Tuesday, September 19, 2017

UPDATE on my lungs

Earlier on this blog I explained about Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis - a progressive condition of the lungs. In the last couple of weeks I sort of dropped off a cliff. I had been doing pretty well, slow and easily fatigued but had a bad bout of coughing.

A couple of weeks ago I had a CT scan and it shows some progression of the fibrosis. The upshot of it all is that they put me on the oxygen.  I am hoping that will restore some energy -but taking it day to day. I will be getting a portable concentrator to give me a bit more freedom. The little bottles are 2 hours - the concentrator 7-8 on battery. Have a concentrator at home - with a long tube for going all over the house. My version of "golden lasso"
I was on prednisone for 2 weeks and came off cold turkey - have suffered fever and chills and extreme fatigue -but on the mend -nothing infectious shows up. Unlike the lungs -- everything else is in great shape and having the oxygen will help keep everything that way I hope. 

I see a new pulmonologist next week. My old one is retiring. In the meantime I cannot say enough about my provider at Cannon Beach Providence. She has really taken me seriously and is on top of everything -- trying to give me more quality of life.

Happy to answer questions - but prefer no advice -  try not to speculate on what this means. I don't know yet.

October 6 is the funeral for my sister in law who died this week. We sat with her body and told stories- laughed and cried. I did prayers and anointing. Prayers for all the family. She was our family's chief hostess and loved having everyone around. No matter when you showed up she would whip up a meal for you and make you welcome. The last few years she had Alzheimers (or similar condition) these last few years - though she still remembered all of us. An overwhelming infection killed her.

Jim has been amazing -- feel very cared for.  Kristin has been here for a few weeks- very lovely. John our son and Quinn, our grandchild (18 years old now!) come for a visit this week. Great summer seeing all the kids and grands.

Prayers welcome.

Photos: My life this year - before September 1 and after.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Repetitive Prayers by Maria Evans

Daily Office Readings for Friday, September 1, 2017:

In our Gospel reading today, our tendency is to link “denial” and “betrayal” with the number three.  Jesus tells Peter he will deny him three times.  The disciples fall asleep three times.  Yet, what gets lost in the story is what Jesus himself actually does in this story, partially because we have to look at the parallel to this story in Matthew 26:31-46 to fully grasp this.  He prays for relief from what is about to come, and “not my will, but yours” three times.  The same words.  In a way, Jesus introduces us to repetitive prayer--and for many of us, repetitive prayer is a tried and true response to severe stress.

Whether it’s the orthodox “Jesus prayer” with or without beads, or repetitive prayers such as those one can say with a set of Anglican prayer beads, people who engage in repetitive prayer practices often describe a sensation of their mind disengaging from the stress.  Studies have shown that one’s heart rate and blood pressure drop in a variety of repetitive prayer practices across a variety of religious traditions.

Additionally, MRI studies of the brain show that prayer--any kind of prayer--stimulates the same parts of the brain that conversation with other human beings do.  Our conversations with God are read by our brain as no different than our conversations with one another.  Even if we become discouraged that “I pray, but I’m not sure God really listens”, our brains behave as if someone IS listening.

But back to our Gospel...What do we learn from this?  Certainly, Jesus must have been suffering greatly that night from all the emotions we all suffer when we sense betrayal.  Earlier that evening, at supper, he had announced that he would be betrayed by one at his table.  In our reading today, he foretells both a general betrayal by his disciples, and a more personal one by Peter...and even the act of those closest to him being unable to stay awake in his anguish must have felt like betrayal heaped upon more betrayal.

Yet, when the hour comes, Jesus is ready to face what is to come.  We sense a calmness and readiness on his part--a far cry from the Jesus who fled north when the Pharisees and scribes were dead set on persecuting him.  Although the story describes only three times he prayed those words (the times associated with looking to see if the disciples are awake or asleep), I wonder, really, if he prayed those words many more times than what is recorded--my hunch is, he did.

