Mother’s Day 2019

JonathanDavid

This past Mother’s Day was a different experience for me.  I had the pleasure and challenge of preaching at my parish, Church of the Holy Nativity.  It’s only the second time I’ve ever preached.  It’s humbling.  It’s challenging.  It leaves me filled with the reminders of God’s love and grace.

When my priest initially asked how I’d feel about preaching on Mother’s Day, I hadn’t looked at the lectionary and our conversation was more about what it might mean to be a mother preaching on Mother’s Day.  I didn’t have any reservations within that context and so, agreed.

The week after peaching the first time, late January, I finally got a look at the readings and my breath caught.  I would be preaching on Mother’s Day.  The scripture readings included the 23rd Psalm.  The same words written on my brother’s tombstone, the same brother, whom we named our own miracle after.  The one who has made me a mother.  I share this backstory with you because it’s important for me to share how God works our healing in mysterious, but deliberate ways.  Sometimes we don’t even know these are parts of us that are in need God’s guidance, grace, love and healing…but they are given whether we know the need or not.  I am humbled.  I am challenged.  I am filled with reminders of God’s love and grace.

THE READINGS

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-19
John 10:22-30 (The Gospel)

THE SERMON

The Lord is our strength and shield.  Holy Spirit, come.  Make your presence known to us through word and meditation.  Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I don’t know if anyone here feels the same, but Mother’s Day is actually kind of tricky for me.  How do we celebrate a day that on one hand brings our cups to overflowing and on the other, rips the scar tissue or maybe even a fresh scab off of a deep wound?

You see, though many are mothers in the traditional sense,  blessed to be able to witness first hand, God’s miracle of creation, there are many other mothers out there.

*The woman who has been trying to conceive for years – Yes.  She’s a mother too.

*The man who’s both mother and father, because he’s it – Yeah, he’s a mother too.

*The adoptive and honorary role models who take children under their wings – Yep, they’re moms too.

*The bereaved mother, who no longer has a child to hold in her arms – Let me tell you, she’s still very much a mother.

…and these are just a few examples of the other.

Added to that, where does this leave children like AJ Freund?  I don’t know how many of you have seen the recent DCFS audit in Illinois, but from 2015-2017, 102 children had prior contact with the system, but were left vulnerable and died.

In a time when so many of us feel powerless, isn’t it wonderful to be reminded of…to rediscover to beauty and power of the resurrection?

Are any of you familiar with the story of Horatio Spafford?  There’s a Chicago connection.  He was a successful lawyer who had invested significantly in property that was extensively damaged in the Great Chicago Fire.  In the hopes of finding a new life, the family planned to move to Europe.  Consequently, Mr. Spafford was delayed on business, so he sent his family on ahead of him.  While crossing the Atlantic, the ship his family was on sank after a collision with another vessel.  All 4 of his daughters died.  This added to a son the family had already lost previously, when he was 2 years old.  It was this man, who after significant personal trauma, wrote the lyrics to the well-known hymn, It is well with my soul.

Bear with me, for I very much think in song and lyric…but I’d like to invite you to close your eyes and hear the words (the original lyrics), which I believe are the essence of our readings this morning.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal,
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

As  I read and re-read our scriptures for this morning over and over – my own practice of meditation and reflection, I couldn’t help but be lifted by the Spirit and season of Easter.  We are a resurrection people.

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

First we have God working a miracle through Peter – raising Tabitha from the dead.

Then we are given peace in the knowing our Shepherd always guides us towards life, in the Psalm.

He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways
for his name’s sake.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the
days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the
Lord forever.

Followed by a beautiful picture of what the resurrection might look like –

God will shelter them.
They will hunger and thirst no more.
For the Lamb will be their Shepherd.
He will guide them to springs of the water of life.
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

A world Unified – every nation, tribe, people and language –
made pure through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And finally in our Gospel, absolute assurance –

“My sheep hear my voice.
I know them.
They follow me.
I give them eternal Life.
They will never perish.”

