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Showing posts from 2011

Merry Christmas

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Christmas for me has always contained a degree of loneliness and melancholy tempered by several degrees of joy.

And, I know the manger has room for both.



May the God who weeps and rejoices, the God who stands watch and upholds, the God who dwells in cold nights and warm ones alike, the God of the squalling babe and the laughing fool, be with you this day and always.  Amen

image from http://mattstone.blogs.com/photos/aboriginal_christian_art/baby-aboriginal-jesus-cait-wait.jpg

A Sermon For A Service of Grief and Loss During the Season of Advent

When I was little, I believed the moon followed me. On the rare occasion when we were in the car after dark I remember lying in the back of the car, looking out of the back window, and watching as the moon seemed to follow us home. It was a special delight, sure and notable. And, if not the moon, then the stars, and if not the stars, the glow of street lights. Shining in the midst of an otherwise intimidating darkness, the lights were a distracting comfort.

 Even now, the light in the darkness causes me to remember. Remember things like my dad rousing us out of our beds to watch a lunar eclipse. Remember things like the cheerful flames of my grandmother’s fireplace on Christmas morning. Remember things like my family gathering on the field under the stadium lights after my brother’s football games. However, the light brings it’s own grief, the once was and what has been lost. Relationships, my own father, those Christmas mornings that once brought us together but now show …

Who Are You?

So, apparently lots of folks (okay "lots" may be an exaggeration) have looked at my blog--at least according to the little widget that counts page views. That said,

Who are you?

Really,

Why do you come here?

What questions do you have?

And,

What are you thankful for?

As for me, I'm thankful for the family of choice (the folks I've celebrated Thanksgiving with EVERY year, except one, since 1996); my toddling little guy (who makes us laugh every day); my wife; and the life we've been graced with. Yup, stating the obvious here. That said,

Blessings upon each and every one of you, whoever you are!

Oh, and I'm messing around with the layout--readability is most important to me, but in trying to adjust the picture on the top I keep running into trouble. Suggestions?

The Christian Left

What more could Christ declare unto us? How more could He stimulate the works of our righteousness and mercy, than by saying that whatever is given to the needy and poor is given to Himself, and by saying that He is aggrieved unless the needy and poor be supplied? So that he who in the Church is not moved by consideration for his brother, may yet be moved by contemplation of Christ; and he who does not think of his fellow-servant in suffering and in poverty, may yet think of his Lord, who abides in that very man whom he is despising. - Comments by Cyprian of Carthage (250AD) upon The Parable of the Sheep and Goats from Matthew 25 (borrowed from the facebook page of "The Christian Left"

This is "why" I became a priest. Sort of...

When I came out in high school, church became my safe place. And, it was a safe place because of the priest...who's response to my disclosure was, "oh, I thought you were going to tell me something bad". Her unabashed accepta…

How Far We've Come

I have mom friends. Friends with blessedly healthy toddlers. Friends who's worries swirl around raising up kind and generous children, the state of public schools and whether their children are, or will be, picky eaters.

Mom friends. This is a first for me, for us. As my little guy ran about with one of his small friends, as they laughed and giggled at the very surprise of each other...I found a well of gratitude. Gratitude that my world, my imagination has been expanded in so many ways.

Because, for so long, my understanding of parenting had been shaped by children who were sick and/or dying. By sudden collapse, pain and grief. And in my attempt to understand, to find God in the midst of the suffering, I embraced the image of La Pieta. This sculpture of Mary seemed, to me, to best model maternal love...a mother holding her dying son. And in those early sleep deprived days, I could imagine and hold her love and grief close--because my son seemed so fragile, so small agai…

Anticipating Excess

I have been amazed over the past 18 months at the thoughtfulness and love that has clearly gone into the selection of gifts our son has been given. From handmade wooden cars made by Nana and Papa to the soft and silky monster doll purchased at a local/handmade church good shop by his adoptive clergy g'ma. Our son truly has been blessed. On one of the parenting forums I read fairly regularly there are fairly frequent (read annual, usually around this time of year) discussions of how to handle gift giving occasions if your values run contrary to the mainstream (e.g. no plastic; no batteries; or no sweets). These discussions become fairly heated and hackles are raised. In response and in reflection I recalled the jars of pennies and handfuls of ribbon candy my great grandmother and great aunt would give us when we visited...

