Friday, September 30, 2011

the gospel as an obligation....

--a fast jumble....

We got a call yesterday evening to show the house --the third thing within the same hour of this day... So, I on my bike to my appointment, Joel taking the car to his doctor appointment (which makes me shudder, but there is no other way to work it all out) --and me back fast to pick Mr. Witty up so folks can see the house...

Poor Mr. Witty --he hates to be left alone in the house, even for 15 minutes... --even with a best toy ever --a barbell shaped toy...

--with the squeak device hidden in the open tunnel between the bell-ends --which means he can't get his teeth in to the blow-hole and pull it all to pieces.... It is a precious enough toy that when I pulled the camera out he hid it and himself under the chair....

And it makes me think this morning that we are all kinda like that --taking our most precious things and hiding under the proverbial chair with them for oh so many reasons... when what we should be doing is dragging 'em out to the glory of God... our brokenness, our fears, our loves --our everythings don't belong to us...

(At prayer this morning beginning at 1 Corinthians 9:16)
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
--free to proclaim the gospel --bring it out from under the chair --a commission....

And too often we mire the gospel in institutional devices and survival, authority and power, fear and false hope, too much else to do....

And, so... off I go... wondering how Paul's admonition and Mr. Witty's hiding with his joy will weave itself in to my day... the gospel as an obligation....

Dear God --oh honey --really? ... dang...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

born of the body of our mother the church --oh, and honey, I am no angel

It is Michael-Mass Day. All you might wish to know about angels and Michael is right here. And, no, the image is not St. Michael --but maybe it will make sense by the time you read this....

Anyhooooo --To my brother-in-law and all those named Michael, here's looking at ya! Cheers! on this, your namesake day!

Angels are a funny thing to think about... created, not begotten is the big difference between them and Jesus... and that puts us in that funny place --are we sons and daughters of Adam and Eve? --children of God? --begotten through Christ? --adopted by the power of the Spirit? Which is it, or any of the above? The Church has shut her mouth about the funny place that puts us --created we are, but given new life as children of God... certainly not ever, ever --never angels... we are a different order of creation. We are more related to dogs than we are angels... (I know --some would say cats --so be it, but not in this house! Just sayin'.)

And I guess as soon as we developed a neck and brain that would allow us to look up and ponder the sky, the sun, the stars --we have always pondered our place in creation....

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 8)
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
What is man that you should be mindful of him?
the son of man that you should seek him out?
You have made him but little lower than the angels;
you adorn him with glory and honor;
You give him mastery over the works of your hands;
you put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen,
even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
O LORD our Governor,
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Or, there's this little bit from the second reading: (Hebrews, beginning at 1:1-14)
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,
"You are my Son;
today I have begotten you"?

Or again,
"I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son"?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him."

You know --because Joel has been non-mobile trying to heal his broken back, I have been serving him on a tray --while he sits either in the big comfy chair, or in bed... and each time I bring up the tray, I laugh because of the gymnastics I have to go through to turn the tray around and hence put it all set up the proper way for him to eat. Otherwise, if I just hand him the tray, it's all backwards --drink by his belly, utensils on the wrong side, plate toward his knees... And each time I laugh and say something about not being a very good butler, surely the Queen gets better service and gets her tray served right side without the spin (which risks spilling--oh yes) --but each time I set up the tray downstairs, I forget to pick it up 'backwards' and carry it up so that when I arrive it is served without the risky spin....

I hope that makes sense... because for me --carrying the tray backwards --well, backwards in order to serve it to someone else easily --is quintessentially human... it takes a different mind set to carry a tray 'backwards.' And, when we think or speak as Christians of the Incarnation and Resurrection we might think of it as God carrying the tray backwards perfectly --for our sake....

And carrying the tray backwards is what angels do... (Hebrews 1:14) --Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? --it's what we are called to do... called to be just a little lower than angels --the exact imprint of God's very being... --sent to serve for the sake of those... who need God's salve... need healing....

--and it takes mindfulness.... and it is my heart's desire that the church would learn to carry its tray backwards... and what congregations should do....

All the time.... Maybe Angel Michael should learn to carry a sword instead of a tray.... I mean a tray instead of a sword!

Off I go! Trying to remember to carry the tray backwards at least once today.... begotten, not made --born of the body of our mother the church... through blood and water.... oh, and honey --I am no angel.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

even puffed up knowledge will lead to love... just the way God works.

At prayer this morning (beginning at 1 Corinthians 8:1)

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Knowledge... In our world, those with a presumed knowledge have the presumed authority....

--and this is the greatest problem I have with "authority" --not the kind of authority found by those who work in labs or teach math or even write literature or history... but those who claim a knowledge of the human heart--or of God... or possess the power of decision that affects others.... because we wrap knowledge and authority together...

But neither knowledge nor authority are love....

And this bit o' scripture does seem to infer that knowledge does not lead to love... that knowledge is not love...

--but those who love are Known. By. God...

--an interesting circle dance.

The knowledge that it is okay to eat food sacrificed to idols is of no-nevermind, as a matter of fact, that knowledge merely puffs one up --so I cannot rest in my own confidence that God is merciful, just, seeks the broken-hearted...

I must and only love....

Sounds easy. But, it's not....

Putting the act of love first... loving first.... not the knowledge of love --which is mercy, justice, solidarity with the underdog --but doing it.... doing mercy, doing justice --embodying solidarity is love of God.

And in doing mercy, one is labeled weak. Doing justice is seen as political --radical fringe politics. Solidarity is costly. And. Oh. So. Very. Risky. The wrong side of risk --which always brings condemnation from someone or another.

Such is love. Such is the love of God. Who, in the person of Jesus brought mercy, did justice and stood in solidarity with all the "wrong" sort... solidarity such that it brought him the same condemnation as the wrong sort got, the same death....

But love... had the last say. And no one had any knowledge of it. Some didn't believe it....

And we still live in to that mystery --not based in knowledge nor description nor prescription. But mystery....

Contemplating mystery. Which is probably as fine a place to be on the day we remember three mystics.

Mystics.... that's what we are missing in our own day and age.... Where are the mystics?

Ahhh --back to food. I have one dog and one man who wish to eat the food not offered to idols... not mystical food, but the food of which we have knowledge... real knowledge.

--and even this knowledge will lead to love. Puffed up or not. Some how. Some time.... because. That's just the way God works. I don't know that... but I've seen it.

Off I go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

--eyes wide open...

--ruling from the cross... a strange throne, cathedra... see....

Walk first. Then coffee. Now prayers. Then breakfast. Then clean the house --showing it again this afternoon.

Joel had a dream that the house sold. That would be nice... limbo is hell.

--and somehow --I forget how, we were talking about words --one of our favorite over-coffee prayer games --and we were talking about 'real' words instead of words that hide their meaning... and this morning we were talking about Episcopal "Sees" --a word for the 'home' base of a bishop... and how when we gave our chair to St. Luke's two weeks ago I launched in to a brief historical exposition of the word "chairman" --because when St. Luke's (the church to which we gave the chair) was built IF seating were provided for the everybody nobodies (and usually it was not provided for the hoi poloi) one got to sit on a bench --or a 'form' --and the one in charge got the chair --and was the 'chair man'.... the place of privilege --the seat of authority....

(--pews are vestiges of benches, and remember, pews in church is a Reformation-era invention...)

