Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Hymn - We the Lord's People

Hymn sung with cantor and congregation on August 29, 2010 at Washington's National Cathedral. Hymn 52 in the 1982 Hymnal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Action Ideas for Churches

  1. Help your church hold a "Creation Sunday" worship service.

  2. Become a "sister congregation" with a church in a community where toxic waste or pollution threatens the health of the church members.  Take their youth on an annual outdoor adventure.

  3. Hold a "Creation Celebration" and invite your community, campus, or congregation to enjoy the outdoors with you.

  4. Start a Bible study on what the Bible says about the environment.  Consider inviting people outside of the church.

  5. Set up a booth at a local environmental fair or Earth Day event, or plan one for your church.

  6. Get your church to conduct an energy audit and implement improvements.

  7. Adopt a local stream, park, or roadway for cleanup, monitoring, or restoration.

  8. Identify an important environmental issue and visit or write letters to local, state, or national leaders about it.

  9. Start a "Creation Club" for kids in your church. 

  10. Start a library of goods to share in your church.  Some churches have experimented with toy libraries and tool libraries.  Such ministries help us to live more simply and thereby reduce the pressures of materialism on creation.

  11. Volunteer in a city, state or national park.  With advance planning, rangers, park personnel, or foresters can put your church group to work.

  12. Hold a public prayer event with emphasis on creation care, restoration, and stewardship.

  13. Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials in places where shade and beauty are needed at your church.

  14. Organize a church or community garden and encourage gardeners to donate some of the harvest to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
Source: The Green Bible

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Actions to be a Deep Green Family

  1. Give Thanks:  Thank God for God's beautiful creation, and ask for help to care for it.

  2. Go Deep: Read what God's Word says about caring for creation and the people who depend on it.

  3. Recycle: Everyone in the family can help.  Recycle paper, cans, bottles, jars, batteries, chemicals, paint.

  4. Get Out:  Spend at least an hour a day outside.  Turn off the TV, computer, and video games and encourage your kids to have more "green time" than "screen time".

  5. Save Energy:  Turn off lights when leaving a room, buy Energy Star appliances, and turn the thermostat down in winter and up in summer.  Use your ceiling fans. 

  6. Do a Home Energy Audit:  Let the kids help do a home energy audit based on your last twelve months of utility bills.  Then get recommendations on how to make your home more energy efficient.

  7. Garden for Wildlife:  Invite creation into your yard by creating a backyard wildlife habitat.

  8. Combine Trips:  Poll the family before heading out in the car to see how trips can be combined.  Keep a list of all your errands in one place, and don't leave until you have several you can do in one trip.

  9. Light the Way to a New Energy Future:  Use compact fluorescent lamps instead of incandescent and save real money, while reducing pollution from power plants.  Recycle your old lamps rather than throw them away.

  10. Measure your Ecological Footprint:  Size up the impact your activities and consumption habits have by taking this quiz.
Source: The Green Bible

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Grieving over the loss of a parent

My mother is dead.  Three weeks and two days.  Her funeral was very sweet – almost joyful.  Sparsely attended, but so many of her friends were waiting on the other side.  Three weeks and two days.  And still it seems a bit unreal.

I am no longer walking under water, but the feeling has not returned to all my limbs.  I am not yet fully present to joy or to sorrow.  There have been no tears, but I did not expect any.  I had done my grieving for many months as I watched her drift away from herself and me.  The few flashes toward the last that reminded us all of who she was seemed fake – staged almost – as if she were saving up little bits here and there to present when the moment seemed right.  I was so taken aback when these moments occurred that I almost did not know what to say.

Three weeks and two days.  Her apartment is not empty yet.  That begins in earnest over the coming weekend – furniture to her niece’s home, to the church and to our home.  Dresser drawers of intimate things to go through and dispose of.  Cabinets of kitchen items to decide to keep or to let go.  The clothes were easy – someone else can surely use them.  But the dishes my father bought for her before the married?  Not so easy even as my cabinets are already overflowing.

Three weeks and two days.  There are thank you notes to be written for memorials, for food, for kind thoughts and helpful deeds.  I have not been able to start these yet even as I know that is rude of me.  My pen is not yet capable of smiling though my heart is beginning to do so.  It is almost amusing to hear myself tell others that I am “fine” in the same tight voice Mother used with me for months when I asked her how she was doing.  Yes, I am my Mother’s daughter in so many ways.

Three weeks and two days.  In the presence of the Lord, singing with the angels and the archangels, surrounded by friends and family, with my Father and all the beautiful cats they so loved while here!  The roses and glads that Daddy grew so beautifully in his garden here, even more splendid in that Garden of unending light.  The fulfillment of all her hopes, prayers, dreams and joys there in her eternal life.  And it seems only an instant to her!

Three weeks and two days.  If my lifetime here is as long as hers, I am two thirds of the way through – only one third left to get it right.  To be my Mother’s daughter in all of the faithful ways that she tried to teach, but with, I hope, more fun, more smiles, more joy. 

