Wednesday, March 22, 2017

water

I'm in Denver for Bob Burns's funeral and while here, I got word that Dee Tomaszewski died this morning. Both of them were older adults, and either of them could have possibly lived longer under different circumstances, but as it is, their earthly pilgrimage is complete.

In our funeral liturgy, we pray "You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return..." In this regard, life is finite. We are born, and we die. We are set on a course, and we know the final destination.

At Christ's Eucharistic table, in the same liturgy, we pray: "For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is  prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens." That's the spiritual reality of life: that while we are mortally limited, we are also connected to something much greater than the limited existence we call "I." We come from, and return to God. God dwells in us, so "even at the grave we make our song, 'Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.'"

To teach about this, Tich Nhat Hahn uses the metaphor of a wave and water. From a wave's perspective there is a beginning and end; it goes up and then goes down. But if the wave realizes it is water, it will become aware that it is always there. It is actually something much greater than just the occasion of the wave.

Remember that we are water; remember that while we experience a beginning and end, we also have an indwelling spirit that is part of something much larger. When I pray for Dee and for Bob I will remember both realities: I can't help but mourn their death, and they are still right here with us. They now know something much larger, that I can only catch glimpses of now.

Alleluia!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

confession

I have a confession: I'm judgemental.  I know, "...judge not, lest ye be judged," right? That's why it's a confession; not something I'm proud to know about myself, I just know it. I've fought against being judgemental as long as I can remember. I even judge other people for being judgemental. (Let's add hypocrite to the list...it's easier for me to see my problem in others.) Here's how I tend to judge people; here's how I might judge you: I see your car in the parking lot taking up two spaces, and there are no more spaces. In my mind I begin weaving stories about what a selfish person you must be. OR I see a bumper sticker on the back of your car that expresses some hateful worldview, and I make up a story about how you are hateful. OR I may even see you frowning your way through the grocery store, never making eye contact with anyone and (again) I make up a story about how you are so bitter at the world, and you resist showing love to others. 

Then I see someone I know coming down the aisle and the critical, judging monologue is in my head defeated. My silent judgemental perspective on the world cannot stand up to the real live human beings whom I actually know. My judgemental attitude does not survive the piercing, transformative energy of love that grows in relationships. As long as I don't know someone, I can fall into the temptation of judging (and making up a whole story about that person's life.) When I take the vulnerable risk of relationship, judgement is replaced by something much greater. 

I know this because I've experienced and witnessed that transformation again and again. I'm in the relationship business. My work is about putting people in relationship with one another and with God. The central action (and what informs the life of our community) is the act of Communion. We eat together with God. We become community through a shared meal. That leads to lots of other great things like sharing a cup of coffee and a story; discovering a relationship with God; teaching spiritual practices and why they are difficult; our day school has a lot to do with building relationships between among the children and teachers. 

When we remember the complexity of humans, and risk getting to know one another as fellow human beings, the survivalist instinct to judge thaws and melts away. When we actually meet and discover how God is at work in one another's lives, we can no longer depend on the weak labels we may try to apply to one another. So for now, until we can actually get to know one another, when that judgemental voice comes up in my mind I will try to remember that I shouldn't trust it. I will try to remember that even if you take up two spaces in a crowded parking lot. You are still a human being, and God dwells in your heart. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

seeking to pay attention

Most days, if I slow down enough, I remember to be grateful for the simple miracles of life. They almost feel like jokes at times, like when I pick up my phone to call John Price and he is calling me right then, too. (It has happened twice this week.)

Then there are the greater things like a few years back, when my soul got so stirred up, and situations in my life became disturbed enough that I started looking for a new ministry opportunity on the coast, and then when I made a phone call to a diocese I once lived in, there was this recent opening at Trinity by the Sea, Port Aransas. (And four years later, I am falling ever more in love with this place and it's people.) I wouldn't dare try to explain how those things happen, I just marvel that they do. Looking back at journals through my life, going way back to High School, I describe the subtle urges as Spirit-nudges. When there is something alogical, a tug in the direction of a decision, or just having a gut feeling that what was planned should be abandoned. I try to listen to those Spirit nudges. Sometimes I stubornly ignore them (and when I do, life often becomes more difficult than it seems it needs to be.)

I like to compare that experience of going-with-the-Spirit's-flow to swimming in the San Marcos River. When I lived in San Marcos, a swim at the falls was a regular occurance, and I learned to respect the power of the flow of water. I learned to pay attention, and to work with the current rather than against it; always aware that things could change.

I should say that this is not the only way I make all my decisions; I engage logic plenty, and make reasoned plans, and weigh tangible factors. I want to share the Spirit nudge aspect because we are often taught to ONLY use the logical way. There is a deeper mystery to things, dwelling below or behind, and it is such a blessing to seek to pay attention to that reality.

The Inner Journey Retreat has been an important part of my learning to listen to the Spiritual dimensions of life. Going to my first Inner Journey came from one of those nudges (with help from the admonition from a friend to "Get my ass to the Inner Journey Retreat.") There I learned the dynamics of my psyche, how to pay attention to complexes, how to work with my dreams, and how to live a fuller life, more aware of how I serve something much greater than me. I am so grateful for my Inner Journey Community, too. They help me continue to pay attention to the invisible, spiritual reality of life. It has made me a better priest and person.

