Washington National Cathedral

Gazing at God, Being Seen By God

During Spiritual Direction yesterday, my director gave me an image to contemplate.

"I look at God and God looks at me ~ it makes God happy."

We were talking about prayer and our opportunities to commune with, abide in, or reside with God. Sometimes the thoughts, and the words that flow from them, are numerous, even voluminous. At other times, they may be lean, mean, or aImost non-existant. For those arid, desert-like moments when the spiritual well is dry and empty, I have developed a single-sentence prayer to fall back on. It is, in fact, the 'genesis' of this blog.

"Almighty Father, your Seeking Servant prays for guidance."

It imagines how I see God, how I view myself, and what most (regularly) I need from God.

If, as attributed, St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words," perhaps it could be said of our prayer time with the Almighty minus words, "I look at God and God looks at me ~ it makes God happy!" Saying nothing. Just be present to and with God. But look to see God's face at all times, in all places, through all things.

Gaze at God and be seen by God. Amen.
David at the Spanish Steps

Things Which We Lament As Loss

A clergy friend, in her letter to the parish, talked about lament, especially in this time & as result of the pandemic. She invited us to take time with pen & paper to reflect upon & document those losses we have experienced because of COVID-19. When I started, I imagined a modest list, but as I stopped to think more & more, my list grew. Some are little things that feed me. Others carry more weight as they define & guide me. It's my list & there might be crossover into your list, but I share what it is in the hopes, not of normality returning some day, but that familiarity might be realized.
So, in no particular order:
Seeing family & friends * Movie going * Travel * Theatre * Supply work at churches * Dinner out * 1823 * Bar-hopping * Just sitting at a bar * Football gatherings * Hugs, handshakes, & kisses * Going to baseball games * Church gatherings * Atlantis * Spontaneous encounters
* Table fellowship w/ Clergy Breakfast Peeps * People watching

I'm sure there's more. I wonder what might be on others' list?
From Where I'm Sitting

March 1: Happy St. David's Day

To all the "Beloveds" I know out there, today is OUR Day. Happy St. David's Day!
Almighty God, who called your servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may, with him, praise you both here on earth and also in your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Celtic Cross at the Abbey

A Different Kind of Discernment Prayer

Many people may already be familiar with a prayer attributed to Thomas Merton, "God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us. ..." (Thoughts in Solitude, p.83, adapted.) A church friend today, as we talked about Discernment, pointed me to a different prayer about Discernment. It is part of the Prayer Book's Pastoral Offices (Ministration to the Sick) under Prayers for use by a Sick Person: "In the Morning:"
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
~ The 1979 Book of Common Prayer, BCP 461
I just thought I'd save this little gem among many jewels in the BCP.
Votive Candle

Lenten Ruminations: Contemplating Fasting

So, I'm contemplating Fasting. A video I viewed didn't hit the mark for me on the subject, so I'm compelled to capture my understanding here, now.
In the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, there is an invitation to "the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word." (BCP 265)
The Dictionary for Episcopalians shares this about fast days: "Penitential days traditionally obseerved by special acts of discipline and self-denial, particularly abstention from eating. These include Ash Wednesday, weekdays in Lent, and Holy Week, particularly Good Friday. Like observant Jews, Christians observe fast days from sundown to sundown. See also 'calendar, liturgical'."
Fasting is not a time for self-help or self-improvement changes. If you deny yourself something that may be bad for you (cigarettes, alcohol, ...), those are good life changes that you may want to lay down, leave alone, and walk away from, to never pick them back up again.
No, Fasting could be denial of something, but in that denial, you are invited to make space for God. Be that your attention 1) to God's Word (Scripture, The Bible); 2) your prayer life (for types of Prayer, remember ACTIP = Adoration, Contrition or Confession, Thanksgiving, Intercession (on behalf of others), and Petition for ourselves; and 3) Almsgiving or Acts of Service.
I think I have something specific to share about those who, myself included, tend to take on something more or new during Lent as a spiritual discipline through Almsgiving or Acts of Service (or Kindness), but I leave that for another time.
In closing, as my friend Churchill Gibson+ used to say, "Happy Lent!"
From Where I'm Sitting

The Courtesy of a Reply

In my former life in the corporate world and now as part of my present vocation to the church, courtesy is more than hoped for; it should be expected. Yet the professional courtesy of a reply seems to be a dying discipline, even in the church. This saddens me. We should do better.
When I chaired church search committees (before seeking Holy Orders), all applicants received acknowledgement of their interest in a position we were looking to fill, and eventually, those who were not called/hired were notified we had moved on to other candidates.
"What is it about email that makes some people ignore social graces and not respond to you after you’ve sent them whatever information they were looking for? As I was organizing the inbox it was gratifying to see that there were lots of inquiries that have either turned into good business or will turn into good business…but, there was still a stunning amount that were some of those “leads that go nowhere”. Do we expect every inquiry to turn into a contract? Of course not. But wouldn’t a bit of closure be sweet?"

The Courtesy of a Reply (activerain.com)
Iona Cross

Sermon: That Heavenly GPS Epiphany!

A sermon preached at Epiphany, Oak Hill in Herndon, VA on January 3, 2021
Feast of The Epiphany; Year B (RCL): Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12: Matthew 2:1-12

I speak to you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.
      I wonder how many of you have one of those talking Global Positioning System, or GPS, gadgets in your car.  I prided myself on being more of a map guy, but with the rate of growth and changes in infrastructure around Northern Virginia and the DMV, I have evolved.  Before my copilot wife got a Droid, we would navigate roads and circumvent traffic accidents or longtime delays or stops on the highway using Atlas maps if we had them in the car, and when not, would resort to the position of the sun if it were daytime, or the compass in the car if it were nighttime.  And Yes, when I’m lost, I do stop for directions.
        These remarkable GPS devices show you how you’re going as you move between Points A and B.  Sometimes there’s a cheerful voice that alerts you, “in one hundred yards, turn left,” or maybe, if you miss a turn or an exit, you hear that dreaded “Recalculating.”  I keep thinking that if I should ever decide to get a car with GPS built in, I’d want the voice to be that of John Cleese of Monty Python fame.  Yes, I’d probably have some fun with it from time to time, purposefully missing turns in hopes of frustrating it so badly that Cleese would begin calling me a ‘dithering twit!’  But the value of these GPS devices is that you are never completely lost, right?
            I marvel at the faith of the Magi -- sent on their mysterious journey with nothing like a GPS, only a star to guide them, we’re told!  I am also fascinated by the joy they must have felt when they finally knelt before the Lord of Heaven made human in that humble manger.
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Lady Altar Shelf

Sermon: By Word Through Flesh, God is in the Neighborhood.

Sermon preached at Epiphany, Oak Hill’s in Herndon, VA on December 25, 2020.
Christmas Day, Year B (RCL) – Xmas III: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-14

Alleluia! To us a child is born: Come let us adore him. Alleluia!
         For much of Christmas, what we see and hear is the Holy Family in Bethlehem.  If you came for that today, I’m sorry.  Last night was Luke’s Christmas story that is full of things making Christmas the season that it is.  Both Matthew and Luke give us Nativity accounts from an earthly perspective: the way Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in their fields saw what happened.
            Today we hear John’s telling of Christmas, not an earthly account, but from a heavenly perspective, for those with eyes of faith that see.  This is the way the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven would have told the Love story of the Incarnation had John not been commissioned to tell it.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-2, 14)
            Eugene Peterson, in his interpretation of Scripture called The Message, writes: “The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. ... The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
            By Word through Flesh, God is in the neighborhood.
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