Saturday, April 25, 2015

Making the 23rd Psalm our own

Here's my version of my "go-to" psalm: 23

God, you guide me through this life
Leading me to good and safe places -- renewing me when I'm out of energy

Even in those dark times -- those disasters and doubts -- you God continue to guide me.

What's more: you set the stage for blessings and abundance that fill my life with joy and good things.

Continue to guide me to the places you dwell.
I will call you home. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Confirming not Conforming

Last weekend I had the opportunity to lead 13 young people, assisted by two other adult leaders, on a confirmation retreat on a beautiful lake campsite in New Hampshire. The intent was to ensure that they were "duly prepared" to reaffirm their baptismal vows as adults in front of the bishop on May 17 and be confirmed. 

We talked a lot about God, sacred space, finding holy space, and the impact of ritual.  The youth became more familiar with the Book of Common Prayer, the great treasure of the Episcopal Church. It was two days of quiet in the pretty hectic lives for these young people. 

There is much ink spilled on predicting the demise of the church based on young people falling away and not committing to an experience as their parents and grandparents once did.  That may be true, yet that was not our concern last weekend. What I hope we conveyed was that the church is a place -- when we are at out best --  where their questions and doubts and hopes and dreams are welcomed. If they wander and lose their way -- and most do -- that God can be found in community. If they ever get lost, may they be led back. Home.  

Barbara Harris Camp in Greenfield, NH 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Richard Rohr on strength and weakness

Quite simply, both Francis and Thérèse recognized that you come to God not by being strong, but by being weak; not by being right, but through your mistakes; not by self-admiration but by self-forgetfulness. Surprise of surprises! But it shouldn't have been a surprise at all, because both Jesus and Paul taught it rather clearly. Yet it was just too obvious, simple, and counter-intuitive to be true. This teaching utterly levels the playing field of holiness, so all losers can win--which is everybody--if we are honest. This is pure Gospel, in my opinion, and worthy of being called "good news for all the people" (Luke 2:10)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Waiting for Hope in Havana

As I continue to process our recent mission trip to Cuba, I am filled with the normal battles of reentry from any trip. Yet leaving Cuba is different. This island nation is cut off from the world like few others. Boarding a plane and flying away is not possible for millions of everyday Cubans, so departing each time is a complex mix of emotions. 

What folks here in the U.S. most want to know is whether or not we saw any sight of change or hope due to the recent thaw in relationships between our two countries. There was clearly an optimism that closer contact could make life easier, but I was surprised how tempered and realistic the hope was expressed. Cubans have waited and waited a long time. Parents my age have effectively given up on seeing or knowing anything different in their lifetime: they are living and hoping now for their children and potential grandchildren. And that is tragic. 

We traveled inland to install one of the four water systems we brought on this trip and we encountered an entire small town that looked as if a bomb had been dropped. It was a town I knew from my days living in Cuba in the 1980's. Since then, by the looks of it, few buildings have been maintained and many have collapsed. It was if people were living in ruins. Yet the people in the church were filled with light. 

So life continues to be hard on the average Cuba -- hours spent each day in lines for public transportation. Food is rather abundant, yet very expensive for the elderly and those not receiving money from relatives in the U.S.

Our church friends were as gracious and generous as ever and we continue to forge closer contacts.  The desire and commitment to return in 2016 is real and vital: I believe we are an important connection with the outside world for them. They clearly impact our lives. 

The hope that I did see and feel is that kind of hope we speak of -- the hope that comes from the peace that passes all understanding. Pray for our Cuban brothers and sisters this Holy Week and Easter. 

Touring the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana
Our group waiting to hear from a local priest at a church in Matanzas province