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

In his great mercy, we have been given a new birth into a living HOPE through the resurrection.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O grave, is your victory?
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Or as Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019) put it:
“Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about.”

…which reminds me of a saying that goes something like this:
When you’re in a dark place, you tend to think you’ve been buried. But perhaps, like a seed or a bulb, you’ve been planted.  BLOOM!

…and so I say with Faith and Joy and Hope, Happy Mother’s Day!
To all moms: step-moms, honorary moms, adopted moms, foster moms, yearning moms, angel moms, grieving moms, grieving children, pet moms, expecting moms, new moms, mother-in-laws, Dad moms, anyone who has a mom or mother figure…Happy Mother’s Day!

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

JonathanJames

Me and my miracle boy, Jonathan on Mother’s Day.

My First Sermon

The Readings:
**Scripture is here for reference. If you’d like to go straight to the sermon, Just scroll down. Thank You.**

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
All the people of Israel gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel.  Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding.  This was on the first day of the seventh month.  He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.  Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands.  Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation.  They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.  And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”  For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.  Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again;
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.
The statues of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean
and endures forever;
the judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.
By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults.
Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not the hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has appointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Sermon

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight.  O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.  Amen.

In preparing for the sermon this morning, I decided to read and reflect on today’s readings everyday.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do with the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), so I decided to focus on the words that caught my attention.

“Blessed is the Lord, the Great God.” …and the people said, AMEN.  AMEN. (Lifting up their hands)

I’m going to paraphrase a little here, but it continued with:
“They wept when they heard the words of the law.” Do you wonder why?  Was the law something they were unable to keep?  Did they weep because of the interpretation they received?  Did they feel unworthy?  Were they sorry because they were sinners?  But Ezra says to them, “This is the holy day of the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”  Instead, eat the fat, drink the wine and share what you have with those who have little or none, because this day is Holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, do not cry, the Lord is your strength.  In essence, celebrate and make a burnt offering to God – in fellowship, in forgiveness and with joy, and share it with those who have less.

To be honest, this took me straight to the Eucharist, to the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  To the table where we, as Christians, come and celebrate – eat and drink and remember the one who made The sacrifice for us.  The body of Christ.  We receive the body of Christ during the Eucharist, but that is also who we are.  What we are.  The Church – The body of Christ as Christians.

In our New Testament reading, part of what really struck me was in v.22, “The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  and again in v.24 “giving the greater honor to the inferior member.”

You know, I was having a conversation recently where it was brought up that this person was required to attend a lot of Christian Education classes in order to receive communion and that it was a privilege in it’s sacredness and this particular person didn’t feel that children, who had no idea what they were partaking of or in should be allowed at the table.  Many of you probably know me well enough to know that this didn’t sit very well.  So, I took a moment to take a deep breath and in that time, another person agreed with the sentiment.  I was actually a little surprised, maybe even taken aback…this was a group of Episcopalians.  I hadn’t realized that not everyone welcomed children to the table.  I let conversation bounce around me for a moment and then said simply, “I’m sorry,  but I don’t agree.”

Now I didn’t pull out the scriptures from the Gospel of Matthew (18:1-5) when the disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” and Jesus called one of the children over to him, sat them on his lap and said, “Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.”

But I did say, “You know, we have a lot to learn from our kids.  The minute my child sees the table  being prepared and the Eucharist raised up, he says, “Mommy!  Mommy, the body of Christ!  It’s time for the body of Christ!”  and in his 3 year old excitement, wants to get there immediately to share in the table.  He reverently waits for his turn at the altar rail…though most recently after receiving, he has taken to trying to share his life’s story with our communion ministers.  I’m sorry, we’re working on it.  But more importantly, it has given him a sense of belonging and love.  He has learned this, not from attending a class, but in the doing – in the receiving – in the being welcomed.

Did anyone else start humming One Bread, One Body in their head after hearing the New Testament reading this morning?

One Bread, One Body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless.  And we, though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.  Gentile or Jew.  Servant or Free.  Woman or Man, no more.  Many the gifts.  Many the works.  One in the Lord of all.  Grain for the fields.  Scattered and grown.  Gathered to one, for all.