So --back to 'real' words --somehow we got around to it all --that Episcopal or Epi-Scopal --is, in plain ordinary English, Over Seer... which is not a polite word in Virginia, it brings up too much of our uncomfortable history of slaves and brutal overseers and all --and what would we do if we had to recognize that in plain English we were The Over Seer Church....

--and how the word 'See' --the home base of the bishop --speaks of the place where the bishop's chair lives --and the chair is the cathedra --the thronos --the see --the place where the chairman sees over all --or the 'seer' --the visionary --the Moses that looks over all to the promised land and will lead us there....

--and now I've finished my coffee.... and am left wondering in the secrets of my heart how much and how often we live in to the unintended and lost over-and-undertones of the words we use --how wonderful it would be to live and move and have our being in a church that sought the vision of that promised land in plain English, and instead how much baggage we have to overcome from living with the real and present reality of our inheritance of overseers... and not that our bishops live in to that lost meaning of overseer... but the meaning of it IS wedged in to the way we play church....

At prayer this morning, a portion of the gospel (beginning at Matthew 7:1-12)

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

I'm knocking... in plain English...

It has been said, "the limits of my language are the limits of my world"... ah, yes... Mr. Witty's patron saint for whom he is named... Wittgenstein.... unless, of course, some one else said it first... but, on the other hand, using deeply metaphoric language steeped in our own history is not such a bad thing, either...

Hey God --it's margaret here... what words shall I use? --only real words, of course, thank you... (but no coarse words allowed? --oh heck... who said they were coarse --okay, back on track) Right --there is only The Word you spoke at creation... and the majesty of that Word... the throne of all flesh and all God.... So, I have a vision of your throne --what did the psalmist say this morning --righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne --so, righteousness makes it humble and justice make it awesome if not frightening because with justice there is ultimate clarity... which must be, of course, why St. John had the vision of The Cross as your throne.... and you rule from that with your eyes wide open... the ultimate over-seer-ness... I have no words for that, no real words this morning --for the crucified place --the crux --the moment of decision --of judgment.... (to go any further would be like putting my palm on the eye of the stove... not today, okay?) So, I rest my words.... and my thoughts will become the color of the horizon... seeking the promised land --which, you have promised, is right alongside us.... Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

--about that tattoo...

This is an image of St. Margaret... overcoming the dragon that swallowed her....

I need to breath deeply every now and then and remember this about my patron. She didn't overcome what threatened her by trying to kill it directly --she entered in to it...

Try it: Take a minute. Breathe. Deeply. More than once.


Then read this slowly: (Matthew 6:25-34)

Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you,
do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air;
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?

And can any of you by worrying
add a single hour to your span of life?
And why do you worry about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you,
even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will he not much more clothe you
- you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying,
'What will we eat?'
or 'What will we drink?'
or 'What will we wear?'
For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things;
and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

"So do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.
Today's trouble is enough for today."

So, if I were to get a tattoo (other than the ones I already have --medical necessities), it would probably have to be this text. Which would not be a very interesting tattoo --so the words would have to be written in to a shape --say, maybe a dragon.


And the impetus to this scripture doesn't give us the free ride to ignore those who have no food, no clothes --saying to ourselves, God will take care of them --God cares for them...

No, that's not what it's about... nor is it a rejection of 'worldly' things....

It is about putting God's realm first --God's culture first --before all else... Another way to put it --to enter in to that which you fear and trust God.... to go from strength to another strength...

The Song of Hannah, which prefigures Mary's song, puts it this way (Song of Hannah beginning at
1 Samuel 2:1) The bows of the mighty are broken, but the weak are clothed in strength. Those once full now labor for bread, those who hungered now are well fed. The childless woman has borne sevenfold, while the mother of many is forlorn. God destroys and brings to life, casts down and raises up; gives wealth or takes it away, humbles and dignifies. God raises the poor from the dust; and lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with the rulers and inherit a place of honor....

Did you know that there have been young folk in NYC vowing to inhabit Wall Street to bring attention to what is driving our economic collapse --the greed and folly of the rich? I didn't --until Counterlight provided the link. It's rather disturbing --the videos showing cops fencing in and then macing young women who were walking down the sidewalk chanting about the burdens they carry for those who gamble our lives away....

--caught up in the system we are...

The surest way to radicalize a young woman is to mace her...

And --the surest way to gospelize 'em? (Not Christianize 'em --gospelize 'em).

--I think I was profoundly gospelized when, after the loss of the fourth pregnancy (4th ectopic) the doctors decided to cut and cauterize my tubes while I was under anesthesia-- telling me as I awoke that they decided it was time for me to get off the merry-go-round. I was sooooo angry --angry at God for the loss of our babies --angry that the doctors had the presumption to decide for me --angry and ashamed... I was 28 years old... and already felt and knew the shame/stigma of being a childless woman... and now even my hope was taken from me... and so I called my priest and asked him for a visit --that I had a confession to make... I couldn't move because I was cut hip to hip --a visit please... and I confessed that I was soooooo angry....

--and he said, Your anger is not a sin that needs confessing nor absolution. Your anger is a gift and right now your greatest strength. And right now it will get you through this.

Bang. Gospelized. I went from strength to strength --I found a greater strength than anger. Gospelized. I pushed open the dragon from the inside out.

The shame/stigma of being poor, hungry, 'less than' in any way... and spiritually if not physically maced for it by societal attitudes --cultural assumptions and imperatives.... the anger expressed at the rich in the streets of NYC....

A few minutes ago, when you began this post, I hope you breathed deeply --were you trying to push something aside --still something --quell an inner voice --turn over the growing tide within you?

--breathe in to it. --do not put it aside. It is your gift and right now your greatest strength...

--and perhaps you will at last be poor and broken enough.... --a gospelizing imperative....

--so, about that tattoo....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.
There we are... what's more to say?!!!

G'wan. Go to church. And count yourself among the other sinners! It's more fun and just easier that way!

the fanatical right, bullies all --"V for Vengence," and Frankl....

From a strange little film that I saw again late last night, V for Vendetta about a future dystopia in England, but just as relevant on this side of the pond:
And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.

How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler.

He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

Last night I sought to end that silence... --to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives.

So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked.

But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

I know --perhaps I should have waited until the 5th of November to post this... but I neither support gunpowder violence nor religious grabs for power, so I post it today. Mostly, because the references to fewer liberties, more fear, and choosing fear resulting in a harsh governmental oppression -and it all reminded me of our current crisis... --which is getting weirder and weirder... citizens egging on politicians by booing a gay soldier and cheering statements about executions.... But this story, V, fights violence with vengeance... Vengeance will kill a soul faster than anything....

All the biblical stories about corrupt kingdoms pale in light of ours and the grass root reactions to our present circumstances... tribal hatreds, ignorance, blatant murder, corruption... and better minds than mine can connect the root causes and trends....

What I liken it to is bullies... bullies in the political and religious arenas who have a lot of people marked with their bullseye, as if their demise will right what is wrong... back to vengeance....

I feel like we need a dog whisperer --but not a dog whisperer, a people whisperer --political/religious whisperer who can see and know the problems and teach us to respond with a touch, a gesture, a mind-set...

--but that whisperer does not seem to be out there... or, is there one?

No... it seems there is only a constant caving in to the bullies.

So, it is time for us to dig deep --discover and cultivate the gestures, the touch the mind-set to keep the ugly pack of bullies from destroying themselves and us... and all that we hold good...

For solace, at prayer this morning, a Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood
by Julian of Norwich
God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin's womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother's care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.

