Special Edition Supplement to The Church News From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Inside this issue: Nearly Converted - The Rt. Rev. David Reed 3 Stages of Conversion - The Rev. Mary Earle and Syliva Maddox A Lifelong Process - The Rev. Dr. John Lewis The Bath: A Reflection on the Prodigal Son - The Rev. Mike Marsh Living the Questions - Carla Pineda
www.dwtx.org A Special Edition supplement to The Church News family of publications Vol. 67 No. 3
In this issue
Focus: Conver sion
4 Three Stages of Conversion 12 A Lifelong Process
16 The Bath: A Reflection on The Prodigal Son 18 Living the Questions
In Every Issue 3 From the Editor – Revelation Then and Now 7 Practices – Finding God Moments Culturas – 6 Heaven on Display 9 Holy Ground 10 New Church Prodigy 11 Quick Interview – Wayne Mudge, Flying Angel 14 Perspectives – Marked as Christ’s Own 20 Musts – To Read, Visit, See 22 Workshops, Seminars & Retreats – Go and Do 24 Notes from the Diaper Pail - The Journey Continues 25 Reflections from Retirement – When the Light Turns Read 26 Prose & Poetry – Amidst the Sea and Barcelona Watch 27 The Last Word – Nearly Converted
Every issue of Reflections will be posted on the diocesan website at www.dwtx.org/blog.You can read the full issue and/or respond to individual articles.
Spring/Summer 2009 Published by Department of Communications Episcopal Diocese of West Texas P. O. Box 6885 San Antonio, Texas 78209 www.dwtx.org Editor, Marjorie E. George E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial assistants: Barbara Duffield Kelly Harris Layout & design: Emmet Faulk, Jr. The Diocese of West Texas is A family of 27,000 members in 90 congregations across 60 counties and 69,000 square miles in South Central Texas. Bishop of West Texas: The Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge Bishop Suffragan: The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed Offices are at: The Bishop Jones Center 111 Torcido Dr. San Antonio, Texas, 78209 Telephone: 210/888-824-5387 THE CHURCH NEWS (USPS 661-790) is published four times yearly – Jan, Mar, July, Sept with 2 Special Supplement Editions in May and November by The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, P O Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209. Periodicals postage paid at San Antonio TX. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, P O Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209.
Reflections is published as a special edition supplement to The Church News by The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and invites readers from every denomination or no denomiation. To subscribe (there is no charge) send name, address, and e-mail address to email@example.com or Diocese of West Texas, Attn: Barbara Duffield, P O Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209. In 2010, Reflections will be mailed twice: in May and November. The Church News will continue to be mailed in January, March, July, and September.
from The Editor Revelation Then and Now
hey went fishing. The coup had failed, the revolution was over, their leader had been killed, and they had to do something, so they did what they knew how to do – they went fishing. (See John 21:3-8 for the full report.) They spent all night at it and – more misery – caught nothing. Then this stranger showed up on the shore to give them advice: “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.” Oh, sure. It was John who recognized him. At some heartlevel, gut-level, John knew him and proclaimed it to the others: “It is the Lord!” Peter got so excited he jumped into the sea. Scripture does not record what Jesus looked like at that point. Had he changed his clothes? Shaved off his beard? We don’t know. We do know that they didn’t recognize him and then they did. Why? Because (my theory) they had spent time with him. They had spent three years learning his ways, getting used to how he talked, figuring out what he meant when he said this or that. I think of the people with whom I have been in long relationships – how we know what the other will say before the other says it. The way in which we can predict how the other will react in a certain situation. What the sigh or the smirk means – no explanation needed. We know each other because we have spent time with each other. Every practitioner of Christianity will tell you that if you want to know God, you need to spend time with him in prayer, in study of Scripture, and as part of a worshipping community. God is available to everyone, but those who see him are likely to have been looking for him. In his book Finding the Way Again, Brian McLaren points out that the gift of God’s revelation never stops being a gift, “But the gift ‘happens’ to those who are practiced in ways it doesn’t typically happen to those who aren’t,” says McLaren.
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But notice another thing about the fishing story; notice that the disciples recognized God in their ordinary lives, doing what they ordinarily did. Christ was showing them what they were to do next ‑ take him into their commonplace, regular, day-to-day lives. The extended retreat, training, miraculousrevelation period was over; the disciples had to go back to work, although it would be a new kind of work, and they would see him there, too. As they shared a meal or walked down the streets of a dusty town, Christ would reveal himself. And they would see him because they knew him. They would know him because they had seen him. If we want to be showered with God’s grace, we may have to stand in the rain with the umbrella closed and our eyes fixed on heaven. We may have to feel the rain, taste the rain, get soaking wet. Immersion Christianity. But revelation is always accompanied by a call to move forward, usually right where we find ourselves in life. So we also have to come inside and dry off and get on with our lives. Jesus revealed himself to the disciples and fed them breakfast – fish on the barbie. Then he repeated the call they had learned from him oh-sowell: follow me into the rest of your life. Lord, help me to heed the same call, and to know it when I hear it.
Reach Marjorie at firstname.lastname@example.org or respond to this article on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
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Three Stages of Conversion In a recent conversation, the Rev. Mary Earle and Sylvia Maddox – both of whom are actively involved in speaking, writing, teaching, and leading retreats on spiritual formation – talked about three stages of conversion. “Three stages?” we said. “Yes,” said Mary, “although it’s not linear; more like three aspects of conversion – intellectual, moral, and spiritual.” And so our discussion began. Join in as Mary and Sylvia speak about their own experiences in living a converted life. Mary: My first experience with intellectual conversion was in a junior high school chemistry class. Mr. Mickey was teaching about the periodic table of elements. All of sudden, I saw it. I saw that there is a design to the world that we humans had nothing to do with. There is an order and plan that is not of man’s making. I don’t think I talked to anyone else about it at the time, but that was a seminal moment of formation for me, and I have repeated the story many times in my adult life. Sylvia: Conversion is sometimes like that – a startling encounter that knocks us over. It can also be more of an enticing of us to go deeper. My most profound conversion was later in life and surprised me. Coming from a strong moral and devotional formation, I thought intellectual conversion was the call. Then one day I heard the voice of Christ say, “Let go of the things you are holding for yourself, even your ideas about faith. Hold fast to nothing but my love.” On that day I learned the meaning of emptying, and I knew at that moment there was no turning back. Surrender was my conversion. Mary: Right. And always it is initiated by God. I had not been looking for a moment close to Christ in that chemistry class. But it reoriented me. It proclaimed the greatness of the Lord rather than the greatness of me, although I am not sure I would have said it that way at the time. Sylvia: Sometimes there is an aspect of disorientation in conversion. We thought we had one orientation, but then that leads to disorientation that leads to
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a different orientation. Conversion is a turning – it is always grace. Mary: And there is always an assent aspect – a “yes, with God’s help.” So our intellect is involved. Intellect is Godgiven; conversions allow the intellect to flourish and be fruitful. The faithful intellect is always open to God’s movement. Sylvia: The Christian life is a life of continual conversion. Yes, The Rev. Mary Earle Peter was called and immediately dropped his nets and followed Jesus. But we also see the many turns in Peter’s life, the falling away and coming back, the denying and repenting. When we say yes to the call, we are opening ourselves to the ways of the Spirit. To be mindful of the ways and places the Spirit draws our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. Conversion always leads to discipleship. Mary: And it is not a cakewalk. A friend of mine was in a group studying the psalms and they were all crooning Sylvia Maddox over the loveliness and the gentleness of the psalms and my friend said, “Wait a minute. It wasn’t just lovely and gentle for me. I was convicted by a verse in this psalm, and I have to go and forgive someone.” So sometimes conversion is painful. Sylvia: And that can lead to moral conversion. I think of Oscar Romero and the moral conversion he underwent when he began to learn of the abuses and injustices of the San Salvadoran government. Conversion can be a moral response to the poverty and suffering we see before us. Because it all comes from God and all belongs to God. There is a growing awareness, an obligation in the deep sense, that we are all tied together in Christ.
