Spirituality and the Human Body

Yesterday one of the  parishes I attend offered a Faith Forum on “Spirituality and the Human Body” the questions posed to the group were

~ What are some links between the human body and our spirituality?

 

~What are some barriers that keep us from seeing our human for as being linked in a positive way to our spiritual selves?

As you can imagine, all sorts of answers were tossed about. What I took away from the discussion that meant the most to me is that Western Christianity– especially that “puritan” type of Christianity that has such a stronghold on American Christians’ experience is to blame

American Christians, it seems, have forgotten that Jesus was also fully human.  He, like all of us  was made of  human cells. He interacted with other humans; even touching them. He had eyes, ears, hands , feet, ect. He ate and drank. As we know, He died a physical death.

Rather than fear our bodies, we should celebrate { appropriately} our physical nature. God created us to be in co-creation with God–and our bodies are a vessel that carries God into the physical Earth.

Somehow, in some misguided way, we are taught from an early age that Christian spirituality must stay disconnected from the physical self. This is detrimental not just to Christians, but to people in general. Our current attitudes towards the body are responsible for :

~ Eating disorders and ” fat shaming” All bodies are different— and doctors will agree that people who are either too thin { as I am } or profoundly obese are not healthy.

~Over and under sexualizing of women. Women either think they must be the iconic stereotype of ” Madonna or Whore”

Humans need to learn to love, respect and tend to our bodies. We are ALL made in the image of the Creator, and for that reason we should tend to them lovingly.

 

In the Name of the Triune God.

 

Amen.

 

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Two Questions, Via the SSJE Brothers

We have some changes coming in our household. Best Dude’s younger brother is coming to live with us until he can get financially back on his feet. For some personal reasons, I am less-than-thrilled about this situation. Thankfully, people wiser than me know how to make me feel somewhat better about the changes I face in my home environment.

One of my favorite priests helped me to feel better about this situation by sending, along with some comforting  words of her own, a sermon from the Brothers of St John The Evangelist .

The gist of the sermon, at least to me, is the following:

“”…what are the deep truths about yourself that you absolutely know to be true – the bedrock, the deposit, the precious treasure which is most profoundly true – and which you abandon or forget at your own peril?  What is at the core of your God-given identity?  How does God know you?  Who did God create when he created you and called you by name?  And what do you need to do to guard and protect your truest self in order to live a life that is authentic?

But then, the second question.  How can you also be faithful to the Spirit challenging you now to grow?  What needs to change?  What needs to die so that your truest self may live?  We don’t like to die – and we don’t like to change, especially as we grow older.  But in Cardinal Newman’s famous words, “to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”  So where is the Spirit calling you now to change and to grow?”

The deep truth about myself is that I am made for service.  For many years, I felt like I was not able to live up to my God-given gifts. Another truth about myself is that I am a peacemaker.  Interpersonal strife cuts me to the core, and when I usually cope in a healthy way with interpersonal issues; if I am called upon to compromise my values I resist. The reason for this resistance is that I am also an advocate. One of the modern world’s greatest sins at least in my mind} is bigotry. Although I do understand on an intellectual level that fear leads to a person’s bigotry; on a soul level bigotry hurts me. Jesus calls we Christ-carriers to BE Christ’s Hands and Feet in the world, and I am called to aid in advocacy and reconciliation.

The second question is harder. I think my naiveté  needs to change. God blessed me with two wonderful parents who instilled some excellent values; Because I was raised well , I tend to think that everyone was blessed with the same values as was I while growing up.  I need to remember that God blessed me with an active brain and a good soul– but not everyone is equal when it comes to intelligence and character. While God created humanity as good, humans individually make choices that are not good.  Perhaps I need to stop looking at life in dark and light; maybe if I realize that nothing and no one is either ‘ good’ or ‘ bad’ , will I be open to the fullness of the person God calls me to become.

 

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

 

 

 

My mother always says: “Actions speak louder than words”

My Mom always says ” Actions speak louder than words” Best Dude says” Talk is cheap.”

Both statements are true , and as I grow in my walk with Our Lord, I find myself seeking out more ways that I can translate my prayers into action.

Last evening I had a wonderful opportunity to help a group of parishioners { and their clergy} from one of the parishes I attend engage in boots on the ground Christianity.”  we packed approximately 40 Christmas care packages for a unit of deployed sailors. I was blessed tenfold by my participation in this ministry; and am grateful for a chance to send a bit of Christmas cheer to brave service people who are serving overseas. Best Dude and my dad are veterans { Marine Corps and Army } , and I’ve too many other loved ones who served in the various branches on the US Military.

For me, merely putting bumper stickers on cars  saying I support the troops is not enough. Anyone can put a bumper sticker and/or yard sign on their vehicle or in their front yard; but we Christians are called to back up words with tangible actions. As Christians God calls us to take the next step and do something about that which we pray.

