A Beatles’ Song as A Prayer

I am a HUGE fan of The Beatles’ music.

Blame my mom, she was an original Beatlemaniac– and was one of the ” screamers when they appeared on American TV for the first time in 1963.

The song _The Long And Winding Road_ keeps playing itself over and over again in my head. No matter what I do– what I listen to– my mind keeps playing this song over and over again. While it is one of my favorite songs from the Fab Four , my favorite  Beatles’ song is _Let It Be_.

So why is _The Long And Winding Road haunting me?  Honestly, I have no clue. All I know is that these words have been haunting me since the Sunday when the story of God’s call to the child Samuel was read and preached upon.

I hear this song as part of my own ” call story” .

Take a look at the lyrics

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD ~ The Beatles

Baby don’t leave me waiting here
Lead me to your door oh, yeah.
The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door
The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way
Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Any way you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried
But still baby they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
Such long, long, long, long, time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here
(Don’t leave me waiting here)
Lead me to your door
But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
A long long time ago
So, don’t leave me waiting here
Lead me, lead me to your door
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Songwriters: JOHN LENNON,PAUL MCCARTNEY
© EMI Music Publishing,Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFinde lyrics:

I feel like this song illustrates my own discernment process— that no matter how many times I try to get ” lost” on many ” long and winding roads” , that God always pulls me back— leads me by the nose, back to God’s Plan for me. No matter how much I argue with God— and try to run away– God finds me and leads me back.

It is a messy dance of sorts– with me trying hard to break away from God’s call for my life.

This song is important to me. And, other than the words I have used in an attempt to articulate this importance. I am clueless.

These words are especially poignant:

……..The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way…

How many times have I prayed these very words to God?

Let me know Your Way, God”

Why are  You leaving me standing here clueless, God? 

But then I remember:

……..The long and winding road

That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door…..

God is there. God, through Jesus, knows what it is like to be a human 

Nothing is new to God. God made a covanent with God’s people long ago, and I am an heir to that promise. 

But like Samuel, I finally have to say to God : Here I am. 

I am scared. But, God will be with me.

Amen.

 

 

 

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End the Stigma

My name is Sarah , and I suffer from chronic depression. It is in remission right now– and has been for years. I am one of the fortunate ones who has lived with this condition for over three decades.

The credit for my survival does not belong to me. God graced me with two of the most loving, tolerant, supportive parents, a spouse who takes his ” for better or worse” vows seriously, and an amazing cloud of witnesses in m faith community.

It is time to #EndTheStigma surrounding mental illness. If it took two celebrities’ suicides to make people stand up and take notice of mental illness  than some good for humanity can be gleaned from their deaths. My heart goes out to the people who actually knew Kate Spade and Anthony Boudain as well as those of us who admire their work.

Mental illness, including depression, is real. If left unchecked these illnesses are as deadly as cancer.

I could have been another sad statistic,  but God has plans for me. It is my hope and prayer that my story of struggling with a depressive illness will inspire others to take action to end the stigma and educate others on suicide prevention.

Many of those including myself, who suffer from depressive disorders ” look fine”. Many of us are active in our communities and seek to serve others. Sometimes it is really hard for us to get our bodies out of bed and brush our teeth.

Contrary to some popular belief we who have depressive disorders are not ” lazy” . As a matter of fact, many of us are classic examples of an overachiever.

In high school I was an athlete and  a member of various clubs and organizations. My schedule was busy seven days a week. During the summers I worked a seasonal job to earn spending money and experience.  To an outsider my life looked like the quintessential ”  happy blonde teenager”.  yet the mask hid a lot of pain.

It is a miracle that I can only attribute to God that I made it out of high school alive.

I’, for one, depend on some strong { although not addictive} medications to function as a normal-ish person every day. Due to good medical coverage, I am able to stay on these life-giving and life-saving medications. The fact that so many people who need similar medications cannot afford them is not lost on me, and for them my heart breaks.  So many lives are lost or ruined because of a lack of financial resources to get psycho-active medications to needy people.

Many of us have been battling this invisible illness for years. For me it started in early adolescence and got steadily worse.  It was not until an excellent psychiatrist prescribed the drug Seroquel to me that the depression started to lift.

It is by the grace of God, and the timelessness of my parents , spouse and others who love me, that I am alive and thriving right now. Depression and related illnesses are real , and people can die from them. But the good news is: these conditions are easily treatable with the right dosages and combinations of medicine.

We work to make cancer-fighting drugs available to people who need them and that is the responsible thing to do. Yet we totally ignore the needs of people who need help regulating brain chemistry. Because depression and related disorders are ” invisible”, they are refused legitimacy in many parts of American society.

