Exploring God’s House

Today is the second day of my first sabbatical in ten years. Thank you to the Lilly Foundation we are able to have the most amazing travel adventure while the congregation we serve has the chance to have their own sabbatical experience. Below is an excerpt from our grant application as a preview for what’s coming.
In her book, An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor writes: “[in scripture] God shows up in whirlwinds, starry skies, burning bushes and perfect strangers. When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention…to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay… The House of God stretches from one corner of the universe to the other. Sea monsters and ostriches live in it, along with people who pray in languages I do not speak, whose names I will never know… I can set a little altar, in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven…instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on…” (pp.12, 13, 15). In our corner of God’s house, at Peter and Mary, we are blessed with a beautiful building and a corner parking lot in an urban neighborhood. A chain link fence, which we considered removing because it didn’t feel welcoming, has become integral to our most vibrant outreach ministry, a neighborhood dog park. Because we were able to see the fence in a new way, we now have a ministry which has created deep and meaningful relationships in and with our neighborhood. We plan to use our mutual time for renewal to stretch into new corners of the world asking, “What are we called to see in new ways now?” The congregation and Rebecca, with her husband Rick, will explore the world and our relationship to it primarily through the lens of photography in what we are calling The God Camera Project, using single use film cameras (God Cameras). We will ask the questions: “How does God see the world and where do we see God?” We will use film and book discussions to support our mutual renewal. While Rick and Rebecca (R & R) explore the vast house of God by travel and visiting with Rebecca’s family, the congregation will explore it by paying attention to the vast house of God closer to home.


Finding a Place to rest awhile

Finding a Place to rest awhile

As I reflect on the Gospel for this coming Sunday, Luke’s version of Mary and Martha, I am thinking about what a Martha I have been lately. Bustling around, getting tasks done, (or not done because of busy-ness). I have been neglecting my spirit.
It’s true, being relieved of the discipline of my yoga training was like taking a deep long drink of fresh cold water, and I have enjoyed the extra time with my sweet, sweet husband, but I have managed to fill my own time with work.
Some of it was work that needed to be done, starting a new program and finding a house for five young adults was important, since they are all coming in a month, we needed somewhere for them to live, and a program in which they would be participating.
I have also become immersed in the life of being a vicar in a small, scrappy urban parish. There is much that can consume my time there.
But I have not taken the time to stop, breath and notice where I am now. I am waist deep (sometimes chin deep!) in work that I love. I am spending time creating a program which excites and challenges me and which I hope will help, in come small way, to change the world. I am spending Sunday mornings and Tuesdays with a dedicated, spirit filled, and passionate group of people who are committed to creating a place of welcome and hospitality for our urban neighborhood.
I have found a place to rest a while and create a pile of stones. I have seen God reflected in so many pieces of the work I am doing now, I know I want to stay and spend some time here.
It’s time too to take a page from Mary’s book. To spend some more time paying attention to, and loving God and allowing myself the rest and renewal that comes with stillness and paying attention to my spirit, not just my “to-do” list.

The gift of kids in church

The gift of kids in church

The link below is floating around Facebook right now, and I had to share it here. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what this mom wrote. This is why I love kids in church. They help us keep things real, and right now.

The picture is my nephew’s tractor in my parents’ dishwasher. Both my nephews loved the dishwasher… probably another blog post in that one someday…

I love this image because it says, a child was welcomed here, and helped us to play.


Being Artists of God’s Dream

Being Artists of God's Dream

Below is most of my sermon from my first Sunday in my new congregation, St. Peter and St. Mary in Denver, April 28, 2013. I am thrilled to be the new vicar with such a committed group of people.

