. We will remember once again that Jesus is coming. The Light of the World.
As with the King’s College Festival, our service will begin with a child soprano (although ours is a girl, not a boy!) singing the opening verse of the hymn “Once in Royal David’s City.” You don't want to miss it! Here's a preview... just so you know!
December 4, 2020
When famous editor and author Norman Cousins came down with a painful and debilitating illness that could not be successfully treated by medical professionals, he literally turned to laughter as the best medicine. He said that 10 minutes of good belly laughter could bring him 2 hours of pain-free sleep.
When William Countryman, esteemed professor of Liturgy at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, was asked to help my senior class prepare for ordination exams, he gave us little practical advice. And we were quite anxious for that! Rather, he encouraged us to breathe deeply... to laugh... "You know what you know. You can't learn more in one night's cramming. So oxygenate your brain. Watch a funny movie and laugh. You'll do better if you do!"
When I read or watch the news these days, I find myself clenching and tensing. My breathing is short and shallow. And so tonight I plan to find a funny movie and laugh.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Laughter is good for the soul.
Laughter is an instant vacation.
Laughter is God’s hand on the shoulder of a troubled world.
In case you'd like to join me... here's the best comedy bit of the 20th century. I challenge you to watch the whole thing and NOT laugh!
Who among us could not use the hand of God on our shoulder right now?
November 20, 2020
How are you giving thanks this year? I expect there may be some changes. There certainly will be around my Thanksgiving table. We generally gather as an extended family that includes cousins of cousins and virtual relatives--the "brothers from another mother" that my son claims as his own! This means that there may 25 or more of us gathered for turkey and all the fixings at several large tables.
It will be smaller--and quieter-- for us this year. We expect to gather as a group of five around the patio table. My sister and her husband will join us. My other sister will be with her son's family. Her daughter will be with her in-laws. My daughter and family will remain in Canada. My son's "brothers" will be on their own. It will be scattered groups with streamlined offerings. But our thanksgiving will be as real as ever.
We have much to be thankful for. But the gifts we have--enough to eat and a place to sleep, family and friends wherever they may be, several promising vaccines--seem not enough for us to endure a time of limits without complaint. A friend of mine told me yesterday, "I can complain. I can always complain. But I find that I am happier when I am grateful. So I choose to be grateful."
So for me, I am grateful for my far-flung family and friends, even if we can't gather and laugh around the same sumptuous table. I'm grateful for the love that crosses the distance and the technology that allows us to see each other even from afar. I'm grateful for all of you at your tables. And I'm grateful for everyone who chooses to endure limited celebrations now so that we can all be safer next year.
How about you? I hope you choose to be grateful--and celebrate the blessings of the day and the days as well as our hopes for the future.
And if you are looking for a prayer for your meal, I offer this one:
For food in a world where many walk in hunger,
For faith in a world where many walk in fear,
For friends in a world where many walk alone,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
Quoted from the movie
Seven Days in Utopia
November 13, 2020
God's time. I have been reminded of God's time this week.
It is not my time--and that mostly makes me impatient. I have places to go and people to see, as they say. I don't have time to wait on God's time. Or so I think. And, in any case, it doesn't seem to matter. God's time will happen. Mine, maybe not so much.
We have been struggling with how to divide the main room of our Children's Center so we can accommodate more children. The class size limits due to COVID-19 have severely reduced our ability to serve our families and keep our teachers fully employed. The high ceiling in the school room along with the Public Health requirement that a divider needs to be floor to ceiling made it quite a project. I talked with six contractors (count them, six!) about how we could build the divider. A heavy horizontal beam. Drywall above. Accordion doors below. It was a major project that after due consideration none of them was willing to undertake. Weeks went by and it seemed undoable.
But then, someone said, "How about a tarp?" And I thought, "I know a sailor. He can tell us how to hoist a sail. And, oh, by the way, he's an architect, too!" And the project went from "Hmmm, maybe." to "Done!" in ten days. The divider was installed on Saturday and we have children in two separate classrooms this week.
In God's time. The newest member of our parish family is Jeremy Iniobong Okon. His middle name means "God's time" in the native language of his family--Efik Ibibio from the southern region of Nigeria. The family knows that he is a gift that came in God's time.
We worked hard on trying to figure out a divider. And then--with the right word and the right people--it happened. When we inspected the rooms on Monday, Lauren said to me, "I knew it would happen in God's time. That's when it all comes together."
In God's time. Thanks be to God.
Twinkies for two
October 22, 2020
It's a classic quest story. A boy goes looking for God
--and the odds seem stacked against him.
It's a classic redemption story. She's hungry and alone
--and has no reason to expect things will change.
He is looking. She is seen. He has something to share.
And so does she. It's a match made in heaven.
Take a moment to watch and restore your spirit today.
Sometimes you go looking for God.
Sometimes God comes to you.
Where did you see God today?
October 16, 2020
Okay. Admit it. Church on the couch isn't all bad!
