Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another year ends

Leaf Labyrinth at the Harmonist Cemetery

Ben Nicholson created a labyrinth out of leaves at the Harmonist Cemetery. Of course its gone now but while it was there it was both lovely and fun to walk. I would call it a "high maintenance" labyrinth because the wind wanted to redesign the path! Ben persevered and a number of folks came to walk. It was one of those lovely fall days which we have had in abundance this year. Today it is in the 60's and sunny in that hazy fall way. Katie and I just got back from our afternoon walk and I decided to break my long absence from this blog to write again. Yes, it has been busy and once again our little parish seems to be plagued with pastoral problems; but I have missed the outlet of writing here.

Tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday and it marks the last Sunday of the Church year. Next Sunday is Advent I and we turn our hearts hopefully toward Jesus coming among us in the Incarnation. I relished in cleaning the house yesterday, getting down the cobwebs of summer and rearranging the furniture so I can sit in the late afternoon sun as I write and do my "projects." It means so much to bask in those last rays on these short days. As I scrubbed and vacuumed I focused on making my home ready for Jesus. I am always hopeful that all that I do in these weeks of Advent will be preparation for Jesus' coming. Every Christmas light and decoration will be placed to honor his arrival; every present bought and wrapped to celebrate his birth; all of my "devotions" will prepare my heart as a place for him to live. Those are my best intentions which are not always realized and yet my heart is open.

I saw a car in Evansville last week that had a sticker on it reading "Psalm 109.8." Being the curious sort I looked it up and found that it read, "Let his days be few; and let another take his office." I looked online and found that this verse has become a slogan for those who dislike President Obama. I felt my own fear level rise several notches as I read the next verse of the Psalm: "Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow." It has surprised me the number of people who have made racially derogatory remarks to me about Obama. I don't say much at all in the way of political affairs to anyone but close friends. As a minister in a very small town I try to stay away from those political "pitfalls" although it probably wouldn't be hard for folks to guess where I stand. I know that President Obama has made some controversial decisions but I can't remember a President of the US that hasn't made controversial decisions. Some of those previously made decisions were quite distasteful to me and yet I can't remember ever thinking, "I wish he were dead." I find it quite hard to listen to people who demonize someone because they are African - American, Muslim, Native American, Hindu, Jewish, or any one who is different. The color of some one's skin, or the way someone worships does not render them dirty, or ignorant, or terrorist. Any of us can be those things and we forget that. I pray that President Obama and his family are kept in the palm of God's hand, safe from harm.
Mickey Grimm - the longest drum roll!

Mickey Grimm is a percussionist who lives here in New Harmony. He and his wife Molly are musicians from Nashville who moved here several years ago. Recently Mickey undertook the project of accomplishing the longest drum roll for the Guinness Book of Records. He performed this feat at the Coffee Shop on a Saturday afternoon. He did it to raise money for the repair of our town clock. It was successful on many fronts - financial and accomplished time. I can't tell you exactly how long he performed the drum roll but by saying "several hours" you will get the picture of the kind of perseverance it took! You just never know what you will run into in this little town! Way to go Mickey!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009



It is a rainy day in the mountains of North Carolina where Katie and I are taking some days of rest. Yesterday was beautiful - sunny, warm and glorious colors! I guess it was my one day of "Indian Summer." But today has its own sort of beauty. Katie and I took an early morning walk in the rain. I saw a few deer which Kate did not see because her nose was to the ground...such good smells here! Most of the deer were in the fleeing mode because we are tramping on their turf, but it was lovely to see their warm brown bodies and beautiful white tails. I'm getting ready to make preparations for beef stew. It will cook most of the afternoon and fill the house with a fragrance better than Febreeze!

I've had this poem in mind for sometime now but it didn't hit paper until last night. I'm not sure it's in final form but close.


“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you do not know how to interpret the signs of the times.”*

Squirrels run, finding
secret places for seeds and nuts.
Woolly worms act suicidal,
crossing hot asphalt,
showing off thick, dark coats.
Branches weighted with berries
drape themselves thickly over fences.
They are the fabric of winter food.

We read these signs like an almanac.
We trust the squirrel, the worm, the berry
to tell us the ways of nature.
Global warming says prepare to thaw.
Signs in nature cancel those preparations.
Careful and watchful – we are
the interpreters of nature’s ways.

How shall we interpret our times?
The newspaper and post office dwindle.
We are electronic; quick as a synapse.
Every day we speed toward
overcoming all that ails in life.
Soon we will not need to fear microbe or neutron.
We trust progress as the sign of a good life

History offers its signs as well.
We make war over and over,
with the same people.
We are curved inward and preoccupied with self.
Preparing for war, building walls
that separate each one from the next;
we trust no one.

Within history is a sign so pure
that all other signs blare false,
and all other news contributes little.
We watch as water, oil, bread and wine
become signs of love that will not cease.
This love is the true sign of the One
who made us in their image –
to be a sign of love to the world.

* Matthew 16:4
mah - 10/2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Trusses in place!

This morning I volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity house being built here in New Harmony. The house is being built by Habitat for the daughter of a parishioner. Lori is handicapped due to a brain injury. She uses a motorized wheelchair and can get around well in that. Lori is able to do a lot of things for herself and is able to live alone. She has been living in Evansville but that means she is 45 minutes to an hour away from her parents and support system here in New Harmony. This house is such a wonderful thing for Lori and her family and we are all pitching in to help get it done. And speaking of "getting it done," today was a great example of that. When I got to the site at about 7:30am there were no trusses up, and when I left at noon the trusses were in place and most of the decking for the roof! These volunteers are amazing. There were people there from New Harmony, Evansville, Illinois and lots of other places. One of the volunteers from Evansville is a man named Jack. Jack is 81 years old and he has worked on almost all of the houses Habitat has built in this area. He is the "unofficial" foreman of the crew who hops around showing others how to do things and helping with almost every aspect. I met a woman named Charlene whose house in Evansville was destroyed by a Tornado and Habitat built her present house. She has become a Habitat 'junkie." And I can see why. The atmosphere is enormously positive and everyone is helping one another. If conflicts arise they are quietly mediated and forgotten because there is a bigger issue at stake - a home for someone who needs it.

Welcome Home, Lori!

I got a piece of the action (so to speak) as I hammered nails into the seats for the trusses after they were in place and made marks to guide those who will put on the siding. There was very little "the novices" could do while the crane swung the trusses in place. It is probably the most dangerous time on the site but this one went like clockwork! When I drove away at noon I was astounded at the progress. Just what could we do if everyone gave 4 hours of volunteer service each week to work towards overcoming a pressing need in the world? And just how much better would we be able to relate to our neighbors if we spent some time working alongside of them and/or providing for their needs. I have been a supporter of Habitat for a long time and now I know first hand how crucial it is to be there! I am looking forward to going back next Saturday to help with whatever the needs are...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Festival Time!

