Clergy barista

Help wanted: Coffehouse, or church? 

“We Are Hiring! Are you a barista? Do you love making coffee? Can you work quickly under pressure & still be a nice person? Do you like working with people? Do you have impeccable customer service skills?”

I have a little Starbucks Verismo machine in my office, and I get hit up for coffee as often as I’m asked for spiritual advice. So this sounds like my job description pretty exactly. Maybe for my fifth career ..


At the heart of the city, in the midst of such busyness, a moment of quiet. What you can’t see in this picture is the little girl who’s quietly leaning against the woman on the bench. After they’d been sitting for a while a young couple arrived, and the girl jumped up to greet them. Caregiver? Grandma? Evening handoff? I only know that for a little while, they were at peace.

Big heart

Doctor’s office, medical history. I can trace the arc of my own life through the questions they ask, these chroniclers of my genetic inheritance. For a long time the main object of their interest was my mother and the benchmarks of women’s health. Over the years their focus shifted from childbearing to her bones: Did she lose height? Were there any hip fractures? Now the questions have shifted again, to my father: the early heart attack, his AFib, the valve that had to be replaced. I see that they’re wondering if I might have his heart.

My first thought: I hope not.

But no, that’s not true. My dad had a big, kind and loving heart; anyone who knew him would tell you that. So please, yes, let me have my father’s heart.

(I don’t, by the way. Have my father’s heart, at least in a medical sense. The other is something I’m working on.)

Which wolf do you feed?

Reminds me of the fable sometimes attributed to Cherokee tradition, that we each have two equally powerful wolves at war inside of us: one peaceable and good, the other evil and angry. Which one wins? The one you feed.

Wonder which this was.

Let us pray

What is your most basic prayer, the one that’s always there in the shadows and will come forward any time if you let it?

For some compulsive reason I’ve set myself the task of consolidating all my old blogs in one place. Remember blogging? There was a sense of anonymity, which allowed for a certain freedom. The fact that it was online tended to override some inappropriate sharing and reinforce some standards of good writing. And there were communities of bloggers, which made it feel a bit like group spiritual direction. (Sadly, I haven’t found a reasonable way to preserve all the comments.)

At any rate, going through this stuff has given me some perspective on how my own most basic prayer has evolved over these years, from “show me the way,” to “get me through this,” to “make me enough.”

There’s a part of me that hopes that knowing your basic prayer, which is to say recognizing exactly what it is you need the most, is a sign that you’re halfway to it.

My backpack for the journey of life

Sermon prep: Friends, please help me out. This is my backpack for the journey of life, which I’m planning to use as a sermon illustration this Sunday when we bless backpacks for back to school. What do I need in there?
Examples: Bible, just because … Book of Common Prayer – not only because I need to pray, but because we need to pray together, and how else can we make sense of the good book except together. Food for the journey – might look a lot like communion bread. Sunscreen because you know you’re supposed to wear it. My camera because, well, this is me we’re talking about.
Etc. – what else would you add to my list?
* And by the way, this is actually the backpack that got me through the weekly commute from Bucks County to New York City for seminary. Unzip the expansion and you can fit a week’s laundry in there. Plus a laptop. Plus some books (not the Hymnal 1982 Accompaniment Edition, though). But you’d better be strong, oh lordy, you’d better be strong.

Sermon prep: Take up your cross

Sermon prep: Pondering what it means to take up your cross and follow, I stumble across this quote, which was included in a letter I sent to Sunday School teachers a few years ago:

… if faith only heals and energizes, then it is merely a crutch to use at will, not a way of life. But the Christian faith, as a prophetic religion, is either a way of life or a parody of itself. Put starkly and with echoes of the Epistle of James, an idle faith is no Christian faith at all.

Continue reading

The beauty, the frailty of life

 Sitting at the lab early this morning, waiting to have blood drawn, a patient more than a chaplain, I’m approached by an older woman who veers in my direction on her way to the door. “Are you Episcopal?” she says. This is a first; never have I been so precisely identified by a stranger. Usually if anything I’m taken for a Roman Catholic nun, which is fine with me, though I’ve never seen one in a dog collar. I tell her I am, and she reaches toward me, and asks me to pray for her. The warmth of her hand; the pain in her eyes. Her name is Lillian.
A minute later, still feeling that warmth, I’m informed that my collar is hanging half off; in my early departure, I’d failed to connect the back button. Which actually is an improvement over all the times I forget to put it on at all, and have to go back.

Continue reading