Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, 2006 has been quite a year, and I'm not entirely sad to see it leaving. This time of year always seems so filled with possibilities and regrets. Resolutions to start us out on the right foot implying that until that moment I'd been on the wrong footing.

As I type this my children are oowwing and aahhing the fireworks, that explosive celebration of life. And as an aside; We've added two new members to the household: Lola and Blue, our very first hermit crabs. Blue is very reserved but Lola goes, goes, goes. She's a hoot to watch scuttle about the floor.

My hope is that the new beginnings which were started towards the end of this year flourish, grow, and deepen.

Update: my son informs me that Lola has moved out of the elmo shell and into the brown stripey shell - that would have been cool to see. I took some photos of Lola and Blue, and if they turned out I'll post them.

Happy New Years!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Some Poetry

Here's two poems I've written within the last six months:

Light moves through my eyes
Open filtered, closed starkly contrasted
Particles bombard my body
Whirling nipping depositing chaos mind mines
Traversing my psyche on tiptoe
Not yet ready for another nuclear blast
of thought

Walking through today as a chameleon
Morphing into whatever is needed by proximity
Skin raw from instability (of self)
Closing the doors of avoidance
my shield, I dropped my spear by choice
Travel weary

Chasing my cosmic tail in circles
Any progress made becomes uncharted
No landmarks back, dizzy confused, I pause
only for breath, resume again
to collapse
A whisper in my ear I barely hear
Off again in circles
I haven’t left port
No ships have sailed
Gusting seas - gail winds
Coastline deserted
What am I doing here?
I do not want this prison
I seem always to return
My wife and I get together with a friend once a month to catch up and write together. So the above was my attempt to write like poets I admire. "Spinning" was my attempt at Margaret Atwood, while "Port" was my attempt at Emily Dickinson. Though these aren't anywhere near their quality, hopefully the poems are still alright as themselves.

Some more photographs

If you ever visit San Antonio there are two places that nearly everyone will take you: the Riverwalk and the Alamo. I don't have any really good photographs of the Alamo; otherwise, I'd post one. San Antonio also has some beautiful Missions which I need to photograph. I really like photographing places and people.

This photgraph I altered in Photoshop. I like the effect - the image itself is just ok. I'll have to get off my behind and scan in some of my more recent work.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's all Greek to me

I've decided that I'm going to teach myself New Testament Greek. I've gotten two books from the library, one by Mounce and the other by Macnair, to see which one I like better before I buy one.

I decided this after a few Sunday School classes where the Reverends teaching the class discuss how the meaning of Bible passages change based on what is and isn't translated, or is translated in certain ways.

The other thing I'm in the process of doing is reading passages with a commentary open. As well as trying to get a grasp on the history of the times and the geography. Macnair gives a "starters kit" for references as well as a bigger list of books to consider as one progresses.

It feels daunting but at the same time very exciting. I've just gotten tired of feeling like I'm only getting half the story or in many ways half the meaning. And I've gotten tired of having to depend on someone else to provide the context for passages.

I worry that I am running the risk of removing myself from community (learning and growing within a group). That I'm putting myself back in my head...I suppose I should ask my Pastor about mentors or Spiritual Directors...and I suppose I haven't because then I feel like I can't do this at my own pace. And if this makes sense...I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't a race. Breathe, I'll get there - the desire to know won't go away.

So I've narrowed my "tugs" (or consistently loudest inner naggings) down to spiritual study and photography, which has helped immensely. I don't feel quite so inwardly disjointed and disorganized. I was struggling with trying to do a great many time consuming tasks, like writing (this need is sated here in my world of blog), and drawing which I enjoy but I am self teaching which a very slow process.

My first Macnair lessons where learning the Greek alphabet by "translating" Greek letters into English words like God, psalms, bag, well you get the point. Macnair suggests going through his book quickly twice, and not worrying about mastering everything at once - it'll come, then go through it more slowly the third time. I like that style. I haven't cracked open Mounce yet so I can't speak to his approach.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hmmm...that's what I have to say about this Christmas

Well, let's just say I've had better Christmas'. We went up to Tyler to visit my wife's family and returned late to San Antonio Christmas Eve (11pm) to find water gushing like the rapids down the street. So the plumber arrives around 1:30am and shuts the water off with this meter value thing. He then suggests that perhaps he should turn the water back on until we've finished filling up buckets and jugs because he won't be able to fix anything until the morning due to darkness and the cold temperature.

However, at least the kids were pretty oblivious to all this - the only change to their Christmas morning was "Don't flush without asking first".

Now I'm hoping the water company works with me since the pipes broke due to someone driving over them. The meter is at the curb and only about a foot and a half down. So to prevent this from happening again (at least I hope so) I'm going to pick up some cinder blocks and place then strategically around the meter and surrounding pipes and come Spring plant flowers.

