Little Gifts

It is the custom at St. Mary’s that we send the Sunday altar flowers to visitors and folks who might need a little pick me up: recovering from surgery, birthday, because your name jumped into our hearts.

Dedicated volunteers arrange the flowers and other dedicated volunteers deliver them. Just a way to share a bit of God’s beauty.

I walked into my office yesterday morning to see a single, beautiful, yellow rose on my desk. A yellow rose from Sunday’s flowers.

yellow rose

 

My mom- who died in 2006 when I was in college- loved yellow roses. They were her favorite. My family and I laid yellow roses on her grave stone. My dad and I held a yellow rose when we danced the father/daughter dance at my wedding.

To some the yellow rose may belong to Texas. But to me it is my mom, and it was a gift to see her on my desk this week.  Gratitude to the person who left it there- you have no idea of the enormity of this little gesture.

 

May this serve as a gentle reminder that it is the little gifts- the little gestures of love and tenderness- that swell the hearts of those who receive them.

Scarcity and the Gospel

scarcity def
Scarcity- the notion that there isn’t enough- sneaks into our churches and our lives with Christ.  Not enough resources, not enough people, not enough caring and love. Oh how I wish we were immune, but we aren’t. And we try- I see the efforts of many as they combat the pervasive culture of scarcity in their lives- but it still creeps in and we are constantly having to remind ourselves that God does not operate in scarcity.
Because this is how Jesus showed those who seek him his love.
“And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” Mark 6: 56
Jesus meets us where we are- and if that is at the hem of his cloak then that is where he will be. But he is also with us at our most tired and joy filled moments. When we are rejoicing in our success and frustrated in the shortcomings. Jesus will meet us at the hem of his cloak, only to reach down his hand and pull us up into a warm embrace. Jesus is constantly saying to us that we are worthy. Worth loving, worth healing, worth saving from ourselves and worth saving from the world. We are enough- good enough smart enough beautiful enough faithful enough as beloved children of God.
There is no scarcity in Gods love for each of us.

Perception v. Reality

In preparation for my sermon this past Sunday- July 5th- I ran across an older post by David Lose on Working Preacher.  He shared this prayer, written by Pastor Meredith Musaus and prayed at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Menomonee Falls, WI.

“L[eader]: Let us pray together.
C[ongregation]: Your church is composed of people like me.
I help make it what it is.
It will be friendly, if I am.
Its pews will be filled, if I help fill them.
It will do great work, if I work.
It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.
It will bring other people into its worship and fellowship, if I invite and bring them.
It will be a church where people grow in faith and serve you, if I am open to such growth and service.
Therefore, with your help Lord, we shall dedicate ourselves to the task of being all the things you want your church to be.  Amen.”

I hope you noticed that it is a prayer that is prayed aloud by the congregation, not one prayed on behalf of the congregation by the leadership of the church.  That’s important.

In a world in which perception and reality are often confused, this prayer helps us to remember what the reality of a disciple of Jesus Christ actually looks like.  It looks like you and me doing the work of the Gospel- living it, breathing it, and sharing it with others.

The rub of course is this: if we don’t actually do what this prayer bids, we too will fall into the trap of thinking our perception of who we are as disciples and a church community is our reality.  We run the risk of our actions not reflecting our words.  We run the risk of limiting the power of Jesus in our lives and the lives of others, if our concern is just that people think we are good Christians rather than actually being a good Christian.

Chronic Illness and Holy Week: It Just Won’t Bend.

Reverend Beth+ recently wrote about a little stumble she had.  She is fine, but she banged up her face a bit. She wrote about it here. It’s right on her beautiful face, for all the world to see.

And it made me think of all of the illness and wounds that can’t be seen.  Anxiety.  Depression.  PTSD.

And for me, a chronic illness.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with Chron’s Disease.  And while it is generally mild, and doesn’t cause me too much of an inconvenience, when it rears it’s head it is awful.  It can show up in a lot of ways, and for me it causes terrible inflammation of the joints.  I can’t bend my elbows, walking hurts, ankles swell to gargantuan proportions.  It hits my vanity pretty hard, especially when I can’t do my hair (yikes!). But more so, it can be hard to hold my children which is even more painful.

But more so, it can be hard to hold my children which is even more painful.

Right now, as I work with my doctor to figure out the right medicine, I am experiencing a flare which has decided to settle in my right leg.  Ankle and calf are swollen and my knee HURTS when it bends.  Which makes walking difficult, and kneeling impossible.  Seriously, it just won’t bend.

ENTER HOLY WEEK:

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Now, Episcopalians like to kneel a lot.  You don’t get to experience a service where we don’t do it.  But in Holy Week we get especially bendy, and it’s like kneeling on steroids.  Especially on Good Friday, where one can spend the majority of the time on their knees.  And this year it just won’t happen for me.

And it is screwing with majorly.

As a priest, I suspect I am in the same boat with a lot of my sisters and brothers when I say that I really like Holy Week.  Sure, it’s a lot of work, and come Easter Monday I will want to stay in bed all day…but Holy Week is special.  It is a time when we (literally) walk with Christ through the Stations of the Cross, we wash feet and break bread, and we (figuratively) feel Christ’s pain as he is stripped, whipped, and nailed to the Cross.  And we kneel.  A lot.

And I can’t.

So this year I will be figuring out how to spiritually kneel when I physically can’t.  I will be figuring out how I can be penitent in heart and soul (well, more so than normal) when the body just isn’t cooperating. I will be figuring out how to lead others in that which I cannot do- and somehow come to peace with a body that is indeed made in the image of God but doesn’t work the way that I want it to.

