Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Our Girl Friday: Another Christmas Story

Certainly not Friday, instead another angel who tried
our Nativity Photo Booth at St. Paul's Walla2
The office was closed for Thanksgiving, yet she went into the church office to take care of some paperwork.   The automatic phone answering system rang through to her office.  She glanced at the caller-id, which said ‘hospital’.  She picked up the handset.  “

Is, is this Pastor Wendy?” the caller asked.  “Yes, how can I help you?” she replied.   “My name is Charlotte, and I just had a baby, and I named her Friday.  And she, Friday is, well she is your granddaughter." 

"And um, she is fine, but when I was leaving the hospital my car, it was rear-ended.  And now, so we are back in the hospital.  I, I remembered that your son Max, he said you were a Pastor, and the nurse here at the hospital,  she remembered you,  and knew what church you are at.”

“And I am so glad I found you because, I have a new baby, and I don’t live here, and I cannot go home for a few days, and I don’t know anyone here, and I need help.” 

My bible commentaries for the birth narrative from Luke are a rainbow of highlight colors and littered with years upon years of scribbles.  I found myself coming to this sacred story wondering what more could be said?  How many more five dollar words could be spilled about this holy birth?  I have heard it dozens of time, so much so that I am hardly surprised at all.  This Nativity is much like the parables Jesus will tell when he is older. The meaning is deep and startling wrapped in a starry night.  

So I tell the story of our girl Friday to remind myself that this is a story about answering the call and loving the stranger.   I tell the story of my friend, I tell the story of that strange and life changing call, to remind myself of how demanding and surprising and marvelous this holy night is.  
Mary and Joseph and the shepherds had these astounding calls with dreams and choirs of angels.  The innkeeper all he had was a knock on the door.  All the cosmic fluff can be a diversion from the heart of this Christmas story.  The surprise is that the birth of Jesus invites us to forget about a God of shock and awe.  It invites us to instead listen for his subtle knocks at our doors.  In Jesus God puts on flesh and moves into the neighborhood.  God is knocking at the door, he is ringing a tiny bell and whispering in our ears. 

Christmas is a sign post about the present state of the universe.  It is about you and me and what we love and how far we are willing to bend that we might be made new.  My friend “Pastor” Wendy and her husband, they brought this stranger, this young mom and this baby home.  And the story, yes it checked out:  they do have a granddaughter Friday.  Can you be there with them in the startling strangeness of such surprise guests, who you had no idea about and one who turns out to be so precious?  Now, can you dive deeper still, to be there in that stable?  Can you find yourself as the innkeeper, or the manger or the hay or the stars or the donkey or anyone else in the gospel? 

In the first months of her life with her mom in recovery, baby Friday was often with us at the church.  I remember holding her snuggly as we gathered in a dim nave to walk through the Christmas eve service.  Much like the story of our savior’s birth, the tale is surprising and tender and comic, and so to, strung through with sadness and heartbreak.  If you are familiar with fragile families, it won’t surprise you that their journey isn’t easy.   What family’s journey is?  Each and every day it demands a faithful imagination and love, endless holy love.  

All stories of God’s faithful people, these stories we live are essentially remakes,   at once imitating the one true performance of God in Christ, yet also an creative reliving of that one defining performance.  “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O Come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!”  Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve, 2014
5.30pm Family Service
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington, USA

The story is true, however the names have been changed .

I did however forget to record the audio.  Sorry.

A big shoutout to an essay by Stanley Hauerwas in the essay collection Performing the Faith.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Locked Neither In nor Out

Have you ever been locked out?  Standing outside of some impenetrable space?  Perhaps you had bags in your hands.  Or maybe it was cold or foggy; or perhaps it was oppressively hot.  You are caught on the wrong side.  Perhaps you felt rage, Perhaps sadness or loneliness.  There was probably a moment, or an hour, when you felt resigned to your state.  You knew there was nothing to be done about it, all you could do was wait.

There are times when we are really and truly locked out.  You forgot your key, nobody was home, and there you sat on the porch in the rain.  And there are times when we are systematically locked out.  Moments and lifetimes when the structures and biases and injustices make cages you can feel but barely see.  Holding us captive, devastating hopes and dreams, hindering generations.  There is another kind of locked out. The metaphysical, emotional and deep type of being locked out, or, as the case may be locked in.  Caught in the sins and fears that will not release us, bound by the mourning that can turn this season of glee into gloomy ruins.

For all its celebration,  todays Psalm is rooted in trauma and imperial oppression.  Can you hear it?  Can you hear that its desire for restoration comes from the place of weeping? Its fortunate hope, its dreamy consolation, this isn’t the song for those who are satisfied.  It is the is a song of a Blue Christmas, a song that can imagine the fullness,yet you know it is a long long way from here.  It is a song that starts from being locked out, or perhaps, locked in.

You might have noticed a tension in the tenses of the verbs. Verb tenses in Hebrew are not simply translated, and in poetry such as this, the path is not clear-cut.  If all of the tenses are future focused, those who go out weeping will come again with joy. A future tense makes it a prayer for help, a tension that starts from emptiness and burden.  If the lines are past tense…when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion then we were like those who dream. Then this past tense makes it a thanksgiving psalm, praising God for all that he has done.  You might notice that it is translated here, and almost always, in both future and past tenses. This unsettled timeliness invites us into the tension of the possible, draws us into a porous overlapping of God’s time.  This Psalm 126 demands that we not lock ourselves up in the past, or the present, or even in daydreams of the future. 

Here we are in the downslope, or upslope, of Advent, with this earth spinning toward the darkness of winter solstice, and with us preparing to welcome the Christ, the light of all people.  Perhaps you have noticed that the news of this fragile earth is not conforming to the rush of good cheer.  We are being shocked into paying attention to the complexities of inequality and discrimination and privilege and distrust.  It feels troubling.  Locked in, locked out, locked down.  Can you feel it?  Is our own captivity being exposed? It may be that we are all blind and captured by the pressures of politeness and platitudes.  What if all our niceness is just shiny wrapping paper?  What if we are as deeply selfish and unforgiving as we are portrayed to be?  Is that our story?

