On December 22nd, I was ordained to the priesthood. It was a joyful day – I have waited, and journeyed, years to get here. But, the day was not ultimately about me – it was about a community of people – the church – who has prayed me here, and laughed with me, and cried with me, and even (particularly in the case of my brother) argued with me. The day was piha – so very full, of so many emotions.
In Hawaiian thinking, we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Our ancestors help to carry us through this world, and it is on their work and merit that we stand. Growing up, this helped to instill in me the lesson, and belief, that I have never done something alone. I did not achieve something because of any brilliance I have, but because of those who support me, and enable me, and pray for me.
On the day of my ordination celebration, so many different people from my life came together. I sat next to Bree, my love, who carries so much of my heart within her. My cousin came, and, though I know her relationship with “the church” has been tangential at best, she has often been church to me. She has let me be my whole self – goofy and funny and sad and angry – and she has always held space for it. My brother came, with my sister in law and niece, though they are an atheist family. He came because he loves me, and he knows me. He came because we have shared a sort of communion throughout our lives, at our family dinner table. Some of my friends from high school came; some members of St Clements, a former parish came; my Dean from Seminary came and preached. The day was so special to me, because I was uplifted by so many who have formed me, who have played important roles in my life.
The day was beautiful, because it showed me who the church is – what the church has always been, to me. This mix of people who go into a church on Sunday morning and those who do not; a mix of old and young; a mix of personalities and temperaments and sexualities and expressions. This is the church, to me. This is who I have pledged to serve – God’s people, in all of their wild array.
I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week, leading up to my ordination to priesthood, about blessing. I have thought about being blessed by others and ways I might become a blessing. I have thought a lot about my placement here at St Peter’s, and the many ways the people of this community bless me.
In my time here, I have received many gifts – abundantly, unexpectedly, and beautifully. I have received avocados, bananas, persimmons, and starfruit on my desk ; I have received saved plates of food from coffee hour; I have received notes and cards of encouragement; I have received homemade pumpkin bread and curries; I have received lei; I have been blessed by the people of this place.
Alongside those tangible things, those things so generously given and shared with me, I have also been the recipient of less tangible things.
There is an older parishioner, who, when she is wheeled out of the sanctuary, blesses me by taking my hands in hers, raising them to her face, and kissing them. There is an acolyte, who, when passing the peace, raises his hands and says, “praise the Lord!”. There are people who, despite how random my Adult Forum topic may be, show up and are ready to discuss and go with whatever I throw out. There are parishioners who, week by week, faithfully come to Bible study, often giving me something to think about for my sermon.
The church is made up of these individuals, yes – but it is also a place of community. The community here has blessed me with warmth, laughter, and smiles. Last week, I was blessed by the children who came up for the chidlren’s message – I had a message about Elf on the shelf, and two of our kids brought up their own elves – their participation and willingness to go with me in the message I gave was a blessing.
Last week, I went to sing some Christmas carols at one of the rehab centers, with the Hospice Hawaii Choir. As I sang, I smiled – and I noticed some of the residents smiling back at me. I think, sometimes, that is a small way to become a blessing – simply to smile. To allow light to shine, not necessarily from you, but through you – allowing yourself to become a vessel for God to become incarnate again in this world.
I have been blessed, gifted, with many examples of this God-bringing by those who I serve – I hope I can manifest it for others.
This week in Adult Forum, we began to talk about evangelism – each of us confessing, in our small, cramped education room, that we are not as comfortable as we feel we “should” be with the idea of sharing our faith – myself included.
What is it about evangelism that is so scary?
For many of the parishioners I hear from, and for myself, sometimes it is fear of being “one of THOSE christians”. I am scared of sharing words which feel threatening, or empty. I DO want to share the good news, and want to talk about the relationship I have with Jesus which has transformed my life – but I sometimes don’t exactly know how to enter that conversation – or, more specifically, how to come to it with an open heart.
I realised, as we talked about it on Sunday, that part of what I find so scary and so threatening is that being an evangelist means being vulnerable. It means opening up a part of myself which is sweet, and tender, and so close to my heart. And, not knowing how that open-ness will be treated, or received.
This Saturday, I went to my friend, Chris’s ordination service. He was ordained in the same class of deacons, and he asked my help in his service. I was a little early to the church, and hadn’t had time to get him a lei – so I thought I would go over to the Foodland which is close, and pick one up.
On the way out the door, I saw someone walking in – a man who was decked out in Christmas gear, with a christmas-tree hat. He caught my eye, and said, directly, “Merry Christmas!” I said it back, and walked to my car smiling.
He’s stayed with me – this man, whose mission it was to spread Christmas cheer that day. He was open, and vulnerable, and in some ways he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. And, it softened me. I saw this guy, being so authentically himself, and it made me smile.
So, as I was thinking about evangelism, and being vulnerable, I thought about him – I thought about how, when you actually ARE vulnerable, and open to the world, not knowing the response – sometimes, the response can be joy. Sometimes, you can influence a conversation you’re not even part of.
I am being challenged this week, and every week, to wear my heart on my sleeve – to be visible and open about the Love I have received, and the Love I’d like to share.
