My Words

My Words…

I want my words to color the walls of revolutionaries
like a timeless masterpiece
whose brushstrokes never fade
and movement strikes a chord in every man, woman and child,
so that when the evening shadow falls and I am called home,
I will know my weary self gave everything worthy of me to call all men to action.
I will not be satisfied with a song to the wind,
released from the belly of my soul
passed in a melodic rumor, note to note ever so slightly variant and carried away,
taken from mouth to ear then disappear with the dawn of a new day.

I want my words to stay and be the influence of change.
The beginning of a new day.
The enlightenment for tomorrow,
like the works of Michelangelo, Dali, or Freda Kahlo
I want my words to move you past their facade
and into the texture of their threads.
I want you to feel the power of my verse
as if you have just touched the Mona Lisa with your cheek
and seduced Madame X with the call of your eyes.

I want to be free of disguise, naked, wrapped only in the soft strokes, sometimes brisk strokes of my words and fearless I want to leave an impression, with the intention to leave a legacy, that goes for beyond you, goes far beyond me, but becomes that tapestry on the walls of revolutionaries, a Masterpiece of change
a topic for tomorrow.

Allison Burns-LaGreca

photo

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

“We must pray … we must pray for the spirit of our nation, that a spirit of love and compassion and goodness and decency would pervade and that spirits of hatred and bigotry would be cast away.”

A statement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

How you beat the Devil!

9/27/2018

senior sermon

The Collect

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Genesis 28:10-17

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

The Response

Psalm 103 or 103:19-22

Benedic, anima mea

1 [Bless the Lord, O my soul, *
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, *
and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins *
and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave *
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things, *
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The Lord executes righteousness *
and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses *
and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us, *
nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, *
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children, *
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made; *
he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass; *
we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures for ever on those who fear him, *
and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant *
and remember his commandments and do them.]

19 The Lord has set his throne in heaven, *
and his kingship has dominion over all.

20 Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding, *
and hearken to the voice of his word.

21 Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, *
you ministers of his who do his will.

22 Bless the Lord, all you works of his,
in all places of his dominion; *
bless the Lord, O my soul.

The Epistle

Revelation 12:7-12

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,

for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,

for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.

Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!

But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you

with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

The Gospel

John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Genesis 28:10-17

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Psalm 103 

Benedic, anima mea

1 [Bless the Lord, O my soul, *
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, *
and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins *
and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave *
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things, *
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The Lord executes righteousness *
and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses *
and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us, *
nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, *
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children, *
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made; *
he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass; *
we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures for ever on those who fear him, *
and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant *
and remember his commandments and do them.]

19 The Lord has set his throne in heaven, *
and his kingship has dominion over all.

20 Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding, *
and hearken to the voice of his word.

21 Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, *
you ministers of his who do his will.

22 Bless the Lord, all you works of his,
in all places of his dominion; *
bless the Lord, O my soul.

The Epistle

Revelation 12:7-12

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,

for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,

for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.

Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!

But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you

with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

The Gospel

John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Stories, Rain Coats and Mark 8:27-38

Spring ShowersWhen I attended an all girl’s catholic high school, the priest came over to the convent which aligned itself right behind the school to hear our confessions for reconciliation. We lined up nervously in our plaid skirts, white oxford shirts and green blazers. Anxious giggles exchanged between us cautiously as not to get in trouble with the sisters. We starred down at our penny loafers counting our sins, reciting to ourselves what we were about to  bring to the priest. Burdened by my perception of my sin, I can remember shaking as I sat before him. I began, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned…” I rattled off a litany of my heartache and he stopped me mid breath,”My child, we all have a book to write.” My penance was the shortest in the class.

I cannot remember who the priest was, but I never forgot our exchange and how often it has come up for me. Especially as the stories of my life have accumulated and contributed to the person of faith I have become. Stories which like clay in a potters hand have sculpted my soul carefully reshaping, reforming, molding each part to lead to next. One could not be without the imprint before. I’ve been handled with God’s care.

I had an old friend, a mentor a priest, she lived her life differently always exchanging a lesson for an element of fear, yet I looked to her authority to guide me on my way, discounting what the belly knew. I was an obedient student. “Do not speak my dear, for they will not understand. Keep it close, under your raincoat.” I can remember anxiously waiting for the next lesson, but each and every time; time after time, the same was spoken, “Do not speak my dear, for they will not understand. Keep it close, under your raincoat.”

Gifted by God’s grace through our experiences we have an abundance of stories to share with one another. Stories that empower and inspire, stories that reach into the depth of our souls, stories that generate compassion, wisdom and knowledge, stories that share our common unity in our walk with God, stories that reveal the incarnate Christ among us in our otherwise very broken world. Sharing these stories are often not very comfortable, we see this in the shared experiences of abuse, loss, grief and trauma, but stories none the less, that must be told, not for the good of ourselves but for the good of the kingdom of God.