Unity.  In our New Testament reading, we are being challenged to be united in the Spirit and in love, serve one another, particularly, the least of these.  The lost.  The broken.  The marginalized.

In Christ, it doesn’t matter where you come from.  I am the church.  You are the church.  We are the church together.  All who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes, we’re the church together!  No matter where you come from, what social status you hold, neighborhood, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation…it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have or think you have.  We are ALL made in God’s image, and through the waters of baptism, all belong.

This reminds me of a poem I came across a few years ago:

While praying one day a woman asked,
“Who are you, God?”
He answered, “I am.”
“But who is “I am?”, she asked.
He replied, “I am LOVE. I am Peace.
I am GRACE. I am JOY. I am STRENGTH.
I am SAFETY. I am SHELTER.
I am POWER. I am the CREATOR.
I am the COMFORTER. I am the
WAY, the TRUTH and the LIGHT.”
With tears in her eyes, she looked
toward Heaven and said, “Now, I understand.
But, who am I?”
God tenderly wiped the tears from
her eyes and whispered,
“You are MINE.”     (author Unknown)

My friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, we all belong and all have gifts to share with each other and the greater world beyond these walls.  As our gospel reminds us, we have all been charged through the waters of baptism to share the Good News which gives voice to those who can not speak, a face to those who aren’t seen and an identity to the lost, marginalized and oppressed.  This is indeed Good News.

In the words of Mark Thibodeaux, “Like the baby Jesus, we all need a ‘holy family’ to belong to.  We need to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  If we don’t, we run the risk of developing a sort of God-and-me spirituality with no support systems to hold us up when we are weak, no prophets to challenge us when we are wrong and no party-mates with whom we can celebrate the Lord’s goodness in our lives.”

As I listen and examine my own life and wonder at the possible call to ordained ministry, I invite you to listen, to wonder and to dream about what excites you, what fills you with love and hope and imagine – listen deeper to what God may be calling you towards in your own life.  Amen.

What does Ministry look like?

Psalm 78:70-72 (NIV)

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his
people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he lead them.

**italics for my own depth of meaning

So I was asked recently what my ministry moving forward might look like.  Part of this conversation was also about tracing my past and looking for the nudges or signs that may be or may have been pointing me towards a call that though seemingly new, perhaps isn’t.  What moves me?  Why is there freedom for me in this call?

So, I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it.  The thing is, ministry has been my life for pretty much my entire life.  I feel like the decisions I’ve made and who I am are all because of ministry and living out my life as a child of God.  A Christian.

I need to go back and read my journals, because I would probably gain much insight in doing so, but without going there yet (since this would require unearthing them-I’ve been journaling since a very young age), it occurs to me that I’ve had leadership roles in ministry since I was a teenager.  I’ve never really considered this.

When I was a member of the Church of Christ, I was actually a teen leader, given the role of discipler (a Christian mentor of sorts) to others.  I attended church leadership meetings, prayed, went to Bible study, church services and youth group.  This was just all a part of my regular life.  I was 15-16 years old.

Later, when I became friends with Father Mike and started learning, studying and falling in love with the Roman tradition, I was lead to volunteering my time and talents as a musician.  Leading the music during the mass and later helping plan mass for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals as well as holidays was just part of my life.

Then, when I was asked to consider being a section leader for the choir at Union Church in Hinsdale (UCC denomination), I was again in a leadership role, serving the church through music.  Helping church members, family, friends and acquaintances with music and scripture for weddings and/or funerals became part of my normal life.  It was common for me to do 3-4 services a weekend at church.

Through nursing school and living in Michigan this continued.  Different parishes, but somehow I found myself doing the same ministry.  Somehow ministry in the church and ministry at the bedside intertwined quite well…naturally, even.  The first time I assisted a priest from prelude to recessional for a service, I was 20 years old.  I’ve been doing this ever since.  I find true joy and love in this work.  So, when I think about what ministry might look like as a priest, it looks like this…

Being with, teaching and sharing with those around me the joy and security I have found as a child of God and hopefully imparting some of this love, hope and faith to others.