I know several people who have taken the opportunity of these days to "go to church" in various places all on the same Sunday. My sister starts on the East Coast with an early morning sermon from a favorite bishop, followed by the sermon of a former rector, and then a couple of other favorites across the country before she signs on to her "home church" service here in Pasadena.
Several of my friends (are you one of them?!) are now able to take an early morning Sunday walk without worrying that they may be a bit ripe when they join a service. No one can tell! Others join in from the great outdoors or parts unknown.
There are advantages to online church, no doubt. But I think our recent in-person, al fresco services have reminded us of the joy of community.
Even without hugs and with smiles hidden behind masks, no one could hide the joy of seeing friends again. There is truly joy in community. What do you think?
What is it about our St. Michael's community that brings you joy? Let me know. I'll report back!
October 8, 2020
I haven't been able to have chapel with the children of our Children's Center since March. The school was closed for a bit more than 2 months and returned on a trial basis in mid-June and then with a much reduced student population in July. Since then, the teachers and students have established new classroom norms and procedures -- masks, parallel play, social distancing. And cleaning, everything gets cleaned!
It's been a challenge, but the students and teachers are up to it. The little ones have adorable masks and wear them. They know how to social distance and play without touching. And they are very glad to be able to be together and enjoy school activities and the playground.
So, last week Lauren, our school director, and I decided it was time to see about chapel--but how to do it? Prior to March, the little ones came into the church so we could sing and tell stories and pray together. But we cannot do that now. So just like our regular services, this week we moved chapel onto the bike yard.
It's been a while, and it was so good to see their (above the mask) faces! We sang our regular songs and heard a bit about St. Francis and how he loved all of creation, especially the animals, and decided that we each had a "stuffie" we loved and could pray with. Mine is Purple Starlight, a cuddly winged pony that my granddaughter left for me to remember her.
How do you pray your grateful prayers each day? Some people use a thankfulness journal, others count their blessings instead of sheep, and some of us give thanks while hugging our favorite stuffies. However you give thanks, here is a litany of thanksgiving from our Book of Common Prayer.
Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.
For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.
For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.
For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.
For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.
For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises
given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
BCP p. 836
Too darn hot
October 1, 2020
Brain freeze. That's a term for being unproductive. Sittin' here with my fingers on the keyboard and a blank new screen to write on, but nothing comes to mind. It's curious that I think of "brain freeze" when in reality I'm just too hot to think. Too hot. It's 92 degrees in El Segundo, and as far as I can tell there is no ocean breeze. Looking at a weather map, it's hot all over the southwest and the map is brilliant red in southern California. The latest CBS News headline screams
Los Angeles County sets record temperature
as scorching heat wave wallops Southern California
So how are you doing? Me? I'm just too darn hot. So I went looking for just that. And I found this Broadway production from the 2019 Tony Awards show. Get a cold drink, watch these fabulous performers and listen to that incredible clarinet in the band.
It's not too hot to enjoy this performance. And to give thanks for all the talented people who enrich our lives with their gifts of music and dance.
Bless the creators, O God of creation,
who by their gifts make the world a more joyful and beautiful realm.
Through their labors they teach us to see more clearly the truth around us.
In their inspiration they call forth wonder and awe in our own living.
In their hope and vision they remind us that life is holy.
Bless all who create in your image, O God of creation.
Pour your Spirit upon them that their hearts may sing and their works be fulfilling.
Starry starry night
September 24, 2020
As a city girl, I have a craving to see stars. Lots and lots of stars. Stars and the night sky are always in mind as I go on vacation. I have had many disappointments! I have hoped to see stars when out on the ocean, or in the desert, and just last week in the low mountains near Ojai. A star or a few, but not nearly enough.
Now I have seen stars and indeed the cloud of the Milky Way once or twice in my life, but somehow the majesty of the night sky never gets old. And I think I'm in good company. David must have stood in awe of the night sky.
Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
for he commanded, and they were created.
So I have an excursion in mind the next time I visit my daughter in Edmonton. There is a "Dark Park" to the southwest on the way to Calgary-- a place that deliberately eliminates artificial light pollution so the night sky can be seen in all its majesty.
But just today I have added another starry event should I make it to Paris in time. Walking through the Van Gogh exhibit at the Atelier des Lumières in Paris will be magical! Add the "Starry starry night" soundtrack and voila! Take a look and a listen--it's a mini vacation!
To God be the glory!
September 4, 2020
It’s a complicated holiday. Is it for “huge savings” sales, or for barbecues and backyard parties? Is it the unofficial end of summer, or the last day to wear white shoes?
It is likely all of these—except perhaps that white shoes bit—and a historical holiday as well. It has its origins in the labor movement of the latter part of the 19th century and it's always been a day for parades and picnics—but originally these were community events that often featured speeches by prominent labor leaders. It celebrates the role of laborers and the dignity of work. And, most especially, the power that comes when workers band together in solidarity and strength.
