Monday, December 28, 2009

Psalm 8 and a Video of the Known Universe

     The American Museum of Natural History has put out an incredible video of the known universe. I would invite you to watch it, and then read Psalm 8. See if it does not give you chills!

Psalm 8     Domine, Dominus noster

1 O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Anglican Rosary: Reflections and Resources

     “Did you pay that bill?”
     “Don’t forget to stop for gas on the way into town tomorrow!”
     “You snapped at that student today. You really aren’t a very kind person.”
     “What are you going to do about your weight?”

     I would like to say I discovered the use of the Anglican rosary as an aid to prayer because of a desire, shared by many, to deepen my prayer life. The truth is I wanted to shut up those critical voices of my own personal Greek Chorus. If I had spent all day grading papers, but left one set unfinished, the choir would sing out in the night, “You really should have finished!” If I had gotten them all done, the choir would change the night’s anthem to that old favorite, “You neglected your family while you were grading papers!” Too much thinking. The rosary gave me a way to quiet my thoughts, not so much shutting them off completely, but more like gentle ocean waves of prayer repeating and repeating, wearing down the voices of the shoulds and the shouldn’ts of my conscience.

     It used to bother me that I would sometimes fall asleep before finishing the rosary. An older lady who was a lifelong Roman Catholic reassured me on this point. She said their tradition is if you fall asleep before finishing your rosary, your guardian angel will finish it for you. Nice! Although I still pray the rosary before sleep, over the years, it has broadened out until it has become part of my daily prayer routine. It also has become something I will do if I am waiting in a long check-out line at the store, or if I am just stressed during the day.

     Throughout history, many different Christian traditions have used beads or the counting of prayers, not for the sake of repetition, but as a still focal point for entry into prayer and meditation as part of the rhythm of their lives. The early Christian monastics who lived in the desert would gather small pebbles; as they walked and said their prayers, they would drop the pebbles in the sand one-by-one.

     Since the revival of the use of rosaries in the Episcopal Church in the 1980's, they have gained in popularity. When I started, Anglican rosaries were not widely available. One Christmas, my present to myself was to buy a nice Roman Catholic rosary and have it professionally altered at a jeweler. Now, Anglican rosaries are widely available for purchase. One reason they have become so popular might be the flexibility of the devotions. Instead of fixed prayers, there are a number of different forms one may use. You are also encouraged to create your own personal prayers for the rosary.

     It seems somehow appropriate, living in the desert of Nevada, to share in this long tradition that goes back to the deserts of our spiritual ancestors.

     I recently taught a class on praying the Anglican rosary. A copy of the class handout is available here in PDF format: Rosary. It includes some history of the rosary, prayers for it, how to include personal prayers while doing the rosary, and how to create your own prayers for use with the Anglican rosary. It also has a list of books and Internet resources.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Voice of Top Cat Stilled

BOSTON (AP) — Arnold Stang, an actor who appeared alongside Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra and was known for his nerdy looks and distinctive nasal voice, has died. He was 91... He voiced cartoons, including the lead character in the 1960s cartoon "Top Cat," and did dozens of commercials...
     I am slightly too young to remember him with Berle and Sinatra, but I remember loving the cartoon Top Cat when I was a kid. Thank you for the laughs, Arnold!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Voices of Mothers and Angels

     In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
                              - Luke 1:39-45

          When I find myself in times of trouble
          Mother Mary comes to me
          Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
          And in my hour of darkness
          She is standing right in front of me
          Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
          Let it be, let it be.
          Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
     I have always loved the words of that song. It has guided me through some tough times in my life. I guess if you've got to adopt a Beatles song for some spiritual guidance it is certainly better to use this one than the song “I am the Walrus”

          Yellow custard, dripping from a large black pot.
          Fisherman with his fishwife,
          You've been a naughty boy and you let your face get dirty.
          I am eating eggs (woo), they are eating eggs (woo),
          I am John Lennon,
          Goo goo ga joob.
     It is a little tough to draw spiritual comfort or direction from that one.

     I have always interpreted “Let it be” as "Leave the thing alone... let God handle it.” Now that is really good advise and scriptural, but I recently realized, "Leave it alone” is not at all what Mary meant when she said, "Let it be."

