Thursday, October 20, 2016

God's got the whole world....

originally published October's Trinity Day School Newsletter
Trinity by the Sea Day School is off and running! In chapel we are beginning at the beginning, the Genesis. We are taking it a few days at a time, and imagining what it was like when God created the Universe. The Creation Story of the Bible is a poem that uses parallelism to reflect on the amazing existence of the world as we know it. We get a double 1,2,3: The first three days God sets boundaries: light is separated from darkness, water above is separated from water below, seas are separated from land. (And God sees that it is good!) The next three follow the set pattern: sun, moon, and starts (Lights); birds (sky) and fish (sea); then animals (finally on land) and finally, the best-for-last, humanity (male and female,) The Hebrew people who first told that story did not have access to the science we have access to today,
by which we understand the universe to be 14 billions years old. There’s no date listed in Genesis, but trying to put a date on our creation story that misses the point. Bishop Hibbs told a group of us at the SWT Canterbury, “If you are asking “HOW”, turn to science, if you are asking “WHY”, turn to religion.” The WHY of creation is found in Genesis, and it is about the intention of God and the goodness of the creation, It is about God loving so much that the whole Cosmos was prepared for us to have a place to be. God looked at the whole creation and pronounced: “It is VERY GOOD! Just like we spend time preparing our homes for our children to live, just like we separate time aside from other responsibilities to be with our children, and just like we provide the best we can for them, so, the Genesis story teaches us: God has prepared the world for us. What a gift.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Finding Joy

I have had the privilege to be in the presence of Bishop Desmond Tutu a few times, and I have heard the Dali Lama speak once. They beam with an inner light and the memory of being near them brings a smile to my face. I knew they were personal friends, and that they given lectures together, and I recently learned that they have co-authored a book about Joy. I can't wait to get my copy, and read what these two amazing spiritual teachers, who have lived lives wrought with persecution, have to teach us about joy. They are transforming lives around the world, as they themselves have been transformed.

I want to share this good news with the handful of you who read the Pastor's Pen column, because bad news seems to get more air time than good news.  (I'm ever grateful to our South Jetty for including so much good news!)

This is the season of harvest, and the season of reflecting on stewardship in many churches. I am inviting people, in some way, to do a self assessment of what percentage of time and energy they spend on their spiritual lives, and what percentage of their time and energy they spend on the heavy problems of the world that they can do nothing about. Our culture seems to be obsessed with worry and fear. Our favorite drug is to find new things to worry about and of which to be afraid. Some of us can't wait to turn on a screen to search for new things to worry about, and to stoke the furnace of fear.

I am not advocating ignoring the needs of the world. I am advocating for bringing a balance to life. We are fortunate, here in Port Aransas, to live surrounded by nature. As I write, I am sitting outside looking at the stars and I can hear the waves in the distance barely more audible than the nighttime insect chorus. In order to see and hear, I had to redirect my attention from the screen to the beauty all around me. I needed to be intentional.

What brings the balance to your own life? What spiritual practices do you incorporate to interrupt the 24 hour news cycle? How do you disconnect from media, and connect with your soul? How do you listen to good news; see the beauty all around you; connect with joy?

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) That joy shines through the Dali Lama and Bishop Tutu, giving them strength in spite of adversity. Part of the intention of writing their book together was to invite us to participate in finding joy. Practice joy. Turn toward joy. Whether it is through family and friends, or time in nature, or sitting in your favorite place of worship. Consider, in this bountiful season, what brings you joy. What percentage of your time are you committing to that? Is there a balance to your life that will move you a little closer to shining with an inner light so that others can also be inspired to seek joy?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

the resistance

I recently returned to a piece of music I've admired since Jr. High. There, among my cassettes of Nirvana and the Doors, was a recording of Carmina Burana. Now, years later, I've started listening to it and watching it with (son) Eli on YouTube. The lyrics are in Latin, so I found them with an English translation to read along with as we listen.

Then I started reading about Carl Orff, the composer. He wrote Carmina during the second World War in Nazi Germany. There are some critics who question his association with the Nazi regime. Further reading led me to find he had contact with members of the White Rose Resistance and that one of the characters in his works may have been inspired by Sophie Scholl, an active member in that resistance group.

I mentioned my rediscovery of Carmina to my analyst and he told me he was a fan, too. Then he relayed a story about Diedrich Bonhoeffer hearing Carmina Burana being played over a radio while he was a prisoner in a concentration camp, and it gave him hope.