--gestures and touches as unexpected and as radical as the Incarnation and Resurrection... we offer violence and death, and God touches us with Incarnation and Resurrection --grace, love, mercy and life. At least, that is the Christian verbiage/vision for it...

--there is more...

Joel is reading Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning --a Jewish response to one who endured Hitler's death camps....
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him--mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, 'There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.' These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away--that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

Inner decision. Inner freedom. In the midst of the very worst that humanity can conjure....

It is time for us not to be shocked any more... but prepared, and garner that inner decision, inner freedom --that exodus from the slavery of fear and shock at the inhumanity we see.

We. Can. Do. This. And we must walk through the huts giving what we have away --we will only succeed with love --the fruit of that inner decision --the inner Passover.

I guess I'm borrowing Joel's download of Frankl --gonna read it myself... perhaps Frankl will be 'whisperer' enough...

Peace out.

PS: I love the Daily Office site and all the incredibly good work done there --but my last name is not Hunter (although, perhaps if Joel and I were to design a name for ourselves, it might be one like Hunter --so maybe I'll keep it --it's margaret hunter! --I like it!!!) --and I did not choose the pen name 'it's margaret' because of Judy Blume... I learned to name myself in prayer because of reflection upon our Baptismal imperatives of naming --and it became habitual when praying with my native American sisters and brothers who always name themselves on the border of the holy....

But, just 'cuz I'm snarky, I offer this:

And, yes, I love it and respond just the same way when Joel barks like Rin Tin Tin... yeppa, a weedeater, a live chicken and coolwhip... Amen!

Friday, September 23, 2011

--do not heap up empty phrases....

The sun is in the lead, dancing closer to the horizon. The trees began the chorus last week --singing in orange and red and yellow, and have begun letting loose their notes to the air. The air is not so blatantly hot --southern summer air folds over on itself and compresses the heat... it is unfolding now. The flowers that withheld their blooms from the heat have issued a defiant bloom.

I saw a bright red mushroom, its dome already collapsed.

My neighbor is digging out his basement, wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load. I'm not building a man cave, he said. But it's going to be a deep room, and I'm a man....

It's time to cut back, dig deep, plant for the spring... knowing that we celebrate the new year at the darkest time --that we look for God-with-us when we are not yet exhausted with the cold --and light the new fire just as the sun begins her lead again.

At least, that's what we know on this side of the equator...

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 6:7)
Jesus said, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Collect of the Day: Proper 20

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things,
but to love things heavenly;
and even now,
while we are placed among things which are passing away,
to hold fast to those that shall endure;
[we pray this]
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

But--- hey God, you know dualism chaps my hide... I believe the ancient hymns of praise that heaven and earth are joined.... 'nuff said. You know.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

--just a little tang for our enemies, O Lord...

Well... it happened... despite the prayers and legal machinations and protests and demands... it happened. Revenge. Blood thirst. Troy Davis is dead. As dead as the man he purportedly killed. Now equal in death.

And state sanctioned killing is no better than any other killing. Just sayin'. And it weighs in my prayers this morning. Along with the racism, economic conditions/oppression and drugs that jump-start so many murders in our culture.

And I grieve for the widow who hopes Davis's death will bring 'closure' to her loss and grief. Most likely, it won't.

And I grieve at the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer --too young, bullied....

With these events so close at hand --and the violence --a knifing and shooting here in Richmond this morning... our continued national wars.... How long, O Lord?! --and why did You make me such that I feel these things in my flesh?

I suppose my mood is not enhanced by the news Joel got yesterday --remember he spent a week in hospital just ten days ago --they looked and looked and looked at his heart because his presenting condition was chest pain. But when, after six days of tests, they found nothing wrong with his heart, they discharged him --popped him out of that hospital bed at nine at night... but the pain was still present, and getting worse...

Well --we finally got a doctor to pay attention, and they called him in for a simple x-ray --and bottabing --his back bone --yes his spine is fractured --and, Oh yeah --his left lung --a small portion of the lower lobe is collapsed....

Hellooooo!!! His back is broken and his lung collapsed and you couldn't find that?!!!

This back and lung stuff is all probably a result --a side effect of the very high quantities of steroids Joel is taking for the myasthenia gravis.... despite his taking calcium and vit. D....

Poor kid. So, today we will deal with more imaging techniques to get the goods on his spine, more drugs to deal with the pain, and then see what cooks....

And I find myself feeling it all --but strangely at peace. And, so is Joel. We are confident in God's goodness. When Joel and I fell in love --we did just that --we fell in to love, which is bigger than either of us --not 'our' love, but L.O.V.E. --our life together is Trinitarian --more than dual, bigger than us --and holds us in being. --all our lives. And that's true for all of us. Troy Davis. The off-duty cop. Jamey. His bullies. Joel and I. You who visit here.

That's not sweet naivete. It's just. the. way. it. is.

All our lives.

(At prayer this morning, Psalm 86)

Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me, *
for I am poor and in misery.
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; *
save your servant who puts his trust in you.
Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God; *
I call upon you all the day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant, *
for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving, *
and great is your love toward all who call upon you.
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer, *
and attend to the voice of my supplications.
In the time of trouble I will call upon you, *
for you will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, O LORD, *
nor anything like your works.
All nations you have made will come and worship you, O LORD, *
and glorify your Name.
For you are great;
you do wondrous things; *
and you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth; *
knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart, *
and glorify your Name for evermore.
For great is your love toward me; *
you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.
The arrogant rise up against me, O God,
and a band of violent men seeks my life; *
they have not set you before their eyes.

But you, O LORD, are gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
give your strength to your servant;
and save the child of your handmaid.
Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Gotta love those psalmists. Even after they drag their hearts through the grit and mire of the pit, they come back to the wonder and glory of God. And, yeah, a little tang for their enemies. Just a sign O Lord....

Hey God, it's margaret here. The good news for the disciples at the empty tomb was also terror, lies and death for those who had put him there. And the walk in the cool of the evening in Eden and the revelation of our betrayal has been redeemed by the unexpected walk in the cool of the morning in the graveyard... and we have that long Tradition of standing at the grave and singing 'Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.' For life is changed... always. All ways. Give us all courage to see and know our betrayals, our sins, our deaths as you see them --and the grace to turn to one another without fear or the righteousness of law but with your mercy and love.

This is my heart's desire. Amen. Alleluia.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If we re-structure the church, we will lose all....

There is a great deal of discussion on restructuring the church... That part of the church that is institution is groaning in its labors. Read more here, Mark's place always a good place to begin.

I think quite a few good folks have been talking for some time about the need for this --a new vision of governance that enhances our worship and service --in other words, our mission.

But where to begin? --should this restructuring begin at the parish church --the congregation --or at a meeting of the House of Bishops? --or some place in-between? Is this vision of restructuring merely part and parcel of --or like the swan song of ultra-conservatives in our national arena beating the drum for less government ...which keeps no eye to those in the front lines, so to speak --the workers, the vulnerable, the poor --is this vision discussion of restructuring considered in light of those who are not paid to worship and serve but who give generously to do both?