Written in one of Mother’s Bibles was the quote from someone famous that she had heard:  When you get ready to die, be sure that is all you have left to do.  I’ll try, Mother, I really will try.  I promise.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Actions to Protect Oceans

As individuals and families, what can we do to protect God's oceans?

  • Eat fish that comes from sustainable fisheries

  • Agricultural runoff into streams (and subsequently into oceans) is a major source of water pollution.  Consider buying local organic food that is sustainably grown and does not put pressure on threatened species or habitats.

  • Do not pollute--recycle used oil--and do not litter (plastic bags and six-pack rings easily end up in oceans, where they suffocate and entangle fish, sea turtles, birds, and other creatures).

  • Reconsider taking a cruise.  Cruise ships dump tons of waste directly into the open oceans, where there are no national laws prohibiting the practice.

  • Plant trees, and encourage tree plantings in your community, especially near streams.  Nurture and care for the trees.

  • Pray and act for the conservation of the earth's oceans and have faith that God will answer your prayers and honor your faithfulness to his will.

  • Tell your elected officials that you want government policies that support clean waters and ocean health.
Source:  The Green Bible

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Hymn - When In Our Music God is Glorified

Beautiful organ arrangement of a familiar hymn tune with a nice choral arrangement. I believe we sing these to different lyrics, but lovely all the same.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Actions to Protect Endangered Creatures

What can we do to protect endangered plants and animals?
  • Pray for endangered creatures, including the ones in your own neighborhood and yard.  Pray that God guides you and your family in your actions to care for other creatures as God intends.
  • Speak out on policies that affect endangered species.
  • Do not purchase anything made from endangered species or their parts (e.g., ivory, crocodile skin, corals)
  • Practice sufficiency and contentment in all your purchasing decisions.  Buy only what you need, seek out products that do not contain hazardous materials, and buy products with minimal packaging.  Recycle all materials--including computers--as much as possible, so they do not end up polluting lands and waters where creatures live.
  • Pollute less.  Pollution is a leading cause of species extinction. 
Source: The Green Bible

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A New Deacon!

Last night, Marcia Owens McRae, was ordained a deacon on the Episcopal Church. We celebrate with her as she enters into  a new ministry in the church.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Actions to Protect Health

What can we do to protect the health of everyone?

  • Cut down on air pollution by using public transportation, driving less, and using fuel-efficient vehicles.

  • Make your home more energy efficient.  Buy products with the EPA's Energy Star label, and practice the three Rs---reduce, reuse, recycle.

  • Choose to use fewer chemicals in your home and on your lawn.  Don't use pesticides if you don't have to---look for alternatives.  For cleaning agents, use water, soap, white vinegar, baking soda, borax, and hydrogen peroxide.

  • Ask your pediatrician to take an environmental health history to assess environmental conditions that may prevent your children from reaching optimum health.  Have your children's blood lead levels tested, especially if you spend time in a house built before 1960.

  • Vary your children's diets as much as possible while giving them plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Consider buying organic foods if available.

  • Tell your elected officials that you want government policies to protect children's health from toxic chemicals and other environmental hazards.
Source: The Green Bible

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Hymn - Ye Watchers and Ye Holy One

Words: John A. L. Ri­ley
Music: Lasst Uns Er­freu­en - Pe­ter von Brach­el, harmony by Ralph Vaughan Wil­liams

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reflections on Mother's dying and death

The first phone call came at 6:11 am. Mother was having great difficulty breathing but the nurse said that she had been given some medication to help. She did not think I needed to come, but she would call me back if anything changed. The feeling of dread hatched a huge egg in my chest and everything seemed suddenly to be in black and white. The color drained out of the bedspread, the clothes hanging over the door, the morning light coming into the bedroom. I struggled to get back to sleep for another hour or so.

The second call came as Kent and I were having a late breakfast in our favorite little diner. The smell of bacon and sausage was in the air, and the biscuits on my plate were just perfect. We were discussing what we needed to do and trying to sequence the errands by geography and closing times. The voice on the phone said I hate to tell you but your mother just expired. Expired? Like a coupon? Did she deflate? Oh. You mean she died. “I beg your pardon” came out of my mouth. Your mother … she expired about ten minutes ago. I could see my husband’s hand coming across the table taking mine. We are waiting on the Hospice Nurse to call the time. Do you want us to delay so you can see her or go ahead and contact the funeral home?

For a moment I could not breathe. The call I had prayed for, dreaded, knew was inevitable had come – just a few seconds and it was over. The decisions were now mine to make alone. The struggle was done. Mother was already in her eternal home, seeing all of the glory of God that she has believed and taught me to trust. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Kent knew by the look on my face what had happened and he took all the errands off the table, even though most were his and were important. His calmness and matter-of-fact attitude steadied me. We finished our breakfast, greeted some friends who were leaving the diner and headed to Mother’s house, making the necessary phone calls in route.