Most people will tell you, I am not a very patient person. I am a planner – I like things to be prompt, and reliable – I don’t like surprises. And yet, Advent is my very favourite church season of the year. I love Christmas, of course – the actual arrival of baby Jesus, this long expected Saviour – the knowing that Jesus came down into the muck and the dirt of our lives, and began the story of redemption from that place.
But, however much I love Christmas, I love the buildup more.
Last weekend, I stopped by Central Union Church with my cousin to get my tree, a tiny tabletop which smells deliciously fresh, and is now siting atop my windowsill. Yesterday afternoon, I went to Target to get some twinkly lights for my tree, and hung them (somewhat haphazardly). I’ve been enjoying working in my office to Christmas carols playing in the background. I notice that people are more likely to look one another in the eye and wish each other a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.
All of this builds the anticipation, and gives me time to prepare. My excitement builds and builds, as I chip away at the projects and work I have in the meantime.
Advent teaches me patience, but it also gifts me, over and over again, with great joy in the waiting. I am not waiting in a still way – I am actively engaged in preparation, actively in the world and working.
I hope your Advent gifts you with the same joy.
This week, the oldest member of our parish (who still sits in the pews every Sunday) is turning 102. Yep, that’s right – take a second to just let that number soak in.
When I interviewed for this position at St Peter’s I was told that it was a church community of many faithful elders. The vestry joked with me that their tag line could be, “Worship with us and live forever!”
In my time here thus far, I have begun to build relationships with these elders, particularly those who are regular attenders on Sunday – which many of them are. They encourage me, impress me, and always brighten my spirit.
In church yesterday, as I thought about our elders, the lives they have lived and their active participation in our parish, I also thought about their children. I have witnessed some of the most gracious, thoughtful, kind caregiving in this parish.
For most of our active elders, there are adult children who accompany them to church every week – who make sure they get in to the service safely, show them where in the bulletin we are, and assist them in getting to the communion rail.
My view of this is limited, of course – Sometimes I know about a larger story, but most of the time I don’t. I just get glimpses, from my vantage point, of what love looks like. I see the dedication in taking care of parents. Some still have the ability to walk, remember, or hold conversation – some don’t.
These members of my parish, who are caring for their mothers and fathers, always seem to do so with such dignity, and respect. I can see a commandment lived out – to honour your mother and your father.
Last week, in hula, we spent time making lei po’o (head leis) out of ti leaves. We were making them for a performance yesterday, Sunday, which I couldn’t make since I was in service. As a result, I spent my time in class helping my hula sisters tear and braid their lei.
First, you have to measure the thickness of the ti leaf, and tear it into strips, and then cut into smaller pieces to be braided in. Once you get the hang of it, this can be soothing in its repetition. You de-bone the other leaves to be used for braiding, tear them in half and microwave them, to make them soft and pliable.
The small pieces get collected in bundles of three and braided in to the lei, making it full and attractive.
As we braided and talked, I remembered being in hula when I was young, and my mom making pieces like this for me and with me. My fingers are still clumsy, and I still get frustrated easily. I am not a perfectionist like some others, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. I had a sense of fullness in this lei making – a sense of being brought full circle.
I don’t think I’ve learned any more skills since I was in class as a kid, but my body still remembered it. I had, in my muscle memory, something deeper even than my own memory – it felt ancestral. It felt like there was a part of me recognising and remembering how to braid together this lei which might not even have belonged to me, or my mom, so much as it belonged to my great and great great grandmothers, and even further back beyond them, extending to those whom I have never met.
As my fingers pulled the braid tight, I thought about the strands of DNA in their double helix, and the many strands we weave together to form identity. Something about pulling that braid, making it strong, was firming up something in my own identity.
There are parts of identity which we feel, or know, or believe – but many more parts, I think, which are made through our actions.
This might be a bit like people who say they are spiritual, but not religious. While spirituality is certainly something which can be felt, there isn’t an action beyond one’s own self. In a religious setting, in contrast, the action is gathering with one another, singing or praying together – and this action informs one’s identity, not only as a religious person individually, but as part of a religious community.
Helping my hula sisters to braid their lei, I was acting in a belief of community; of Hawaiian identity; of creation of beauty.
May we be gifted by the presence of community as we braid our many strands of identity together.
On Sunday, I preached about overcoming fear. I thought about the widows in both the old testament lesson from Kings, and the new testament lesson from Mark. Both women were sending me a message – to hold on to hope, even in the midst of fear.
This is, of course, easier to say than to do. How do we hold on to hope, or stay brave, in the face of fear? Can we cultivate courage?
I can think of examples of many parishioners who inspire me in this regard. When I visit someone who is homebound, or bed-bound, who maintains a particular joy, I am awe-struck by their bravery. Something which must be so challenging, and so limiting, is somehow kept in check with a sense of courage. Of course, there are harder days and easier days – but even on the harder days, we are usually still able to laugh together.
There is one woman in particular who I am thinking of, and this week have been inspired by. She is a regular at our Jazz Vespers service, has many health challenges, and needs some assistance in getting from the Handi-Van to the church. Last Thursday, she called the office as she was coming close to the church (which is her routine), and I went downstairs to meet her, help her to the bathroom, and then to her seat in the church.