The movement is celebrated in the arts. Movies and plays, novels and non-fiction explore labor themes. The works of some of our most distinguished authors and playwrights celebrate the lives and tribulations of working men and women. The actos of El Teatro Campesino were often performed on flatbed trucks next to fields or picket lines. And there’s a musical soundtrack for the labor movement that spans the 20th century. The songs are plaintive and raucous, ballads and anthems, popular and obscure.
As we celebrate this weekend—and perhaps think primarily of beaches and barbecues—I invite you to remember the origin of this day and the sacrifice of workers to raise the status and conditions of ordinary lives. Here's a selected soundtrack for the day—from the bass of Paul Robeson to the deceptively sweet harmonies of Sweet Honey in the Rock to the twang of Woody Guthrie. It’s a Labor Day Top Ten.
And I invite you to pray.
you have so linked our lives one with another
that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:
So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone,
but for the common good;
and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor,
make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers,
and arouse our concern for those who are out of work;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever.
BCP p. 261
Walls of Light
August 28, 2020
Soaring heavenward, they are walls of blue light. That was my impression of Sainte Chapelle. Stunning stained glass forms the walls of the chapel--so that there are no walls, only the gorgeous light.
The scale of the stained glass windows is hard to comprehend--fifteen windows, each fifteen meters high. And all the more since they have been in place for more than 750 years. This royal chapel was commissioned by Louis IX--Saint Louis--and seven and a half centuries later it remains a wondrous monument to God and to human ingenuity.
Louis IX was on our church calendar this week, a man of his times and one of the saints of God. And so this week I was reminded of my trip to France many years ago and how unprepared I was to enter his chapel. They say that places that are saturated with prayer begin to have a holy sense about them. This is a place that surely knew Louis' prayers... and I suspect also the prayers of the many craftsmen as they built it. And now, for centuries, it has heard the prayers of royalty and pilgrims and me.
I invite you to take a few moments to listen to this choral work, "Sainte Chapelle," and sit in the presence of this light. May your prayers add to the light of the world.
Choral work composed by Eric Whitacre
with text by Charles Silvestri and
performed by the Wartburg College Choir.
Blessings and Backpacks
August 20, 2020
Several churches that I have attended celebrated the end of summer and the coming of new school year with blessings. We could bless almost anything! Bicycles. Backpacks. Textbooks. And most importantly of all, teachers and students. These were happy and hopeful blessings as we looked forward with anticipation to a season of new beginnings. Perhaps even more than the turn of the calendar year, back to school has always been the start of the new year.
We are coming to these days now—but they are different. So what is our prayer for these days?
I offer you this one…
Bless us Lord, in these days and times.
Bless the tools of our learning,
as unfamiliar as they may be:
computers and apps
kitchen tables and measuring spoons
wifi and routers.
Help us to adapt,
in all of the challenging ways that are required:
online and virtual
alternate days and shortened schedules
socially distant and masked.
Hold us close
as we greet one another without touching:
with thumbs up
and happy dances.
Encourage us to be kind and forbearing
as we navigate new ways and relationships:
teachers and students
parents and siblings
janitors and administrators.
Remind us that we are strong enough to do this
and flexible enough, too:
strong enough to face each new day
flexible enough to meet new challenges
cooperative enough to support one another.
And when we are able to resume a new way of being together,
bless us once again.
Through a glass dimly
August 14, 2020
As I left the house on my bike on Wednesday afternoon, it looked quite clear. There was a little coolness in the breeze, but not enough for a jacket. So I was surprised as I coasted down Grand Avenue toward the ocean. The drift of fog was unmistakable. Along the bike path itself visibility was fine. But I could not see the tankers out in the bay or the Santa Monica mountains. Gray. All gray.
The ocean wasn't interesting to look at, and so I noticed other things. As I rode past groups on the beach the fragrance of sunscreen drifted in. At the Ocean Cafe, there was an enticing but unidentifiable aroma of food. I noticed the warmth of the sun on my back and wondered that the fog could endure. I listened to the chatter of the gulls overhead.
And I wondered if this was a sign of the times. Right now we can't see far ahead in time just as I couldn't see in space. None of us can. We don't know how long we will be concerned about going out. Cautious about going to the market. Pausing to leave space as we walk past other walkers. Reaching for a mask when someone comes to talk. Seeing the same few folks day in and day out.
And we are yearning to see ahead. So when this came across my desk today I wondered if God was speaking to me through the voice of a child. Perhaps I needed to refocus. You might hear God, as well.
August 6, 2020
In the beginning, Genesis tells us, God is creating in darkness—the earth a formless void and the deep, covered in darkness. And God says, “Let there be light.” The first named of creation: Light. And so the story begins. Light and dark are separated—day and night. And great lights to rule the day and the night. And lesser lights, too. Sun, moon and stars—created lights to give light to the day and to the night.