Several times during the ride, I reminded myself to breathe as I was not sure that I had done so. The running phrase in my head – my mother is dying – became my mother is dead. The word “dead” sounded artificial and jagged. My tongue found it heavy and hard to say. Dead. A blessing and a grief. The end here and the beginning of joy there. Nothing more to be done – could be done.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Many people are hungry not for bread only,
but they are hungry for ... love.
Many people are not only naked for want of a piece of cloth,
but they are naked for human dignity ...
Homelessness is not only not having a home made of bricks,
but homelessness is being rejected, unwanted, unloved, uncared for.
People have forgotten what the human touch is,
what it is to smile,
for somebody to smile at them,
somebody to recognize them,
somebody to wish them well.

~Mother Teresa

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Prepare Ye The Way

The name of John the Baptist immediately starts the song "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from Godspell running through my mind.   During high school, I played that album so much I knew all the songs and I suppose that shares my age.  The image of John the Baptist I see in my mind is not the hippie John of Godspell, rather it is probably one from a children's book of Bible stories.  He is dressed in animal skins with long, wild hair eating bugs!  There is something about the story of John the Baptist that, unlike most Biblical characters, has implanted such sharp images into my mind.  Usually the story is what stays with me, but the mention of John the Baptist provokes pictures and sounds. 

John knew that Jesus was the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the One with God from the beginning!  He not only knew who Jesus was; he was actively preaching for all to prepare themselves, to accept and follow  Him.  Our faith, like John's, impresses on us the need to share our conviction of Jesus as the Son of God, as the Alpha and Omega!  We, too, must prepare the way for Jesus' coming again.  We must prepare ourselves AND share with others.  Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Mom's 95th Birthday

 Reflections on my Mother’s Dying

Sunday was my mother’s 95th birthday.  I took her flowers – bright yellow lilies and red Gerber daisies that I thought she could see.  And a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and bright yellow icing flowers on it.  The lovely ladies who take care of her around the clock got her ice cream, a pretty little cake and lovely balloons.  They woke her up and we all sat around her bed eating ice cream and cake.  Mother was fed a small bowl of ice cream and a small piece of cake with lots of icing.  She ate it all.

I remembered the wonderful peach ice cream that Mother made when I was a little girl.  Mother was not known for her cooking – actually she hated cooking.  To her eating was a necessity that was to be completed in the most efficient and practical manner.  She did not linger in the kitchen ever and, as grocery stores prepared more and more foods, Mom was one of their biggest fans!  But in the summer time she would make ice cream – peach or pineapple.  Then Daddy would sit in the shade of the hackberry tree beside the driveway and hand churn the mixture for what seemed hours.  I remember the noise of the tank as it moved the ice around, the taste of the rock salt and the pleasure of seeing the paddle come out of the rich creamy mixture.

I remembered Mother’s 90th birthday.  I had wanted to give her a party – not a big one.  Just ask a few of her women friends to lunch at a nearby restaurant.  But she said no. She did not think anyone would want to have their Saturday disrupted.  And, besides, her friends did not go out much any longer.  I knew at the time that Mother was turning down the pleasure of a party.  She did not often “indulge” in purely social events.  Life for Mother was serious and one should work hard – idleness was to be feared and avoided.  Pleasure was always suspect.

Sitting by her bed on her 95th, I almost wished I had pushed the point and had a party anyway.  A few of those friends are now gone, but several called during the day to leave her a birthday message.  Her caregivers told her about the calls and I think she understood, but the time for parties is gone.  Her time for pleasures is gone and that saddens me.

I found last week in her closet a carefully “saved” umbrella that I had given her years ago.  It is black on the outside with a small bright pink ribbon running around it, but, when you open it, the whole inside is covered in a rose design.  Lots of rich reds and deep pinks.  It is like walking under a bouquet.  When I first opened it, it made me smile and I had hoped Mother would enjoy it too.  I think she said when she received it that it was “too nice to be used”!  Another small pleasure turned down.

Driving home I realized that part of my pain in losing her is hearing her say that she has had a sad life.  And in many ways she did.  But her marriage was long and mostly successful, she has been healthy until very recently and many of her friends are still in touch with her.  Did she multiply her sadness by turning down small pleasures as they were offered?  A rosy umbrella does not stop the rain, but can’t it be a reminder that God is our shield and protector in rain and in sunshine?  I wish I knew what did make her happy, but I didn’t and don’t.  I plan to use the rose umbrella until it is in shreds – I hope she will understand.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Good Samaritan

In the introduction to The Green Bible, J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D. writes:

None of Christ's teachings offers better instruction on how to care for all of God's creation than the parable of the Good Samaritan....

The parable demonstrates a continuum of compassion.  The priest represents those of us who refuse to take any responsibility for environmental problems.  We close out eyes and walk on by.  The second passerby, the Levite, is like most of us.  He sees the problem, then says: "I should get back to Jerusalem and raise awareness.  Maybe I'll blog on the problem of highway muggings or send a letter off to the Roman centurion about beefing up patrols and installing better streetlights."  Like the Levite, we see the hardship caused by environmental problems, particularly for the poorest among us.  Our hearts are moved to compassion, but we do little, if anything, to help.  Only the Samaritan, the one who is least likely to view the mugged man as his neighbor, takes action. 

