Monday, November 29, 2010

Thank. Full.

What a welcome break!

Spending a week-ish with my sister and her family in Random, Kentucky was, well, random.

We practiced gratitude - for the funky cabin the in woods, the broken oven on Thanksgiving day and the replacement oven located in another cabin, the one-on-one yoga instruction from my yogini sister, the skill of brother-in-law to cook a turkey on the grill, my honey's heart-stopping sweet potato pie and a brilliant scrabble game loss at the hands of my nephew-rock-star Logan. We were even grateful for midnight awakenings of wasps and mice!

Like I said, it was random.
It was all good, although not really restful. Being in a different space, with surprising surroundings and amazing geological formations like arches and natural bridges to illuminate our hikes, we practiced gratitude. And now the refrain from the e.e. cummings poem rings in my ear:
i thank You God for most this amazing 
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth

day of life and love and wings:and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no

of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

For what are you full of thanks in this moment?

...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:18

Monday, November 22, 2010


it's been a long week. i'm reflecting on how little i can reflect when i'm tired.

i pushed my muse all week with my sermon, new job, interviews for 2nd job, starting a running program, monitoring our new cat. i can't even capitalize my words.

i'm thankful for all the blessings in my life and happy to have a bed upon which to lay my head. i'm taking the rest of the week off, cuz going crazy is not in my job description.

so i conclude this short entry with my favorite prayer from the new zealand prayer book for the evening.
Lord it is night.

The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be.

The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray. Amen

thanks for showing up to this moment.

Sermon: Christ the King

Proper 29 Year C 
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43
Vicki Hesse, Ministry Intern

Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Well, here we are –It’s Christ the King day and
the last Sunday in our liturgical year,
Happy New Year! 
Instead of singing Auld Lang Syne,
we will sing Crown Him With Many Crowns.

I wonder what other Kings we know of...
·        King of Pop – Michael Jackson
·        King of Soul – Otis Redding (if you grew up – or can remember – the 60s)
·        King of Queens – a popular TV show             
·        King of Beer – usually on the mind of Sunday afternoon football watchers
·        King Kong?
·        Or maybe the news of Prince William marrying Kate?

But what kind of Kings are they?

They are “the best” in their field
and their notoriety piques our interest
their charisma enthralls us.

What kind of power
do these kings have for us? 

== == ==
Historically, a king would be
the person at the top with all the political power,
the head of the state.

He usually got all his power
by being born into a royal family
sometimes from self-proclamation
after attacking villages and scattering the people,
then taking power over the people. 

While not all kings were violent and evil,
Sometimes, this kind of king ruled as an autocrat
with absolute power over state and government,
ruling by fear and decree.

And while the King was
legally responsible
for the welfare of the widows and orphans,
sometimes it wasn’t out of generosity –
many of  these unfortunate people
were usually relegated to
many years of labor
in exchange for their care. 

How would you feel
as a subject under this kind of king? 

I don’t know about you, but
I would probably be in yellow terror alert  
if they were anywhere near. 
I’d do what they asked –
after all, the King has all the power
and the subjects have none. 

As a subject of this kind of king,
I would have to swear to be
obedient to the King alone,
or be charged with treason.

Like I said, not all kings were like this, but many were.

So why is today celebrated as Christ the King Sunday?
Well, it was in 1925, that Pope Pius 11th
was peeved about
the increasing nationalism and secularism
that he saw in the world. 

In his yearly encyclical,
the Pope noted that
“the majority of {people} had thrust Jesus Christ…
out of their lives,”
as Pope saw it, folks had no place for Jesus
“private affairs or in politics”
and he wanted to address that.

Of course, that was only in 1925…
[Does this still apply to today?]

And so, the Pope marked this day as a celebration in our liturgical year as the crowning glory
of all the days of the year.
As the hymn says,
“crown him the Lord of Heaven,
enthroned in worlds above,
crown him the King to whom is given
the wondrous name of Love.”