Our true story isn’t about reindeer noses.  Forgiveness is our true story. Our story is the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, our story is exile and return, our story is enslavement and exodus.  Forgiveness isn’t as simple as making a list or a one day suspension of disbelief, or a whitewash.  Believing in forgiveness means that even our worst failures and devastations: these cannot lock God out.  Our ruins are a place where God meets us.  Believing in forgiveness also means believing in repentance.  Repentance isn’t about feeling depraved, it is about freeing ourselves from the locks we have created for ourselves.

Yet this holy restoration and radical forgiveness, it is not a human project, it is God’s gift.  This gift is possible because he is one for us, because he became one of us: Emmanuel.  Affirming our faith in the forgiveness of sins is not to claim that injustice and oppression and hatred do not matter.  Nor is it to claim that the way forward is sweet and easy.  Believing in repentance and forgiveness,  is tough, and it is difficult, but it is freedom.  There is no grief or trial or devastation where God’s presence cannot bring liberty.

For all who feel that God has forgotten his promises, Christ comes.  For all who wonder if they have forgotten their promises, Christ comes.  Our readings today invite us to see the world as the prophets see it. To see past and present and future, bound together in the heart of God.  Are you a prophet?  John today, he says no, he is not.  Perhaps you are right there with him.  Are you a prophet? Most of you are thinking, heck no.  Yet that doesn’t stop John from seeing the world as a prophet sees it.  Prophets see the world as God dreams of it.  God dreams of a world that is not divided into locked in and locked out.

What would you see if you saw your life as God sees it?  What would you say and do, who would you be if you saw the world as God sees it?  From his Nazi prison cell theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers this.
Who am I? They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a Squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, you know, O God, I am thine!

Advent 3b RCL
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla
Washington, USA

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tension: Glad Growling at the Acapella Accoutrements

Tension.  Out in traffic.Tension.  Out in traffic.  Tension in our exercises, Tension everywhere that I go.

I love the smells and sounds of the winter holiday season, however it all starts too soon and is too loud and too distracting.  Childlike wonder and Grinch-like Advent fundamentalism all at once.  Tension.

I love following the #adventword devotional from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, yet I find myself flinching at the endless photos of empty naves and acapella accoutrements.  Who and what are we proclaiming with these?  Church and faith are people words, are active words, alive and moving and God willing, breathing.  Yet there they are.  Lovely shots of windows and pews and thuribles, saying so much by what is not in the image.  Tension.

know there is anxiety regarding what images we can use.  These phone shots of furnishings are free of charge and hassle, and I do it too.    I know we are material people who find that the tactile memory of old books and worn kneelers keep us nourished on our journey with Christ.  Yet they #proclaim a poor gospel.  They are focused on ashes when we are called to strive for the stars.  

my tweet post...with a stole i made once for a friend.  tension.

Our practice is not about the stuff, and all about the stuff.  What we do with the gifts we have been given, where we place our love and trust, how we use our resources:  all of this matter matters. Our proclamation of good news includes the hard truth that our worship of stuff is a place of divine judgment.  This worldwide Advent calendar should invite a bit of anxiety and tension.  I am #encouraged that as the days process on there are only so many furniture images for us to share.  Tension.

These advent word hashtags are a beautiful blessing.  The #EpiscopalAdvent and the #Radvent and the #Adventword, these lead me to think and pray and to laugh throughout the day.  Perhaps it is fitting afterall.  This social media interplay of life and image are focusing on my Advent tensions about what is here and what I #wait for.   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Surprised by Surprise: Grace, Hope and Karaoke

A large box arrived a few days before my birthday.  Taking the box back to my dorm room it seemed to swamp the space before I even opened it.  Inside were an assortment of birthday things; however most of the box contained an Eeyore pillow pal.  If you don't recall these things they were bed pillow sized renditions of various creatures in polar fleece.

This grey and pink darling donkey, I could not #abide it's place in my tiny dorm room.  Yet being a donkey, he would have a place at my church office.  I thought he would be hauled out from time to time when a donkey was appropriate.  I thought the little children would like him.  Yet within days this Eeyore pillow pal was being hauled around the church by the teenagers.  They carried him around until even they couldn't abide his adolescent odor.

I was completely surprised and completely surprised that I was surprised.  There is a piece of adolescence that is trying to hold on to childhood, and another piece that is attached to the joy of the ridiculous.  A pillow pal mascot was a gift that could help them surrender to these forces and let it still be an act of love, #hope and comfort.  Still, there was something counter-intuitive about the gift of that donkey.

A few weeks ago a friend and elder parishioner asked if my ministry would like his karaoke machine.  Truth be told I have never been an enthusiast and I couldn't imagine our teenagers would be very interested.  If they want to do such things there are Wii disks or the multitude of offerings on youtube (death metal karoke with the sing along bouncing ball!)  However, I thought I might find a use for it and accepted the gift.  It sat in my crowded office for a few weeks.  We giggled at the song compilations on the disks: who puts Madonna and Mr. Rogers on the same collection!  Yet there it sat, a bit in the way and gathering dust.

Eventually, one evening when the original plan fell through, I decided to invite some of my more technically inclined teens to figure the contraption out.  Generous and cooperative they went to work, and it took longer than I expected.  I also expected that they would get it working and walk away to the youth room video games or a group game of Zombies.  However, that didn't happen at all.  Much to my surprise I had to chase the darlings off of the machine long after 'youth group' had ended.

If we can offer space for authenticity even the strangest and random notions can open doorways for young people to find themselves. The #grace of pillow-pals and karaoke machines are not in any youth ministry bag of tricks.  What made them a gift to the community was the community that was already there, ready and waiting to be more in union with one another in Christ.  All of this is a mystery and I can never be sure ahead of time what will rise and what will fall flat.  More than gimmicks however is the commitment to food, fellowship and welcome for all teens.

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves. The irony is that we find ourselves, and now in a whole new field of meaning. This happens on a lesser level in every great love in our lifetime, but it is always a leap of faith ahead of time. We are never sure it will be true beforehand. It is surely counter-intuitive, but it is the promise that came into the world on this Christmas Day, “full of grace and of truth.” Jesus is the gift totally given, free for the taking, once and for all, to everybody and all of creation.  
Richard Rohr: Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Imagine, Beware and Give: Can We Conceive How Much We Squander?

