Friday, June 29, 2018

Unplugging

"In a world where people use the Internet an average of 30 hours a week and keep the TV or radio on 7.9 hours a day, we need to get unplugged from virtual reality and address our addiction to technology and the toxins it brings into our lives. Unplug, and look into the eyes of another human face - see the beauty of God's creation!" (p. 87 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

We all know how much we time we spend looking at screens... right? In the quote above, it says people use the Internet on average 30 hours a week! That is an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes a day! For those of us who work in offices on computers, this average might actually be low. With all the constant distraction and interaction online, sometimes we simply just need to unplug. Put down the phones and tablets and computers, and spend some quality time with other people.

God created us as interactive and relational beings. We all need some time where we are in personal contact with other people, in conversation, in non-verbal way, and in touch. Some good ways of unplugging are by taking intentional times away from phones, tablets, computers, and televisions and doing something else. By stepping away from the constant barrage of 'instant' communication, you can focus on other types of communication, perhaps even communication with God! To get started thinking about your plugged in/unplugged balance, keep track this week of how much time you spend looking at a screen, any screen. Is that time balanced by how much time you spend face to face with other people?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Witness


Today I was witness to:
people partying
people escaping reality
the backs of my eyelids
Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania
Truckers smoking cigarettes
an abundance of food shared
a father and a boyfriend working together
a beautiful sunset
a blue heron take flight
a mother being cold
family sitting around
enjoying being together

Today I was witness to:
humanity and profound love
always hand in hand

6/24/17

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Proper 7B


This week has seen its fair share of storms.
Thunderstorms. Power outages.
Flooding.
More shootings.
Political outrage and debate.
Families torn apart.

The world is a stormy place.
Thankfully, Jesus offers peace in the midst of the storms.

We all know this story from the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus and the disciples get in the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee
to get some time away from the crowds.
Jesus is exhausted and along the short journey,
he falls deeply asleep.
Naturally, that is when a storm arises,
lashing wind, waves pushing against the sides,
scaring the disciples into thinking they were going to sink. 

Of course, they over exaggerate. 
Since most of the disciples were fishermen,
they probably all knew how to swim and the sea of Galilee isn't that big. 
Nor are there any sharks or crocodiles in the sea (again, too small),
It would be a long swim to shore, but not impossible,
so while the boat might have sank, they most likely wouldn't have all died. 
However, getting tossed about in any storm, physical, emotional, political, 
isn't the most fun and tends to make us human beings fearful and cranky.
We know well the disciples fear.
Many of us fear death, especially by one of the many storms of this world.

I wonder about that storm. 
They would have known it was a possibility. 
Though storms crop up quickly in the valley in which the Sea of Galilee rests, 
there are always signs of approaching storms.
Dark clouds, changes in temperature or pressure,
changes in wind gusts. 

Even in the socio-political realms,
you can usually tell when storms are arising,
inflammatory messages being shared, crimes against other people,
people making deals or changing their stance.

Even as I prepare to go to General Convention, 
the every three year National Episcopal Church governance and program convention, 
I can see the signs of gathering storms. 
I gathered this week with the other members of the deputation from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania 
and we touched on only a few topics, 
but topics I know will have much conversation and debate surrounding them:
The Israel-Palestinian conflict, 
the sexual harrassment #MeToo movement, 
Same Gender Marriage liturgies,
immigrant family separation and detainment,
and Book of Common Prayer changes.

It seems that on all sides,
we are in the midst of raging storms.
Even in the church, we are not immune to storms.

It seems,
that even though peace is one of Jesus' top three ministries in the world,
those being love, grace, and peace,
we still have no idea how to live into the peace Jesus gives to us.
We almost seem to like living in the midst of raging storms. 

Jesus stands up in the boat and commands the wind and the sea to be at peace.
And they listen to him. 
Immediately, creation responds.
Yet how often does Jesus stand among his disciples 
and offer them peace,
and even still they don't always live into the peace Jesus gives them.

Of course, the peace which Jesus offers 
is not one which gets rid of all the storms in the world.
It is not a peace which ignores the world either.
It is a peace which steadies our hearts and minds,
helps us work towards making a difference in the world
while knowing that is at work in the midst of the storm.

Jesus stood up and commanded the storm.
He shouted out peace and creation listened to him.
Jesus is not the only one who can stand up for peace.
We might not command the wind and the rain and the sea
but we do make a difference when we stand up together against the storm.
Now you may say, we can't stand up to the storm!
We could die!

Why are we afraid? We have God on our side.
We have Jesus who even the wind and the sea obey.

Thankfully as part of General Convention,
in the midst of all the storms of opinion and politics
the community will gather for worship together everyday. 

We will need the reminder of Jesus' peace, love, and grace for us
in the midst of all the issues inherent in governing and financing 
and guiding the national church. 

One of the many reasons we come together as a community
each week
is to be reminded of
and to share
the Peace
Jesus gives to each of us,
the peace he gave to his disciples that day,
when they too were rocked by the storms raging around them.
Our liturgy,
though confusing to some
is structured the way it is
in order to help us walk through life in this world,
to remind of us of God's love, grace, and peace for us,
to give us strength and courage
to walk back out of here
into a stormy world
keeping the inner peace
Jesus gives to us.