Saturday morning at Kunstfest

The saints at St. Stephen's began the Kunstfest festival early on Saturday morning as all the other booths geared up for the day. We had about 30 volunteers for the 2 days of the festival. The days were divided into shifts and everyone worked hard. Saturday was a beautiful, warm fall day and the crowds in town were having fun visiting all the variety of booths and businesses. There were so many choices of food available from the local establishments and various organizations that it would have been hard to choose. St. Stephen's sold grilled pork tenderloin sandwiches. For those of you who have never had this Hoosier favorite it is a thinly sliced piece of pork tenderloin that has been hammered with a meat mallet. It is grilled and served on a bun with dill pickles, lettuce and onions (any or all of these) and your condiment of choice. Here in Indiana it is often breaded and deep fried, but grilled is better. Our locally prepared tenderloins are huge and they sell well. We sold 500 sandwiches on Saturday! We also had 100 Kuchens (German coffee cake) made by our members which we sold out on during Saturday. It was a busy day!

The view towards the middle of town from St. Stephen's

On Sunday the festival begins at 11am - we had our coffee hour outside in front of the church as we prepared for another day raising money. Sunday's weather was not cooperative - it was off and on rainy and the crowds of Saturday did not materialize. We still did a good bit of business and by 5pm we were all ready for Kunstfest to be over. We made about $4000 for our various mission and outreach projects. For me the greatest significance of the weekend was the teamwork. Parishioners who volunteered gave so much of themselves not just to the fundraising project but to each other.

It seems that a common goal brings out the best in us. We find ways to get around the things that divide us when we are working together. Of course it takes a willingness to put our personal feelings aside and become a team of people who are together for a greater good. I continue to wonder how some people are able to let go of hurt feelings to work together and others allow those hurts to become walls. Is it that old hurts get reactivated causing an autonomic action (reaction)? This kind of reaction seems to be so powerful that forgiveness can't break in and logic fails us. I know what that reaction feels like. It is so powerful that even when my heart reveals my own self-indulgent pride to me, I still am paralyzed by the hurt. It feels physiological - like adrenaline being released when we need to flee a dangerous situation. I think this is a crucial part of being open to reconciliation - to come together with those who have hurt us and allow the Holy Spirit to make space in us. Perhaps the space is for forgiveness, or space to listen to the other person, or just to "see" the other person. All of those things, it seems, are necessary for reconciliation - space, listening, seeing the other person.

Just in time for Halloween

It was cool and moist this morning and this spider web was just begging to have its picture taken. I think the Halloween decorations have been displayed since early September. There is even a store in Evansville called "The Halloween Store" - it opened in September. Of course the Christmas decorations are not far behind and in some stores they are intermingled with the Halloween stuff! I'm sure struggling with this...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Week

The tops of the trees are edged with gold and red. The sunlight hitting them hints at what the world around us will soon look like as fall moves in quickly. At St. Stephen's we are preparing for New Harmony's fall festival, Kunstfest. The German origins of the town give rise to this yearly celebration which brings visitors from all over southwestern Indiana. All of the organizations, businesses, and churches in this small town put our wares out for sale. In the process we have a lot of fun and earn some money for our various projects. St. Stephen's sells German Kuchens (coffeecake), pork tenderloin sandwiches (an Indiana favorite) and jars of soup and cookie mix. In past years we have earned $4 - 5,000 for our outreach ministries. It is a lot of work for a small parish like ours but everyone really pulls together. Parishioners cook around 100 Kuchens to sell - they go like hotcakes! These folks are troopers!

Felted Pin

This is a not so clear picture of a pin I made recently. It has some beading on it which doesn't really show up in this picture. The piece of copper is a wonderful old piece of junk which I picked up walking on the mesa when I lived in Albuquerque. The background is a piece of wool felt with silk thread felted into it. It was a fun piece to make and gave me a lot of ideas for other pieces to make.

Indiana Pink

This is early morning in my backyard. It's a great place to be in the morning because the light is always different. I think God is truly an artist, and one who paints with the whole palette!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Late Summer Musings

Religious Cat?

I know I have shown Pumpkin (my cat) under the rose bushes with Jesus before, but she really does "hang out" there often. She goes out when I take Katie out in the morning and we usually find her sitting by Jesus when we come back up the hill. Maybe she feels secure with this "person" who never moves. I guess there is some good theology in that. It is often said that when we feel far away from God, it is not because God has moved away - we are the ones who move. God is steady in his presence just as my statue of Jesus is firmly fixed in the rose garden. A couple of weeks ago you would not have been able to see Pumpkin or Jesus in this garden. The wild mint and Irises, and other flowering plants had grown up around the roses and Jesus. I cleaned it out and trimmed the Iris down for winter - I found Jesus! I first looked at this house 5 years ago, thinking I would like to buy it. At that time Jesus was sitting on the stump of a tree in the back yard. The person who bought the house then put in the Iris bed and flowers around Jesus. When I bought the house 3 years ago Jesus was still on the stump. But over the first two years I lived here the stump disintegrated and I filled the garden in with more mulch and fixed Jesus in the middle. So through the disintegrating vagaries of life Jesus has really never moved. I love that reminder each day when I stroll through the back yard with my "girls."
Katie Scarlett O'Hara Honaker 2009

Speaking of my "girls" here is an updated picture of Katie. I took her out to the Nursing Home here in New Harmony yesterday. We went into the Alzheimer's Unit and visited one of her dearest friends who used to be at the Ford Home (a home for women). Virginia was moved to the Nursing Home when she could no longer take care of herself at the Ford Home. Katie used to spend one morning a week with Virginia at the Ford Home. I don't know if she recognized me or Katie yesterday but the smile on her face was worth the visit. Watching her cradle Katie's face in her two hands and lean close to kiss her brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me how much animals minister to our hearts. Each person we visited yesterday was carefully loved by Katie's sweet presence. She seems to know when she is "working", and she can work a room like nobody else. She means to get all the pats and ear rubs she can get. It is such "mutual satisfaction"!

