Thursday, March 17, 2011


Pumpkin on the Prowl

We are all making our way through Lent and into spring.... Pumpkin and I are finding our way through missing Katie. Pumpkin is exhibiting some very "dog-like" characteristics these days. I have to wonder if all that whispering that she and Katie used to do was really Katie passing along all of her secrets to Pumps. This is how you knock things out of Martha's hand - use your nose and be very persistent! This is how you stretch out in those patches of sunlight on the floor; this is how you lie under the dining room table; this is how you get under Martha's feet when she is cooking.... So Pumpkin seems to have learned well from Katie and she is determined to entertain me with her knowledge!

Today I was reading from a Lenten devotional by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was so instructive in my life at a time when I needed to know that God loved me. His book, "Life of the Beloved" had a significant impact on my life. Today's meditation begins, "If you dare to believe that you are beloved before you are born, you may suddenly realize that your life is very, very special."
Nouwen's undergirding principle is that each one of us is recognized by God as a beloved daughter, a beloved son. In the same way that God identified Jesus as his beloved son at his baptism, each one of us is also identified as beloved by God. It makes a difference if we believe that. It means, for instance, that when I talk to you, I must also identify you as beloved by God - you are part of my family whether you look, or believe, like me.

Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, JR, and many other "persons of reconciliation" recognize this undergirding principle of God's love. God doesn't just love me, the (relatively) good, white, Christian, woman. But I am God's beloved daughter who has many, many siblings. Never has this meant more to us in a world that grows smaller each day. My life is not separate from the life of my sister who suffers in Japan, or my brother who gets killed in Libya. The sin of apartheid where ever it occurs is my sin.

I think I have started preaching! Maybe I need to look for a pulpit?! Just be glad you aren't Pumpkin - she has to listen to me all the time. Well, enough for today all of my "beloved" friends.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent begins - Ash Wednesday

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return"

Experiencing the liturgy of Ash Wednesday as a parishioner at Christ Episcopal Church here in Sparta was remarkable. For the past 26 years I have been "doing" the liturgy as a priest. It was hard during those years not to focus on the pressure of Lent - 40 days of intense ministry and preparation. As I sat this morning looking at the church dressed in penitential purple I was able to see myself as a part of a community who will be walking the way of the cross together. I am in the midst of a great drama. The drama is simple: we walk together. When the person beside me gets tired or discouraged, I can offer my hand or a word of encouragement. When I stumble, someone will catch me.

Ive been reading the novel, The Sinner, by Tess Gerritsen. It is about a murder that occurs in a convent. The pathologist is watching from a window as the crime scene technicians unload their equipment at the convent. It is snowing and there is ice on the ground. "One of the techs suddenly slid across the stones, arms flung out like a skater as he struggled to stay upright. We're all struggling to stay upright, she thought. Resisting the pull of temptation, just as we fight the pull of gravity. And when we finally fall, it's always such a surprise." This is such a great description of our human condition and the need for community. There I am lying on the ground, shocked and scared by my fall - I knew I was walking on ice, but falling was still such a surprise! In the midst of my misery a hand reaches out to me and helps me regain my balance. I know I am human, but I continue to try to try to stay upright even as I expose myself to those slippery places. How can any of us ever make it without each other!? How can we walk this drama of Lent without our sisters and brothers to help us?

And so the invitation to "keep a holy Lent" comes with the words "assist us with thy grace" ( in Rite I Prayer of Thanksgiving). And here is the most amazing thing about it all - we are meant to be "instruments of God's grace" in this holy drama.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Katie Scarlett O'Hara Honaker
1997 - 2011
On Sunday Katie stumbled and fell. She fractured her left back leg just above the knee. Katie had over 14 years of a wonderful, giving life. The veterinarian could have put a pin in her leg but the recovery would have been long and painful. The vets and staff at Twin Oaks Animal Hospital were incredible. They gave me all the options and no pressure, and I was able to decide that quality of life was better than quantity. She died peacefully in my arms. Missing her is almost overwhelming right now but more than missing her I am so grateful for her wonderful life.

Katie was trained as a "Pet Therapy Dog" in 2001. She visited people in hospices, hospitals, and nursing homes. When I worked at the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, NM Katie went to work every day with me. She greeted the homeless people who came to our outreach center and was accomplished at "working a crowd." She sat beside me when I preached at the Cathedral on St. Francis' Day in October of 2001. When I moved to New Harmony, IN she made friends all over town and loved to ride in the golf cart. For over a year I would drop her off on Wednesday morning at the Ford Home (a home for retired ladies) and pick her up at noon. Her special friend, Virginia De Fries, would walk her and share her with the other ladies. All of our pets are extraordinary in their ability to give love and Katie was no exception to that rule.

With St. Francis' hand on your golden head, rest in peace dear Katie.