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Sylvia: Conversion has been described by Sally McFague as life on the edge of a raft. We have to be willing to make continual changes. Mary: Thomas Merton says it is putting ourselves where we are willing to be willing to change. The Prayer Book calls it “amendment of life.” Mary: Eucharist is the pattern. All of life is Eucharist – taking, breaking, blessing, distributing. Where we fall short is in the distribution. When our son was very sick with cancer, he fortunately had excellent medical insurance because the medicine was very expensive. But we would go to pick up his medicine at “Conversion is not the cancer merely a change or even a center and development; rather it is a watch families having radical transformation on which to make follows, on all levels of living, an wrenching interlocked series of changes decisions and developments. What about what hitherto was unnoticed becomes they would vivid and present. What had have to give been of no concern becomes up or whether a matter of high import.” they could --Bernard Lonergan even afford that medicine for their loved one. Conversion wakes us to the solidarity that is always there. Sylvia: Conversion is when formation turns into transformation. You think you have it all down, and then one day you see it in its fullness. At some point you say, “Now I know.” It’s not a 180-degree turn; it’s a turn on a curve, lots of turns on lots of curves, an ongoing willingness to make these little turns toward Christ. Mary: In the early Church, this moral conversion was a piece of spiritual conversion. You could not be spiritual without being moral, and you could not be moral without being spiritual. Your moral theology was the gospel continued on page 6
Three Stages of Conversion from page 5 theology of sharing, of caring for the widows and orphans. Mary: Conversion is always about community and always about some change in orientation. Look at our baptismal vows – they go from individual to cosmic. In order to be a person, we have to be more than ourselves. As Episcopalians we are given the assurance that Christ is revealed in the breaking of the bread, in the community of the faithful gathered. In the broken bread of the life of the community, the shared stories lead to conversion experiences. Sylvia: The blessing is that it is always God who initiates. The Call to conversion comes from God. We cannot make it happen. Our part is to be open, to be willing and to put ourselves in places where we will be found. We have to be mindful of our formation by prayer, engaging with Scripture, being part of a worshipping community. Mary: And at different times in our life we might feel God is calling us to something new. The way to find out is to try it on. God may be calling forth what is already within us.
Reach Mary Earle at email@example.com and Sylvia Maddox at SYLMADDOX@aol.com or respond to this article on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
Heaven on Display
he collection makes a grandmother salivate. Little t-shirts and burp cloths and onesies – all decorated with froggies and turtles and long-necked giraffes. And, get this, they have on them Scripture quotes and inspirational words. Where is my checkbook? The products are the brainchild of Kimberly Brown, herself a mom and clergy wife. The display only happens once a year at Diocesan Council. At other times, you can find Brown’s “Heavenly Wear” line in boutiques and specialty stores – so far, in 150 stores in 18 states plus Canada. “The whole idea grew out of the children’s store we had when we lived in Boerne,” explains Brown. Her husband, Scott, was chaplain at TMI-The Episcopal School of Texas at the time, before being called as rector of St. Alban’s, Harlingen, in 2007. “So I decided to move into wholesale,” says Kimberly. “The designs and artwork are all mine. I create new ones every six months and have them screen-printed onto the garments.”
Kimberly Brown (R) at her booth during Council 2010. are inspirational children’s products done very well,” says Kimberly. But it’s more than selling clothes. “I want a tired mom to glance down at a message on her baby’s t-shirt or gown and feel a little inspiration.” Drawing from his own inspiration, Scott has recently written a children’s book, Just Where Does God Live? illustrated by Enedina Vasquez that has sold over 1,800 copies. Many of the shops that carry Kimberly’s line have also taken Scott’s book. “Scott and I say we don’t have a product to sell, we have a message to spread,” says Kimberly. “We are bombarded every day with stuff we don’t need to see. I want moms to see this,” adds Kimberly. And what better deliverer of good news than in the person of an innocent baby. Want to know more about Heavenly Wear? Visit their website at www.heavenlywear.com.
“What I want to present
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Practices Finding God Moments
n his book Finding Our Way Again, Brian McLaren speaks of the value of spiritual practices. Experiencing God, he says, is a gift that is available to everyone; but it is more likely to “happen” to those who spend time putting themselves in God’s presence. In their conversation (see page 4 in this issue) Mary Earle and Sylvia Maddox remind us that formation leads to transformation, and they both suggest that conversion is a continuing reorientation to seeing God in new ways. McLaren lists several spiritual practices that, he says, “are means by which we become prepared for grace to surprise us. They are ways of opening our hands so that we can receive the gifts God wants to give us.” While there is no single authoritative list of spiritual practices, McLaren says, most lists generally include those given here. Not everyone will resonate with all of these practices. Try these on one at a time and see how they fit. If one does not fit you – does not feel right after you have practiced it for a while – take it off and try something else. The goal of spiritual practices is not to become better at the practice itself, but to open up a little God-space in one���s life.