Prairie Sky

Doesn't this just look like a Georgia O'Keefe painting? The sky here is so big. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a big bowl. The fields lately have been so green with corn and soybeans - it looks like an ocean of green stretching out as far as you can see. I don't think I could ever get entirely comfortable with this huge openness. I am too conditioned to the mountains. I like the way I feel held by the mountains - snuggled down into their presence. I get a little antsy sometimes with all this open sky and field. But most of the time I just revel in the beauty of it all. I love the way the fields change with each season. Soon the corn will turn brown and the contrast with the soybean fields will be dramatic. The soybeans turn beautiful shades of orange and gold as they ripen and dry. So much beauty... Check out my wonderful niece's blog for some beautiful photograpy. She is such a gifted artist and her project of journaling through the year with photos is fabulous.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indiana Home

North Carolina's Showy Weeds!
I got back to New Harmony on Tuesday afternoon. The drive is not difficult, just long! Fortunately, I like to drive and on this journey I listened to the last Harry Potter book on tape. The book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is long so it lasted for both portions of the trip. This is the second time I have listened to it and this time I caught more of the clever and at times brilliant associations that Rowling makes to our faith journey. Harry and his two companions, Hermione and Ron, are on the run from Lord Voldemort in the story. Dumbledore, who was the head master of Hogwort's School is dead; but he left each of them something which would help them in their quest to end Voldemort's evil. He left Ron a "deluminator" which puts out light. Ron becomes disillusioned with the journey, gets mad and leaves Harry and Hermione in the midst of the quest. As soon as he leaves however, he is sorry for his angry outburst and wishes to return. The magical powers of the "deluminator" allow him to eventually find the two just in time to save Harry's life. After the three are safely reunited Ron tells the other two how Dumbledore's "deluminator" helped him find them. Ron says, "I reckon Dumbledore knew I would leave you and he gave me the "deluminator." But Harry says, "He gave it to you because he knew you would come back." Harry sees with the eyes of faith, I think. God gives us the Holy Spirit at Baptism not because he knows we will all stray away from his love, but because he knows that we will come back to him over and over no matter how far we stray or how long we are gone. He gives us himself because he knows we will return.
Mountain Mushrooms
I think these are one of God's most clever creations! I haven't a clue what they are called but they rise up out of the leafy floor of the forest like towers. And the contrast of colors between the mushrooms and the other colors is spectacular! I love the way they grow in little "communities." They seem to have a natural knowledge that they need others to grow.

Knitted Bookmark

While I was in NC, a friend from Fayetteville, Mary Mac, shared a little book of knitting patterns with me. The little book is old and shows how to do a variety of lacy knitted stitches. This one is particularly pretty and so I made a bookmark with it. It was fun to do and when I finished I threaded some ribbon I had through the edges to give it some color. I will definintely do some more of these...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August Already!

Soybeans in My Backyard!
This week (August 10 - 18) is a week of vacation for me and I am in Sparta, NC enjoying the mountains. I am so glad for a chance to have some quiet time. Last week was quite difficult for our household. As the week progressed I began to realize that Isabelle (my lovely, young golden retreiver) was not working out. I have worked with her almost everyday seeking to "detoxify" her relationship (or lack thereof) with my cat Pumpkin. On Wednesday, she chased Pumpkin again with just as much determination in her eyes as before. Then on Thursday she wrapped the leash around my leg in a wild frenzy to get at a bunny rabbit. The leash burned my leg quite badly. Finally, on Friday, I made a decision to let her go for adoption. Everytime I looked at her I cried. A very good friend in Mt. Vernon, IN has taken Isabelle to find her a home. I hope we gave her some new skills to adjust in another home. On Friday afternoon I took Katie out in the backyard for a stroll. As we came up from the soybean field back toward the house, my neighbor's bull terrier came around the fence and attacked Katie. I pulled him off of her but then fell and he attacked her again! She sustained a bad laceration to her ear as well as being rolled over several times. My neighbor finally got him off of Kate. She required stitches at the emergency vet hospital in Evansville. Katie is 12 years old and arthritic so this attack was hard on her. By Sunday she was doing much better and back to her old irrascible self!

Decisions, like giving Isabelle, are so hard. I had been struggling with this one for several weeks. I so wish at times like this that God would send an angel with a message! I think probably God does send those angels. I also think that we are so busy that we miss most of them! Last week at the beginning of the week I began spending some time during my morning prayers on quiet meditation. I was trying as much as possible to get my psyche quiet. On Thursday afternoon after a meeting at church I sat down with a wonderful man in our congregation to talk about several things. I told him about my struggles with Isabelle and he didn't tell me to let her go but he listened and just confirmed some of the things I was feeling. It was so helpful in making the decision. I know that sometimes I am too busy and hurried to even let those conversations happen. I came close that evening because I was having dinner with friends and was running late. In the end there was time for both - the conversation and dinner! I hope I can remember this event the next time I get so busy and hurried!
Crepe Myrtle

The ever growing soybeans in the field at the edge of my backyard and this flamingly beautiful Crepe Myrtle over the eastern edge of the yard are sure signs to me that fall is closing in on us. In southwestern Indiana we are just now beginning to enjoy (?) the heat of summer. The first part of our summer was relatively cool and very rainy, but last week was steamy and hot. The picture above was taken early one morning with the sun just beginning to arrive. I love watching the seasons change. The corn fields are golden with tassels now and the corn itself is over 6 feet tall! Soon it will be turning brown and readying for harvest. Here in NC, the plants on the sides of the roads are the "give - aways" for seasons for me - along with tobacco turning yellow in the fields!

I've been sewing some lately. I love being able to sew. I know why my mother loved to sew - it is (when things go well) such satisfying work. The colors of fabrics, the technical aspect of threading a sewing machine and just watching fabric come together in a meaningful way are all so much a part of my life. I remember sitting under my mother's sewing machine as a little girl glueing pieces of leftover fabric together. Finally when I was old enough she taught me to use a needle and thread and last of all the sewing machine. Sometimes I think it is part of my DNA! I don't sew as well as my mom but it still makes me feel creative and gives me joy. Below is a picture of a tote bag that I made for a friend for her birthday.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's a dog's world...

It is a dog's world!

It has been an intense time around our house. Dealing with issues of barking and feline relations has been stressful for all of us. Last week Isabelle got me up at 3am almost every day barking in her crate. The old remedy for barking: letting them bark without giving in to their need for attention - only works if you live in the country. My neighbors just don't deserve that! We have now made several modifications in routine that are helping. Just this weekend we seem to have made a leap of progress. Isabelle is sleeping in her crate better with much less barking. I am reading everything I can get my hands on about dealing with her (and ultimately my) issues. I know that so much of her ability to be a great dog depends on my ablility to give her good boundaries. I made a "shake can" by putting coins in a tin container. I now shake it when she starts barking at or harrassing the cat. It sure gets her attention off of the cat. Perhaps Pumpkin will get out from under the bed a little more...