I think, before we begin in the restructuring --because, yes, it must and should happen... but, before we begin, we must get our assumptions and presuppositions clear... Should clergy (bishops as well as deacons and priests) be paid? (and this is not to say we don't need well trained/educated clergy types...) Should clergy be in charge of running the institutional side of church --the physical plant of congregations and all else --or should the position of rector/vicar etc. be open to laity as well --not confusing/conflating the idea of spiritual leadership with all else that is also required to run a church. What must we do for the benefit of the laity who carry the burden of the whole church? Should laity be subject to obedience to their bishop as clergy are? If not, why not? Should the church invest gross amounts of money in maintaining inefficient church buildings? What would we unleash if we were not having to pay a full third of any church budget for utilities, maintenance, insurance etc. Should the church be in the insurance business at all???

And weigh these questions against our more incarnate urges for stability --a visible and physical presence in our communities/neighborhoods unlike most other places in our modern world... a Christian vision and the architecture of the Kingdom... --or, do our parish churches really model the architecture of the Kingdom...???

Nothing should be on or off the table...

I mean, if Paul, The Pharisee among Pharisees can say this about the law (At prayer this morning, on the Feast of St. Matthew, beginning at Romans 10:1-15)

Brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

...are we merely seeking to establish our own vision of a streamlined institution according to the laws of the world --or are we instead trying to have our institution model our vision of the Kingdom... --and don't tell me I'm pie-eyed and naive --because surely part of the job description of every Christian is to demonstrate, point to, reveal, preach, show the Kingdom alongside/among us.... What better place to begin?

And, yeah... that's risky. And if we do it "right" we will certainly lose all. That's part of walking the way of the cross.... but what we gain... !!!!

Just sayin'.

Off to take Joel to the doctor --again --poor kid. Off we go.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

two damn covenants broken in 24 hours

I've really upset Mr. Witty... not only did I break the covenant between me and him by giving him a bath yesterday, but this morning I broke routine and didn't start the day in bed, with dog cookies and coffee saying my prayers and writing first.... Instead, Auntie M came to the door and I took a walk with her --without him.

So, now I've broken two covenants in less than 24 hours --you know, that other covenant --not to take walks without your dog is a sacrilege... and even Mr. Witty knows that... an abomination before the Great Dog. So, I guess I'm going to hell!!!

Perhaps the extra cookie and the privilege of licking my yogurt cup will get me some points back. A girl can hope.... a little bit of hope can go a long way....

At prayer this morning (1 Cor. 5:5-8)

Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Gonna work on cleaning out the old yeast today... our Passover --our road to liberation, found in that place beyond the waters, beyond the wilderness --our Passover found in feasting with the outcast in the presence of those who would condemn --who do condemn --our Passover tried and convicted in the presence of governmental power and religious authority --our Lamb without blemish, slain and buried....

--but that old covenant with death, death promised to Adam and Eve by God in that first garden, now broken by God on the far side of the Cross.... a new yeast --not of righteousness and judgment, but the yeast of mercy and grace.

Work it in! And Mr Witty will lead the way, showing mercy and grace and unconditional love... thanks be to God.

And, yeah, I know it's old, and I've posted it before --but....

I can't match their love fore me --so I guess I will do a little tummy rubbing and Kong throwing as a sign of my devotion....

Bow wow... Amen. (And thanks Auntie M --this rubber-legged ol' lady will continue to try to do her best!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

And then there's Resurrection... hope that is not seen

At prayer this morning (Matthew 5:21-26)

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder' and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."

hahmmmmmmmmmmm..... sigh.

Accusations. Equivalent to murder. Judgment.

I know exactly what it feels like to be accused and condemned without being able to face the accuser.

But, it sounds to me like the alternative-- having that day in court is just as bad if not even worse --and certainly, being the accuser sets one on the path to the fires of hell.

Connecting the dots... Accusation. Judgement. Hell.

--the way of the cross. Accused, condemned -- by friends and those you break bread with --in court --in front of the judge --the authorities, religious and temporal. The. Way. Of. The. Cross.

And even the last penny will be thrown upon the ground amongst the graves of the outcast... guts disemboweled. Judas shows us that way...

--there is another way. Obviously the first way is not to lay the groundwork of accusations.... But we are broken beings and unable to live in a world without casting accusations or even thinking them... Jesus goes on to tell us to cut off/out the offending parts of the body that lead us to sin --our eye, or our right hand for example --better to enter the Kingdom maimed than not at all...

--but there is more... All this culminates in Jesus telling us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to carry the burden an extra mile, that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, that we are not to be righteous in front of the crowd, be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect....

We will harvest what we reap... and it is so VERY difficult to follow the advice of our Desert Mothers and Fathers and pay no attention to sin and focus on the Kingdom....

Therefore, the Way --Humility. Mercy. Forgiveness. Grace. Hope in that that is not seen. Everything that the "world" will see as weakness, non-leader-like, failure....

Sigh.... and knowing that at every moment the Kingdom is alongside us.

A balancing act for sure. One which I fail at several times a day.

And then there's Resurrection.

All praise to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
who took the apple from our Mother Eve
and led the way in to the desert to plant apple trees
where the wild and unlawful things roam unbound
and he called them like children around him;
he who entered the homes of the dead,
touched the untouchables,
loved those who abused or had not ever known love,
fed the hungry without turning stones in to bread,
who entered the darkest night with a kiss
from a friend who had shared bread and wine
had been washed in the water that does not clean,
water that is shed from the tree of life and death
that floods the temple and tears the veil
and breaks open the earth
and the dead rise as fresh-grown seed
in a new harvest of all that was once thought lost.
The flesh of apples sown
in the wilderness,
bread for the new creation.


That was just written for Andrew. And my beloved-- the apple of eye. Hope that is not seen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.'
Those that stand around at 5PM and say that no one has hired them.... I've seen that crowd. They usually congregate just beside the gas station near the entrance to the hardware store.... By 5PM they have had something a little too much to drink, they are bragging about the warrants out for the arrest or how they ditched their latest girlfriend... or how they ditched immigration in Atlanta....

And they too are invited to Kingdom work... Goes to show that there is a place for everyone --NO one is excluded...

G'wan. Go to church. All are welcome. All have something to contribute --work to do. You too. G'wan!

the law and the prophets have been fulfilled....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 5:17-20)
Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Some folks quote this bit o' scripture at me when I go on about not having to follow the law. --but I don't believe I am wishfully or blindly parsing away a commandment from Our Lord when I remain confident that Christians are not called to follow the law --and by 'law' I am speaking of the law found in the codes of behavior listed in our Hebrew scriptures.

First, the Matthew community is probably the most 'deeply' Jewish of the early Christian communities --because of the numerous references to the law in this particular gospel (--keeping in mind how Matthew demonstrates the fulfillment of prophecies too).

Also first (yes, in the book I might someday write, every chapter would be chapter one --smiling) is the understanding of the not quite snark-but-almost statement that one's righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees to get into the kingdom of heaven! Really?! C'mon --you can dig as deep as I to recall all that is said about the scribes and Pharisees --do you really wish to be like them? I mean, yes, St. Paul was a Pharisee --but he had to be knocked down off his horse, acknowledge his blindness and be healed --and he does not promote the law much after his conversion....

Also first, one must answer the question --did Jesus accomplished all things necessary for salvation? --because if he did, and I believe he did, then I take him at his word and all is fulfilled, the law and the prophets are fulfilled --and the last time I checked, if my mortgage is 'fulfilled' I don't think I will continue paying on the debt -it's done --it's over --I don't need to do that any more. And yes, covenant/testament/contract are all on the same wave-length... So, the Old Covenant/Testament/Contract is fulfilled and we live with a New Covenant/Testament/Contract.