Light—created and formed.
Let there be light!
And because light is indispensable to our life, fundamental to our existence, it is an image of God for us. Jesus is the light of the world. But even as far back as the psalms, there is recognition that God does not require light.
Even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
And, in fact, that God is light.
God is light
and in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5
God is light. Uncreated light. And occasionally this light is seen in our world. Moses sees this light on Mount Sinai, and it causes his face to glow. Paul sees this light on the road to Damascus, and it blinds him. Peter, James and John see Jesus revealed in this light on the mountaintop, shining like the sun with garments as white as light.
Today as we celebrate this Feast of the Transfiguration, we get a glimpse of God who is Uncreated Light. Mysterious. Unfathomable. Today Jesus is revealed in this uncreated light and we get a glimpse of what is beyond. Beyond us, beyond creation, beyond comprehension. The great unknowable, who has created the greater and lesser lights of the heavens. The great mystery who holds each one of us in the light of love.
male and female God created them
July 29, 2020
Last week I was in a family conversation that included my 12-year-old great nephew. He's enormously precocious and verbal (both parents are lawyers!) and stands his own with adults in conversation. He's active in his church and is learning the life of faith - both I suspect from his own inclinations and his parents' support and encouragement.
As our conversation wandered, Sojourner Truth came up. We had remembered her in our daily services the day before and I quoted these lines from her "Ain't I a Woman" speech:
Where did your Christ come from?
Where did your Christ come from?
He came from God and a woman.
Man had nothing to do with it.
My nephew, who was next to me, said softly, "But God is a man." I immediately clutched and replied, "Oh, be careful." And then, to save the mood, the conversation moved on. I figure I'll let his parents deal with that... or not.
But it reveals that even now, when many if not most Christians will acknowledge that God is neither male or female, our language and our training encourage us to think otherwise. When we always refer to God as "he," we unconsciously absorb the idea that God is he... and he only, Genesis not withstanding:
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.
Common English Bible
And so today, as we coincidentally mark the 46th anniversary of the ordination of women in our Church and celebrate the day set aside to remember Mary and Martha of Bethany, I think about the limits I put on God. If I see God only as male, how does that limit how I understand God? What other limits do I put on God? What do you think?
July 23, 2020
There will be crowds of fans at Dodger stadium tonight for opening day of the baseball season. Oh, there won’t be a live crowd in the stands, but the seats will be filled with fans anyway. Diehard Dodger fans—you know, the ones who bleed Dodger blue—have sent in pictures to be turned into “fan cutouts.” And so instead of an empty stadium, many seats will be filled with fans in their best Dodger gear. The seats filled with people who would be there if they could.
It makes me think of how much I miss all of you. Our pews would be filled with all of you—all the faithful who would be there if you could. I do have copies of our last group photos to remind me of our community. The group photo on the wall gives me a sense of having you all right there “in church” with me when we are in eChurch together on Facebook. But I still yearn for when we can gather again. It will likely be outside, with masks, and limited contact. Even so, it will be so good to be together! Until then please be safe, wear your mask when you are out, and keep an appropriate social distance. Our best science and scientists tell us that this can make a significant difference for our being able to be out and about.
In the meantime, we await for those opening words. Not “Play ball!” but rather, “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!” It will be a celebration, an opening day!
July 16, 2020
It’s a harrowing, heart-stopping tale of trust, daring and deception.
Just steps outside the British embassy, a third Gestapo officer stopped them. Martha began to loudly complain about the lack of taxis and her frustration at being late for a meeting with the embassy secretary. She flashed her passport and demanded the guard tell the secretary, “Mr. and Mrs. Sharp are here.” He waved them ahead to speak with a British guard, and Martha and Mr. X walked into the embassy to safety.
And it’s only one story of one person among the thousands of stories of the “Righteous Gentiles.”* At the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem more than 11,000 Righteous Gentiles are honored. And today on our church calendar we remember them, “The Righteous Gentiles.”
Here is part of our prayer today for them, and for us.
God of the Covenant
We give you thanks for all those Righteous Gentiles
who with compassion, courage and resourcefulness
rescued thousands of your children from certain death.
Grant that, in the power of your Spirit,
we may protect the innocent of every race and creed
in the Name of Jesus Christ,
strong Deliverer of us all.
* The Christians and other persons of faith who made valiant sacrifices,
often at the risk of their own lives, to save Jews from the Holocaust.
Irregardless of what you've heard...
July 9, 2020
... there are two kinds of people in this world:
1. The ones who cringed at that headline and want to mark the first word through with a red pen and discipline me harshly for such usage.
2. And the rest of you who understand what it means and have no problem with using "irregardless" in writing and speech.
This comes to mind today because the decision by Merriam Webster to include "irregardless" in the dictionary is controversial in some circles... honestly! Mostly among current and former elementary school and English teachers, I suspect.