It’s holding the hand of someone leaving this life and moving to the next, providing whatever solace and comfort I may – singing, holding or just being present. [Blessing]

It’s planning the funeral of that same person, beloved of God, with the faith that there is LIFE after death. [Blessing]

It’s meeting at the table every week, perhaps more, and sharing a sacred meal.  A reminder of the grace and life bestowed on us, through us and in us, because we are loved that much.

It’s sharing the joys of new life (pregnancy, birth, baptism) and sharing God in the midst of it all. [Blessing]

It’s skipping dinner because someone is hurt, broken or hurting and needs support.  It’s making sure we both get dinner afterwards.

I’ve only touched bits and pieces, but these ring loud and clear for me.  I think this is actually parish ministry, pastoral ministry, shepherding.  I’ve done some of this work in the ICU, in another house. But, if God can call David from the sheep pens to shepherd and lead his people…I suppose it’s not so far off for God to call a nurse from the hospital to minister in a parish.

With regards to this seeming freedom I have with this call.  I’m not as free as one might think.  I’ve struggled, cried, fought and asked God what on earth he was thinking?!?!  But, when it all comes down to it.  I love God with my entire being.  I trust this God more than anyone else.  I believe God has a plan, not to harm, but for hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

As the lyric comes quickly from A Living Prayer by Alison Krauss

In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee.

I’ve been singing this prayer for years now with my entire being.  Giving my life to God, who has given it to me, feels humbling…but also secure and natural.  I have always been his.

I’ll close with this hymn based on Psalm 5:8

Lead Me, Lord
Music by: Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness,
make Thy way plain before my face.
For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord only,
that makest me to dwell in safety.

Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy holiness,
teach me to love and trust in Thee.
Thou art our God, the God of our salvation,
all nations shall praise Thy holy name.

Lead Me

Blessings and Peace to you this day.  May you find hope, clarity and faith in your own journey today.

Come and Follow Me

Well, I was just starting to get comfortable and calm and wonder if all of the dreams and restlessness were really just a part of going through this journey called life with others around me.  Then, I went to church on Sunday and just as I knelt for communion…the music started.

Will you come and follow me
arr: John L Bell
Tune: Kelvingrove

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown In you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ner free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen
and admit to what I mean In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound In you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow In you and you in me.

I started sobbing at the table where I was about to receive Christ.

Here I am, with my reverent little boy waiting for Christ and I look at him and see Christ.  I see love.  I see forgiveness.  I see hope.  I see joy.  I see a life that may that may never be the same… and in my tears, I smile at this child, this beautiful gift of mine from God and I can not deny.  I can never turn my back and I then open myself to receive.

I don’t even know what I’m saying yes to.  I only know that I am God’s and he is mine.  I will go where he leads me.  I must.  This God, who has never turned away from me, can receive nothing less from me but everything I am and everything I will be.

All of this flowing through me was followed by a passage I read this morning in the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It reads:

Wait quietly in my presence while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being.  Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound.  I am the Creator of the entire universe, yet I choose to make My humble home in your heart.  It is there where you know Me most intimately; it is there where I speak to you in holy whispers.  Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can hear My still small voice within you.  I am speaking to you continually: words of Life…Peace…Love.  Tune your heart to receive these messages of abundant blessing.  Lay your requests before Me, and wait in expectation.

It made me reflect on something else I read this week from the book the Fire and the Clay where George Guiver writes, if being with Christ is a somewhat disconcerting experience, even more disconcerting must be the prospect of Christ being formed in us.

This morning I read a passage from 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing, Elijah?”

I find in this passage this truth; It is in the silence that we can hear.  It is often also in the silence that we can just be.  George Guiver also wrote in the Fire and the Clay, If we can not face silence, that means that we can not face ourselves, and something is needing attention.  I find true wisdom in those words and they are a great reminder to me to cultivate those quiet moments and in silence I may be having the most profound conversation.