Then I had to go yesterday and get new eyeglasses since the dog chomped into the lenses (luckily not so bad that I can't wear them, but still annoying). I won't say where I went but it's a well-known chain...Four hours later: this includes the exam and waiting for the very late doctor to show up, the initial one hour wait, and then 3 tries to get lenses without horrid scratches and mystery smudges that don't come out, a "we have to send the whole batch of lenses back and re-order, so we'll call you in about a week - oh and you can take the glasses to wear since now it's only the left lense that's smudged" (ah no - I did take the glasses with me because at this point I was afraid they'd lose them). These oh so special lenses are the light-weight, anti-glare, UV protective lenses. Since computers are my primary tool at work [besides my brain :-)] and I have really light senstive eyes...I didn't want to go with different lenses. I'll be surprised if this doesn't turn into a pain in my behind.

I'm hoping to leave this little bit of the untidy in 2006 and therefore be able to enter 2007 challenge free, fresh and excited about another year. Ok, it was worth a try :-)

Sometimes you just have to smile because the other alternative leaves you bald.

Friday, December 22, 2006


The image above is one of myself at nineteen. I don't look anything like this anymore. The hair is way shorter, the face more lined, the skin less taut, I wear my age now. The woman in this photo is me and isn't me. There are so many things I wish I could have told her, but I'm not sure she would have listened, and I'm not even sure I would have wanted her journey to change.
But I do wish that she would have appreciated herself. She didn't think she was beautiful, nor good enough, she didn't see value in herself. I do admire her though, she survived and she lived on to thrive even in the continued midst of floundering for her sense of self and her sense of worth, her sense of identity.
I post this for a friend who is feeling I think a little lost, and I want her to know that our journeys may take us to places we don't think we want to go but sometimes it's not the journey that counts but the destination.
May Peace Find its Way to Your Heart
May Peace Find its Way to Your Mind
May Rest Find its Way to Your Heart
May Rest Find its Way to Your Mind
May Grace Fill Your Heart
May Grace Fill Your Mind
Peace be with You.
For L.L.

Monday, December 18, 2006

See-Saw Photos

I don't really know why I like see-saw art - I don't photograph it often but maybe one day I'll create a whole big collection...'s alien and ducky...

Ducky I took when I didn't have a clue how to manually expose a photograph, and alien doesn't have enough selective focus going on. But I like them, my yin and yang.

Friends of mine have been really great about encouraging me to "get my photos out there". Two of the best presents I've gotten early this year are a co-production chapbook with our combined poetry and my photographs. I can't really express well how much that means, a heart felt thank you to T. The other gift is from A, I can now put my photographs on tiles - it was an awesomely thoughtful gift.

If I don't post again before Christmas...Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

An Anglican Rosary Prayer of My Own Creation

I comprised this prayer from information I received during a quiet day retreat two weeks ago.

Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila

Cross In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Invitatory Bead The Lord doesn’t look so much at the greatness of our (my) works as at
the love with which they are done.
Let us (me) desire and be occupied in prayer not for the sake of our (my)
enjoyment but so as to have the strength to serve.
In the measure that you (I) desire him, you (I) will find Him. Amen.

Cruciform Beads Christ has no body now on earth but yours (mine),
no hands but yours (mine), no feet but yours (mine),
Yours (Mine) are the eyes through which is to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
Yours (Mine) are the feet with which he is to go about
doing good;
Yours (Mine) are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

The Weeks Let nothing trouble you (me),
Let nothing affright you (me),
All is passing.
God alone is unchanging,
Patience attains all things.
Who possesses God possesses everything.
God alone suffices.

(Last time through)
Invitatory Bead The Lord’s Prayer
Cross Let us bless the Lord (or I bless the Lord)
Thanks be to God.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Day After Thanksgiving

The morning was pretty typical for someone whose family isn't in the same state - it was spent making phone calls and trying to catch up and not sound like a broken record after the third phone call and get the kids to talk each and everytime more than two sentences.

Then there was the cooking and the little 3lb turkey breast didn't burn and wasn't undercooked - yea. The mashed sweet potatoes most likely won't make next years list of side dishes to prepare, which was a little disappointing cause I really like sweet potatoes. The pie turned out well - let's just say I was glad I had an extra pie crust.

But the best part (and the important part) was spending the day with our friends. This is what really made it feel like the holiday of giving thanks: the sharing of food and selves with people I care deeply about.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What a difference an hour can make

Since last weekend really, I've felt really good. I didn't have to go to work Monday so I slept in an extra hour - oooo wweeee! And the last two days my wife has stayed home with the kids so there's none of the morning madness to get everybody ready and out the door. Whatever internal tension was building has siphoned off.

Just not having to rush and get up at my usual 5am has been a really nice change of pace. I like this slowed down pace. I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts, cause next Monday is a "you don't have to but we'd really like everyone to put in at least 12hr days", bluk. So life moves back into high gear and the struggle for balance resumes. However, this week has been a nice reminder of priorities and self-care, and hopefully I can carry some of that with me into next week.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Sunday

Here's a poem I wrote about church today...

One Sunday

My daughter wears her Tinkerbelle wings to church
I comment that church gives you wings
People smile at her and tell her how adorable she looks
She sits down in the pew and takes off her wings unsmiling

The choir sings an anthem to God, a voice united for the congregation
My son sits on my lap and we sway together
With eyes closed, holding him tight to my chest, he plays with my hands
And giggles with glee at our holy play

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Quiet Day at Rec

I really enjoyed the Quiet Day (it was actually a quiet morning til afternoon) which was held at my church; Jana Orsinger was the facilator. I'd never been to a quiet day before so I wasn't sure what to expect. But, I'm glad I went, the experience re-affirmed and solidified some stuff that's been floating around in my head for awhile now.