What does this parable teach us about how we should approach environmental problems today?
  • to have any lasting effect, our hearts must be moved by compassion
  • we may find it dangerous
  • we may have to use our own resources
  • it may be inconvenient
  • it may be expensive
  • we may be ridiculed
  • we will have to take ongoing responsibility
  • everyone is our neighbor, including people across the globe and future generations
All of these lessons apply directly to our environmental problems today.  However, I believe that the most important lesson of the Good Samaritan--the one that can separate us from the priest and Levite--is that we must "get off our donkey" before we can become part of the solution.

How are you 'getting off your donkey'?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday Hymn - I sing the Almighty Power of God

I sing th'almighty power of God,
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad,
...and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at God's command,
and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord,
who filled the earth with food,
who formed the creatures through the Word,
and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how thy wonders are displayed,
where'er I turn my eye,
if I survey the ground I tread,
or gaze upon the sky.

There's not a plant or flower below,
but makes thy glories known,
and clouds arise, and tempests blow,
by order from thy throne;
while all that borrows life from thee
is ever in thy care;
and everywhere that we can be,
thou, God art present there.

Words: Isaac Watts, 1715
Music: Forest Green

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crucifixion of Our Lord

The daily lectionary readings in Matthew have led us to the crucifixion of our Lord.

The flaming banners of our King advance through his self-offering.
He lived to rob death of its sting; he died eternal life to bring.
A Roman soldier drew a spear to mix his blood with water clear.
That blood retains its living power; the water cleanses to this hour.
The crowd would have been satisfied to see a prophet crucified.
They stumbled on a mystery: Messiah reigning from a tree.
With what strange light the rough trunk shone, its purple limbs a royal throne, its load a royal treasury: the ransom of a world set free. 
The best are shamed before that wood; the worst gain power to be good.
O grant, most blessed Trinity, that all may share the victory.
Does this sound familiar?  Do you recognize these words?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Live Webcast: Presiding Bishop

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will present a live webcast Wednesday, July 28th at 3:00 p.m. EST on our national church homepage.  This webcast will be the first in a series of live conversations.

 "Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will be addressing topics that are important in our lives as Episcopalians and as Anglicans," said Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer and webcast moderator, in the release. "'A Conversation with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori' will allow for closer connections and open conversations on the issues that are on people’s minds.""Our goal is to produce and present live webcasts as a means of making newsmakers and important topics of the Episcopal Church available to as widespread an audience as possible," said Mike Collins, director of digital media, in the release. "We know the wider church has questions about these issues and we want to provide them with a forum to spark discussion and give some answers. We will be rolling out an interactive way to take part in these conversations which we expect to have ready for our second conversation in this series."

You can't watch the webcast live?  Have no fear, it will be available later on-demand.

What a wonderful opportunity for us all!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Hymn - O For A Closer Walk With God

O for a closer walk with God,
...a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

Return, O holy Dove, return,
sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made thee mourn,
and drove thee from my breast.

So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

Words: William Cowper, 1772
Music: Caithness; Charles Villiers Stanford, arr.

The Trinity Choir of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts performing O For Closer Walk With God by Charles Villiers Stanford. From their album With Heart & Voice, directed by Brian Jones.

There are not many recordings of this beautiful anthem, so I decided to upload it. The photo is the property of Evandro Antunes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reflections on Mother's dying - honoring thy father and thy mother

Standing at the door to Mother’s bedroom, the biggest thing I see is her hospital bed.  It seems to suck up all the floor and air and wall space leaving only a tiny fringe for walking around her.  This is not really true if you measure it out, but it feels that way to me.  Never has that room felt so small.
    Such a big bed – such a tiny Mother.  She was never a large woman, standing only 5’ 2” at her tallest, and weighing at most 135 lbs.  But she has lost four inches in height and many more pounds.  Holding her hand or touching her face, I feel only skin and bones, not much flesh.  Her skin is dry and cool, but smooth.  The bones feel hard and strong, yet insubstantial, almost weightless.
    This is the ending that she did not want – lying in bed, barely aware of her surroundings, unable to do anything for herself and spending the most money ever in her life for personal care and medicines.  She would be horrified if she comprehended what is happening!  She would have chosen quick and cheap, not wasting money on palliatives that comfort, but change nothing.  She is a child of the Depression and hated waste as much as excess and unproductive expenditures.  Her diminishing bank balances would make her crazy!
    She is so tiny.  The woman who could make my blood run cold with a mere glance now barely sees me.  The voice that could stop me in my tracks just by calling my name now sounds small and hoarse.  Her way was always the only way no matter the task – and usually she was right.  She was competent and efficient in her career and precise in all the beautiful garments she made for me as I grew up.  I wore one suit jacket that she made from junior high all the way through college – and it would still be in style if I had not worn it out.  Her hands were always busy, her mind was always sharp.  Now her hands pluck at the bed covers in anxiety and futility, and her mind only occasionally focuses on what is going on around her. 
    My formidable mother is now tiny.  Tiny and helpless, dependent on a revolving cast of very kind caretakers.  Her companions leave nothing to chance and try every day to interest her in conversation or going outside – and rarely now do they succeed.  But gone is the rapid click – click of her heels on the floor, the power of her presence to compel my behaviors, the sureness of those eyes in the back of her head in seeing everything I did, especially when I did not want her to!  Now she is tiny and I have to be the strong one, asking the questions and paying the bills.  It just does not feel right.  It feels very sad and lonely.
    Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother…   Sometimes that means just showing up.  Holding a cool, restless hand.  Reminding her who I am simply because I know who she is even as she is so changed.  The waiting is hard for her and for me.  She is just so tiny lying there.  I must show up so that we can wait together – she so tiny in that big bed.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Favorite Church Sites

