Thursday, September 12, 2013

Liminal Times

“Liminal”…it’s a word that I thought I had imagined as I groped for something to describe "being neither in one place nor in another."  However, recently I have found this word, “liminal,” as I did my usual surfing about the Web, skipping in ADHD fashion from one topic to another.  Finally – confirmation of this word that even sounds tentative. 

I have had many liminal times in my life.  Sometimes it’s a feeling of being completely outside of normal time and space, and other times (usually) it’s only one aspect of my life that’s in a liminal state.  One example of a liminal period is when I wrestled with the idea of leaving the church where I first embraced the Anglican expression of Christian faith.  I no longer felt I belonged there, but neither did I belong anywhere else, yet.  When I think back on that time and other liminal times, the main image I get is one of searching, seeking something, somewhere, but oftentimes not even knowing exactly what I would find.  I think it would be very easy to get lost in such a fog, if there weren’t a guide to walk along with me.  Such a guide would be one with greater knowledge and better sight than mine; otherwise, we’d both simply wander about, lost in this liminal fog.

As I reflect on these times, I find that my guide has been the Holy Spirit.  As I prayed and listened to the Spirit, I was guided to people, books, and yes, even websites that helped me find the direction I needed to take.  In the case of my liminal time between churches, I was advised to visit other churches and “listen to what is being said – and not just the words.”  And with that, the Spirit would gently lead me to the next place that would serve as my spiritual home.

Now, as I did then, I need to reach out to my guide, the Holy Spirit.  I can listen to the Spirit’s voice as I pray, study, worship, and serve others.

When I do so, I won’t get lost.  I'll find my way.

Photo Credit: By Oliver Herold (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 9, 2013

Removing Distractions

I have been a member of the Altar Guild for as long as I have been an Episcopalian.  That would be about 11 years now.

The Altar Guild is a worship ministry in a given parish that is devoted to the care and setting up of worship-related items.  One regular duty of the Altar Guild is to set up the altar for Sunday worship services.  Following each service, members clean up the sacred vessels and prepare linens for laundering.  Since the priest is the person charged with making sure corporate worship is both organized and uplifting, the Altar Guild follows his or her (in the Episcopal Church, women can be priests) lead in how things are arranged and maintained.

One priest gave me this bit of guidance that has served me well for many years, and not just for the arrangement of church items.  He said, "One important thing we have to do as ministers, is to take away anything that distracts people from worshiping God," whether it's a sloppy fringe on an altar hanging, misplaced vessels or a dirty table covering.  People can go overboard and become fussy about such things, but that is not the proper intent behind our attention to detail.

Carrying this advice to other areas of my life, I seek to remove those things (such as petty jealousies, preoccupations, negativity) that distract me from God and doing his will.  I try to avoid being a hindrance to others in their spiritual journeys.  Better yet, I strive to be helpful as they seek God's will in their lives.

I'm not always successful, but these are my goals. 

Photo Credit: By Christopher John SSF [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Short Reflection on Psalm 121

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills,
From where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth.

From The Psalter of the Book of Common Prayer 1979

The psalm is one of comfort and encouragement, and has been one of my go-to psalms when I need assurance of God's presence and protection.  Years ago, I made myself a pocket card so I can carry these words with me.

When I'm faced with a particularly daunting challenge, I am reminded of God's presence in the form of these words.  They are, simultaneously, a warm blanket (The Bible is not a "warm fuzzies" book – be glad when you do find a warm, fuzzy section.) and strong armor, preparing me to meet whatever trials I may encounter.

Do you find comfort and strength in the Psalms?  Which ones speak to you?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Do Not Say "I Am Only..."

In the Revised Common Lectionary used by the Episcopal Church, one of the Old Testament readings for this week is the following:

Jeremiah 1:4-10
The word of the LORD came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." But the LORD said to me,
"Do not say, 'I am only a boy';
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the LORD."
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me,
"Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."

For many of us, the last few weeks have been the waning days of summer. No matter what the calendar tells us, summer ends with the first day of school.  Some U.S. school districts have already begun the school year. Others, like our local district, will begin this week.

As we begin the school year, it wouldn't be surprising if we -- students, teachers, parents, family members -- felt as Jeremiah did when he said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy."  I know I have felt "I do not know how to speak, for I am only..."  Fill in the blank -- only a woman?  Only a homemaker?  Only a teacher?  Only a lay person?  The list of "onlys" can go on.

God has the answer to that: As he told Jeremiah:
"Do not say, 'I am only a boy';
for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD."

The key words here are "go to whom I send you" and "speak whatever I command you."  When we listen to God with careful prayer and discernment, we are acting in accordance to his will. We can be confident that God is with us, and we can move forward without fear.

In my case, I'm the grandparent of a boy with diabetes.  I am his caregiver while my daughter works during the day.  There will be many times in the school year when I may be called to advocate on his behalf in order for him to get the accommodations he needs to be successful in school.  This is my calling, my God-given role for this time in our family's life.  

God will give me the strength and wisdom to advocate on my grandson's behalf, to assist his mother in his care, and to speak with authority regarding his needs.

What has God called you to do?  Where has he sent you?  Spend some time with these verses and see where he leads you.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Homeless Guy at Church

This happened many years ago.  I hope I've become less prejudiced since then.

There was a time, when I was a Catholic (I'm an Episcopalian now), when I was between churches.  I wanted the faith experience of a liturgical service, but I was struggling with the Catholic Church's teachings on certain topics, such as human sexuality and women's roles in the Church.

A friend had invited me to a Mass hosted by a organization of gay Catholics (a group of Catholics but not officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church) called Dignity.  There was a rotation of diocesan priests that led the Mass.  

So here I am, surveying my surroundings, waiting for the Mass to begin, when I see a scruffy old gentleman with a bit of stubble take a seat not too far away.  Since he was evidently in silent prayer, people gave him his space.  I thought, "How nice that these people are so accepting of anyone who walks in, especially a homeless person like this man."

I spent a few moments bowed in silence.  When I looked up, I saw our priest for the evening.  A scruffy old man, now wearing a liturgical stole, greeted us.

"Good evening.  I'm Father John."

1 Samuel 16:7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Under Construction

It's been a while since I've posted anything here.  Lately, I've been trying to discern what the focus should be on this blog.  It started out as a personal journal, shared with a few hundred readers, of how I was dealing with certain personal and spiritual challenges. Interspersed with those entries were random household hints, family updates and other things that just popped into my head.  It became clear that sharpening the blog's focus was necessary.

First, let list the topics that didn't make the cut.  I don't really want to put my family out into the interwebs, so the intimate family stories and photos that are the bread-and-butter of mommy bloggers and the like are out.  I'm by no means a super housekeeper, so I would run out of housekeeping tips pretty quick.  I could opine on different aspects of pop culture, but that alone would not be satisfying to me.  Lastly there are the many, many topics that I just don't have the desire or expertise to write about on a regular basis.

So, what did that leave me?  What else was there that I could write about that anyone might want to read?  The title "So Here's What I Think" fits well with a series of semi-daily reflections. Since I am a Christian, the vast majority of these will be colored by my faith. However, I intend to have more religiously-neutral reflections here as well.  My hope is not that people will admire my insight, which may be better some days than others, but rather that the ideas I offer will become a springboard by which the reader can form his or her own reflections.

So watch this space in the coming days, the building phase is coming soon!