Dear Folks,

It’s summer! And if you can find a cool spot, and a few minutes, slow down. Grab a notebook or a journal, and fill a page or two with your thoughts:

  • What’s going well right now?
  • What do you need to change?
  • What hurts?
  • Who can you thank for their role in your life?
  • Does anyone deserve an apology?
  • How can you frame an old struggle as an opportunity?
  • Who or what is calling you?

To hear better at this time of year, I read a bunch of books. Maybe it’s the extra light at the end of the day or changing gears at work, but somehow the time seems to find me, and I surrender to its prodding. “Sit still, and listen,” it says. “Others have struggles to share, and the victories of making their way through.” So I read, and I take notes when something particularly strikes me, and I lose myself in someone else’s narrative. And frequently I find some part of myself in the process. What are you reading this summer? What are you seeing and feeling and thinking?

My current stack looks like this:

Whiskey Tender, by Deborah Jackson Taffa, is her memoir of growing up as a citizen of the Quechan Nation and Laguna Pueblo. It’s funny and poignant and bracingly honest, the story of a mixed tribe Indigenous family with one foot in mainstream America and the other dancing the mystery of an ancient people.

Scattered Clouds, New and Selected Poems, by Rueben Jackson. The collection contains the full text of “For Trayvon Martin,” and additional poems explore family, music, mortality, and the streets of the author’s Washington, DC. It’s full of yearning, insight, and “rueful wisdom.”

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingslover, a retelling of Dickens’ David Copperfield. According to a review, the novel “speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.”

The Hidden Spirituality of Men, by Matthew Fox. Author Fox explores why the life of the Spirit is often inaccessible for men, devoting his work to ten metaphors designed to awaken the sacred within us.

On Trails, an exploration, by Robert Moor. Continuing the work I discovered in A Philosophy of Walking, I look forward to Moor’s work on trails of all kinds. While through-walking the Appalachian Trail, the author began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet. “How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others fade? What makes us follow or strike off on our own?”

Boundaries of Soul, the practice of Jung’s psychology, by June Singer, part of my training in Spiritual Direction at the Haden Institute. (Full disclosure: I am reading this book again, after plowing through it this winter!) Jung has introduced me to a further kind of walking—down and deep and dreamy.

Good travels, wherever the path takes you this summer.

Love,
David

Do you find yourself using words like “always” or “never” to describe experiences or events in your life?  For example, do you say things like, “Oh, I never win anything” or “They’re always complaining about something?”  I admit it.  I used to talk like this—a lot.  But the tribe I run with now says that we create our own reality by using or misusing our words because the energy of spoken words carries so much power.  I am trying to listen to them.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “If you say to a mountain MOVE, and believe it…, it will move….” So I even hear Jesus saying we can create our reality by speaking what we believe to be already true.  In this instance, the internal power to move a mountain being made manifest through speech.

If we believe and say that we never win anything, then we don’t win anything because we have set ourselves up with an expectation to get what we already got…no winnings.  It has taken me more years than I can count to learn that I was creating an unhealthy emotional situation for myself that made my life miserable!  Human beings are body, soul, and mind (including our psychological and emotional states).  So what maps of reality are we using to create the language of so many always and nevers?

Maps of Reality are REAL.  I have no idea when or where the concept of “map of reality” originated, but it seems to have arisen in the very early 21st century as techies worked with ordinary citizens to originate the earliest designs for virtual reality systems.

From a consciousness perspective what we define as real is based on our history and the comprehension of the experiences in our past.  In other words, we are conditioned to assign meaning to how we perceive life early on in life.  This very human way of understanding what we experience by our senses can make or break us if we remain unaware (unconscious) that they are perceptions that may or may not be real (in alignment with Truth).  Remember the question from Pilate, “What is Truth?” 

A map of reality is a powerful concept, and everybody has one, even if we don’t realize it. It still colors our days, thoughts, moods, emotions, and how we relate to others. I was blessed to meet someone who had a very different way of looking at things. My beloved Charles was instrumental in helping me to accept my perceptions as mine and not necessarily his in a loving way. Love is always evolving and enlightening on the road of life.

So, here’s my invitation.  Listen to yourself speak.  Become aware.  Find the always and nevers and kick-them-to-the-curb!  They simply don’t allow us to live in the state of blessedness that is our birthright.  The blessed state has everything to do with who you are, manifesting in what you do (or don’t do).  Nevers and always just don’t make space for the Divine, who both IS, DOES, and LIVES in every breath we take.  Think about it.  I did.  Maybe something to make you go, “hmmm….”

With Love,
Freda Marie+

I imagine you’ve figured out by now, that things don’t always go as you planned. You have your day mapped out, and a phone call changes everything. You have your career or job well in hand, and then a restructuring of your company leaves you packing up your office or desk in a box. A diagnosis demands you rethink and reorganize your life in a way you never imagined. A decision is made over which you have no control that nonetheless impacts you and those around you.

Things don’t always go as you planned.

I was reminded of this yesterday, amidst the torrents of rain and wind. A colleague and I were sitting together, reviewing some PowerPoint slides and getting ready to present to a group of D. Min. students gathered at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute, when a text came in. It was about a pastoral issue, and it required my immediate attention.

My mind began to race.

What about the group at St. Mary’s and the commitment I had made, to be with them? What about my colleague, who I had invited to do the presentation with me and had not planned to do it solo? What about the family that had just texted me, what state were they in?

I closed my eyes.

