A Pilgrim in “Jerusalem”

I’m back from two-day retreat at Richmond Hill.

It always is a gift to settle in there and receive whatever God has for me.

Jerusalem Mile at Richmond hilllI feel changed as the result of prayer and meditation, and sitting quietly reading in the garden, not answering the phone or checking email or Facebook (as I said a few days ago, I am a tech-afficianado, but still it was nice to be free for a couple of days)!

The change may not be all that visible to others. God and I know, however. My pastoring will be different, and I believe, better.

One thing that was a special treat: walking the Jerusalem Mile. It is a labyrinth modeled after ancient ones that allowed people who could not get to Jerusalem to make a holy pilgrimage. I walked it at the near the beginning of my retreat, praying for God’s guidance for my time, and again at the end, thanking God for the healing.

God is good. All the time.


gift wrapped packageToday is a new day.

The birds sing. The wind blows. Squirrels scamper. Flowers bloom. There is beauty, even as it seems commonplace, normal.

But have you ever thought about just how special this day is?

Of course, it is the birthday of many, but not anyone I know. It is the 28th anniversary of the day when the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. But we hardly celebrate that anymore!

No, this day is special by itself. The possibilities are endless.

I got up this morning, fretting about all I have to do before I go on a two-day retreat beginning this evening (probably no blogs on Thursday and Friday).

What sort of nonsense is that? Yes, I have much to do. But when I keep my head hunkered down, filling myself with needless anxiety, I miss all the wondrous life around me. And I will stumble into retreat, needing the two days just to recover from this one.opening gift picture

So, now, I say, “Thank you, God” for THIS day. May I enjoy your gift–may I lovingly unwrap it, enjoying the beauty of the packaging, and savoring and exploring the possibilities of what lies within.

Tweeting with Jesus

Okay, I admit it.

I’m turning into a tech junkie.

  • First, it was Facebook
  • Then this blog
  • Next, a Facebook page for MCC Richmond
  • Jonathan and I cut back our New York Times hard copy subscription to Sundays only, and I read the daily online
  • I went to a workshop at the MCC Region 3/5 Conference, where Kevin Downer told me about Google Docs–which I hope to use to collaborate with the Worship Team (and other church teams)
  • Now, my friend Mona West has pointed out the value of using Twitter as a spiritual practice (daily check-in with self and God).

It’s all good. I’m having the time of my life. I am connecting with lots of good people, including some I have not seen for 40 years, and some I’ve never met in person (but hope to someday).  

Jesus calling Peter and Andrew
Jesus calling Peter and Andrew

As another friend–a true tech guru (and heroine of Second Life), B. K. Hipsher–says, it’s about creating community.

For me, that makes it a Jesus thing–he was the ultimate community builder (and community organizer).

Being and Doing Compassion

At a workshop yesterday, focused on “Creating the Caring Community,” we encountered this wisdom from David Brandon (in Zen in the Art of Helping), “Compassion means giving people room; opening doors rather than closing them; asking questions rather than giving answers.”

St. Francis

Compassion is more than giving people food or a hug when they are down, although surely that is part of compassion.

Compassion means letting, and helping, people be themselves and express themselves, helping them do the things that are their deepest heart’s desire.

And God wants us to extend that compassion to ourselves, too.

We, and the entire creation, are worth our compassion. In doing and being that compassion, we follow the example of God.

Co-creating with God

There is always God in any creation.

My good friend, lesbian feminist theologian Carter Heyward, says that we are co-creators with God. She is right.

We do our part, we use our skills and our training and even our intuition.

And when we create anything with any goodness in it at all, God is part of the process. That is why the creative process is a mystery, and why the results so often astound us and others.

I am reminded of this by my friend Greg Farmer, who just opened up the website of his new company, Nichrome Creative. You can visit it at http://www.nichromecreative.com/Nichrome__Creative_Ideas_that_Shine/Welcome.html

Greg FarmerYes, MCC Richmond is featured in his portfolio. That is one reason I appreciate what Greg is doing.

But, even more, I am just awed by the range of creativity shown. It cannot help but be a “God thing.”