She arrives about an hour and a half, or two hours before the service. She told me that then she can get help more easily, and doesn’t cause such a bother. She shared with me that she had been listening to a Chicken Soup for the Soul series, on people facing challenges, and had been inspired by it.
As we walked into the church, we talked about the gospel lesson, of the widow who gives her two mites. “I have all I need”, she said to me. “I won’t die with money, but I never had any in my life. But I know that the man upstairs is taking good care of me. All I need has been provided.”
Tears came to my eyes, and I was grateful that she couldn’t see me. I was so touched by her faith — so inspired by her witness. She was a living courage to me that day — and, indeed, every week that she makes her way to worship with us.
I am reminded that God hasn’t just given me stories of courage from long ago, but is writing them still in the hearts of those I am called to serve.
This weekend, I went out with a few different friends for dinner. Each of them has been in my life for a long time – and there are parts of my history each of them hold that are important to my sense of self.
We can become vessels to one another – holders of history, and of grace – holders of what has been and what might be.
The thing I was so touched by, with each of these friends – is that each of them not only holds my history, but also gives me so much space. Often, it is those who you grow up with that have the hardest time seeing you change. It can be odd, to think you know someone, and find that you’re wrong. But each of these friends has been able not only to hold a part of me from the past, but also give me space to be who I am today.
I hope I can be a friend like that.
Last week, I was in Kona for the Diocesan Convention. After lunch on Friday, I sat outside of the meeting space and looked out at the vast fields of black lava rock. I thought about the presence of Pele on this island – what I know about her, the ways I feel her, and what she does.
I thought about the destruction lava causes.
Lava is molten, sticky, fire. It burns up everything in it’s path, consuming what used to be and leaving itself behind. In Puna this year, many families and individuals have been forced out of their homes. The destruction of lava has been tangible for them – eating up homes, roads, properties, and even power lines.
I thought about the effect of lava.
At convention, we talked about the holy spirit – who, we are told in Scripture, is like a dove; like a breath of wind; like a spirit of presence; like a fire. This last metaphor, the Spirit like a fire, is the one I was struck by. We make the Spirit gentle – I remember a feminist theologian who, in talking about the Trinity, says, “Oh yes – two men and a bird”. We have domesticated the spirit – but, in thinking about Her as fire, I think we need to remember the power She holds.
Fire is not gentle – it is harsh. Powerful. Uncontrollable. It destroys what it finds. We talk about fire as refining, but in fact it burns away much of what is not necessary – which is scary. And, often, painful.
But then, I thought about the potential it leaves.
Lava destroys, yes – but it doesn’t just burn things up into the atmosphere – it consumes them. Volcanic soil is some fo the most mineral-rich soil to grow in. The lava has condensed all of the nutrients of the material it eats, and gives a new place for growth. Lava flows create new land, literally making space where there wasn’t any before – making a way out of no way.
I think the Holy Spirit might be a bit like lava – like this hot magma, bubbling up from the very foundations of the earth, creating something new for us. There is something to be in awe of – and something to be cautious of – but also something to be inspired by.
In this church, I pray the Spirit moves like lava.
Last week, I went to Chicago, to visit Bree. I unplugged almost completely – I didn’t do work while I was there, resisting the urge to “get a jump” on some of the projects I’ve been working on. Instead, I committed to being in the moment with her — and enjoying the gift of our time together, after a couple of months apart.
I got to see where she is living, going to school, and working – I tend to be a visual / experiential person, so it meant a lot to me to be able to get a sense of the rhythm of her life.
Life can get really busy — and this job comes with a lot of challenges. I went almost immediately from school into ordination and then began work – and it is my first salaried job position. There has been a lot of change and adjusting!
On Sunday when I was with her, I sat in the pews of Our Savior’s Lutheran church, where she is serving – and I just got to be. I didn’t have any responsibilities, or things to remember — and I entered worship in a completely different way.
I felt God moving in the stillness that my mind and heart found – I was able to settle and not be concerned with what came next in the service. I do feel worship-full on Sundays here, but there is also often other stuff which pops into my head. It isn’t unusual for me to write little notes to myself on my bulletin – either about something in the service or about a new idea I have for next week. But, being in this church was different – because I wasn’t in charge of anything. I didn’t need to remember things – I could just sit, and be.
I am so grateful for this time away of rest and rejuvenation – and I so pray that this is part of what parishioners at St Peter’s experience. I pray that when you walk through the big blue doors you find yourself taken care of by someone else – and able to settle, and let go – and, in that stillness, I pray you feel God’s beautiful spirit rustling inside of you.
Yesterday, we went bowling with the St Peter’s youth group. This group is new – for middle and high school aged youth. We started with just three kids, at our first gathering – then five, at our second – and yesterday afternoon we had 11! I was excited to see such growth so quickly – although, we of course have a lot of room to continue growing.
Every time we get together, we do a short devotion. Last night, our devotion focused on Psalm 139 – reminding one another that we have been made in God’s image. We asked the youth to each come up with one thing they liked about themselves – and, though they eventually did, it was interesting to note how long it took for them to shift their thinking.
This is not applicable to youth alone – I know I, too, can find myself in patterns of destructive thinking. We get so used to thinking about what we are bad at – thinking of those things which others do better, or the ways that we don’t live up to our own impossible standards.
