Vulnerability

I am not good at becoming vulnerable. Thanks be to God, and my faith communities I am getting better at showing my vulnerability.

For almost the entirety of my childhood, I was teased mercilessly for being  ” different” { mildly autism–which was not diagnosed until age 30} My go-to coping mechanism in those days was to bury myself in either books or my artwork. My parents , thankfully were financially sound enough to have insurance that paid for counselling; middle and high school can be emotional torture for anyone who is ” different” in any way. As I grew into adulthood, my coping mechanism was { and in some ways still IS} not showing any vulnerability to anyone. I’d had enough ridicule in my formative years to  last me well into adulthood.

My relationships with the men I dated were superficial: I didn’t want anyone to find out that he could not or would not love me in spite of my autism. I built invisible walls between myself and anyone who attempted to get close to me. Society told me that my difference made me somehow ‘ less than’.

It wasn’t until I started to really pay attention to the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels that I began to slowly become vulnerable. As I read and studied the Gospels, I realized that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, became vulnerable on many occasions. He felt rejection, ridicule, , anger, loneliness and betrayal. God’s Self loves broken humanity so much that God became a vulnerable human. God did not need to do this, but God chose to because God loves humanity.

As a servant of Christ, I too must be vulnerable . Thankfully, I am much better at letting my guard down and being ” real” to my sister and brother Christians. I need to be more willing to open up and share my story without fear of rejection or ridicule. Through Jesus, we Christians have a ” tether of Love ” that connects us to God the Creator.  In order to be fully alive in my walk with Christ, I must be fully human.  In order to be a faithful, effective servant of Christ, I must let others know me as God made me.

I am grateful for Christian communities that have allowed me to become vulnerable.

In the Name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer…. Amen.

Beachy Afternoon

Salt Air and salt water both have curative properties.

The moving prep has gotten to me, so Best Dude and I took to the beach after Mass on Sunday. I had not been to the beach since before my surgery.  Per my surgeon’s instructions I did not go swimming until he gave me the go-ahead at the first post-op appointment. The weather has been rainy, so Sunday was the first day that we managed to get out and enjoy the gorgeous Florida Gulf Coast.

We left immediately after Mass and crossed the bridge to the beach. After enjoying a yummy seafood lunch{ shrimp, French fries, and Hush Puppies} at one of the eateries on the tiny boardwalk, we drove west on the island.

Our favorite beach hangout is located at the westernmost tip of a 50 mile barrier island. The place we frequent is a restored Civil War fort which now belongs to the US National Park System.  Usually we do not go to Fort Pickens during weekends { crowds} but Sunday had been the only day which both our schedule and the weather co-operated.

After 6 weeks of NO beach or swimming time I told Best Dude that I just had to get into the water. Quickly I removed my sandals and handed him my wallet. { Shorts and shirt were left in the truck, as to get the most out of my bathing suit}

The water felt so good.  I did not realize how much I missed swimming until I started carefully moving my arms in a dog-paddle { taking it slowly, as not to mess up my neck} The weightlessness I felt in the water immediately lightened my mental/spiritual ‘load’. The smell of the salt air invigorated my senses and relaxed me further. I splashed around and got wet up to my chin; there wasn’t much of a current so I felt safe.

As I grow in faith and life, I realize the importance of self-care. When I am depleted of any sort of energy, I am not fit to serve others. I need to fit into my schedule some ” Sabbath days”, when I take care of my own spiritual/emotional needs.

God needs us at our best; and I am slowly learning that being my best requires ” chill time”. An unexpected blessing that came from this surgery and post-operative recovery is that I learned to slow down. If Jesus Himself took time out to rest; then we should do the same.

Amen.

 

 

” Motherhood” and Transfiguration

I am a proud ” Mother”

No, I never gave birth to a human child; nor have I adopted one. But, as I am finding out, there are many ways for ALL Christian women to ” mother”.

Let me brag a bit. One of my former youth who grew up at the church Best Dude and I attended before transferring to Beach Parish announced that she has been accepted to graduate school in her chosen field.

I’ve known this young lady since her middle school days, and I am so proud  to see her work towards her goals and follow her dreams. She is an exceptional young lady and I know her parents , sisters and pretty much anyone else who knows her is proud of her also. As she continues to grow I look forward to walking beside her in her journey.