Does Jesus Believe in You?

Recently, some of us watched a video by Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI.

The central question of the video–it only lasts about 12 minutes–is “how much do we believe that God, or Jesus, believes in us?”

We always think the ball is in our court, that it is our belief in God that is important. But Rob Bell’s suggestion is that of equal, perhaps greater, importance is God’s belief in us.Peter walks on water

For example, he suggests that Peter’s failure to continue walking on the water was not so much his lack of faith in Jesus but his lack of faith in himself (and lack of faith in the gifts God gave him).  Jesus called Peter to be his disciple not because Peter was a brilliant scholar of the Bible but because he saw in Peter certain qualities that would enable Peter to do the things Jesus was doing.

We know Jesus calls us. Does that mean he sees certain qualities in us and believes we can use them to do what he calls us to do?

How much do you believe that Jesus believes in you?

Changing the World, One Child at a Time

Yesterday, I applauded President Carter’s decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention because of its continuing participation in the subjugation, and degradation, of women.

He has a public platform from which to push for change.  Most of us do not.

But we do have opportunities to make a difference for women in the world.

Three cups of tea book coverOne thing I do is support the work of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute. If you do not know Mortenson’s work, I suggest you read his amazing story, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time.

Mortensen and the CAI build schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, secular schools that, in his view, “will bring a new generation of kids that will have a broader view of the world. We focus on areas where there is no education. Religious extremism flourishes in areas of isolation and conflict.”

Make no mistake. The Taliban and others don’t want girls to go to school. This is why Mortenson builds schools for all, but focuses most heavily on girls. If you want to read more, check out this report from Thomas Friedman http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19friedman.html

Educating and empowering girls is a critical way to change the world.

Jimmy Tells the Truth

I did not vote for him either time he ran for President, but I sure like him now. I don’t always agree with the 40th President, but when he’s right, he’s right. jimmycarterleaveschurch

Jimmy Carter has left the Southern Baptist Convention, because he is tired of the way that religious body treats women. Specifically, he opposes their refusal to ordain women and their requirement that women be subordinate to their husbands.

He also connects those positions with the global abuse, discrimination, and mutilation against women. He says no religion should subjugate women, and he rightly holds male leaders responsible for the choices they make in interpreting sacred texts.

I pray for the day when he, and others of similar integrity and wisdom, also will see the connection between religiously-based misogyny and religiously-based homophobia.

But he is doing a good thing. He has tried to change the view of his denomination–with which he has been associated for 6o years–but finally decided he could do more by leaving.

May each of us live our faith with such integrity and commitment to justice.

A National Health Plan

Let me reveal my bias at the beginning: I think Sonia Sotamayor will be an outstanding member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I also support the senators as they ask tough questions of Judge Sotamayor to make sure she is qualified.

But I keep feeling a nagging thought about those who keep asking her about her bias: Have they revealed theirs?

I was struck by Judge Sotamayor’s statement, “We all have bias.” We have to own it in order to overcome it. s-SOTOMAYOR-97x75

Did the senators, all of them, hear that?

Or are they like lots of “straight” folks, or white folks or old folks or men, who just assume that everyone else ought to think and act as they do–and then expect those of us who are not to fit in?

Mystics and wise teachers from every faith tradition tell us that self-examination is key to spiritual health.

Is not that practice good for our national health, too?

The Joy of Justice

It appears that the U.S. Episcopal Church is going to end the ban on gay bishops (and presumably lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ones, too).

The church has been avoiding this moment. Some of that is due to homophobia. Some of it is due to fearing the reaction of other parts of the wider, global Anglican Communion. Some of it is due to fear of losing more U.S. churches who, in reaction, are leaving the denomination.

There are always people who resist justice. Doing justice often exposes pain.

Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire
Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire

But when the Diocese of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson as its bishop–the first OPENLY gay bishop in the Anglican Communion–the die was cast. God does not want God’s people to go back, away from justice, but to push forward into more.

God knows how good it is for us to cast off our fears, and how good it feels. Doing justice leads to joy.