I’ll end with a passage that I keep coming back to these last few days:

Psalm 5 (NRSV)

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

For you are not a God who delights
in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, so that those who
love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as a shield.

Daydreams

I need to tell you a story.  It’s been persistently on my mind.  I’m uncertain of it’s meaning, but continue to roll it around in my head.  Any insight is welcome.

Some of you may know my second cousin, Christi, passed away last month.  It’s devastating, as she leaves behind a husband and 2 beautiful school-aged children.  Cancer took her from us.  Quickly.  Unexpectedly.

Christi

I couldn’t sleep the night I received the news.  More than a relative, Christi, had been my friend.  She was a great support to me while I journeyed through infertility, cheering me on.  She was also a great support and encouraged us as we journeyed through having a micropreemie.  She walked with us.  Kept tabs.  Checked in.  Now, in the blink of an eye, she’s gone.  Wife.  Mother.  Friend.  Gone.

Though I always said, Thank You, in the way one does when someone does something nice or kind for you, I never did tell her what her presence, hope and the walking with me, meant to me.  I believe as her spirit lives and we continue to share our stories, she hears and she knows she made a impact.  This reminds me to remember to speak up, share memories, tell stories, share joys, and trials too with those around us.  Tell people what it means to have their presence, their listening ears and their love in our lives.

So, I was thinking about Christi while getting ready the next morning and I had this “daydream?”.  I’m not sure what to call it, because I was awake, but it definitely came from a subconscious part of me or somewhere else.  Something else.  It was almost trance-like.  But, I had this whole conversation with myself or with this other entity about whether or not I should wear a collar to her memorial service.  Then, finally, I kind of came out of it and thought; “Why are you even having this conversation?  You’re not a priest or a deacon, who has a collar.  You don’t have to worry about this or think about it.”  Then I thought, “What on earth was that?”  I just had an entire conversation about when asked “should I wear a collar?” to the point of answering, no.  It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to wear a collar because I was attending the service as her family, to be supportive of the rest of the family.  Christi and Massimo were not religious people and may be uncomfortable and not supported with a collar.

Then it came again.  “What just happened?”  “What was that?”  It left me feeling unsettled and nervous.  Then I thought, well it’s no wonder I’m dreaming of collars since I’m working with a 3rd discernment group of someone discerning if there is a call to the  ordained ministry of the priesthood.  Maybe I’ve been discerning so much, my own mind is just there, present and in that space thinking about what it means to be a deacon or a priest.  I don’t know. I’m not sure.  This is so strange.

On a side note, I had begun to finally look into participating in EfM (Education for Ministry).  Feel free to click on the link if you’re not sure what that is.  Reverend Aimee, our previous rector, had mentioned EfM to me years ago, but there was a scheduling conflict for me, so it wasn’t something I thought I’d be able to commit to, until now.  As it doesn’t work well for me to drive out to CHN (Church of the Holy Nativity) during rush hour, I looked into trying to find a group in the city.  I was directed to a man named Timm, who leads the group at St James Cathedral.  We had lunch so that I could learn more about it.  I found out Timm is a retired physician, so we had something in common almost immediately.  He then told me he was actually in discernment trying to discern whether or not he had a call to the diaconate; was I familiar with the process?  Of course, I smiled and said, actually, I’m currently working with a third discernment group right now with someone discerning a possible call to the priesthood.  (My heart is now racing and I’m thinking, what on earth is going on?)  So, we talked a little about his process and that he’d also been a part of another group prior to his own, discerning the priesthood with someone.  We had a very nice lunch and are looking forward to delving into EfM together.

Now I’m really starting to think, so I send a text to a friend who also happens to be a priest, hoping she can calm my panic.  I asked if she might have time for a chat and surprisingly, she was able to respond right away with a  yes, she was actually on her lunch.  I told her the story.  Her response was not at all what I expected.  She said, “well, if I was your priest, I would guard my words more carefully, but since I’m not your priest, as your friend, I can tell you that most of the discerning that I’ve done with people are those with a call to the diaconate, not the priesthood.  (palpitations are starting now)  I can tell you, it takes someone who… (with the pounding in my ears, I can’t remember the exact words she used when talking about the personal qualities it takes to be a priest, but I remember what came next…) …and you have those qualities.  Those are the qualities of a priest.”