I’ve been blessed with women { men too, but especially women} who are helping me realize my God-given talents. I’m middle-aged and finally becoming the human God has intended for me to become.  Due to my autism and other health problems; I’ve ” come of age” much slower than most people. My life of faith has NOT been a straight line; it has more plot twists than I care to count. But it is my journey and I own it with pride.

As a person with autism, I’ve often been overlooked in the past, and it has only been on the past four years that my God-given gifts have emerged. God places people in all our lives to walk with us and nurture us while we grow into the unique disciple of Christ that we are called to become. My young friend has many who have encouraged, nurtured , chastised and comforted her over the years and she is becoming a wonderful servant-leader.

Like the monarch butterfly we begin life as larvae. Then, we go into the chrysalis stage; appearing dormant while much growth and change occurs. Then we emerge as a full-grown butterfly and spread our wings.

I am that baby butterfly who is finally realizing that she can fly. And I thank my spiritual ” mothers” for staying beside me as I slowly try out my wings of ministry. My young friend is also trying out her wings, and I am here for her as she flies.

Amen.

Feast Of the Transfiguration 2017

Proper 18 Year A {6 August 2017} Matthew 14:13-21

I once had a Presbyterian minister preach on ” the myth of scarcity”.  { I attended a Presbyterian church for years before being called ” home ” to The Episcopal Church, but that is another story for another time.}

We Americans still live as if the Myth of Scarcity were a reality. Just look at all the storage units available for rental by people who need room to hold onto their ‘stuff”. In my 41 years of life, I would have never dreamed that there would be an entire industry created around people’s needs to save stuff ” in case I need it later”.

Apparently first-century Jews also bought into this myth. Scripture says that the first disciples of Jesus also bought into the scarcity myth. Check out what He said:

“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

And he said, “Bring them here to me.”

Jesus said Bring them here.  He was totally unconcerned with the fact that His companions felt that there would not be enough food for everyone.  But think about it: how would such a meager amount of food feed all those people?  Five loaves and two big fish is barely enough to feed a party of eight people; let alone thousands of individuals. The disciples were right to be concerned… or were they?

Scripture says:

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.

And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children”

How many times do we all, myself included, worry that we won’t, or don’t have ‘enough’. How does one define ‘ enough’ in our 21st Century western culture? Too often ,what I define for myself and those whom I love as ” enough” is much more than we need.

Today’s Gospel lesson illustrates that we need to trust that God does and shall provide for all our needs. We should cease worrying about having enough; and trust that God will provide. God’s Abundance totally contradicts this Myth of Scarcity that all of us buy into.

Every Sunday , before we partake of the Bread and Wine; we pray the Our Father. in this prayer we say ” Give us this day our daily bread, acknowledging that God tends to the needs of God’s People.

We are also, as followers of Christ, called to apostolic ACTION .  Part of our responsibility as Christians is to BE Christ’s Hands and Feet here on Earth. As He fed the thousands, we are called to feed others. God promises that there will be enough.

 

In the Name Of The Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

The Spiritual Practice of ” Purging”

Best Dude and I are due to close on BOTH our current home and the home in town on 31 August.  Providing that Bank issues our small loan, we will officially become Urban Dwellers in three weeks.

It has been a whirlwind of activity in our lives. The current house is all askew— Best Dude painted the wall behind the couch { it had some chips in it from our heavy couch}

This past week I packed most of my clothing— leaving out only the few garments that I need to wear during our remaining time in Unincorporated , Florida.  As I piled clothing  into the PACK  pile , I also created a PURGE  pile. The closets in the three small bedrooms in the new house are small; so small that Best Dude will use the closet in the master bedroom and I shall use the one in our designated home office.

Purging is a necessity when one is moving to al smaller space , but I’ve discovered that purging also is good for the soul. Americans, myself included, collect way too much ‘stuff’ that just gets buried in a closet { or drawer} and/or gets thrown haphazardly into a storage unit. Downsizing into a smaller living space requires me to look at each item of clothing and honestly assess whether or not I will wear it. The same principle applies to shoes– I’ve tossed several pair of worn-out footwear into the trash. Since I am a small woman; my clean and gently used clothing will go to a local thrift store whose profits help feed hungry citizens in Unincorporated, Florida. My shoes were not worth donating, so I filed them into the circular file.

My closet is emptier, but my heart is full.

 

On Immigration and the Church

Like almost ALL Americans, I descend from immigrants. My ancestors came to this land seeking a better life for themselves and for those who came after them.