As I write today I know of three people who are in the finishing stages of publications of their books. I cannot wait to read each of them. Yes, I am inspired. I am inspired to share more of me, but for now I’ll open a few buttons of my coat, and be in awe of them as they dance baptized in the rain with their coats wide open in spring’s shower, lifting the spirits of a new day, a new beginning and a new chapter. As disciples this, their cross becoming more vulnerable and open for the healing love and passion of God’s universe, for all of us to indulge.

In our Gospel text for Sunday, Jesus, has the disciples acknowledge who he is, commands them to say nothing and then rebukes Peter for his attempt to interfere. “Get behind me Satan!” So I say to the old tale of keeping it under the rain coat. Get behind me Satan!

How often have we wished the pain away, the circumstances the potter’s imprint, our stories? How often have we prayed to God for an end, a beginning or a sign? In Mark we are told take up our cross, to embrace the experience of our lives no matter what it brings, for it is only a momentary time in the patterns of imprints that detail the stories of our lives.

Take up your cross, open the rain coat, speak, write, share your stories, the Kingdom of God awaits!

 

Life is Fragile – Love

Holy Spirit come to us,
Kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit come to us.

Jesus said it is by your love for one another
That everyone will recognize, you as my disciple.
Jesus said, no one has greater love than this,
To lay down one’s life for those one loves.
We know all by this
That Christ laid down His life for us.

This is love
It is not we who had loved God
But God who loved us.
Holy Spirit come to us,
Kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit come to us.

On this day seventeen years ago, I picked up my son from an elite preschool, hopped into our all suburban mom’s minivan and headed toward a classmate’s birthday party. While stopped at a red light on Rt.70 in Brick, NJ, we were struck from behind by a fully loaded dump truck that lost its breaks. One week away from my due date, my youngest son was born.

Much has changed since then and continues to change as we evolve and grow together, but the one thing that remains with us all, especially on this day is how fragile and precious our mortal life is. The vanities of our shared existence, the biggest, the best, the name brand, the chic and popular do not hold value over the relationship we share with each other, and with God. Perhaps that is why I love Lent so much. Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return —- to shed away all that is not of God and to be of God, in relationship with God, remembering to whom we belong.

I started my Ash Wednesday with the imposition of Ashes and Eucharist at the chapel, went to my field study, the Church of the Ascension in NYC, I served at noon and then outside for Ashes to Go on 10th and 5th Ave. I think I fell in love with New York on that day. People, diverse people of all races, colors, creeds, sexuality, etc… All walking through the neighborhood with smiles, greetings, hellos, nods, questions, interest and YES, stopping for ashes. I truly believe that New Yorkers must be the kindest most misunderstood people in this country. They are rough and resilient, but they know how to be together with love at the center. One woman cried with joy, that I was the first woman she ever received ashes from. Another asked for prayers for her sister’s family as she had passed, another wept as she was anxious about visiting her daughter. Men who bowed their heads low. I am a sinner, wash away my inequities. Families, young children, people of all longing for God. Deliver me O’God my salvation. Then there was Cathy, not of a denomination that sought ashes but only wished for time in the church and with me. We shared a prophetic exchange. A day to remember. Each face etched quietly in my heart. Each the face of Christ.

In prayerful silence, I departed and walked home. Forgiveness, healing, redemption, Love took to each living cell as water to seed. Forgiveness, healing, redemption, Love… I breathe…then heartbreak over the news of Parkland, Florida… Children, O’my children, how long must we suffer? I heard the echo of scripture, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42) As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

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Like so many of you, I weep. I weep for the children. I weep for each family, for humanity, for our country. I weep for my sons and their future. Reminded yet again of the fragility of our mortal and gifted lives. I weep for the wounded souls who have so lost their way – people who worship firearms more than children, officials who worship money more than children,  people who honor mortal power over our immortal God. How long must you wonder lost people of God arming yourself with things?

Is it no wonder Ash Wednesday was on Valentine’s day – LOVE… Imagine if all the world armed themselves with Love… Love over Money, over greed, over the false sense of power, Love.  Forgiveness, healing, redemption, Love, may we all look deeply within ourselves this Lent. May we come to know where we are complicit in our sins. May we better come to know our God and Love our neighbor.  Continue to pray, but pick up your feet, take action, LOVE with action. Demand action!

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Fire and Ice: telling my story…

Fireandice

Story, we’re encouraged to tell our story. In the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, the theme for the last few years has been, “Know Your Story, Live it Boldly.” It’s not at all that unique to the diocese as the greater Church itself has a link on their main website to storytelling encouraging people to share their stories. There are over 800 videos in the library, filled with ministry, and hope, love and protest. These are all good and positive stories. They may tackle some hard issues, but it is all part of a movement, the Jesus movement.