I am not writing this to reveal a conclusion I've drawn from this brief journey that began with finding music I've been fascinated with for years, but to share this bizarre journey of discovery I am still following. I've watched Sophie Scholl, the movie, and while I have found my copy of Diedrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship to read, I will probably also watch a movie about Bonhoeffer's life.

Then the why question begins to nag at me: Why am I stumbling into all of this now? Again, no conclusions to share, just the joy of discovery, and the riches that come from curiosity. I am reminded of a recommendation made in the book The War of Art: when you discover an artist (or piece of music) you find out as much as you can about that, then find three people who inspire that artist, and go learn about them. Follow the trail, and see where it leads.

As I listen to Carmina, and reflect on my own writing, art, and music, I wonder about Orff, Scholl, and Bonhoeffer. I am grateful to be remembering them as I wonder if their work in the world is complete, and I hope to take some inspiration from them as I continue my own journey.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

religious imagination

A cross of crosses kids made with found sticks.
This summer, Eli and I had the opportunity to play on this neat little neighborhood playground when we were passing through Boulder, CO. I don't spend a lot of time on swings, but there I did get to spend time swinging with Eli. Trying to remember how to swing is one thing; pumping my legs, and then, the big pay-off: jumping at the peak for a short flight back to the mulch covered yard. I get dizzy easier now than when I was a little kid. Eli loves to spin and swing and shake his body up to TRY to make himself dizzy. I avoid merry-go-rounds. I thought it was just because I'm past my younger years. I've noticed though, as Eli experiments more and more, and sometimes drags me along for the ride (literally) I don't get dizzy quite as easily. I found jumping out of the swing a little fun. Practicing has helped my body relearn how to deal with being spun, swung, and tipped. Those balancing mechanisms in my ear aren't old, they were just out of practice.

The same thing goes for my imagination. As Eli engages in the wonderful world of magic (Harry Potter), wonder (Santa, Tooth Fairy, etc.), and fear (dragons, ghosts, gremlins) I am along for the ride once again. My imagination, and my creativity have taken on a quality I haven't known for a while. I relish in a world of mystery, wonder, and a world where I don't need to understand things completely. It's a workout for my mind and spirit. It also helps expand my faith. William Blake wrote about the importance of a healthy Religious Imagination. It is healthy to exercise the imagination in a dynamic way, riffing off the stories we've been handed down, the way children riff off of cartoon and movie themes on the school playground. Revisit The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for an example of an author with a healthy Religious Imagination. C.S. Lewis wove a beautiful world together that incorporated themes of his church heritage. He taught it in a magical way that would engage the religious imaginations of generations of readers. He and J. R. R. Tolkien were said to have discussions about how strictly the stories should align with the religious tradition, and how they might be able to stray from, wander out, and re-order the themes. (I'm also a fan of The Lord of the Rings)
A crucifix I made with found sticks. 

As we start off the school year, and settle into the swing of the day-to-day, you might also take an
assessment of how engaged your own imagination is. Just like getting into the routine of a new year, and learning to maintain a sense of balance in exciting situations, we need to exercise our ability to imagine. If you need help, ask a child. As Jesus pointed out, the kingdom of God already belongs to them...we just forget how to live in that reality when we get bogged down by all our adult responsibilities. Exercising the religious imagination puts us in closer relationship with God. Start with a Bible story, and see where the Spirit guides your imagination. Try having a conversation with a particularly wise looking pelican! Have some fun, and discover the mystery of God's Universe and the gift of your imagination that has been planted at the center of your being.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

clean out

This week I did a bit of cleaning out. Ok, I actually did a lot. We have this closet. If you spend much time around the church, you know that with so many people, a lot gets crammed into closets, so I won't have to explain what it was like. 

One of the treasures I found was this painting and six others. I had seen a few of the series, but this gave me an occasion to see all of them together. They are unique and beautiful. There were other things that have been stored in there, and were not as beautiful, or just hadn't been used for at least the four years since I've been there. Some of them went away. 

The end goal was to straighten up a meeting room that, like the closet, is used by multiple people and groups, and had become a bit encumbered. It was usable, but now it's in much better shape. Now it's ready to be a space where people can connect with one another and with God. 