And, indeed, Jesus continues in what follows this bit o'scripture to give us the new way to live --like loving our enemies and those who wish us wrong and blessed are you when you are reviled for the sake of the kingdom --that kind of imperative.

So, hold on to your hat. The law and prophets have been fulfilled, we are free to live in to a new relationship with God --a relationship that is on the other side of rules and regulations and begins in our response to mercy and grace.

Today is the day to remember Hildegard --I do, with great affection. But I must run as I have two meet-ups this morning --and even though it is the Sabbath, I will go work, drive my car, use electricity, probably eat meat stewed in its own juices, not cover my head, not gather with the people of God and remember the law and liberation given in the Exodus of Moses from Egypt and fifty or so other of the requirements for today given in the law and prophets....

--some must do that. That is their relationship with God, and I would give my life to allow them to do so.

But it is not the Way God has called those who follow the Christ. And I hope to be in that number....

Praying for Sherry, susankay, Mike, Katherine, 'Manuel, Joel, those in the congregation I served, the bishops gathering in Quito, those still suffering the ravages of the natural disasters we've had of late, those who suffer from the human disasters we create, and for the person/s out there who WILL buy this house --hurry up, I'm missing you....

Peace out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

those who think they are righteous will never understand

I love this:
In a sermon referencing recent natural disasters, like Hurricane Irene and devastating floods in the Northeast and the raging wildfires in Texas, the presiding bishop said:

"The labor of a new age began at September 11th. We saw new beginnings during [Hurricane] Katrina five years ago, and in Haiti 20 months ago. The destruction of Irene opened the people of the East Coast to something new -- and Tom Ely [bishop of Vermont] and Bill Love [bishop of Albany, New York] will tell us something about the beginnings in their dioceses, particularly among the poorest and the weakest. Andy Doyle [bishop of Texas] can share something about the beginnings in the aftermath of fires in a state where the governor still thinks climate change is a fairy tale."
Preach it Katharine. Preach it.

I am caught again by a psalm today-- (Psalm 73)

Truly, God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped;
I had almost tripped and fallen;
Because I envied the proud
and saw the prosperity of the wicked:
For they suffer no pain,
and their bodies are sleek and sound;
In the misfortunes of others they have no share;
they are not afflicted as others are;
Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace
and wrap their violence about them like a cloak.
Their iniquity comes from gross minds,
and their hearts overflow with wicked thoughts.
They scoff and speak maliciously;
out of their haughtiness they plan oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their evil speech runs through the world.
And so the people turn to them
and find in them no fault.
They say, "How should God know?
is there knowledge in the Most High?"
So then, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase their wealth.

In vain have I kept my heart clean,
and washed my hands in innocence.
I have been afflicted all day long,
and punished every morning.
Had I gone on speaking this way,
I should have betrayed the generation of your children.
When I tried to understand these things,
it was too hard for me;
Until I entered the sanctuary of God
and discerned the end of the wicked.

Surely, you set them in slippery places;
you cast them down in ruin.
Oh, how suddenly do they come to destruction,
come to an end, and perish from terror!
Like a dream when one awakens, O Lord,
when you arise you will make their image vanish.
When my mind became embittered,
I was sorely wounded in my heart.
I was stupid and had no understanding;
I was like a brute beast in your presence.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me by your counsel,
and afterwards receive me with glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
and having you I desire nothing upon earth.
Though my flesh and my heart should waste away,
God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
Truly, those who forsake you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful.
But it is good for me to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge.
I will speak of all your works
in the gates of the city of Zion.

I am remembering this morning Charles M. Guilbert who penned most of these prayer book versions of the psalms... how he walked around with a piece of paper in his pocket --and a pencil --and when a 'good' word came to him, he would write it down and slip it in his pocket for later use in the psalms.... He sat in the same chair in my mother's house that I am sitting in now --and he grinned to speak of it.

I don't know why I am remembering that... except I am... and the adversity he faced... especially with the unexpected death of his daughter near her house boat in San Francisco Bay.... found her in the water....

We all bear so much --why do some invent fairy tales rather than face the awful truth and the work that must be done?

I guess for the same reason Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness... --anything but the truth....

But our focus should not be on the sin, but on the Grace offered --on mercy --on the new life. Let the rich and proud and those who construct fairy tales and expect us to live in to them overflow with their wicked thoughts. I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me... --and it is not that I will enter in to the lie, the bitterness, embrace the woundedness and stupidity... --it is that I will put the glory of God first... I will seek out the Kingdom work before me as though my next breath is my last.... What is it my addict friends say --let go and let God... but that does not mean do nothing, it means being active, oh so very active in standing with the outcast, the poor, the abused, those who suffer...

Anselm of Canterbury --his canticle:
Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you:
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children;
Often you weep over our sins and our pride:
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:
in sickness you nurse us,
and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life:
by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness:
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead:
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us:
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness:
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
...makes sinners righteous.... some might consider that an oxymoron....  a sinner 'right' with God....

There's the good news... and those who think they are righteous will never understand, --those who think they are good will never understand, --those who... keep building fairy tales.... don't 'get' grace, don't understand it.... that which is given freely to all.... unearned.

Peace out.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

--when my strength fails....

We drove down the back roads yesterday --a journey that inspired Joel to remember and say, that's my first cousin's house --first cousin 13 times removed... and that house belongs to so-and-so who married my mother's second cousin... and those folks there, my great-great Grandfather's boyhood place --Blanks Moody the 17th who named his son John --John had no children....

A sweet-tea day.

I was amazed at how many trees were down --shoved to the side of the road, and the road narrowed to one lane by crews still working on the hurricane mess. And, there were also acres and acres of this:

--the epitome of the old south... other than cicadas, sweet tea and a slow drawl and maybe a little tobacco --yeppa --cotton. Cotton in the rough... That spells 'south' --oh, and peanuts... can't leave out peanuts. Silly me.

But along the way were also the clusters of new strip malls, new bridges and the old roads abandoned for new ones --historic town centers getting curbs and sidewalks... Even the old church, claiming the date of 1630-something, was getting something new --a drainage system, a way to divert the water away from the foundation. But, of course, before they could dig for the system... it required a massive archaeological project.... The diggers said they had found fourteen graves in their digging --a few of them unexpected.

There were trees down on the church grounds too --huge walnut trees. And a wood-worker there, offering to remove the wood....

The old church looked better to me than I had remembered it --and Joel commented, it looks really deteriorated... Did I mention that today was his second eye surgery --he now sees like an eagle... perhaps he just didn't "see" it before, and now he does....

But a 350 year-old brick building is quite likely to show a little de-facing... especially a building that has witnessed untold hurricanes... one just after the civil war that caused extensive damage by blowing out the windows and all... but the interior has been preserved as much as possible...

--although I cringed at some of the stuff the tour guide was saying... like, 'you know, they baptize infants and the font is right here by the door instead of in the front of the church...'

There is a weight to the length of years --a glory for sure, but also a bitter-sweetness. The stories fade or are changed to be made anew, sometimes with another intent or agenda. It takes work to remember, courage to grow old....

At prayer this morning (portions of Psalm 71)

For you are my hope, O LORD God, *
my confidence since I was young.
I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother's womb you have been my strength; *
my praise shall be always of you.
I have become a portent to many; *
but you are my refuge and my strength.
Let my mouth be full of your praise *
and your glory all the day long.
Do not cast me off in my old age; *
forsake me not when my strength fails.