After an event like the Boston bombing, there is a liminal time, when everyone is taking a breath and absorbing what has happened. This is a time when everything is suspended and we are deeply connected by our common shock and dismay. We are all raw and sad and vulnerable. What unfolds next after an event like this, shapes how we will make meaning from it. Terrorism isn’t just about the act of violence itself, but how those who have been violated respond.
We can choose fear, or we can choose love. Choosing fear means that terrorists win, and that our lives get smaller. Fear means that we assume the world is bad and that people are out to get us. Fear means that we worry about getting a flat tire all the time, or that our neighbor who ignored us in line at the grocery store was mad at us, or , whatever. We have all made assumptions about the world based on fear. Some fear is helpful, our survival as a species depends on it, protecting our children and those who are vulnerable is important. But too much fear makes our lives small.
Choosing love means that God wins. Jesus is telling his disciples to love one another as he has loved us. Choosing love means wading into the world, and being vulnerable to getting our hearts broken over and over again, and being disappointed. AND it means being connected to one another in deep, joyful and meaningful ways. Choosing love means rushing in when the bombs go off. Choosing love means falling in love again after getting your heart broken. Choosing love means we know that broken pieces of our lives can be put back together and made into something beautiful. Choosing love means that our lives get larger.
We have so many reasons not to do things – we’re too old, we’ll get hurt, we don’t want to look stupid, it’s too dangerous, it’s not safe… on and on. It’s true, there ARE things we shouldn’t do, jump out of airplanes without parachutes, touch a hot burner on a stove, run into traffic. But so many times there are things we should do, and we can do, but we don’t because we are afraid.
I am an artist. This is something I never would have said out loud about myself before. I am afraid of opening myself up to judgment. Now when I say I am an artist, I don’t mean I am the next Picasso or Monet or Ansel Adams,. I am an artist as much as any one of us is an artist – created in the image and likeness of God with a yearning to create something. We are all co-creators with God. For some of us it’s making music, or brewing beer, or cooking, or knitting, or creating a relationship, or being a parent or an aunt or uncle, singing, being a friend…. For me it’s cooking, taking photographs and lately more than anything, I’ve been ripping paper, all kinds of beautiful paper, origami paper, wrapping paper, homemade paper, store bought paper and using the ripped pieces to make collages. I have been really enjoying the collage practice because I like ripping the paper, I like playing with what it looks like on another pieces of paper, I like glue, I like to figure out how the paper is going to layer, and think about what embellishments might work once it’s glued, gold pen, glitter, ribbon….. What usually happens is when I glue the paper down, the image that is created is never exactly what I have planned it to be and so different from what I had in mind when I started I feel kind of frustrated AND sometimes what is created is so much better than I could have imagined,
Today we begin a new chapter together at St. Peter and St. Mary. We are embarking on a journey of faith and love. God has a dream for us in Baker, and I am looking forward to discovering what that dream is. None of us here is perfect, (well I am assuming none of us is…. ) but we are all children of God, created in love, by love, for love. We will have moments of great joy with one another, we will likely get frustrated with one another, and it is my deepest hope and prayer, that we will love one another, as God has loved us. My prayer as we begin this ministry together is that we will wade into the world and we will show the world God’s love,
My prayer is that we will be like the ripped pieces of paper in this collage, frayed and torn, and when we come together, we will create something beautiful. This is what God’s love does, God’s love transforms our brokenness into something whole and magnificent. May we all be artists of God’s dream in this place and may we love one another as we have been loved by God.

Hello from Chicago

Hello from Chicago

I’m in Chicago for a meeting with new colleagues and feeling very excited and hopeful about the future of our church and our world. There are good, faithful, passionate people committed to transforming the communities where they find themselves at my meeting.

Below is today’s ( April 15, 2013) quote from my new favorite webpage. It is the gift of one of my new colleagues. Click the link beneath that to go to the page for the current quote.

“God’s glory will shine through our lives. It will shine in our faces the shine that comes from knowing God loves us personally, deeply, and has given us work to do, to bring the promise and light of God’s transforming love to our broken and despairing world.

-Br. Eldridge Pendleton
Society of Saint John the Evangelist”


“Look for the Helpers”

I have not posted anything in response to the Boston Marathon because I have needed to sit with my feelings about it for a while. I have felt denial, (I ignored the link in my news feed at first), shock when I turned on the tv midday and then sadness as the extent of the horror became known. Finally I decided I needed to sit with my grief. I haven’t tried to rationalize it, and I haven’t tried to push it away. I haven’t tried to feast on the public grief and outrage either. I have listened for the real bits of news that are emerging and made a huge effort not to get hooked by all the public speculation and fear mongering that always follows such a publically tragic event.