When is the last time you looked in the mirror, and affirmed the image of God? When is the last time you looked at yourself and thought, “I rock!”
This is not a call to pride or self-aggrandisement – and there is definitely something to be said for the humility it takes to see our own faults and flaws honestly – but, I think, much of the time, we forget to see the good we have in us – and we forget to affirm the God in us.
So, I give you the same thought that I gave to the youth – remember that you are valued and held by God, and made in God’s image.
Recently, I started back with my hula halau. I joined first when I was young – and was part of the halau for a few years, from ages 9-11 or so. Then, I got really busy at school, and wanted the flexibility to try out more after school activities – so I stepped back.
When I was in school, and away from home, I often thought about what it would be like to move back. I thought about what I would be able to do, and practice, of Hawaiian culture, which wasn’t available to me outside of Hawaii. Hula was one of the things I sometimes thought about – the discipline of it, and the commitment. I thought about the way that it connected me to being Hawaiian – to an embodiment of culture, in a certain way.
The practice of hula is hard. It’s hard to motivate myself to go, on a Wednesday evening, which makes my week feel long. It’s hard to be with people I don’t know very well yet, and to try to coordinate my hands and feet and hips to move independently of one another and yet stay coordinated and graceful. I leave class sweating, having worked my body and mind pretty intensely for an hour.
There is also something in it, though, which is profound, and deep, and meaningful. This is a practice which has been continued for hundreds of years. There is a line of ancestors who are dancers, who I can feel in the room with me, while I practice.
There is a softness that hula is teaching me – soft feet, soft hands – the practice of walking gently on the earth. It is teaching me, in part, to be softer with myself, forgiving for when I can’t get the choreography right. It is teaching me to allow my body to be soft. This world so often requires a harshness – and, especially as a young woman, I often feel I am walking out of my house and putting my game face on, armouring myself in some way for what might lie ahead. Inside of the classroom space, armour is shed – instead, a big skirt is put on, and movement is soft and fluid.
There is something spiritual in this practice, for me. This week I have begun working through the book “grounded in prayer”, which I am reading with our prayer circle. One of the reflections was about ways we might pray with our bodies – and hula is like that, for me.
It is my prayer.
There is something magical, something unexplainable, something Divine, that happens at the Eucharist. There is a mystery that exists beyond words when bread and wine are blessed, and God’s people are gathered. And, every Sunday, I get to be a part of that mystery.
At St. Peter’s, there is a beautiful tradition of using freshly baked, homemade bread for the Eucharist. This is offered by a parishioner, as his ministry – I can only imagine the time he must get up, the discipline and commitment it takes to do something every week, for months and years on end. I am grateful for this gift.
Every week, I help Pastor Diane to distribute the bread. I sink my fingers into the warm, soft bread, and tear off chunks (trying hard not to make them too big or too small), lift up the piece of bread and place it in the hands cupped before me, saying, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven”.
Sometimes, I look directly into people’s eyes. Sometimes they are searching my face for meaning, or smiling, or wanting to tell me they need a wafer or gluten free instead. Sometimes, their heads are down, deep in prayer. Sometimes, hands stay open after I place the bread – sometimes they close around this small pice of heaven on earth.
This Sunday, as I was moving from the end of the altar rail back to the beginning, I glanced up, and to the left. I saw, briefly, that an elder was coming up to the rail – and I saw another parishioner hold out her hand, with a smile on her face, beckoning to the space next to her, and inviting this kupuna up.
It was beautiful, and magical, and deeply moving. It, too, was a piece of heaven on earth.
Yesterday, I ran an adult forum on poetry, where I shared some of my favourite poets (Emily Dickinson, ee Cummings, Yehuda Amichai, Pauli Murray, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry), and we talked and thought about the ways that the Spirit moves in poetry. The classes were small, but I was touched by people sharing with me that they have written some poetry. Inspired by their bravery, I share here a poem I wrote in my Pauli Murray class last Spring.
For the first people, the voyagers, the star-gazers
The ones who traveled from Aotearoa
Using the currents and the skies
And settled in Hawaii, the land that was drawn up from the ocean by
Maui and his fishhook
Birthed from Papa and Wakea, earth mother and sky father
For the lahui everywhere who are learning to Ku’e
In speaking up for the right to ‘olelo Hawaii
In our own native land
For demanding the right to conduct state business
In the language of the first people
And refusing continual colonization
For the lahui who are bending their tongues
Learning again the wisdom of the ancestors
Learning again to empty our heads of the oppressor
So that we can return, and be filled,
With the wai we come from – with what is living water
Filled with salt
For the mana wahine who are protecting our lands
Standing in defiance of those who think that
Another telescope atop our mauna will bring them knowledge
Standing in crosswalks and in ceremony,
Connecting our people back to our sources
Remembering that we have all come from the water in our mother’s wombs
For the kane who are becoming warriors
Not by wielding weapons, or using violence
But by growing tall in your beliefs
And remembering the pride of our people
Refusing to believe that we were ignorant savages
And instead looking back to see our line of monarchy
For the mahu who are taking back your rights
Recalling the ceremony that is only yours
And rejecting the restrictions of a binary
We have a place for you, and we need you for the life of the people
Come, and take up your role here
For we are stronger when we march together
For those who ‘oli
Calling out to the past, present, future
Steeping us in our ancestors, in our kupuna
Singing the words that connect, and call, and summon
Calling forth our highest selves
And birthing a new generation
For the kalo farmers
Taking care of Haloa, the first human, stillborn
Who, when he was planted, turned into taro
Which is the food for the people
Wading through the muddy fields barefoot
And massaging Papa’s back
For the keiki
Who are growing up learning about the monarchs
Standing in ‘Iolani Palace, where our Queen was imprisoned
Becoming one with those who came before
Participating in the cycles of time,
Ready to rise
For the kanaka maoli and the keiki o ka ‘aina
May our land be one of peace
Let us remember those who came before,
Telling our stories and resisting those who would tell us that
Hawaii was a Sandwich Island,
Nothing until immigration.