Prayer, while essential , should be backed by action.  That is why I feel so blessed to get a chance to put together some care packages for some American service people; it was a chance to BE the Hands and Feet of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lately I’ve been pondering what it means to be a Christ-carrier. In the face of several acts of violence against innocents, we are called to pray for the victims hurt or killed { and even for those responsible for these heinous acts} Yet I ask myself:  How can I be an instrument of God’s Love and Peace in these scary times? What can I, one lowly servant, do to fix the anger that has poisoned our society? 

There is no doubt in my mind that we live in a broken society. Yet last night reminded me that God’s original design for humanity is GOOD.

Soon Advent will be here. This is the time in the Christian calendar where we Christ-followers, prepare for the arrival of Emanuel, God-With-Us. Those of us { including myself} who are on the Anglo-Catholic end of Churchpersonhship} also give thanks to Mary, the vessel chosen to literally bear God-as-human in her womb. Mary, a humble Jewish girl, said ” yes” to an action that changed  humankind forever.

God calls God’s people to prayer. But we are also called, to step out in faith , and Be  the Light of the Triune God.

In the Name of the Triune God.

Amen.

 

The Reluctant Activist

I am not a fan of this sitting President. Note that I did NOT resort to name-calling or otherwise ridiculing him. I merely stated a strong opinion. He is the President and I cannot deny him that; I am an American.

I do not like him and I cannot pretend to like him.  If my dislike of this man makes me a ” flaming liberal” so be it.

In the past 12 months, my dislike for him has not wavered.   Many people who voted for him advised me to give him a chance. I reluctantly did so, and the only thing I discovered is how correct I was in my early assumptions of what sort of leader he would be. To be honest, he has surprised me only by saying or doing things that are totally inappropriate for any leader.

He is more worried about how ” smart” he is perceived as being rather than addressing issues that affect real people’s lives. Every time anyone shines a light on his negative words/deeds, he does one of two predictable actions

He either 1} blames the Clinton or the Obamas, often bringing up a misstep they took. { and I say this as someone who despises Hillary Clinton} 2} childishly calls out ” FAKE NEWS”. Now I realize that the media exists to put more money into their corporate coffers, but let’s get real: the only media his fans trust are Brietbart and Conservative News Daily.

This is my opinion. I’ve lost more than one Facebook “friend” over my refusal to think this President is fit for the job for which he was selected to do. Yet at the same time, I have gained acquaintances in my community via the progressive movement in my city.

Yet my distaste for him as a person and all the racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and disdain for anyone who is not a white, straight ” Christian” male person has called me out of my comfort zone.

For the sake of myself, my loved ones { some of whom are people of color and GLBTQ}For the sake of my loved ones, I must take action. This is hard for me because I hate organized politics. Yet I plan to get involved –because the problem will not go away. People, especially we Christ-carriers, need to put words and thoughts into ACTION.

I’ll get out of my comfort zone so that I can rest easier at night knowing that I am doing something to swing the national pendulum back towards the center.

I love my country enough to realize that she is flawed. Americans’ collective fear and bigotry has put us in a scary position.

Speak-the-Truth-even-if-your-voice-shakes

From what I see: many have chosen to sacrifice a person’s right to life  and free speech { both guaranteed in the US Constitution} on the misguided altar of The Flag and The Anthem. I’ve talked with two Vietnam veterans who feel that these symbols , in and of themselves, are nothing worth all the division. What these vets tell me is that they fought for the rights that are set fort in the US Constitution, a documents that outlines our core beliefs as Americans.

My love for my nation and her Constitution is what drives me to support those who feel oppressed by the National Anthem and choose to peacefully kneel when it is played in public.  I love my nation enough to sacrifice some of my own ‘ rights’ so that others may be safe. As a spouse of a gun owner and recreational target shooter, do not believe in repealing the Second Amendment

Vetting needs to be done for anyone purchasing any kind of firearm. I know my NRA-supporting acquaintances will hate me for stating this, but safety comes first. In Florida one must submit oneself to several background screenings before one can work in any job { volunteer or paid} that involves youth or the elderly. In my opinion, the same should go for anyone seeking to buy a firearm or any ammunition.

As a concerned Floridian, I will work to make sure the NRA loses its grip on state and federal law makers.

I will do more, but ending the reign of the NRA lobby is first on my mind.

Normally I am not a fighter. But desperate times call for desperate actions.

The time is NOW.

Shalom to all.

Namaste.

Blessings.

Being ” Christ-Carriers” in a broken world.

Today in one of my two parishes, we observed All Saints’ Day.

Naturally we included this hymn { and if anyone asks , this is one of my All-Time favorite hymns }

“1. I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus’ sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn’t be one too.