Beware of squandering our gifts.  

We do this in so many ways: we squander time, we waste materials, and we consume the lives of our children.  We live in a world of unbelievable abundance and unconscionable squandering.  You gave your people water in greater abundance than they could possibly #imagine. (Wisdom of Solomon 11.7)  The volume of this statement is staggering: we have been given so much that it is more than we can possibly #imagine.  

This unbounded waste...we will be held to account.  Can we imagine that?  As we await the birth of Christ we must examine the world into which we welcome him.  Do we imagine it to be as precious as he is?  Advent isn't just hitting the breaks before the fra la la la; it is paying deep and holy attention to the world we have been given.  

To beware is to practice weariness.  It is to step cautiously, eye carefully.  It is to study, to pause, to consider.  We have so much to be weary of: how can an Advent of beware enliven our souls and connect our communities?   Perhaps we can begin by considering the ways in which “squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.” (Brown, 2010)   

At first this #episcopaladvent word #beware seemed out of place.  The sugar plum fairy dust has gotten in my eyes and ears and wonders why this doesn’t say ‘be not afraid’ instead.  Beware is the opposite of being not afraid; the being not afraid is a blessing, it is a holy faith.  However it has a time and a place.  And we should be very much afraid of the squandering that we do everyday.  We should ‘beware’, we should practice a weary attentiveness when it comes to the distress that our sleepwalking through life causes.  We should beware, at all times in Jesus name, angels appearing or not.   Yet inside these two, this #beware and this be not afraid is an Advent call to pay attention.  

#Beware  #Imagine  #Give.  

(Three different # Advent word calendars are feeding into my imagination this Advent.  From the Society of St. John the Evangelist ( is #adventword a world wide gathering of images each day.  I love watching the time zones cross over, as at this moment it is both the 2nd and the 3rd of December).  From my pal's at St. Michaels and All Angels, Dallas, comes #radvent2014.  And last but not least from the Episcopal Church Center we have #episcopaladvent.)   

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent in the Outfield

Not a Rockies game.  
Already, but also, not yet.

I was a baseball fan and so I was signed up to play tball.  Already a fan, but also, not athletic.

I was most frequently placed in the outfield.  A small girl in a big field of grass.

In true baseball the outfield requires lots of waiting,  punctuated by bursts of running and death defying catches.

In tball the outfield meant you waited through each inning.  I would eventually sit in the grass.  Pluck dandelions.

Advent is a bit like playing the outfield.

Many years later I was in the front row of the upper deck of Coors Field.  Perched high above homeplate on a windy summers night, we were offered two shows.

There was the one we paid for, the one on the field. The one with bats and bases and innings and plans and 'no crying'.

From our seats we could also see the Rocky Mountains to the west.  And across the front range of the mountains rolled a marvelous lightening storm.  Much to far away to cause a delay of a game, but close enough to offer the second show.  The crowd was ooing and ahhing for both games.

However the men on the field couldn't see the second show.  They had no idea that just beyond them was a creative light display.  You could see the outfielders looking around confused.  When the crowd oohs and ahhs and nothing just happened on the field, it would cause you to turn your head around too.

There are two shows right now.  One of the sugar plum fairy type and one of the stand in the outfield and wait type.  Advent is the second show and it is one of patience and remembering; one of staying awake and standing at rest.

It is strange how much work it can take to just stand still for a while.  To pay attention to the game and to let the other shows remain beyond your field of vision.  Or to find a way to experience both without denying the other.  I choose  muted sugar plum, always struggling to not be a 'but we are here to watch the ball game' fundamentalist.  Which is hard.  Folks who read newspapers at games irk me; folks who hang up their holiday stuff before St. Nicholas Tag make me shiver.  But like lightening that makes me jump, I have to recall that it is far away.  It is a choice, and I can think the lightening is beautiful and watch the game at the same time.

Advent.  Come Lord Jesus.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friends or Fiends: Ezekiel, David, Jesus and the duties of a Shepherd

Somewhere in the English Lake Country near Keswick
In the first year of mail-in balloting in a neighboring state, the one where you cannot pump your own gas, I worked on a Senate campaign.  I was a part-time grunt, stuffing envelopes and editing spreadsheets.  On an early fall day I was handed a small mailing to fold, stuff and stamp.  Being an interested advocate I chose to read this particular letter.  Let us suppose that my team is the ‘Blue Devils’ and the opposing team are the 'Red Raiders'.  This letter was addressed from the Blue Devils to prominent boosters for the Red Raiders, because apparently some people just like to see a good game and are known to boost both teams. (Who knew!)  The letter was polite and avoided all possible hot topics, mentioning only apple pie and the common good.  In the third paragraph I stopped reading.  I pushed back my seat and headed upstairs to find the ‘special teams’ coach who wrote the letter.  ‘Done already?’ he queried.  I smiled and I handed him the letter.  ‘Read the third paragraph,’ I said.  He read quietly at first and then he leapt to his feet and exclaimed ‘but I used spell check!’  To which I replied ‘it isn’t misspelled!’

The letter should have said ‘inviting our Red Raider friends’, It said ‘inviting our Red Raider fiends.’  One letter…tremendous meaning: friends or fiends.   I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak.  But the fat and the strong I will destroy, because I will tend my sheep with justice.  (Ezekiel 34.16)  A sentence of comfort and a sentence of woe.  It might make you squirm in your seat, or push back your chair.  The fat and the strong I will destroy is the majority translation.  However, in two ancient texts it reads differently.  It reads ‘the fat and the strong I will watch’.  This could be a repeated accident, the word formation is only slightly different.  However, in the context of this prophecy in the middle of Ezekiel’s extended metaphor of a divine shepherd who seeks all the sheep, I will destroy versus I will watch invites a curious wonder. 