Our readings today capture
the glory of that kind of King

In the first reading (Jeremiah,)
God promises to send forth
A new kind of King –
a faithful ruler who will gather all who are exiled.
This is not the kind of king we talked about earlier,
that power-mongering, disrupting kind of king
who expects the subjects
to figure it out themselves.

Have you ever been exiled and
thought you had to figure it out on your own?
Have you ever thought,
“Can’t we just all get along?”

In this Kingdom, we can get along, together.
We are welcomed home.

That’s a new kind of King. 

In the second reading (Colossians),
we hear that this King
offers to share his power and strength with us –
not the grim, teeth-gritting strength,
but God-given glory-strength.

Have you ever needed strength to be patient?
Have you ever needed just to endure?

This King gives us power to transform –
to be patient when someone cuts us off on the freeway,
to be thankful for what we do have
even when working in a minimum wage job,
to be forgiven for those very-human mistakes we make.

This King’s glory-power
brings together – all things
“in heaven and in earth –  seen and unseen”
How spacious, how roomy
is this Kingdom!

That’s a new kind of King. 

In the Gospel reading from Luke,
we recognize the humanity of this King –
how hard it is to be human,
to bear the taunts,
to have someone poke fun at us,
to be cursed. 

We empathize with this King
and sense our compassion growing inside.

THEN we get a demonstration
of a new kind of King’s
when he says,
to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The story shifts, and
in a moment of intimate familiarity,
the thief addresses the King by his first name –
Jesus –
and asks simply
to be remembered.

This King – who came
“to proclaim salvation to the poor and the marginalized,”
and who came  “to seek and save the lost” –
promises to him -
that he will be made whole,
that he will be welcomed home,
that he will be forgiven

And he does so
with mutual intimacy and affection.

That’s a new kind of King. 

== == ==
And what’s been gnawing on me all week is this question: if this is my king, how am I different?
And what of us, this King’s subjects? 
How does this change us?

Part of the answer is that
it makes us a new kind of person.

Under this King,
we are not “subjects,”
we are disciples, followers,–
and our life is transformed
from being ruled through the
feudalistic lordship of pop culture
to a life in companionship with our King.

We are transformed more and more
into compassionate beings,
“into the likeness of Christ.”

With Christ as our King,
we are gathered, empowered and forgiven.
it makes us a new kind of person.

Under this King,
We show up at the homeless shelter,
feed each other, and
realize that we are gathered up.

Under this King,
we have glory-strength
to confront those who bully
and to welcome people
who are different than us.

Under this King,
Even when we are confused,
we can find confidence and rest
in the spaciousness of God.
in the wondrous name of Love. 

it makes us a new kind of person.

As a new kind of person,
We are called to share in his glory-strength and
in the face of this world
work for peace and reconciliation.

To put together backpacks for kids
To teach children tolerance
To use our voice and political will
to change systems that oppress our neighbors or ourselves.

As a new kind of person
With a new kind of King,

Our call today is to seek and to serve
Christ the King
in each other.

Our call today is to forgive ourselves and others.


Because today,
we will be with Christ in paradise.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Not Clinging

I recently blogged about Cynthia Bourgeault's talk on wisdom ways of knowing.

In her expansive wonderings of the heart, the instrument "par excellence of wisdom," she connected our heart's ability to know deeply. We are to obey the heart - which means to listen from the depths. It is the heart, she states, that is perfect and our work is to get in touch with the heart and to explore any places where the signals to the heart "get jammed."

So how do we open our heart?

This question has been stewing in my spiritual crockpot ever since.

In Philippians, St. Paul writes about Jesus' ability to have the same mind as in Christ, and not cling to God. He emptied himself... perhaps this is the secret of his teaching - to not grab on.

My morning silent prayer time is strengthening this open-my-heart and learn-to-let go muscle. It's a paradox of allowing openness while detaching from the outcome.

So today, I pray to let go, with love.

What are you not clinging onto, in this moment?

Monday, November 8, 2010


We said goodbye to each other this week.

Eleven weeks ago, we were ten folks who didn't know each other. We were over ambitious, under employed, and looking for a purpose. United Way and our Pacesetter Chair transformed us into a team of supportive, hardworking, message-spreading advocates. For life.