May we remember not to only be humble, but also to be proud
For we come from a people not only gentle, but also strong
Fierce, beautiful warriors, who learned to live on the land
And use it as a mutual exchange, remembering the responsibility of ceremony
Remembering that we rise, together
For we belong to one another, and to the earth
May we remember.
Last weekend, my family was here in Honolulu, and they came to church. It was so lovely to have them there – both to share with them the place and people of St Peter’s, but also to share with my parishioners a bit more about myself – some of the crucial parts to my existence.
Placing people is important – I find I can more easily trust someone if I feel like they are transparent – if I know where they are coming from, and a bit about their life story. In Hawaii, this placement becomes even more important – it is about mo’oku’auhau – genealogy – about roots, and ancestors, and ‘ohana. It is a way to be connected – to figure out who is family to who, and the ways we already know each other.
My mama is the best at this kind of connection.
She holds the family history, able to form family within moments of being introduced. When she came to the final meeting of the book study, she did just that – figuring out that one of my parishioners was classmates with my Grandma.
This was true at St James, my sending parish, also – a woman who served on my discernment committee was a classmate of my Grandma. The world seems to get smaller and smaller.
I adored my Grandma. I knew her as Gramma Hawaii, which in my mind separated her from my paternal Granny Jenny – but when I think about it now, Gramma Hawaii spoke also to her warmth, her openness, her laughter. Everything I love about this place now was encapsulated in my Gramma – the sweet scent of flowers, the colourful environment, the warmth of the sun.
As my mama helped to draw that connection, I felt pulled in – knitted together, as part of a bigger
picture that only God could be the author of. Only God has the patient hands to weave threads of families together like this – to create beauty like this.
St. Peter’s is beginning to be not just my home, but my ‘ohana, too.
This morning I had to go and get my car safety checked. Well, it’s not really my car, it’s my dads (thank you, dad, for my transportation!) – please note that I was only a few days late with said safety check.
Last night, I was reading a devotion about the risk of relationships. It was talking about the given-ness of Jesus, what He was willing to risk, and what we are so often not willing to risk. We are so often afraid of failure, or afraid of being broken.
But, Jesus’ whole body is broken. He is broken for us, every Sunday, in communion.
Why does it scare us so much to be like Jesus?
A car safety check is, of course, a good idea – but ultimately, our safety cannot be in material, human goods. Safety must be found in the peace of God.
There is no “safety check” for relationships – no way to gauge risk, or prevent hurt from happening. Even if there is someone in your life who you think is low-stakes – say, for instance, a neighbor – it might still bother you if they don’t like you. It might still be something you care about.
So, as I wait for my car to go through the mechanical processes of being checked, and make sure it is safe for the road – I am thinking about the risk we take in human relationship, and the ways those risks make us better Christians.
The call of the gospel is not a safe one – and there is no assurance God gives that we won’t have pain. The assurance is that we will not be alone. The call of the gospel is one of relationship – to be drawn, deeper and deeper, into a transformational relationship with the living God – one that will change us and ask us to risk what we know.
Our safety lies in God alone.
As many of you who are reading from Hawaii know, last week we were put on a pretty severe Hurricane Warning / Watch, waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Lane. Lane, at it’s worst, was a Category 5 Hurricane – which, by the end of her slow movement, was downgraded to a tropical storm, and, though she left a lot of rain in her wake, and some fires on Maui, was altogether much less devastating than we feared she could be.
Now, I don’t know about you, reader, but I am NOT a patient person.
The process of waiting for Lane to arrive, as she slowed to a crawl of only 5 mph, was excruciating.
I was with my parents on the Big Island, which was expecting to get hit kind of hard. Fortunately where they are in Waimea was okay, save for some rain and some wind. As the rain would fall I would look up and ask, “is THIS it? is THIS the storm?” — there was an element of waiting for something dreadful to happen, both hoping it would hurry up so we could be done with it, and also wishing it wasn’t happening in the first place.
As I sat and thought about it, I was reminded of the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Waiting, for something dreadful to happen, that they didn’t really understand.
When Jesus asks his disciples to stay up and pray with him for awhile, they give in to their basic temptations and fall asleep. I have often read this verse and been critical of the disciples. “YOU GUYS!” I say in my head, “Jesus needs you! What’s the matter with you! You can’t even do this ONE THING?! Have a red bull or something, for goodness sake!” As you can see, I can be a kind of harsh judge. I fall in to the trap of presuming that if I were there, I would have done things differently.