Yesterday morning after everyone was fed and I was ready for church I sat down to read through my sermon several times. I did that and then I closed my eyes to pray and woke up 40 minutes later! For a moment I didn't know what day it was - both of the dogs were asleep at my feet. Then I looked at my watch - it was 7:55am - and I had an 8:00am service! I hustled myself over to the church and several folks were there (it's never a big crowd). They were all worried that something had happened to me. Finally, as they were helping me get everything ready, someone said, "What happened?" I said, "I hoped no one would ask that question!" Then I told them what happened - everyone laughed and teased me. They were very understanding. I love the 8:00 am service. It is a quiet time with a small group of people - no music, just the liturgy. The 10:00 service yesterday seemed chaotic to me. We were learning a new piece of music with a new organist who is being trained by our present organist. Sally has filled in admirably since Kathleen's death but she doesn't want to do this full time. My acolyte was a wonderful man in the congregation who grew up in the Episcopal Church. It was his first time acolyting here and we made our way through the service without too much confusion, but I felt frazzled. I hope that didn't get communicated to the congregation. Sometimes worship goes so smoothly and other times it feels like you have a rope over your shoulder pulling everyone along.

Pepper Jelly

Last Friday I made this pepper jelly which did not "jell". So yesterday I put it back in the pot, added a bit more sugar and sure jell and boiled it longer. I put it in the jars and it is still not jelly but it is thicker. So I will give it to folks as "pepper glaze for pork". It has a great taste - sweet sour with a bit of a kick. I just don't have the heart to "reboil." It is pretty to look at and I love to make jelly and jam. It is very therapeutic.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Episcopal Church

I love the symbol above which the Episcopal Church is using for its General Convention. The theme of the convention is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a Bantu (South African) word which describes our life with each other in community. Life in community (ideally) helps us understand who we are in God's eyes - we are loved, forgiven and entrusted with ministry to each other. We enable this as we love each other, forgive each other and enable one another to do ministry.

This week at General Convention the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies passed resolution D025

It is an incredibly honest statement of where the Episcopal Church is right now regarding issues of ordination and homosexuality. I am so pleased to see this resolution pass. The Church is saying many things in this: We still want to be a part of the Anglican Communion worldwide with our financial support and through relationships and ministry; we want to continue to listen to homosexual persons and to value their experience; we acknowledge that homosexual persons have exercised ministry in the church and will continue to exercise ministry in the Episcopal Church through the process of discernment as detailed in the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church; and that even after careful study utilizing scripture, tradition and reason, not all person will come to the same conclusion about homosexuality.

I am hoping - perhaps beyond reason - that having stated honestly our view about this matter of human sexuality we will now be able to move towards the biblical imperative of mission. I have long wondered what we are doing spending so much of our time, money and energy debating an issue that scripture mentions only a few times while ignoring what scripture says over and over about caring for and loving one another as we take care of those who are hungry, without shelter, sick and dying. Jesus spent large parts of his gospel talking about reconciliation and forgiveness and we have allowed ourselves to be divided, grumpy and unforgiving of each other over this issue. We ignore Jesus' words about the right use of our resources while the church (and the world) goes bankrupt. Greed has become acceptable and we have forgotten that everything we have comes from God.

I will quit preaching...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Stuff

Never - ending Blackberry Bush
At the edge of my yard is a large bush that has been taken over by blackberry vines. Every year it seems to produce more and more blackberries. Last year the flood waters from the Wabash came about 2-3 feet into the bush, but it produced great blackberries. This year we have had an abundance as well. My neighbors have picked and I have picked several gallons already. I'm juicing my berries to make jelly as I don't digest the seeds very well. I started picking again yesterday but a storm came up and drove us inside. My sweet Isabelle and Katie help entertain me as I pick! They have planted soybeans in the field behind the house and Katie loves to get in the field and nosh on the lovely grass growing there alongside the soybean plants. The bean plants are still quite small and new. The field had water in it until about a month ago but the Wabash is well down now.
Yesterday was the 6th Sunday after Pentecost and the gospel lesson was about John the Baptist getting beheaded by Herod. Once every three years in the lectionary cycle, John gets served up to us on a platter by Mark's gospel. The story fits right in with the political scandals of late. Can't you see John confronting the governor of South Carolina or John Edwards about their infidelities? The fact that John was martyred for his efforts says more about our lax morals than anything.
Mark puts this gruesome story between Jesus sending out the twelve disciples to teach, preach and heal and their successful return. I wonder what Mark is trying to say here? Is it that ministry continues to happen even when fierce opposition flourishes? Or perhaps it is a warning from Mark that we can expect opposition to the message of the gospel. When I travelled to Israel last year I carried a little notebook with me. At every stop, at every meeting with Israelis or Palestinians who are working for peace, I wanted to document the progress that had been made. As I read back over my notes I realize that what I saw, much more than progress, was faithfulness. In the face of dissension and even conflict I saw Israelis, Palestinians, students, farmers, landowners, and children who continue to be fired up and working for peace. It makes me wonder where the cutting edge of my own commitment to God's work is found? I am pretty comfortable in my seat at the banquet table and that comfort makes it hard for me to jump out there and confront a Herod or enter a situation where I know I will have to expose my deepest convictions.
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is meeting in Anaheim, CA this week. Those who are delegates have over 300 pieces of legislation before them. It is a smorgasbord of issues and I do not envy them their job. I know, however, that good and faithful people who are called to do that work will enter into it prayerfully and cautiously. It is reported that our Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, was heard muttering the word "mission" over and over as she took her seat in the House of Bishops! I believe that the church is in a good place to move forward now into new endeavors of mission in the world. We have recognized the equal gifts of all who come to the banquet table and we are in a stronger place to do the work of the gospel.
And...I am ready to make blackberry jelly and let the juice from our sweet Posey County melons run down my chin... it is summer after all!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Summer Busyness

Summertime in the Mountains of North Carolina

I was in Sparta,NC a week ago to spend some time at the house there. Two good friends, Ruth and Mary Mac came up and helped me rearrange furniture and do some spring cleaning on the house. Other than a small invasion of little black ants it was a great time. I will have to say that I was impressed by their persistence. A little more of that tenacious spirit towards "hanging in there" might not be so bad for most of us. But for these little creatures it is all about being alive, finding the next meal and a safe place to be. It makes me think about how two-thirds of our world lives in much the same way. Their lives are centered around finding ways JUST to stay alive against forces of poverty and strife that conspire against them. As I cleaned out my old, leaky refrigerator yesterday, my grumbling changed to thanksgiving as I realized how many people in world don't have any refrigeration and certainly not as much food as I have in mine. There are just so many ways to feel grateful.