My father’s ancestors are Irish-Catholic. Until I read a well-researched book by a distant cousin , I did not know how poorly we Irish were treated by the established ” White Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment.  It was common, apparently, to see signs on shops and factories stating Irish Need Not Apply.  The established ” White Christian Americans” feared my ancestor’s  Catholicism . No one wanted us in their neighborhoods and it was hard for Irish families to eke out a living. Thankfully, one of my ancestors knew someone who made shoes in Pittsburgh James Caulfield was fortunate to find work among sister and fellow Irish-Catholics.

Today, the Irish-Americans are integrated into the fabric of our nation’s tapestry. We who were once the feared ” other” ; whom no ” respectable American” would employ, would rent to, or would even exchange pleasantries on the city street. They { the Establishment } thought we Irish to  ‘ talk weirdly, worship a foreign God, and even look sub-standard.

Does this sound familiar? It should be very familiar to anyone who has been cognizant these past 8 months.

Today, the powers-that-be want to vilify another group of people.

Instead of the pale, freckled Irish today’s personas non grata are people coming to the United States from Muslim areas . It saddens me to think of how many otherwise good Christians  have vile stereotypes of people who worship the same God differently than they do. The horror that occurred on September 11, 2001 might have been a catalyst for this institutionalized hatred of all Middle Eastern hatred by white Americans but it did NOT begin then.

White Christian Americans have a history of fearing and scapegoating groups of people who are ” different”.  But seriously, look to Holy Scripture and see how Christ Himself would treat the ” stranger”

First, here are some examples from the New Testament :

(Matthew 25:35-40 NASB)   “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)   “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV 1984)

The Hebrew Scriptures are smattered with instructions on how to treat guests:

“You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT)   “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)   “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you” (Exodus 12:49 NIV)   “Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!” (Zechariah 7:10 CEB)

So, what are YOU and your faith community doing to educate yourselves about the true plight of foreigners seeking a safe home among us in the United States? How can we follow these commandments to welcome strangers?

In the Name of Jesus, Our Lord who welcomed the stranger ,

Amen.

 

“New ” House Update

Best Dude and I am swimming in an endless sea of paperwork.

We are still one month out from our move to the city, and yesterday we had the inspection in our Pensacola home. Thankfully this was not as arduous as I’d feared; and I loved  poking around in the  ” new house” { it was built in 1965} The man who inspected our new place was nice— much nicer than the guy who inspected the house in which we currently reside.

The inspector found a few things that we need to fix { the seller sold the place ‘ as is’ which basically means she is not paying for any needed repairs. The only disconcerting thing that worries me is the adorable gas fireplace lacks a vent. When the inspector turned on the fireplace to see if it worked , gas immediately leaked into the house.  So, until we get the fireplace fixed, there will be no marshmallow-roasting at Cute Cottage. At any rate, I am so delighted that our house in town has a fireplace.

Best Dude wants to build a shed/workshop somewhere on the property, so we’ll probably spend a heck of a lot more time in Lowes’  and Home Depot than I would wish to spend. { I am so not a do-it-yourself kind of woman!} The house also lacks a cover for Blue Truck, so we will also need to add some sort of car port to protect the vehicle.

Anyway, that’s the #OperationPensacolaBound update.

Oh yes they DID ! #Philadelphia11

PRAYER (contemporary language)
O God, you poured your Spirit from on high to bless and summon these women, who heard the strength of your call: Equip, guide, and inspire us with wisdom, boldness, and faith to trust you in all circumstances, hear you preach new life to your church, and stretch out our hands to serve you, as you created us and redeemed us in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God everlasting. Amen.

{ source http://www.satucket.com/lectionary }

TODAY is the 43rd anniversary of the Ordination of the ” Philadelphia 11″ as priests in the one, holy , catholic, apostolic Church.

I am not a parent, but if I were blessed with a daughter, I would tell her every day that women can do pretty much anything they desire to do . It takes hard work, steadfastness and courage.

One of the lessons gleaned from the ” wonder women”  in my own life is perseverance.  Quitters do not advance the kingdom of God; and if God chooses you or me for a certain task it behooves us to give God our best.

Conquer self-doubt. To be honest, I am still working on my own issues with self-doubt. As a woman with some slight disabilities; many people have told me that I cannot or will not accomplish my goals. So far, I’ve proven those naysayers wrong.

They did, it!

Amen.

