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!