And now that I am old and gray-headed,
O God, do not forsake me, *
till I make known your strength to this generation
and your power to all who are to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; *
you have done great things; who is like you, O God?
You have showed me great troubles and adversities, *
but you will restore my life
and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth.
You strengthen me more and more; *
you enfold and comfort me,
Therefore I will praise you upon the lyre for your faithfulness, O my God; *
I will sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, *
and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.
My tongue will proclaim your righteousness all day long, *
for they are ashamed and disgraced who sought to do me harm.

Heheheheheh --the psalmist with that little dig at the end.... gotta love it. Truth. Truth. Naked truth... the prayers of the heart like a dog drinking water.... Sometimes too much. Just a little bit toooooooo much.

Here's some truth too --doors like this, doors within doors are not made to keep out squirrels and horses --nor are they made to make us bow and feel reverence before we enter:

They are made so old fogies like us don't have to struggle when my strength fails to open the big ol' honkin' door when we want to go in and out....

Hey God, it's margaret here --a special shout-out for my sister having a skin cancer lesion removed from her forehead --and for susankay awaiting biopsy results... you know the rest --and thank you for the possibility of Joel's surgery to regain his sight today --a miracle, truly. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

--give something we love very much away....

Taking the back roads to this place today --St. Luke's, near Isle of Wight and Smithfield --Virginia. To give something we love away.... And perhaps we can talk about this:

At prayer this morning (John 3:11-17)
Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
Testimony. Christ reigning from the cross. Not condemnation, but salve for the world.

And, the obvious --a dead man on the cross... how in the world can that be salve for the world? (If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?)

Today is Holy Cross Day. It's crazy --a folly to point at the cross and speak of eternal life, light, heaven, salvation...

And this day is not a theological triumph... a metaphor... a poem. The cross is revealed for what it is --an instrument of torture and death --and we lift the very thing that tortures and kills to subvert its meaning, to make it powerless over us --and not that we won't die, but that we may grab life by the horns and live in a place grounded beyond fear of death or sin...

Or, something like that.

And now I must get busy --we have two showings of the house today --and we must put this

in a truck and drive to St. Luke's -giving away one of our most favorite things so that we might find new life that we cannot yet see nor hope for....

--and Joel's family has been involved at St. Luke's in one way or another for the past 350 years or so....

--and that is what makes this so right.

Peace out. Off we go!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

He has abolished the law

My beloved is a priest of the Diocese of Long Island --dahlingk... --and what that means (this morning) is that we receive the newsletter for that Diocese.

Here are somethings in that newsletter of September 2011 that caught my attention:

The words of William Sloan Coffin in an essay by Gary Nicolosi (Evil in Norway, p.15 of the Episcopal Journal portion) May God give you the grace to never sell yourself short; grace to risk something big for something good; grace to remember that world is too dangerous now for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.

In A 'tragic marriage'; Religious extremism is fueling the nation's budget battle by Tom Ehrich (p.15 of Episcopal Journal portion): A tragic three-way marriage has occurred. One party is middle-class rage, which Tea Party string-pullers have cleverly directed against immigrants and government rather than their actual enemy, the predatory rich. The second is racial bigotry, which cannot accept the legitimacy of a black president. The third is hard-core Christian fundamentalism which has lost its way in idolatry of right opinion.

And the Bishop's letter, Servant Ministry and Mission in a Time of Uncertainty (The Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano, Long Island) (p.C of The Dominion):
As we move past the summer with the uncertainty of our economic system, the game-playing and posturing of our political leaders, concern for our future as a nation and the resulting uncertainty all this brings to our own lives, the church finds itself in a unique but holy place. Do we begin to react like so may organizations and programs, positioning ourselves to survive the current realities? Or do we behave like the church?

An organizational focus on mere survival will plan to do less, spend less, circle the wagons and ride out the storm. The church, as the Body of Christ, should not and cannot allow itself to react in this way. ... We are in the faith business, the business of trusting in our God, providing leadership in the midst of things we cannot understand, of things we cannot control. We are on mission to provide the means by which God's grace and mercy work through our fears and the fears of those whom we are called to serve. Servant ministry provides for the needs of others without worry for the institution, its structures and its concerns. ... Every possible resource must be focused on mission.
Ummmm... yeah. Thank you, Bishop. --without worry for the institution.... You may agree or disagree with any of the above, but I ask you to frame and articulate what you see happening in our world, in our nation, in our church.... It is a tremendous challenge. I keep feeling I have not done as well as I would like in the endeavor, even in my own mind --and these words above struck a chord --and, no, I did not agree with all that Nicolosi said.... But, indeed, the world is much too small for anything but love....

And, so, this at prayer this morning.... (beginning at Ephesians 2:15)
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups [circumcised and uncircumcised] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
I have to run now --roof man is here, showing the house, and Mr. Witty needing attention in all the hub-bub... but, indeed, we must move toward the reality of unity --scientifically or faithfully, we all share One Life --but how does one do that with those who despise anyone and anything but themselves? --who can't see even the Cross for what it is... would rather mock, plunge spears in to the flesh, offer vinegar to a dying man...

...but thinking about all of this... --all of it. A dwelling place for God....

Monday, September 12, 2011

sooooo risky.... the Way

The morning after... we've watched... the horror re-newed... we've mourned again... we've watched the children in hope... we recall the acts of kindness and sacrificial bravery... we remember the time 'before' and know what we've lost... we dream of our revitalization --our resilience... our resurrection... moths to the flame.

I wonder anew at the first generation of Christians who witnessed the horror and cruelty of the cross --did they have the words, the name for PTSD --a way to move through the bloody flesh and beatings and spears and vinegar...

...a way different from our own?

I think they must have, because they did not respond with what they got --more beatings and spears and vinegar and death... Instead, they recalled the act of sharing bread and wine --naming them as what they witnessed, loved and lost, and consuming it, together, taking that violence suffered, that life broken, in to their flesh and blood and then the transformation, acting in love... so much so they did it in, under, by, with, through his name.... Not the same ol' same ol'... A new identity...

Joel and I were talking about other stuff this morning, about fundamentalism over coffee truth be told --and we recalled that many Christian fundamentalists pray TO Jesus, calling upon Him to save, to move, to heal... And we ruminated to each other the startling difference of Tradition --how we have always been very conscious that the ancient prayers are prayed to the Father in/by/with/through Christ by the power of the Spirit.

If we are wholly caught up in him by baptism, we are changed... a new identity.

Yeppa. A new identity. We share in his life, his priesthood --and what we bind, what we forgive, what we do, we do in him. In his name.

In him, even bread is changed.

At prayer this morning (Matthew, beginning at 4:1)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone...'
If we are caught up in him by baptism, we are a wilderness people, made to be tempted by the devil, made to be famished, made to remember that we are what we eat --made to be tempted to eat the bread of inequity and shame and violence and death --stones, gut rot --and in our flesh and blood take it to the altar, eat the offered bread, transformed in faith in love --and be transformed. In love.

I don't know how we got from that conversation to the conversation of 'Following' --not leading, not being in charge, but following... but we did. And all the implications of being a priest and a follower...

...and ...and ...and.

...and that does not mean shirking institutional responsibilities --administration and all that stuff... it means being open and ready to see the Way... and to follow the Spirit into the wilderness.

Risk. and Loss. An offering. Transformation. Quite a recipe. Throw in the yeast.

Hey God, it's margaret here. But would you laugh too hard if I said, hey God, it's margaret--your child Jesus here. I know... so risky. Amen.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

--the One Who Loved Us... Loves Us...