In waiting out this Hurricane, I had to come face-to-face with some bold truth about myself: If I were there, I probably wouldn’t have done things differently. I probably couldn’t have.
One of the reasons that waiting through the hurricane was so odd for me, was that I wanted to just go back to normal. I wanted to ignore what was going on in the news, and ignore the rainfall, and just be in a routine. But, nothing was routine. Even going to Foodland felt strange – there was an air of anxiety around the store, and the empty water shelves proved the panic going around.
At one point, my sister and I got so stir crazy that we went to Longs, deciding to buy some cheap nail polish and face masks, to entertain ourselves. “You’re brave,” said the cashier, “to be out in the storm like this!”
The disciples, I think, are brave for even being in the garden of Gethsemane. I’ve never given them credit for how far they DID go with Jesus – only ever criticised them for what I saw as their lack. But before they fell short, they showed a whole lot of courage.
Waiting for something dreadful, which is beyond our understanding, can be very trying on the human spirit. While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I do think I walk away from Lane with some newly learned lessons.
Waiting, it turns out, can be brave.
I don’t know how many of you listen to the podcast “On Being” hosted by Krista Tippet (shout out to Bree who introduced me to the show and also highly recommend if you don’t listen already) – but one of the things she talks about a lot, and the show seeks to foster, is civic engagement and civil discourse.
These sound like really big words, but it basically actually talking to one another about the politics we hold – and remembering our manners while we have that conversation.
On Sunday, I held the second of our four-week study talking about Just Mercy, a book by Bryan Stevenson about prisoners on death row in Alabama. We have two groups – one after each service. The makeup of each group is different, and the conversations are really interesting.
On Sunday, we got into a bit of hot water. As you may imagine, talking about the death penalty, the racial injustice of our legal system, and what all of that means to our faith, can get pretty heated. Political ideologies begin to be expressed, whether we realise it or not. In my second group, there was a moment where I could feel the tension rise – there were some differing opinions, here – some strong convictions being challenged by the nature of the material.
And then, the most wonderful thing happened – the two who were beginning to get into a disagreement actually talked TO one another. They didn’t talk at one another – they didn’t fall into side conversations with the people next to them – they genuinely wanted to hear the other out, and to find common ground. Neither one dug their heels in unnecessarily, or got rude or snippy. No one else in the group jumped in to escalate, just stayed engaged with the process.
It was one of the most beautiful witnesses of Christian community I have seen. Ever. Some would argue that politics must stay out of the church – but I think part of our being, and being in this world, is political – so keeping it out of church all together is not offering a full welcome. Some would say that churches should strive towards political engagement, constantly talking about and advising members on the votes they should cast.
What I saw on Sunday was neither and both, at the same time. I think churches should be a place where we learn how to be civil to one another – where we are welcomed in the fullness of our ideologies and beliefs, challenged, and invited to grow. There isn’t an end goal – to get everyone to vote one way, but rather there is an invitation to be engaged with the process. To actually listen to a differing opinion, and to offer your own as well.
I pray for a world where we know more of this civility.
Last week, I was listening to Christian radio (which I know isn’t for everyone, but I really like sometimes), and heard a song called, “Dream Small”, by Josh Wilson. Something about it really struck me, and has been playing in my head ever since.
Chorus: Dream small, don’t buy the lie you’ve gotta do it all; just let Jesus use you where you are, one day at a time. Live well, loving God and others as yourself, find little ways that only you can help. With His great love, a tiny rock can make a giant fall – so dream small.
What I love about this song is the reminder it is to me – I can get so caught up in my own ideas of greatness. I buy into the largess of the world, thinking the only way to make a difference is in an extreme, or with intense popularity. This song reminds me that it is in the small things that lives are altered, and God works.
This weekend, the lectionary (track 2, at least), had us following the Israelites through the desert, complaining about their hunger and praying that God would grant them death rather than starving in the wilderness.
I found themes of being held in bondage because of fear of the unknown; of God’s provision; of the ways that God provides – and another theme could be added to this list – the small ways in which life is made bearable, and God is made known. Far be it from me to call any miracle small, or to proclaim it less important – but the manna that is provided also has a feeling of simplicity. God doesn’t create a banquet with flowing wine and all of the produce that the Israelites wanted – rather, God gives them manna and quails – bread and meat – which is what they need to survive.
Another theme in this story is the reluctance that we have to rely on God. The world can tell such a convincing lie, that each man must be an island, and that we must be self-sufficient, self-reliant, capable and independent. The chorus of this song reminds me that, in fact, God is a present aid and is there to help, even in what seems small.
Through God’s love, even tiny things can be used for good, and to make positive change and impact in the world.
I am learning, imperfectly, how to take sabbath.
One of the funny paradoxes about this job is that Sunday, which is traditionally the day of rest, the sabbath day – becomes a work day. And not just any workday – but perhaps the most important of the whole week. So, the day that God set aside to rest on, and that we are commanded to keep holy – is the heaviest work day of all for those who have taken vows of ordination.
I surely hope God doesn’t mind that I take my Sabbath, my day off, on Monday.