I myself will search for my flock and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out the flock when some in the flock have been scattered, so will I seek out my flock. (Ezekiel 34.11)  Referring to a king or leader as a shepherd is common in the ancient Near East.  Whether he or she is an independent monarch or a proxy vassal you are to watch over and care for your flock. Poetically imagining the divine as a shepherd is also commonplace in Ezekiel’s day and age. The expectation that a god will do whatever it takes to care for his (or her) devotees isn’t novel.  This is your vocation: to shepherd the people.  This section of Ezekiel hides references to David, who was their own shepherd and king.  Matthew reaches into Ezekiel to portray Jesus as this type of Good Shepherd, and Ezekiel reaches back into the Davidic core.  All of which leads us to see this Jesus, this Good Shepherd, this Lord and King as one with those ancient roots.  Ezekiel 34 reaches back to David’s shepherding days, to the young man who gained his skill with a sling shot defending his flock against wild animals. 

Now in these times the word of the Lord through Ezekiel is that the ancient leaders of Jerusalem have utterly and completely failed to care for their flocks.  All of the fat and strong, whether they be religious leaders or governors or the wealthy, they have tended themselves and not God’s flock.  Make no mistake, this is Ezekiel’s team.  It is his team that are the he-goats who trample the grass and muddy the water.  Yet he does not waver from God’s scathing indictment.  Convicted of self-centeredness, the idolatry, the murder and oppression and the failure to care for stranger and neighbor.  The fat and the strong have proven themselves more fiend than friend.

A real life successful shepherd isn’t as cute and cozy as the Epiphany pageant might lead you to believe.  A good shepherd will respond to provocation, with violence if necessary.  The God who speaks these words is resolute, but perhaps a weary and even grieved Shepherd.  I filled you with good things and the needy you send empty away.   I called you to comfort the lost and you locked your doors.  I asked you to heal the wounded and you headed for the hills.  If you are looking for a God who is distant and non-judgmental this is not your day, and not the Lord we follow.  Ezekiel paints for us a vivid portrait of a God who is active in the world, who is active in history, and will hold us to account for our things done and left undone. Many of us in this room, we are the fat and the strong by the scales of the known universe.  Even when it doesn’t feel that way at all, many of us are well fed and enjoy considerable privileges. The good shepherd will watch and he will defend and decide. Friend or fiend?

You may have noticed that the world is gearing up for sugar plum fairies, while the church pushes back its chair and says ‘wait’.  Like a good shepherd we should use this upcoming Advent to watch and examine closely.  We are called to prepare the highway for a Lord and King who will arrive in humility, who will be born ‘one of the least of these’.  Today is the Stewardship Ingathering and the last Sunday of the Church year, and the celebration of Christ the King.  I am glad to say that when our Lord and Master, Friend and Shepherd joins us we will find St. Paul’s striving for his kingdom. We are feeding his sheep, nurturing his people and offering healing to our neighborhoods.  These pledges, these tithes we offer, they are not a bill, or a toll, or a tribute. Our pledge of financial support go hand in hand with our pledge of fidelity to God and his call to love and care for the whole creation.  This stewardship campaign is about giving thanks for our blessings, and it is also about keeping the lights on and ministries supported and growing.  However, we commit to all of this not for our own gain but so that we might follow our one Lord and shepherd. 

We may be 125 years old, but we have only just begun to begin to seek and gather and bind and strengthen.  It is not our call to sit back and wait for someone else to do it; it is not our call to romanticize the past. It is our call to follow the shepherd, to practice fully in the now with a restless sense of movement which leads the neighborhood into Christ’s reign.  God’s question through Ezekiel comes down to this: will we be fiends or will we be friends of Christ’s kingdom?  Come practice Christ’s kingdom with time and talent and treasure, right here in this pasture.  We will seek, we will bring back, we will bind up, we will nurture: Neighbor, stranger, friend and forgiven fiend.  For we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.


The Reign of Christ, Year A
23 November 2014
Walla Walla, Washington

Monday, September 29, 2014

Unbounded Boxes, Bunnies and Golden Books

Finn River Farm and Cidery on the Olympic Peninsula 
We called him Herr McGregor.  Herr McGregor was always telling us to stop climbing on his fence. He would shoo us away with a frustrated exasperation.  We were American children of service men and women, living off-base in Southern Germany.  He was our neighbor across the fence, an older man with an expansive garden that went all the way around his house.  

In our young and witty brains this man who was always in his garden and always shooing us away, well, we named him Herr McGregor.  The German title attached to the dedicated gardener of Peter Rabbit.  We told stories about how he thought we were like Peter, an interloper who would steal his carrots.  We thought he thought we were little rabbits who needed to be chased away.  We told stories about how he had put snapping turtles in the garden to attack us if we made it in.  

You see there was a short wall below the fence and we would shimmy along, holding on to his fence till we could turn around and jump over to the clothesline pole and slide down, firefighter style.  So over and over again when he would tell us to get down,  we would jump down from the wall and yell 'Ya' and 'es tut mir leid'.  We would move along, but we would return when he left his garden.  

Todays parable is short and simple and in some ways unremarkable.  It is a story where there may not be a whole lot to turn you on your head.   It is children’s Golden Book material.  Peter Rabbit and the PokeyPuppy say one thing and do the opposite.  They go to the forbidden garden and do not come home on time.  Meanwhile, the siblings who do what they were told get dessert for supper. We know this story because we live this story.  It is our experience with our children, it was our experience as children.  Saying one thing and doing another. 

As simple as the parable might seem it has two 'power markers': the Temple and the Vineyard.  A vineyard in biblical imagery is a sign of blessing and prosperity.  In the prophets and in the Psalms a vineyard that is healthy is a mark of peace and concord.  And the natural processes of fermentation were associated with divine blessing.  I cannot claim I ever thought much about wine and vineyards before moving to Walla Walla.  One of the things I have learned is that vineyards require year round precision, care and love.  Everything matters in the vineyard from the balance of rain and sun to the daily temperatures and the chemistry skills of the cellar staff.  It is intensive work,  an art where doing the work you said you would do is crucial to a successful harvest.  

The Gospels are community documents.  They make choices on what they say and what they don't say based on what the authors believe the community needs to hear.  We don't tell our children all our stories.  We tell them the ones that we hope will inspire and motivate them toward a healthy adulthood.  This parable of two sons whose words and actions do not match: it could be a simple allegory.  The one son represents all those God serving people with disreputable employment.  Political operatives, corporate executives and 'Hollywood'.  They may seem like they are thumbing their nose at Gods invitation, but in reality they are humble and faithful servants of his way.  In a simple allegory the other son becomes every self righteous soap box loudspeaker who does absolutely nothing to repair the world.  The judgment is obvious. Isn't it?  