"The Girls"

This is a little collage I did in Sparta of my three girls, Isabelle, Pumpkin and Katie - reading the paper of course!. I wish I had done it larger, but had fun doing it. Our secretary at St. Stephen's, Glenda and her husband David are getting a "Goldendoodle" (mix between a Standard Poodle and a Golden Retriever) puppy next month and we are having "canine shower" for them this week. I continue to revel in the great joy that my animals give me. As I sit here writing Isabelle, who gets up with the sun is surfing the room. She knows the parameters of what is acceptable and not but she still visits all the forbidden places to sniff at the things she knows are off limits. She is very bright but she is a "kid." All the limits of life are things she MUST push! She has recently gotten very fond of Katie and will lie down next to her to be close. Katie is being quite patient. I wish I could say the same for the cat, Pumpkin. She and Issie do not click - yet!

I have been thinking a lot about worship lately. Last Sunday, we had a guest preacher and celebrant, the Rev. Nancy Roth. Nancy was in New Harmony to do a day long retreat for us on Spiritual Exercise. She uses yoga and other "body movement" work with prayer and meditation and it is very effective. Using our bodies and our hands as we pray does focus us and can take us to deep places of meditation. It was wonderful on Sunday morning to simply sit in the pew surrounded by the parish family and worship. I loved Nancy's quiet way with preaching and liturgy.

I am making some simple changes to our worship this summer to "lighten" it up a bit. Singing a simpler song of praise instead of the more formal "Glory to God" at the beginning and softening the Sanctus by using a more familiar tune. We are using a Eucharistic Prayer that focuses us on Our Stewardship of God's Creation. All of this to bring us "home" during this long, green, growing season. Living in the midst of fields of corn, soybeans and winter wheat is a constant reminder to me of the way that God provides for us through creation. Our stewardship of all creation in the way we use our time, our gifts and our money is important. Corporate worship is that very tiny part of our week when we come together with those we call family (whether we like all of them or not) to be re-formed for the work in the world. If we stay away from worship because we we don't want to associate with someone or don't agree with everyone, then we miss the opportunity to find a place in our hearts where we can forgive, accept; be forgiven or accepted. Worship gives us a way to remember why we are here and what is important in our lives. We call this work "liturgy" - the work of the people. It is work, not because doing it is hard but because there are so many things that pull us away from doing it. We need to read the paper, sleep, go get groceries, prepare for company; we've been up late the night before, everyone is busy... Ignoring this one- two hour commitment on Sunday deprives us of so much that we need to remember. We need to remember who God is and who we are to God. We can carry around so much stuff in life that we forget an important thing - God delights in us! So here is the chance to remember that God is a fortress, redeemer, lover, friend, parent; God is full of patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, love, joy, hope and most importantly, God is with us.

This morning I am going to meet with a young woman who is an intern at the Contemporary Art Gallery here in New Harmony. We are going to visit some of the art pieces in New Harmony. We have so many lovely sculptures and other art pieces here. My hope is that at some point a small brochure or booklet about those pieces might be gathered together so that people who come to New Harmony can have a guide for these pieces. I am going to take my camera, so I can put some pictures here...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Long TIme between Posts

Isabelle Honaker
It has been a long time since I wrote here and the picture above should tell you why. She is the newest member of our family - Isabelle. She is a lively, 18 month old golden retriever. I mentioned to my vet that I might be ready to adopt another golden. Coming back home after sabbatical was hard knowing that Sugar would not be there. It took some time for Katie (my oldest golden) and Pumpkin (my neurotic Tortoise shell cat) and me to adjust to Suggy's absence. But, I decided that if the right dog came along we were ready. She found Isabelle in the newspaper and I went up to Princeton, Indiana to look at her. She was too much for her owners, who had finally resorted to tying her outside on a rope. Can you see the toddler mischief in her eyes? She is a bundle of activity and so we try to keep her moving. She gets a long run in the Harmonist Cemetery each morning which both she and Katie love. And she is very bright - after only two weeks she figured out that she has to get on the seat in the golf cart so Katie (who can no longer jump up) can sit on the floor for us to go to the cemetery. Pumpkin and Isabelle are still working on their relationship! Anyway, she has taken a lot of my energy and time lately - I think she is going to be a great dog with some training and discipline. Iasked the vet about the little black diamond shaped black spot on her tongue and she said "it is just a freckle!"

Plant growing out of the brick in he Harmonist Cemetery wall

I found this little weed bravely growing out of the brick in the cemetery wall. Last week's gospel lesson was the parable of "the mustard seed." The mustard seed produced those pesky little wild mustard plants that we try so hard to get rid of in our yards. The thought that anyone would "sow" these tiny seeds was probably laughable to Jesus' audience. They were like dandelion fluff - they blew anywhere and everywhere that the wind took them. The common little weed above was probably seeded into the brick by the wind. As Jesus talked about the undesirable mustard seeds he must have had in mind the undesirable people he met everyday in his journeys. The prostitute, the leper, the tax collector, the poor and all who were different from the establishment. When Jesus says, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God?" he answers his own question by saying that it (the kingdom of God) is compared to the mustard seed which grows up into a large shrub with branches that shelter the birds in their nests. For a common weed like the one above or the wild mustard plant to grow up into a great tree was another one of those "inside jokes" for Jesus. These undesirables were always gotten rid of before they could grow or achieve greatness. But the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed - it is like an undesirable thing which is allowed to grow into greatness - the kingdom of God is found in the least, the lost the most undesirable when we allow those people to grow into the greatness that God has in mind for them.

Winter wheat almost ready to harvest

I love the spring time views of the fields around us in southwestern Indiana. The wheat is a golden brown against the fields of bright green corn. It will soon be time to harvest the wheat. The farmers had a hard time getting into their fields to plant corn this spring because of the rain. A lot of the land around New Harmony is bottom land and when the spring rain is excessive the "bottoms" flood and all the fields get water saturated. The corn, which is supposed "to be knee high by the forth of July" is having a hard time getting there this year. I asked one of the farmers in my congregation what the wheat that is grown around here is used for. It is basically wheat for flour or as he said, "flour to make Twinkies!" It is such a transformation to watch it go from green to gold.

The picture above is of balls of fabric strips which I tore from old sheets and fabric. I wound them into balls until I could make the rug pictured below. I liked the rug and gave it to a friend who was moving to Denver. It is a simple crochet pattern and made with a large hook. It is so uncomplicated and fun to make that I am now preparing fabric to make another one. It is great to look for old sheets and fabric at the Goodwill Stores in Evansville. I have found some great pieces there and while I was looking for fabric, I found a beautiful cotton shower curtain that is perfect for my bathroom. It is a light beige and has a raised pattern in white thread. As far as anything wrong with it - I found a couple of lightly faded places on it where strong sunlight had made it a bit lighter. I love it. Shopping at the Goodwill Store is so much fun and I love recycling with them.
The strips I used for this rug were about one and one-half inches wide. When I got ready to tear the sheets into strips, I would tear down to about an inch from the bottom and then measure one and one - half inches over and start another strip so I had a continuous piece. I cut the elastic binding off of fitted sheets and used them as well. When I joined two pieces I did it by cutting a small slit in one end and tying a knot in the other and fitting the knot through the slit like a button and buttonhole. It works great. I learned all of this from a variety of websites but have forgotten which ones. I Googled rag rug to find the directions. Have fun....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes!