I’m now stunned.  Sitting there nervous, mouth dry and thinking, “You can’t be serious?!?”  In my mind, I might possibly handle the thought of a deacon, but priest?  Seriously?  Could I honestly be entrusted with that?

This is the first time “priest” (or any ordained ministry for that matter) has even flittered across my mind or thoughts.  I’ve never, in my wildest imaginings, thought of myself as priest.  The responsibility, the education…the teaching–maybe, but I can teach in many different capacities.  The preaching–I don’t know.  Maybe…it might not be so different as what I do and feel when I sing.  But to be entrusted with all that it means to be a priest?  It’s scary.  It’s alarming.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know…

Well, then the memorial that started all of this was now upon us.  I’d had a few days to just sit and be with everything that was floating around in my head and around me.  My mom had just flown in from Florida to be at the service.  Lola (Grandma in the Philippine language) brought gifts for her beloved grandson.  He was happy Lola was here and really enjoying the new toys.  Then she says to me, I have something for you too!  I said, really?  Thank You!  You didn’t have to do that.

Spoons

Now I will tell you that my mother is a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist.  Feel free to click on the link if you don’t know what that is or means, but needless to say, the crucifix is often a point of contention, in its use.  Regardless, she presented me with these.

Faith     Love     Hope    Joy

They’re lovely, and of course, I said “Thank You!”  I also asked where on earth she found them.  She said she saw them at the airport and they made her think of me.  I said, “Really?  You saw crucifix measuring spoons and they made you think of me?”  She said, “Well, I thought you’d enjoy them.”  I said, “They’re beautiful, Thank You.”  As the baker of the family, this sort of made sense.  As someone who was is palpitating at the thought of ordained ministry that others might possibly see in my future and someone who is trying to find out what on earth God is telling me…These spoons at the airport?  Really?

Ok God, you sent me some spoons… what are you trying to tell me?

A week or so later, I got an email from our music director at CHN asking if I was available to sing the anthem on August 5th because she would be out of town and Bill, another church member would be playing the organ that Sunday.  After looking at the calendar I responded yes, that would work.  I just need to take a look at the readings for that Sunday and get back to her with some music.  So, I looked up the readings for August 5th on the lectionary page and was drawn to the Epistle (Ephesians 4:1-16) and the Gospel (John 6:24-35).  I started looking through music and found this because it moved me so much.

At one point with my mind just circling around it all while singing, I just broke down and sobbed.  I want to break down the lyric for you…

Hard as it seems,
Standing in dreams,
Where is the dreamer now?
Wonder if I,
Wanted to try,
Would I remember how?

I don’t know the way to go from here,
but I know that I have made my choice.
And this is where I stand,
until he moves me on
and I will listen to his voice.

It strikes a chord with me.  It all started with a kind of a daydream– but do I know or imagine beyond that?  It’s difficult.  It’s scary.  It’s troublesome.  Clearly, my life is in a period of transition.  I’m between churches.  Still at CHN, but often attending the cathedral because it’s closer to home and more accessible to me.  In transition of career as I haven’t “practiced” nursing in 2 years, after the birth of our micropreemie caused us to reevaluate the need to have me working outside of the home.  In transition with a possible move to Florida in our future as our families are living there.

Who knows what the future holds?

However, in our baptismal vows, we’ve already made a promise, a choice:  “…to put our whole trust in God’s love and grace (BCP p.302) …to obey and follow God (BCP p.303)”

The song continues…

This is the faith;
patience to wait when there is nothing clear.
Nothing to see, still we believe
Jesus is very near.

I can not imagine what will come,
but I’ve already made my choice,
and this is where I stand until he moves me on
and I will listen to his voice.