McLaren says that “lists like these should be seen as options available to us, not as requirements imposed on us. They could be compared to the exercise equipment we find at a health club. They’re not the only ways to get exercise, but they’re inventions of the community of faith that has been at this for a long time, tools available to us to help us develop our potential.” Solitude, Sabbath, and Silence: Resting in the presence of God, without work or speech, so one becomes more aware of the companionship, grace, and love of God than one has been of the companionship, demands, and duties associated with other people. Spiritual Reading and Study: Exercising the mind to love God through the reading and study of Scripture and other spiritual literature. Spiritual Direction or Spiritual Friendship: In privacy and confidentiality, opening one’s inner life to a mentor or peer to gain guidance, accountability, and encouragement in the spiritual journey. Practicing God’s Presence: Learning to be aware of God as constant companion, staying in constant contact with God, living with one’s spiritual windows and doors open to God. Fixed-Hour Prayer: “Stealing away,” as the old songs say, at certain points in the day to be in contact with God through common prayers. Prayer Journaling: Writing prayers and keeping them for future review. continued on page 8
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Finding God Moments
McLaren says that “lists like these should be seen as options available to us, not as requirements imposed on us. They could be compared to the exercise equipment we find at a health club. They’re not the only ways to get exercise, but they’re inventions of the community of faith that has been at this for a long time, tools available to us to help us develop our potential.” from page 7 Contemplative Prayer: Practicing a kind of prayer that culminates in silent attentiveness to God, a prayer that is about listening and receiving rather than speaking and expressing.
bering of special events or meanings and provide members of a faith community with a special encouragement to engage in specified spiritual practices.
Service and Generosity: Serving and giving to others anonymously so that, in the spirit of “your left hand not knowing what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3), those being served don’t know who served them, and they receive a true gift – one that carries with it no strings of obligation to say thanks or repay the favor.
Submission: Decisively accepting the limitations set by a fall ible human being or an unpleasant situation as a way of weakening selfwill and pride.
Simplicity and Slowness: Resisting the pull of complexity, acquisition, consumption, and hurry through deliberately choosing a simple and slow life in dress, eating, transportat ion, technology, speech, and so on. Fasting and Self-Denial: Reducing the consumption of food or other pleasures as a way of strengthening spiritual health and resolve – often on certain days imbued by the faith com munity with certain meanings. Feasting and Celebration: Increasing the consumption of food or other pleasures as a way of strengthening spiritual health and joy – often on certain days imbued by the faith community with certain meanings. Holy Days and Seasons: Observing special days and seasons that interrupt the normalcy and regularity of daily life with intensity. These special days or seasons stimulate the remem
Gratitude: Counting one’s resisting the tendency to turn entitlements or take blessings through table grace and other
blessings and blessings into for granted, forms of prayer.
Meditation and Memorization: Holding a truth in the mind through non-anxious concentration so that it can be savored and rooted deeply and accessible to memory in the stress and struggle of daily life. To this list we would add regular worship in a community of faith, mindful of Mary Earle’s statement that, “As Episcopalians we are given the assurance that Christ is revealed in the breaking of the bread, in the community of the faithful gathered. In the broken bread of the life of the community, the shared stories lead to conversion experiences.”
From Finding Our Way Again by Brian McLaren. Pages 94-97. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville TN, 2008. Respond to this article on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
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hen Justin, a soldier serving in Iraq, gets up every morning, the first thing his feet stand on is a little piece of holy ground. It’s a small “prayer rug” – actually a sturdy dish towel/place mat – that has been blessed by the congregation at St. Paul’s, San Antonio. Its purpose is to remind Justin that God is with him, and the people of St. Paul’s are praying for him. Justin is one of three service men or women who have been sent off to Iraq/ Afghanistan with this gift from
hands-on blessing from the rector or assistant rector at St. Paul’s, and each of them was presented with the prayer rug, which was blessed during a church service.
The congregation of St. Paul’s, San Antonio, blesses the “prayer rug” for a parishioner deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan.
The idea came from Vietnam veteran and St. Paul’s member Carl Reicherzer. “A buddy of mine who was in my same unit in Vietnam came up with the idea of sending soldiers off with a little piece of home to stand on every day before they set feet on alien soil,” says Reicherzer. “I thought, ‘let’s make it holy ground by blessing it first.’”
man. “The young woman e-mailed us after she arrived in Iraq and said she put the rug on her night stand where she used it to say prayers morning and night. She said she always thinks of St. Paul’s,” says Reicherzer. Justin, who is likely still deployed, was the third recipient, although the parish has lost contact with him.
Reicherzer, who served as a Navy Seabee in Vietnam, knows whereof he speaks. “Every time we send one of these soldiers off, it breaks my heart to think of where they are headed and the dangers they face,” he says. James and his parents at St. Paul’s, San Antonio.
St. Paul’s. The men and women had been stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio before their deployment and had worshipped with the St. Paul’s congregation. Before leaving the states, each received a
In addition to the prayer rug practice, St. Paul’s also regularly sends care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A young man named James was the first to receive a blessed cloth in 2007. His parents were with him at St. Paul’s the day the rug was blessed, the same day James was deployed. The second prayer rug was sent with a young woman, and the third with another young
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St. Paul’s, which is located just across the street from Fort Sam Houston, was founded in 1883 largely to serve the military population. In sending soldiers off with a piece of holy ground, they are continuing to be the community they were formed to be.
If you want to know more about this idea, contact Carl Reicherzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Culturas A New Church Prodigy
hat is a church family to do when their beloved organist of 18 years dies unexpectedly? Aside from the very real grief of a loss in the family, the particulars of finding someone to fill that important position is not an easy task, as the Rev. Mike Marsh, rector of St. Philip’s, Uvalde, knows well. “There aren’t many organists out there these days,” Marsh says. “And there are even fewer in a town the size of Uvalde.” The problem was not an insurmountable one, however, as Marsh soon discovered. A member of the church, Thomas Steigerwald, had taken piano lessons for a number of years and said he thought he could take on the job. The surprising part, according to Marsh, was that Steigerwald was only 16 years old – younger by two years than the tenure of the former organist. Marsh says, “One day Thomas came to me and said, ‘I think I could do that.’ He is home schooled, so I gave him a key to the church and told him to come in and practice when he wanted and then to let me know when he thought he was ready to play and we’d see what he could do.” Marsh says that he wasn’t sure what would come of
it, but Steigerwald left the meeting and set about teaching himself how to translate his years of piano lessons to the organ. A month later he came to Marsh and said he was ready to play. Marsh listened to him, and he was hired immediately. “We didn’t have a choir director, either,” Marsh says, “but Thomas thought he could probably do that too.” The young man plays at Uvalde High School as accompanist for their choirs and has picked up a few tricks there apparently, as he serves now both as choir director and organist for the church. Steigerwald is the second youngest of four children in a family of musicians. “My oldest brother is a student at UT studying piano under Anton Nel there. I hope I can study under him one day,” says Steigerwald. The next older brother sings, and their younger sister plays the piano. “She plays for the Presbyterian church once a month when their organist isn’t there,” says Steigerwald. With a weekly trip from Uvalde to San Antonio for a two-hour piano lesson, time for choir practice and Sundaymorning worship, Steigerwald’s free time is very limited. “I like to do something outside when I have time; I have
Thomas Steigerwald at his post as organist at St. Philip’s, Uvalde.
friends I play Frisbee with a couple of hours a week – we’re pretty competitive,” he says. He likes to hike and fish, “But there’s not much time for it right now.” Steigerwald has recently won both state and regional musical competitions for students in grades 11 and 12. He went to Albuquerque in March to perform at the Music Teachers National Association competition. “He just turned 17,” says Marsh, “so I am afraid we won’t have him for long before he goes off to college. The good thing is that he has a sister who is 14 and also plays.” It may be a long time before the Rev. Mike Marsh has to find another organist.