Thank you, Philadelphia 11

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the ordination of the “Philadelphia 11″. On this day in 1974, eleven brave women were ” irregularly ordained”  in Philadelphia.

According to Wikipedia { and verified by several other sources} :

….The Philadelphia Eleven are eleven women who were ordained as the first female priests in the Episcopal Church on July 29, 1974, two years before General Convention affirmed and explicitly authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood….

Thank you , ladies. Without your bravery, many fine priests in the Church would not be where they are today. Even here in the Deep South, we are seeing more clergywomen become active leaders in the Diocese.

Growing up in a predominantly Roman Catholic community  as a member of an Irish {Roman} Catholic family, I often wondered why the people celebrating Mass were always men.

Even as a small child, I possessed a healthy sense of ‘ girl power’ as well as a heart for justice and I never thought that God called only men to serve as priests in the Church.    From Childhood I had an appreciation for liturgy, and felt Jesus acutely at the altar of my family’s Roman Catholic church in western Pennsylvania.  Although I was not permitted to receive Communion, I felt the Holy Spirit ‘s very real presence when the priest laid his hands on me and said a blessing. After Mass one Sunday I asked my Irish-Catholic Grandmother:

“Why can’t girls be priests too?” 

“Because only men can be priests. That’s how it’s always been.”

“But what if I grow up and want to be a priest?”

“Sorry, honey. Girls don’t grow up to be priests. “

Hence beginning my love-hate relationship with the Roman Catholic church and all her outdated rules. I love my Grandmother, and the faith that sustains her also sustains me . Yet on that day, a little light in my soul was extinguished. While Catholicism has played a big part in my spiritual and moral development; my hippie soul needed a Christian tradition that saw all persons as equally beloved by God.

Girls don’t grow up to be priests.

Darn it, I wish that four-year-old Sarah Beth had known about the Philadelphia 11. I wish that I could have rebuked Grandma’s statement by saying

You are wrong, there are women in the Church who ARE priests, and they don’t listen to the Pope”

It took years, but when I attended my first Mass in the Episcopal Church and a woman was the Celebrant I felt like I’d finally found my spiritual family.

Fast forward over thirty years into the future. I am vesting  to serve as a chalice bearer for the first time at Beach Parish As we gathered in the Narthex, my priest whispers to me ” you know today is the fortieth anniversary of the Philadelphia 11’s ordination? ” Smiling , I gave her a big hug.

I believe that God calls all genders to ordained life, and I am grateful for the clergy I know who have and continue to encourage me to learn and grow in my relationship with Christ . I am grateful to be a part of the Jesus Movement that affirms gifts of all genders, both as laypeople and clergy.

Each time I robe to serve at the altar, I give thanks for the witness of the eleven brave women who paved the way for so many opportunities for “girls” to become what God intends for them to be.

 

In the Name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,

Amen.

 

#StraightAllySpeaks against Trans Ban

I am not a fan of this President. Usually, for the sake of avoiding arguments, I do not challenge those who still offer unwavering support to this President. As a matter of fact, I try to refrain from discussing politics at all.

However, I must state my opinion on his Tweet regarding his plans to ban transgender people from serving our nation.

This ban is wrong on so many levels. I hope and pray fervently that the military officials and the Congress will block this initiative by the President.

First of all, this sitting President dodged the draft and has never pledged to put his life on the line in defense of this nation. He is not a veteran. Best Dude my father, both grandfathers, some friends and many others I know and love DID make that pledge.

Second, I have many veteran friends and family members . They have served this nation proudly and with dignity. I respect all veterans and active duty service people because I know I could not do their job. Many of the service people I know who served and are still serving do so because it is a vocation. These people seek to serve something much bigger than themselves. I thank them for their service.

Back in high school, I wanted to enlist> I took the ASVAB test and scored highly.  The Navy recruiter was interested in me until I took the physical. Due to a bad back { and now neck} I was disqualified for service. This saddened me; but in hindsight a medical reason is a valid one– unlike someone’s gender identity.

Third, as a Christian, I know that all humans are made in the very Image of Creator God. This God so loved we humans, that God sent  God’s Self to live as one of us.  As did so many of out service people, this Emmanuel gave up His Earthly life so that we may have access to eternity. Jesus did not die and ascend to Heaven for some of His sisters and brothers; He did so for ALL of us who believe in Him.

I want to go on record as saying that this President’s actions regarding transgender military personnel is an insult to the basic human rights that all veterans fought and still fight to preserve.

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