This is only half an ad for the upcoming (April 17-21)  Inner Journey Retreat, the other half of my intention in this reflection is for Lent, when we seek to adhere to practices that draw us closer to God; that help us prepare to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus in Holy Week and Easter.

Whatever this reflection may stir up in you when you read it, I encourage you to pay attention to your soul's needs. It will not lead you astray (though the journey may be winding!) It will lead you to wholeness and connection.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Becoming a Parish

At the Diocese of West Texas's 113th Diocesan Council Trinity by the Sea became a Parish! That link will take you to a video of our resolution and procession into council as a parish.

We were well represented with Ukulele's strumming, banners waving, and songs lifted up in thanksgiving to God for this historic moment. I wanted to share my address to Council and what Suzanna Reeder said to Bishop Lillibridge when she presented him with his surf board. Both are below. Blessings to all, and thanks to Johnie Swenson and Mark Admire for coordinating the party Sunday--what a weekend!

Thank you to our Bishops and to Joann Saylors for walking us through this process in the
final stages; to Johnie Swenson who stewarded the process, and to Walt Kleine our treasurer, Sarah Jane Wise our archivist, and our Bishop’s Committee and congregation for going through this Mission to Parish process through which we reflected on where we are in our life as a congregation and discerned that it really is the right time to take this step. And thanks to Nancy Stinson for...all of this...
It has been a journey which began years before I arrived in Port Aransas, and we’ve been the beneficiaries of the work of generations of Episcopalians in Port Aransas, North Padre, and really all around the diocese going all the way back to our genesis in 1958 when The Rev. David Rose (later the Rt. Rev. Rose) celebrated the first Holy Communion at the Carter Chapel in the Dunes. From then we met at the Tarpon Inn and in homes, we were supported by vacationing priests. Then after the church was built and dedicated in 1964 we depended on clergy from our council hosts, the Church of the Good Shepherd, toward whom we still feel gratitude. Thank to this mission minded diocese for being courageous enough to start and support that church plant in a little island town so many years ago.


Since those early days we have always enjoyed a mixed community of locals, part-timers like our Winter-Texans, and vacationers; we welcome people in and bless them on their way like the ebb and flow of the tide. Today we are known in and around Port Aransas as the church you can to go to if you don’t have a church. We are known as a welcoming community involved in the life of our island communities, and we welcome home any stranger or familiar face that wanders in our doors.


My wife Laura, our son Eli, and I received that warm welcome over four years ago, when we arrived to this amazing community, and I am thrilled to have been called as their first rector...thanks be to God.  The longer we are in Port Aransas, the more we love it. We’re all a bunch of characters thrown together on that island, and as a church family, we are on a mission to spread God’s love by being a spiritual and charitable resource in our community; through our resale shop, through our day school, by hosting community groups, and by learning to be disciples and apostles of Jesus, we are fulfilling our mission. After this milestone, we are going to regroup for Lent, but then we are planning to start a capital campaign so our facilities can keep up with our mission.


I’m so proud of this church, and so grateful to be part of it that I could go on, but I won’t, not right now. For now we just want to say thank you and celebrate this big step in our nearly 60 year history as a mission of this diocese, and we will continue in our mission as a parish church of this great Diocese of West Texas….and now I’d like to introduce our first Sr. Warden, Suzanna Reeder has a special presentation to make.


Upon presenting the Bishop's Board, Suzanna said, "Bishop Lillibridge, we are grateful for all the support and leadership you’ve given to our diocese and especially to Trinity by the Sea as we completed our journey to become a parish. In honor of your ministry and on the occasion of our becoming a parish, we have commissioned this surf board, painted by Wade Koniakowski. ...We would like to offer to keep it for you at Trinity by the Sea in our parish hall for you to visit whenever you come to the beach...."

We had such a wonderful celebration Sunday. I'll be posting photos and videos in the near future!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

new call

Photo by Sarah Searight
So, just to be clear, I'm not going anywhere. I'm very excited to have been called as the first rector of Trinity by the Sea, Port Aransas! (God willing, and effective at Diocesan Council when Trinity becomes a Parish) If that barrage of Episco-speak is completely unhelpful, let me try to decode.

Trinity by the Sea is an Episcopal Church, and in the Episcopal Church, the Diocese is the basic unit. All the individual churches you see in cities are, as Bishop Payne put it "missionary outposts." When a new church is started, the Diocese supports it as a mission. Then at some point in it's journey, when it becomes a sustainable community, it graduates to being a parish. The head priest (pastor) of a mission is called a vicar, and the governing board is called a Bishop's Committee (both assigned by the Bishop of that Diocese) and as a parish, we elect our governing board, called a Vestry, and they call the head priest, called a Rector. And that's exactly where Trinity is. Becoming a parish, having elected it's board, the first Vestry, and last night, they called me (thanks be to God) as the first Rector.