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Quick Interview Wayne Mudge loves to do two things: fly airplanes and help people. For 30 years, Mudge flew airplanes for the U. S. Air Force; today his flights are of a quieter, gentler sort. About once a month, you will find Mudge in his Beechcraft Bonanza 36 flying ill people around the state and beyond as part of Angel Flight. Reflections recently visited with Mudge about his passion.
R: How does Angel Flight work? WM: Patients post their need on the Angel Flight website and pilots sign up to take the flight. Typically it will be a cancer patient living in San Antonio or the Valley or Abilene who needs transportation to a treatment facility. M. D. Anderson in Houston is a frequent route. Sometimes a pilot will take one leg of flight – Abilene to Dallas, for instance – then another pilot will pick up in Dallas and do the rest of the flight.
Like the Pony Express? WM: Exactly. We tend to stay in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
R: And who are these pilots? WM: Just people like me who love to fly and want to help. There are minimum requirements for pilots, but we don’t have to be instrument-rated.
R: Is there a cost to the patient? WM: No, Angel Flight and the pilots bear all the costs. I use my own plane and pay for the gas. It costs me about $110 an hour to fly my plane, so I am limited in how often I can pick up a trip. I try to do one a month.
R: So, do you end up flying the same patient several
times? Can you build relationships with them? WM: Sometimes that does happen. But even if it’s someone you never met before, it’s a small plane and a long trip, so you talk. I picked up a young man with cancer once – he was covered in piercings and tattoos, and he didn’t say much. Suddenly, he tapped me on the shoulder and looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, “I’m only 23 years old.” Faith tends to come into those kinds of conversations.
Gary and Janet Matthews from Monahans TX are two of Wayne Mudge’s latest transports. Gary was told two years ago he would probably die in four months. His cancer is not curable, but it is treatable. The flight with Mudge was their 13th Angel Flight to M. D. Anderson in Houston.
“We cannot interpret the conversion and renewal of a person merely in terms of a relationship between that person and God, to the exclusion of any relationship with his brothers and sisters.” --Karl Barth
R: It sounds rewarding. WM: I am happiest when I’m in the clouds. It’s a spiritual experience every time I fly. And it’s hard to be angry at life when you know you are helping someone. I have been unbelievably blessed – how can I not give back? Wayne Mudge is a member of St. Matthew’s, Universal City. Contact him at email@example.com. For more information on Angel Flight, visit their website at www.angelflightsc.org.
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
A Lifelong Process by The Rev. Dr. John Lewis
have no idea when my “conversion” took place. Like most of us who are lifelong Episcopalians, I was baptized as an infant and have more or less gone to church my entire life – sometimes regularly for years and sometimes not at all. From what I can tell, that part of my story is not unique. Another part of my story is not unique. My “faith” has grown over time as friends have given themselves generously to disciple me in the ways of Christ and to help me recognize those special moments when God’s life-giving power breaks into the present time. Through my friends’ careful planting, watering, pruning, fertilizing, and nurturing, my once ever-so-tiny mustard seed of “faith” has grown into a more mature tree that signifies the present state of my life in Christ. How does growth in “faith” take place? “Faith” is never static. It ebbs and flows with the tides of life. In the New Testament, the English noun “faith” and the English verb “to believe” are both rooted in the important family of Greek words that begin with pist-. In the first-century world of the New Testament, this Greek word-group was closely linked with the art of rhetoric, or public persuasion. The rhetorical goal of a public speaker was to persuade people of something. The one who is persuaded by ever-mounting evidence of various types develops confidence in what the speaker
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is advocating. This confidence that comes through a process of persuasion is the Greek word “pistis,” usually translated as faith, trust, or belief. When we become confident that something is true, we necessarily act upon that confidence. To have Christian “faith” is to be persuaded – to become confident over time – that living Christ’s pattern of self-giving love for others in daily life leads to many experiences of that abundant life promised by God. How does this process of persuasion that leads to confidence or “faith” unfold? One’s “faith” or confidence builds over time as we learn to recognize “God moments” – those particular experiences when the life-giving power of God changes our life and the lives of those around us. Let me give you an example. Sherry was deeply concerned about whether she was going to have to dismiss a longtime employee whose quality of work had grown more and more unacceptable. She also wanted to be a faithful follower of Jesus in the way she approached the employee. So, she imagined how Jesus might start the conversation. Instead of initially confronting him with his poor performance, she asked him “Is there something happening in your life I should know about?” The employee broke down and wept, spending the next hour telling Sherry that a very challenging health situation in
his immediate family meant he was only getting three hours of sleep each night. Sherry worked out a plan with the employee for him to take time off to find a long-term solution to the situation. He returned a few weeks later, and his work product improved dramatically. To have “faith” is to have eyes to see the many ways that God changes our lives and our relationships through the ongoing ministry of Christ. These “God moments” provide persuasive evidence that there is a living God who continues to pour out on us that same life-giving power that raised Jesus from the dead. Over time, seeing these “God moments” gives us more and more confidence that walking in the footsteps of Christ leads us into abundant life. In my life and in the lives of many of my friends, “conversion” has not been a oncefor-all-time event. It has been a lifelong process of seeing the many “God moments” that build our confidence – our “faith” – in the power of God that continues to bring new life to the world through the ministry of Christ.
