Today — I celebrate twenty years as an ordained priest. Reflecting on one’s experience in ministry can be a risky endeavor. I share these thoughts inviting the wisdom and insight of those who read this blog.
My life as a priest has been unique and filled with surprising moments. On a day such as this, many of these memories greet me for celebration and reflection.
We planned my ordination for May the 8th to correlate with the feast day for Dame Julian of Norwich. A holy woman – devoted and faith-filled, Julian lived in the middle ages during a time of plagues and war. While struggling with a life–threatening illness she experienced a compelling and personal encounter with God. Surviving – she knew the gift of health and life and vowed to live a mystic’s life. Most of her adult life was spent living in a small room connected to a church in Norwich, England. Like an anchor to a boat, Julian anchored herself to the church. From her room, through a small window, she met and counseled people who came to her, offering comfort and holy wisdom to the village of Norwich and beyond. Within one room, she counseled those in need, spent hours in prayer and put into words her insights about God’s love and mercy. These writings would come to be known as: Showings – The Revelations of Dame Julian of Norwich. It is believed that she was the first woman to have her writings published in English.
We planned my ordination for May the 8th and welcomed the communion of the saints led by Dame Julian. Twenty years later I find myself curious about the connection between my ordination and Julian’s feast day. Being a woman and a person with a disability, living my life as a priest would present unknown challenges for me and others. As time has passed I know my ministry has been filled with courage and grace. Courage–unashamed of my differences, I have entered doorways into churches and homes that had previously not been opened either to women or people with disabilities . Grace- all has been possible through a vision beyond me.
Anchored in her one-room home, Julian of Norwich shared her wisdom and faith with confidence and compassion. Her story has been encouragement and inspiration for me. I know something of being held in one place–anchored if you will. From this wheelchair I have been present to people in their joy and sorrow, prayerfully spreading God’s good news.
In many ways twenty years is just the beginning! What have I learned up to now? I have learned there are many more questions than there are answers and much of our time is spent learning to live with the questions. I have learned that while we live in a world wrought with anxiety, people long for the presence of peace–not a lot of words just peace. I have learned that miracles do not always manifest as we might have envisioned but miracles they remain. I have learned to be grateful for hope and honesty in moments of despair.
Most important, I continue to reflect on the wisest words ever shared from Dame Julian. “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” We do not get to know how life’s story ends. Carrying these gentle words along the way has brought light for the journey.
God writes spiritual Mysteries on our heart,
where they wait silently for discovery. RUMI
So much of life is spent in search of meaning, in search of peace. Is it in our education and our vocation? Do we find what we seek in the way we create family and the leadership we offer in our communities? Each of these aspects in life are before us to do with what we will. Each can bring significant meaning to our sense of well-being.
So much of life is spent in search of meaning. What if… the discovery is as close as your heart? In a quiet moment, doing the most basic of task – a window may open to reveal a future bright with purpose and content. Times of discovery are often experienced when all is still. Not just physically but also with stillness of mind. In our search for meaning, God offers comfort and assurance along way. Never to interrupt the search, God is found near and far. Life is an outward journey, yes, but the heart’s journey is found on a parallel path. We traverse back and forth on these two roads as they each provide their own insight and strength. Rumi’s reflection describes a place within each of us filled with epiphanies and waiting for our attention. Such is the way of the spirit. Such is the way of the heart.
The day has come to a close. Throughout I have been reminded of people who have taught me so much about taking each day as it comes – enjoying whatever moments of joy could be gleaned. Weak, strong, brave or scared these friends have lived a life unlike any other in their generation.
These people are friends who lived with HIV/AIDS. Many have died and remain in my heart woven into the fabric of my life. Some have – against all odds – lived with amazing grace and vibrance. Against all odds… they have been living examples of hope.
Even though it is the calendar’s coincidence, this day – World AIDS Day – shares the weekend with another important day. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. The first day of the church’s new year and the beginning of a season set apart for us to focus on hope. Advent places us on the edge, alert and aware of a growing sound of new life – exploding with cries of freedom and enveloping the world with gentle grace.
Against all odds, the universe continues to prepare ways for the Great Creator to enter our lives at unexpected moments and places unimagined. We face a time when this encouragement is needed most. May we help one another stay aware and alert.
This entry was inspired by a friend and colleague, Dr. Jay Johnson, whose blog entry today was honest and hopeful. I encourage you to read it – all of it – within is the story of a journey both personal and communal. Thank you, Jay.
Like many others, I spent time in August looking into a night sky filled the trails of falling stars. Watching for those magical streams that glide across the sky can be a child-like experience. There is nothing more exciting than to pay attention to the sky in the dark of night. It is so vast, so mysterious. When I was young I remember asking my father if he thought there was any life beyond this earth as we looked into a sky of twinkling lights. His answer will always stay with me, “…having created all this beauty and wisdom, why would God stop here?”
As I looked into the night’s canopy last month, remembering that conversation with my father, I took in its beauty and felt that same thrill when a star would stream before me.
There have also been times when the night sky has felt too large, out of my control, filled with things unknown, creating a sense of uncertainty and fear.
It is early morning and this year has brought us, once again, to September 11- a day eleven years ago when we awoke to watch our skies fill with objects of devastation instilling the greatest sense of sadness and fear. It was a day completely out of our control. A day when things unknown and unimaginable would change our lives forever.
Today I will look into that same sky, large enough to be filled with wonder and danger – I will look and remember the many people whose lives were lost, whose hearts were broken, and who gave all they had to aid with compassion, prayer and strength.
With eyes wide open, I remember all these things and give thanks for a sky large enough to hold all the prayers of God’s people. In faith we move forward, humbled and awakened.
I walk by faith, but I do not walk with my eyes closed. Faith does not mean I am blind to the world around me. In fact, just the reverse. Faith makes me even more aware of reality. It opens my eyes to hunger, poverty, injustice and prejudice. It offers me a vision of the beauty of creation and demands that I be held accountable for preserving that vision. I see God alive and active all around me. I am a witness to the living truth of a love so clear I cannot look away. Walk by faith and you walk with eyes wide open both to what is without and to what is within. (from Bishop Steven Charleston at Native American & Indigenous Ministry in Episcopal Church)
“Prayer is simply hope captured.”
So many people seek hope. So many stretch to find a spiritual path. Does it have to be so difficult? Do we make things too complicated?
My intuition is to think – yes. The path often lays out right before us and hope a natural way of connecting to something greater than ourselves.The words that follow are taken from the FaceBook page of Bishop Steven Charleston Visit if you get a chance. His reflections are clear, inspiring and accessible.
In your search for quiet and reflection, may the flames of hope light your path to prayer…
“Hope is the match, prayer is the fire. If you know someone who needs a little help in getting a prayer life going, ask them if they ever hope for something. Its a safe bet that they do. And all the time. Humans are hopeful creatures. We are in an almost daily state of hope. We hope it won’t rain. We hope we get better. We hope we win. Hope is a constant for us in our emotional matrix. Prayer is simply hope captured. Rather than a fleeting wish, through prayer hope becomes a focused intention. Prayer matures hope by allowing God to light a fire.”