Every time we visited my great grandmama when I was a child she gave us piles of, stuck together with age, ribbon candy. She was housebound for the most par…

PICU Reflections

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I spent two years working as a pediatric hospital chaplain and some of the deaths still haunt me. Today, I was reflecting on the beautiful, difficult and painful work of love which the staff of pediatric intensive care units undertake each and every day.

Please, don't scroll below the picture if reading about a child's death is going to bother you.




I never did find out how she died. She came in unresponsive and the incessant pounding of resuscitation was the only movement I ever saw. The bags of fluid gurgled in and then out as her lungs became fluid overloaded and her hair was coated with vomit and saline. Her skin was golden and then dusky and I was there when the light went out of her eyes and I knew that she was gone.

Yet, they pounded on...hoping against hope, straining for some miracle that they had long since ceased to believe in. I sat with her parents as they watched. Taking in the incomprehensible we huddled in the corner. She was gone and I knew, yet we pr…

Proper 22A, Scripture I Thought I Hated Until I Had to Write A Sermon...

I have a friend, who writes her sermons with the question in mind--”where is the grace”. And, this week as I struggled with this parable from Matthew I found myself searching, digging deep for the grace in the midst of a story that is, quite frankly, horrific.

Taken as allegory, we have a story in which we identify the wealthy landowner as God. The tenants are the Pharisees, the Isrealite people who kill God’s messengers. Then, as a last resort, we have a son, the son of the wealthy landowner, who is then read as Jesus. He is killed as well. Then, the landowner, God, kills all of the tenants and puts new tenants in place--presumably tenants who will follow the rules.

Now, I find this story vile. I find it vile largely because it tends to lend itself to self righteousness and vindication on the part of Christians--see we have the true faith and you folks who don’t listen to God are going to get in trouble!!

Thankfully, this story is not an allegory, it is a parable. And para…

Free Ranging It...

After my last post, and as a parent in general, I've been reflecting quite a bit on what is "safe" or "okay". In our house the childproofing is fairly minimal--our bookshelves, tall and filled with heavy books, are not bolted to the walls (he's not really a climber) and the baby gate guarding the stairs is not attached with hardware. Part of my, seemingly, lackadaisical approach stems from the general truth that my guy is a relatively cautious kiddo--he is quick to reach out a hand to step off of the curb into the sandbox sand and is just now okay with "swinging fast".

We "try" to encourage reasonable risk taking and eagerly anticipate his first time rock climbing (he has to be four for much of it) experience. We want him to ride, run, swim and play fearlessly as he grows...but in order to have him do so, it feels like we need to set aside our own fears and anxieties. I really wrestle with how much hovering may be too much and how…

Secondary Trauma

When I worked at the children's hospital I learned about secondary trauma--the trauma undergone by those who hear about or witness the AFTERMATH of a traumatic situation. Secondary trauma can lead to PTSD symptoms (and PTSD) in those who are subject to it.

I found this to be true as I worked with and witnessed to the various diseases, disasters and deaths that peppered each and every work day. Sleeplessness, flash backs (for a solid year I could taste blood in my mouth every time I thought of a particular day at work), and other symptoms were fairly common for me.

Now I am several years out from these traumas--yet, having had the experience of such tangible and immediate and obviously traumatic situations, I wonder...

Does the mere act of reading/watching the news lead to secondary trauma for the general population--and the attendant possibility of PTSD? Because, I find that if I read news of awful things happening to children, it affects my sleep and my mood. In fact, reading …

The Here and the Now

Little (growing bigger by the second) H is asleep. A thunderstorm rolled in around 3:45am and the rolling booms, pouring rain, and strobe like lightning show flashing beyond my eyelids has had me up since.

"Boom, boom, boom, Mr. Brown is a wonder. Boom, boom, boom, Mr. Brown makes thunder."

Thank you, Mr. Brown.

