May 31, 2020

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 3
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
John 20:19-23

As we rolled into week 11 of doing all we can to help stop the spread of COVID19 it was impossible to imagine the world could get any heavier.  But it did. The death of George Floyd at the hand of a police officer, as well as the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked a powder keg that’s long been building pressure. 

The anger being expressed in our world feels like defeat from the church’s perspective, and I found myself asking, “What good has coming to this building week after week done us?” 

Bishop Stephen Charleston, retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska and former dean of Episcopal Divinity School, said this, “One man dies in the street, pleading for his life, and overnight those streets erupt in anger at the injustice, not only for that dreadful moment, but for a lifetime of oppression. One hundred thousand die from a virus, all innocent victims of a heartless disease, but a balance of color sows more die from one community than others. Racism breads death, either visibly for all the world to see, or silently, hidden beneath the statistics and the excuses.  May the Spirit empower us to face this reality and not turn away: racisms is as virulent as Covid-19, infecting people who seem to have no outward symptoms, until behavior reveals their disease. The vaccine for racism is injustice, the cure is equality, and the prevention is love.”

Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate our commission as The Church – God’s chosen way of being visible in this world, the body of all who follow Jesus in the Way of Love.  Today we are celebrating the culmination of all that Jesus teaches us.  And I don’t much feel like celebrating.  Do you?  

And yet, God reminds me that it is more important now than ever.  The world needs us to show who God calls us to be – 

a people of love and compassion, 

a people of equality and justice, 

a people of forgiveness and grace.  

Because Jesus didn’t come from God to give us a get out of eternal jail free card for when we die.  

He came to teach us a better way to live right now where we are in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  

He came to show us how to live relationally rather than transactionally.  

He came to show us how to walk with God in the way of Love.

Pentecost is the day we celebrate our invitation to participate with God in the redemption of this world – 

to work with Jesus to re-set us on the course that God intends by showing the world how to find God in all things and in every circumstance and in every human being, by showing the world God’s love. 

We participate in this redemption of the world by speaking love into situations of hate, seeking justice in unjust systems.

And by acknowledging our own complicity in the systems of this world that seek to reduce the value of some lives by inflating the value of others.  

God came to us as Jesus and breathed into us the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to bring the justice and peace and love of the Heavenly Kingdom to earth. 

We don’t fight hate by taking sides.  

We fight hate by loving.  

We fight hate by speaking against hateful acts and refusing to hate back.  

We fight hate with compassion, not ignoring harmful and damaging behavior but by holding everyone accountable to the same degree as we would hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior, no more no less.  

We fight hate by seeing everyone as God sees and loves us all.

We fight hate with the knowledge that every single human life is more valuable than any thing.

We fight hate by realizing that the way the world has done things for thousands of years hasn’t stopped people from hating each other and deciding to try Jesus’ way of love instead.  

We fight hate by letting go of our individualized way of living and living for the greater good of all.  Re-membering ourselves as the body of Christ, interconnected and interdependent from the very core of our being.  

The Church isn’t in competition with the systems of the world and The Church wasn’t commissioned to hide out from the world.  WE as the church are to live in and among the systems of this world to show a better way, to show THE WAY of love is more powerful than every other way of being.  

In his book “Thank you for being Late” Thomas Friedman asks his rabbi a question about the presence of God. 

The rabbi answers, “unless we bear witness to God’s presence by our own good deeds, God is not present. Unless we behave as though God were running things, God isn’t running things. 

We are responsible for making God’s presence manifest by what we do, by the choices we make. 

The rabbi continues: God celebrates a universe with such human freedom because [God] knows that the only way [God] is truly manifest in the world is not if [God] intervenes but if we all choose sanctity and morality in an environment where we are free to choose anything. (Pg339)

The world feels heavy, and with God’s help, we can all work to make it better – to make it the dream that God intends rather than the nightmare it often is (Bp Michael Curry).  

From the midst of our pain and anguish, we can see things from a different perspective.  God is with us and we must reveal the God of love to the hurting world, because that will ease our pain, too.  

So, on this birthday of the church, I am so very grateful for the opportunity for all of us to see who we are as The Church, not from within our buildings but from without – a church dispersed in this world to show and share God’s love because that is the whole point and purpose of our gathering – to be equipped and empowered to GO and BE The Church in all that we think, do, and say.  This challenging time isn’t defeat, it’s a gift of the greatest opportunity possible to spread God’s love.  

It’s a time to live into our baptism covenant.  