The Rev. Dr. John G. Lewis is Co-Director of The Work+Shop and an assisting priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio Respond to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
"Conversion is a continuous turning, a growing, and a becoming. Conversion calls for a change of heart -- a radical, internal change of the person; external actions will follow from the person's changed heart." --Charles E. Curran
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Marked as Christ’s Own by the Rev. Jay George What happens in baptism? Is it the great conversion moment of our lives? The Rev. Jay George, church planter for the congregation of Grace Church in San Antonio, thinks that’s only part of it.
ne of the really exciting things about planting a new church is that you get to make up traditions as you go along. There is no one to say, “We’ve always done it that way,” because the “we” is only about six people and “always” only goes back to last Thursday. A new tradition we’ve started at Grace Church centers around baptism. When we have a baptism we add something at the end. After everyone has been dunked and sealed, while my thumb is still slick with oil, I invite people to come forward to renew their commitment to Christ, or make a commitment if they never have before. When folks come forward to re-commit themselves, I mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross, as was done in their baptism, and say, “I remind you that you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in your
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baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.” And when someone comes forward to make a new commitment to Christ, I baptize that person on the spot. Well, that hasn’t actually happened yet. But I’m hoping. For us, this brings up all sorts of interesting questions about baptism. Working with people who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church, or any church for that matter, will do that. They ask things like: “Why do we even have baptism? What happens when we get baptized?” And, “Why do you ask us if we will do all in our power to support this person in his life in Christ?” Which question led directly to another new baptismal tradition at Grace Church. Before the baptism we fill lots of glasses with water and set them on a table near the font (well, sort of a font – looks very similar to a bird bath; okay, it is a birdbath, but it’s a holy birdbath.). At the time of the blessing of the water, everyone in the congregation is invited to come forward, grab a glass, and pour water into the font/bird bath. Then the community surrounds the baptismal candidate as we initiate her into the family of Christ. The point, of course, is that we all participate in the baptism. For this new, often previously unchurched congregation, welcoming people into the community is what we’re all about. We stress relationships – with each other but, more importantly, with Jesus.
relationship with Jesus. The relationship one has with Christ is celebrated, strengthened and proclaimed in baptism. But rarely is it begun. As with the wedding, so with the water. With one slight difference. At a wedding, we marry a bride or a groom – a wonderful, fallible, loving and broken human. In baptism, we are the bride and Christ is the groom. We wed our Creator, our Savior, our Sustainer and Lord. As we give ourselves with words and water, he fills us with his grace and mercy. How this works, exactly, we neither know nor understand. But we do know this: Baptism is a visible, personal, communal signature of grace. Grace given by God. Grace conveyed not merely to add a name to the church register or to fulfill social custom. Grace conveyed in and for relationship. Baptism extends the relationship begun in us, carrying it beyond ourselves and beyond our traditions. Marked as Christ’s own and sealed by his Spirit, we are sent forth into the world, proclaiming the good news of Christ and inviting others into that relationship with us.
The Rev. Jay George can be reached at email@example.com. Want to respond to this article? Visit our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
Whatever else baptism is, it is significant in a relationship with Christ, a kind of liquid marker on a journey. I tell my people baptism is like a wedding. A wedding does not begin a relationship, nor will it magically make a relationship better. What the engaged couple has together the day before they exchange rings, they carry with them the day after – for good and for ill. So, too, baptism does not begin a
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A Reflection on the Prodigal Son by the Rev. Mike Marsh “Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. Luke 15:11The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me
the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ So he set off and went to his father . . .” 16
– Spring/Summer 2010
ob, a gentleman who was probably in his 70s, had been quiet and attentive throughout the evening. I was teaching about the story of the prodigal son. When I finished speaking, Bob was the first one out of his chair. I could tell, as he made his way to the front of the classroom, that he was upset. “What about the bath,” he demanded. “You didn’t say anything about the bath.” I had no idea what he was talking about and told him that I did not understand his comment. He became more agitated the longer he talked. “You know where he had been!” “Yes,” I said, “in the pig pen.” “And you know what he would have smelled like and what was on him.” “Pig poop,” I said kiddingly. He did not think that was funny. Then he went on to explain, “The son was dirty and smelly. The father would never hug him, kiss him, or put a robe on him until the son first had a bath. Why didn’t you talk about the bath?” I explained that a bath was not part of the story, that we can never get clean enough to go home. Instead we go home to become clean. The father receives the son as he is. He hugs him, kisses him, robes him – all without a bath. The son is immersed in love. Bob just could not believe that, so together we read the story again. When we got to the end of the story his eyes filled with tears and he said, “All my life I thought this story said the son had to take a bath before he could go home.” I said to him, “And all your life you have been trying to get clean enough to go home.” He simply nodded in silence, tears running down his face.
condemn, and sometimes even hate. We allow them to declare that we are not good enough to be God’s child, never have been, and never will be. We cannot imagine how anyone, let alone God, would embrace or love us. So we exile those aspects of ourselves to the distant country. We then live as fragmented, broken persons trying to get clean enough to come home. Over and over the voice of the Prodigal Son echoes in our ears, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” For all the years he spent in the distant country, Bob never did get clean enough to go home. Instead “he came to himself.” He started gathering the fragments of his life the clean and the unclean, the acceptable and the unacceptable, things done and things left undone – all that he was and all that he had. He recognized that the unclean parts of his life were real, but they were not his final reality. In the past those parts of his life kept him from going home and exiled him to the pig pens. Now those pieces of his life would become the way home. They would become places of healing, new life, wholeness, forgiveness, and grace. I do not know what took Bob to that distant country or what he so desperately tried to wash away, but I know that his story is my story and your story. We have been to the distant country. We have lived with the pigs. We have washed but cannot get clean. In coming to himself, Bob would ultimately have to trust the Father’s love more than he trusted the pig stink. After all, if the Father does, how can we do any less?
The Rev. Mike Marsh is rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde. Respond to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
Bob’s story is not all that unusual. Each of us can probably name parts of our life and being that we have judged unacceptable and unclean. They are the parts of ourselves that we dislike,
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Questions by Carla Pineda
he poet Rilke, in his book Letters to a Young Poet, is famously quoted:
“I beg you . . . to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked doors or books written in a very foreign language.” This quote has followed me over the years, showing up at times when I least expect it and often when I am answerhunting the most. When it appears I am always infuriated: “What, again?” Today, a little interior snicker comes with it: “Yep, again,” and I know it’s time for me to get out of the way, to let go and trust.
I want to know what is next, around the corner, or next week, month, year.
A spirituality of questioning is a tough pill to swallow.
I want a guarantee that “all shall be well.” I want, I want, I want.
I want answers. I want the answer. Now!
To learn to be patient and receive the answer as it comes is not the way of the world.
I want to know how something is going to turn out. I want to know the reason a thing happened.
We lean toward instant gratification.
– Spring/Summer 2010
We are impatient. We do not like to wait for stop lights, much less answers to deep and important questions. “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now,” said Rilke, “because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything, live the questions now.” Living the questions means I must accept that I do not need to know the answers right here, right now. I may not even have all of the information needed to act on an answer if I got one. I must remember that the answer comes as I live within the seeking, searching, and questioning. The answers are in the journey itself. I trust that “all shall be well,” as Julian of Norwich says. I let go of my need for control, for guarantees, and become willing to put one foot in front of the other, to do the footwork and leave the end results up to God. Again from Rilke: “Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answers . . .” Learning to live into the answers is living in the mystery – trusting, content, and satisfied that I am where I am supposed to be at this moment in time. This is living in the eternal present, in the here and now.
This is living in the eternal silence where God resides, where I am still and quiet, listening with the “ear of my heart,” certain that answers will be revealed in God’s time.