The clutter, which just happens, has to be cleaned out from time to time, otherwise it clogs things up. Cleaning up and cleaning out is a practice in priority setting. We get to asking questions like: what's really important? What do we actually use and need? What helps to further our mission, and what is just hanging around clogging things up? 

Now I feel ready to get on with the fall; with ministry; with the mission. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

my summer vacation

Summer Vacation in Sketch and Caption

 This is a snow melt lake scene we hiked up to from Duncan Park. The white areas are snow. It was really cold. I know because after hiking for miles with little kids, we were all ready to cool off. A few of us swam. I could barely breath from the cold-shock. I came out energized and ready to hike back.

While at Dunan Park, John decided to be baptized. This is him coming up from the icy cold water wide awake (see enter the Way.) Most of the group was gathered on the bank in the dusk, and I stood by in case he fell over.

This is another lake near Duncan Park where we hiked. The kids found themselves a fenceless playground and romped around the pond, while the parents watched the forest edges for lions and bears. 

We took a train from Denver to Winter Park where we stayed with the Kidds. They took such good care of us! Penthouse condo, mountain biking, including downhill, and the alpine slide: a concrete slide with little wheeled sleds. Eli liked to leave the brakes off the whole way down. The train ride though, there and back. I love train travel. I'll leave it at that for now. 

In winter park, I noticed a sign for live music. I wandered down to catch this picker (with her toddler wearing matching boots and hat) for some originals and traditional tunes. Eli and Laura were taking a nap. It was a nice chance to be I sketched and enjoyed a refreshing beverage.

We got home in time to greet my one of my sisters who came for some beach time with her family. What a way to re-enter the day-by-day. It was good to be with them, and I hope to go visit their home in the hill country soon. They found a creative way to lounge in their beach chairs AND  be in the water, watching the kids boogie board...

That's not everything, just a few sketches of moments. The sketches (like photos) help me remember scenes, and sharing them helps me remember what a great time it was. I'm grateful to have the time away, and the return to Port Aransas and Trinity by the Sea; I feel refreshed and ready for the Fall-Stewardship-Advent-Christmas-Epiphany-Lent-Easter experience that is about to come to us. And that's not even including our Master Plan and Capital Campaign. 2016-17 is going to be a big year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

enter the Way

This picture is of my friend The Rev. Billy Tweedie, rector of Resurrection in Austin, with his son Liam standing by ready to net a trout. Billy and his twins joined Trinity by the Sea for our retreat to Duncan Park, Colorado. He led us in reflections each night during compline (night prayer.) He focused on just a few of the teachings of Brene Brown's "The Daring Way." The first night we learned the (important) differences between guilt, humiliation, and shame. The second night we learned about compassion, and the importance of boundaries in practicing compassion. Finally, the last night, we learned about courage...the important ingredient to living a vulnerable, compassionate life in which we learn from the experiences of guilt and humiliation, without letting shame rule our decisions. The teachings were helpful, and it was something to ponder each night while on retreat.

After the first night's teaching, as we were just settling into the rhythm of the retreat, Tracy reminded me that her husband, John had not yet been baptized, and asked what was required for him to be baptized.

We have talked about baptizing him since their premarital conversation a year earlier. He was interested in an immersion in the living waters of the gulf, yet we still hadn't gotten our schedules aligned for the occasion. As if we were living the scene out of the Book of Acts, John said something like, "See, here is some water, what's to prevent me from being baptized now?" (Acts 8:36) Or maybe he just said, "Let's do it!" Most of our group had already left the creekside gazebo to get ready for bed, so we gathered everyone again, and with prayer books and flashlights in hand, we headed back down to the creek. It was a giddy gathering. We prayed for John, blessed the creek's living waters, and in he and I went. He was plunged into the icy waters, and came up with a gasp. Safe on the banks, he commented, between excited breaths, "That woke me up!" I said, "That's the idea."

The next night, we read, together, the baptismal covenant, so we could all remember what we are getting ourselves into by living baptized lives. Welcome John, and thank you for acting out the teaching! Baptism is an act of becoming vulnerable and it is even humiliating (being dunked under water, coming up cold and soaking wet), which reminds of our humanity and our dependence upon God. Ultimately, it takes courage to enter the death of Jesus, and to be reborn in his resurrection; then to practice the compassionate Way of Jesus---reread the baptismal covenant for a reminder (BCP  p. 292) In short, John's baptism illustrated for us the Brene Brown teachings (she is a student of Jesus, too.)