Women Who Inspire me: Mom #RallyRevGals

As August ends, the RevGalBlogPals are sponsoring a #RallyRevGals Blogging Contest. The challenge is to write about  a woman who has been a positive influence on my ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor). You can read more about it here… I think that I will be doing a series of blog posts on this topic, as the amazing women in my life come to mind. There are many of you (you know who you are!!) Thanks and I love you…

I started this post first, and have had a hard time trimming it to a blog post. You don’t need a biography about her. You just need to know something about her. For this post is about my mom… and it’s hard to put it into words.

First of all, she got us to adulthood. That’s no small task. Think of all the music lessons, concerts, parent-teacher conferences, permission slips, field trips, packing off to college and apartments… (We bow… we bow…)

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Second, she encouraged our inner whimsy! Among her progeny, there is an artist/entrepreneur, a teacher, an analyst, a doctor, an engineer and a pastor/musician. (Oh yeah… the costumes? She made them or helped them magically “appear”.)

And perhaps most important of all, she taught us to learn from our mistakes and try again. And again. And yet again. All the while giving words of encouragement when we most needed it. All of us from time to time had moments in our lives where we just needed a phone call. Or a week at the beach. Or a surprise package from home. She has that “spidey sense”. It’s a skill I’m cultivating. :)

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While she was not at my seminary graduation, she made the trek to my ordination. To have her and a contingent from my family present was an incredible gift. There was a lot going on that day that my family just “handled”… but knowing their love was with me was so important.

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More than anything, she has taught me that life is something to be LIVED as long as you are alive. Not hanging around waiting to die… but enjoying the God-given moments of this life. With my dad’s death in 2000, she showed us the reality of grief, but the strength to move through it. This picture, taken a few years back, celebrates her sense of humor and her spirit for life. Her life-long faith birthed my own.

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Thanks, Mom.

Prayer for a Sunday

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Oh Lord,
It is far too easy to find things to do
that do not feed our souls.
We can shop and dine out, run errands and do laundry,
and these are tasks that do not revive us.

Yet there is work for a Sunday
that has been neglected far too long;
work that would be a unifying task
with family or church or friends.
Work that requires time to consider
“Do I need to keep this?”
or
“Is it time to let this go?”

So today,
I will engage in a task of holy reflection,
one where I think of my many blessings,
spiritual and material,
my wants and my needs,
and Your abundant Providence.
And I humbly repent
of all my excesses.

For today, after church,
we are cleaning out the garage.

May it be a holy work.
May it be a reflective work.
And may it be done quickly!

Amen.

Women Who Inspire Me: Ruth #RallyRevGals

As August winds to a close, the RevGalBlogPals are sponsoring a #RallyRevGals Blogging Contest. The challenge is to write about  a woman who has been a positive influence on my ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor). You can read more about it here…

I thought of several women. Pastors, teachers, counselors, mothers, sisters, friends… and I won’t get to blogging about all of them. But when I think vocationally about who has inspired me and helped me take that first formational step into ministry, I first thought of Ruth.

Ruth is an Episcopal Priest. In addition to her seminary training, she has a PhD in education. She has worked in parish and education settings. She mentors, prays, and encourages. She brings a quiet authority to her preaching of the Word.

I first met Ruth through my husband and other friends who knew her from Contemplative Prayer practices. She provided a gentle grounding for the group. She is well-read, an author and a congenial friend. Many times around our table we would sit and laugh and talk for hours.

When I was in the process of discernment about seminary, Ruth was one of the people I turned to for counsel. We would sit together and talk about the challenges of vocational ministry, particularly for women. Though she is someone who has never married, her counsel to me, a wife and mother, was simple: “Ask. Listen. Allow God to show you.” And it worked.

Another aspect of Ruth’s influence on my life was to help me unpack what it meant to be “female” and “feminist” and “pastor.” The three were not at odds with one another, and they were not irreconcilable either! She invited me to allow things to be held in tension, to NOT solve the impossible, and to learn how to sit with the unanswerable. She provided me with this example as she ministered during the fracturing of The Episcopal Church. We laughed at one image of being calm in the midst of a crisis, like a duck floating on the surface of a lake, but paddling furiously underneath!

It was a perfect groundwork for the Calling of a chaplain.

Our paths do not cross as often these days. In fact, it’s been so long that I don’t have a current picture of us to put with this blog post! Thanks to the traffic and craziness of the Beltway, it would be well over an hour to get together. However, we use that old-fashioned method called “letters” to stay in touch. She remains, even by letter, an inspiration to me. I continue to be thankful for her and to pray continued blessing on the work God calls her to do.