When this posting is published, Scott and I will be close to finishing our vacation. We will have spent our vacation in an isolated cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Our cabin has no phone or internet service which we purposefully chose. Consequently this posting is being written a week early and is swerving off the normal Thursday theme. Instead of my musings on the daily lectionary, I am sharing some of my favorite church websites.
1. My first site for information usually begins at our national church site. The Episcopal Church has the latest news and wonderful resources. We can learn about our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori. There are comprehensive sections on:
  • Advocacy that is especially for people who strive to love their neighbors as themselves, mission focused on advocacy educates, motivates, organizes and empowers Episcopalians to action for justice, peace and care for all of God's creation, through networks, partnerships and resources.
  •  Community that is especially for Church leaders who are seeking connections and ideas, mission focused on community inspires people and communities with spirited and imaginative resources to grow in relationship with God and one another.
  • Networking that is especially for motivated individuals who want to take their idea or passion to the next level, mission focused on networking empowers people through creative and innovative resources and dynamic relationships to become visionary leaders in the Church and the world.
  • Partnerships of Anglicans worldwide, including Episcopalians, and their ecumenical and interreligious partners seek to share in God's work together. Therefore our mission is focused on relationships that enhance domestic and international partnerships so as to further God’s mission in a changing world.
2. Episcopal Diocese of Georgia has been recently revamped and is full of information concerning our own diocese.
3. Our camp and conference center, Honey Creek, has its own site also. Just looking at the pictures inspires the peace I always feel when there.

4. Episcopal Life Online is full of more news.

5. National Episcopal Health Ministries: I found this site when working on a disaster preparedness plan for our congregation. It has some really interesting information and ideas for congregations and individuals.
6. Biblical Words Pronunciation Guide: As a person who only speaks Southern English, this site helps me pronounce those difficult Biblical names to improve my lay reading, teaching children, and personal development.
7. Bible Study Tools: If you like to read various translations of particular verses check this out.

8. The Lectionary Page: Since my Book of Common Prayer dates before the Revised Common Lectionary, I head here for my Sunday readings.

I do hope these may be of interest to you.  I would also love to know some of your favorite sites.

God’s Peace!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spiritual Beings

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. 

~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Favorite Hymns

My favorite hymns are performed daily at dawn and dusk.

St. Francis wrote:
All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Each morning I enjoy my coffee on the patio listening to all the birds awaking and singing their praises to our Creator. Each species has its’ own special melody but they combine to make the most beautiful harmony. As they sing, they flitter about from feeders to flowers to trees. Some begin circling in the air and others are pecking around on the ground. My day cannot possibly begin any better!

Another celebration begins each day at dusk. Fewer birds join in at dusk but the great chorus of frogs and toads begin their chirping and croaking. The cicadas begin their interesting song. As the sun disappears, the bats soar in a ballet to the wonderful symphony. What a glorious way to end each day!

As this is posted, Scott and I will be on vacation in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I can assure you each dawn and dusk I will be sitting on the porch listening to my favorite hymns. I look forward to the new melodies that I will be able to share.

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
                                                Psalm 145:21

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Hymn - Gloria

The Episcopal Church has churches of all shapes and sizes, choirs big and small, and some even have an orchestra. Though our little church with the red doors and the big heart isn't quite this big in congregational size as the one featured in this video, its heart is. In this video you will hear Vivaldi's Gloria.