Since Friday was our very very last day on the campaign, we gathered in a circle on Thursday to share each others' gifts. Thanks to one of our teammates who is a Spiritual Director and who knows how to bring out the best in others, we prepared 3x5 cards filled with five or more words about each person. What they were good at. What made us laugh. What we saw in them. What we hoped for them.

And for more than two hours, we shared and cried and hugged and laughed.

Eleven weeks ago, we were ten individuals. Now we know each other as family, as our support team. I'll hold onto those note cards for a very long time. And now I feel strengthened to say goodbye, to find closure in this ending, to grieve the loss of good colleagues, and to begin looking forward to what is next.

Thank you, my teammates! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

To whom are you saying Goodbye in this moment?

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. Acts 20:1

Sunday, November 7, 2010


One of my colleagues is a Preachers' Kid. Yes, the apostrophe is in the right place.

Not only his father, but also his mother was a preacher. She exceeded all manner of educational requirements (MDiv, DMin, PhD) for her pastoral ministry. Father preached and she ran the church (women can't be ordained in "that" denomination).

My colleague, we'll call him Pierre, explained that dinner time conversation in their house was not, he knew, normal. Who else is arguing about the conjugation of verbs in Hebrew or in Greek? Who else threw around theological discussions about the meaning of Revelations as easily as discussing the weather?

Pierre explained to me that he learned over the years to never say never. "I'll never go to University of Alabama, yuck... are you kidding?" Where did he end up attending? University of Alabama. "I'll never live in Atlanta, are you kidding?" Where did he end up living after he met his now-wife? Atlanta. "I'd never take a part time job doing fundraising!" Where did we just spend the last 11 weeks? Fundraising for United Way.

He shared with me, in a tender moment at our last celebration gathering, that his father, who was otherwise very verbose, gave him sage advice before he died. "Son," he said when Pierre announced his engagement to the now-Mrs., "Be patient." Yea, yea, Dad, I know. Be patient. "No,BE patient." Yea, yea, Dad, I know. "No, BBBBEEEE patient. As in the Greek, BE is BECOMING. BE patient." Yea, yea, Dad. Okay!

A year or so later, when Mrs. Pierre was pregnant with baby #1, she scolded Pierre for some random, benign act of carelessness. She yelled at him. What crossed his mind? BEcome PATIENT.

This is really Pierre's story but it has stuck with me.

And as I step into what's next for me, I'm taking Dad's advice, to BEcome patient. With me, with my life, with God, with others.

What are you BEing in this moment?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Thursday, November 4, 2010


In a recent "BEING/Speaking of Faith ", Krista Tippett interviews NY Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof. Mr Kristof talks about how mass need paralyzes peoples' capacity to give. Tippett points to the emotional response that one specific story might create in a listener's heart a kind of "portal" for compassion. Through this portal of compassion the listener might be moved to give or to take action for change.

I connected with this notion when I thought about the two dozen the United Way rallies that I have been a part of in the last 11 weeks. And, I realized the importance of telling Just Our Story about why I personally "Live United." When we were first trained on this presentation, I wanted to share all the wonderful things that United Way is doing and describe all the terrible statistics that point to the broad and deep need in our community.

Now, having heard this small snippet about Rokia and Moussa on the interview, I understood why one personal story is more powerful. Here is a partial transcript of the full interview:


Ms. Tippett: But there's some way you put that and somewhere you said that the emotional response becomes a portal and then rational arguments like numbers can play a supporting role.


Mr. Kristof: That opening, that connection, that empathy, is really an emotional one. It's done based on individual stories. And we all know that there is this compassion fatigue as the number of victims increases, but what the research has shown that is kind of devastating is that the number at which we begin to show fatigue is when the number of victims reaches two.

Ms. Tippett: Right. Would you tell the story about Rokia and Moussa, the photograph that they used to illustrate this?