The next time we’re in touch, I’ll tell her, “I blogged about you.” And she will probably laugh and say, “you’re KIDDING!!”

No, I’m not kidding, Ruth. You’re an inspiration to me. Thanks be to God for you.

 

Blessings: A different perspective

Offering a priestly blessing

Offering a priestly blessing

I was touched by a pastoral act I performed yesterday… giving and anointing those who came forward for a priestly blessing. The blessings I used were based on Numbers 6, one loosely based on Jeremiah 7, and others which were in liturgies or prayers that I have used before.

It was an honor to be asked to offer these personal blessings to members of the congregation. Many are dear friends. Many had their own burdens and heartbreaks that were unknown to me, but I could see in their eyes or on their faces that they wanted to hear and know the blessing of God in their lives.

Don’t we all want to know God will bless us? Don’t we all sense we need a touch of the Divine in our lives, each an every day? The problem is that our contemporary Christian culture equates blessings from God with material things. This is so far from the truth!

What greater blessing can I offer someone? The blessing that I offered affirmed God’s promises are true… now and always. I wanted them each to know how deeply they are loved by God, and how God cares for them providentially and personally.

In the act of offering this blessing, I was blessed. As I spoke words over others, I heard them for myself. And when tears rose in their eyes, they were in mine as well.

There are days that I wonder at God’s Call on my life. But today — today I have it strengthened deep in my heart.

Thanks be to God.

 

~–oOo–~

 

These are the blessings I used:

May your ears hear the uplifting and the encouraging.
May your hands help those in need.
May your heart be humble and receptive to the things of God.
May your mind be strong, disciplined, and balanced.
May the grace of the Lord, the spirit of God and the peace of Christ be with you always. Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord’s countenance lift you up and give you peace
In the name of our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
Amen.

In the Name of Christ,
I bless you with the promises of God.
In the power of Holy Spirit,
may you be healthy and strong in body, mind and spirit.
May God’s angels be with you to protect and keep you always.
Amen.

May God be your strength and your source of power
May you know God’s salvation
May God lead you, protect you and defend you
All of your days.
In the Name of our God, Amen.

Vacation memories in photos

It was lovely. Quiet. Fun. Full of pranks. And over far, far too soon. Here’s some photos…

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Friday Five: Random End-of-Summer Edition

So yesterday I hosted the RevGals Friday Five. It was the kind of day that I never got back to my computer to play it myself – OR to respond to posters. But here we go…

There’s no real theme today, just some random topics. Have fun and don’t forget to post your link in the comments!

1. True or False: You can wear white shoes after Labor Day*.
I think it is more about what you are wearing. Here in my part of the world, it’s pretty hot until close to the end of September. So I will likely break this fashion “rule” and wear my white flats a little longer.

2. If “the dog days” are in August, when are “the cat days”?
Probably some time when you need a warm and cozy cat lap cover. A snowy day in January, perhaps?

3. Share a memory from your life of going back to school.
I remember having trouble getting my body onto “school time”. While we were up and at ‘em, there was less pressure to get up and get out the door, dressed and ready to roll. Since I’m not much of a morning person, it wasn’t fun.

4. My dad had a rhyme he used to tell us: “I eat my peas with honey; I’ve done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny, but it keeps them on my knife!” What’s the strangest use for honey you’ve ever heard of?
One summer I got a horrible sunburn on my back. The family I was staying with were “natural medicine” people. Among other things, they believe that you could stay healthy by hosing out your nose and sinuses (think of a neti pot with a jet pack.) Anyway… the lady of the house smeared honey on my sunburn, assuring me it would heal it over night. It was a disaster. The honey stuck to my shirt and I had to get in the shower to release the honey form the shirt off of my back. Yeah. Weird.

5. Post a picture from this summer that shows us one of your favorite memories.
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Walking on the beach at sunset with our lovely, brilliant daughters and frequent friend. :)

BONUS: Summer gardens! Got one? What are you growing?

Flowers, mostly. I didn’t get veggies in this year.

*For those of you not in the USA, Labor Day is a national holiday and is the first Monday in September. It marks the unofficial end of summer.

Christian bumper stickers? Not on my car!

A few weeks ago I had the misfortune (or fortune?) to be driving rental cars. On Tuesday morning, there was an unexplained “hot” radiator indicator in my car, accompanied with a funny whine and the smell of burning rubber. (The whine could be attributed to children. Me without coffee. Or bad music. The burning rubber smell is NEVER a good sign.)