In your book of common prayer, turn with me to page 304, to the Baptism Covenant. If you don’t have it, your response to each of the following questions is “I will, with God’s help.”  

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? 

I will, with God’s help.

So let’s Celebrate our birth as the church – one body of people, unified by the power of the Holy Spirit, Created by the God of Love, following the one who redeems us all as we walk the Way of Love.  Hear Jesus say, “peace be with you.  As the Father sends me, so I send you.”  May the Spirit empower us all to face the reality of our world and do our work to make it better.  Amen.  

Again, y’all. Again.

Originally posted September 1, 2019, the day after the shootings in Odessa, Texas.

Again, y’all.  Again.  

And I don’t want to preach  or write or do anything today.  I want to be sad.  And angry.  I want to hug all of you and remind you how infinitely valuable each of us are in God’s eyes.  I want hear your fears  and speak mine and feel the pain together.  I want to remind all of us that we are in this life together, that everything we think, say, and do affects everyone and everything else.  

I want all of the anger and hate to stop.  I want love to be our modus operandi, the love that God has for all people, a love of grace and compassion and forgiveness.

In the darkness forged by anger and hate we all need to shine this divine Love.  Loving each other better today than we did yesterday and even better tomorrow that we do today is the only cure for the evil in this land.  

The world tells us that certain people are more important than others.  

Jesus tells us that all of God’s children are infinitely valuable.

The world tells us that our individual wants and desires are more important than anything else.  

Jesus tells us that our relationships and the way we love is the only truly important thing.

The world tells us that when we are afraid we should pull into ourself and shut out the scary people.

Jesus tells us “do not be afraid, I am with you.  Go and love your neighbor.”  

We cannot pull into ourselves in our fear.  We must throw our doors open wide in love and we must strive to always love better.    

And, so, I invite you to pay attention.  Pay attention to the times you use labels to describe people.  

Pay attention to the times when you get aggravated because you have to wait on someone who is just trying to get through their day as you are.  

Pay attention to the times when you think that you deserve something someone else has.

Pay attention to the times when you think someone else doesn’t deserve what they have.  

Pay attention to the times when you let anger displace love, 

when you let frustration displace compassion, 

when you let hurry or convenience displace grace.  

These are the moments to ask God to help us love better, to love as he loves.  And together with God’s help we will make it on earth as it is in heaven.

Love IS the solution to the anger and hatred of this world.  Together with God’s help we can love enough to change this world from “the nightmare it is to the dream God intends.”  

Addicted to anger

Originally posted August 27, 2019

I’ve seen several posts and articles recently where preachers are scolding preachers for not yelling and pointing fingers at the atrocities in our culture.  I even saw one that basically said if your preacher isn’t screaming and fist-pounding about what is going on in our world you should find yourself a new church.  

I choose a different route.  

I choose to focus on shaping and opening myself up to the transformation of the Holy Spirit and helping others do the same.  

I think that the yelling and finger-pointing and blame-game and addiction-to-anger is one of the great atrocities of our current culture.  We don’t watch the news anymore because “news’ has been replaced by programs that encourage and promote heated argument over civil discourse, division over understanding, hatred instead of community all for the sake of entertainment and ratings.  

If I spend my time yelling and labeling and throwing blame around, and encouraging others to to do the same, how am I different from the people against whom I speak? 

If I spend my emotional energy trying to shame and belittle those I think are out of order, I’m not left with enough energy to grow in my own spiritual and emotional wellness. How can I lead others into spiritual maturity if I’m still behaving immaturely?

Yes, I despise the acts of those who label people in ways that dehumanize them.  Yes, I believe we have a moral crisis in our country.  Yes, I see the hated and bigotry and racism that is becoming the norm again.  Yes, it all makes me very angry.  But mostly it breaks my heart.  

And so I turn toward the Creator of my heart and say “heal me so that I can help heal others.”  I pray, “Teach me how to be more compassionate so that I can model Your self-giving compassion for others.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall ever having my mind changed by someone speaking in anger. Most people can’t hear the words of the one yelling in anger.  

I serve the loving, liberating, and life-giving God who calls me to reveal that Divine Love to the world.  I follow Jesus who teaches compassion, mercy, and grace.  I don’t always get it right.  Sometimes I express my anger in the moment. But I do not recall a single incident when I reacted in anger that turned out positively. I can recall many situations when I responded from a place of mercy and grace that actually had a positive outcome.  I believe this is how we can make the world a better place.  