I often suspect that when we fish for these stories, we are looking for that transformative centre that empowers, and bolsters a new or deepening love of Christ. I love the encouragement, but I wonder as a church how open we are to all our stories in living transformation. In a world full of brokenness are we listening, truly listening with open hearts to the intimate stories of our siblings in Christ? Are we responding with urgent Love or do we trade in these stories for the easier softer stories that fit our greater need, unintentionally tucking away the brokenness among us as to bolster our cause?

Story, we’re all supposed to share our story. Encouraged to narrate the inner deep parts of us that make us both vulnerable and whole. Withholding casts a shadow on our authenticity and sharing, well, that can make others feel uncomfortable leading one down that Alice in Wonderland Rabbit hole.

If you have been following me on this blog, or know me as a friend then at the very least you know I am a survivor; and as a survivor, I navigate the appropriateness of each moment, scanning quickly for my safety whenever anyone begins to ask questions, seek advice or we happen to fall on a topic. Yup, falling on a topic is probably the hardest to navigate next to the Spiritual biography that as a seminarian I must write, rewrite and update as I move through my process.

Story, do you really want to know my story? The more I tell it, the more I share, the more I meet people like me. They are good support and a priceless resource, but still, I like many often fear the stigma associated with my story, and so many survivors warn me to protect myself; so as an additional resource, I create art to speak for me in a way that is safe but opens the door to those who so choose. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are people who are tired of hearing me share, but as I learn from the countless emails and messages, other survivors need me to open up as I too so very much need them.

Post Traumatic Stress sucks!  I have a really great support system and toolbox to help cope, but triggers happen sometimes most unexpectedly. The above piece is titled: Fire and Ice and it comes as a prayerful response to my last trigger. I’ve been wrestling whether or not to share – at least this part of my story at this time.

Here it goes… This is a small sample of what Post Traumatic Stress looks like.

I went down to the chapel to change the color of the frontal. I love being in the Chapel alone and in the dark with only a small light from behind to show the way. It’s my time to sing, chant and pray, my time with God. Usually the statues are illumined commanding God’s great presence and invite people to sit awhile, but not that night. The statues were dark and what appeared to be an emergency lamp was left on illuminating only the Sacristans’ box. What struck the altar was lite by the left over flow from behind.

The stillness of dark didn’t diss way me from completing my task, I gently dismantled and folded and transposed one frontal for another as I sang. As I finished, I prayed using Christine Jackman’s Hebrew version of the Our Father, I sang out, Avinu, Avinu, Sheh ba Shamayam… I sang the entire prayer three times, like never before, my heart wide open. Perhaps after my trip to Israel the Hebrew meant something far more than before.

By now my task was complete but I felt called to be with God awhile and kept the music playing in my ear. It was music from my library. I don’t listen to it much anymore. There are far too many haunts, I’ve taken to other forms of streaming, but I gather my longing to sit with God singing this prayer was far greater than my haunting.

After all, I am healing, I’m moving on and I left my wounds at the tenth station in Jerusalem or so I thought, but suddenly out from the dark was her voice. Frozen, tears streaming from my eyes, I fell seated into the Sedalia. I couldn’t turn it off. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. It was like hearing a voice from the grave. I cried out and heavy to God, “What am I to do with this? What do you need me to hear?”

As her Sermon from the fourth Sunday after Easter in 2011 continued, though seated still bodily as I wept, I was no longer in the Chapel but transposed. I was suddenly lying at the back of the altar at my home parish. Lying back flat and still as a frightened animal, I stared up the back of the chancel. I can feel my breath; I can see it as if every morsel of Carbon Dioxide was a piece of God returning home through the rays of light penetrating the small triangular stained glass windows above me. I escaped. I lay beneath the plain golden Protestant cross, numb and cold, yet somehow comforted. It was my safe place, no one ever knew I was there. Only on a very rare occasion did someone wonder through, maybe from time to time they’d catch me praying, but no one ever knew how much time, how often I laid there, escaping her and at the same time trying to figure out or negotiate the reasons of her words and actions as if abuse has a justifiable reason.

That’s the thing, abuse NEVER has a justifiable reason.

Triggers suck, it takes some time to recover. Like having all the air and wind and everything that breathes life into you being sucked out in one unexpected swoop. I have a toolbox, a toolbox of coping mechanisms that help ease the transition back into life, but that’s just it – it’s an easing back into life.

Fire and Ice

Be well dear friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

(A short sermon for class)

John 19:1-6

“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

The Grammy’s aired this past January 28th, and I’m not much for these award type shows so as always I found myself dozing on and off until a performance by Kesha caught my attention and my heart. Along side her peers Kesha performed her song “Praying” with what seemed to be every spirited cell of her body. Her story, manifest with raw emotion, resides with many women who are victims of sexual assault, abuse and psychological violence.

