Morning Prayer

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This day is precious
created as it is
for each one of us
to fulfil our purpose
This day is precious
Treat it with care

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Hope is up to you

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It is that time – time when we begin to anticipate the beginning of a new church year. As we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent (just 4 Sundays before Christmas) we also welcome the New Year in the church and the cycle begins – again. Advent is a time when our focus turns to all the things necessary to prepare for the celebration of God’s presence in this world. Within the weeks before Christmas, we hear stories of many people in preparation. Angels appear announcing great things, announcing new birth and a new world. This announcement creates a stir of excitement and concern.

Just beyond these challenging moments unfolds a vision of God’s kingdom among us.

It takes time for all of these wonders to occur. We find ourselves waiting with anticipation and in need of encouragement. Our attention is short and we are easily tested. The need for hope and patience is so important. May this ‘image’ bring peace when needed and the courage to hope.

‎”There is a garden beyond the shadows, a place of rest and renewal. You may not be able to see it yet, not through the swirl of things that cloud your vision, but it is there. And in time you will get there. You will step through the darkness to the light just on the other side of sorrow. You will find what you are looking for, what you need. I do not say this because I am trying to make you feel better. Right now the only thing that will make you feel better is hope. I say the truth and that truth is your first glimpse of the garden beyond the shadows. The hope is up to you.”

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw

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Listening in silence…

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The message behind the words is the voice of the heart. Rumi

It seems that I have had much to say recently on the topic of actions and intentions. At the moment it appears, we have plenty of examples in our world that warrants this type of reflection. As I read articles in other venues, I am aware that these topics are on the minds and hearts of many people.

Words are very powerful tools. They can build up or tear down. They can bind us together in security or sprinkle dust of anxiety. We find ourselves at a point in history when many public words are thrown around to create confusion and instill fear. And this is their intention…

Actions leave large impressions on those who witness them. They can encourage people to share goodness by example or carry anger and fear to their extreme. We find ourselves at a point in history when actions are rising in danger, giving permission for the spread of hostility and fear.

These words and actions appear larger than life attempting to destroy trust and community. It is the result of power and greed. We experience those with great power (a power we have bestowed) to tower over those who have little power (a position that has been forced). It is a situation that continues to grow as our culture is overwhelmed with the noisy distraction of talk.

So I ask – Where are the quiet places? The places that allow words to be used only when necessary and the heart’s intention is understood. The places where we begin with trust and build communities designed to care for one another because we believe it is the good and faithful thing to do. Where are these places?

Maybe this is the most important question now. If these quiet places are not found in obvious and welcoming forms then the noise that is dismantling our communities will continue to be successful toward its goal. Are we able to create environments where people can come to find rest from the noise and re-member the importance of trust and compassion? Can we help the great and the small not only talk with one another but work together to show another way of living and serving in this world? I am convinced it can be done and even more certain that people are longing for the invitation to act on the ‘voice of the heart’.

What do you think?! Have you found examples of this happening? Share what you think, what you know and where we can go to see these quiet places in action.

A New Day…

These words are refreshing and encouraging. When I was young we had something called a ‘do-over’. If – as young children – we had made a poor decision or had a bad attitude we were given the chance to make it right.

Buddha speaks of each day as a ‘do-over’ –  we awaken each morning to greet a fresh start. Oh yes, the challenges and accomplishments from the previous day are with us but the sunrise welcomes a rebirth a new perspective. Before us is offered the invitation to change attitude and direction, to soften anger and practice compassion.

The path in Buddhist tradition is to live life awake to the present moment, knowing that the past cannot be re-lived and the future is always a breath away. Our actions and attitudes today are most important. Other faith traditions share the same wisdom – throughout his ministry, Jesus was often reflecting on being mindful of today not worrying about what tomorrow would bring.

No one says this is easy or always possible yet considering the idea of being ‘reborn’  each day can fill life with possibilities and fresh perspectives.  What will happen? Maybe lighten a load or fill an empty heart with gratitude. At its core may this teaching from Buddha plant a seed of grace and contentment – today.

a field where we meet as people of faith…

As I write, the Episcopal church of America has come together for its 77th General Convention. Bishops and deputies from all over this country and throughout the world have joined for nine days of hard work, renewing worship, a wonderful chance to share resources and time to reconnect with good friends.

Three years ago I boarded a plane with my dear friend, Frankie, and journeyed to Anaheim California for the 76th General Convention. I remember that time with a grateful heart and a spirit stirred with questions and passion – seeking inspiration on how we look ahead to express our faith by word and action in this time of history. No one can prepare you for this experience. Grand halls and meeting rooms overflow with people as topics are discussed that affect the life and practice of our faith community.