I think of it in terms of the most common prayer Christians pray--the Lord’s Prayer.  Like Jesus, we ask that God’s will be done.  We ask it to happen on earth as well as in heaven...and somehow when we pray something over and over, I believe, the “earth” of our very human frailties--fear and anxiety--are transformed into something heavenly--and we become capable of  something that before we started praying, we were certain we could not endure.  We may even face it with calmness.

When is a time you were so afraid, all you could do was pray something from memory--over and over?  How did that change you?  How do those memories continue to change you?

Posted in Google Docs

Image: Gethsemane by Michael D. O'Brien - used with permission

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Walking into Evangelism by Laurie Gudim

by Laurie Gudim

The Feast Day of Saints Aiden and Cuthbert

I find the stories of saints who spent their days walking the roads around their homes – who made it a custom to fall into conversation with strangers, listening and learning about their lives and then speaking to them from a rich personal experience of relationship with God – profoundly appealing.  The adventure of following Christ ought to include this kind of open-hearted welcome.  It's a soul-space of curiosity and compassion.

I remember when I was growing up that I'd find this sort of hospitality among some of the dude ranchers I knew.  Their tables were places where people gathered to share their experiences and passions.  The hosts would listen deeply, asking questions and occasionally exclaiming in wonder.  The guests would find themselves called into speech by this gracious attentiveness.  The hosts learned about the wide world beyond their doors.  The guests left with a deeper appreciation of the meaning of their lives and work.

Many monastic communities also practice this listening.  They call it seeing the Christ in the guest who comes to their doors.  And, as St. Aiden learned in his work among the people of Lindisfarne early in the history of the church, it is a very good tool for evangelism.

Episcopalians are not yet too comfortable with the idea of evangelism.  Isn't it a bit presumptuous, we wonder?  But at root it is really simple – and natural.  At root evangelism is merely that in me which belongs to Christ calling out to another person who also belongs to Christ but who may not recognize that fact.  The voice of Christ whispers through us, in the stories we tell, in the silence we keep, and in the actions we take.  Walking the roads with an eye for where help is needed, hands to help with burdens, and a creative mind for discovering resources for those in trouble would work as well as good listening.

But listening is how I do it.  Listening well helps me learn a stranger's personal language.  I learn their joys, what they are stumped by, what moves them.  The stories are magnificent; they are jewels.  Christ is right there in the middle of them.

And if I should share my own story in response, in companionable good feeling, what is wrong with that?  They can take it or leave it, after all.  And if they recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd in something I have said or done, well, then I'm all ears once again.  They can tell me what they are hearing, and I will be as gobsmacked as they are.  Christ will rejoice with both of us.

Linked from Episcopal Café Speaking to the Soul

Image: Ann Fontaine photo from Writer's Retreat at St Catherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church, Nehalem OR

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Good Samaritan

One Sunday I was driving to Rock Springs WY from Lander. I was set to preside and preach at 10:30 AM - 2 hours from my home. In those days I was helping Holy Communion Episcopal Church during the time they were without a priest in residence. I would make this trip twice a month and be available for consultation by phone the rest of the time.  They are what I call a "cat church"- happy to take care of their own lives and look after one another, organize study groups, run the thrift shop, have parties, and support each other in personal hard times but not needing much other than affection and communion from me.

As I drive across the continental divide over South Pass, I am wondering about my great grandmother who came to Oregon on a covered wagon as a girl and thinking about our paths were crossing so many years later. Suddenly my right rear tire shredded. No traffic either direction - just the long high plateau road over the Rocky Mountains as I pulled of on the shoulder. So there I am, in a no cell service zone (so no AAA for me), standing in my Sunday best clergy duds by the side of my Outback with its little emergence tire, directions for changing the tire in one hand and tire iron in the other, the tiny jack sitting on the ground. I have not changed a tire since my father made me learn before he would let me drive. At least the persistent wind had died down and it was not snowing.

