Skip to content

Evening Prayer – 25 February 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

It has been a long day of travel

Car repairs and tire replacements

Time as well to read and reflect

Time to simply Be Still

Time with my sweetheart

A time of fellowship around the table at church

The privilege of walking with a patient through the Valley of the Shadows

Finally time to wind down at home after a busy day

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Mardi Gras – A Reflection

It is known as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. There are various traditions surrounding this day. Shrove comes from the Latin word shrive. Before the season of penance (Lent) begins, the people were to obtain absolution from their sins via Confession. There was also a tradition of emptying the cupboards (in the days before refrigeration) of all the ingredients (butter, eggs, and fat for example) which would be given up for Lent. Around the world the typical meal was pancakes, thus giving this day another name, Pancake Day. The feasting was a last time of eating a lot before the time of fasting during Lent.

In Mobile, Alabama which is the originator of Mardi Gras in the United States (the tradition was “borrowed” by New Orleans) the season runs from Epiphany through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is a time of parties, masquerade balls, and parades. My first experience with Mardi Gras was in 2010 when Denise took me to a parade. In 2011 we attended a Mardi Gras Ball together while I was still on Active Duty.

Living in New Orleans for a year and Mobile for over thirty years Denise has a lot of memories of Mardi Gras. The vast majority of them are memories of good friends, good food, love, and laughter.

Today’s Mardi Gras was spent getting new tires and lights for my car (it’s an all-day deal when you drive down and up the mountain to the dealership), pulling Denise’s dead car battery, and buying a new one and installing it. We finally made it to our churches Pancake Dinner only to receive a call from the hospital for a chaplain to see a patient in need.

As the patient shared her story of grief and multiple losses, Mardi Gras all of a sudden wasn’t that important. What was important was the opportunity for her to begin processing the losses experienced in the last few years. I guess in a way, she was confessing her fears and doubts. What I was able to offer was a listening ear, compassionate heart, and the assurance that what she was experiencing was not unusual or crazy. It was a normal reaction to a whole lot of trauma and other experiences that bubbles up. I could see her countenance visibly lift and hear the audible change in her voice. The time spent in conversation and listening was a sacred experience for both of us.

In a serendipitous way, this hospital call resonated with some reading I had done earlier in the day while waiting for the car to be finished. In his book Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts, Thomas Merton had this to say about Ash Wednesday. Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God… The God of Ash Wednesday is like a calm sea of mercy. In <God> there is no anger. (p. 96-97)

So in the midst of Mardi Gras, pancakes, and a busy day; God was present. God and God’s peace, mercy, and presence was in that hospital room. My prayers will continue for this patient as she walks this journey called life.

Evening Prayer – 24 February 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

Another day of ministry is completed

It has also been a time of reflection and study

It has also been a time to simply Be Still

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Kin-dom and Community – A Reflection

Tonight at our Church Session (Council) Meeting we discussed a lesson from the PC(USA)’s Lenten Devotional, “Becoming a Beloved Community: A Matthew 25 journey to the cross.” In the introduction Donna Frischknecht Jackson, the editor of “Presbyterians Today” posed this question about this Lenten season being different: What if this Lenten season… we looked beyond personal disciplines and committed to creating beloved communities in our own backyards–communities reflecting the inclusive and healing love that Jesus modeled as he made his way to the cross. (p.2)

She also shared the origin of the term “Beloved Community.” While it was originally coined by Josiah Royce, a 20th Century American philosopher, it was popularized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King spoke often of the beloved community as an illustration of God’s kingdom as truly a kin-dom. This beloved community is a society based on justice for all and selfless love of one another. For King, a community became “beloved” when every person had their basic needs met. (p. 2)

Community… Beloved… Justice for All… Equality… these concepts aren’t pipe dreams, they are a reality toward which Christ-followers are called to build. As I considered this calling, I was reminded of Thomas Merton’s Epiphany on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky.

As he stood on the corner (now Thomas Merton Square), he was overwhelmed by his connection with all of the people.

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

I believe that if Thomas Merton and Dr. King had been able to meet and share some time together, they would have both embraced the thought of the Beloved Community and the Kingdom of God as the Kin-dom of God. Perhaps this should be the journey we begin as this Lenten season begins. The journey will obviously continue long after Lent is over, but this is a good place to begin.

Evening Prayer – 23 February 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

After a wonderful weekend with my sweetheart

After a long day of traveling

We are enjoying the fireplace

We are relaxing after a full day

With a thankful heart I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Lent Approaches – A Reflection

This past weekend Denise and I took a short trip to San Francisco. I guess you could say it was a brief getaway before the very busy season of Lent begins. For this Padre, the Lenten journey is a spiritually challenging, yet rewarding time. For those who choose to, we go deeper in our spiritual reflection and journey.

Yesterday we spent time at Saint Ignatius parish on the campus of the University of San Francisco. As I looked at the statue of Saint Ignatius, I really felt his eyes looking directly into mine. Was he calling me to a time of reflection and silence? Was he calling me to go deeper as I experience this Lenten season?

The transformation of the Lenten journey for me has been a journey in itself. When I was growing up, I don’t remember much about the Wednesday services. What I do remember are the dinners afterwards. I also remember the decisions of what to give up for Lent as I got older. The first Ash Wednesday service I participated in while in Seminary was incredibly powerful. As I read Psalm 51, the weight of that psalm hit me hard. That began a period of introspection for me. Yet there was still a negative weight that fell upon me during Lent.

In the past several years I have begun looking at Lent not so much as a period of “sacrifice” but more as a time to examine my life and see what new ways I can serve the Lord. Is there a new spiritual practice that I can adopt that will carry on after Lent is over.

Are you looking for a different perspective for Lent? Was this indeed what Saint Ignatius was inviting me to do? Perhaps he was leading me towards this reflection from Thomas Merton which is in his book Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts. Even the darkest moments of the liturgy, are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast… We must remember the original meaning of Lent, the ver sacrum, the Church’s “holy spring” in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the Church. Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing. (p. 91)

May this season indeed be one of healing for each one of us and for the church, the body of Christ. Perhaps out of that healing, we might share Jesus’s message of love, grace, mercy, and peace.

Evening Prayer – 22 February 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

It has been a short, yet wonderful weekend

Time with my sweetheart is always a blessing

Time to ponder your call and seek your presence

Time to see your face in ALL of your beloved children

Especially your children whom society has cast aside

For this reminder and this blessing I thank you

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…