3. They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.”

I love this hymn simply because it reminds me that God intends humanity to be good. At Mass on Wednesday, I was reminded that the dear ones who have gone on before us still walk with us today. We are indeed ” surrounded by a cloud of witnesses”  in these saints. Additionally, we are surrounded by a cloud of living witnesses here on Earth. The third verse of the hymn _I Sing a Song of the Saints of God_ reminds us that saints are all around us.

I needed this reminder again this afternoon when I looked online to find out that another mass shooting has occurred in Texas. This crushes me. In the past six months or so I’ve learned of more mass shootings here in the USA than I can ever remember With this violence, comes the mistrust between religious and ethnic groups. Evil acts bring on more hatred and distrust among people; and somehow I belive that this is not what God wanted for God’s Beloved. Without getting into a debate involving the Second amendment of the US Constitution, I beg the question: Why must we kill each other in mass numbers? 

What is the point these individuals think they are making by causing death and destruction to as many people as possible with one means of  making mayhem?

What I really want to ask Jesus right now if I saw Him walking on my Pensacola street is this: ” Lord, Savior and Teacher, why must Americans continue to kill each other I this way? How can I, a simple servant of You, do my part to carry You into such a broken, divided nation and world. I am lost, LORD Christ? Help me help others see You in the face of all humanity. Thank you, Jesus” 

Somehow, and in some way, the hatred fueling these evil acts must stop. What sort of lesson are we teaching the next generation about how to handle conflict and disappointment?

I know God is in all this, the same God who sent the Son to be fully human among us. Frankly, tonight I am not feeling that God is here. I ” know” God and the saints walk with us tonight but they seem so distant.

Help us, , Lord to be more like Your Son, God Incarnate. Show me what I need to do to carry Christ into the messy human existence of the 21st century.

Kyrie elesion. Christe elesion. Amen.

Duality

rosaries I own two different rosary sets, and I treasure both of them.

They are alike, yet different.

Both were given to me as gifts by women who are/were important in my life.

Both have a cross at the end of the bead set.

One has a crucifix , the other has a plain cross.

One is made of olive wood, the other is made of twine.

Both are hand-made.

Both are prayer aids used by Christians for thousands of years.

One has a more ” set” form of prayers; the other is more ” freestyle”.

My life right now is one of duality.

Right now I am active in two equally wonderful, but very different parish homes.

I am realizing that God is calling me into something that is bigger than any one parish.  I feel like God is calling me into the ministry of a deacon.

While I love both my parish families, I feel like my real calling is to be a minister of God out among the people.  My spirituality has taken me from the church walls into the wider community.

My involvement with some Christ-carriers in Pensacola has shown me all sorts of opportunities where my gifts can be used to meet the greatest need.

I have a plan to talk with both rectors at the parishes I attend; and I also have a contact at the assisted-living place where I can best serve this need.

As Christians, we are called to take care of those in our own community. yet Christ also calls us to care for ” the least of these” .  One of the reasons that I feel strongly that I am called as a deacon in the Church is this ministry of presence. to those whose faces are not seen in any church pews on Sunday.

Through my intercessory prayer ministry, I’ve learned a lot about the ministry of presence.

Yes I love my Sunday morning assisting at Mass. But I also know that to grow, some time away is required. I can’t have Sunday duties at any one parish.

In order to sure better, I need to step away from  one way of serving.

Duality.

 

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

 

Amen.

Philip and the Eunuch

Today’s Bible Study lesson about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch was pertinent; considering the political state of the US at this time.

We are living in divisive times. Fear of the ‘other’ seeps into our collective consciousness.  The media and politicians  tells us to fear those whom look, love, act, or believe differently than ” real Americans”.

Let us review the story from Acts: { source New International Version }

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] [c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

In those days, an eunuch would NOT have been welcome in ” polite ” Jewish society. As a male person with some missing ” parts”, this eunuch would be ostracized from polite Jewish society. Yet his ” brokenness” did not preclude him from reading and studying Jewish Scripture.

The eunuch wanted to know about whom this passage was written; so Philip taught about Jesus.

The next step was a big one: the eunuch asked to be baptized immediately.

To me, this passage is about the inclusively of Christ’s Love. Although a Jew teaching and preaching to a Jewish crowd ; anyone  can be grafted onto Christ’s family tree via baptism.

Fast forward to the 21st century post 9/11/01 world.

Some Christians still believe that ” broken ” people have no place at Christ’s Table. In our post 9/11 mindset, people of color are often told there is ” no room” for them within our communities . Others adamantly wish to stop GLBTQ persons from enjoying full membership in the Body Of Christ.

Do not fear the stranger; embrace them with the Love of Christ.

Humanity, in all our diversity, are God’s Beloved.