Inhale … Exhale … Breathe

(And then repeat: Inhale … Exhale … Breathe … Deeply … and then again … and again … )

I have found that this simple practice — of taking the time to stop, pause and mindfully, intentionally and consciously breathe — amidst the swirling and twirling of thoughts and wonderings that can flood in like a torrential downpour, when what you have planned collides with the reality of What Is — is a powerful tool. It helps “make space” for what is essential in that moment to rise to the surface, so you can realign your steps along the new path required.

Yesterday, for example, with each deep breath, the way forward revealed itself.

I need to go be with the family, now.

My colleague will be fine doing the presentation solo (and as it turned out, another colleague was able to “pinch hit” for me and help).

The group at St. Mary’s will understand.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the Spirit guiding us into truth, and I often reflect on what he said in connection with this practice of mindful, intentional, deep and conscious breathing.

So if things don’t go just as you planned for them to go, today (or tomorrow, or the next …) …

Stop. Breathe. Listen.

And let the Spirit of God guide you into truth.

Love,
Cristina

Dear all,

It has been a joy and a privilege to serve as Chaplain at Redeemer’s Parish Day School for the past four years. During  my first year, we met for chapel every week on the lawn between the garden and the third grade learning cottage, outside like the rest of PDS classes and activities to try and keep one another safe as we navigated the pandemic. Even in that new and different space, we held on to some of the parts of chapel the students identified as important: lighting candles, receiving and blessing chapel food, and telling stories about God. “Give a big wave around chapel,” I said every week at the beginning of the service, “because it is so good to be here together.” Any time where we could all be together was a gift.

Now it is the spring of 2024 and the class of Pre-First graders I met in 2020 are graduating from third grade. Chapel has moved inside and we now have two services, one for our 2/3s-Pre First graders on Wednesdays and one for elementary schoolers on Mondays. During Wednesday chapel we still light candles (much more easily without wind); we still receive and bless chapel food; and we still tell stories about God together. During Monday chapel, students serve as acolytes, we have an order of service, and each class takes turns writing and sharing prayers for the week. On Mondays the older children pass the Peace to one another, but on Wednesdays I open our service with the same phrase:  “Give a big wave around chapel, because it is so good to be here together.” It is still so true.

Gathering each week of the school year with PDS students has been a gift. Learning from their questions about God and faith, their wonder, and the empathy and feeling they share with characters in our sacred stories has made me a better priest, a more curious and thoughtful person. Whatever I go on to do, our prayer and laughter and curiosity and praise will always be a foundational part of my ministry, and I could not be more grateful. And it’s not just me. Our entire community is enlivened and enriched by our relationship with PDS, their staff, students, and families: new voices in the building, new relationships beyond our campus. We have been and continue to be blessed (by God and by the hard work of many people over the last 70+ years) to have a school as a part of our parish community. It is so good to be here together.

PDS is on my mind this week because Wednesday was our last chapel of the year. On Monday, our very first class of third graders will graduate, with Pomp and Circumstance on the organ and an entire community changed by the experience. Please keep these 11 members of our Redeemer community in your prayers on Monday, over the summer, and in the fall: Miranda, Joaquin, Ben, Maddie, Sam, Blythe, Leland, Nathan, Emily, Will, and Jack. As they set out to new schools and new adventures, may they continue to grow and bless their new communities the way they have blessed ours. May they remember that they will always have a home here at Redeemer. And may they carry our love with them, surrounded by the love of God, the friendship of Jesus, and the wisdom of the Spirit everywhere they go.

Love,
Rebecca+

Dear Folks,

When I was introduced to Hamilton Rowan fifteen years ago, he smiled and said, “I am so glad to meet the man who will bury me.” “Are you feeling alright,” I worried, not really sure how to respond to this impish stranger, and he burst into laughter. “Oh, I’m fine,” he said, “just fine. But there’s no harm in planning ahead.” Fair enough. I was the new priest in town and Ham was “no spring chicken,” as he told me, so his forthrightness made some sense.

Ham grew up in England and went to boarding school with A.A. Milne’s son Christopher Robin. “CR,” as Ham called him, was the object of bullying, because his fictional namesake was a character in his father’s Winnie the Pooh stories. So, Ham became CR’s champion and friend when they were just 10-years-old, and their relationship lasted through adulthood. I think Christopher Robin’s winsomeness balanced Ham’s leathery persona. Ham was a war hero, and a successful businessman, and a devoted dad, but he told me one day, “My highest goal was to be a good friend.”

As he weakened, I prepared Ham for his death, and we talked several times about the words that A.A. Milne placed on the lips of Ham’s childhood friend. “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard,” for example. Or, “You can‘t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to youYou have to go to them sometimes.” And this: “If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think… and even if we are apart, I’ll always be with you.”

I lost a hero when Ham died. True to himself, his sense of dignity and courage palpable to the last, he fought the good fight with his cancer until it was clear to him and his doctors that the treatment was making him sicker than the disease itself. “It’s time to make some different choices,” he told me a few weeks before the end. And so his dying was as purposeful as Ham’s life had been: no fuss, no calling attention to himself, no regrets, no fear, and hardly any pain medication. Just a desire to see a very close friend, his brother and his children, to walk his quiet way toward death, and to pray about crossing over.

The good news for those who mourn is this love letter that I want to share with you from Frederick Buechner. “When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again (when we meet again), you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart. For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost.” Ham is still with me.

Ham’s feet are now planted firmly in heaven, and so I guess he sees us a bit upside down! But you know what? Ham’s wise and loving heart, his crusty exterior and mushy insides, have been in heaven all along. In fact, his heart and our hearts and God’s heart are one.

Love,
David