Struggling to get the jack placed properly to raise the tire off the ground and loosen the lug nuts, a pickup truck passes me - full speed+ - as we go out there in the land of no traffic and straight roads. Suddenly is stops, turns around - and pulls up by me. His wife and I sit in the pickup while he makes short work of changing the tire with his full sized jack and oil rigger muscles. His wife says- "I told him - you have to stop - there is a woman changing her tire and she's in dress!"

Job done- I am on my way to church - I make it just in time to join the procession! I tell them I had met the Good Samaritan and he is an oil rig worker named Tom. My stereotypes about his work and who does it had fallen away. All the images of "hard living, hard drinking, dirty, raid the earth riggers" of my imagination were challenged as he and his wife were neighbor to me.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ash Wednesday Collection

A collection of poems and other bits for Ash Wednesday:

Adrienne Trevathan - the Director of Christian Education at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Evanston, IL. Native American (Port Gamble S'Klallam) and United Methodist

Changer: A Prayer Poem for Ash Wednesday
A 21st Century Worship Resource
Cover me with ashes,
the thick-smoke soot of the earth.
Make my breathing like the journey
from death into life — second by second,
prayer by prayer.
Cover me with a cloak — bring me low to the earth,
your justice whispering to me like the gleam of red rocks,
the colors dancing in the darkness.
Let me know the power of sage and cedar in my bones,
not that I may trap them there,
but bring them forth in words.
Cover me with darkness —
with the presence of my elders, their tears falling around me,
reminding me of why we are here —
sighing, groaning with our singing, longing to hear us into being,
stretching us beyond breathing and praying and weeping.
Cover me with mercy —
let the bones you have crushed rejoice,
like the woman who channeled every ounce of courage and dignity
to touch your cloak and find new life.
Breathe unto me life anew,
of possibility,
of beauty,
of balance,
of grace.
Cover me with mud —
bring me to my lowest state, so that in my weaknesses
I see your strength —
the reflection of your eyes in the brokenness around me,
the fullness of your love in the depths of our hearts.
Cover me with ashes —
the ashes of my grandmother,
who in living her days knew no strangers,
worked tirelessly with worn hands
and lifted grandchildren high into the air.
Cover me with mercy —
let my cheek come to rest on the cold earth,
its faithful presence a call to walk humbly
beyond myself
beyond my fears
and ever on to the red road that leads to your love.
x̣áýəs — Changer
 Cover me.
Cover me with ashes.
Change me.

Walter Brueggemann 
Marked by Ashes
Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
     halfway back to committees and memos,
     halfway back to calls and appointments,
     halfway on to next Sunday,
     halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
     half turned toward you, half rather not.
This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
   but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
     we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
       of failed hope and broken promises,
       of forgotten children and frightened women,
     we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
     we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.
We are able to ponder our ashness with
   some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
   anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.
On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
   you Easter parade of newness.
   Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
     Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
     Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
   Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
     mercy and justice and peace and generosity.
We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

T.S. Eliot -- whole poem here  or of T.S. Eliot reading the poem here

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

And a video

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Power of Naming

There has been an ongoing discussion on Facebook about the Prayers of the People and whether or not to pray for the President-elect by name. The Book of Common Prayer does not require names in any rubrics though many churches do use the name of the President and other leaders. Our church prays by name for "Our President, Barack, our Governor, Kate and all local officials." Since the election, we have added President-elect Donald. For at least the last 4 presidents we have called them by name.

The reasons for dropping this practice seems mostly related to the pain the name of the President-elect causes to those who are terrified of his statements and his abusive actions towards women especially. It is argued that church must be a safe space for those who are victims of abuse and those who may be affected by his proposed policies. Those w
ho advocate for no naming say it is an ethical issue and that these are times that demand a different response.

My response to this is that the Bible is very clear that we are to pray for those in authority and for our enemies and those who persecute us. Jesus, Paul, Peter all speak of this. It is hard for me to do but it is the practice I want to foster in myself. Naming is a part of that for me. The power of naming is noted through out the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament. By saying the name I take my power back.