This day off puts me at odds with many of my peers. For most of the employed world, Monday is the beginning of the week, so there aren’t usually many people to call and hang out with. I’ve usually gone to the farmer’s market on Saturday, so there often isn’t a need to run grocery errands and whatnot. Instead, as is the case with yesterday’s sabbath, I have the opportunity to simply sit, and be, alone.
This is harder than it may seem.
I love the idea of alone time. I love the idea of a peaceful morning, spent doing little else than drinking a cup of coffee and catching up reading the Sunday New York Times, a day late. However, in practice, I get antsy. I sit down to read but realise the fridge could be cleaned out, and set to work doing that. Perhaps then I’m too hot to sit still, so I go downstairs and dip in the pool. Then I get lonely and bored, so call my sister in Seattle. Then, I’m hungry for lunch but can’t make decisions so just keep snacking on things. And on and on and on. . .
Now, none of these things are antithetical to keeping sabbath. There are no rules or prohibitions on what the day of rest looks like – only that it is kept a day of rest. And, sometimes, I can take this rest while running errands and doing laundry. And, sometimes, even if I am sitting still at home my mind is racing and antsy and hasn’t found rest.
What I am learning, ever so slowly, is that sabbath is much more about state of mind than it is about activity or lack thereof. There seems to be a mixture of needs to be met on a sabbath day – needs for my own health (sleep, exercise), needs for preparation and responsibility (mail, groceries, laundry), and need for sabbath (some kind of spiritual retreat to mountaintop which will sustain me in my work). Sometimes I find the mix easier to handle than other times – and sometimes, like yesterday, I just can’t seem to actually unplug. I kept checking my emails and answering them, which is decidedly anti-sabbath.
But, I had this one moment – in the early evening, Bree and I sat outside on the porch, and chatted about discernment. I sipped a glass of wine and we talked about the summer, and her going to Chicago in the fall, and how we follow our calls, and some other, less serious things, too. It was the kind of chat where you just mull things over together – happy for the company but not dependant on it.
For those moments, I experienced a sabbath. I had a moment where I just rested – where I simply was, with God, recognising God. In the moments when I can find it, sabbath is a beautiful gift. And perhaps, for now, all I need is the moments.
Last week in Bible study, as we looked at the lectionary, there was a clear shepherding theme. Pastor Diane explained how commonplace shepherding was to the community that Jesus was preaching to – and yet, how foreign it can be to us.
As some of you know, I spent a year and a little bit more working on my mom’s farm, which, in fact, did have sheep. So, this idea isn’t completely foreign to me – even as I recognise the vast difference between pastured animals on a spot of land, and wandering as a shepherd with a flock.
But, I digress.
As we were in Bible study, Pastor Diane wondered aloud what the equivalent imagery would be, particularly in the context of Hawaii. She mentioned the pidgin translation of the bible, and we thought how different translation and contextualisation could be. Perhaps, then, this would be the image of the paniolo – caring for herds of cattle.
Once I started thinking about it, though, I was intrigued – what would the Native Hawaiian version of this be? What is the Indigenous contextualisation of sheep / shepherd imagery?
I think it would be kalo. In Hawaiian culture, kalo is a physical manifestation of the first human, Haloa, who was born of Papa and Wakea. Haloa was a stillborn, and when he was buried he grew into taro, or kalo. Kalo is, then, much more than a plant – but rather a living and breathing relative. An elder brother, who takes care of us through his own life. The kalo farmer must know his own plants – he must know how old they are, and tend to them. He must be careful not to seperate the keiki, the offshoots, before the plant is old enough.
Perhaps Jesus is the good kalo farmer, and we are the kalo – living our lives seeking to care for God’s people.
Last week, I was talking to Pastor Diane about the declining numbers in church membership (not just as something affecting St Peter’s, but as an overall trend).
She commented that there are so many people who subscribe to the, “spiritual but not religious” category. And we got into a discussion – why do people need to go to church anyway? What is it that happens there that can’t be done alone?
I’m sure there are a bunch of different ways to answer this question. I’ve heard an argument before that you have to go to church to receive communion – it’s something only a priest can do. I don’t agree with this. I believe strongly in the priesthood of all believers, and think Eucharist happens all the time — whenever we break bread around a table, whether there are two people or dozens.
Some would say that the ritual of church is needed to connect us to the ones who have gone before. While I recognise the impact this has on me, and the ways it connects me to my ancestors, I also don’t think church is the only place you can do this.
In the end, I think church is important because of the community of it. Where else, in life, is it possible to have so many people gathered together in a singular experience?
I thought, then, about protests – and the ways that civic engagement of that kind connects us with one another. I thought about how everyone is going through the same physical motions – whether that is marching with one another, or chanting together, or wearing the same color.
At church, there are some parts of the liturgy which encourage this. When we recite together – say, the words of the Nicene Creed, or the confession of sin – our breath becomes uniform, and we are cohesive.
When we sing together, we are also united. Breath comes at the end of musical phrases, as a punctuation. This isn’t about the beauty of your voice, the ability to harmonise or even be in the right key. It is about, instead, a willingness to participate – a willingness to contribute individually to a greater collective.