...holy Mary, Mother of God --pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death...

...and our own familiar friends.... our betrayers... our enemies....

The President was here in town yesterday for the first of his 'jobs' talks/campaign speeches.... And we have a State University right here in downtown Richmond --VCU, which was founded as the first integrated institution of higher education in Virginia, and has maintained that purposeful vision. And we have an historic Black college too... and when the President has spoken here before, it was always downtown, in the Coliseum or some place like that --easily accessible by all.

But, yesterday, he spoke about jobs at the very small (@3,000 undergrad students), very exclusive, very expensive, very rich (1.6 billion endowment), very private University of Richmond.

There has been great speculation about the wisdom of the choice of this site, this decision --the 'message' it would send... but, then again, it's the small, the exclusive, the rich and private who might need to hear him most...  Our fine Governor refused to take the time to greet and welcome the President to the State... And Eric Cantor gave his own jobs speech in southwestern Virginia at the same time.... they need to hear him too.

Our snubbing-the-President Governor, McDonnell (R), has issued a 9/11 message already --saying, "This Sunday, in cities, counties and towns all across the Commonwealth, Virginians will pause on the tenth anniversary of September 11th to remember those lost in the worst acts of terrorism ever committed on American soil."

Worst acts of terrorism? Really? Too bad the kidnapping of folks from Africa and their forced enslavement don't rate as terrorism --because I can't think of a better word for it.... And, too bad the Christian cults that flourish here currently, Liberty University being just one stronghold I can think of --too bad their rhetoric and actions to undermine liberty for all aren't seen as terrorism... and too bad the current oppression of workers in this fine State --in prohibiting their freedom to organize for worker's rights aren't seen as terrorism --too bad....

The devastation of 9/11 is not to be diminished --it was and remains a terrible, monstrous act of murder. But, what we have done since then in its wake --the Patriot Act, wars and all the like, and the rising tide of anti-government right-wingers who use democracy in order to destroy it by making those eligible to participate in it fewer and fewer in number --the economic and political terrorism that hold us all hostage --these actions are equal if not worse because of their subtle face and strong undercurrent....

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 55)
...I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night the watchmen make their rounds upon her walls,
but trouble and misery are in the midst of her.
There is corruption at her heart;
her streets are never free of oppression and deceit.
For had it been an adversary who taunted me,
then I could have borne it;
or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me,
then I could have hidden from him.
But it was you, a man after my own heart,
my companion, my own familiar friend.
I remember Joel taking real criticism in the small town of Shady Cove, Oregon, because on the 1st Anniversary of 9/11 at a memorial service where all the dead were named aloud, he included the names of the perpetrators of the violence and murder. And they were prayed for....

So, remembering our crimes and the terror the U.S. has perpetrated abroad and at home where the streets are never free of oppression and deceit --remembering the lives of all those who have suffered because of it --the perpetrators and victims of 9/11 --hey God --my only response at this point is a howl. Inspire us to meet terror with love and the remembrance of forgiven-ness. Inspire us to hear and care for one another, and treat one another with dignity and respect --every one of us.... not to demonize but to love our enemies. Because in you, we have no enemies.

And, yes, I know that means there are people who wish to hurt, maim, kill and destroy... --any body. Even their own familiar friend... But today I am striving to remember the example of the One Who Loved Us --Loves Us to The End.


Friday, September 9, 2011

we have nothing to give in return

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 3:1)
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
I heard a wonderful story recently --about a woman who went to Scotland and experienced a most wonderful thing.... She was in a place that offered the Eucharist every day, and every day the priest there stood at the altar and before the service began, offered Absolution and THEN undertook confession....

BEFORE all else, absolution. He followed the startling commencement by stating that Jesus offered the example of table fellowship, absolution and reconciliation before all else.... He began with love. And so should we.

This is in stark contrast to John the Baptizer who put sin between us and God first  --the model of confession first --the model of our action first... as if that could even be remotely true.

Sin is not what comes between us and God first... Love has always come first.

It is time for us to give up the medieval models of worship --making our sin and our unworthiness the focal point --the genesis of our worship... and move in to the profession of love --making love, abundance, forgiven-ness the central axis.... and no matter the language we choose or architectural context of our worship --beginning with absolution first is a good beginning. A holy beginning. The ground of our relationship with God...

...otherwise who are we but followers of John the Baptist.... ?

But, we are not followers of John the Baptist --we follow the one who washed and fed betrayers with love, and loved them to the end.



Late last night I got the call to come pick up Joel from the hospital --they had found nothing in the catheterization. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. A little something was read in the stress tests --but nothing in 3-D physical inspection.... He still has the chest pain.... but this morning, he is home --sleeping --drinking home brewed coffee --and being loved on.

Love first. Always. All Ways. Dealing with the pain comes after love.

Hey God --it's margaret here. Blessed are you, Creator of all, who brings forth food from the earth, fruit from the vine to make glad our heart, and our heart to be the Body of your Son. You have always shown your love to us --pronouncing in your Word all as Good from the very beginning

-לא וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וְהִנֵּה
.טוֹב מְאֹד; וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי

Because you are the source of all, we have nothing to give in return, except to find the words to share your pronouncement of love and goodness, and show forth in our lives all that we pray with our lips. All the time. And, I am glad to have Joel home --blessed are you. Amen.

Off I go.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

--searching for a mantra today....

We had hoped Joel could come home last night --I left his room last night thinking I would take him coffee this morning and bring him home.... --but the second part of the stress tests on his heart came back late last night saying that something was wrong... so, he called early this morning --no coffee, he said, they are going up through the inner thigh this morning to take a look at the heart and all that brings blood to and from it and hopefully make a fix.

He was angry, not scared... which, I guess, is a good sign... because anger properly directed is a useful survival tool in situations like this....

As for me... I will find a mantra... I will pray... I will comfort/distract Mr. Witty who has taken to sitting by the door wistfully waiting for HIS arrival home... I will clean the house... I have a women's clergy meeting this afternoon...

--or, maybe there is a blues or country song or gospel piece that could express the love, the anxiety, the hope, the despair...

--yeah, I think the psalmists were the blues singers of their day... and this one does well with the love and hope part....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 8)
O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
who are we that you should be mindful of us? *
the children of Adam and Eve that you should seek us out?
You have made us but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn us with glory and honor;
You give us mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under our feet:
All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
Yeah --who are we that you, Creator, are even mindful of us?

--and, yeah, I tweaked the psalm from singular to plural, and didn't make it gender neutral but instead eliminated the specificity... sue me.

--and I remember in my prayers this morning those who are suffering from too much water, those who are suffering the ravages of drought and fire, those who are alone, confused or suffering in mind, body or spirit, for those who wait helpless...

--and I am mindful of the many blessings in which I share

As I wrote that line, Mr Witty picked his head and ears up --and I heard music... We went in to Joel's room, and his computer had turned itself on and was playing music --not the blues, country nor gospel --but incredible Baroque harpsichord stuff.... I phoned Joel's hospital room, he answered, and I said --so, it wasn't a sign! --and we shared a laugh....

Guess it's time to get to work.
Peace out.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

--willing to risk pronouncing ephemeral blessings in a world of broken backs and elevator shafts....

I was able to hunker down yesterday. Finally. No one called to show the house --that's not good in itself, but we've had the house on the market a week, had two open houses and shown it at least once a day, sometimes twice... there's pressure in that.... but yesterday--no calls... time.