     After Gabriel announced to her all that was to come, "Let it be" was her saying, "Let it begin… Let it begin with me." “Let the changing of the world begin with me.” And it did. Mary hurries to visit Elizabeth. Harrell Beck, a professor at Boston University used to say, "Every family needs a wise aunt to whom an unmarried pregnant teenager can go." Long before the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit is poured out on Elizabeth and she says, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” The ancient words of Elizabeth have become part of our Christian heritage often repeated in gratitude just for Mary saying, “Let it be.” Elizabeth goes on to say, “Blessed is she who believed.”

     And Mary, filled with the same Spirit, answers Elizabeth in the beautiful song of triumph we now call the Magnificat. Mary appears to have every reason not to sing. She is poor, pregnant, and not yet married, yet she sings of a God who calls her blessed. A God who takes human form in the incarnation of Jesus. Her song speaks of a God who comes to turn the world upside down: He brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly! He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty! Here is the gospel of liberation. To this day if you read this out loud in some Latin American countries, it can get you killed. We're still waiting… for an end to violence, for a world of peace, for the lifting of burdens, for the hungry to be fed, for our hungers to be satisfied. Like Mary, we can answer God’s dream of a new world, a new kingdom, by saying, “Let it be.” Let the changing of the world begin with me.

     It was not the men, but the women who believed first – Mary and Elizabeth! It was the women who believed first at the resurrection; they ran to tell the men, “The Lord is risen!” It was not the voices of kings or prophets or the powerful or the rich that changed the world – it was the voices of mothers and angels.

     I don’t know about you, but there are days I don’t feel like I have much control over things: We get sick; we age; relationships we thought we couldn’t live without end; people we love die; wars rage on. Despite all these hard realities, we can change the world if we begin with ourselves. If we say, “Yes!” If we allow God to enter our lives just as he entered Mary’s life and changed the world over 2,000 years ago. Not because we’re powerful or strong or better than anyone else. We can change the world because we remember it all began with the weakest… with the smallest.

     It all began with a baby and a mom who said "Yes"… “Let it be.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Doing Lady Gaga A Cappella!

     This is just too funny not to share. U.C. Berkley's all-male a cappella group "Noteworthy" imitates Lady Gaga's techno hit "Poker Face". Even if you have never seen Lady Gaga in action, you'll laugh yourself silly watching this! I wish we could get these guys for our church choir!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let It Snow!

     We knew our first serious storm was coming, but I do not think anyone expected the punch we got. In my area in the foothills, I would estimate we received eighteen inches of snow. School was cancelled, so I am very glad I did not have to drive in these conditions today, although living in the mountains, I am kind of blasé about chaining up the car if it is necessary. I spent most of the day shoveling. The day off was fun (I know the kids are thrilled), but we will probably be grumbling when they tack on that extra make-up day in June. The birds are well fed and cluster around my trees and feeders keeping warm. Casey, one of my cats, kept a close eye on them. They were so thick in the one tree that it looked like I had my own Christmas tree decorated with birds for ornaments. This is the beginning of our annual snowpack that fills our rivers and reservoirs to supply our water the rest of the year, so let it snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Question was Not "If," but "When"

     It is exciting to hear the diocese of Los Angeles has elected both their first female suffragan bishop, the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, and also the first lesbian suffragan bishop, the Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool. They now enter the process where a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to the elections. You can read the full coverage in Episcopal Life.

     It was not a question of "if" we would elect another gay bishop, but "when". It is now the turn of standing committees and bishops of the Episcopal Church to live up to our stated value of respecting every human being set forth in the Baptismal Vows. It is also time to live up to the reaffirmation of this vow made at last summer's General Convention specifically as it applies to this very situation. The General Convention affirmed in Resolution D025 that ordination is available to anyone in the church through the discernment process outlined in the Constitution and Canons of the church.

     I am convinced that some of the signers to the Anaheim Statement, which was basically seen as a dissent to the actions of the General Convention, did so not because they would automatically oppose consecrating another gay bishop, but as a sign of support for those bishops who had to return to dioceses where the summer's actions would cause them heartburn. It will be interesting to watch the consents as they come in over the next four months.

Can You Spot the Narcissist?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama's Speech on Afghanistan and Kids

     In all the sensible, well reasoned, apparently prudent words of the President's speech, every time it panned to the audience, all I could think over and over was, "Dear God. They're just kids."