This is NOT right. People are dying and/or rotting away in correctional facilities because society refuses to see mental illness as a legitimate epidemic. Depression , and related illnesses are real , and people can die from them. But the good news is: they are treatable. We need to lobby our state and federal lawmakers to pass laws that make it easier for needy people to get the medications they need.

End The Stigma.

Amen.

Hearing God’s Call, and staying authentic to ourselves.

Today my rector preached on the Old Testament lesson from 1 Samuel. This was Chapter three, verses 1-10, about Samuel  hearing God literally calling to him while he slept in Eli’s house.

This story, as I read it aloud during Mass, struck a powerful chord in my heart. I cannot help but notice that the boy heard God’s call more than once, yet kept thinking that the call was from Eli, his priest/mentor.

Anyway, my rector posed some questions for us to ponder :

 

onesamqs

As I continue my journey into middle-age I see that God is finally showing me the woman that God wants me to become. I am surely not the person I was five years ago and am grateful that I’ve grown beyond the immature brat I was 20 years ago. My young-adult self is nothing like my middle-aged self.  Looking back, if I were someone else who met 21-year-old Sarah, I am pretty sure that I would not have liked her very much.

She matured in faith and life slower than her peers.

As I matured in faith and life, I know I could not have gotten far without the love of a strong foundation. Although I made many mistakes in my early and mid adulthood, I know these mistakes are part of what makes me the woman I am today.  Because of my mistakes, I have compassion for those whose life choices landed them in trouble  Thank God I never did anything to get myself in legal trouble, but my bad choices could have had tragic consequences.

I am becoming someone whose life story can be used to enlighten younger women. As I age I’ve become more of the sort of woman who Younger Sarah needed in her life: someone who is sure of who God created her to be. As I age, I am slowly moving from someone who needs to be mentored to someone who mentors.

I am also someone who in unapologetically herself and grateful to other  women in my life who show me that it is ok to be my true self. I know I am not perfect, and I don’t expect perfection from myself nor others. All I do every day is try to live my life according to Christ’s teachings, even if this means conflict with the power-brokers in national, state and local affairs.

I stick to my personal beliefs and am not afraid to respectfully  discuss why I believe as I do.

Daily I work to stay authentic to myself. As a progressive oftentimes my view on society are in direct contrast to the opinions of my peers. Through active listening to God, I’ve learned to be and stay true to my nature

The second part of the two-part question is harder. Hearing God in the din of voices that besiege us daily is hard.  That is why I have learned to , as St Benedict of Nursia says ” listen with the ears of the heart. “ I cultivate a practice of taking time out of each day to just be with God.  Most of the time this involves taking my dog for a fast-paced early walk around our urban neighborhood. For me, the practice of spending time in Nature allows me to open my ” heart’s ear” and listen hard for God.

Amen.

 

Hannah, A Black Madonna And Elizabeth :Feast of the Visitation: 2018

Let us pray:

Blessed God,
who danced in our hearts,
filling us with the knowledge of your presence:
let your proclamation sing forth from us
as it sang from the lips of Hannah and Elizabeth,
announcing the coming of your promise
and the fulfillment of your desire. Amen.

This morning,I looked at the Vanderbilt University Lectionary Page to see what Sunday’s readings are so to prepare myself. {If there are weird  place or persons’ names, I like to know ahead of time .} Thursday is the Visitation of The Blessed Mother.  The Lectionary Page also has links to artwork that illustrates the readings. The one that caught my eye is posted here:

The Visitation - Mary and Elizabeth meet - Luke 1:39-45

I like this piece of art because I imagine that both Mary and Elizabeth were NOT white women. It bothers me how often western Christianity ” white-washes” Bible images; so I make a point to seek out images that show the people as they probably appeared.

Both the Magnificat and the  Song of Hannah  {found in 1 Samuel Chapter Two} have parallel themes. But praise a God Who is on the side of the weak and oppressed. Hannah’s song, however, is more focused on God’s Judgement  than Mary’s song of pure praise.  Both women sing a song of praise to their God, but  Mary’s song reminds us that she is the Chosen on  yet remains a humble servant-girl.

Hannah’s song praises God’s power and God’s ability to judge the people. Check this out:

2:1 Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

2:2 “There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

2:3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

2:4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.

2:5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.”