Celtic Cross
This morning in our EfM (Education for Ministry) group one of our parishioners shared this poem written by her 11 year old grandson:

Hate is a poison,
Slipped into dinner, through snide remarks,
meager at first 
but escalating over time.

It ruins people,
consumes others,
it is hard to contain it,
harder still to cure it.

It takes away lives,
Egging away the fragile existence,
Devastating the mind,
Turning it to hate's ultimate goal.

Hate destroys nations,
cripples the toughest men,
and yet all can control it
with the simplest tool: forgiveness.

Nathaniel Endicott

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Trinity and Reconciliation

More "Good News"
The piece in the picture is a project of several days - still playing around with newspaper as a medium. I'm reasonably happy with this outcome, but wish it were clearer and less "messy." Collage is still a work in progress for me, but I am having fun and that's what counts.
This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday. I love the image of this "family" of Holy Beings. I believe that each one of us has a different view of what these three look like. In William Young's book, "The Shack", he pictures the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creative ways. Ignoring traditional "gender" qualifications (i.e. God is Father) he paints a picture of a lively and loving system of communication between the three persons of the Trinity. This picture of "holy relatedness" is the part of the book that I enjoyed the most. I was comforted by the ordinariness of their communication with each other.
The Trinity has been vastly described throughout the ages. Just reading the Creed of St. Anthanasius (The Book of Common Prayer, page 864) is enough to make you dizzy, "That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost." One substance, but three persons is confusing but I believe that we make it more complex than necessary. I also believe that if these three "different persons" can live as "one substance" it is an example of how we can also live together.

We are different persons - some of us are nurturing, some are artistic, and some are intellectuals. Some of us are really grounded in the work of everyday stuff and some of us (although our feet are on earth) see angels and hear music that the rest of us can't. That we are not all meant to be alike or think alike is "color" in an otherwise black and white world. So why is humanity's "colorfulness" the source of so much strife? It seems that there is so much we could gain in recognizing the common "substance" we all bear - the image of the God who created us; while appreciating the different "persons" we also exhibit in all our differences. Whether we are dark skinned or light, Latino or Anglo, male or female, Jew or Gentile, Buddhist or Muslim, gay or straight; we are created in One image - we bear One substance. That One substance makes us equal. It gives us hope becasue it is that One substance in us that seeks understanding in the common experience that we all bear.

Rublev's Icon of The Trinity

"Knowing the Trinity is being involved in this circling
movement: drawn by the Son towards the
Father, drawn into the Father’s breathing
out of the Spirit so that the Sons’ life
may be again made real in the world. It is where
contemplation and action become inseparable."

-Rowan Williams, The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mr. Big Stuff
I took this picture at Randall and Margaret Little's farm a couple of weeks ago. They have wonderful horses and lots of babies this spring. I love to visit there and smell the farm smells, watch Randall with the animals and look at Margaret's flowers. It's like a big petting zoo! The horses are particularly lovely to be around with their gentle velvet noses! This guy above is certainly picturesque! He turns to stone when you approach his fence. Even Margaret can't get him to budge. Well, I put his picture here this morning because this is how hungry I am!!! Even hay looks good!

I was reading the New Yorker magazine this morning and came across a poem by Philip Schultz called Bleecker Street. The poet is on his way down Bleecker Street to get a hazelnut espresso latte. It's June and the street is alive in a way that transcends time. He sees and describes the present day activities of stores, teenagers talking on cell phones, and a woman getting stopped by the police. All of this is in "real time." But he also sees the cellars of stores where runaway slaves were housed, the couple having their first kiss, victory parades with confetti; and so much more of the "inner life and hidden life" that cities have.

He is describing, I think, the way we are meant to experience the Eucharist on Sunday mornings. We see the priest standing behind the altar with silver Chalice and Paten gleaming in the morning light; and we also see the rough hewn wooden table covered with hand woven cloth. Around that table a group of disciples face the one person they love more than themselves. And he is offering them a cup of wine and a piece of bread. He calls it "his body and blood" and forever it will be that. It is meant to sustain them through the coming ordeals of life. Sustenance for life and death, real food for this present life and the life to come. I see the tears glinting in their eyes as they receive this bread and wine because they know that they will never be at this table together in the same way. Life is precariously drawn. And those drawn lines get blurred by jealousy, and frustration; by anger and self-pity. We turn away from each other as soon as we walk away from the table where we sat talking about the way we are "one." And so I loved these lines in Schultz's poem:

"Perhaps everyone secretly admires
something momentous about himself,
with the mass and “inner life” of a cathedral,
in the tradition of the Spanish saints and mystics
who cherished the bliss of infinite

We tend to cherish too much our sacrifices. So cherished are they for us that we beat each other over the head with them. Look at what I have given up for you. Look at what I have given up for God. Ah, the life of our inner cathedrals! And how that life goes on and on while we in "real time" walk down the streets of our lives.
It is a great meditation.

Monday, May 25, 2009


New Friends!
The Wabash River continues to rise and flood the field behind my house. It is a very pastoral scene. The geese above are our most recent visitors. There are fish jumping and snakes prowling. So far everyone is doing well at keeping good boundaries! Today, between thunderstorms and rain, I worked cleaning up the yard. I pulled overgrown ivy, pruned the roses and cleaned the patio and outdoor furniture. I enjoyed making the yard look a bit tidier.
I think holidays are hard without family around. I love my parishioners - they are wonderful, fun people. They have expectations about who I am as their priest...always, even on holidays! I'm spending this Memorial Day at home, however, not because I'm avoiding my parishioners; I am having a colonoscopy tomorrow and they don't make hamburgers and chips in a clear liquid form!! I wish!!
This past Sunday was the Sunday after Ascension. "God has gone up with a shout..." These are the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 47 and they are a good description of Jesus' Ascension. We are between Jesus' Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. It's an in between time of the year. Young people graduating from college are between school and jobs; those graduating from high school are "in between" waiting for the next thing to happen; and we are all waiting for summer to appear with its full blast of heat. Waiting is hard work. We have to slow down and figure things out as we wait. I wish slowing down came easier or more naturally. We do things so fast and expect instant results. The disciples must have wondered how it would all work without Jesus there with them. I wonder if they were close to giving up just as the Spirit filled them at Pentecost. I do still believe that waiting is important and that even when I get to the end of my rope I will be filled, but waiting is never easy. Being in between jobs or cars or houses or even in between projects is hard work. Even being in between sermons from one Sunday to the next has its tensions with plenty of "end of the rope" moments. Trusting God to "show up" is really at the heart of our faith....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Fifth and Sixth Sundays of Easter

Another Project

Last week I was going through my clothes to get some ready to go to Goodwill and I found an old pair of pajamas made of the lovely material above. After throwing them in the box a couple of times and taking them out - I decided to keep them. I took them apart and cut the fabric into 4 by 4 squares. It was fun to hand stitch the design on the square and I like the way it looks. I'm not sure what I will do with the squares when I finish but it will be fun to do them.