Mr. Kristof: Yeah. This is from the work of a psychologist called Paul Slovic. There were experiences where people were shown a photo of a starving girl from Mali called Rokia, a seven-year-old girl, and asked to contribute in various different scenarios. And then also a boy named Moussa. And essentially people would donate a lot of money. If they saw that Rokia was hungry, they wanted to help her. Likewise, when they saw a picture of Moussa, they wanted to help him. But the moment you put the two of them together and asked people to help both Rokia and Moussa, then at point donations dropped. And by the time you ask them to donate to 21 million hungry people in West Africa , you know, nobody wanted to contribute at all.

Ms. Tippett: Because they're overwhelmed by that, or it doesn't spark the same reaction that actually enables people to act.


For me, I have wondered how God could possible contain all the world's misery. Or even all the world's joy. It's just too massive for my little heart.( That's why God's God and not me.) Perhaps this is a portal to my own understanding that might possibly apply to God - that through personal stories, personal narratives, personal sacred moments... God does Give. God does Take Action. God Cares. God Loves.

What is your portal, showing up in this moment?

So let's go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This "insider world" is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let's take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name. Hebrews 13:13

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I recently went to a talk by Cynthia Bourgeault at Montreat College. The Emcee introduced her as one who can speak to the place "...where suffering and love meet." I found that to be true.

In her talk, she discussed ways of knowing. There's the ordinary way of knowing - from the outside - and the direct knowledge way of knowing - how you "just know" something. And, there are the "three ways of knowing" as espoused by G.I. Gurdjieff. This really caught my attention.

In this approach, we know through 1. moving, 2. emotions and 3. intellect.

In Moving, we have some intelligence through movement: gestures, dancing, cellular shifting. This is why gestures speak to me in liturgy. I love to kneel when I pray. I cross myself at the consecration of the host. I bow and fold my hands in prayer-form when I say "peace" to someone I visited in hospital.

In Emotions, this doesn't really translate to "heart" knowing - it's more about empathic knowing - chakras / solar plexus / stuff like that. She reminded me how empathy travels faster than the mind can absorb. It's why this week when my colleague Mr. Mom teared up at the farewell of Ms. China, we all "knew" he loved her deeply as a friend and our emotional response was to tear up as well.

In Intellect, that's the cognition approach. This is so common that it's an over-used muscle. I read about doing my Live United presentation but only when I actually get up and say it, moving into my space and using my emotions, will I really "know" why I "live united."

My point is that in her discussion she emphasized how the body "tells" you something that the mind can never really know. It's like riding a bike - you just "get the hang" of it.

I wonder how God knows me. My instinct is that God knows the movement of my breath, the empathic responses that spontaneously burst through me and the academic brainwork that is stuffed in the gray matter upstairs.

Showing up to this moment, I pray for awareness to "know" Love in all forms - movement, emotions, intellect - and to find harmony in these ways of knowing. I'm grateful for Cynthia Bourgeault and her brilliant insights.

How do you *know* in this moment?

Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart; a wise person draws from the well within.Proverbs 20:5 (The Message)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


At a rally the other day, I shared the United Way of Asheville & Buncombe 2010 campaign video.It was a usual rally agenda: thanks/introduction, story, video, The Ask, pledge cards and thanks/close.

This rally was for a small group of folks from a local agency that does a lot of work in the community. So it should have come as no surprise that after the opening scene, when the first Live United speaker began, they called out to me, "Hey, we know him!" Then, they recognized the judge with whom this Chief Court Counselor was conferring. Then, they recognized the next two protagonists in the video with glee, exclaiming how great she did or how they know that organization.

It was as if I was sharing my vacation photos with my own family. What fun!

I began to wonder about how God must recognize us when we are authentically being ourselves. Those times when I speak in front of others, going with the flow and losing myself in the conversation... I imagine God, saying to the angels and archangels in heaven, "Hey, I know her!" I imagine God beaming with delight that even if I miss a beat or mis-speak a name or bumble my words, that like my video viewers that day, God only sees the real me and delights in me.

How is God delighting in you, in this moment?

You're blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight. She's worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary. Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete. She's the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight—and be blessed! Proverbs 3:13 (The Message)

Monday, November 1, 2010


I can’t recall exactly when I heard Krista Tippett interview John O’Donohue on Speaking of Faith in 2008. I do recall when I downloaded the podcast and re-listened to it over and over...driving to and from Spartanburg last year.