Now compare these words to The Blessed Mother’s words found in today’s Gospel. Rather than a God full of judgement, Mary sings of a God Who is fulfilling God’s Promises ; through her, to bring the world a Savior:

1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

2:6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up

This is one of my favorite stories— along with the Gospel reading designated for Sunday. Both of these stories tell us about two faithful Jewish women who recognize that our God is a God Who does long to be in relationship with us.   I am also reminded that Hannah’s baby , Samuel, rose to be a great leader in his community. Like Mary— Hannah’s son will alter the course of human history.

Although Hannah was ” too old” to conceive and bear a child; nothing is impossible if it is part of God’s Plan. Hannah’s story also reminds me that there are many ways in which we women can ” bear fruit”— we just need to trust that God will show us what we are to do to fulfil God’s Purpose.

Mary’s song and story remind us that we are also called to be servants– and to have a humble heart– giving glory to God for everything in life.

Hannah’s song is one of thanksgiving for answered prayers. Her story reminds me that God answers prayers in God’s own time.

Yet I also wonder if both these songs can be looked at through the eyes of an oppressed people yearning to be free and equal ?  Both songs praise a God who turns the tables on the rich and powerful… feeding the hungry, and toppling the thrones of the ruling elite. This is why the image of a Black Madonna running towards a Black Elizabeth warms my soul and stirs  my curiosity. Are both these women , heroines in our faith tradition, speaking a prophetic message to we 21st century Christians?

Were these songs recorded as a message of hope to oppressed people throughout human history?

Hmmmmm.

 

In the Name of the Triune God

Amen.

Feast Of The Visitation 2018

The Divine ” Mother”

Well, Mother’s Day Weekend is almost here. As much as I think this is a ” Hallmark Holiday” , I am grateful. I am blessed to still have my own Mom with me and I am blessed to know many women who nurture in ways that reflect the Divine Mother that is inherent in Creation.

Now I do not think that God has a gender. But if God somehow does  have a gender I think She would be feminine.

Here is a quote by my favorite Christian mystic , Dame Julian of Norwich:

This fair lovely word “mother” is so sweet and so kind in itself that it cannot truly be said of anyone or to anyone except of him and to him who is the true Mother of life and of all things. To the property of motherhood belong nature, love, wisdom and knowledge, and this is God.”
~ Julian of Norwich – Long Text of Showings 60.

I know the notion of a Divine Feminine scares many Christians, and some may even think that anyone who dares even entertain the idea of a Divine Feminine is a heretic.

God is in NATURE

God is in LOVE of others.

God is WISDOM { Sophia}

God is KNOWN. 

Honestly, I have no problem with the traditional male pronouns that usually reference God. After all, when Scripture was written and canonized, women were still seen as ” property” {UGH UGH UGH} of their fathers or husbands. So of course any pronoun that referenced The Divine had to , by default be male. 

But since Scripture is a living document of a living faith tradition, perhaps it is not such a stretch to entertain the notion of ” Mother God”.

After all, we personalize our planet as ” Mother Earth”, so why not ascribe the same gender to the I AM ? 

Why are we, in the 21st century, so afraid of feminine power?

In the name of God the Creator, Redeemer , and Sustainer.

 

Amen.

 

True ” Wireless Connection” in Nature

“I have a lot of  Celtic heritage, so it only makes sense that I find peace in Nature.

As a matter of fact, daily time in Nature is necessary for my mental health.

In our increasingly ” wired” society we often lack a true connection with our humanity. I reboot myself by connecting to Nature.

For me, there is no better ” wireless connection”, like the one I find in God’s Creation. If I feel doubtful of any existence of God, a walk outside will instantly re-connect me to the Divine.

If I miss my daily walk outside, I become exceedingly grumpy.  One of the perks of Florida life is that it is possible to spend the majority of time each year out-of-doors. DSC_0177

In Barbara Brown Taylor’s book _An Altar in the World_ one of the practices she suggests is to take time to ” ground” oneself in the Earth. Take off socks and shoes, and walk around barefoot– even for a few minutes. { the neighbors who see one doing this might think one is insane but who really cares what the neighbors think?}

If you are blessed to find yourself near a natural body of water take off your footwear and wade into the water. Take time to feel the water ‘s temperature against your skin. Sink your toes into the bottom of the water— be it sand, clay or rock. Take time to really feel the water lapping against your ankles. Breathe the fresh air. Listen to the sounds of the other animal life around you.

I am blessed to live near some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth. Best Dude and I make a practice to spend about an hour or so walking along the many shorelines around Pensacola. One of our favorite spots in Fort Pickens National Seashore. We were there just recently and I was again reminded of the affinity I possess for Nature.

We walk” the wall” around the old Civil War fort and we get to see the view from three sides of the island.  We’ll start near the fishing pier where the local Blue Heron waits patiently for someone to throw out unused bait.