Chancel Choir: Grace-St. Luke's in Memphis from Grace-St. Lukes Episcopal Church on Vimeo.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reflections on my Mother's dying

The voice on the phone said your mother’s heartbeat is slowing down.  She has entered the active dying phase.  I suddenly felt like I was under water – every movement dragged, the words came out slowly, my mental processes felt like they were running on glue.  It has been several days and I still feel like that – as if I am walking under water, pushing for each move.
    There is so much to do – getting papers together, getting my own house in order so that I am prepared for the time away, writing the obituary.  I am getting none of that done.  The tape in my head is running over and over – Mother is dying, Mother is dying.
    I am surprised by the overwhelming sense of sorrow that surrounds every moment.  In the cycle of grief, maybe this is the acceptance phase.  Mother is dying – it is happening right this minute and I can do nothing to delay it, nor do I know exactly when she will leave us.  I am not ready and I don’t know what to do to be ready.
    Going through an end table while I was with her, I found a journal that I gave her years ago.  This journal asked her questions about her childhood and young adult years –what she liked and hated, what she wore and where she liked to go.  All the pages are blank.  Mother was always a very private person, reticent to talk about her growing up or her inner life.  One of my hopes has been that we could break through some of that barrier before she dies.  It will not happen.
    The deep sorrow for me is that Mother is dying without my really knowing her as an adult.  We are still mother and child.  I don’t know her, but she also does not know me either.  My questions will never be answered.  I have few stories to tell of her after her death, and that seems to me to be a second dying.  Memories connect us with our past and enrich our future, and I feel stranded without these bridges.
    So what do I do while I am waiting?  Continue walking.  That is all that I can do and all that I am given to do.  Friends have rallied around, and my prayers are reaching the heart of God as a place is prepared for my mother’s eternity.  I wait.  I struggle under the weight of sadness, knowing that others have walked this path before me and will come after me.  I try to remember Mother when she was active and beautiful, when she laughed and smiled, when she was a woman in charge of her world.  But the sorrow is still there, every moment.  It feels as if I am drowning even as I breathe in and breathe out.


Friday, July 16, 2010

How can we serve others?

We received this press release from Episcopal Relief and Development. How might you and I serve others in case of an emergency? Here is one way:

Episcopal Relief & Development 
Focuses on Disaster Preparedness
As hurricane season begins, Episcopal Relief & Development is unveiling new tools to help dioceses and parishes plan for disasters, including a resource library and a volunteer database
“One of the five priorities laid out in Episcopal Relief  Development’s strategic plan is to equip churches and dioceses within the United States to better prepare for and respond to disasters,” said Katie Mears, Program Manager for USA Disaster Preparedness and Response.  “Through this initiative, we hope to give Episcopalians the tools and resources they need to help vulnerable members of their communities recover after an emergency.”
Churches around the country have been helping their communities recover from disasters for years.  To build upon the lessons learned, Episcopal Relief & Development is creating a disaster preparedness and response resource library.  This unique space will allow people to share the stories, tools and best practices they have acquired through work in their local communities. 
“Having these tools in one place will enable churches to learn from each other and build upon one another’s experiences,” said Mears. “We hope that any dioceses or parishes that have been engaged in disaster response work will share their experiences with us and help build this library of knowledge.”
Episcopal Relief & Development also will compile a database of people willing to volunteer in the event of a disaster, along with an inventory of their skills.  With this information at the ready, the organization will be able to help dioceses and parishes respond quickly—connecting them to volunteers in their communities and around the country.
“The volunteer database is important because it gives us and our partners an idea of the human resources that are available,” said Mears.  “For example, if there were a flood in Nebraska tomorrow and a church there needed carpenters to help rebuild a house, we wouldn’t know who to ask.  The goal of this project is to identify willing volunteers and connect them with projects that utilize their skills, whether it be carpentry, a strong back or ministry of presence.”
This initiative will help The Episcopal Church prepare for and respond to disasters more effectively, by helping dioceses connect with resources and build better preparedness programs.
“Since Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of people have volunteered to gut houses, distribute supplies and rebuild homes in Gulf Coast communities,” said Mears.  “Many of these people have expressed that their post-disaster volunteer experiences have been transformative, helping them feel more connected to the communities they serve, their church and God.  We hope that this program will harness the incredible energy of Episcopalians and allow more people to engage in this powerful ministry.”
To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s work, please visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.
Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States and an independent 501(c)(3) organization.  The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development strengthens communities today to meet tomorrow’s challenges. We rebuild after disasters and empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Contact: Tyla Fowler
(800) 334-7626, ext. 6311
Luke Fodor
Network Coordinator
Episcopal Relief & Development
Second Avenue
New YorkNY  10017
C:(646) 220-9444
F:(212) 687-5302

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Ten Bridesmaids

I think in this parable it is important for us to understand the consequences of being unprepared for the task that you have been chosen to do. The story also makes the point that some things simply cannot be shared. You can borrow your friend’s study notes, but not the hours they put in studying for the test. You can borrow your neighbour’s lawnmower, but not their peace of mind. A student can borrow a friend’s merit badges but not their character. You can borrow a friend’s boat but not the skills required for sailing it and you can borrow someone’s Bible but not the faith they have nor the relationship they have with God.

Oil is at the heart of the parable. It seems to me that we are like the lamps and the oil in this parable is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, present and anointing our lives so as to enable us to do the will of God, to step up to the plate whenever and wherever God calls us to service. This faith and relationship is the spiritual fuel that enables our lives to shine for Christ. In other words the story reminds us that we must be spiritually prepared if we are to serve Christ and if we are to be part of his kingdom.