The below is the process we followed which was put together by Jana Orsinger for our group:
The fisrt hour we were to try to discover what we really want from what we want. The second hour was to reflect on how we spend our time now, and commit to one change. The third hour was spent meditating and being mindful of the random thoughts that entered our minds.

I walked away from the morning feeling centered and peaceful, and much to reflect upon.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This is only a test

Well, I switched to the new version of blogger.

I'm listening to "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac, narrated by Matt Dillon. I picked it up at the library out of curiousity. I've heard of Kerouac and associated him with the Beat Generation (which I know nothing about) and that's the extent of it. The tale he's weaving is really sad. "Sal" aka Jack keeps traveling across the country looking for something but so far he hasn't found it - and I don't think he will. There's moments when you can feel that you're right there with him, that something profound just happened but then it slips precariously away. He couldn't hold that moment, and neither do I because the story keeps unfolding. The book brings out alot of the norms that we/I get from society and what it means to be "good people", and for me this book challenges those norms while at the same time validating them, if that makes sense. The most consistent thought I get while listening to this story is that he's on a religious (spiritual) journey, and in the process of discovery he's destorying his body and his mind. And I keep asking myself is it really that hard? Does coming face to face with meaning have to be that hard? And I think the answer is yes, that struggle to find the meaning of life, in life, is one of life's most simply complicated joys with the answer always in front of our faces, no matter where you are.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If Only It Were December

Deep sighs and deep breathes are about all I find myself doing this month, and God Bless it's only halfway over and I feel like I've been repeatedly run over by a freight train.

It's only Tuesday and there's still too much left to be done between the kids and work, and work hasn't decelerated since October and is soon to hit nascar speeds. And in the midst of all this is this Saturday, where my church is having a "Quiet Day" and all of the Community of Hope trainees are supposed to go, and out with another deep breath. A quiet day, a quiet day, I hope that also means stillness, I'd really like to be still for awhile. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow, if only I was a better swimmer ;-)

I can't wait for Thanksgiving, a four day weekend with my family, sitting around playing games, watching football, and eating gobs of food.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cloud Sightings and a Book Excerpt

Last night (Monday) I saw something pretty cool in the clouds (my wife pointed it out while we where pulling into our subdivision). So, up in the sky was a cloud that had "surrounded" the full moon. What was so cool was that this cloud had the definite shape of a dragon. There was no "I don't really see what you're talking about" - it was there, no blinking, just completely visible. Once I'd parked I went and got my camera and tripod, but by the time I got back outside the shape was dissolving, and by the time I got the camera setup it was gone (I was really bummed about that).

"When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough" by Harold Kushner is a really good book. The title caught my attention as I was looking through the bookshelves at my church's library, and so I checked it out. What was nice and a coincidence was that I had already read all of Ecclesiastes while I was on retreat. I add this because to fully appreciate the book you should read Ecclesiastes first - it's pretty short, around 12 chapters long. Anyways, there's two parts of the book that I want to share (in case you decide not to read the book).

From p.163, "What are things you absolutely must have and do so that you can feel that you have lived your life and not wasted it? In our explorations of Ecclesiastes and of our own lives, we have identified three things: Belong to people. Accept pain as part of your life. Know that you have made a difference."

From p. 172, "The Talmud says there are three things one should do in the course of one's life: have a child, plant a tree, and write a book. They all represent ways of investing our creative, generative energy in things which will endure after we are gone, and will represent the best that was in us. They offer us the reassurance that our lives were not in vain, and that the world is indeed better for our having passed through it."

I offer these two excerpts as reminders to myself that meaning and God are found everyday in my very ordinary life in very ordinary things.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Day After Halloween

The Ninja, Tinkerbell, and their escort Wonder Woman had a good time going door to door and getting their pillowcases filled with candy so I was told. I was on candy handout duty in my zoot suit.

Since I was handing out candy I noticed that alot of the kids had plastic pumpkin buckets for me to fill, and then I started to wonder if using ones pillowcase has gone out of style. It used to be way back in the day (in a small Michigan subdivision) that if you had a plastic pumpkin all the other kids felt sorry for you. Then going through all the candy and taking out the pennies thinking "what bah humbug gives kids pennies on Halloween." Giving my parents the candy I absolutely hated and keeping the rest hidden in my room so my parents wouldn't eat it all when I was outside playing.

My wife and I almost let the kids have their candy filled pillowcases to put in their rooms, but with two dogs who go nutty for people food we decided to play it safe and do the communal candy bowl put up on high. I wonder how long the kiddos are going to let us get away with that :-)

My wife and I had a few good laughs over her Wonder Woman costume. First the strap which holds the way too big underwired bodice up broke off at one end, enter safety pin number one. Then the button to her cape fell off, enter safety pin number two. And while she was messing with the safety pins I put the "crown" on her head, and when my wife looked up she exclaimed, "aacckk, that is not how Wonder Woman wears this." This description of events doesn't do the moment justice, but it really was one of those customes (at least when worn by my wife) that you just have to see to understand why it was so funny, pretty much nothing fit in any of the right places.