This is the Fifth Sunday of the Easter season. Last week Jesus proclaimed himself as the Good Shepherd and this week Jesus is the "true vine." This would be a common visual for the people of Palestine. In fact all through the Old Testament the people of Israel are referred to as the vine. Israel continues to produce wild grapes and now in this passage Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and we are the branches which will bear the fruit of good works. Being a branch is hard work. Staying connected to the vine is hard work and having all those other branches around me is not easy either.

May 15, 2009 - I'm not sure what happened to the post I started above. It's likely that I got involved in another project and forgot to finish it. The days slip by so quickly and I continue to find that there are not enough hours in each day. I worked on the piece below this morning and I think it is finished. I have been working on it for a couple of weeks. The photo does not do justice to the layers of newspaper, and oriental paper under the angel. I have loved this angel since I cut it off of a card someone sent me (never throw anything away!). I decided to give the angel a home. This is another of my "good news" series.

New Harmony had an arts festival two weekends ago and although it was rainy and cool it was well attended. The artists had their booths set up on a wonderful grassy space on Main Street. Live music was provided by a number of New Harmony's talented folks. On Sunday after church I took my Katie over to have one of our local artists (and member of St. Stephen's) do her portrait. Jill Baker is such a fine artist. Jill has been in New Harmony for about 3 years. This is the portrait of Katie that Jill did:

Katie Scarlett O'Hara Honaker

For those of you who don't know Katie, she is my 11 year old golden retriever. I adopted her when she was 1 year old and she came with the name Katie Scarlett O'Hara. Her brother's name was Casey Rhett Butler! Katie is a dear companion along the way of life and I am thrilled to have his portrait of her.

I am preaching about loving one another on this coming Sunday. The title of my sermon is "Loving One Another 101." I wanted to title it "Loving One Another for Dummies" but was afraid I would offend folks. In truth we are all "dummies" when it comes to loving each other. I find my own heart betrays me all the time in this task. I judge the motives of others when I have no right to do so. Last week's epistle (1 John 4:7-21) has for me one of the most evocative verses in scripture: "We love because he (God) first loved us." (vs 19) I don't love my brother or sister because they are lovable... I don't love my parishioners because they love me... I don't even love my family because they are my family... I love others because I have been loved by One who knows me through and through (and still loves me). If God can love me then I can love others. It seems like such a no-brainer, but I struggle so against this call to love...

New Harmony Iris
The Irises have been spectacular this year in New Harmony. My backyard is literally "abloom" with irises and roses. It must be the enormous amounts of rain that we have had. I only wish we could figure out how to have flowers in abundance without the abundant mosquitoes...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Easter IV - Good Shepherd and Other Sheep

Honoring Bob Gregg
This week I drove down to Harrisburg, Illinois to be present when Southeastern Illinois College dedicated their newly renovated Technology building to one of St. Stephen's parishioners, Robert Gregg. Bob and his family (Rennie, his wife is in the wheelchair on the right side of the painting) were there to celebrate with him. It was a lovely and touching program. Bob's achievements at SIC go a long way in providing technical education for people of all ages. I sat next to the retired dean of the nursing program at SIC and she told me that there were only 2 technical programs at SIC when Bob came and when he retired they had 16+ technical programs.

Bob and Rennie came to St. Stephen's (they drive an hour to get there) in 2003. They had been members before when they lived just across the Wabash in Crossville, Ill. Their children were small then and they eventually moved to Harrisburg where they helped start an Episcopal Church - St. Stephen's! But as we all know in 2003 the Episcopal Church changed forever. We began to recognize the gifts for ministry that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire. Bob and Rennie found themselves in an awkward place, living in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield under the rigidly conservative leadership of Bishop Beckwith. They came home to us at New Harmony and brought with them a wonderful woman named Patty Sayers. Patty was diagnosed just a year later with cancer and we were given the privilege of taking care of her over the last year of her life. Bob and Rennie continue to enrich our lives and I am so grateful for their presence among us.

The gospel this week is from John 10 - Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd..." He talks about laying down his life for the sheep - he is the Shepherd who never leaves us, never runs away no matter how fierce the wolves are; nor does he walk away when we are behaving like sheep - getting into trouble and being stubborn. Jesus does not give up on us. He is good. I love the picture from "The Chronicles of Narnia" when Lucy and the others have just arrived at the Beaver's house after running from the White Witch. The Beavers begin to talk about Aslan, who is a lion; and is the Christ figure created by C.S. Lewis. The more they talk about him the more frightened the children become. Finally, Lucy tells Mr. Beaver that she would be very afraid to meet a lion. And Mr. Beaver affirms her fear telling her that of course she would be afraid - if she were not she would be silly! Then, says a confused Lucy, "Is he safe?" "Safe," says Mr. Beaver, "No, he's not safe but he's good, I tell you. He's good." It is not safe to encounter the Good Shepherd. We don't know where he will lead us, or the ways he will change our lives; but as Mr. Beaver says, "He's good." He does not give up on us or run away in times of trouble.

This week the mother of one of our parishioners died. She was 95 and such a lovely woman. She had the countenance of a person who is at peace with her life. No matter if she was staying in the Nursing Home recovering from an illness or at her daughter's home with her dedicated caregivers, she was at home in herself. She will go home to Kansas to be buried but on Wednesday morning we gathered at the funeral home for a service honoring her life. It was an incredible service. There were about 40 people there who shared so many lovely things about the woman we were remembering, but also about our own mothers. Losing a parent is like losing an anchor. The feeling of loss is always there. We survive and move on but there is a place of longing in us... sometimes it is a longing for what we wished we had done; and sometimes it is a longing for what we did not receive from that person. Either way we still have to move forward with the pieces of what we have. Making a picture we can live with from those pieces is often challenging and may take us the rest of our lives to accomplish.