(Ir)regardless of which camp you fall into, I suspect this highlights the differences we all have about what matters and what doesn't. We can still have heated and emotional disagreements about what is important and what is not even when we are engaged with some of the smaller issues of life. My use of irregardless is your opinion that geometry is an absolutely useless math class that students are forced to endure for no good reason.
I think of this today as we are trying to survive this COVID-19 crisis (wear a mask or not?), as we are seeing the consequences of systemic racism (or not believing it exists) in our nation, as we think about the role humans have played in climate change (or whether the weather is just going through a natural cycle). These are BIG issues that are really important. And they are hard to talk about. And perhaps even harder to listen about from someone who definitely and seriously disagrees with you.
And so I wonder, if we practiced talking about small things (geometry and irregardless, for example) could we get some practice in how to talk AND listen to those with whom we disagree? Because regardless of how you feel about irregardless, we need to learn how to talk to each other.
Wanna start? Ask me why geometry is important!
"He who sings prays twice"
July 3, 2020
That's a quote attributed to St. Augustine, and it speaks to hymns as not just words and melody, but actually prayers set to music. It's a quote for choir members, and it's the inscription on my father's headstone. He was the tenor soloist for the church all the time I was growing up, and for many years both before and after that.
If you turn to the last hymns in our hymnal you'll find some hymns for our nation. The hymns in the hymnal are grouped by theme and this last group is called "National Songs." And the very last hymn in the book is our national anthem. The first stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner" celebrates our flag and victory in war, but it has no mention of God. I think it is verse two that allows for its inclusion since includes these words: "Praise the power that hath made a preserved us a nation."
There are pretty strict standards for inclusion in the hymnal--remember "he who sings prays twice." So the words of our hymns are supposed to be theologically consistent with our beliefs. Hymns are essentially prayers set to music, so what we sing we also pray. And so I am surprised every year when we come to national holidays that "God Bless America" is not in our hymnal. It is explicitly religious. The introduction, that is not often sung, marks it as a prayer.
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
We will sing "God Bless America" on Sunday as we give thanks for our nation and pray that we may live up to and into our ideals. But even before then I invite you to enjoy a military band at play. National Hymns, in my opinion, never sound better than when they are played by a military band. Here's a rendition of "God Bless America" performed by the West Point Band for you to enjoy. And to pray.
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans, white with foam,
God bless America, my home sweet home.
One of God's Trombones
June 26, 2020
You likely know the name James Weldon Johnson. His work is a standard in every American Literature book I own (and I own a few!... I was an English major in college and I briefly taught AmLit at the high school level).
James Weldon Johnson is remembered as a great African American poet of the early 20th Century—active in the arts and literature movement known as the “Harlem Renaissance.” We remember him most often in current culture, I think, as the author of the poem set to music as “Lift Every Voice and Sing”—the Black National Anthem. It is a stunning and stirring hymn (#599 in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982) and the name given to one of our additional hymnals. Lift Every Voice and Sing collects pieces from both the African American and Gospel traditions. Some of my favorite hymns are in this hymnal rather than our usual one. We sing them on occasion…and often I can’t resist clapping along!
You may be surprised to know that James Weldon Johnson is also remembered on our church calendar yesterday, June 25. His gifts of poetry and leadership (he was the executive secretary of the NAACP from 1920-30) are acknowledged, but the primary reason for his inclusion I believe is his gorgeous verse that seeks to capture the voice of the great African American preachers he heard growing up. The collection God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse is one of my treasured books. I found it on my parents’ bookshelf when I was young and have had it in my library all these years. I even learned and told the “The Creation” sermon when I was younger. I was delighted this week when I discovered that a poet who truly touches my heart is also acknowledged as a holy man of the church.
we give thanks for the gifts that you gave your servant
James Weldon Johnson:
a heart and voice to praise your Name in verse.
As he gave us powerful words to glorify you,
may we also speak with joy and boldness
to banish hatred from your creation,
in the Name of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.
Listen to this stirring telling of his funeral sermon “Go Down Death” and give thanks for the life of this holy man of God--one of God's trombones.
A Psalm of Sarah
June 19, 2020
Some of you know that I have a collection of "psalms" that I have written over the years. I started writing them when I was reading the Bible deeply as part of my journey (with a fabulous mentor and wonderful companions) in an Education for Ministry class. It was a way for me to struggle with and make sense of the stories, especially the difficult ones. One of those difficult stories comes up in our lectionary this week--Sarah insisting that Abraham cast Hagar and Ismael out of the community. It would be a death sentence--except that God intervenes.
And so Sarah, a woman for whom I have so much compassion, is completely self-absorbed and selfish in this moment. In the struggle, it seemed to me the question was, "Who is she?" And then, "And so then, who am I?"
Sarah, beautiful Sarah
walks as a faithful sister and wife with the man whom God has chosen.
Sarah shares in the promise of God as it was made to her husband Abraham.
Sarah, impatient Sarah
gives Hagar to bear a son for Abraham.