So, I invite you to try the spiritual practice of turning off the yelling.  When you are listening to the radio or watching tv and the show hosts, guests, newscasters, anyone begins speaking from a place of anger, turn it off.  And then use this spare time to do something positive – make a list of things you are grateful for, spend time in conversation with a friend or loved one, pray for those who are fostering the anger addiction in our culture, take a walk, sing a song, play a game.  (Disclaimer – please don’t hear me telling you to ignore what is happening in our world.  Just find an alternative source that actually provides factual stories of the events in a non-angry manner.)

I pray for all of us a week of peace and compassion in which we find the treasure of time to learn to love better.  

Empathy in action

Originally posted August 20, 2019

Let’s talk about compassion.  In the gospel stories we are told that when Jesus saw groups of people he was moved with compassion.  Compassion isn’t the same as sympathy, which allows us to put ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) above the person we are considering when we see them as lacking something that we currently have and we feel sorry for them and want to “fix” them.  

Compassion is more than empathy.  When we empathize, we feel what the person is feeling and connect with them deeply.  Compassion is empathy in action. We feel what they are feeling and are moved to do something to help them heal. 

I do believe that we are each other’s keeper.  We are in this amazing journey of life on earth together.  We need each other.  I cannot control what you think, say, or do.  Half the time I feel as if I can’t even control what I think, say, or do.  But I can open myself up to God’s shaping of my heart and mind so that with the abilities I do have, I can love you and my fellow human beings better and better. I can see others with the same lens of compassion that Jesus saw people so that I am moved to help alleviate another’s suffering and pain.  Imagine if all of us made this our goal – to see others with compassion and help to alleviate their hurt.  

Compassion requires us to take what is happening in our world personally because we are all persons, human beings created by the loving, living God who created us to love (nope, not a typo) on earth as it is in heaven.

Each of us individually can make a difference and collectively we CAN CHANGE THE WORLD from “the nightmare it often is to the dream that God intends” (I borrow that phrase from The Right Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church).

I invite you to do two things.  First, engage in this conversation with me and others who post.  Don’t just applaud what I say (although I do sincerely appreciate your accolades, I’d like to know your thoughts as well).  The second is to pray the prayer of St. Francis, at least once a day.  And make note of what’s happening to you in between as God shows you real life ways to grow your compassion.

“Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

Hurting, healing, and loving

Originally posted August 13, 2020

Hurt people hurt people.  Healed people heal people.  I’m not sure where I first came across that saying but I do know it is true.  Think about the last time you were hurt by another person. What did you “do” with your hurt?  Do you react and hurt them back (or even just think about doing it for a little bit)? Did you stuff it down so that it manifested itself physically in you? Or let multiple hurts accumulate and blow up at something or someone else?  (Be patient, we will get to the “this is supposed to make me feel better” part soon,  I promise.)  Now, if your own hurt caused you to hurt another (or in stuffing it, yourself), think about what might have happened to the person who hurt you that lead to their behavior. 

How do we move from our own hurt to healing so that we can help others heal?  We are all hurting in one way or another, to one degree or another.  And, we all need to be able to name our hurt to be able to manage it rather than letting the hurt manage us.  Even the strongest of us are hurting.  How are you hurting? How do you react to being hurt? Before we can help others heal from hurting, we have to acknowledge our own need for healing. Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.

Jesus tells us that we are as valuable as a hidden treasure and as a priceless pearl.  Each of us in infinitely valuable to God and together, collectively, we are so amazing that we can with God’s help reveal heaven on earth.  The first step in our own healing is to know that we are deeply, immeasurably loved by God.  No exceptions, no caveats, no conditions.  You, yes, you, are deeply and infinitely loved by the God who created you in the divine image.  No one and no thing is more valuable to God than you.  

I invite you to make time each day, several times a day and say this: “no one and no thing is more valuable to God than I am.”  For those of you who shy away because it feels selfish and self-centered, let me assure you it is not.  It is scriptural. It is true. And the first step in finding infinite value in others is to first know it about ourselves.  Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength, and the second is to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES.  What keeps it from being self-centered and self-serving is that we learn to love ourselves so that we can love our neighbor and love God.  God finds you worth loving. Love yourself.  


Originally posted on August 4, 2019 

Life in America feels dark to me. Voices and fists raised in hate and anger are the norm.  Violence is a daily occurrence.  Instinctually, I want to hide and just pretend it isn’t this way and wait to come out when it’s all “better”.  When I do look at it all, I find myself turning the pain and sadness into anger and I don’t want to direct that anger at anyone because by nature, I’m conflict avoidant, so it just seethes inside me. And yet I know that none of this will help, that the atmosphere in our country won’t get any better if I don’t do something.  Not that I think I have all the answers, I know I don’t, but that it is up to each and everyone of us to collectively to change things.  We are in this together, we got here together and the only way to journey out of this dark place we are in is together with God’s help.  What then shall we do?  

Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  If the answer to the violence in this world is love and compassion – and I definitely believe that is it – just how do we develop in ourselves the love and compassion this world needs?  It takes God’s help and our intentional actions and it takes us responding as a community bound together in our love for God and each other.  Let’s take our pain, anger, and fear and together with God’s help transform our reaction to the dangers and violence of this world into a loving response.  

I hope these posts will help us all develop and grow our compassion, as we pray together, ponder and reflect together, develop and strengthen our spiritual practices together. I pray we all open our hearts and souls to the transformative power of God’s love, so we and the world are changed for the better. I pray that each of us finds a way to see the love that God has for us and every human being so that we can be the vessels of divine love in this world.  If you have something you believe will help us all in this journey, please share it with me.  Participate and comment and share with us what you are doing with what I post and how it is affecting you and the people around you.  

Please join me on this journey of replacing the hate of this world with the love of God in all that we think, say, and do.  We are in it together, relying on each other’s talents and strength to be one body.  Each of us is needed and necessary.  Each of us is loved unconditionally by the God who created us all.  Each of us is an instrument of that love.  Together, with God’s help, we can change the world from “the nightmare it often is to the dream that God intends” (The Right Reverend Micheal Curry).  Won’t you please join me in this, loving, liberating, and live-giving work?  

If you do choose to walk with the path of love with others through these posts, I ask you to please follow these guidelines:  1) Allow space for those who may not express themselves in the same way you do.  2) Resist the urge to place blame in any way. Let’s focus on how each of us can do better (and remember you can only change yourself and no one else).  3) Do not mention political parties in any way shape, form, or label.  We are discussing a human heart and soul issue.  4) Above all else, be compassionate in your responses, after all, that is the purpose, to increase compassion in all of us.  

How this came to be…

Although it has taken over a year to bloom, the seed of this blog sprouted early on a Sunday morning, sitting in the dark in a hotel room in Dallas.  I couldn’t sleep and needed to transform all the thoughts in my head into words on a page.  As I opened the cover of my iPad and the usual news, email, and social media alerts vied for my attention, I caught sight of a headline about a shooting in Dayton, Ohio.  There were 9 dead, 17 wounded by gunfire and a total of 27 injured in the attack.  

I was in Dallas that weekend for an Enneagram boot camp lead by Suzanne Stabile – an event I’d been looking forward to for months.  Studying the Enneagram has been life changing and life giving for me.  My husband had come along with me and our daughter had driven up from San Antonio to hang out with us for the weekend.  The day before, as the Saturday session of boot camp was ending, Joe Stabile had informed us of a shooting in El Paso in which 22 were killed and 24 injured.

Two mass shootings in 13 hours. 31 precious lives lost and so many others upended by violence and hate. I struggled to comprehend what was happening in our world.  How could human life mean so little?  

The theme for the Enneagram boot camp was “what then shall we do” and this question was spinning in my soul. The thread that began to emerge from the spinning was compassion. And this thread began to weave itself into words and I began not just to dump thoughts but craft a response to the hate and anger so prevalent in the world.  

Suzanne talks a lot about doing what is ours to do. It’s a key component of the enneagram journey.   I’ve always written about what’s in my head.  I’ve never let others read what I write beyond what I prepare intentionally for my sermons and church newsletters. I’ve never believed I had anything to say of significance beyond the bounds of my parish. 

The gift God gave me that morning, sitting in the dark crying silently and typing as quietly as possible as the words poured out like Niagara Falls, was the assurance and confidence that this is mine to do. I pray it is useful and helpful for you.  

In Luke’s telling of the Gospel story, a group of people, after John the Baptizer has just preached to them that they cannot ride on the coattails of their ancestors but must live a life that reflects the loving compassion of our God, ask John, “What then should we do?”  John replies with specifics of how they can reveal the God of love and compassion in all that they do, every moment of every day.  (See Luke chapter 3.)

Revealing God’s love and compassion to the hurting and broken world is ours to do – all of us, you and me and God together, every moment of every day. 

I have reposted here the writings that I’ve shared on Facebook over the past year, with the original posting dates. I invite you to read them as you have time.  As I continue to post my writings here, I invite you to join in this conversational journey toward becoming more compassionate people following Jesus in the Kingdom of God. 

God’s peace, my friends.

Mtr. Nancy+