It's still spring here although the weather is very funky... we may all grow mildewed after the next several many days of rain that are predicted! Something about leftover April showers...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hanging out with Jesus

If you look closely at the picture above, directly under Jesus' right arm, you will see the small face of my cat Pumpkin. She is technically an "indoor cat" but goes out in the backyard each morning for a little fresh air. I caught her hanging out with Jesus one morning last week. Perhaps I have underestimated Pumpkin's spiritual life. She is such a strange little creature. I didn't grow up with cats and have always avoided them as pets. When I lived in the church rectory here in New Harmony I was invaded with mice one fall. I did not like killing the nasty little creatures but I didn't want to live with them either. A parishioner found Pumpkin, who was a tiny kitten, in a piece of cardboard under a truck. He brought her to me and the mice fled. She grew up hissing at everything that moved and more specifically my two golden retrievers. I finally put a cat door in the utility room door so she could have her privacy and we all could have peace. After we moved into this house two years ago, she decided she loved Katie and Sugar. Somehow I don't find it strange that they did not feel equally "warm" towards her. Sugar just ignored her, but Katie tolerates her. Now that Suggy is gone, Pumpkin has Katie all to her self.

I'm starting a new series of collage cards called "Good News." When I was in Greenville, SC visiting my friend Jack Peyrouse recently I went to their Ten Thousand Villages store. ( It is a fair trade store and they have beautiful things from all over the world. I bought a roll of paper, the light blue above, which has pieces of old newspaper imbedded in its fibers. So I am combining this paper with newspaper to do some collage crosses and trees like the one above and this one:

I'm just in the beginning stages with this and am having a lot of fun. But now it's time to go do the other work I love to do...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I can go anywhere...

This morning I sat at my kitchen table which has the best view in New Harmony! I listened to the kitchen clock tick a metronome of prayer – Lord Jesus…Lord Jesus…Jesus Christ…God’s Son…Have mercy…Have mercy…On me… as I watched the wind run in ripples across the water. The Wabash River is shooting out a lake from its overflowing shores. An island of green rests between me and the wild running river. The sunlight, just a few hours old, plays with the newly opening plants and from the middle of my iris and rose bushes Jesus oversees the whole process. I love this incredible view of the world because it reminds me how small I am.

Last week I had the gracious gift of retreat with friends. Resting from Holy Week and Easter’s intensity I traveled to St. Mary’s Retreat Center in Sewanee, Tennessee. Mary Mac Shields and Ruth Gillis met me there and we explored the mountains visiting all our favorite haunts and alternating between rest and fun. If laughter is indeed the best medicine then we should be healed from head to toe. Ruth brought us both copies of Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book:

I have just finished the second chapter of this incredibly compelling book. Taylor is seeking to help us find an everyday spirituality that looks for God in “more” than the usual places. It is a compelling book, so well written and lovely to read. On one of our trips last week “off the mountain” Mary Mac and I noticed Ruth who had a book tucked in her pocketbook. We teased her a bit and she said, “If I have a book, I can go anywhere!” This is a quote for all of us who love to read!

Yesterday I finally got to the orthopedic doctor with my leg which has been causing me pain. I supposed it was something to do with the Achilles tendon. After x-rays and evaluation it was decided that it is a tendonitis which responds only to rest. So I am in a boot which allows the tendon to rest by avoiding stretching. Actually it feels quite good and is wonderful to have this kind of relief after limping along for a couple of months hoping it would get better on its own. I feel a little off balance with the boot but I know this too will pass.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Post Easter

Just when I think that going through a three year lectionary cycle of Sunday lessons doesn't provide much creativity, I get surprised. Every third year on the second Sunday of Easter we hear the story of Thomas the twin who doubts Jesus' resurrection until he is able to see the resurrected Jesus for himself. The disciples are hiding in a room fearing for their lives. In their minds, I'm sure, is the fear that the Jewish authorities would be coming to get them. Being a friend of Jesus is risky business.

These disciples characterize for me the dilemma of many Christians today. Whether we grew up in a home that encouraged faith or not most of us have come into the church because we have known some spiritual experience, some spiritual longing that has motivated us to want to know more. Something has happened in our life that opened our heart to God. Hoping to find more of God in the church we risk walking into the doors of a church and becoming part of a community of other people seeking God. As in everything the more we risk the more vulnerable we become to hurt. Religion, organized religion, is often not a safe place. We get hurt in church, we experience loss, and we get frustrated with each other because we have human failings. Being a friend of Jesus is risky business. Sometimes we lock ourselves away like those first disciples because we are afraid. We are afraid that our risk will prove too expensive, too painful.

But the risen Christ came among the disciples in the homeliness and everydayness of ordinary tasks, shared walks in creation and meals. And he is still present to us in the everydayness. He still says: see my hands and feet. Don’t divert your eyes from my wounds out of politeness or disgust. Look at them. Being my friend means taking a risk. Remember the incarnation. I came among you first in human flesh; human flesh just like yours. Human flesh just like that of your neighbor - flesh that can be hungry and fed; flesh that can be hurt and even killed. Flesh that can embody God’s love.

It was realizing this presence of Jesus in the everyday activities of life that allowed the disciples to move foward and continue the work that Jesus called them to do. And it is this presence of Jesus in our lives that allows us to continue taking the risks of being Jesus' friend.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

It has been a while since I posted anything here but I haven't given up. Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Greenville, South Carolina to speak at a friend's church on Reconciliation. Jack and Jane Peyrouse and their children, Jane, Jay and Marcia have been friends since my days as the Associate Rector at Holy Trinity in Fayetteville, NC. Jane died two years ago - way too soon for those of us who loved her. Jack moves along busily, involved in so many things at his church and in the theater community in Greenville as well as the lives of his children and grandchildren. A wonderful treat while in Greenville was to see Jack co-starring in a production of "Love Letters." The play by A. R. Gurney chronicles the letters written by two people from second grade to late adulthood. It was wonderful to see Jack perform again. The play is interesting and thought provoking both for the story it tells and the story left untold. Gurney left openings for us to add our personal interpretation of the story and perhaps to weave our own stories into the love letters!

A glorious and blessed Easter awaits us tomorrow. I welcome the good news of the resurrection into the darkness of our current world. I ponder the causes of so much illness and death in this small community of New Harmony. I wonder if the depression in our economy, the losses which people have experienced, have pushed some beyond their capacity to hope. It is the dilemma of our age which causes us to place our hope in "things." When the "things of life" begin to fall out from under us there must be something greater to hold on to. What could be greater than the knowledge that God has come to us in his Son Jesus and that he takes away death's sting. This is good news - great news indeed.
Seven Stanzas of Easter
John Updike
Make no mistake:
if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance

Have a blessed and joy-filled Easter!