Sarah hears the promise of God and wants it to happen in her own time.
Sarah, laughing Sarah
bears the gift of laughter in her old age.
Sarah holds the promise of God in her hands, her own baby Isaac.
Sarah, jealous Sarah
insists on banishment for Hagar and Ishmael.
Sarah hoards the promise of God for herself and for her son.
Sarah, frail human Sarah!
The promise of God comes to you and through you in spite of how you are.
Sarah is the mother of us all.
John Johnson Emmegahbowh, priest & truthteller
June 12, 2020
Today we honor John Johnson Emmegahbowh on our church calendar, the first Native American to be ordained an Episcopal priest in the United States.
The Rev. M. Lucie Thomas, who has studied the life and work of Emmegahbowh, says of him
It was his truth-telling, always gentle but always steadfast,
that I most notice about Emmegahbowh.
He told the truth as he understood it to his fellow Indians.
He told the truth as he understood it to his bishop
and to other whites and to people in Washington
and even to several U.S. Presidents.
He was at times unpopular because of this,
but he managed throughout his life to spread the Good News,
to train new clergy,
to help found missions.
In these highly charged and divisive times in which we find ourselves, may we follow Emmegahbowh’s example, steadfastly telling the truth to one another and to those in power about the sins of our personal and systemic racism that lies in direct opposition to the Gospel message.
Exerpted from the story by Kate Hennessy-Keimig
posted in the Episcopal Cafe online, June 12, 2020
The Week that Was
June 5, 2020
This has been one of the most troubling weeks I have experienced. In the midst of a global pandemic (that has not gone away!), our nation has been rocked by horrific images of violence in our streets. How do we respond to this and go forward?
Perhaps this cartoon by Brian Gordon has something to say...
Baby Duck: This is really scary.
Papa Duck: Sure is.
Baby Duck: Why is it happening?
Papa Duck: Well, it's complicated.
But Black people are rightfully angry about how they've
long been treated by police and society in general.
When all peaceful ways of addressing racism
have been ignored or denied, this is what happens.
Baby Duck: Do we have to talk about this?
It makes me so sad.
Papa Duck: Yup. Ignoring this stuff is what got us here in the first place.
I really sympathize with Baby Duck (and others) saying, "Do we have to talk about this? It makes me so sad." But I know that Papa Duck's response is spot on. We cannot continue to ignore inequalities that simmer just under the surface. Currently, I have seen many opportunities to "do something." There are lists of books to choose from so that we can begin to understand what it's all about. There are articles to read and websites to visit and even music to listen to. We can offer financial support to an organization or two that is making a difference. And we can listen to Presiding Bishop Curry speak to this moment.
I plan to "attend" the Episcopal Justice Assembly on June 10 to hear from "Episcopalians who are leaders in the fight for economic and racial justice, speaking to this moment of crisis." You can check it out and register for the Zoom event here.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope you remember the words of our Presiding Bishop: "If it's not about love, it's not about God."
In the Meantime
May 29, 2020
The Book of Acts reminds us that between the Ascension and Pentecost the disciples devoted themselves to prayer. I'd say they are a good model for us in this moment.
A Prayer in the Meantime
God of past and future
you were with Jesus and his friends
and you will be with us in your world to come
God unseen yet ever present
you are at work in creation
and you are at work in our lives
God of all time and space
you are unbounded by our limits
yet you meet us where we are
God in the moment
you were with them then
and you are with us now
God in the waiting
although we wait
we do not wait alone
you wait with us
Come, Holy Spirit, Come
Michael, Grace and José
May 23, 2020
My father loved languages and he delighted in the Spanish words and phrases that give color to the California landscape. From Centinela (sentinel) to Sepulveda (for a prominent Mexican family) to the original name of our metropolis (“El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles”—The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels), our area is covered with names and phrases that mark our Mexican heritage. He taught me that La Tijera (scissors) Boulevard “cuts” at an angle across town from Westchester to Ladera Heights. And that The La Brea Tar Pits is a most redundant name (The The Tar Tar Pits).
Dad also taught me that understanding where a word comes from can show more about what the word means. And so today, as I was wondering about the word “grace,” I looked around.
In the catechism, The Book of Common Prayer says that grace is God's favor toward us, unearned and undeserved. The Episcopal Church website tells us that grace is God’s love freely given to humanity for salvation. And that the word is a Latin translation of a Greek word used in the New Testament. So… on to check that out. The Latin gratia, “a gift or favor freely given,” is a translation of the Greek word charis, which conjures up not just notions of grace and kindness, but of joy, generosity and love.
All of this because I found out that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is offering a series of weekly video meditations called “Habits of Grace.” Bishop Curry says that consistent habits—“habits of grace”—can be helpful in unsettling times. And so he is suggesting habits to cultivate that can help us get through. Each week he offers a word, a song, a poem, a prayer. Something for the week we are living in. This week his offering is gladness… and he says:
It may seem strange to suggest it,
but even in times of hardship,
even in times when our hearts are heavy,
sometimes, finding something to be glad about
and maybe something to laugh about
can actually help.
