The Halfway Point

We have successfully traveled through half of the Lenten Season (remember, Sundays are not included in the 40 days), and it is time to take stock of how we are doing with our intentionality.  This is not meant to induce shame or guilt, just a way of checking in and being honest about our spiritual lives.  Truth be told, I have not been as intentional as I want to be, distracted by the “tyranny of the urgent”, but that gives me focus for the latter half of our Lenten journey.  I can re-focus on drawing closer to Christ even in the midst of all that needs to get done.
Where do you find yourself on your journey?  Has your intention faded away or are you creating a holy habit that nurtures your relationship with God? Honesty is the key is any evaluation!  And if you have kept up with your intention, is it working for you?  If not, perhaps you need to tweak what you are doing and find a better way to seek and find Christ in your life.  There is no one right way.  I do believe many paths l…

St. Photina

The Church abhors a vacuum – or at least not being able to call important people by name, even if they are not given a name in the biblical text.  Such is the case of the Samaritan woman Jesus meets at Jacob’s well in our Gospel this week (John 4:5-42).  This is the longest recorded interaction that Jesus has with any woman, including his mother and Mary Magdalene.  However, the woman is never identified beyond being from Samaria, which in itself is telling as there was an on-going quarrel between the Samaritans and Jews about where one should worship God.  And yet Jesus and this woman share a beautiful exchange by the well of their common ancestor, Jacob.
That well still exists in the city of Nablus in the West Bank.  It is located in the Church of St. Photina, the name the Greek Orthodox Church gave to this woman to honor her memory and martyrdom, as they believe she was brutally killed by Emperor Nero’s forces and her body dumped in the well.  Please note that this is a Christian …

Experience, Not Theology

After many months of planning, I was THRILLED by the great response and participation with our Lenten Program “Set Our Hearts on Fire” that started on Wednesday evening.  Our facilitator, The Rev. Gerry Skillacorn, led us on a reflection of why God loves us (Psalm 8:5 What are we that you should be mindful of us, mere mortals that you should seek us out?) with words from the Prophets: I have called you by name, and you are mine. You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you. I am with you. (RSV Isaiah 43:1-4) Yahweh our God is in your midst. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival. (Jerusalem Bible, Zephaniah 3:17-18a)
How does it feel to read those words of love?  Can you find yourself in the midst of this great love story – of God’s love for us? That is what we are exploring and re-membering how to do.
When I was in college studying English, one of my professors impressed upon us th…

Pay Attention to Intention

There is a lot of noise in our world – and it is not all sounds.  We have an overload of information and demands on our time, plus constant pressure to do and have.  It never seems to let up – and it won’t unless we choose to pay attention to an intention of making space for quietness and reflection.
The truth is we make time for what is important in our lives. There is always enough to do what needs to get done – we just need to prioritize those needs that are life giving rather than draining. The season of Lent is a perfect time to take stock of our lives and choose what needs to stay and what needs to go.  Where is our time going and how can we use it to our benefit rather than feeling like there isn’t enough time.
This might mean going without something, things that take up our time – like Facebook or TV or video games – then use that time to be with God through prayer, study and reflection.  Such a reordering of our lives is exactly what this season is all about.  Take a moment…

Blinded by the Light

It starts in Advent when we hear the prophesy of the “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  Christ’s birth is heralded by both the shining Star of Bethlehem and the glory of the heavenly hosts. Then throughout the season of Epiphany, the metaphor of light is used to talk about Jesus and his ministry is anything but subtle as all that has been promised is fulfilled.  Jesus is the “light to the nations,” as well as the lamp not hidden under the bushel basket. The climax and culmination of this season is the story of the Transfiguration, which we hear each year on the Last Sunday of Epiphany, when Jesus is transformed before three of his disciples and “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Matthew 17:2) It is an awesome and profound event which leaves Peter, James and John a bit stunned.
I was intrigued to learn that some celebrities and other notables wear sunglasses not only because they look “cool,” but also to protect their eyes fro…

Top 10 Ways to Live a Holy Life

Supposedly it is part of human nature that when one is told NOT to do something, the desire to do the forbidden thing is heightened. While it might be more expedient to state what behavior is not wanted, the relationship then seems to then be framed in punitive terms rather than permissive.  That might be why so many people find the “10 Commandments” a bit authoritarian, even over-bearing.  

I find that the re-framing of the 10 Commandments offered in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (p. 847-848) is more conducive to the expansive and intimate relationship God desires to have with us and we yearn to have with God.  The intention of the Commandments is the same, however they focus on what we should be doing that then on what we shouldn’t:To love and obey God and to bring others to know GodTo put nothing in the place of God;To show God respect in thought, word, and deed;And to set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God’s ways.To love, honor, and help our parents and…

Happy Feast of the Presentation

A colleague of mine sent out an email on February 2nd wishing everyone, “Happy Groundhog Day! Happy National Heavenly Hash Day! Happy Sunny Thursday! Happy National Wear Red Day Eve!”  This was somewhat amusing, but he also forgot a significant feast of the Church (which I am not sure his tradition recognizes, so he is forgiven.  Unfortunately, I also forgot about it last week when I wrote my blog, so I must correct that oversight this week in order to retain my liturgical cred.
The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (a.k.a. Candlemas) gets over looked by most Americans because of the tradition of Groundhog’s Day.  It is (or was) a major feast of the Church. It is 40 days after we celebrate Christ’s birth, and is the usually time when a Jewish family would bring their firstborn son to the temple to present him for service or pay a “redemption” in order to keep him.  This is an old Jewish custom called pidyon haben, in which families had to offer 5 silver coins to a mem…