Whether we recognize it or not,
whether that is how we feel after church or not,
that is the liturgy's intention.
It is a gathering in together to draw strength, courage, forgiveness, grace, love, and peace,
and then a pushing out to share those things with everyone else in the world.

While today our communal worship may seem a little awkward,
doing the Instructed Eucharist splits up the natural flow of the service,
and we are going to end in the middle,
and then gather again next week to finish our Instructed Eucharist,
learning about the flow and intention of our communal worship 
allows us to go deeper into what each part is for,
why we do each part of the service, and why we do it in the order it is in,
so that when we come together on a regular basis,
we can understand and experience the love, grace, and peace,
which comes out of our worship together.

It is telling, in the Episcopal Church,
how fundamental in nature
Jesus' peace is to our working together as a community, as the church of God, 
in that the first act of a newly ordained priest,
is to share the peace of God with the congregation present.
The first thing we do as priests
is to spread peace.
To offer the gift of peace
in the midst of a stormy and violent world.

I offer to you today,
in the midst of all the storms present outside these walls,
physical, emotional, personal, public, political,
whatever storm you find yourself in,
I invite you into the peace of God,
here in this room,
find
the steadfast loving reassurance
that God holds you,
and loves you,
and has a calm place for you to rest.

Amen. 




Friday, June 22, 2018

Journaling


"On the pages of a journal, in the privacy of a moment, we can take tentative steps into truth and scour our feelings, hurts, ideas and struggles before God." (p.  57 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

I will admit, I added journaling to the list for this summer because it is one of my favorite ways of working out my thoughts, prayers, and the ups and downs of all of my life, not just the spiritual. Not all journals are the same, just as not all people are the same. For some, journaling is writing long prose about how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. For others, journaling is making lists of activities and their consequences, or series of pictures or words tied together in personal meaning. Today, art journals or Bible art journaling are trendy activities. I have multiple journals for different aspects of my life and different kinds of creative moods.

However, journaling is not only the process of writing or creating art, but also the process of reflecting on the writing or art created. Real journaling goes back over what has been writing or created before and looks for patterns or trends to see what is going on in our lives which we might not fully realize. In many ways, like the examen, it is in the reflecting back on what we have done, seen, heard, written, or created that we find where God has been at work in our lives. While it is lovely to be able to feel and know God's presence in the moment as it happens, many times we start with coming to know God in hindsight, looking back over what has happened to us. What have you created lately?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Participate

it is an active passivity
the book lying there
waiting for the reader to return

held in time the story waits

you wrap your arms around me
the world moves on
while I participate in eternity

held outside of time
the real story continues

6/6/17

Friday, June 15, 2018

Examen


 "How do you tend to recognize God's presence in your day?"

Also known as the Examination of Consciousness, the Examen is a practice of questions which leads to seeing God in the details of our lives. Most people know of the Examen from the Catholic Jesuit tradition, popularized by Ignatius of Loyola. There are many different formats or ways of using an examen practice to deepen our spiritual lives. The focus in each one stays on the details of our daily lives and how and what affects our spiritual lives.

In most examen practices, a time is set apart at the end of the day to reflect on where God was in the daily activities. By going through the different activities and looking at our bodily responses or where we saw God or writing down the words which exemplify the activities, we start to see patterns emerge which show us where God is at work. For many, questions of gratitude about our daily lives can be very helpful in long term spiritual growth.

Many people think the examen practice needs to be rigorous and difficult. However, the examen can even be fun. One way of doing an examen practice for yourself, or perhaps your children, is to play a game of I Spy: the I Spy God edition. Where have you spied God in your life today? What points to God's presence?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Rule of Life


"A rule for life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to present our bodies to God as our "spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1). Each rule, or rhythm, is a way we partner with God for the transformation only he can bring." (p. 36 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

Many of us have heard of the Rule of Saint Benedict or the Franciscan Rule of Life. These Rules were written by monks for monks as a way of structuring and ordering the common life of the monastery. However, having a rule of life goes all the way back to the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." The earliest followers of Jesus thought that every Christian should follow these four ways of living: learning the teachings, being a part of the community, sharing in Communion, and praying together. Ever since then, Christians have been developing their own rules of life and rules of living for their communities.

Having a rule of life can be a very enriching practice. One way to try out a rule of life is to set a time limit on it, such as: "I will pray for ten minutes every morning for 40 days." Then when the 40 days are over you can look back on the rule and your relationship to it and see if it is really a good rule for your life. Not everyone's rules of life are the same. Night owls probably wouldn't like the early morning yoga and meditation practice of a morning lark. Whereas the morning lark might not be able to handle saying Compline every night at 11 pm. Part of the flexibility of a rule of life is that it fits your life and allows you to connect with God. What is in your rule of life?


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Accountability

ten minutes a day
six days: an hour
sixty thousand days
one hundred sixty five years

but double it
twenty minutes, three days
thirty thousand days
eighty two years

a lifetime of work
being an expert
day in and day out
being responsible for change

3/15/17
(They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. This is the math if you try to become an expert only spending 10 minutes a day. It would take 165 years to work up the hours needed.)