They are at peace

This is such a peaceful place, at any time of day. I was so aware of the rich smell of grass and earth. You can hear the whoosh of passing traffic, but it seems so far away. Many of the names have long since worn off the headstones. Quite a few of those that are legible are people I knew. Others represent families still living in the area, even after a hundred or two hundred years. The older I get, the more aware I am that I occupy this space between generations. I remember my mother and my grandmothers. I know I that in some ways I carry many of their hopes forward, manifest in my values and the way I live. Other things–certainly my ordination–would astound them. Would they approve? I can only imagine. And I, for my part, look at my granddaughter and have so many hopes for her. I hope for peace and stability for her world. I worry about the impact of climate change. I pray, and I vote.

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;

and their passing away was thought an affliction

and their going forth from us, utter destruction.

But they are in peace.

Wisdom 3:1-3

Life is good

I almost always carry a camera. At minimum the camera in my phone, but usually also something a little more robust. Photography is a spiritual practice for me, a discipline of opening my soul to the beauty that is all around, reflecting the beauty of the Creator.
Lately I’ve also been cultivating an awareness of beauty beyond the beautiful image. Most often this means an awareness of all kinds of goodness in this world, from the soft touch of a fall breeze to the selfless generosity of one parishioner’s act of kindness toward another.

These things matter. This isn’t just a form of escapism from so much that is ugly and unjust all around us. As the restorative justice activist Howard Zehr wrote in his book titled “The Little Book of Contemplative Photography: Seeing with wonder, respect, and humility,” this kind of contemplative practice is “an avenue of refreshment and insight,” a way to “renew ourselves while gaining new insights into ourselves, the creation, and the creator.”

It’s what we need to be sustained in our fight against the ugliness, and to be reminded of our purpose in that effort.

This week, I introduced my granddaughter, who is not quite 2, to animal crackers, and I think we both agree: Life is very good.

Christa

Christa, Edwina Sandys, Cathedral of St. John the Divine

I took these photos back in the spring. I find this so very powerful and thought-provoking.
The only images I made then were these straight-on shots, perhaps because the question that grabbed me at the time was, what if? … what if you walked into church and this is what you saw?

I’m still answering that for myself, and pondering follow-up questions: … about what it means to think of God as one of us … about lifting up the suffering of women as meaningful and redemptive … and about what it would mean to see ourselves and each other as “fully represented in society, especially in its most powerful and iconic institutions,” as it says on the cathedral website …

I’m still intending to find time to go back and contemplate this (with my heart and with my camera, of course) from other perspectives, but Christa has been very much in my thoughts and prayers in this time.

A life well lived

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Graveyard, Solebury Friends Meeting

Call me weird (a few have) but I really enjoy a good funeral. This weekend we gathered to lift up a long life, well-lived, full of love, care and kindness to other individuals, and civic service. Marked by joy and sorrow, as life usually is. A life lived with gusto. Sad and glad we were—and reminded of the values we ourselves mean to live by, while we’ve still time to work on it. I wasn’t a close friend, but I am glad I knew her.

Patience

One of God’s critters has taken up residence on a window in the narthex: A show of patience and trust that what is needed will be provided.

Eagle eyes

Bald eagle near sunset, Rangeley Lake, ME. What a view he had from his perch high in a pine tree. Our guide tried to entice him to come down by throwing out some frozen fish, but that bird wasn’t having any of it. You have to admire his beauty, but you know he’s basically a predator. Some will admire that, but right now I feel for the vulnerability of creatures less powerful.

A sermon for Recovery Sunday

The day before Chris and I left on vacation about 10 days ago, I drove out to Indiantown Gap National Cemetery to bury Olive House, a long-time member of this congregation, and driving out on Route 78 west of Allentown, I found it to be a surprisingly religious stretch of highway. There were billboards, there were messages on the side of barns, there were religious messages on the back of trucks. One of the billboards I found mildly alarming. It said, “You will meet God,” and I thought, I surely hope that’s true, but not today, not on this stretch of highway. There were reminders to pray, to love our enemies, to trust in God’s mercy.

I found myself reflecting for quite a long time, though, on the words that I saw on back of a Walmart truck that was in front of me for a while. It was simple but profound, I thought. It said, “Save money. Live better. walmart.com.” And I thought, live better. Living better is our fundamental purpose as Christians. That’s what it’s all about. But our Christian concept of living better is so very different from the Walmart concept.

The Walmart concept of living better is, we’ve got lower prices so you can have more stuff. You can have some nice deck furniture, or a bigger TV, and that is so much a part of our culture that I think we lose track sometimes of how very contradictory that is to what the Christian concept of living better means.

The Christian idea of living better is all about grace. Grace is the lived experience of God’s love, it’s the thing that makes impossible things possible, it opens the way for us, it strengthens us for the journey. It is our inspiration, and it’s the thing that keeps us going. And grace is so closely linked to the ideas of hope and mercy.

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Night prayer


Home again, home again. We went out to breakfast this morning to mark the end of the vacation, and the words of this prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book came to mind while we were talking about some of the ongoing concerns that didn’t solve themselves while we were away.

The words that stand out for me just now at any time of day: “What has been done has been done: what has not been done has not been done; let it be.”

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Carousel dreams

Congress Park Carousel, Saratoga Springs, NY: I never had the horse obsession some kids go through, but who didn’t imagine themself riding far, far away on one of these.