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Down to the River & God Will Use You to Change the World

Here’s last Sunday’s sermon, titled “Down to the River”.  This was preached on The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, and if you stick with it until the end, you even get to hear me sing!  (Oh what joy!!)

Also, a sermon from Christmas I, December 28, 2014, titled “God Will Use You to Change the World”

We are all mothers of Christ

Here is Sunday’s sermon for December 21, Advent 4, entitled “Will you be the bearer of Christ to the World?”

Seasons of Vocation

This is a piece I wrote about how God calls us to use our gifts differently at different times of our lives, depending on our context.  It appears in Reflections Fall 2014, which is the quarterly journal published by the Diocese of West Texas.


Everyday Saints

Here’s a sermon I preached at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on November 2, when we observed All Saints Day.



On Being Vulnerable

Recently I sat in front of a fairly good-sized group (over 50 people) and basically opened my soul to them in a way that I seldom do.  We were studying the gospel of Mark, and as the discussion moved along, a deeply personal moment, a mystical moment of the Risen Christ being revealed, came to mind as a powerful example at an intense point in our discussion.  This is an experience about which I have prayed, written in my journals, wrestled and thought ever since it happened months ago.  And since it happened, I haven’t spoken about it to ANYONE.  Before I knew what I was doing, I was telling this entire group of people about this experience.  Tears came as I spoke, and I had to stop to compose myself.  I felt raw and naked, exposed.  Here was my little pearl of great price, a deeply personal experience, laid bare for all to see.  What was I doing?

Fast forward a couple weeks, and one of my closest friends asked me about the mystical experience I had, having heard that I shared it with the group.  Here is someone who knows me well, from whom few secrets are hid.  There I sat, tongue-tied and nervous to share my experience, to be vulnerable even with this person I know very, very well.  And so it is with revealing ourselves with others.  I muddled my way through, allowing myself to be embarrased and awkward and pushing through to the share the mystical experience.  Once the words were out, even though I still felt off-kilter, everything was ok.  A peace settled over us, and a closeness that is hard to fake or manufacture.  (As a side note, mystical experiences have a way of pushing us and transforming us and revealing us; they are seldom silent but they often bring incredible calm, quiet, peace.)  In the midst of all this, I wondered:  how was it that I spontaneously shared something so private with a large group, and then I was reluctant to share it with someone so close to me?  Is it easier to be open with strangers or acquaintances?

Now, I have a job that puts me in front of people regularly; it’s not something especially bothersome to me.  In fact, it’s a joy to share in worship with others, and no matter the size of the gathering, there’s an intimacy to that time and space that is sacred and sacramental. And it’s probably easier because, while I am in front of folks and sharing a very personal part of faith, it doesn’t necessarily call on me to be vulnerable in a particular way.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m genuine (I don’t know any other way to be), but we all know that one can say a lot of true things about oneself while still being shielded and guarded.  I’m very personable with people while remaining intensely private with all but a few.  And then there are those things which I hold close and rarely share at all.

These days, vulnerability is all the rage.  The good work of Brene Brown has spread the value of vulnerability far and wide, working to transform us all and encourage us to be open and risk being vulnerable with others.  Brown’s work on shame is indeed important; I’m a fan.  When I had the chance to see her a little up close (she received an honorary doctorate at my graduation from seminary), she seemed real and lovely and maybe a little shy.   I wonder about the intersection of her now very public life and her inner world, how she navigates being in the headlines and giving TED talks and hanging out with Oprah.  Is that where being vulnerable leads — fame and wealth and all that stuff?  (Of course, talking about vulnerability and studying it isn’t the same as being vulnerable per se, and I’m not trying to imply anything about Brene Brown!  Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy for her; you go girl!)

Being vulnerable is hard work.  It won’t get most of us published, or applauded, or even noticed.  It might put us in uncomfortable situations, saying or doing things that open us up to misunderstanding or even worse, criticism or ridicule.  That’s why we so often won’t do it, or when we do, we feel unsure and exposed.  Anyone who has lived through junior high knows how cruel people can be to each other.  After all, we learn not to be vulnerable in part from past experiences which have hurt us.  Self-preservation is a strong and primative instinct, deeply inplanted in our survivor brain, and our emotional life knows this on that primeval level.

And yet, our deepest instincts can be wrong.  When we are vulnerable, inch by inch, little by little, we challenge that base sense of self-preservation, that sense which might have worked when we were being hunted by wild animals but doesn’t always serve us well in modern society, filled with subtle emotional cues and complex social relationships.  With each experience of being vulnerable and not meeting with impending doom, we slowing relearn what it means to be human.  These layers of experience in fact allow us not only to relearn; they actually help us grow and become so much more of who God intended.  I have some pretty deep scars, things that once kept me from being known and open (and sometimes still do).  Yet over time, I have learned what it means to trust the process of vulnerability, to trust others.  And even more, I’ve learned that my ability to be known is not and cannot be dependent solely on how others react.  I can only be who I am, and I can choose to reveal as much as or little as I desire.  So it’s important that I wrote of my public sharing, before I knew what I was doing. Over time, my automatic response has shifted from fear and unwillingness to be open and known to a kind of auto-pilot that risks striking out, that listens to the inner rhythm and trusts that it is ok to disclose something deeply personal about myself.  That morning in our bible study, I wasn’t consciously weighing my response; I was acting based on the slow build of trust that is formed with each little interaction of letting someone in.  Trusting my deeper self, where truth lies.