Carla Pineda is a laywoman in the Diocese of West Texas with a special interest in women’s spirituality and the reading and writing life. She attends St. Mark’s, San Antonio, and is vice president for programming on the diocesan Commission for Women’s Ministries. Reach her at email@example.com or on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
"Faith does not require that we ask no questions or that we adhere to a particular creed. It does not eliminate the need for study or rational thought, and it doesn’t promise that we’ll never feel insecure. What it does demand is that we willingly live with paradox and tension—with the possibility that our deepest knowledge of God will come when we are ready to give up this knowledge altogether. Ultimately, faith rests on our consent to being held by the gravitational pull of God. We can break away if we like, but our hearts will know that this is where we belong." --Susan Hanson
This is living with an open heart and mind. This is living with no preconceived answers in my head.
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Musts...read, visit, see! “Must visit” websites The Church Whisperer blog is authored by San Antonian Blake Coffee, a church mediator who says he is “someone who loves the church, even with all its flaws, and who believes God’s plan to use it to touch this world is a truly amazing plan.” Current topics on the site discuss bitterness: “Unresolved anger, you see, turns into bitterness. And bitterness, over time, is a disease that spreads into our heart, our eyes, our brain, and a host of other places. When passions get high and anger is left to fester over time, finding the truth about what really happened can become nearly impossible.” And the importance of ministering in love: “In other words, you may be the most gifted proclaimer of God’s Word alive in the world today, but if the people you are teaching don’t know that you love them, you are just a bunch of noise. If they do not perceive you to be in a loving relationship with them, your ‘gift’ is wasted. You may call yourself a leader, but nobody is really following you.” Visit the blog at www.churchwhisperer.com
Recommendations for contemporary Christians
“Must read” books Carla Pineda, vice president for programming of the diocesan Commission for Women’s Ministries, and an avid reader and writer, offers these reviews of current books. Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor Fans of Sue Monk Kidd and especially her Dance of the Dissident Daughter should love this dual memoir by mother and daughter. It is a revealing story of their travels together, their growing and changing relationship, and the debut of Ann Kidd Taylor as a powerful writer of her own. Together Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place by Susan Wittig Albert Two questions are asked on the jacket of this book; What does it mean to belong to a place, to be truly rooted and grounded in the place you call home? How do you commit to a marriage, to a full partnership with another person, and still maintain your own separate identity? Placed in the Texas Hill Country and the Wild Horse
– Spring/Summer 2010
Desert south of the Corpus Christi area, her story is in many parts the story of those of us who “live and move and have our being” here. If you like memoir and knowing how place and history affect us, read what Susan has shared with her readers. The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldana Written by a San Antonio native, this is the memoir of a year lived in the Middle East on a fellowship to study her life – a year that changed her forever in ways she could not have imagined. She writes in a deep, intense, personal, and poetic voice that carries you into her journey with her. These books available at most Christian book stores, including Viva in San Antonio, and through Amazon.com.
“Must see” pop culture Ken as a Clergy Spouse? Warning: If irreverence really bothers you, don’t read this article. Barbie has been ordained. The 11.5-inch-tall fictional graduate of Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., has donned a cassock and surplice and is rector at St. Barbara’s-bythe-Sea in (where else?) Malibu, Calif. She arrived at the church fully accessorized, as is Barbie’s custom. Her impeccably tailored ecclesiastical vestments include various colored chasubles for every
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liturgical season, black clergy shirt with white collar, neat skirt and heels, a laptop with prepared sermon and a miniature, genuine Bible. Apparently a devotee of the “smells and bells” of High Church tradition, the Rev. Barbie even has a tiny thurible, a metal vessel used for sending clouds of incense wafting toward heaven. The Rev. Julie Blake Fisher, an Episcopal priest in Kent, Ohio, created “Episcopal Priest Barbie High Church Edition,” complete with portable sacristy, for a friend, the Rev. Dena CleaverBartholomew, when CleaverBartholomew got her first pulpit assignment in Manlius, N.Y. A “Friends of Episcopal Priest Barbie” Facebook group has grown exponentially since its March 31 inception.
From Religion News Service by Leanne Larmondin.
Workshops, Seminars & Retreats For details, contacts, and online registration when available, go to www.dwtx.org and click on the Events and Calendar tab, then on Church and Other Events and Special Events.
and lecturer. Clergy and laity are invited to attend.
June 25-26 Fishin’ for Mission, a weekend of fishing and fellowship, is hosted by St. Peter’s, Rockport. Proceeds support the work of World Mission.
August 6-8 Happening #116, a spiritual renewal weekend, for students in grade 10-12 at Church of the Advent, Brownsville. Led by young people. Rector/vicar approval required.
May 20-23 Contemplative Christ Centered Prayer Retreat led by the Rev. Sandy CaseyMartus, former 11-year member of Father Thomas Keating’s Contemplative Outreach National Retreat and Formation Leadership Teams and one-time Director of the Alta Retreat Center.
May 30, June 6 and 13 Awareness and education program on the problem of human trafficking, at St. Francis Episcopal Church, San Antonio, during the Christian formation hour, 10 am to 11 am.
June 5 Abide in Me II, Extreme Makeover Church Edition. A day with Reggie McNeal for lay leadership and clergy; held at TMI-The Episcopal School of Texas. Churches will learn how to move outside of themselves and become Christ’s people in the world. Seating limited to 500. Cost is $20. Free children’s programs.
June 21-23 Oblate School of Theology (in San Antonio) Summer Institute presents Walter Brueggemann, well-known Scripture scholar
August 21 and 28 Diocesan Stewardship Conference for congregational stewardship chairs, vestry and bishop’s committees members, and other church leadership. Aug. 21 at Church of the Good Shepherd in Corpus Christi, Aug. 28 at St. Mark’s, San Antonio.
September 24-26 Education for Ministry (EFM) Mentor Training at the Mustang Island Conference Center. Mentors lead their groups through the EFM study, an in-depth, three-year Bible study program.
October 1-3 Spiritual Retreat for Recovering Alcoholics, Al-Anons, and Adult Children of Alcoholics at Camp Capers. The weekend includes a speaker, worship, and fellowship.
October 8-10 Soul at Work: Discerning God’s Will in Daily Life at Mustang Island Conference Center. Retreat Leader is Margaret Benefiel, CEO of ExecutiveSoul.com, with The Revs. Drs. John Lewis & Jane Patterson of The Work+Shop.
– Spring/Summer 2010
October 8-9 Conversations with Phyllis Tickle, an internationally renowned expert on religion. At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio.
October 16-17 The annual World Mission Art Festival on the grounds of the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio. The exhibit and sale brings out excellent local artists. Proceeds benefit World Mission.
October 22-24 Fall Women’s Gathering at Camp Capers. Speaker is the Rev. Suzanne Guthrie from St. Aiden’s House in Brewster, NY.