Kesha lived and proclaimed the truth about her abuse and her offender despite the visceral adversity it sparked within her industry and career. Truth, which manifested itself in an Eating Disorder and PTSD; truth, which isolated her from others she depended on, truth, which endured further mockery, abuse and pain. In Kesha’s words of introduction to her song in her video she expresses clearly how many survivors have felt at one time or another, “Am I dead,” she wonders, “or is this one of those dreams, those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever?” She continues: “If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I’ve ever loved?”

Jesus, sent by Pilot was flogged. He was flogged for living and breathing the truth. Under no circumstance, no threat of torture, would Jesus recant as Pilot urged him to save his mortal flesh. Jesus knew what was true of death. It wasn’t his naked body bound to the stump of a tree. It was not every lash of the whip to his skin or the mockery of crowds. It was not in the betrayal of those who abandoned him and watched his suffering from afar. Death, real death, true death, is in the denial of God, the denial of true everlasting life.

We all as humans have moments of loneliness, moments of self-doubt and abandon, moments of longing for a clear earthly presence of God. Moments where we look at our hurt and sorrow and we struggle to find our next breathe as we feel the pain and woes of the world. Hunger, homelessness, illness, and poverty ripple through the fabric of the foundations of all humankind and it seems like quite a bit to process on some days. Racism, sexism, classism and homophobia, feed the beastly divides and many of us watch from afar at the finger pointing and mockery especially at the expense of those who are pushed to the edges of our society.

Who are we among the people who witnessed the beating of our Lord? Who am I, who are you? Are you are we the advantageous soldier with our hand on the whip? Are you waiting in line for the next strike at the wounded man called Jesus? Are you laughing and gathering others as you weave a thorn crown? Did you robe him? Are you looking into His eyes? Are you one of the crowd, yelling crucify him? Are you a friend feeling helpless by the power and authority of others? Are you weeping at the indignity and lack of humanity? Does the barbarism tear your heart in two?

Place yourself there now in that courtyard where Jesus took every lash of the whip, would you offer yourself in His place?

Every man, woman and child who offers to testify to the living truth of God in Christ places themselves at the stump where Jesus was beaten, but will you look into His eyes and take His place or will you turn away?

Jesus did not suffer for our sins in order for us to look away. He suffered for our sins so that we, looking at His suffering, His wounds would no longer have to suffer. If I said, “Do you believe Christ lives within each of us,” what would you say? Yes? My hunch is that the majority of Christian believers would say, “Yes”! Christ resides in each of us, in every living being and is present among us. So if you chose to be someone other than the persons whom would offer themselves in exchange for Christ’s suffering, why? Is it fear; fear of pain, of abandonment, of loneliness, of mockery? And is that fear greater than death, the very denial of God?

Every man, woman and child who has spoken up against injustice align themselves with Christ. Every woman of the “MeToo” movement, like Kesha has placed themselves at the stump and has looked into the eyes of Christ, and speaking to Truth, the Logos, God – has allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the evils of this world that deny Christ’s existence in each of us. They’ve stood steadfast; withstanding further abuse, mockery, abandonment, assault, harassment and more, yet persevere with resilience. Like Jesus who on the cross asked why God have you forsaken me, survivors have done the same, holding still as many of those whom they have loved and known look away like some who witnessed the beating of Christ.

Me too survivors do not stand alone, especially in this world climate. We are witness to many of the beatings, the injustices around the world and the question is who are you, who will you be when you see Christ in the homeless guy, mocked in the street, in the gay couple spit at, in the black child beat, pulled over or shot for being black, in the dreamer who risks being sent to a place she’s never known, or the woman being harassed by power and authority?

Will you align yourself with Christ or will you look away?

Jerusalem living in me… ( yup, a kinda final reflection)

Yes, I did just title this “A Kinda Final Reflection.” Jerusalem, the Holy Land lives within side of me as a transformative subtle haunting, calling me back yet illuminating so much of all that makes up me. I feel myself as clay being morphed and molded in the hands of God’s gentle imprints as cliché as that may sound. I honor the places that I have been, the people, the eyes of whom I’ve met, the spirit, the very living spirit of culture that takes modernity and aligns itself right beside ancient history, rooted in faith and God, yet enshrouded in human conflict.

There as totem etched in stone lay covenant between God and man with so many seekers longing for a taste of the Almighty, yet in foolishness, in haste they all too easily miss God completely. How often through these paths and roads did I hear Jesus flipping tables? Where is Christ, but in our fellow man? Where is God, but in the Holy and Righteous relationship we make with each other. So much has embodied this trip to the Holy Land. So much has taken me. When I left for the trip, people often said, “You will be transformed.” Even the lady at Target from whom I purchased my luggage, wished me well as she said, “You will be transformed.” I gather after hearing this enough, I had such expected, but not to the degree in which Jerusalem is still working on me.