And each time I heard the interview, this blessing touched my heart.


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Parts of it increased my capacity to overcome my deep sadness after one particularly difficult "on-call" of seven deaths back to back. Parts of it connect me with a spiritual experience in a field of wildflowers near Aspen, Colorado. Parts of it remain a mystery – an unknowing; an invisible longing –the unanswered, humble feeling of which I grow more familiar with each read. All of it seems important to my spiritual journey as I show up to this moment, in this place.

In my work-a-day life there is much encouragement, positive attitude and teamwork - but sometimes it has has put gloss and spin on the outside, while abandoning any inner work –that is, leaving us all bereft of naming what is difficult, dark, real about our lives. That rigorous inner work made my chaplain residency program difficult and I grew to appreciate the authenticity gained by doing it.

However, these days,by deftly avoiding any difficult feelings,it seems that much of the webbing that holds us together in communion is lost. I seem to have lost a sense of belonging. I am familiar with this feeling and am pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels this way –and I sense that be-longing and re-membering is part of my call and part of our work as creators of a fresh expression of Church.

In the blessings that O’Donohue offers in his book, To Bless The Space Between Us, he addresses the gritty, sometimes dark realities of life.

He does so while simultaneously nudging the shoreline of the accompanying newness. In this blessing, he names quite clearly what it feels like to grieve and in this way I connect to it. By connecting to my darkness, I feel ready to accept the intimate warmth he offers in each verse. I belong.

In reflecting on the invocations for nourishment, clarity, fluency and protection, I feel understood and find hope.

In the first verse, the notion of deadening weight on my shoulders reminds me of stacking hay in our barn as a child. Back in the day, I could carry an entire bale on my back and hoist it onto a stack, no problem. Now, that hay bale comes in the form of my human failures, unkept agreements, unworked grief. While this weighs me down, I sense the weight on all our shoulders - global warming, political strife, recession and decline - and I sense paralysis.

This weight sometimes causes me to stumble. I love how this blessing- instead of exhorting me to“do more lunges so your legs are strong to endure a fall”, it is the earth who is invited to dance and to adjust with grace, to participate in my finding my balance.

In the second verse, I recall what it was like living in London. Most days the windows were grey, either from fog on the outside or humidity from the inside. It was a relief to rest my gaze on the window pane –not really focusing on the outside nor the inside of my apartment. I never did belong in London and I felt lost. Gazing at the window was relief. I chuckle at the idea of a flock of colors bursting into my apartment.

I recall with delight another time, when I hiked through the meadow of June wildflowers that covered the hillside just beyond the Maroon Bells in the Aspen (CO) wilderness. That day, I was sure that God threw confetti onto the mountain just for us to experience. It was breathtaking. And healing.

In the third verse, I am puzzled by“fraying canvas of a curragh.” I understand that a curragh is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched. (Nowadays, canvas is more usual.) Having done some boating, I can imagine the horror I might feel if the canvas that contains my boat begins to fray. And having done some snorkeling, I can connect with the fear of the deep black ocean beneath me and the unknown that lies beyond.

As a curragh of thought, I reflect on my assumptions – how have they been frayed? How have I relied on the “known”assumptional canvas that contains my understanding of God? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do infants die? Why do murderers live? How can I console the family of the fatal car crash victim in one moment and sit with the driver of the car to console him the next? What would Jesus have me do?

And so, in these times, I yearn for a path of yellow moonlight, inspired by God, to bring me safely home.

For me, when I am offered the nourishment of the earth, I take communion. And when I am offered the clarity of light I know that I will see God face to face. And when I am offered the fluency of the ocean, I remember body surfing in Manhattan Beach and the joy of surprise waves. And when I am offered the protection of the ancestors, I join my voice with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven.

And so, in the slow wind of Spirit's presence, this blessing in this moment covers me with a flowing and protective cloak that minds my life and your life - into common life.

How are you showing up in this moment?