The foundation of the readings today is that trusting in God, trusting in Jesus' lordship
matters more than anything else.  Trusting in God’s desire for reconciliation is so unbounded that it always spills out beyond our little boxes of what is holy and what is necessary.  Jesus’ otherness is upsetting to any little boxes and his otherness is the source of dangerous game that is being played in the Temple this morning.  Like John the Baptist his authority comes from beyond the fences.  They are wild yeast in a controlled cellar. Jesus' power to transform decay into harvest is beyond their control.  What might have troubled an early community that this parable, this interlude was repeated and written down?  What life giving lessons do the children of God continue to find in this unique parable in a vineyard?

What if both sons are both right and wrong?  Just like most of us, they are sons and daughters of passion and commitments and a dearth of things left undone.  Saying are the Christ, the vineyard is yours, and then finding other things to do.  Or saying uh, well, hmm, I don't know...but charging forth and doing what he asks anyways.  I have done both in the span of five minutes.  However, both the son who does nothing and the one who says nothing affirmative, they both live in the bounty of God's grace and in his judgement.  They are both accountable for not saying or not doing the work we are given to do.  Jesus' authority is what is in question here.  The authority of the church is the topic here. Not our authority of power but our authority as faithful witnesses of the risen Lord.  We tell a story about people who embody resurrection, hope and new life.  Do we have to be perfect stewards of the vineyard to tell that story...or are we beloved, forgiven, and always welcome home?

What we think and say and do in response to Jesus is entirely bound to whatever it is that we think we as church are doing and what we as church are hoping for.  Archbishop Rowan Williams once stated that the parables judge effectively because they are about relationships.  We don't have the parable of the rock and the tree.  The mystery of reflection and metaphor work together to draw us in and in this parable to bring us up short.  We live in the divine vineyard, in his metaphorical and true to life garden.  We have all been the first son and the second son, and many us have been the parent or gardener.  We who have bound our path to Christ, we are first and foremost bound to the forgiveness of his path.  We are imperfect people who get up and try again.  

Our setting is a consistent cycle of reversal and renewal, of compost and fresh sprouts, of surprising, devastating changes and of outrageous surprises.  I am not a gardener, but many of my favorite people are.  There are moments of self confidence that make it look easy and simple. Yet as many of you might know more than I, it is anything but.   Among the muck and the complexity of our little boxes God is bringing forth unexpected life.  The life of God is outside my expectations, my rules and my categories.  If I am honest I will admit that I think one son is lazy and the other is commendable.  However, in the light of the whole story Jesus life, death and resurrection I wonder if those are my boxes, and not God's.  

The work of formation is much like a garden.  It is about digging in the dirt and a commitment to resurrection.  It is about eternal things like forgiveness and freedom and the abundance of God's creation.  It is also about the immediate time, about playing and serving and growing right now.  Most of our harvests are immediate.  We eat what you grow.  You fill the garden with diverse offerings for the nutrition and fiber and joy they will provide.  We hope they will nourish deep roots and a future of abundant faith.  However, we cannot guarantee that.  We practice healing and learning in union with Christ because people of all ages need food now.  And if we put all our energy into old little boxes or judge our product by an unknowable future, then we will stand in judgement ourselves. 

One day I was walking home and Frau McGregor invited me into their home.  I had a 'free range' lifestyle in our neighborhood and had already visited most of our neighbors.  I was fearful and curious at the same time.   Hansel and Gretel must have entered my mind.  Despite the stories we told, I went in. Herr and Frau and I sat in their kitchen with good treats and conversation.  We broke bread.  I remember leaving transformed, knowing they were kind and sweet and desiring to share their treasures.  They didn't think we were naughty little rabbits.  I still didn't understand why he wanted us to get down from that wall.  That took ages.  So let us not jump to conclusions about saying and doing because my beloved, God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Jane Alice Gober
Pullman, Washington

September 28, 2014
RCL A Proper 21

Thursday, July 10, 2014

River of Life: EYE 14 (Post 2)

Our opening Eucharist was blessed by the preaching of Stephanie Spellers, and it was a sermon graced by the spiritual hymn 'I've Got a River of Life'.    I have a river of life, with it the lame can walk and the blind can see.  She told us of how for her when she was young the church wasn't something she percieved as focused on mission or healing.  However the church that we are practicing at EYE14 is focused on nothing else.  The mission of proclomation, justice and healing is the river that flows through out of our life together.
Philadelphia is a city that is defined by a river.   It goes without saying that Philadelphia is along way from eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, yet our diocese is also strongly defined by its rivers.  The rivers that flow out of our home fill breadbaskets and fruit baskets far and wide.
One of the most obvious differences is that in the Episcopal diocese of Spokane, 125 years is super old.  Here that isn't very old at all.  Buildings of old stone evoke awe and wonder.  The weather is also quite different, if also good for this place in July.  I have been told that I am the only one of our team who thinks the weather is lovely (my hands look less like raisins!).    Some of our crew are finding the humidity difficult, declaring that their skin is sticking to itself and hovering inside while a malfunctioning security alarm sounds.   I have refrained from suggesting that this is nothing compared to DC or Mississippi.

On Wednesday we made our way from the Germantown neighborhood over to EYE and Villanova with a few minor glitches.  To begin our day we woke up a bit late, but certainly not on a Pacific schedule.  This was more of a challenge given our late late night arrival.  For our first night we rested in triple Decker brand new bunks at the Episcopal Mission Center which is housed at St. Luke's in Germantown.  I cannot offer enough praise for the fine welcome and amazing work they do at the Episcopal Mission Center.  Based on the recommendations of a friend we headed out for the Little Jimmies that appeared on our smart phone.  We walked quite a ways in the morning ing he s t before we found it.  Part of the reason for the morning ing breakfast trek was to help acclimate our crew to the local weather.  It was a long walk and we filled Little Jimmies with our fourteen bodies.  We pushed the capacity so far th as t the shopkeeper called for reinforcements.  Who then told us that there was a s another larger location much closer to our digs.  Oops.