Now...to the rain soaked here and now. The front door is open onto the screened porch, the better to hear the rain now that I've given up on sleep. A cup of coffee, milky with a touch of maple syrup, has been poured and sits on the table next to the Revised Common Lectionary; my beloved's journal of H's life thus far; and a personality test that she took for work.

Apparently, I am equally lion and otter. Not so much golden retriever and beaver.

On the lion side of things...My strengths: takes charge; problem solver; competitive; enjoys change; confrontational.
My weaknesses: too direct or impatient; too busy; cold blooded; impulsive or takes big ri…

Proper 11, Year A, Jacob, Harry Potter and the Gnashing of Teeth

I have not seen any of the Harry Potter films. Apart from a preview or two, here and there, my eyes have not witnessed the on screen phenomena that seems to have gripped a good chunk of this country.

This, however, is not to say that I have not read the books. I have, multiple times. Even now, more than a decade after the initial release of the first book I still find myself reaching for my well thumbed copy of the first book.

But, I have avoided the films...largely because I want my own visions, my own imaginings of the "Potterverse" to remain untainted by someone else's interpretation. I want to close my eyes and see for myself without being told or shown another person's version of the story. I want it to remain MY encounter with the marvelous.

And, in some ways, as I reflect on this coming Sunday's propers I find myself drawn into scripture in much the way I am drawn into the work of J.K. Rowling. Yes, you read that right--I just compared my emotiona…

Long Time No See

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Change...big changes, have been afoot in the Reverend Joy household for a bit now.

And, it's all my fault!

When our boykins was about 3 months old I did a wedding in another state (a wonderful privilege and honor to join two of the most delightful women I know!). It was an idyllic time of long walks along the river, some of the best sleep we'd had (oh little did we know) as mamas of a newborn and we found ourselves connecting with tons of youngish professionals with whom we had much in common.

Then we went back to Ohio--to our small town full of retired folk; about an hour from good friends who we never actually saw; the state where we not only couldn't legally marry (altho' when God and your mother-in-law consider you married who are you going to argue with!) but could not both be legal parents to our son.

So, I got mad, then I got to thinking. What did we need to do for our happiness? Not for success, not according to rules of church, of society or even the wis…

A Return to the Prayer Book...

Here, at St. Thecla's of the Man Eating Seal, we share something central with ALL Episcopal Churches--the Book of Common Prayer. The use of the Book of Common Prayer is something that defines us as Episcopalians and its usage throughout the church is one of the things that unites us as a faith community.

It has been the custom at Church of St Thecla's of the Man Eating Seal to use a booklet that has the entire service printed out, rather than the Book of Common Prayer. This 12 page document with music and pages of announcements/inserts has had to be recreated every week in its entirety.

At this time, we are choosing to use an “ordo” or “order of service” rather than the booklet format to which our community is accustomed. We are choosing to do so for a variety of reasons:

respect for the volunteers who will be responsible for the bulletin;
stewardship of our natural resources;
as a tool for education;
as a means of grounding ourselves in our Episcopal identity;
to become familia…

A Liturgy for A Middle School Pilgrimage...

I created the following for the middle school pilgrimage at Trinity Cathedral...creating a liturgy is an honor, the gift of time with young people who do not have access to cell phones a privilege!

An invitation to worship is read:

Worship is not a play, it is not theatre or concert. It is not something to be consumed, nor it is the work of any one person. Rather it is OUR play, OUR work and OUR celebration. Join us in this holy duty! Celebrate, play and work with us--because it is in our shared life, our shared body and our shared remembrance that we welcome the presence of God!

We gather in silence around a bare table. A cloth is spread, we begin to light candles and incense. The thurifer censes the altar and the gathered company as the following is read:

The words of Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair

"Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly. I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down i…

Mary and Martha

In my first CPE unit I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with an elderly woman who had been admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit with severe depression. She was a vibrant and intelligent woman, and in her later years had found herself increasingly crippled by Parkinson’s disease.

A great deal of her depression stemmed from her sense that her “usefulness” was gone. In her state of physical dependence she was convinced that she was no longer a use to those around her and felt that she had become a burden. I found her to be an amazing woman, her experience and passion for life was one of her great strengths and I began to realize that much of her despair stemmed from her strong sense of duty.