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pictures from Laity Lodge

Well, I finally got around to scanning some of my photos from my weekend retreat at Laity Lodge.

The picture above is of the limestone river road which you have to follow to get up to Laity Lodge itself.

This next picture was taken from the river - the building is where we shared meals, prayer, and conversation.

The this picture is another river view perspective. The next picture was taken from my hike up to the gazebo.

I hope the pictures, at least somewhat, convey the beauty and serenity of the place. To the "thin places".

Friday, October 20, 2006

Laity Lodge

So how did Laity Lodge go...

Well, Laity Lodge is between Kerrville and Leakey and the drive out there was absolutely goregoues and peaceful once I put alittle distance between me and San Antonio traffic. The drive into the canyon itself is alittle nerve-racking going around blind narrow curves and then the "plunge" (well, ok big dip) into the Frio river which the Lodge uses as part of the road leading to the lodge. I'll post the picture I took of a car driving on the limestone river road. Then you drive your car back up a bit and there you are at the lodge.

I ended up getting there an hour early and decided to go exploring and I really wanted a picture of car driving in the river without having to wait forever, and wouldn't you know it - as soon as I got to the bottom there was a car coming my way. Then I trudged back up and through the trees taking mini shortcuts back to the Lodge. My next excusrion that day was up to the gazebo (2,200 ft) about 1.4 miles in. It was so quiet and calm, inhale calm exhale stress.

Throughout the weekend at specific times those who wanted to could hear Mary Earle speak about Celtic Traditions. She was a really good speaker - the amount of information she had at the ready and she was able to convey to us so that everyone could follow her thoughts was a joy to see and hear.

I also participated in the art class about making mandalas, I enjoyed making mine and I want to make one with my kids (well, we each make our own). I may post a picture of it, but that will be another long while since I don't have a digital camera and just started a brand new roll of film. Anyways...

There was no TV, no radios, cell phones don't work out there (I tried), one working in-out phone, just me, my feet, my ears, and my books, which I brought way too many of but I did get temporarily caught up in my lectionary reading Saturday morning or so I thought. I woke up at 5am about my usual wake-up time and my roomie was already out the door, so I read and learned later that Ecclus. is not Ecclesiastes but Sirach. So I was once again behind.

Over a log fire outside (it doesn't have to get too cold in Texas to start a fire) I got closer to a couple from my church who are just fabulously centered people and had an interesting though short conversation about when I was "in the zone with" God and about getting back into that zone with Rev. Woody.

I did enjoy myself but I did really, really miss my wife. So when asked how I liked Laity Lodge my answer was "bitter-sweet."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Coming Out Day

I thought I should share this from the HRC:
"In honor of National Coming Out Day — Wednesday, Oct. 11 — the Human Rights Campaign is releasing a first-of-its-kind Straight Guide to GLBT Americans. Download this resource and find out more about how everyone — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight alike — can help in the struggle for equality."

To Equality, Respect, and Safety for Everyone.

Upcoming Events and Other Randomness

I'm very excited about going on a weekend retreat at Laity Lodge. This will be my first time there and the first time I've gone on a retreat in nearly 20 years. I plan on bringing my camera, so if I can figure out how to post pictures, and the pictures turn out well, I'll post the "best" one or two.

A friend of mine and I were planning on going to see Margaret Atwood October 30th - I got hooked on Margaret Atwood when I saw the Handmaiden Tale and through her poetry. So I was very bummed when I had to cancel because my Community of Hope group switched training days to accomadate those of us with children who wanted to participate in Halloween with them (They are so excited about their costumes and their accessories).

Back to pictures...I really need to get on the ball again. I enrolled in the NYIP, self study photography course. The material is really well presented and I've enjoyed the course thus far, BUT, I haven't made space for this in my life, I sort of crowded it out with prayer. I tend to jump into things and immerse myself, leaving lots of things stranded on the shore so to speak. Balance, balance, balance - a very beautiful word that I haven't quite grasped it's meaning of yet :-) Not to toot my own horn but I'm not half bad at it, and it's something I really do enjoy; so I'm hoping the weather cooperates this weekend so I can get some nice nature shots. I tend to shoot more in black and white or well Kodak's faux black and white (because any photo place can develope it and the all around expense is much cheaper). Back in the day I developed my own stuff, and I like the tactileness of developing my own images, but I'd like to go digital and would but the expense of a digital SLR camera is holding me back.

Anyways, here's to hoping the 10-day forcast of rain, rain, and more rain is wrong for at least one day this weekend.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Finding a Church or How Church Finds You (Part II)

There's a magic that happens when you find the right church - it's that feeling of having returned home after a long time away. And what is it that makes a church feel like home for one person but like trying to get a child to wear scratchy polyester to another.