Refreshed by our meal we walked back with more energy, and headed out toward the train.  The region had experienced huge storms the day we arrived (hence part of our delay).  Widespread damage and power outages were confusing systems.  And a power line had fallen over a train track.  Leading to no trains.  Which we learned after climbing the stairs with our luggage.  Eventually we were able to arrange for three cabs to come and get us and take us to the EYE14 site.  Now if only they had all known how to get to Villanova!

We did make it to our destination and we were right on time for the start of check in.  Since then we have been going almost non stop (except for sleep).  We are in a dorm with folks from the dioceses of Hawaii, Maryland, San Diego, California and Rio Grande to name a few.  Participants are spending lots of time exchanging trinkets and playing frisbee between our sessions.  Last night includes big games on a field and a Frozen song along in the on campus theatre.  Then was evening worship and snacks.  Today we celebrated a fantastic Eucharist, took a group photo and have now begin our workshops.  There in an excellent article on The Episcopal Digital Network with more about what we are doing.

One of my favorite things about facebook is the river of life, the river of my life, that flows along on my 'wall'.  The lives of school friends and 'grown kids' mix with colleagues and family.  I find it to be a beautiful babbling brook of who I am and where I have been.  However, this is much better than my fb wall.  EYE so far has been a river of living life, of hugs and high fives in person with the folks who usually only pass by.  To hug my goddaughter, to be lifted high by an old friend, to hear my name shouted..OMG Jane!  It is a blessing of its own.  This is a river of life...where shall we take it from here?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Philadelphia freedom via Vegas....EYE14

Southwest airlines can be occasionally silly and generally high energy,  all of which can make it seem like the youth group of the airlines.   This observation is particularly evident with the icebreaker style boarding process.  If you have not been on a Southwest flight recently this might need an explanation.  Every passenger is given a boarding group letter, and a number.  Each letter group has to line up in numerical order, which demands that passengers TALK to one another.  It requires a civility, attentiveness and connectivity not unlike our life together in Christ.
Once on board you then get to choose from any open seat, also like church life, and a real benefit to flying with a fourteen person group of young people and chaperones to the Episcopal Youth Event.   The plane was nearly full as we soared through the first leg toward Vegas on our way to Philadelphia.  One of our eleven teens had never flown before.  After gleeful loud expressions during takeoff she declared that she "loves flying"!  Some slept, some read and most caught up or made new friends.  Our youth crew includes folks from Cleelum, Walla Walla, Richland, Coeur d Alene and Spokane.  One young woman, Berkeley, was with the last EYE group in 2011, and most of our crew have been active at Camp Cross and our diocesan youth programs like New Beginnings and TEC.  Our adult chaperones are from Richland, Spokane and Walla Walla.  Patrick attended a previous EYE as a teen, Jane has served with the Official Youth Presence at General Convention, while Theresa is new to church wide youth events.  We are flying east the day before EYE begins because as many of us know it takes all day to get from here to there.  We are spending our first night at the Episcopal Mission Center in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Or at least that is the plan, flight delays may put gum in our plans.  Then on Wednesday morning we will use mass transit to journey out to Villanova University, where EYE 14 is being held.
More for y'all when we have new adventures to share.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fanatics, Fragility and the Future: Easter 7a Homily

Bryce is a homeless runaway, a child who just barely gets by with the coins that are offered for his sidewalk performances.  His performing partner is Edward.  Edward is a fine china rabbit doll, who can think and feel; but cannot move himself or even close his eyes.  ‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’ is a story that follows this china rabbit as his journey sinks him to the bottom of the ocean, and props up as a scarecrow.  Edward who was once a fine work of art, becomes an unbelievably dirty work of art.  In Bryce’s embrace he is offered as a puppet, he is still fragile, yet he is now a joyful thing with strings on his arms, offering himself so that his young friend Bryce can make him dance.  

One day a bully takes Edward from Bryce, and swings him wildly around, and then horribly, Edward hits a hard counter and his fine china head, it is cracked.  Young Bryce takes his precious but broken china rabbit to a doll maker, however this desperate child has no money to pay for any repairs.  The doll maker agrees to repair Edmund the china rabbit doll, in exchange for the rabbit.  Loving someone enough to let them go is necessary, is wise, it is an act of extraordinary love.  And it is also one of the many very hard things that we who live on earth will have to do over and over again.

Have you ever been a new ‘fan’ of something?  Brimming with the joy of the new experience that you just keep talking about it?  The book of Acts has that ‘fanatic’ rush of enthusiasm, and the new fan’s sense of deep disappointments.  Acts rises from the experiences of a mission that challenges us to reach out, to let go and explore new horizons.  It begins before it begins in Luke, and even before and beyond that.  You might recall that Elijah rode of on a fiery chariot at the end of his life.  You might know that the Hebrew tradition taught that Moses ascended to God at the end of his duties.   Furthermore, when a Roman emperor died it was known that his soul would be seen leaving his body and rising up into the skies.  

The artisan author of Luke and Acts has been lovingly tying our experience of Jesus into the heart of orthodox ancient Judaism while at the same time expanding it and sending it out into a wider world full of a hope greater than anything worldly power can pretend.  He shows us that Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, our Lord, is like Moses, but even greater than Moses, and that his love and sacrifice is much much more power than any empire.  The focus in the text is on the experience, not on the physics.  It redirects our line of sight,  this ascension pulls up our chins,  raises our vision to the horizon, focuses us on where we are going as we draw strength from those who have gone before us.  What if the ‘up’ in this story is a metaphor, what if the ‘up’ is about showing us the way forward?

Today we celebrate the transition of some of our young friends into what some scholars call ‘emerging adulthood’.  Changes are on the horizon.  Some of these changes will happen quite suddenly, others may take years.  So friends, have patience with each other in the days and months ahead.  Sending you out is our task, it is our calling to help you go out into the world, but it is hard to convey how astonishingly fast the time goes by and how scary it is to love you enough to send you out, and how much we would like for you to be safely asleep in the cradle once again.  