There are many disagreements. Yet today we are standing on the edge of a new horizon. A horizon that calls us to expand our vision and prepare for change. Our divisions continue to stress our conversations and the spirit, as always, moves us forward. Our church has come together again, knowing that the changes before us will be challenging, requiring sacrifice and grace. My prayer – we can find a common ground–rich with the fruit of God’s Spirit and supplied with the tools needed to build a bridge that will carry us safely across this time of transition.

I am reminded of the wise words by Rumi: ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.’  It is in this field that I believe we are called to gather.

The picture I share below was taken from the last General Convention.

In a moment outside of time I experienced the ‘field’, Rumi describes with such grace. Offering the homily during noonday worship – the Archbishop of Canterbury shared reflections charged with hope and concern, and I felt the tension of our common faith and current differences. The larger (world-wide) Anglican church was watching this convention with critical eyes. Passion and opinion was everywhere.

As is norm, during the service we were welcomed to exchange the peace – I was close to the front greeting those around me. Turning, I faced this man of great stature, who with a sense of awkward isolation was looking my way. Dressed in all his splendor and towering above a room filled for worship, the Archbishop of Canterbury dropped to his knees and reached over the edge of the stage to share God’s peace with me. “Thank you for coming.” I said. “Thank you for having me.” was his response. Surrounded by the noise of disagreement and unrest, for a moment all was quiet. Unaware of anything else I found myself where no words were needed – our world was full.

Since that time this picture has been a reminder for me–a reminder that God’s ability to bridge division should never be underestimated. We are called again and again to seek out one another in that field of quiet peace. This is what we are given and this is what we build on.

Can we see the big picture?

As we are experiencing- media can make ‘spreading truth’ very difficult. Of course we do not all agree! Yet where do we hear REAL conversation? There are statements and actions being taken to bring about equality that stay quietly removed from the mainstream. I share this article with you. In turn please share your thoughts…

Peculiar Faith

“See, I am making all things new!” That’s a great biblical exclamation for this Easter season (Rev. 21:5). But apparently the news media didn’t get the memo. That’s not terribly surprising, but I did expect more from PBS.

I have come to expect that both Fanatically Xenophobic (FOX News) and the Moderately Socialist News Broadcasting Company (MSNBC) to play the tired old religion-hates-gay-people card. It makes for great ratings. But the PBS News Hour?

The News Hour led their broadcast today with the great news that President Obama has declared his support for civil marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples. The story then shifted to the analysis part. And upon whom did PBS call to discuss “both sides” of this issue? Evan Wolfson, of Freedom to Marry, and the Rev. Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church, who is opposed to marriage equality. (Here’s the clip.)

Really, PBS?…

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Every growing thing…

Every tree, every growing thing as it grows,
says this truth, you harvest what you sow.

Rumi ♥

This quote from Rumi has recently caught my attention.

The phrase, ‘harvest what you sow’ reminds me of other statements like, ‘sleep in the bed you make!’.

Sometimes these sayings can leave one with an uncomfortable, almost ominous feeling. Decisions we make, directions we choose are not presented with guarantees. Often it takes time before we know whether the right choice was made and understand what the consequences really might be. As the calendar turns to January 1st, many people reflect on the topic of “choice”. A new year welcomes the opportunity for new directions to be taken and supported with great commitment.

Commitments of this nature are often made knowing that there is a way “out” if needed. Maybe it brings too much pressure on someone, maybe the decision ends up alienating people from one another–either one of these reasons and many others can be good enough for the whole idea to be reconsidered.

I sit with this quote from Rumi wondering how actions and decisions alone make fodder for the harvest we must sow. We resolve to lose weight, save money, give money, go to church every week or spend less time with our electronic distractions but how do we know that the harvest is found within the results of these decisions?

“Harvest what you sow…” – Rumi was speaking of all creation. Every tree – all that lives – reaps what it sows. So maybe the results are most affected by how we pay attention, how we direct our focus. There is no qualifier to this statement, only that it is a ‘truth’. We do reap the harvest of the seeds we sow. If they are sown and ignored – we stand to answer for the outcome.

Yes, this may seem ominous but it does not have to be negative or threat! One’s breath can be taken as the gift of grace revealed in the harvest. There is no qualifier in this statement – we harvest what we sow. May our attention and focus prayerfully tend to the life we have been given to nurture.