Someone once said: “Live as though Jesus is coming back today & plan as though he is not coming back for 100 years.” This means that we must constantly be ready for Jesus and like a good athlete keep training so that we might shine spiritually in any task he sets us.

Perhaps replenishing our oil supplies requires setting time aside every day whether we feel like it or not, to be attentive and reflective on where we are in our relationships with God and with others. Perhaps replenishing our oil requires spending time in prayer, speaking to him and paying attention to his voice, reading his word, spending time in worship. Perhaps it is engaging with the wonder and beauty of creation, walking on a beautiful beach, hiking through a forest, sitting on the top of a hill, spending time with those you love and who love you. Filling up your emotional love tank, maximising the precious moments in your life. Spiritual preparedness is an individual matter that requires a voluntary decision on your part.

How will we be prepared to meet the holiness in our lives?

Are we paying attention?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Welcome Scarlett Grace!

It's always nice to welcome a new baby born - grandparents Dale and Jean Brock, along with great grandmother Pauline are very excited!!

Hi Family & Friends,
   "Papa" (Dale) & "Gigi" (Jean) are proud and feel so blessed to announce the birth of Candice & Sean Ryan's 2nd child, Scarlett Grace Ryan, born 6/28/10, weighing in at 7 lb. 12 oz. and 20.5 inches in length. She's a beauty!  Papa was fortunate to be able to be with the parents a good bit of the time the 1st 3 days at Northside Hospital in Atlanta.  The name didn't get chosen til late the 3rd day!  Our friends agree that it's a very charming name!   
    My Mother, Pauline, is so proud of her little great grand daughter,  that she announced the birth in Church last Sunday!
    Little Brock is almost 2 yrs. old now and is adjusting nicely to having a little sister! 
   Love to all, Dale (& Jean)  Brock

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Last week Elliott, my grandson, and I visited the Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida. Since Elliott is not reading yet, he wants me to read the name of each animal and we study the maps showing their natural habitat throughout the world. We looked, talked and took lots of pictures! After viewing a few habitats, Elliott asked me what it said on the wooden sign on the front of numerous habitats. ENDANGERED SPECIES! “Does that mean they are extinct?” I was quite comfortable explaining the difference between being extinct and being endangered. He listened with the sponge-like intensity of a four-year-old. We continued through the habitats looking for those wooden signs. Alligators, crocodiles, exotic birds, small monkeys, komodo dragons and monitors were all admired.

Have no fear!  That is a statue of an alligator that Elliott is petting.

Please note: The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums in North America. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. In addition, the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) due to their dedication to providing excellence in conservation, education, science, and recreation. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in the global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.

Eventually we stopped to sit on a bench in the shade and have a cool drink. It is now hours after those first questions but it has obviously been on Elliott’s mind. “Gran, why are the animals endangered?” Now I am out of my comfort zone! How do I explain to a four-year-old what we are doing to God’s creatures?

If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature-even a caterpillar-I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.
                              Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-ca. 1327), Sermons

Let a man fear, above all, me, his God, and so much the gentler will he become toward my creatures and animals, on whom, on account of me, their Creator, he ought to have compassion.
                              Birgitta (1303-73), Revelations

If thy heart were right, then every creature would be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine. There is no creature so small and abject, but it reflects the goodness of God.
                            Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), The Imitation of Christ

The more I tried to explain how animals become endangered the more Elliott asked why! I did not have the words to explain why we are destroying habitats, continuing to buy thus providing markets for products that are eliminating species, interrupting their natural food cycles, and hunting them for sport.

How would you answer a preschooler? How will we answer God when he asks what we did to care for his creation?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

During the last few visits I have had with my mother, she has surfaced briefly if at all.  I have felt mostly useless and left out of her dying process because she has not spoken to me or responded to my voice.  While that is understandable, it is painful – almost a noir comedy feeling of “my mother has left the building” without the laugh track. 

In finding the suit for her burial and setting it aside for her caretakers, I was reminded again that my mother – and my father, for that matter – taught me a great deal about personal vanity.  Mother’s closet is full of color – rich purples, bright reds and blues, lots of lovely pastels.  Her shoe rack has reds, silvers and golds on it as well as the usual navy-white-black-tan river running through it.  Mother held the expectation that she would look nice for herself even if no one else cared.

Her hair – so dark in her youth, is now greatly silvered, but not white.  She always kept it cut, permed and neat, going to Melinda twice a week to be sure it looked nice.  When she fell and a circle of hair had to be shaved to do the few stitches she needed, the wound was on the back of her head.  Melinda carefully tended that wound until it healed, giving Mother the shampoos she needed but making sure to comb as much cover as she could over the area –you would never have seen the “hole” as Mother called it.
This week something of the old vanity has stirred in Mother.  Her caretakers give her a shampoo often when they give her a shower, and then they blow dry her hair using a round brush.  But Mother suddenly woke up and said that she wanted her hair to be done by a “professional” – and that was the word she used.  By a professional.  We have duly made the appointment and a stylist will come to her.  