I was not impressed by many of the sights in which one former Roman Catholic girl may have suspected would overcome her with immeasurable joy. Areas like Mt. Beatitudes were so overly commercialized it dampened the connectedness I would have expected from the space, but through the words of the Gospel in our shared voices, we managed to gain the soulful connectedness to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is good to take your shoes off in public spaces and feel the earth that lies beneath the mired layers of mankind.

At Joffa I cried at the sound of the Song of the Ascents in Hebrew. I continue to ponder what is it in me that was so deeply stirred by the psalm. I’ve reread it, listened, and re-listened. Is it perhaps the story of Miriam begging the people to release her husband from prayer? Was it the Hebrew sounds that appealed to my embodied Ashkenazi roots? Or perhaps it was a deeper desire for a world of peace longing for God’s intercession? “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” Maybe it is more personal than that and maybe in the beginning of this trip this was my invitation from God to open my heart to the healing of my own wounds, and trust, “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.” Whatever, the invitation, it hasn’t left me.

As a mother, I was moved by the influence of Helena in the region. These are things we read about, take note of and place in the backs of our minds for use at a later date, but it never really registered until being in the region. How many places she has inspired to grow, the depth of love she had for her son and the means by which she would go to be sure that he would have faith and be solid in his ways. What an inspiration! How must I survey my own life in relation to my sons through the eyes of Helena? I often look to the blessed mother for such advice, as she stood with an aching heart helpless to her son’s suffering. I find my strength, my comfort, and the very core of resilience embedded in her presence and God’s infinite grace. Have mercy on us O’ Holy Mother of God. Have mercy.

The psalm spoke and my wounded and healing soul looked to the hills. As we climbed the rocky path in the mountains of Qumran and the stairs at Masada, God’s presence was enormously lived in the vast spaces and whistling winds. Each movement forward, each incline upward was a simple victory for me. Once upon a time, I could tackle this with ease and now every breath was a spiritual revival born in every cell. The echoes of subtle whispers to my offender who walked these paths years before myself occasionally took to heart, “Did you see this? Were you not here? My God, what were you thinking?” I touched the water at the Jordan as she touched, I blessed myself with its ironically toxic flow and looked down the path at the children playing, inhaling rebirth as I captured a sample. This trip was greater than I and it was greater than my hurt or the evil I endured.

Before disclosing my “Me too” moment to the necessary authority, weeping with agony among uncertainty and fear, I suddenly found myself drawing in the sand. I raised my head and Jesus was drawing in the sand with me. He looked into my eyes and turned his head to draw my attention elsewhere. It was his naked body bound to a stump, being whipped and beaten. When I turned my head back in the direction of Jesus, he was gone. My weeping ceased as a calm overcame me, I knew what he was saying.

There was no irony, no coincidence that at the Tenth Station I was given the following to read,

At the Tenth Station we pray for those who are exposed to ridicule, who are shamed, humiliated, degraded; For battered wives and battered children; For women who are raped and for children who are victims of violence and sexual abuse; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Let us pray: For those who expose, shame, humiliate, and degrade others, by word or action or simply in their thoughts; For those who degrade or exploit others racially, sexually, intellectually, or economically; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Let us pray: For ourselves; When we are ashamed or abused; That we may find healing and so live that we have nothing to hide; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”  

(Peterson, John. A Walk in Jerusalem: Stations of the Cross. Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.)

It took everything in me not to fall apart as I discreetly wiped the tears from my eyes. I left my pain, my wound there at the stump in which Jesus was beaten, knowing I was with our Lord.

We finished the walk through the Stations of the Cross carrying our own. Then took to restoration, kneeling at the Stone in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the stone in which we remember our Christ’s body being laid and prepared for entombment. We placed the cross, which we carried throughout our walk on the healing stone scented with frankincense and myrrh and together at each fingertip with our foreheads pressed against the oil-soaked stone, we prayed and blessed it and us. Eyes now firmly set on our resurrected life in Christ, the Blessed Jerusalem Cross, a gift to General Seminary, will remind me always of our time there together, my personal journey and our strength and restoration as a resurrected people.

I am happy we travelled from the North to South, biblically, scripted from Jesus’ birth to Death. Well, played Dean Michael! Reading and listening to the Holy Gospel is a renewed experience for me now, an experience that comes with a greater understanding of the journey, culture and landscape of Jesus. I will remember the parable of the Sower with a vision of Dean Michael picking up the gravel along our path in Magdala and calling our attention to the rocky ground, and the fertile ground and the olive tree that stood firm in growth. Dean was showing us Jesus in relationship to the world, the environment and the people in which he communed. Dean Michael gave us many of these lessons along the way. Lessons, that I will keep and refer back to throughout my ministry. I cherish that deeply.

The word of the week was “WOW”. Wow, was the first word we encountered looking at the massive ruins and structures that were left behind for 2000 years. It was the word we used to describe incredibly intricate murals that remained from the time of Christ. “Wow” was the word we used to describe tombs and caves, mass vast spaces in the desert, the mountains, the Sea of Galilee, and so much more, but “Wow” is wholly understated. It was merely the utterance of sound as our breath was literally stolen by each and every moment, place and encounter.