DSC_0020 (2)

We then cross over to the pass, where Santa Rosa Sound meets the Gulf Of Mexico. We see tide pools that are full of bait fish, thorny holly bushes  that are filled with bright red berries in the springtime.

The next leg of our walk on ” the wall” involves climbing a hill— as someone born and raised in Appalachia hill-climbing comes easily for me. However, my Best Dude has the Florida Flatlander’s unsteady hill feet!  Wildflowers cover the incline as we cross what passes for a hill in Florida

Fort Pickens is one of many sacred ” altars in the world” near my home. Such places remind me that there is a wireless connection available to we humans that never needs to buffer.

Eastertide 2018

Feast of Harriet Starr Cannon.

 

Diva Statements and Becoming a Butterfly

 

 

hands

Each April the women of St Christopher’s Episcopal Church in  Pensacola are invited for a weekend retreat at Beckwith Camp and Conference Center. The theme of this year’s Women’s Retreat was Transitions to Transform.

From Friday evening until Sunday morning 80 women from my parish deepened existing relationships  and formed new connections as we prayed, played  and shared stories along the serene shores of Weeks’ Bay.

For me, one of the most powerful, memorable event the retreat was when we { all 80 of us in attendance}placed our hands on the altar in the chapel and blessed our Diva Statement Bracelets.

Our Diva Statements are words or phrases that we created to remind us of our strength as women. Most of us stamped our word or phrase onto a metal washer which is tied to a cord to wear around our wrists.

My Diva Statement is : I am a butterfly. 

My word that I stamped onto my bracelet is simply : BUTTERFLY. 

Why, you ask? Let me try to explain.

My life has not taken the trajectory that I’d hoped for growing up in a happy, middle-class family. My plan from childhood through high school was to grow up—  graduate college within the usual four-year plan have a successful career, get married and have two or three children.

To say the least, my adult life has not unfolded in that order.

All the ” milestones” of life that most women hit occurred at an older age or not at all . Health problems left me unable to bear children; and it took me seven years to finish college. I met my soul-mate when I was in my 30’s and didn’t marry him until I was nearly 40 years old.

My early years were that of a caterpillar, slow-moving and steady. In contrast , my 20’s and early 30’s were like a chrysalis: stuffed in an uncomfortable place while undergoing a transformation.

I made many mistakes in my life so far, but I regret nothing. Instead I look at the bad choices I made in my lifetime thus far as lessons learned. Bad choices and consequences thereof have built character, and I am much wiser than had my earlier life’s choices been good.

I am not the same person I was even five years ago; and for this transformation I give thanks to God.

My heart has been broken into smithereens and I once promised myself that I could never allow myself the vulnerability required to love again. In hindsight I see that God did have a soul-mate planned for me, and if I’d married earlier I’d not have met and married my spouse.

My health has gone through some trials– but being ill has made me grateful for what my body can do at the age of ‘ over 40″. Although I am unable to bear children from my womb, God  is continuing to show me that the word ” mother” is a wide umbrella term that encompasses so much more than those who either bear or adopt children. At mid-life, I am finally learning to love myself God made me.

Transitions are part of life on Earth and no two persons ever transition at the exact same time or in the same way.

Just like the butterfly, I’ve had to go through metamorphosis to become the woman who God intends for me to be Some stages were slow-going, messy and painful.  Yet without these experiences, I know I would not be the woman I am today.  At mid-life I am finally able to fly confidently as a beloved  creature of God .

I am a butterfly.

 

Eastertide, 2018

Transitions Transform: Christa Sistas Retreat 2018

This past weekend was my first ” Christa Sistas” Women’s Retreat for my parish. Over 80 of the women in my parish, including our rector and our ELCA Priest Associate spent a weekend at Beckwith Camp And Conference Center in lovely Fairhope, Alabama.

Our theme this year was _Transitions Transform_ Since I served on the programming committee for the retreat , I had much insight into what we were doing. Yet God surprised me anyway.

The weather was perfect and the food was delicious. While any time at Beckwith is a wonderful time, this weekend shall hold a special place in my heart.

dock1

For instance, I did not know how powerful the group affirmations were going to be for me. What we did was this:

Each small group  went around in a circle and said something affirming to the woman on her right. As we did so, we tied a bit of colored ribbon around her wrist.  After we completed that step, we all offered a short prayer— giving thanks for one part of the retreat that ” spoke” to us the most”. We each walked away with a piece of a ribbon tied to our wrist to remind us of the bonds we share with our small group.  After all groups finished with their affirmations we all gathered at the altar for With God’s Help Litany,  written by Ms Ellen Crawford  and sang Surely the Presence 

For me, that was my Moment Closest to Christ for my first St Christopher’s Women’s Retreat. Today’s culture encourages everyone but especially women to compete with each other.  I felt blessed to be among a big group of women who focused on building community by building each other up rather than tearing each other apart. This weekend, I got to know better those whom I already know at church as well as met strangers who became friends.