October 22-24 Food for the Soul, a weekend of tasting, preparing, laughing, listening, eating and praising God at Mustang Island Conference Center. Prepare favorite Mustang Island recipes in your island kitchen and share the fruits of your efforts.
November 11-14 Diocesan Silent Retreat hosted by the Diocese of West Texas Retreat Society at the Moye Center in Castroville. The Rev. Doug Earle will be the retreat leader.
Continuing the Conversation
On the Web The articles in this issue of Reflections will be posted on our diocesan blog – DWTX Interactive – where you can respond, ask questions, or make comments. On DWTX Interactive you will also find videos and audio files on the topic of conversion and others. This month, we link to sermons from some of our Episcopal churches including one from the Rev. Patrick Ormos, rector of St. Francis, San Antonio, on the conversions of Paul and Peter. Find it all at www.dwtx.org/blog
is partially funded by paid advertising. If you want to reach 27,000 Episcopalians (and, we hope, their friends and neighbors), in the 60 counties of South Central Texas, you need to be in Reflections. Businesses such as Episcopal schools, bookstores, Christian jewelry and clothing, social and counseling services, and the like would especially benefit from reaching the Reflections audience. If you want to know more, e-mail Marjorie George at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 888/210 824-5387.
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Notes From the Diaper Pail The Journey Continues by Kelly Harris
e might be nearing the end of our potty training journey. The last box of diapers, pull-ups, and wipes were purchased over a month ago and have now become a distant memory. I use the term “might-be” because we’ve entered a new journey that I like to call “the crying every night because we’re scared to go to the potty by ourselves so we sometimes wet the bed” journey. At 4:00 a.m. on this journey my husband and I find ourselves wishing for those saggy diapers. On this new journey I try to articulately explain why is it important to flush the potty, why using more than one square of toilet paper is beneficial, and that we need to pull up our pants before running into the other room. My college and graduate school academic mind is resorting to analogies of “Snow White would do it” and other concrete research statistics. Yet, we are taking baby steps with each new day on the colorful road of parenthood. God’s road for each of us is a colorful journey. It is filled with small and large steps that are made day and night. The diaper
pail remains in the room empty. It is a temptation not to put a bag in it and put those diapers back on our little one during those endless nights. It would be easier to just sit down on our journey and not press forward. With potty-training as with life, it is often easier to live in the comfort of what we know rather than strike out on a new journey.
keeps me grounded in faith that God has blessed us immensely with our precious daughter. There is an “ah-ha” moment at 4:00 a.m. that tells me I don’t need to worry about finances, career, graduate school, or potty training, but instead fix my eyes on God and choose to follow him into whatever journey lies ahead.
Yet, God calls us forward Kelly Harris is on the and into a brighter knowledge staff of the diocesan of him. The command of our Communications Lord was always, “Follow me.” Department. Reach her at In doing so, we choose to get up email@example.com. and go. Where is our next step, we ask? God is creative with how he shines his light onto our hazy path. Sometimes that guidance is sent through our quiet prayer time revelations and Scripture. Often it can come through John E. de Montel, Financial Advisor the affirmations of Princor Registered Representative family and friends. At other times it Retirement Plans & Retirement Planning can come through 361-855-2500x290 the voice of a firstname.lastname@example.org three-year-old who www.arvakfinancialservices.com is looking at you with her big hazel Securities and advisory products eyes, messy bed offered through Princor hair, sucking on a Financial Services Corporation, 800-247-1737, pacifier, and sitting Member SIPC, Des Moines IA 50392. on the potty at 4:00 a.m. A simple, “I Arvak Financial Services is not an affiliate of Princor. love you momma” drives that passion paid adv. in my steps and
– Spring/Summer 2010
Reflections from Retirement When the Light Turns Red by A.E.P. Wall
t is easier to give up tobacco than cars. By the time I snuffed my last cigar, 25 years ago, a nonchalant five a day had reached 75,000 on my nicotine odometer. When I retire my driver’s license this month, it will have ridden in my hip pocket for about 1,500,000 miles. There’s a patch to help smokers survive withdrawal, but the only patch for a recovering motorist is the kind we used to stick on inner tubes. The last time I phoned for help after leaving my keys in the ignition and locking my car doors, the AAA expert pulled up in his truck and I handed him my card. He looked at it, and then at me, and said, in a voice he might have used if I had just won the Daytona 500, “You’ve been a triple-A member since before I was born. And since before my dad was born.” It took more than runaway longevity to separate me from my steering wheel. Something my neurologist calls olivopontocerebellar ataxia, which won’t even fit on a bumper sticker, did what not even $3-a-gallon gasoline could do. Having quit 87 proof, cold turkey, I decided to quit 87 octane the same way, out of a newfound affection for pedestrians, now that I’m becoming one.
It will work because family and neighbors are willing to get me to the barber, the baker, the walking stick maker. What counts most is the feeling that God has been generous in giving me more than six decades of driving, in this country and others. An exception is England, where the natives drive on the wrong side of the road. There may have been supernatural intervention at the start. I never took a formal test for my first driver’s license. I was a teenage police reporter, riding with a fatherly cop in his squad car when he put me behind the wheel, noted that I didn’t hit anything, and ordered up a license. Long afterward, when I became a rumble-seat rambler who was finally driving over the hill, I found that there’s more grumbling than rumbling about this late-life crisis. I devised a Certificate of Liberation, which recognizes that its recipients have arrived at a lifetime rest stop. From now on I’ll have no air-pressure worries, no bloodpressure flurries. No more highway boobs, or inner tubes, no waits for lubes. I’m liberated from licensetag fees, car-insurance bills,
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
drivers-license renewals, tickets for driving too slowly and sudden memory loss about who’s next at fourway stops. It’s not bad to coast down Memory Lane in my 1940-something Jeepster, remembering the policeman who pulled me over as I raced downhill in the mountains of Washington state. He said he wouldn’t give me a ticket because nobody would believe how fast I’d been going in “that thing.” There was a Packard so grand I could barely see over the hood, and a Ford, Chevrolet, Buick, Saturn, Oldsmobile, Toyota, Datsun, Studebaker, worthy successors to the family Essex, WillysKnight and Hudson. There are no potholes in Memory Lane. I thank the Lord for 750 months of driving. As to the 751st month, it is better to be a retread than not to have tread at all.
A.E.P. Wall, now 85, is former managing editor of The Honolulu Advertiser and former communications officer for the Diocese of Central Florida. He lives in Orland Park IL. He originally wrote this in 2005 for the Orlando Sentinel. Reach Ed at email@example.com.