The big surprise is this:  we all want to be known.  Deep down, we yearn for connection — it’s how we are truly created to be.  When I shared my mystical encounter, the experience of sharing it  reinforced my ability to be vulnerable.  But being vulnerable isn’t just about me;  sharing that day also made connections with those who heard and shared the story with me.  And when we risk being known in that way, it invites us all to open ourselves to connection, to one another and the power of our experiences.  When I shared that same experience with someone close to me, the stakes were much higher; he had the potential power to really hurt me by the way he reacted to me.  Because while no one can make me feel anything, when we open ourselves to others, we invite a kind of intimacy that allows for hurt to happen.  We want to be close; we weigh the risk of it with every interaction, every disclosure, every inching into the deep waters of who we really are.

The sacrament of the Present Moment — that is what really happens when we are vulnerable.  We find something sacred in the sharing, and it connects us to each other.  That is where we long to live, where long to live, in the thin space between the Eternal and the Now, where I can own who I am and let you in too — to all that I am:  the good, the bad, the crazy and wild heart that longs to connect.



God’s Generosity and Radical Equality

Last Sunday’s sermon, exploring fairness and justice and generosity and grace.




What’s your turning point?

Last Sunday’s sermon, about turning points and identity.


Across the water



Wind drives water into soft ripples as I gaze out;

deep blue gives way to dappled green

and light peeks through the cloudy canopy of sky.

Life lurks on the shore,

and from my perch above

all looks idyllic and peaceful —

faraway, so distant —

a serene snapshot that belies the truth of it all,

of wind that pushes and rips the stillness of life


Please go away

and don’t draw me to something so elusive,

a lure of fairytale perfection that isn’t real at all.

Every time I think I just might muddle through,

there you are, reminding me of something out of reach,

across the water.


Feeding the Hungry

Here’s last week’s sermon, preached at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas.

I’m just sayin’…

Sometimes trying to live out the call of the kingdom of God ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Days filled with meetings, deadlines, proofreading, planning, cajoling, responding — this is so much of where the time goes.   These are not bad things — all necessary things in the life of any large organization.  Being in touch with people is important, and I’m always glad when I am able to connect with someone.  Yet try as I may to remember that this is part of the reality of ‘being church’, I also find myself saying, ‘Is this what being in ministry is all about?  The deep call of ministry I hear sounds more like the gospel imperative:  comforting those who mourn, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, binding the brokenness and wounds of a hurting world (including my own torn heart).

In the winter, a woman called Miriam and her sweet child came to me one night when I was still at work, wondering if they could spend the night in our Parish House, just one night so that they wouldn’t have to sleep on the street.  This woman was clean and educated, but she has the wrong papers and speaks another language, both barriers to her life in this city.  She wasn’t asking for money, and she refused it when I offered; she and her 12 year old daughter had no where to sleep.  I had to tell her no and help her find an alternative that would keep them both safe in the night.  I can tell you, I know that as ‘good stewards’ of God’s gifts, we must take care of that with which we have been entrusted.  The reality is that we can’t just throw open our doors for people to sleep here.  (Or can we?  A story of no room available for a traveling couple, one which we talked about not too long ago, does come to mind.)  The questions of homelessness and poverty and transience are complex, as are the answers to how best we are God’s stewards.

And yet….  Four floors, an unknown amount of square feet, all a gift of God in the middle of this big city.  (I’m not talking about the church itself, mind you,  just the Parish House.)  Sometimes, just sometimes, it feels almost wrong for it to sit empty when it does, when the needs are so great.  Locked gates every night to protect our property — is that what we are called to?   I wrestle with this, really wrestle with it all.  And it’s no different when I drive home, through the gate of my neighborhood to my rented house that is cool when its hot outside, warm when its cool outside, and well stocked with comforts and food and all manner of good thing.  Do I open my home to those who need a place to sleep?  How do I balance the needs of my family with the needs of those on the edges of society.  I haven’t brought any strangers home with me yet (although I have brought people who I know who are in need home with me and bore the consequences of an unhappy husband and blurry boundaries).

I have a savior complex, don’t I?  Part of my journey is to discern how to allow God to work through me to be present to others.  And in the process, God works in me, transforming me and guiding me and giving me wisdom and discernment, helping me begin to see what I can do, what I can’t do, and how to tell the difference.  How do I get out of the way?  One of my wise seminary professors (thanks, Jane) taught us that the ministry to which we are called as priests is to walk along side others, empowering them to do the work of discipleship.  That is where all the meetings and planning and responding and cajoling comes in — it is sometimes my task to help others find how God is calling them to be in ministry, calling them to be feeding the sick, clothing the naked, giving a cup of water in the name of Christ.  This is the fun stuff.  But it might not always be exactly what I’m called to do.  I can’t do everything to help everyone.  Sometimes I can’t do anything to help someone.  Maybe part of the work I’m supposed to be about is to help the people who gather here in this little corner of San Antonio so that when we leave, we become the hands and feet of God, we see the face of Christ in everyone they meet, we over and over reach out in love to help meet the needs of the many who come to our doors.