My non-churchgoing brother noted that in the Harry Potter novels "most characters in the novels refer to Voldemort as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" rather than say his name aloud." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Voldemort). Only a few actually say the name but Dumbledore says that the name has no power and it is only their own fears.  However, we find out in the last book that Voldemort can track mentions of his names and uses that to target his enemies, so saying his name basically sends up a signal flare once he has returned to power.  Which might be a part of the pain and fear that saying the President-elect’s name evokes.

My spiritual director modeled praying for her abuser - and I saw that it changed her. Her prayers did not change the other person and did not say what happened was in any way anything but evil. I decided to try it and I found a different sort of peace. Do I still have anger about what happened? Yes, but I am not holding the poison of that anger and bitterness inside. I wrestled with saying Donald in the prayers of the people when it was my turn to pray (I am not priest in charge) - could I do it without being sick? I do it because it is my practice and it is a decision that our church made after the election.

Also there are people in our congregation who choked on praying for "Barack" by name and who voted for the president-elect. They would find it more than odd if we stopped our practice of naming now. They already feel in the minority in the Episcopal Church but soldier on in the community.

I wonder about the idea of church as safe space and think that sets us up for failure. I have not found it to be safe all the time. Many Bible passages are terrifying: Lot offering his daughters to the crowd to be raped. Eli's sons use their position to take advantage of womenJephthah'daughter is sacrificed because of a rash promise. The crucifixion.

From Annie Dillard:
“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” 

Also I wonder about only praying by name for those who we think are "good people" which seems to come out in these discussions. That seems to set up a dynamic where we use prayer as a form of approval or disapproval. 

The discussion has made me think about what I believe about prayer and what I think we are doing when we pray. But in the end for me it comes down to following Jesus in his way and prayer is something he talks about more than anything else. A few passages that I take seriously:

Matthew 5:43-45 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Luke 6:27-28 "But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." 

Romans 12:19-20 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. 

Then of course there is this from Fiddler on the Roof on blessing the Tsar.


This essay first appeared at Episcopal Café

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Take Joy!

Christmas Day
Readings are here.
Notes toward a sermon

Have you seen the photographs of the beauty of space taken by the Hubble telescope? Wondrous and fabulous images brought to us from places beyond our sight. As I read the Gospel of John for Christmas Day -- I was thinking this is what John is trying to describe. We are so used to hearing this passage in English we lose the full dimension of of the words. Richard Swanson in his blog Provoking the Word fills out the meanings for us.

All the beauty and wonder of creation comes to us in a fragile limited life - 33 years we think Jesus lived among us. Think of an hour glass-- all that has been comes down to one specific life - and then goes out to change the whole world. The moment of the Eucharist mirrors this action. All is present in the bread and the wine and then we take it and carry it out to the world again.

Messiah does not come with armies of angels - much as I would like that some days. "Come Michael and all angels with your fiery swords and set thing right. Take away the wounding and the killing and all those terrible things in the world." But it does not work like that - Messiah comes in a vulnerable infant, who needs are tender care.

In Jesus day, the Roman Empire was ascendant -- doing whatever was needed to keep their power in place.

In 1513 Fra Giovanni wrote:

I salute you.  I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.There is nothing I can give you which you have not.  But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.  No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.  
Take heaven! 
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. 
Take peace! 
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.  Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.And to see, we have only to look.  I beseech you to look! 
Take joy! 
Life is so generous a giver.   
But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.  Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there.The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.  Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys.  They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath itscovering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.  

Courage then to claim it; that is all!But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,wending through unknown country home.
And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now andforever, the day breaks and shadows flee away. 

~ Fra Giovanni ~
In our day we see similar powers at work. But we too can reach out and touch the angel's hand and know that all of creation has come to our particular life. Everything that has been comes to be in you and I. The Navajo say to walk in beauty - to be in harmony and bring harmony. We can choose how to be in our place and our time - no matter how much life we have to live. Each of can be the messengers that Isaiah reveals - how beautiful are those who bring good news. It is our choice -  now and always. Share the good news.