Prose & Poetry Amidst the Sea by Renee Faulk Creation surges with your majesty. It demands our consideration. Breakers thunder forward then recede amidst the waiting sea. Enfolded in your arms compassion abounds. Your presence wraps around as a gentle breeze upon the water. Love surrounding. I am an island. Treasures wash upon my shores. Starfish, seashells, salt, and sand gather as reminders of grace, forgiveness, and healing mercy. I collect them all. You, oh God, are a mystery. I watch your surface from my shores. Yet from your depths yield steadfast love, provisions, and timeless strength. May you build me up as a refuge extending love, peace, opportunity, and comfort for those who travel here. Now let this island connect to family, friends, peoples, and nations. That we might work as one to reflect your glory both unique and beautiful. Refresh our minds, comfort our souls lest we become weary and wash away. Your presence is always welcome. Renee Faulk is a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio. She is a reading specialist working for the NEISD at East Terrell Hills Elementary. During a trip to the Texas Sand Fest in 2008, her daughter and she found a large starfish in the surf. This was the inspiration for this poem. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
ou are everywhere, yet I’m searching for you as if I didn’t know.
Traveling on planes, trains, cabs and trams, I keep my eye out. There you are, blond and buxom, chatting on the bus, right across the aisle from me. But I can’t imagine what you just said. Is that Spanish you’re speaking? Catalan? I’m trapped in my inglés. I see you gliding along the boulevard, darkskinned and elegant in clothes that float, sandals that glitter. Your little girl’s Nikes spring ahead, joyously turquoise. Your smile holds her near enough. Here you come in multiple, loping toward the stadium, sporting neon shirts in lime that blinds. Clearly you are teammates, about sixteen. Awkward and graceful, trading punches, loud laughter. Are your palms sweaty in your pockets? Are you secretly wishing the game was over and done, your macho proven? Let me share your goofiness, your camaraderie, the pounding of your young heart. The child is screeching and you are stonefaced, exhausted. You reach to lift him, he resists. You are late and patience is fragile, but you dig deep. Wait for me, maybe I can help. Old man on a bench, you need a shave. But that’s not fair. The bench looks good to me, too. And I can take a taxi home, while you probably can’t. What’s in that scruffy bag, why are you muttering something I can’t understand? Should I feel afraid of you, or you of me? Please no. My brothers and sisters, glance my way. We may not have this chance again. No need to touch, no need to speak. Let’s celebrate the miracle of our existence. The author is a lay woman who describes herself as a “ponderer,” preferring to remain anonymous. This was written on a trip to Spain last fall.
– Spring/Summer 2010
The Last Word Nearly Converted by The Rt. Rev. David Reed
almost got converted at the old Majestic Theater in downtown Brownsville when I was a high school. Can’t remember how I came to be there, but it was a special screening of The Cross and the Switchblade, a true-life movie about a gang leader, Nicky Cruz, who gives his life to Jesus and becomes an evangelist. Erik “Ponch” Estrada plays Cruz, and Pat Boone plays the preacher who leads him to Christ. When the movie ended, someone walked to the front of the theater, talked for a few minutes, and then invited us to come forward and, like Nicky, repent and give our lives to Jesus. So I’m sitting there in the dark with all these other teenagers when I get an elbow-in-the-ribs-move from the cute Baptist girl sitting next to me. (Oh, wait, NOW I remember why I was there.) So I go forward and kneel down and somebody leads me in the sinner’s prayer, and . . . well . . . nothing. Not then, anyway. I remember feeling awkward, confused, a little embarrassed, a little manipulated. But I felt like that most days back then. I was glad the theater stayed dark. I worried that through yet another personal flaw, I’d botched my conversion. I worried that my own religious upbringing was deficient. At times, I could be Woody Allenesque in my worrying. Born, baptized and raised in the Episcopal Church, I’d been praying the Confession since I could read, so I knew I was a sinner. (This was before the discovery of self-esteem, so I wasn’t harmed by this knowledge.) I also knew I was forgiven because Jesus died for us and for our salvation because he loves us. But I never heard anybody at Church of the Advent talk about “getting saved.” Could be I wasn’t paying attention, or it might’ve been one more thing adults talked about when the kids weren’t around.
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
I’ve since come to understand that “conversion” -- as the Bible talks about it -is less about a powerfully emotional moment than it is about turning and reorienting, a change of direction away from sin and death and toward a restored and true relationship with God. Conversion is the life-work of followers of Jesus. It can be prompted by a profound and distinct moment -- what I missed at the Majestic -- but it’s what follows that’s more important. (Now that God has gotten your attention, what are you going to do?) When St. Paul tells the Philippians to “now work out your own salvation in fear and trembling,” he’s not advocating “works righteousness,” but calling for a continual consideration of the singular, historic, saving act of Christ and its unfolding meaning in our lives. He’s calling for on-going conversion. I know people whose lives were a living hell until, in a shattering moment, Jesus saved them. And I know people who can’t remember a time they didn’t know Jesus loves them. For all of them, conversion continues. I said nothing happened at the Majestic. But it did. I think about that evening from time to time, and it’s apparently become part of the grit and grist of Christ’s conversion of me. And I’ve learned that the Lord of all creation who’s not too proud to send his Son, nor too huge to give us life in Bread and Wine, is also not too solemn to use the elbow of a Baptist girl to direct one more redeemed sinner home.
The Rt. Rev. David Reed is bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas. He grew up an Episcopalian at Church of the Advent in Brownsville – where many of his family still worship -- and earned a degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin before his call to the ordained priesthood. He served churches in Victoria and Harlingen before being ordained bishop in 2006. Reach him at email@example.com. or on our blog at www.dwtx.org/blog.
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The Church News - since 1883 the flagship publication of the Diocese of West Texas. Mailed to every household in the diocese, free of charge. If you are not receiving The Church News, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, and home church.
Reflctions Along the Way - A new magazine from the Diocese of West Texas that extends The Church News family of publications. Reflections is devoted to spiritual life and is mailed to every household in the diocese at no charge. The diocesan website - education, information, calendar, ministries, facilities, and wider connections. Visit www.dwtx.org. The Direct Line - an e-newsletter of news, calendar, ministries, information. Published at least monthly, more often as needed. Sign up at www.dwtx.org DWTX Interactive and Media Hub - is the digital home for Reflections. It is also a gathering place for blogs, video files, audio files, sermons, music, links to other websites, and much more. Find it at www.dwtx.org/blog. The Media Hub offers live streaming of selected events. Visit www.dwtx.org and click on the Media Hub graphic.
e-news - an e-newsletter of information and calendar pertinent to clergy and church office staff. Published weekly. If you are a clergyperson or church office staff and you are not receiving e-news, e-mail email@example.com.
Department of Communications • Episcopal Diocese of West Texas • P O Box 6885 • San Antonio TX 78209 www.dwtx.org • (210/888) 824-5387 • Marjorie George, Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org