In church, our very breath connects us, spiritually, to one another. We are able to be present with one another, to feel a unity, that we don’t usually experience. We are given the opportunity to journey together, and break through the isolation which can otherwise overwhelm.
Church is where we can truly breathe.
Last week, before we ate together, Bree and I bowed our heads – and then there was a moment of silence. Usually, somewhat organically, one of us will say a short grace. Now that I want to explain it, I don’t think there was a moment where we decided this would be our pattern – It just seemed to naturally emerge. After all, we met one another in seminary – perhaps it was a given.
But, that night, it wasn’t. We sat there in silence, until I opened by eyelid and peeked at her. We were both tired, from long days at work. I think I felt like there was nothing to say. My day had been ordinary – no big God moment, or standing in recognition of the holy. And our dinner was simple – leftovers we each had pulled from the fridge. It didn’t feel like much needed to be said.
So, it got me thinking about prayer – do we pray for us, or for God? Why do we do it? What does it do, to us? to the world? to the relationships that happen around it?
Prayer is for God, yes – but I am sure that more than my prayers shaping the actions of an all-knowing, compassionate God, my prayers shape me. They shape me into a person who recognises the holy – one whose vision has perhaps been fine-tuned towards the Divine. Prayer is itself an action, and it leads me into further action – it helps me to reflect on where I see God, and to go towards that light, towards that promised kin-dom.
Last night as I bowed my head, I had no poetic slurry of words. Instead, I began by saying, thank you. And I followed with things for which I am thankful. For family, for these delicious tomatoes, for tax documents prepared by someone else, for food filling my fridge, for seeing friends, for a car. . . Once I began, I had quite a lot to say. I think this is how prayer is shaping me — not such that I won’t ever sit in silence, for there is holiness and wisdom in that, as well — but such that I never feel as if a day is only “ordinary”, and needs no words of gratitude.
I am still learning.
I have a story to tell.
Last week, after I was finished with my work day, Bree (my girlfriend) asked if I would be interested in an evening stroll together. While I was tired, I agreed, because it was a lovely invitation, and I wanted to spend some dedicated time together. While we walked, I asked her if we could talk about the lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, because I was leading Bible study the next day.
So, we were walking and talking about last week’s long gospel reading, where there are so many characters and so much going on – and we were talking about how even though each of the people in the story are talking to Jesus, none of them are talking to eachother. We were thinking aloud about connection, and people, and how we can get wrapped up in our own stuff. . .
and we walked past a woman who was kneeling down by her car. When we had turned the corner, I said, “Shoot. It looked like her tire was flat”. Bree replied, “What? really? Oh, let’s go back and help her – I know how to change a tire”. At this, I began to backtrack a bit – “Oh, maybe that isn’t what happened, it just looked like her tire was flat maybe, but I don’t know how to fix that”. . . to which my capable girlfriend responded, “I do”.
So, we turned around, walking right back down the street we had just passed. Bree asked if the young woman needed help, and she said yes – and they set to work. I did little else except for feel incredulous as they talked about lug-nuts and car-jacks (things I clearly know nothing about). I helped at one point to take the screw thingies off the old tire, and roll the new one to where their capable hands took over.
As we worked, the woman shared that she had a rough week. One thing after another, she said, without detailing anything. I hoped we offered some solace. When the task was over, we waved goodbye – no fanfare, exchange of numbers, or hugging – the job was over, and we walked on.
But, a week later, I find myself still mulling this story over. Were we compelled to return because we were talking about the gospel? Did we miss her in the first place because we were talking about theology? One thing I do know – if either of us had been alone I don’t think we would’ve turned around. I needed to notice, and Bree needed to offer her skills – and the woman needed to be willing to accept help from strangers.
Kindness – it might be as simple as doing what you can, when you can. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Prepping the Soil and the Soul
This week, I began working, in earnest, on the small garden behind the parish hall. I had seen the beds, and knew what needed to be done. The soil was depleted, and the beds messy. I thought it would be best to pull out what was there, turn the earth, and add in some soil conditioner and compost, adding nutrients to the dirt, making it a more hospitable environment for produce to grow in.
So, knowing what needed to be done, I set to work – pulling out weeds and saving some garlic chives, rosemary, and curry leaf – in hopes that some church folks would be able to use them and take them home. The work was monotonous, and as the sun beat down I realised I didn’t in fact want to take out the curry leaf tree – it was providing the only shade I had, and I liked it.
As I repeatedly bent and pulled, and raked through the roots, pulling them out of the beds – I thought about my own stubbornness. I am very headstrong, and as I worked to uproot the chives, I got frustrated that they were at least as headstrong as I. I wondered, then, if the work I was doing outwardly might mirror the work I was attempting inwardly.
I have come to St. Peter’s with no agenda, other than to live into this calling I have felt in my life since I was a young child. I have a contract which outlines some basic ministries I might become involved in, but there is so much more to ministry, so much more to the life of God’s spirit, than can be placed on a piece of paper.
So, my prayer in the garden became – prepare my soul as soil. Uproot what once was there, to re-invigorate, and bring new life, to these beds. Add to that which has been depleted, and bring new, hopeful shoots, to the surface – stretching their heads towards the sun, and finding the light in this new place. Amen.
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