Maybe it has to do with how we hear the Words of God being spoken and used in and to the congregation. And how the people treat you upon visiting says alot about how the people are living their faith too I think. I'm not saying a church has to go all extravert on ya, and everybody is different and being able to judge how a person would like to be welcomed is just as important as the actual welcome.

And I guess another piece to the puzzle is what am I looking for when I step into God's house. What luggage did I come with and hope to leave at the door, and can I recognize people in the pews who can also recognize my journey as one similiar to theirs. Am I amgonst kindred spirits?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Random Thoughts on the Ordinary

I don’t think I’ve ever thought much about ordinary and God in the same sentence until recently. Until I rejoined a church and “got serious” about God again, I hadn’t spent much time questioning my beliefs about God, because (1) I didn’t talk about Him much with anyone and (2) my core belief set was pretty basic: God exists, follow the Golden Rule, follow the 10 commandments. But now, my faith is changing and in many ways maturing.

For me, looking for the divine in the ordinary brings Him closer, as opposed to an impersonal being. Looking for the divine in my ordinary life makes God and keeps God personal for me. God had gotten very compartmentalized in my life, He was this thing I did, now its what I try to live. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I hope it does. I keep thinking The Way. Everytime I see The Way in the bible my first thought is - that's so Zen :-) and then I smile and move on.

Why is it easy to see God in nature, but not in ourselves? Why is it easy to see God in children, but not in ourselves? We are all part of nature, and we were all once children. When does life shift focus, become this thing that once possessed endless possibilities but now we find reasons why the possibilities can't be. Maybe that's part of the answer - reason and logic. Faith and God are more about imagination and trust. Both of which become quite battered as we age, and unless we nuture this side of ourselves I think maybe life becomes harder, less grandeur, maybe in some ways lonier.

Seeing the Divine in Ordinary Life: Finding a Church or How a Church Finds You (Part I)

Seeing the divine in "ordinary life" is a pretty new concept for me, maybe its always been there and it just got buried under the weight of the version of Catholicism I grew up with. I grew up being taught that God was a punishing God and the only way to not go to hell was to do exactly what God said to do and to do exactly what the Roman Catholic Church tells you to do.

Well, long story short, by the time I was 16 I was through with the Catholic Church. I couldn't be a priest, I couldn't be a deacon, I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't was all I was hearing, and on top of all that if I even thought about any of it off to hell I'd go. The positive side to letting go of Catholicism was that this opened me up to other religions (I was actually taught at my Catholic Elem/Middle School not to talk to the Lutherans because they were "bad" because they didn't believe Mary was a virgin).

I explored Buddhism, New Agism, the Koran, Confusius-ism, and I started to see where some of the commonality lay between all these religions. And for a long time this was enough - the exploring, but never staying, because in the end, these faiths didn't feel like home. I have incorporated many Buddhisms in my life, and a few New Agisms, but the rest, well, all I can say is that intellectually I could follow, but spiritually I just couldn't embrace the ideas.

I had tried over the years to go back to the Catholic Church, but well, Catholic Churches (at least in my experiences) don't embrace strangers let alone acknowledge you. So that same old anger would return, plus I still hadn't forgiven the Catholic Church for how it treats women. And then, a friend of mine invited me to her Methodist Church: tons of people said hello, hope you come back, they had women priests, were gay friendly, and wow was I amazed. But, yes the but, something was still missing but I didn't know what. More time passed and my ex-girlfriend told me about her co-worker's church...and when I walked onto that Church campus it was magical and then I met the people and the magic was still there. I was home. But like all rebellious children it would take a few more years to finally come home for good.

When we decided it was time to take the children to church (well, our son had a big part in this) I knew where we were going - no questions asked - that church was it - all or nothing, and the whole drive there I kept praying that it hadn't changed, please let it still fell like home. And it did, this amazing church is The Church of Reconciliation. I didn't know anything about Episcopalians, or were they Anglicans, or were these words interchangeable? I only knew that the service felt and sounded like - Catholicism, but it was somehow very different, like they only kept the good parts. I've been an Episcopalian ever since. I'm still learning what that means exactly. And I'm still learning what it means to practice one's faith in a community after so long on my own. And I'm re-remembering what it means to be a child of God.

St. Francis Day at My Church

Yesterday we rounded up both dogs, a Shih Tzu-Poodle mix (Diego) and a Boxer (Dora). We thought about bringing the cat (Darth Vadar), but decided that two children and two dogs was plenty to handle without having to lug the cat around in a carrying case and who happens to really hate car rides (and is pretty vocal about his dislike).

Everyone there was really impressed by how well the dogs got along; There were two cats, one rabbit, and one guinea pig, the rest where dogs. Maybe they sensed something special was happening just for the animals. The service was just right in length for our canine friends, and afterwards all the animals received a blessing from our Pastor and a St. Francis medal. When we got home we put the medal on both dog's collars. There was also a Vet present in case anyone had questions.

The Blessing of the Animals made for a nice way to bring our afternoon to a close.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Two Prayers to Use with Anglican Prayer Beads

Before I share the two prayers that I've used thus far I'd like to clarify a comment I made about "good" prayers. I don't believe in "bad" prayers because that would constitute a curse and hence it wouldn't be a prayer...but I diverge...what I really meant to say was that I'd like to share the prayers that speak to me at this moment in time, and that maybe y'all will share the prayers that speak to you.