It’s normal for us to look for meaning in a seemingly senseless act. But we are so quick, sometimes way to quick, to look for meaning in the face of tragedy. We want to ask why, when someone sets off a bomb in a crowd at what should be a joyful shared public moment. We want to know who would do such a senseless, horrible thing, and we want to know why they would do something like that. Is it a terrorist attack from an enemy of our country? Is it a mentally ill person seeking some kind of deranged recognition? What, why, who? We want to know because it might help us make some sense of our dismay, and our grief. It might help us comprehend the death of innocent people, and the injury of so many others. So many lives have been torn apart in the middle of what should have been a moment of joy and triumph.

The one thing that I have heard (and seen on Facebook) that has brought me the most comfort and made the most sense to me, in the middle of a senseless situation, is the quote from my beloved childhood hero, Mr. Rogers: “look for the helpers”. When something bad happens there are always people who rush in to help, look for them.

This is where we can find meaning, and for me that means this is where we can find God. In the faces of those who walk into the danger to help someone else, and in the faces of those who grieve, God is there. In the tears of those whose hearts are broken for another’s pain and in the tender touch of a stranger seeking to offer comfort and assistance, God is there. That means something, even when nothing else makes sense.

Snow Day

Snow Day

I come from a family of planners, those of you who know us well, or are part of the family, either by birth or marriage are either rolling your eyes or snorting at the understatement of the year that I just laid out there for all of you. I come from a family of planners. When we gather, we like to know AHEAD OF TIME, where we are all going to sleep, what we will eat for all of our meals, a general outline of our time together, and the various activities in which we may, or may not participate. Most of us don’t do well when the plan changes at the last minute. It throws us off and makes us irritable until we readjust. Sometimes we can all go with the flow, but having a good overall structure to shore us up really makes us feel better.
Last fall things did not go according to plan and my father spent months in the hospital and in recovery from a serious illness. We learned, in this in between time, to roll together through the ups and big downs that came our way. People brought us food, and we helped each other through the time, with our lists, and the shared memory of what a plan looked like, but mostly relying on each other to take turns remembering the details of daily life that needed to be taken care of until the crisis passed.
Maybe it’s because we are so used to planning together that we were able to move into a looser form of sharing our common life, maybe it was the crisis, and our deep, deep love for one another that helped us get through, and maybe it’s because we didn’t know when we woke up each morning what the day would bring, but we were mostly able to let go of the big plan and go with whatever each day brought us.
Now that I am out of crisis mode, my planning gene is kicking back in. As I move into a phase of my life with more external demands on my time, after a phase when my plan was to have no plan for my day to day life, I am falling back into my need for more structured time. I need to know what I am doing for the week, which office will I be in, where is my computer, and where are my yoga clothes, when will I have lunch with so and so, how will I get to work, walk or take the car? What will my sweet husband and I have for meals, where did I leave the milk? Some of the plan is filled in, the rest is by the seat of my pants.
Just as I am getting into what might loosely be called a routine, and I have managed to figure out how to plan my new life: we have entered into a stormy Colorado spring. My best laid plans are often tossed out the window. I have had three days derailed by snow. The first one, I had company, and we made the best of it, and ended up forging ahead with the master plan of the day, the second snow day I spent languishing, unmoored, on the couch mostly. The third snow day, I let go of the meetings, the lunch date and my class, and made a new plan: soup and grilled cheese with my sweetie, and whatever else we got done.
Maybe this is spiritual growth, and I am learning to live more deeply into “being present”, and perhaps I am just getting more nimble with my ability to plan, either way, I am learning to lean more into the now, and less into the “what if”?

Easter Haiku

Easter Haiku

Love conquering over death
Tomb appears empty

Green plastic grass nest
Milk chocolate foil covered eggs
Heirloom cut glass bowl

Granny’s crocheted lace
Hollow chocolate bunnies
Gran’s pink tablecloth

Laughter, chop, dancing
Marinating lamb kabobs
Quinoa tabouleh

Roasted potatos
Chosen family gathered
Berries, lemon fluff

Laughter, eating, full
Jesus Christ is risen today
Love echoes through time