I don’t play around with funny car stuff. I drove straight to the garage and got a rent-a-wreck. (The name of the rental car company has been changed. But the bottom line is the car sucked.)

My mechanic was puzzled. The temperature gauge issue went away, but the noise did not. I took my mechanic’s word as Gospel. “We changed the oil and could find nothing wrong.” The car had an oil change, and Wednesday afternoon, I got rid of the junker. Gladly.

And then… Thursday my battery started draining power. Rather suddenly. Fortunately, having owned a Dodge Omni (worst electrical system in a car  EVER) I knew what to do… Turn off the A/C, turn off the GPS, and keep it rolling. It wasn’t too bad until I had to put it in Neutral and gun the engine to keep the car from stalling at every traffic light. In rush hour traffic. I managed to jolly it along and coast into the repair shop, just as the engine died.

As I suspected, it was the alternator. That funny whine was the binding of the alternator’s core. And the burning smell? We just don’t know. Maybe the belts were slipping or binding as the alternator died.

So four out of five days that week, I drove a different car than normal. My new employment requires many more miles in the car than my previous job. I can’t get by on public transportation. These temporary jalopies were a necessity (and even as junkers, they beat the alternative — walking over 20 miles in 90 degree heat!)

There was something these cars didn’t have. Something that helps me drive with Grace:

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Yup. That little fish is a not-so-subtle reminder that how I live and act (and drive) are a part of the way I demonstrate my faith to the world around me.

I tend to drive with little patience and (occasionally) a lead foot. I realized that in my rental car, I am anonymous. My address and name aren’t connected to the license. But I also realized why I never put the symbols or bumper stickers on my car… I didn’t want to be held responsible for how I drive! (truth!)

I’m taking a little more time as I drive, trying to remember my manners and consider the other drivers. It’s not my default way of driving… but I’m trying to improve.

It’s not just bumper stickers but all the externals that we wear or show as visible signals of being Christians. Does God need another t-shirt wearing, loud, rude group of diners being a “witness”? Or a cross-wearing customer who berates the server when the cook messes up her order?

Surely not.

So I’m keeping the fish on my speedometer… trying to remember to live with Grace.

Soft Falls The Night

Soft Falls The Night

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Soft falls the night
and in the deepening dark
I hear the peeping of the frogs
the softening whine of crickets
and the palms rustling and rattling in the breeze.

The noise accelerates,
as if to beg.
Perhaps the sun will slow its course
and give a few more moments of daylight.

But no.
The darkness spreads
and for a moment,
I forget the light will return,
the sun will fill the eastern sky
and poke into our windows.

The Light will come.
The Light WILL come.

Soft falls the night
and I
stand in wonder, watching, praying, worrying
for those who forget
the dawn.

When darkness closes in

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There are times where life seems so very dark. When possibilities disappear, and loneliness overwhelms. The dawn seems never to come again.

Depression.
Addiction.
Violence.
Suicidal thoughts.

These illnesses take over and produce tragic results.

Anger.
Prejudice.
Discouragement.
Hopelessness.
Pain.

They suck away hope.
They breed violence and war.
They cause mistrust and over-reaction of law enforcement to unarmed teens.
They produce enmity between groups of people, either nations, neighborhoods, or classes of people.
They result in greed, thievery, and abuse of funds.

And good people die.

More than our circumstances, there is a way through. It may not be “the same as before.” In fact, it is likely that things are now radically different.

Please hear me… God knows. God hears. You are NOT alone.

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Reach out for help.

If you are struggling with addiction or suicidal thoughts, please get help. Don’t let the death of Robin Williams, or thousands of unnamed individuals’ deaths be forgotten.

If you or a family member are survivors of violence or abuse, please get help. Don’t let the death of Michael Brown, and thousands of others be for nothing. What has happened to you is appalling. But you are worth the time and energy to get support and find healing.

Suicide Prevention Lifelines
Drug Addiction Help
Victims of Violent Crime
Abuse Survivors
Women Against Gun Violence

Breathe Deeply

As the tide rolls in and out in the salt marsh
and the egrets dance in the waving grass
Breathe deeply
Know that God is near.

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When the seagulls gather to gossip and feed
and the waves push in, scattering with the foam
Breathe deeply
Rest in the beauty of the Creator.

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As the sea oats rattle in the evening breeze
And we hear the thunder’s rumble across the marsh
Breathe deeply
God holds you in the storm.

sea grass

When sundown comes and you stand with friends
And watch the colors fade into darkness
Breathe deeply
Remember how much you are loved.

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