"A Celtic Prayer"
Cross In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Invitatory Bead O God make speed to save me.
O God make haste to help me
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and
to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the begininning is now,
and will be forever. Amen.
Cruciform Beads Be the eye of God dwelling with me,
The foot of Christ in guidance with me,
The shower of the Spirit pouring on me,
Richly and generously.
The Weeks I bow before the Father who made me,
(Pray each I bow before the Son who saved me,
phrase on I bow before the Spirit pouring on me,
a separate in love and adoration.
bead) I praise the Name of the one on high.
I bow and adore thee Sacred Three,
The Ever One, the Trinity.
(Last time through)
Invitatory Bead The Lord's Prayer
Cross I bless the Lord, Thanks be to God.
"Prayer of Julian of Norwich"
Cross In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Invitatory Bead O God make speed to save me.
O God make haste to help me
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and
to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the begininning is now,
and will be forever. Amen.

Cruciform Beads God of your goodness, give me yourself,
for you are enough to me.
And I can ask for nothing less that is to your glory.
And if I ask for anything less, I shall still be in want,
for only in you have I all.
The Weeks All shall be well, and all shall be well,
And all manner of thing shall be well.
In His love He has done His works, and in
His love He has made all things beneficial to us.
(Last time through)
Invitatory Beads The Lord's Prayer
Cross I bless the Lord, Thanks be to God.
The other two prayers included in the pamphlet I received are: "A Little Office," and "Trisagion and the Jesus Prayer."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Anglican Prayer Beads

I've been exploring different ways to pray and part of that exploration led me to Anglican Prayer Beads. Since I don't own any Prayer Beads, I went in search of them.

I ordered my prayer beads from the Solitaries of DeKoven ( They are a religious order of hermits within the Episcopal church. What appealed to me was that these prayer beads are crafted by hermits who are associated with the Episcopal church and who live in Texas. Also, they use the money from crafting the prayer beads as a form of support for their community and as a vehicle to intercessory prayer.

The prayer beads arrived yesterday and they are beautiful, and for me I feel blessed that the core member prayed for me while making the prayer beads. They also included with the prayer beads four different prayers to use to "pray around" the prayer beads, which I found immensely helpful.

There's something soothing in the "tactileness" of the beads, and once I can get one of the prayers memorized I imagine this for me can be another form of meditative prayer. I was also thinking of using the prayer beads to focus on one "snippet" of Bible verse and repeat this snippet around the prayer beads and once finished then to meditate in the silence, and then to be still in contemplation - sort of a Lectio Devina with prayer beads.

One can never have too many good prayers at one's fingertips, and if anyone has a prayer they use often with their prayer beads I hope you will share. There are two out of the four that came with my prayer beads that I'd like to share, but I don't have my BCP with me (that's where I placed the pamphlet containing the prayers) hence I can't post them here today. But I will post them either this weekend or on Monday.

Monday, September 25, 2006

One of those days

You ever have a really great day go down the drain, and you're watching it go down the drain thinking - hey - wait a minute, how's this happening, what just happened? And the whole time you're in the midst of it thinking if I just blink one more time it'll all be a bad dream. Only it's not, and then when the freight train finally rolls to a stop you sort of stumble out, and you'd like nothing better than to cry or run away but you can't. So you stand there and you're thinking what now? What now.

That was yesterday - today - today - today...I guess I just have to laugh, find my equalibrium again, and get back on the train.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Change of Seasons

The end of Summer and the beginning of Fall - transitions. One of the things I miss about "Up North" is the obvious change of seasons, the visible signs of change. For me, there is something comforting in seeing visible signs of change, that not having to discern anything, because the change is right there in front of you. Visible signs of change take me outside of myself, ground me to the Now, it helps me stay present and loosen my focus on what the future may bring, and puts healing distance to the past.

As I get older I find that my past holds more fondness then anger, more love than hurt, less pin-points of pain. I find that the older me survived and flourished and that the world though messed up and confused holds much more love and joy. More often I feel like I have arrived and have fewer places to get to. I'm less worried about "getting there", because where I'm at is where I want to be and need to be. The future isn't scary anymore but something to anticipate. In my youth the future was a place I couldn't get to fast enough, now the future is something I want to savor.

I still have my dreams and hopes but I've come to realize that my future goals are things that will come but not if I rush to it - it's like if I rush to get there I'll miss it because I was going too fast. Does that make sense? I'm also beginning to realise that dreams and hopes are things to be handled with great care, and that they aren't to be taken for granted.