And then he goes on to suggest a YouTube video “Quarantine with Bishop José.” And so, today, I recommend both to you. “Habits of Grace” with Bishop Curry and a bit of silliness with Bishop José.
I hope they offer a word to help center your day…and a laugh!
May they be grace to you.
Is it safe (to let those fears go)?
May 14, 2020
I have noticed during these weeks under the "safer at home" orders that there are two kinds of people (that's always the way, isn't it?): people who are busier than usual because they are scrambling to figure out how to do their work at home via technology, and people who are posting pictures of their completed 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles on Facebook.
Initially I was in the first group, desperate to figure out how to "do church" via the internet and all the choices and support that required. But now, although things are still busy, there is time to reflect. And I realize that I had expected things to calm down by now. I had expected to be back in church. I had expected to see you all in person. I had expected things to be "back to normal."
And now, it doesn't seem that way. It feels like this may go on for quite some time. It feels like we may open up and then have to retrench again (and maybe again) before we get this thing under control. It feels like the long haul. And I'm not sure I've got it in me.
One of my favorite preachers came to my aid on this yesterday. Nadia Bolz-Weber helped me name my feelings and then put them into perspective--a perspective of faith. Here's a bit of what she had to say:
When I stop and check in with myself I must say -
I believe we will prevail.
As sh***y as this all is,
I have faith in the power of human love and creativity
and resilience and kindness and humor.
And I believe God to be the source of our love and creativity
and resilience and kindness and humor,
which means there is an eternal supply on which to draw
when we just don't have what it takes.
Also, I have faith that God is already present
in the future we keep pinning our hopes and fears to
so maybe it’s safe to let them go.
Her words brought to mind a favorite hymn, "All my hope on God is founded." The first stanza goes like this:
All my hope on God is founded:
He doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance He guideth,
Only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
Calls my heart to be His own.
If you check out YouTube there are versions of this great hymn by great cathedral choirs from all over the world. There is also this little version of a woman singing alone in her bedroom-- an unmade bed in the background--with a grand choir as audio accompaniment. It seems just perfect to me--all alone, but singing faithfully with a great choir about great hope.
God is our hope. Yesterday. Today. And always. Thanks be to God.
May 7, 2020
Harriet. It's an old-fashioned name. But it has cropped up in a variety of ways for me recently. You may know that Bishop Taylor has a granddaughter named Harriet. (Check out his Facebook page for more!) If you're of an age (or have spent enough time on "classic TV "), you remember "Ozzie & Harriet." And this year's Lent Madness winner was Harriet Tubman--the stunningly amazing Conductor of the Underground Railroad. Her story is told in the 2019 biopic "Harriet." I recommend it.
But I met a new (to me) Harriet today. Harriet King Cannon is one of the holy women remembered on our church calendar--and today, her birthday, is her day.
I notice, especially in these days, that her life was marked by epidemic. She was orphaned as a baby by a yellow fever epidemic. As an adult she entered the Sisters of the Holy Communion, an order of dedicated to medical service in New York City, serving as a nurse and often caring for victims of small pox. Later, she was the first Mother Superior of a new order, The Community of St. Mary, whose sisters are remembered among the Martyrs of Memphis-- those who died caring for victims of the yellow fever epidemic of the 1870s.
Yesterday was National Nurses Day and today is the National Day of Prayer. They combine the two primary calls of Mother Harriet's life - the calls to service and to prayer. And so, in memory of Harriet King Cannon, I invite your prayer this day to our loving and compassionate God for all those who serve in this time of crisis.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy,
who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity
and the great commandment of love for one another.
Send down your blessings on these your servants,
who so generously devote themselves to helping others.
Grant them courage when they are afraid,
wisdom when they must make quick decisions,
strength when they are weary,
and compassion in all their work.
When the alarm sounds
and they are called to aid both friend and stranger,
let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
— Adapted from the Book of Blessings
#587, by Diana Macalintal
"A Word to the Church"
May 2, 2020
Bishop Curry released "A Word to the Church" yesterday. What do you suspect that word is?
If you said, "Love," you've been paying attention to our presiding bishop! He's been declaring the way of Jesus to be the way of love since he took office.
But that doesn't mean he has nothing new to say! His message about our current situation is powerful. Here's an excerpt.
Kingdom of God thinking is already happening. God’s rubric of love is already in action. I’ve been watching bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people of our church following Jesus in the practices that make up his way of love and doing things we never imagined. The creativity and the risk-taking – done with love – is amazing.