Could it be that he is only
waiting there to see
If I will learn to love the dreams
that he has dreamed for me?

I can’t imagine what the future holds,
but I’ve already made my choice,
and this is where I stand until he moves me on
and I will listen to his voice.

Faith.  I’ve talked about faith before.  I do believe what is currently mush will become crystal clear in God’s time and when I am ready.

Clearly, God is trying to tell me something.  I’m still not at all sure what God has in store for me, but I do believe in his love and his grace.  He has a dream for me and he’s just now starting to see if I can see and put my faith in his dream; learn his dream and in doing so live in to the life he’s dreamed for me since birth.

I’ll close with this:  Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full cloak of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Who’s calling? God.

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In your mercy, Lord, you called me,
taught my sin-filled heart and mind,
else this world had still enthralled me,
and to glory kept me blind.

Lord, I did not freely choose you
till by grace you set me free;
for my heart would still refuse you
had your love not chosen me.

Now my heart sets none above you,
for your grace alone I thirst,
knowing well, that if I love you,
you, O Lord, have loved me first.

from The Hymnal 1982
Words: Josiah Conder (1789-1855); alt. Charles P. Price (b.1920)
Music: Halton Holgate, William Boyce (1711-1779)

I think I have a new favorite hymn!  I’ve been humming, playing and singing this since Sunday.  It’s new to me.  We sang it as one of our communion hymns.

One of these days, I will have to record someone, maybe even myself…singing it.

Have you ever felt called?  To what?  How did you respond?

I was talking to a dear friend not too long ago about how she is doing spiritual work and education as she progresses in her postulancy to the deaconate.  We talked about how as she is doing more of the “work” during church services it feels more like a job and less like church is feeding her soul.  How do you find God in this space of “work”?

This is as tough as it is simple.  Then I thought, well, How you do find God?  That might be the only question.  But, it’s not so simple, and I wanted the time to just rest with it and think on it, as millions of thoughts were going through my mind.

Is it the same is my own ministry of being in the ICU as a nurse all these years?  Where I’d just GO, GO, GO and crazy things would happen and suddenly I would just KNOW that God was taking over where I could only do so much?  Is it like when I take an early morning drive, see a sunrise and feel God saying, “Good Morning!”?  Maybe it’s more like trying to find God, while doing the laundry.  How do we find him there?  In the mundane, regular acts of daily life.  Will we just know or do we have to look?

Then I thought, as a Eucharistic Minister, who gives the gift of sacrament to people, made in the image of God, can you find him there?  If the face of 80 or 90 year old that may or may not make it up to the altar.  In the face of the mom and dad wrangling their children, full of energy, to get to the table.  In the face of the 2 year old who may or may not understand, but wants to be loved and accepted at Christ’s table as well.  In the face of the businessman who makes it to church, but never says very much.  Can you find God, not in the work, but in the images, the faces, and the stories that come to the table every week hungry and thirsty for God?

I would love to hear your stories, your thoughts.  Please comment if you are moved to do so.  Blessings and Peace to you today.

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Amanda Needs Your Prayers

Amanda

This is Amanda.  Amanda is 27 years old and has been battling breast cancer.  She is a wife and mother of 2 little girls.  She went to the hospital because she was feeling dizzy and found out she has a large brain tumor.  Residing in Michigan, she took the trip with her husband, parents and parents-in-laws to Mayo Clinic and is even as I write, is undergoing brain surgery.  She’s in critical condition and has been in surgery a long time.  Please take a moment and say a prayer for her and her family.  Thank You.  I will try to post an update as I receive them.  Blessings to you and yours.

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This is Amanda and her 2 beautiful girls.

Why?

My heart is heavy.  I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but with so much happening in the past 2 weeks, I had to write.  So much tragedy this month makes me wonder, why?

June 12, 2016, a man…ONE man shot and killed 49 people at a night club in Miami and injured many, many more.  So much hate.  A man that has a past…  was on an FBI watch list.  How did we fail so many people?  What can we do to share more love and block out the hate?  I don’t have the answers, but I wonder and I know if we somehow we are able to do this, it’s what is needed…more love and less hate in our world.