And I have been so busy, that I haven't had time to reflect upon the inner work that is happening. And it is happening.

So very fast some days that it takes my breath away --like fireworks....

But yesterday, it felt as though, if I allowed myself, I might get stuck in some sludge --and I thought --where did that come from?! Well... duh.

Sludge.... and with some reflection I realized it's not all my sludge.... It's stuff I carry or find around... but it doesn't belong to me.... --not all my sludge.

I have become better at discerning that kind of thing.... although it has taken some time. And practice.

And I also realized that there is so much 'stuff' around --9/11, the continued horrific actions of those who are practicing political terrorism --thank you Doxy for pointing us to that article... (thank you may not be the best way to say it --because it is horrific and revealing), stuff like the underbelly of capitalism exposing herself as the whore of Babylon... and all those, including myself, who are caught in her filthy embrace.

Stuff ...shootings at the IHOP, the practice emergency drill today downtown --ten sirens blaring, texts to phones (which assumes that everyone has a cell phone) --all practice for an 'event'.... the wildfires and drought in the west, the flooding in Vermont, the push for children in this city to receive school supplies, teachers having to work second jobs to make ends meet....

And, last night, as I was leaving a late visit with Joel, a woman was giving instructions to a man on how to get to the ICU hospital --a separate wing --and because I was going by that way I offered to walk him there --and on the way I saw he was so very fragile, so I said --I am a praying-type woman --how might I pray for you? He burst in to tears... his sister had been killed in a car accident, and her 16-year-old daughter in the car with her had had her back broken and she survived surgery but they didn't yet know if she would ever walk again... And he, a big ol' black southern man, and me, a big ol' white western woman held hands in the hall in front of the elevators --and without thinking about it I put my hands on his head and blessed him....

--and he wept some more...

And blessings always go both ways.... perhaps one is not supposed to talk about such things, but in giving a blessing I always move in to a spiritual image of being a chimney, and I 'take things in' --the situation and all, take it in to my gut, 'burn' whatever it is and the smoke rises out of my head like incense to become an offering to God.

Silly --weird... Yeah, perhaps. But I had to learn such a technique when working in a Veteran's hospital, and I couldn't walk through a day and not come out covered in sludge... and had to think of a way to offer what I was seeing and witnessing and doing....

So, I've been doing a lot of offering lately --a lot of 'burning' in my gut recently. But there is some stuff that's just not going away --like the reality that Joel and I have been joking about what is going to go in to his hospice package --you know, things like Drambuie, good scotch, chocolate --thick milk chocolate, ham biscuits --no, --bacon and eggs.... all the stuff he can't have right now.... And not like Joel is any where close to hospice --no, far, far from it... but, there we are... mentally preparing for the day by joking about it.

Joking about death....

--and being honest about that kind of thing... makes one so very vulnerable.... Who jokes about such things...?

We all hide...

--we all hide.

And this morning at prayer, I read the story of Elijah and the widow who was commanded to fix her last bit of flour and oil in to bread for him.... and she did, and like the goose that laid the golden egg, her flour and oil didn't run out... but her son became deathly ill and she cussed Elijah out righteously... and then, but only then did Elijah rise to meet her and heal her son....

I want a prophet like that.... to come in and make my flour and oil not run out --and heal what ails us. But, so much of me thinks --ha --that's just magical, wishful thinking.... give it up, take what you have and live abundantly with it.... which is, I guess, exactly what happened then, what with the widow.

And then, the second reading --a little Paul (to the Philippians beginning at 2:1)
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...
I consider these words to be a description of the Christian life-style... but was Paul himself ever able to live them? No... which is where the glory comes in --the glory. And that Paul himself was never able to live them makes them not less true, but more true and more the glory.

At least, that is my hope --the glimpses... of glory....

...but all of us do get glimpses of it... every now and then...

The great riddle of the Gospel --it's all ours, not because of what we do, but because we are loved --so we should try to do... but even what we do in faith will need redemption... so it is all grace. All is grace.

So, here I am this morning, mucking about in sludge that is not all mine, trying to get to mine --I guess, but there is so much in the present moment --in our present context that we all might say to the prophets among us --I'll cook what I've got left and then lie down to die... and then the kingdom is revealed --in our hunger and at death's door --the kingdom is revealed not in resting on our laurels, not in anything we do --all our striving, all our life style choices, all that... but the kingdom is revealed in looking to the interests of others...

I know this, because in front of the elevators, the man wept --and I knew again for the first time that blessings go both ways --in my offering of spiritual incense --in the burning in my gut --I was moved and changed... I was again more than a worried wife with a sick husband, a tired American distressed at our common life --I was again more than the sum of my parts and context --I was again moved to be willing to cook up my last bit of flour and oil, willing again to trust healing, willing again to seek the mind of Christ... sharing in his eternal priesthood.

--willing again to risk pronouncing ephemeral blessings in a world of broken backs and elevator shafts....

--willing to seek the kingdom in sludge.... --life through the cross....

There we are. Amen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All that and more

At prayer this morning, I love this part of Mark: (Mark 16:1-8)
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Oh yeah --terror... amazement... fear.... I think these are the fundamental responses in the presence of the holy.


I find myself scattered/disoriented this morning --waiting for a call from Joel... he is having a stress test this morning, and that is a scenario that frightens us both because he is so weak from the myasthenia gravis --he finds it difficult to move his legs, and to be forced to do so quickly in order to stress his heart terrifies us both. --talk about the 'great fall.'

But, on the other hand --so far, they have found nothing wrong with his heart --which is good news --but, on the other hand, hardly resolves the pain he feels....

--dancing in limbo....

...on the other, other hand --a stress test --ahh hell... with the stress we've had, we ought to pass with flying colors!

Last night a few good folk came over --they were to celebrate our 30th with us --but with Joel in the hospital, I morphed it last minute to a late afternoon gathering, and then I packed the dinner up --some for Joel and the rest for a local women's shelter. And then I went and spent a few hours with Joel --complete with smuggled-in non-alcoholic beer (I did check with the nurses first)...

Here is the feast we shared at home:

A bountiful spread with our dancing-in-limbo cherubs leading the way...

The meat and cheese --summer sausage, bratwurst, roast beef with an excellent mustard and horseradish offering... there was a chicken ka-bob plate with fresh tomatoes too...

The vegetables, including sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, mushroom and peppers --with dressing

The fresh peach and cherry pie --OMG!!! And no, with our house needing to be ready at a moment's notice and a showing scheduled for yesterday --I got all this from Olio's on Main Street, just fyi for all yous in the 'hood. They baked the pie at my special request --it is a grown-up pie cuz it is NOT sweet!

And here is Beloved all puffed out from the meds and crying/laughing at the spread...

And he took this of me --with his finger accidentally over the flash... oh well....

It was good --I went home long after visiting hours --I think the nurses let us be until the last minute... and this morning, I am so grateful to Josh at the Daily Office for posting this:

For the Aged
Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all whose increasing years bring them weakness, distress, or isolation. Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give them understanding helpers, and the willingness to accept help; and, as their strength diminishes, increase their faith and their assurance of your love. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Not just those of 'increasing years' --because by today's clocks, Joel is a young man --but all those who suffer from chronic, debilitating disease --of any age, and their care-givers....

--and, I pray for all the teachers, students and parents who are entering in to their first day back to school --that they may find all the tools they need to discern wisdom...

For those in Vermont and Texas --flood and drought--

All that and more... Amen.