I know that the shadow of the Cross is transformed in the light of the Resurrection.

I know that the shadow of the Cross is transformed in the light of the Resurrection.  My prayer is that my body will be transformed with it.  And if not my body, a close second would be my attitude. Because I would love to see my chronic illness through the perfect eyes of God; to know that I am perfect in my creation, even in my struggle.

 

Bowl life: Come on in, the water’s nice.

The phrase “swimming in a fishbowl” is one that gets used a lot when you are going through the process to be ordained.

fishbowl- a glass sphere in which everything can be seen.  THERE ARE NO SECRETS.

This should be abundantly clear for clergy.  After all, when we are ordained we take a vow that certainly touches on this.

“Will you do you best to pattern your life [and that of your family, or household, or community] in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?”

This vow is made for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that living in the fishbowl means people are looking at you and toward you all of the time.  All of the time.

I certainly agree that being a priest means living a different life. And being held to a higher standard.  I go to bed early on Saturday nights (except when the kids won’t sleep).  I go to church (almost) every Sunday- which means my family and I don’t take spur of the moment vacations to the cabin for the weekend or sleep in Sunday mornings. I read the Bible.  A lot…like, really a lot.  And I read what other people, who also read the Bible a lot, have to say about the Bible.

I keep my Facebook clean and don’t comment (often) on crazy stuff I read on the internet (because let’s be real, there is a ton of crazy stuff on the internet).

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And I encourage my family to do the same.  My kids are at church before most people are even awake and are still there once most people have gone home and are watching the afternoon game.  My husband comes to most events and worships most Sunday’s (except when he’s home with a sick kid). I do my best to keep our family- as the vow asks- in a Jesus pattern.

Fishbowl living hard at times. But thankfully, the vow only asks, “do your best.”

Which means there are times when we mess up.

Like when Addison was mispronouncing a lot of words, so she stayed home 2 Sunday’s in a row because “Sock” just wasn’t coming out right.  Or when I forget about a commitment.  Or when life happens and the sermon isn’t quite what I would like it to be- not even good enough, just enough.

There are times when my temper gets away from me, when my hair isn’t perfect, when I’m not in a good mood, and when I absolutely just want to be at home in my pajamas watching crap TV (ok- sleeping while crap TV is on).

But I’m trying.

A friend recently shared with me this: the way we act as Christians either reinforces or challenges someone’s opinion of God.  Which is another way to look at fishbowl living.  Are my actions speaking well of God?  Or am I giving God a bad name?

The way we act as Christians either reinforces or challenges someone’s opinion of God.

Not everyone takes vows to pattern their lives to be wholesome examples…but maybe everyone should.

946e0773eb9095b67a6486d253e86357As Christians, it means something different when we show up for people.  When we apologize and admit to being wrong.  When we take responsibility for our actions, both good and messed up.  Because it isn’t just us that we speak for.  We represent all Christians, Christianity as an institution and religion, and even God, to some people.  It’s recognizing that we are both awesome and sinners- and even awesome sinners sometimes.  And it means welcoming and loving all people as your neighbor.  It means striving for excellence knowing that it won’t always happen- and that simply trying your best is all it takes.  And when trying just won’t happen, that a new day will dawn and you can try again.  It means something different when we do- or don’t do- things as Christians.

And thankfully- because we aren’t striving for perfection- there is always room for more people in the bowl. No one is too good or too bad to come and swim.  It takes some work to be in the bowl- but we are all better off if more people jump in.

 

 

Shake it off

revtsShake it off.  The dust.  Shake it right off your feet.

 

Shake it off.  This is a song we listen to a lot.  And by a lot I mean: it is one of 2 songs that our 2 year-old Addison lets us listen to.  Thankfully it’s awesome- thanks T.S.  It’s great to dance to, a fun music video to watch, and if it keeps Addison happy, all the better.

It also happens to be the song I listen to when I get ready to step into the Arena.  What I listen to right before I need to be brave, when I am getting ready to do something new, terrifying, and/or slightly stupid.

Because I need to remind myself that if something were to go wrong.  If I were to bite it big time.  If I were to fall flat on my face. If I were to swing and miss- that it will be alright.  Seriously.  I can shake it off- it won’t define me.  I am more than my mistakes.

Now, Taylor wasn’t the originator of shake it off.  Jesus was telling his disciples to shake the dust off way before T.S. put it to music…but both Jesus and Taylor have this in common.  It’s really great advice.

So thanks Jesus…and Rev. Swift.

*Image “stolen” from Kyle Oliver- who rocks!

 

 

Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly is hard.

I have spent the past week at Camp Allen working with the Daring Way program- if you’ve heard of Brene Brown, and read any of her books, find this. Learn this. Live this.

While it deals with a lot of issues and topics, it mainly encourages people to live transformed lives. To show up. To be seen. To live bravely.

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Easier said than done, yeah? Yeah (This is me pretending it’s easy- C’s face is a better indication as to how hard this is).

But, after a week of full day sessions. Of feeling all of the feelings, and crying a lot of the tears. I can tell you this. It is worth it. Living bravely, being seen, showing up.

I am going to try- every day- to dare greatly. And when I fail, because I will, I will get up, dust off the dirt and wipe away the blood, and start again.

Because the opportunities to live bravely, be seen and show up never cease- only the desire.