There is room in Christ’s Family for all who seek to know Him. Philip recognized this, and his actions are the reason he is remembered as a saint. Philip, an ordinary human, defied the conventional wisdom of his time and baptized an Ethiopian eunuch. Like Philip, we are called to see Christ i the face of others: whether or not those faces mirror our own or are completely different from what we know as ” normal” .

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

All Saints’ Day 2017.

We will NOT let hate win

I should be accustomed to the violence that I see every day on the news { Best Dude is a news hound, I am not}  But I will never think that mass killings and acts of terrorism are ‘ the new normal’

Hatred is NOT normal. religious extremism is NOT an accurate representation of any faith . The media ad the general American psyche has focused on Muslim extremists for years { and with good reason}

When I learned of the most-recent terrorist attack in New York City , I felt my heart rise in my throat.

I weep.

My tears are for the victims who died or were hurt I the attack.

I cry for those in New York City, who have been dealt with so much at the hands of terrorists.

I shed tears of gratitude for the brave first-responders.

I also weep for those whose hearts are or shall be further hardened against our brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith due to the act of terror by this one human .  The national political scene has been virally anti-Muslim since the attacks on our nation in September 2001. While I do not deny that these attacks against our nation and our way of life are evil; I refuse to see all dark-skinned Middle Easterners as evil. 

It is time to erase the stereotypes.

All Muslims are NOT extremists who want to destroy our nation and all for which she stands.

Of course I have compassion for the victims and their families; but this act of terror is bigger than even New York City.  Religious extremism of any strip is detrimental to society. Personally, I know and love several people who have been caught up in extremism that is of the Christian variety.  I’ve also known non-Christians whose prayer and actions put my own to shame.

Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day. Rather than focus on what divides us as humans; I will go to Mass and celebrate the Saints, those living and those who watch over us from Heaven.

God is love.

Terrorism is hate.

God’s Love knows no color or belief system.

Hate knows no color or belief system.{ As a matter of fact,   some of the most-hate-filled people I know and have known are white, straight, cisgender Christians. }

Fight terror with Love.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

we are all the women at the well

Face it, we are all the woman Jesus meets at the well.

Yes, even you men are the woman at the well.

Hear me out.

God knows us better than we know ourselves.

God loves us: the whole of us.

If I meet Jesus out and about in town, he could and would tell me al my deep secrets. I, and we, cannot hide from the triune God.  God knows me and God knows you. Yet no matter what we think we are hiding from God, the love of God is always faithful.

As part of my discernment for Holy Orders I have been writing a detailed spiritual autobiography.

This is required  and I have been advised to be totally honest in telling my story.

Although I am naturally an honest person, there is much that I do keep close .

By doing so, I am forced to unpack all sorts of * shit* that I would rather keep buried. Some aspects of my life that I would rather hide are not my fault; but most of the mess that was the first 30 years of my life were due to my own{ foolish  and downright stupid} choices.

My forty-plus years of life on Earth have in no way been anyone’s definition of normal.  Yet as I write this autobiography; I am owning some parts of my story that have been tossed deep within the cobwebs of my Pensive. By claiming my own story, I am saying that I, Sarah Beth, am a beloved although wildly imperfect child of God.

In an odd way; owning all of  my story is empowering.

God loves me regardless. Yet by owning my story to my rector, a shepherding committee, my bishop {and whomever else must know my story} I am saying GOD LOVES ME. I am telling the world that God’s love is an unconditional Gift.

Alleluia . Amen.

 

 

Wise Words from Steven Charleston

Today’s quote:

…….”Do not doubt your vision. Do not let it grow dim because you are distracted by so many other cares. Remember it, return to it, and let it enlighten your path once more, showing you why your life is so much a part of the plan of love. You have been given a glimpse into your own future, an echo of the calling that made you choose to walk the path you are on. None of this was by accident. You were singled out for a reason, needed for a purpose. Do not doubt that, but embrace it. Let the vision within you shine brightly now, for soon your gift will be needed as never before. Look, already its light fills your eyes. You believe and so you see. ” +Steven Charleston

These are wise words from a very wise man.

As I ponder my vocation, I am met with many fears.

Will I get through the mound of paperwork that all aspirants in my Diocese must complete?

Will I pass the psychological/physical health exams?  I do take medication for severe depression, but I’ve been steady for years. Does this matter. I know that God qualifies the called, but did anyone ever serve while on antidepressants?

Can I overcome the covert sexism that I sense within  some prominent lay leaders in my Diocese?

But then I realize that , in spite of all the  roadblocks regarding my calling that I ‘d thought were deterrents; God has removed from my path.  One by one, God removed every practical reason why I cannot or should not pursue this path.

I am being singled out to see where this journey takes me.  God has been working on me and through me for years.  

God is with me, and so are many of God’s faithful servants.

I am grateful .

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.