The Holy Land is as beautifully full of historic culture as it is with conflict, not only among those with differences but also within denominations. Power, politics and divisions left me feeling mournful for a human race of hurt people inflicting more hurt on other people. At the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, I wept for the cycles of violence and oppression that seem to have captured humanity bound in chains of fear, reaching for power with no regard for the dignity of the other. Rooted in faith and God, yet enshrouded in conflict, what kind of dichotomy is that? If I am to truly live my Baptismal covenant than my answers are clear. Not easy, but clear.

By travelling from the North to the south we had easy access to a wide array of news, broadcast and conversation, but the closer we got to Jerusalem, the American influence can be seen and some news agencies were blocked from our hotel. It was bold and it was sad, even in the bookstore, we were encouraged to not try to bring certain books, those more Palestinian sympathetic books on the plane. We were told Israeli security would stop us. We learned about zone living and travel regulations with I.D. cards. I couldn’t help but think of Nazi Germany and the time following. I couldn’t help but reflect upon the oppression, racism and prejudice in our own country. I thought, what if I were forced to carry an ID card that marked me as a Lesbian Episcopal Woman. Maybe New Jersey was zone A, where I was born and lived with people who were like me, but I was allowed to travel to Zone B, New York City for school between certain hours only, and was never allowed to visit my relatives in Long Island, Zone C. What if my or your ID card is the color of your skin or shape of your eyes? You see, deeply, Jerusalem is still working on me, and even in its conflict, something calls at me still. Have mercy, dear Lord have mercy.

When asked about my trip, our journey, I respond with the word illuminating, because there were so many parts of me awakened, and enlivened by the grace of God and the very presence of Christ in the World today. In the midst of awestruck history, conflicted humanity, and spiritual devotion set to a backstage of enormity there was the work of every day people tending to needs of their lives and families and then, of course, there were others like the work being done at the Princess Basma Centre. Established in 1965 as a home for children with physical disabilities, mainly those suffering from Polio. It came under a charitable organization licensed in Jordan, in Palestine and in Israel.  In June 2000, the Centre was entrusted under the Arab Anglican Episcopal church – the Diocese of Jerusalem. This beautiful and heartfelt Centre helps mothers, children and families to find the help they need. Physical Therapy, Occupational therapy and Music therapy are among some of the much-needed services they offer.

http://www.basma-centre.org/

Christ in action today!

I know there is so much more about this trip in which I’d like to share, but here seems a good place to stop, at least for now, but not without saying thank you to the Episcopal Cathedral of St. George’s Jerusalem for welcoming us to worship. In the midst of overwhelming information overload, you provided a spiritual home and comfort longing to be had among our weary feet.

Journey to Jericho and onward…

Tiberias to Nazareth and now on our way to Jericho, down the Jordan and eventually the Dead Sea. What a journey!

Yesterday we began our day in Zippori ( Sepphoris ) where I wept when I heard the Song of Ascents Psalm 121 sung in Hebrew. Perhaps it was hearing the words of the psalm in a new way.

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Maybe I heard the story of Miriam in a new way as it was being relayed. Maybe I quietly longed for the peace of a people, all people living in harmony or perhaps I was just overwhelmed by my presence here. None the less I began my day so moved by the Holy Spirit, I wept. Every step is prayerful. Every step is with Godly conversation and quiet listening. Guard us and guide us Lord as to fulfill your will, your call and to live into your grace and be beacons of your Love.

I glance out over the hills a we make our way to Jericho. Reflecting back on our travels of yesterday with the mosaics, roads and remnants of Sepphoris, the priestly practicality of Father at Christ Church Nazareth, the awesome privilege and private tour from the Sisters of Nazareth, the reflection of my roots with the Blessed Mother at the Church of the Annunciation to St. Joseph’s Church.

And now we stop at Jericho. I am greeted by a gentleman who gives me a red rose and am treated like a lady. I have to admit after being with all the gentlemen for several days now it was very nice. He introduced us to another who brought us in the back where there was Phoenician glass. Vases, glasses, goblets aligned the walls most beautifully. There is a special set on the way home to my wife. 😉

After seeing the remnants of the wall of Jericho, we headed for the cable cars that brought us up to the Mt. of Temptation, well mostly. Once there, we had many steps to climb to get up to the Byzantine Monastery that houses the relics venerating the Temptation of Christ and Christ’s victory.

There is a holiness to the climb, one to be embraced in the silent counting of every step overlooking Jericho. Imagine Jesus on the Mountain in the dessert for Forty days looking over the land beneath him. A land written about in scripture, a land rich in history, a land he would come to know with new eyes and steady heart.