And one more thing.  A little bit of advice. Embrace community through the church, wherever you may be.  We are one company with lots of locations, like Starbucks.  You are always welcome home, here, wherever here may be.  Always.  Furthermore don’t buy into the popular notion that these ‘emerging adult’ years are supposed to be a vacation from religious traditions.  It is a false idea, sometimes packaged as ‘sabbatical’ that sometimes suggests this is a good thing. 

There are a million of reasons to continue in the way of Christ, some are practical, some spiritual, some the following of a great unknown.  However if you like data behind your choices, we have that too.  Those positive life outcomes you and I dream of for you, the safe, healthy and balanced lives we imagine for you as we consider your future, these things are well nurtured in faithful community.  The researchers controlled for every other factor and nothing matched the steadfast blessing of congregational practice.  It isn’t a fail safe, but positive life outcomes are consistently well correlated with an intergenerational community of prayer, fellowship and service.  Around here we call it church.  It is an eternal mystery how this life together brings blessing, yet we trust that it does.  Life together in Christ isn’t something you should just leave behind.

We are all fragile creatures like Edward, at times feeling amazing and at times feeling powerless.  We are all broken and learning to love as Christ loves us.  If young Bryce had held on to the broken Edward, they both could have been lost and stuck in an endless loop of narrow despair.  Edward would have no healing, no future.  Christ loved us enough to let his disciple’s graduate, he leads us out into the world filled with his love.  Ascension isn’t physics, it is holy mystery.  It is an expression of deep the foundational love that loves us enough to prepare us to go forward.  For all of us, for whatever type of journey we are on right now, I offer this from the Celtic poet John O’Donohue.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched,
and free to balance the gift of days which call you.


Poetry Excerpt From To Bless the Space Between Us.
'Edward Tulane' is a fine 'children's' story by Kate Di Camillo.
7th Sunday of Easter, RCL, Year A
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Extreme Speed Lawn Scrabble

Extreme: You have to run to get the tiles.
Speed: Speed Scrabble rules, with some accessories.
Lawn: 8.5x8.5 Tiles played outside on the lawn.

What You Need:
  • Large Scrabble Tiles.  Several Pinterest sites have plans for wooden planks.  I used cardstock with paperclips.  Thanks be to God for a low wind evening.   I am guessing if you wanted to invest a bit of money (but not spend time with a saw bench) you could make the squares out of that foam paper stuff.
  • Lawn
  • Maybe Bibles, Prayerbooks...
  • Maybe smart phones.
How many tiles do you need and how are the points assigned? You can find lists of how many of each letter you need here.

How Do You Play?
  • Divide into no more than four teams of people.  
  • Tiles are spread out face down in one area at a far end of a lawn.  If this is far enough away it could be a mad dash with some hilarity.
  • Standard scrabble formation rules apply.  However, I added a rule that they could use the names of biblical books even if they were proper names.  So, Ruth yes, Mary, no. 
  • Words could be found using smart phones and justified using smartphones and standard dictionary sites. 
  • Speed Scrabble involves no playing board and making a formation of words with the letters you have.  When your team has used all of their letters then someone says GO! and then all teams have to go get another letter(s).  Each time a team has placed all their letters in a formation this repeats until all the tiles have been claimed.  With two teams I had them claim two letters each time a team yelled Go!  
  • If all teams are stuck with extra letters during the course of the game they can agree to 'dead' and everyone goes to get another tile.  
  • Once all tiles have been claimed the first team to complete a formation of words 'wins' and gets 10 extra points.  All teams then add up their scrabble points and discover the final winner.
Other complicating additions to try: 
  • You could place the titles face up so there is more competition for certain letters.
  • You could insist that there must be one religious word (God, Church, Mission).
  • You could make rules for trading of letters instead of new letters when in the 'dead zone'.   

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Merry ole...week one done

Catching up...

After several lovely days in Cambridge it was time to go north.  The author of the Wicked books most certainly borrowed from the sights and names of the Lake Country.  Ulswater and the Cumbric witch and so on. 
If you like dogs, I recommend Keswick (do not say the w).  If you are allergic, I might suggest an alternate plan.  If you like walking and hiking, even in a downpour, then please take your trip.  The funny thing is how few folks smile while making these adventures.  Hundreds of pounds of rain gear and hiking poles and lovely scenes and no grins.  Hmm.  Plus matching jackets for couples seems to be a statement with the older crowd of tourists. 
There is a gap in the hills with the most rain in England, over 11 feet a year.  And it poured for that five minute spot.  Otherwise the weather was a mix of rain, light, and clouds.  There is no shortage of outdoor gear shops in Keswick, almost as many as wine tasting rooms in Walla Walla.  I found two terrific cafes with real cask ale.  One called the Square Orange was tight and  bright with assortment of bites and sandwiches. 
The second cafe is called Magnolia, with menus made to look like an lp.  Even was pulled out of an old lp jacket.  It was one of this places that is playing so much of your music, your hip music that you are convinced no one else listens to, well, you wonder if they scanned your phone.  I was not alone with this observation, the Dutch man near me had a similar experience.
The hostel in Keswick is quite nice and clean and helpful.  It is in old mill by the river, so you get to hear it babbling by at night.  Except for the loud drunk Englishman declaring how he would be climbing like a god the next day, it was ideal.
I am still struck by the volume of coffee shops.  Every which way you look.  I was expecting fancy tea shops, Starbucks style.  Best i can tell such things are more popular in Portland, Oregon.
I have eaten rarebit and pies and now leuntil crisps and now animal shaped fruit jels that are quite good.  One tastes a bit like cherry cola.  Not the flavor I was expecting for a cow face shape.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Merry two plus one