I often have to remind myself of these things, because I don't like to wait. I like action, I like figuring things out, and making it happen. But now all the things I want to happen require being present - being in the Now, because if I'm not they can't happen. Like watching my children grow, part of me relishes seeing them grow and become more independent, but part of me is sad because they can't stay little - they're rushing towards the future as I guess all children do. But if they're to have "good" lives filled with love, hope, dreams, and endless possibilities I will always need to remain grounded so that they have a "rock, an anchor" in their lives, a past that is a solid foundation, which can guide their present and give them the courage to forge their own futures.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beautiful Day

Today is a beautiful day in San Antonio: big white clouds, clear blue skies, and cool morning temperatures. I'm fast approaching my favorite time of year here in Alamo country. It reminds me of home (in the Mid-West) when you didn't want to quit wearing your shorts so you'd throw a sweatshirt on to keep you comfortable. And as it gets closer to November, there's mornings when you're pretty sure it's going to rain by the smell in the air, but the smell is the smell of snow if I lived further north.

I have two favorite outdoor smells, and for me they are universal: the one I mentioned above and this one - the smell at the very tail end of a summer day, the mixture of hot, dry, dust and grass.

These two smells take me back to places I've been: Upstate New York in the Adirondacks in the middle of winter, Yosemite in the summer, Southern Michigan, Alaska in the fall, the Grand Canyon, Wyoming, Montana, Peru, Panama, I need only close my eyes and back there I am.

I love days like today where all I want to do is bust outta these work clothes, throw on a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt and frolic like a kid again.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Brokenness and Spirituality

Things that have been running through my mind of late...

In Sunday School class we were continuing our discussion of Nuowen's book the "Life of the Beloved" and a question came up, "If we're suppossed to be the Beloved, why do so many of us keep choosing self-rejection?" The class paused for a minute and some people responded - but their answers for me didn't stick. But my response was, because "it's easy, it's safe, it's familiar. You know exactly what you're getting and what you'll feel when you choose self-rejection - that that was as Nuowen said, "the great trap"and that choosing to believe I am Beloved was much harder because it was unknown territory, that until you kept choosing to believe and embrace that you are Beloved you wouldn't feel safe". Sometimes I think it's alot harder to love oneself then it is to say you aren't good enough.

In the same book Nuowen talks about our "brokenness" and that our brokenness is as unique as we each are just as is our chosenness. That we have to claim our brokenness, befriend it and put it under blessing. By doing this we enable ourselves to heal, that our brokenness when befriended and blessed can turn into a source of hope. It gives meaing to all that pain - instead of dismissing it as worthless.

It has taken along time to choose self-love, to believe in myself, to feel Beloved more often then broken - to accept that I am ok. I've begun to acknowledge that self-rejection is selfish - it's like this anti-acknowledgement of ourselves and our worth.

I'd like to tie this idea of Belovedness in with The Rule of Benedict (I highly recommend "The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages (Crossroad Spiritual Legacy Series) by Joan Chittister) and in with another book, "Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. But I'm not sure exactly how to do this - so bare with me.

Today's reading from The Rule of Benedict talks about loving God with your whole heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. To find the holy in the human, to not only see Christ in others but to treat others as Christ. Earle's book (which I've just begun) talks so far about claiming one's illness - owning it, so that you can then honor it.

What do all three have in common thus far, at least in my mind: Own your struggles, Love God, Love yourself, then go one step further. The other common thread is prayer. I always thought prayer was suppossed to long. But, what I've begun to discover is that "quality" is better. I've begun to separate my "verbal prayers" from my "quiet praying". By internally verbalizing what I want to talk about with God I find clears my mind for two-way conversation - I get out of God's way - if that makes sense. I'm learning to be "one with the silence", to be still. In the silence and the stillness I can then begin to hear and to heal.

I don't know about you, but for me sitting still is hard! I'm constantly either physically moving or mentally "moving". Silence for me is hard too, but I'm learning to get comfortable in the quiet spaces and places. I think it's easy to miss what's going on around you if you can't stop for a minute and become aware.

My inner self at this moment is worried about being too something - too preachy, too too something - the flip side is "shhh, be quiet, it's ok, just share". I wasn't sure I'd even be able to "blog" because it requires opening up and sharing and being ok with that - it requires vulnerability.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. I don't even know if this entry makes sense or is just one big jumble of something. And if you've made it this far in the entry, thank you for your time, thank you for listening.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You Are Beloved

This is the excerpt I used as the opening prayer for my devotional:

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: “I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse…yes, even your child…wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Life of the Beloved
Excerpt from page 36-37
Henri J.M. Nouwen's book "Life of the Beloved" is the topic of my Sunday School class for the next 5 weeks. In doing the initial reading I felt like I was on this emotional roller coaster, here was this man speaking about how he felt about himself and the negative barrage we receive from the the world everyday and how to cope. He talks about how when we begin to believe the negative voices from within and without that this is the "great trap" the "great trap of self-rejection". Self-rejection, he says, contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved".
I at times have an aweful inner dialog with myself, and it's usually when I'm venturing into something new, or I won't even continue the pursuit, because I'll dismiss myself before I even start. Other times, I find myself comparing myself to someone else and invariably I come up short in my own mind.
I've begun remedying some of this awful inner dialog by "forcing" myself to "do it anyways" so what if it's not a masterpiece, or not this or that, what's important was the intention - did I learn something, did I enjoy the experience, did I walk away with something I could share with others. The more afraid something makes me feel, the more I've begun to choose to confront that fear, so that it stops having so much power over my life. And I've found that most times things turn out pretty darn well, and that I should stop underestimating myself, you know - I feel good when I conquer the fear.
My other remedy is to remember things my Grandma would tell me, or even justing thinkng about her and how much she loved me is enough to put things back into perspective. I am immensily grateful for her, and the gifts she gave me as a child that still sustain me to this day - she always made me feel Beloved.
Another remedy for me has been meditation, scripture reading, and daily prayer. Quieting myself down, shutting down the constant inner dialogues, sitting in silence, becoming intamitely familiar with the silence that speaks volumes now that my ears are open to hear.
Last but not least is that I've begun recognizing the gifts and beauty of my life. To move more outside of my inner self and to let more of my inner self out (I share me much better than I ever have before).
We each of us is Beloved, you are Beloved, I am Beloved, but it is only the first step, the next step requires becoming who we are called to be.