<<<<
re now at the Jordan and I will touch the waters of our savior's baptism as we together renew our Baptismal Covenant.

<<<<
w in Qumran and then to swim in the Dead Sea. I hope to post more pics later on.

Blessings+

The Home of Jesus

I began writing from the van yesterday morning as we began our day making our way from Tiberias to Nazareth where we met with the Sisters of Nazareth. This is a journey away from tourism and straight to an active archeological site in which we had the privilege to be invited. I am so very grateful to be among my classmates and could not wait to get the convent. It was our chance to step away from the commercialism that poured forth on the Mount of Beatitudes and a real inner glimpse to a First century discovery so tightly connected to Christ, our journey and call. I realize the magnitude of this gift. The magnitude of being ever present with Christ in such sacred, awestruck yet humble space. By humble I mean the way in which the sisters hold for and care for the sanctity of this holy ground and Christ in it. I only pray that I am able to share the grace of God given to me through his love and with my presence here, especially knowing how blessed I am to have this rare glimpse. Yes, my whole journey here has been a special gift, but this will live within me. Sister described that when the stone was removed, uncovering the family tomb, a smell of perfume filled the air. I can imagine the spirit of God being released and given to the world.

There is much to sit in silence with.

The video which I have linked for you here will you give you the background of my excitement and awe, and hopefully trigger a sense of wonder for you. Link: The Home of Jesus of Nazareth

Photos of our visit may be found here: https://thoughtsprayersandart.com/sisters-of-nazareth-convent-jesus-boyhood-home-01-12-2019/

Holy Land 01/11/2018: Magadala, Capernaum and more…

Last night we stayed in Tiberias. We will be here another two nights before moving onward. I am having some internet connection issues here so I have been trying to blog from our van off of my phone. Yes, believe it or not we have good WiFi on the van, but we were so busy today I had little chance to do so. On the van, that is where I get the bulk of my pictures uploaded. You can see them on the separate menu under Holy Land Photos. Because of the technical issues until we move on to another hotel, I cannot post many pics or links on the reflective post in the evening. (This One) I will continue to share as often as I can.

Today was extraordinarily busy and fruitful with every step. We visited Magdala, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Church of the Loves and Fishes, stood in the place of Peter’s confession, put our hands in the Sea of Galilee and sailed across the sea.  While I am in awe of all that remains of our history and the spirit that ascends from the rubble speaking truth to to my soul, I am conflicted by the commercialized tourism of all that is sacred. More than once today and especially on the Mount of the Beatitudes, I imagined Jesus flipping tables in the market place. The hustle, push, amusement park like frenzy of large tour groups on a mission seeking God through the next best T-shirt, nick knack, and thing-a-ma-jig, pushed me more closely to scripture and prayer as we navigated our way from Magadala to Capernaum and the Sea of Gaililee.

Magadala the said to be home of Mary Magadeline is still an active excavation site and is on the road Jesus traveled when going from Nazareth to Capernaum. In the rubble you can see the remnants of a synagogue, 1st Century mosaics, micvahs, and housing. We imagined that Jesus would use his own frame of reference when teaching or speaking in parables. For instance as we walked on an old 1st century path, we retold the story of the mustard seed with all the terrain around us as reference. The stories of Jesus come alive with every turn. Here too was also a modern day chapel that was built to celebrate service at the Sea over looking the water. Take a look at the pics.

For Pictures of Magadala : Click https://thoughtsprayersandart.com/holy-land-photos/magdala-2018/

 

The rest of the day walked us through scripture. Together we read the Beatitudes in a quiet spot on the Mount of the Beatitudes where we imagined Jesus speaking with the people who gathered around him. We read and prayed at the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Mark 6:30-44 and John 21 which led us right through to Peter’s confession. Then we visited where Peter lived. Looked at the floors of the home and read from Luke, imagining if we dropped a talent or a coin on the rocky home ground in the dark. Feeling the earth, seeing the terrain, culture and proximaty of the water, is giving us a new understanding of our scripture.

The Sea of Galilee is simply amazing in every aspect. From the point of Mother Nature, it’s beautiful, from the point of soul, the Holy Spirit is present, alive and life giving. We really enjoyed this time together on the boat, meditating on the words of Christ and the stories shared among this body of water. It is life giving.

 

 

 

 

Holy Land 2018: Solidifying Scripture

(Pictures from today’s travels through Joppa (Jaffa), Caesarea, and Megiddo can be located on the blog menu above. Holy Land Photos plus the additional photo pages listed by location. Enjoy!)

“You must learn, you must let God teach you, that the only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing.” Phillips Brooks

Normally I would never reiterate anything of Phillips Brooks. My offender often used his words and though, I will not judge the manner or intent in which they were shared, the hurtful memory generally excludes him from my repertoire. Yet when thinking of this day, and myself in this day, I could not seem to shake his words. You must learn, you must let God teach you…. So much of us, our identities are embedded in our history, good and bad; and that history started long before our king. So what kind of future are we, or can we make out of it? Will we let God lead and will we follow with an earnest heart?