I was excited about it, but I was surprised by sense of joy I felt when it was official. I really love this church and community, and I feel more deeply connected here because of these steps we are taking together. If by chance, you can come party with us either at Diocesan Council (Feb 23, we process in at 1:00!) or in Port Aransas on Sunday Feb 26, please do. We will have one service at 10 a.m. (with Baptism!) and then a lunch with live music following (around noon.)

I'm very proud of what the Holy Spirit is up to through this church. I'm proud of the dedication, perseverance, and joy of this community, and I'm so grateful to have this new call to be the rector of Trinity by the Sea, Port Aransas!
Photo by Joe Gant



Thursday, January 5, 2017

The beginning of the good news

Originally published in the South Jetty

"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way..." So begins Mark's gospel (1:1-2), and soon Jesus is coming up out of the water from John's Baptism, off to a wilderness of temptation until he gets clear about his calling as the Messiah. No nativity with Mary and Joseph as in Luke and Matthew; no "In the beginning was the Word..." as in John. For Mark there is an urgency to Jesus' life and ministry so we get right to it, no messing around with a birth story or the beginning of creation. A quick quote from Isaiah, and away we go. This is a fast moving gospel that uses the word "immediately" again and again to stress a quick pace: There is a message to be shared.

The feel of Mark's gospel seems, at first, to match the feel of our world today. We are two steps ahead of ourselves, and wondering where the time went; we are trying to get more things done, and multitasking if possible. We don't have time to wait. We don't know how to wait. If we are looking for a gospel to connect with this busy season, Mark's may seem to be the most appropriate. We don't read about where Jesus came from, we just know he's baptized, tempted, and then he's calling people to learn his ways and change the whole world.

And therein lies the big difference between our perceived busy lives in our world, and the laser-focused-urgency we find in Mark's gospel. If we allow in the world's changes and chances to toss us about as a ship on a rough sea, then the world will be glad to tell us how and when we are to distract ourselves and how to make ourselves busier and busier. We are told that we can't miss the sacred economic holiday of Black Friday so we leave the table to start shopping. We can be pulled in a thousand directions.

In contrast to that is the immediacy and focused urgency of Mark's gospel. It is not distracted but carefully aimed on an message of cosmic importance. Mark's urgency comes from the reality of Christ's truth. It isn't a response to the world's frenetic pace, it is a way to move through it with purpose in spite of all distractions. It is a focused urgency. Jesus has a purpose that will not wait. He has come to liberate the world from it's bondage.

Where is your focus this season? Christmas begins on December 25 and continues for 12 days. In what ways will you be focused on the truth of your mission and purpose in life? What worldly distractions might you do well to ignore? Unique among the gospels, Mark's story telling gives us a model that is so focused the healing-feeding-raising from the dead ministry of Jesus that leaves us no doubt that he must be God Incarnate. Mark's gospel presents a way of living in the world that places a sense of urgency on the life-giving movement of God in the world, but not of the world. If the world is the sea, the gospel of Christ is our motor and rudder. The rest of Marks' quote from Isaiah is, "I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Good thing, too, because Jesus came in hot! When God moves, God really moves. How might you prepare for God to move with such urgency in your life this Christmas? The time is now. It's here.

Friday, December 30, 2016

layers of giving

I want to give thanks, in this Christmas Season--a Season of God Incarnate, for all the volunteers in this town who give from their hearts all year round. I am continually amazed at how much people give of their time, talent, and treasure to support one another in Port Aransas. 

The miracle of Jesus birth, that should blow your mind when you try to think about, it is that God was born into God's own creation. We do not worship a God that is far off, but one that is right here among us, between us, and within us. That's what we call the Incarnation: God enfleshed. God is not sitting high and away from things, but right here amongst us, in the thick of it. God volunteered to move among us and Jesus gave of himself his whole life long, culminating on the cross, and in his Resurrection. He volunteered to give of his love so that all might know the love of God, even if we have lost our way from that Love. 

I suppose it should not be too surprising if we know the whole story: God also chose to create in the first place; from the void, God moved across the waters, and the creation of all things culminated in humanity made male and female in God's image. 

When we volunteer; when we give of ourselves to others, we live into that image. Our God gives, and when we give ourselves away, we take a step closer to our divine identity. 

If you ever wonder what that looks like in action, stop by Trinity by the Sea's Second Time Around Shop any Saturday morning. You will see a divine dance of creation and care for our fellow human beings. People give their possessions to the shop; volunteers sort and organize those donations; volunteers then assist shoppers and collect money for items; then the money is all given away through a variety of outreach ministries. From the void (starting with nothing) something beautiful is created. Each week, I hear of another layer of this creative generosity: the relationships that are formed between volunteers and people who come to shop. It is a living Incarnation of God's love. It's certainly not the only place it happens here, but it is a shining example. 

So thank you to the Second Time Around Shop volunteers, and all the volunteers, wherever you choose to serve. Thank you for fulfilling your identity as a child of God, and for participating in the divine act of creating from nothing. Through your action, you make the Incarnate God tangible for others, and join in the divine and eternal dance of the life of God.