Last Evening's Devotional

I had the closing devotional for my Community of Hope training last night, and I had fretted for a week about what I would do for the devotional, but it went very let me backtrack in time...

A few weeks ago a friend had loaned me her CD of Deepak Chopra's "The Soul of Healing Meditations" and the two that really held me and were the "Heart Meditation" and the "Heart Sutra Meditation". The "Heart Meditation" is about forgiving and letting go of grievances and instead choosing miracles, but two things pulsated for me here and that is that my heart can't feel loved(d) if I'm holding onto all this emotional caca so acknowledge it, let it go, and recognize the beauty instead. The other thing was the beauty of the words themselves and the singing (in a language I don't know), and the words that would plant a tiny seed within were "forgive us our trespasses".

Around this same time I was roaming the CD towers looking for something I hadn't listened to in awhile and decided upon Natalie Merchant's "Ophelia". It'd been a long time since I'd listened to it, but when I listened to the whole thing, it was like Wow this is so incredibly spirtual. Why hadn't I acknowledged that before? Hmmm, anyways, track 3 is "Kind & Generous" and I must of played it 4 times in a row chanting "Thank You Thank You...Thank You Thank You".

So what does this all have to do with Evening Devotionals, well "Heart Meditation" and "Kind & Generous" became the central theme if you will. But I had no opening prayer nor an ending prayer. I didn't have my opening prayer until Sunday during Sunday School class which was an excerpt form Henri J.M. Nouwen's book "Life of the Beloved" I want to save the excerpt I used for my next post; otherwise, this post will become much longer and even more jumbled. My closing prayer was decided upon Monday morning - talk about cutting it close - but it was the prayer "For Wise Use of Talents" from the Occassional Services, Augsburg, 1982, p.148.

...Last night...I was really worried about whether or not the group would like the Evening Devotional that I had the hardest time sitting still. I kept getting agrivated with myself because I was aggitated for all the wrong reasons: will they like it, will they like me, will they notice how great I am, ugh. All that worrying and for nothing, because it wouldn't have matter, because what was and is important is that we're together learning and sharing and growing with one another.

I think another reason I was worried is because I do appreciate the people in my group and I wanted to give something special to them as my way of saying without saying "Hey, you know what guys, I think each and everyone one of you is special and I care a great deal about each of you, and I hope y'all can see it (well hear it) through what I've put together for the Evening Devotional."


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

That Introductory First Post

Hmmm, where to start? I ended up creating a blog at the quiet insistance of a friend of mine. This is my first foray into the world of blogging as a blog space holder and not a visitor of other peoples thoughts and opinions.

The title for the blog comes from a lifelong journey of changing while remaining the same - if you know what I mean? The more inward I look the more I grow and change but the "who" of who I am has remained constant and true.

The idea of flow and flux and journeys resonate deeply within me - like the chanting of Om, the sounding of a Tibetan singing bowl.

I haven't figured out what I want to do (notice not be) when I grow up but I have begun to again explore the things that I always return to whenever I allow myself enough time to self-examine. So I carry my aspirations with me in what I've dubbed my "Aspirations Pack" and for awhile it was a joy to take with me wheerever I went, but somewhere along the way it became an unbareable weight. When that happened I got quite scared and afraid, and for awhile I wasn't sure what to do. In the end, I've removed items with the promise to myself that these things would not be forgotten and told myself it was okay to let it go for awhile.

I narrowed my focus to what was calling me to spend time with it. So what was removed and what remained you ask? I removed the art books, the pencils, the drawing pad. I kept the journal, the photography lessons, the Book of Common Prayer, the Windsor Report, the response to the Windsor Report, my Community of Hope material, my Sunday School material, my ill-used pocket calendar, my pens, and my Bible is going back in.

This doesn't sound light does it :-) Though it's still heavy the weight isn't the same. I find my biggest challenge at this point in my life is time. I often joke that I wish I knew how to step outside of time long enough to do the things that require thought and quiet moments. I also joke that I "steal moments" those few minutes when no ones looking, I claim these for myself hoping that when collected together will be enough to sustain me.

My other struggle ties into time and that's finding balance. But I think this is a topic I'll have to think more about, I'm not sure how to express this struggle as separate from time, because for me the two are intimately linked.

I'll end with this: I haven't any idea where I'll go with this blog - so here's to the journey.