Life is full of transitions and transitions are hard. But Christians are blessed with knowing that God loves humanity so much that God sent Jesus– God Incarnate to show us how to be the best humans we can be. Additionally, Christ’s Church is a community with whom we muddle through life’s transitions.

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

 

Mourning on Mother’s Day

I have a passionate dislike of the month of May.   In spite of the fact that I was born in this month, May fills me with dread.

May is the month in which Mother’s Day occurs.

Every year on this particular May Sunday, I just want to stay in the house all day. Although I almost never skip Mass on Sunday— The second Sunday in May is one that I always wish I could skip. 

I hate Mother’s Day. As a matter of fact, Mother’s day is second on my list of unfavorable celebrations. Baby showers take the proverbial ” cake” for Worst Occasions Ever. Thankfully , one of the blessings of middle age is that most of my age group are finally done birthing babies.

I want to skip church on Mother’s Day— and I also am tempted to totally avoid Facebook and other social media on this particular Sunday. My own mother usually chooses to spend time with my brother, his wife and the grandchildren, so I usually don’t spend time with her on this day.

know, that through no fault of my own that I am not blessed with children from my womb. While I do my best to celebrate the births of babies among families I know– I’ll admit to feeling jealousy that brings me to tears. Every ultrasound reminds me of a dream that will forever remain unfulfilled and as I age and my classmates become grandparents I feel a whole new wave of envy and sadness over classmates’ grandbabies.

Perhaps this is ridiculous to some people, but it is my reality and I own it.

Mother’s Day is painful  for me, and always will be this way. Yet I am reminded that God calls us all in specific ways. Although I am not a mother, God provides different opportunities for me to nurture younger people. I’m blessed to know several other women who, although childless, nurture and teach other people. I am learning to embrace the role that I have in my family and community.

I am an Aunt.

I have one amazing God-daughter who is 21 years old and has grown into a young woman of whom I am proud.

I will once again teach Christian Education to children in my parish.

My former Episcopal Youth Community student invited me to her wedding this autumn.

There are more than one ways to embrace the Divine Mother that is inherent in us. We are one Body, with many members.

Childless women bring much to the table.  Yet a day set aside to honor those who are ” mothers” in the traditional sense can be and is a sad day for some of us.

Please remember and be mindful.

Thanks.

Earth Day, 2018

Today is Earth Day. Now I realize that today also was , according to our lectionary, Good Shepherd Sunday, but for now I want to focus on Earth Day.

Let me share with you a portion of Psalm 65 .

You visit the Earth ,

and water it abundantly,

enriching it greatly.

God’s stream is filled with water,

for you prepare the Earth in this way,

You soften it with showers

and bless its growth

soaking its furrows

and leveling its ridges. 

God created the Earth and on this Good Shepherd Sunday, I am reminded that we are stewards and shepherds of Creation. God entrusted this incredibly fragile big rock to we humans.

And we are failing Earth.

While Americans are guilty of plundering our planet, we are not the only society that is guilty of abusing our planet.

Although I consider Best Dude and myself as “ecologically aware” citizens, there is much that we could do that we do not do. For instance we have three cases of water { in PLASTIC BOTTLES} in our utility room. In spite of the fact that both of us have reusable, metal water canteens, we bought the plastic bottles of water.

Plastic is the WORST substance for the Earth. Even though Best Dude and I do take part in our city’s recycling program, it seems as though one cannot buys ANYTHING at the store without encountering an obscene amount of plastic packaging. { And don’t get me started on how many times my clumsy fingers have gotten cut while trying to free something from plastic encasements}  It is my duty to empty the recycling bag into the bin as it fills– up and I am amazed at the amount of plastic a family of two people generates.

Although we’ve pretty much removed all Styrofoam from our house we still are guilty of using PLASTIC cups when we entertain. Granted, we do rinse out the cups we have, but why not use the glassware  sitting in our kitchen cabinet?

We , as a family also need to remember to bring our reusable cloth shopping bags to the grocery stores.

All Americans, especially we middle-class privileged folks need to model Earth-Care methods. The next generation will inherit the Earth, and it is up to us to show today’s children how to begin the healing process for our planet.

Fourth Sunday of Easter 2018

Earth Day.

Sarah Beth