Working with the story of Mary and Martha (the one where Martha is doing all the work while Mary is attentively listening to Jesus) we talked about how various points in our lives demand from us different ways of being. And, at this point in her life she was being called …

Marvelous Toy

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We like to keep the toy selection in our home fairly minimalist. H has blocks and stacking cups. He has a few stuffed creatures and a wooden wagon. He has plenty and enough, but what he does not have are the wide array of things that, with the assistance of batteries, light up/sing/beep/toot/whir/fizz.

Folks have not bought us these things nor have we bought them for him. That is, until this week. We were at the toy store trying to find out how to best use the money we had after making a return for store credit. Thinking ahead to H’s birthday we bought him a simple shape sorter and a wooden xylophone. And, then, near the register as we stood with our fussy boy, L saw it. A garish piece of plastic, somewhat wand like, that whizzed and whirred...but most amazingly lit up and spun. Henry’s eyes crossed, his mouth gaped open and he was absolutely mesmerized. Needless to say, that piece of plastic (with the 3 triple A batteries required) came home with us.

And, every time we pr…

I Want to Follow Jesus

Yes, the title of this post is the song currently stuck in my head. It's a rather saccharine tune meant for children...and is slowly making me batty.

That, and the sleep deprivation which has already made me batty, are not lending themselves terribly well to sermon writing this week.

But, thankfully, it is Epiphany. And Epiphany is a time of encountering Jesus, of divine revelation and human encounter.

A time to ask who Christ is...

But this week we have scripture that ask us who we are.

What if God (incarnate) were to sit down with you and ask "who are you". What would your answer be?

There, I think that's the start...

Helpers and Light Bringers

It seems odd, even to me, that in the midst of tragedy--like that which all too many of us witnessed in Tucson last week--that I find myself turning to Mr. Rogers. Yes, Mr. Rogers, of the neighborhood. As a child I watched intently as he slipped off his loafers and donned his slippers, hung his sweater and welcomed me to his home. There was something comforting about the sweet ritual which began each show--there was stability, love, welcome and constancy. And, as I spent time in prayer and the research that accompanies sermon preparation I stumbled across this line “look for the helpers”. I delved deeper and found the following:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring pe…

Why yes, I am a hyperverbal extrovert. Why do you ask?

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As I step, boldly, into the New Year I intend to write a bit more frequently. If you enjoy what I write, well, enjoy! If you find me an ever tedious navel gazer with too much time on her hands...well, then, find yourself a copy of the New Yorker and enjoy!

That said, I work best in conversation, with a real (or imagined) audience/partner in dialogue. Bouncing around ideas, developing programs, writing sermons--all of these things work better for me, more organically, when I do them with others. Which, is part of the reason why my blogging frequency has increased.

As a part time clergy person who works at home (ahhhh, the joys of e-mail/phone/on-line sermon research and an extensive home library!) I find that I get fairly isolated, fairly quickly. So, this blog becomes a means of getting my words out there to an audience (either real or imagined) that matters.

So, how do you work best? Do you need an audience, do you blog, do you work best ALL BY YOURSELF in the cozy hermitage…

The best and hardest of 2010

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This is not a "best and worst" of post. Rather it is the best and the hardest--because I realize the benefits of much of the hard stuff in this year of monumental firsts and the hard things are by no means bad things (unless you count the sleep deprivation ;)

Best moments:

Positive pregnancy test
Getting into the second trimester
The first "real" contraction
Pushing
The baby's first time in my arms
nursing, 13857983759365 times
First smiles
First laughs
Watching our son become his own person
Becoming moms, together
Watching other people fall in love with our son
Wearing our baby in carriers, "close enough to kiss"
Realizing that the smacking noise the baby loves to make with his lips is his version of the kisses he always gets
The sense of closeness I now feel to the "BVM" (Blessed Virgin Mary)

Hardest moments

Fear of loss throughout my pregnancy
The sleep deprivation
Resuming work
Having to pump in churches with NO privacy or having to leave mid-mtg to pump
G…