Holy moly.  This isn't high tourist season?  It is quite busy and teeming with folks around every corner.  When did I become less than keen on crowds??
On Saturday we ventured down to the Eye.  The large ferris wheelt hat was construced for the Olympics, yet has becomea part of the skyline.  Anyways, some of you may know that I enjoy heights and ferris wheels.  England is compelling-ly gracious regarding those in wheelchairs, so we were wisked to the front of the 'Que'.  The wheel only stops  when operating for the ramp into the little egg cells.  It might not have been as big of a hit before digital photography.It is made for that adventure. 
You might notice the amazing sunny and clear photos.  This is a consistent pattern for me lately.  I am thinking about letting myself out for blessings towards sunny far this year I have found sunny and temperate in San Francisco, Seattle and now London.  I actually managed to achieve a spot of sunburn on Saturday. 
We had planned to go to St. Paul's however it was closed for a service commemorating the anniversary of the CoE ordination of women to the priesthood.  Hmm.  Another time.
We headed up to the Camden Market, which as quite the crowd of vendors and folks out for the sunny day. We might of gotten a bit lost for a moment on the way back, but made it back to the station.  Which was good because at the very same moment an owl flew by with my letter for admittance to Hogwarts.  A few years late, but I shall not complain.  Truth be told the half-cart is not near platform 9 at all, it might be adjacent to the toilets instead.  It is free for you to take your own photo, they have an assortment of house scarves (most choose Gryfndor) and a fella whose job it is to hold and wave the scarf.  Actually quite worth the wait in line (frequently much longer than my wait).
Sunday morning began with a lovely church service in a thousand year old congregation (St. Bene't's, which is short for Benedict), which makes the 150 of Walla Walla seem like a drop in the bucket.  It greatly resembles the Cathedral nave in Albuquerque.  The service was both full and friendly. 
Then I spent parts of the day wandering through the shopping district. In some ways the grocer was the most intriguing part, I could have studied the packages and choices for much longer than I did.
The evening was completed by Evensong at Pembroke College and then dinner.  At long tables in a great hall, with a head table.  And dress robes on students and staff.  And talking portraits (just kidding).  A lovely dinner with nice students and a fine setting.
Somewhere in the imagination of my heart I was expecting more of an 'otherness'.  It is of course unlike anything in my experience, yet it is still not as intensely different as I expected.  A daily journey of discovery.  Discovery of places and ways, but also of an alternate use of language to share information.  I see the words,  I can read them, but it may take a ssecond to realize what the instruction intends.  I also find myself using many localisms, it must be in the water.  Crisps and loo and blokes.  Or perhaps it is all that Masterpiece and novel reading that has such phrases falling out of my lips.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Merry Ole..Day One

It is a little bit funny:

To be able to read the signs, but find yourself unsure of what they intend.
To see a familliar landscape yet never have I been here before.  The suburban similarities are almost sad.
To meet up with an old friend and find life very much the same.
To feel my brain using muscles it has not in a while (thanks Preston for inviting me to read big words).
To speak the language and understand the language but still wish for subtitles.  BBC tv has subtitles...why don't yall?
To not be willing to pay for the outrageous international data rates and therefore be a bit more lost than usual.
To get kissed by a chatty english bloke in a pub on my first day.  On the cheek. 
To get to know, ever briefly, a nice family whose son was singing with the boy's choir for the last day because he dared to mature (and his voice cracked).

I love that the power òutlets have on and off switches.  So smart. 
I love all the transit options.  And I do love the nine million nutsy bicyclists, even the ones that try to run me over.
I love all the walking paths. 
I don't like the fine lawns with protocols that only elite so-n-so's may walk on.  Really?  Makes me want to roll around in it.  Must be some crazy 'merican.

Ps..I know I owe myself and others a post on whole hearted formation...but the first one is love.  Big love.  Why must i start with such a big one?? I told  myself I would work on it while traveling.  However for a day of travel I planned 3 days worth of books, papers and audiobooks.  Then I also slept on the plane.  :0

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Whole Hearted Formation...we have Covenants and Mission Statements, do we need a Wholehearted Rule of Life?

I have been truly blessed this past Lent to have stumbled onto Brene Brown and her fabulous work on shame, vulnerability, courage and authenticity.  I cannot even recall which 'pin-a-day' led me to her TED Talk, and then led me to the audiobook and now to dozens of new pins on various Pinterest pages. (By the way, I want to offer that Audiobooks/lectures are wretched for highlighting and copying and pasting.  And the CC transcript is an endearingly frustrating moment by moment chart of sentence fragments.)  

As I read Dr. Brown's books I certainly find compelling meaning for my own journey.  I also find myself thinking about church and camp. Her work has me thinking about the systems of church that stifle vulnerability in search of liturgical precision and act out from places of shame.  I am thinking about the church we are  and the one we are searching to become.  Brene Brown's fabulous work and writings also have me considering the unwritten rules of life that we offer in our local settings, such as congregations and camps. We may need to make them more written and less implicit.  Words matter.  Saying who we are and who we desire to be can help us to become those people.  There may be formation folks and church leaders who want nothing to do with whole hearted practices.  I hope we can love them into daring greatly to be Christ's people in the world.

The leap from the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto to congregational and camp life isn't very far or very deep, however my guess is it could fill a dissertation with insights.  While not pretending to seek such volume, my Easter and Pentecost goal will be to spend time writing about each one of these phrases and how they manifest in our life together as formation leaders.   Hmm.  Adventure vacation approaching fast...maybe this will be my before camp starts goal.  

To begin, I am going to simply 'remix' the 'Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto' into a 'Wholehearted Formation Ministries Rule of Life'. Most of the remix is moving from the singular to the ecclesiastical local corporate.  The author Brene Brown admits to being Episcopalian (and I guessed it without her confession (what is it that makes us so easily 'identifiable'?)) so I am going to hope that she will see this remix as a holy prayer of thanksgiving.  Rumor is she will be joining the FORMA event in Houston next winter, so I can ask for forgiveness then.  The remix/additions are in italics.

The Wholehearted Formation Rule of Life (Draft 1)

Above all else, we want you to know that you are loved and lovable.
You will learn this from our words and actions–the lessons on love are in how we treat you and how we each treat ourselves.  
We want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see each of us practice self-compassion and embrace our own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our ministry by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our gatherings for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be ministry values, as well as ministry practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching us make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how we ask for what each of us need and talk about how each of us  feel.
We want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
We want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, we will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. We will want to take away your pain, but instead we will sit with you and be open to your experience of feeling it.
We will laugh and sing and dance and create. 
We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. 
No matter what, you will always belong here.
The greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
We will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but we will let you see each of us, and we will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. 
Truly, deeply, seeing you.