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June 14, 2016, a little boy is dragged from a Disney lagoon by an alligator and his with his family watching and his father was unable to save his child.  Again, so many are blaming this poor family’s parents.  Really?!?!  They just lost their son!!!  Where is your heart?  Parents share photos of their children in this same spot where the child was taken.  There were no signs warning of the wildlife, just “no swimming”(this has since been rectified), which this child was not doing.  Now, many of us familiar with Florida know that where there is fresh water, there is a risk of encountering reptiles and alligators.  I would think these folks were not, or we confident that Disney would take measures to ensure the safety of their guests (not knowing, this can be impossible).  These people were on a vacation, enjoying family time.  Happy time.  Now, they’re living a nightmare and I’m sure, hoping to wake up to find something different.  Please, less judgement, less hate and more love.

June 19th, a 17 month old drowned in a nearby town on Sunday, Father’s Day.  His mother found him and was the one who started CPR.  This was the family pool.  Celebrating Father’s Day, attending other children…the 17 month old was lost track of.  Tragic.  Heart breaking.

Also on June 19th, a 4 year old girl at a Swim and Racquet club also drowned in another nearby town Sunday, Father’s Day.

So much tragedy all around us.  So many stones to throw and so much blame to hand out.  BUT, there’s so much suffering already.  Can we not just love?  I don’t know any parent who is perfect.  I know more than not have been right there when our little loves have fallen or gotten hurt…when you lose sight for 2 seconds and suddenly your breath is taken away.  Why do so many people have to suffer, have to hurt?

Then I saw this posted on Facebook the other day and the tears just came. 16. Why does a 16 year old girl have to fight ovarian cancer? But look… in this tragedy, there is hope…there is light…there is love…

Resiliance.

Thank you for hearing me.  Thank you for reading what’s on my heart.  More love.  Less hate.  More tolerance.  Less judgement.  Lets help each other more and ignore each other less.

God’s Peace to you.

 

 

 

What do you say?

What do you say
when words aren’t enough
and the pain they feel
wont go away?

What can you do
when there isn’t a thing
that can bring a child
back to you?

How should we love
when a piece of their heart
has flown away
with the doves?

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It is with deep sadness that I share with you, that Jesse has gone to be with the Lord. He is no longer struggling or feeling pain.  Jesse died in the arms of his mother on December 26th, surrounded by love and comfort.  Please keep his moms in your prayers during this is a devastating time.

 

For my dear friends,
This is something I wrote and sang to myself over and over when I suffered my own loss.  My love to all of you…

Rock Me, Rock Me

Holy Spirit, God Divine
Come and hold this hand of mine.
Rock me, rock me in your peace,
Until my soul can find relief.

Holy Spirit, guide and friend,
With a love that never ends.
Rock me, rock me from above,
Until I feel your endless love.

Holy Spirit, Father God,
Welcomes children from earth’s sod.
Rock me, rock me in your might,
Until I feel you hold me tight.

Holy Spirit’s boundless love,
Fill my soul from up above.
Rock me, rock me in your grace,
Until my heart has found its faith.

A Celebration and a Baptism

Announcement

Our story in a nutshell, but it’s so much more.

We had a beautiful celebratory Father’s Day weekend.  A first, for us!  Saturday we had a “Welcome Home” party in lieu of  a shower for our little miracle, our gift from God.  We are overwhelmed by the love and support people continue to give us as well as their presence at these events.  We are so blessed.

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Another mommy calming the wee one!

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Enjoying the festivities…as long as he’s constantly fed!  It truly amazes me how much this guy eats!  His favorite is still Mommy’s milk!  By the way, breastfeeders to be…I love these bottles!  They’re great for transitioning back and forth from bottle to boob or boob to bottle!

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Preparing for his baptism…

Come to me, come. Let the little children come.  Come and receive the kingdom of God.

May all of you find the blessings and promises of God as I have this first Father’s Day weekend.