We’ve been trying, making mistakes, learning, regrouping, trying anew. I’ve seen it. Holy Week and Easter happened in ways that none of us dreamed possible. I’ve quietly read Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline online with you. I’ve seen soup kitchens, pantries, and other feeding ministries carefully doing their work in safe and healthy ways. Zoom coffee hours, bible studies, and small discipleship groups. I’ve seen this church stand for the moral primacy of love. I’ve seen it, even when public health concerns supersede all other considerations, including in-person worship. That is moral courage. Who knows, but that love may demand more of us. But fear not, just remember what the old slaves used to say, walk together, children, and don’t you get weary, because there is a great camp meeting in the Promised Land. Oh, I’ve seen us do what we never thought we would or could do, because we dared to do what Jesus tells us all to do.
As our seasons of life in the COVID-19 world continue to turn, we are called to continue to be creative, to risk, to love. We are called to ask, What would unselfish, sacrificial love do?
You can listen (or read) Bishop Curry's entire message. And you can hear that great gospel hymn, too! They are both good news for us today..
Lights of Hope
April 23, 2020
There was a news report last night that the National Cathedral will be illuminated to provide a "light of hope" during this time of international pandemic.
The lights will be on through the night every night (when it's not raining) and the display will be changed weekly. Stained glass windows on the outside of the church! Lights of hope shining out into the community and the world.
We have our own version of "Lights of Hope." Melissa Albers was in the church last week and took this picture of our lights of hope. Even though we are not in church, the light of Christ still shines waiting for us! We will gather again in the church as soon as it is safe. In the meantime, carry the light of Christ in your heart and life. And know that the light is still shining at St. Michael's!
Prayers for These Days
April 17, 2020
As I was browsing Facebook this week (something I've done more in the last few weeks than ever!), I was captured by this quote from Kathy Van Orden on a mutual friend's post:
God unbound by time,
help us to know that you are already present
in the future we are fearing.
So I immediately engaged, "Where did that come from?" After suggesting a source, Kathy sent me a link to the following prayers by Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ordained Lutheran pastor who has a brilliant way with words and a movingly vulnerable way of sharing her life and concerns. I commend these prayers for this time:
For the layers of comfort and convenience that surrounded our lives and that we never considered a blessing but always just took for granted, forgive us.
For we who must grieve in isolation and not in community, comfort us.
For we who care for the sick, protect us.
For the ability to turn off the fear-mongering and unhelpful commentary and worst-case scenario click bait, strengthen us.
For the times when we are all out of creative ideas for how to get through this with cooped up kids, inspire us.
For we who are now cutting our own bangs at home, guide us.
For the grace to allow ourselves and others to just be less productive, shower us.
For the generosity needed from those of us who have more resources, empower us.
From our own selfish inclinations, deliver us.
For just being your children, none of whom have done a global pandemic before, love us.
For the days ahead, accompany us.
God unbound by time, help us to know that you are already present in the future we are fearing. AMEN.
For what and for whom do the people of God pray?
May your prayers be honest and heartfelt in these days. Please share them as we pray together from afar.
Easter at Home
April 11, 2020
There are so many things we will miss about gathering for our Easter celebration this year. Most of all, just being with one another. But there's also seeing everyone in their Easter best, singing out with the joyful Easter hymns, transforming the empty cross with flowers, celebrating the Eucharist, walking up to receive communion, and even our annual Easter egg hunt for the little ones.
So I was especially glad to get this Easter picture of a Lego St. Michael's from Zoey. It anticipates the time when we will all be together again at church -- with the doors open for all who would come to join us! Church is truly a community celebration that's hard to replicate online. And feast days like Easter are especially hard to match. But we will, in many ways. The hymns will be there, and the story. We will include a time to "flower the cross" - so be sure to have a flower from your garden. Or you can have paper and markers available to draw your own flowered cross. If you do this, please share! And, of course, you are invited to wear your Easter bonnet - to share at our Zoom coffee hour. I can't wait to see! Happy Easter!
April 4, 2020
We are entering Holy Week this year from a different place--physically, emotionally and spiritually. We cannot escape the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so there is fear, isolation, confusion and uncertainty. I suspect we are more like the disciples this year than we have been at any other time in our blessed and abundant lives.
Our service this Sunday has the dual character of celebration, with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and enormous grief, as we enter into the Passion story. As I listen to stories from our time, I hear these same emotions. Celebrations of lives well lived. And great grief over these same lives lost too soon. We are living with the disciples this year.
Every life lost to this horrible virus is precious, to family, friends and especially to our loving God. Some of those who have died are known to more people and their stories are widely shared. Perhaps, if we are fortunate enough not to personally know someone who has died of this illness, the loss of these celebrities brings the toll of the loss closer to us. We feel we knew them. They somehow touched our lives. And we feel their loss.
On Monday, Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful hits that still endure, died of heart disease. His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during this pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times. Here is a version of his song that really touches me. It speaks to the heart of the human family. It reminds us in the midst of this that we are not alone, we have each other, and we are all in this together. In this time of crisis and the coming holy week, that's something to hold on to. I thank God for each one of you!