We started our day in prayer with Acts 10 setting us up for our journey to Caesarea but first we stopped at St. Peter’s Church in Old Jaffa. It was obvious that my word of the day would be “Wow.” St. Peter’s Church is one of the largest buildings in this port town and sits up top of a hill which can be seen from the Mediterranean Sea. The Altar is a West facing Altar signifying that all are welcome. It has served as a beacon of Christianity in old Jaffa and was built and dedicated to St. Peter who just down the road raised Tabitha, Acts 9:36-43.

St. Peter’s Church is Roman Catholic and belongs to the order of Franciscans. It opened its doors in 1888. It was not the original or only church to be on this site. Jaffa was conquered 22 times. Some conquerers have included Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart,Saladin, Louis IX of France and General Edmund Allenby.

For Pictures of Old Jaffa and St. Peter’s Church

  

We then made our way to Caesarea (National Park) which really struck a cord when it comes to knowing our History along with the culture and community that captured this part of the world. Caesarea is located on the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv Haifa. It was a gift from Augustus Caesar to King Herod in about 35 BCE. It took twelve years for Herod to complete a newly constructed city.

A theatre built of stone sat 4000 people. This theatre, though smaller in seating number is still used this day for concerts. It is estimated that 40,000 people lived in the area during the time of Herod’s reign. Herod built a place on these grounds and in the center when you walk from the theatre to the palace is a slab which is dedicated to Pontious Pilot. As you walk further to the end you can see the remnants of mosaic tile inlaid on the palace floor. It’s amazing how such a structure even in its barely parts still remains. Yes, the word is “Wow.” Turn around and face the land and to your left is the remnants of a Hippodrome. Close your eyes and you can hear the crowds roar as the stomping of horses run through. History came alive and add to it Cornelius’s call to Peter in Acts 10 and our scripture speaks more loudly. Picture Peter walking his way from Joppa to Caesarea. We took a car and the distance was great. Imagine Peter walking. What was he thinking and anticipating? What was he feeling the closer he got? Imagine his faith and courage as he approached and as he spoke at Cornelius’s house.

For Pictures of Caesarea

  

Finally we made our way to Megiddo, the spot where some Christians believe the last great battle of all battles is to take place, Armageddon.  We began our visit in the small museum where we watched a film which took us through the history of this location, which is most fascinating. Megiddo is on a main road which extends from Egypt all the way through the region. This main road made it a hotbed for conflict and would see it’s share of wars and battles. In fact Megiddo is the location for the very first battle ever recorded.

During the tribal confederacy Megiddo was a Canaanite city, Judges 1:27 but was most likely conquered by David and taken over by Solomon, 1 Kings 9:15. Destroyed in 925 it was rebuilt to a greater scale. Currently you can walk the path through this location and embody the history in your bones as you examine the remains of a temple, stable, a food storage/dispensary area and even an old tunnel deep within the ground in which water flowed. It was everything an ancient city needed. Geographical height, food storage, a wall, stored grain and water.

Most impressively for me as a woman to add to this most intriguing place, this is where Deborah’s victory song came to earn its poetry, Judges 5.

Though interesting to me on such a historical level, I have to say that in light of today’s political arena I was most disturbed by the marketing of Megiddo with t-shirts and sayings that glorified the radical theories of Armageddon. Humans are fascinated with such in thought and practice that creating such disarray and chaos will lead to a greater end. I tend to own that the chaos we create, enable or standby does nothing more than create more chaos, more harm. I get the biblical expression, and the scripture in which Zealots arrive at their exuberance but I beg to differ on their interpretations and practice, only peace begets peace, sanctity begets sanctity and so forth.

Fore Pictures of Megiddo

  

My grandmother was born 01/10/01, today is her birthday, and I certainly felt her presence with me as I explored History today, our history, our history as Christians and my History as a Christian in this world. Leaving nothing behind all of it adds to who we are and how we practice and certainly how I practice and how we minister.

I cannot help as I walk these adverse paths of ours through time, but feel deeply compassionate for the turmoil that enslaves humanity, whether in times gone by or now in our current state. How is it that we who inherit such gifts from God, especially the gifts of life, love, mercy, grace and forgiveness can treat each other with great harm and indignation?

There is an awesomeness to Israel and the Holy Land, but itsawesomeness includes its adversity as much as its Love. And I’ll end as I began, “You must learn, you must let God teach you, that the only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing” and to that I have Faith. God will waste nothing.

Today was about History tomorrow we soar with the Holy Spirit. Peace, Blessings, and much Love from Israel.

A Prayer for World Peace, 1979

Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle; the strength to be forgiving; the patience to be understanding; and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.
May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear shall no longer lead men to commit injustice, nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.
Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men were created

 

 

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