This flowering of the woman –  not the mother – that I have always observed felt good even if it is a single blossom.  I heard myself laughing as the caretaker relayed her request.  It felt almost as if she had shouted, “honey, I’m home!” and I heard the echo of the screen door slamming behind her from my childhood.  That kitchen door swing shut with a sharp sound was a regular part of our comings and goings in my childhood.  When we sold the house a few years ago, we found that we did not even have a front door key as accustomed as we were to that back entrance.  Home was through the kitchen door always.
There is an old Gospel song that talks about “stepping on shore, finally home…stepping on shore, finding it Heaven.”  Soon she will.  And her hair will look good for her homegoing.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Crash Your Local Episcopal Church on Good Samaritan Sunday

On Facebook, there is an invitation for folks to "Crash their Local Episcopal Church this Sunday" - it's a way of sharing and bringing our attention to attending during the summer, and letting us know the Gospel reading for this week. So I share with you their invitation:

"Does God go on vacation in the summertime?" So asks a child in a cartoon as a churchgoing family arrives to discover very few people there. Maybe you're on vacation right now. But why should that stop you from attending church? Most likely, there's an Episcopal community of faith near you.

While you're at it, bring a friend! Bring the people you're visiting. If out-of-town guests are visiting you, bring them to your church.

And if you're wishing you could at least get a stay-cation, take a couple hours off and spend time at church with your own faith community, or with a new one. You never know what might happen! You may wind up being a Good Samaritan for someone who really needs your help this weekend.

Won't you join us this Sunday? Services are at 8:00 am and 10:30 am.  Will you be there? Who will you bring?

Thursday, July 08, 2010


"Compassion - which means, literally, "to suffer with" - is the way to the truth
that we are most ourselves, not when we differ from others,
but when we are the same. Indeed, the main spiritual question is not,
"What difference do you make?" but
"What do you have in common?"
It is not "excelling" but "serving" that makes us most human.
It is not proving ourselves to be better than others
but confessing to be just like others
that is the way to healing and reconciliation.
Compassion, to be with others when and where they suffer
and to willingly enter into a fellowship of the weak,
is God's way to justice and peace among people.
Is this possible? Yes, it is,
but only when we dare to live the radical faith
that we do not have to compete for love,
but that love is freely given to us
by the One who calls us to compassion."
- Henri Nouwen

quoted in the book
by Michelle O'Rourke
p. 112

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Breckin’s Baptism

“Breckin Alexzander Yancey, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” says the Reverend Deacon Scott Mithen (grandfather of Breckin). “Breckin Alexzander Yancey, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.” says the Reverend Jim Dorn. Amen, Amen proclaimed the congregation of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palatka, Florida.

St. Mark’s was a marvelous setting for the recent baptism of our second grandson. St. Mark's Parish was organized on December 12, 1853, and is the oldest church in Palatka. Records show, however, that Episcopal services were conducted here as early as 1846. Construction on the building was begun in the spring of 1854 and the first service held later that year. This Carpenter Gothic church is so attractive.

Our liturgy of Holy Baptism is always such a beautiful and special celebration. It was extra special to our family since my husband was asked to participate as deacon in the ceremony. Deacon Scott wore his festive Celebration Stole that was given to him by his sister and cousin. Breckin wore the same baptismal gown that his older brother wore four years before. He was joined at the baptismal font by his parents, his four year old brother, and his godparents (our son and daughter-in-law). Sitting in the front pew with my mother, I felt truly blessed to be surrounded by family and this special congregation as another of our family received full initiation into Christ’s Body.

Our liturgies are so steeped in tradition and each congregation adds their own flavor to these traditions. Elliott, Breckin’s older brother, was baptized years ago at St. John’s. Phyllis Wilkerson, a lovely lady at St. John’s, made banners for each baptism. Elliott’s lovely banner hangs in his room to this day. My mother decided Breckin needed a banner like his brother. So she made a banner that hung at St. Mark’s during his baptism and now hangs at his home.

The border brings in more tradition as it is made from the neckties of my father who watches over us all from heaven.

St. Mark’s also has a special baptismal tradition. A lovely gentleman in his nineties makes beautiful wooden candlesticks for the baptismal candles.

I had the privilege of speaking to this gentleman after the service. What a wonderful gift!

We are so blessed to have such beautiful traditions within our church and congregations!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Pictures - 4th of July

The McKay's were gracious enough to offer us an opportunity to gather for July 4th festivities. Their location was PERFECT for those wanting to view the fireworks. Before then we cooked out and had a delicious supper. Here are some pictures to share with you of the evening.
Chris Nelson and Episcocat


Jim Stevens

Juliet Richards and Jim Stevens
Angus Nicholson, George McKay, Chris Nelson

Chris Nelson

Wesley Yawn
Mary Ellen McKay

George McKay