Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Middle Child

St. Paul's famous passage known as the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians ends with a flourish: "And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." If faith, hope and love were human siblings, it is likely there would be some rivalry. How would you like to be told that your brother/sister is the greatest?

Faith gets a lot of press, and love gets so much press that it loses some of its strength in conversation. Hope, on the other hand, is the middle child and doesn't get nearly the attention that faith and love command. However, a few people have mentioned it in passing.

True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings;
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.
William Shakespeare(1564 - 1616)
"King Richard III", Act 5 scene 2

Roman Catholic theogian Michael Downey has a different take on hope. Concisely put, he says that Hope is precisely what we have when we do not have something.

"Hope lies at the core of all human initiative. It looks to the coming of the new, the never-before-thought-of, the unheard-of, the undreamed-of. Hope is a pregnant, many-layered concept. We can distinguish it in different shades of meaning. We can distinguish between the kind of hope we have for good weather, the cheeriness of spirit expressed in the now commonplace 'Hope you have a nice day,' and something much deeper: the whole-hearted anticipation of a desired good. In the deepest sense, hope moves us to a new perspective, enabling us to see the present and all its possibilities for success in light of some future good, which we realized can only come as a gift. The more difficult the circumstances in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper is the hope.

"Hope is precisely what we have when we do not have something. Hope is not the same thing as optimism that things will go our way, or turn out well. It is rather the certainty that something makes sense, is worth the cost, regardless of how it might turn out. Hope is a sense of what might yet be. It strains ahead, seeking a way behind and beyond every obstacle." (Michael Downey, Weavings, Nov./Dec. 1999), p.28.

I have high hopes for The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Prayers for Every Occasion

In The Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 809, we have a wonderful section called "Prayers and Thanksgivings." It contains 81 prayers which cover all sorts and conditions of people and circumstances. Since our Prayer Book is so rich with daily prayer and Sunday Eucharist, I'm afraid these 81 prayers don't see nearly enough daylight. I want to bring a few of them to your attention.

25. For those in the Armed Forces of our Country

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

26. For those who suffer for the sake of Conscience

O God our Father, whose Son forgave his enemies while he was suffering shame and death: Strengthen those who suffer for the sake of conscience; when they are accused, save them from speaking in hate; when they are rejected, save them from bitterness; when they are imprisoned, save them from despair; and to us your servants, give grace to respect their witness and discern the truth, that our society may be cleansed and strengthened. This we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ, our merciful and righteous Judge. Amen.

32. For the Good Use of Leisure

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

46. For the Care of Children

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

70. Grace at Meals

Give us grateful hearts, our Father, for all your mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Dividing Point

Jesus went about doing good. He was known for doing all things well. One day, Jesus did something a little too well. It would cost him.

Here's what happened. Jesus had received news that his friend Lazarus was ill, and he took his sweet time going back to Bethany to visit. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, Lazarus was dead and buried. Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, were at once sorrowing and casting blame on Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." How could they be so sure? God is everywhere, and people die every day.

But Jesus was so moved with compassion for Mary, Martha and Lazarus that he wept. Or did Jesus weep because he was about to call a man back from paradise? Whatever his reason for weeping, this endears Jesus to us each time we read the Eleventh Chapter of John's Gospel.

Some people in Jesus' day were not endeared to Jesus even though he shed tears of compassion and raised Lazarus from the dead. In fact, this was a real turning point in Jesus' life. From this point on, those who were determined to kill Jesus became more intentional in finding ways to do just that. They could not contain him or control him. Jesus had gotten out of hand.

For a fuller account of this incident in Jesus' life and the importance of Bethany in Jesus' ministry, start reading in John's Gospel at chapter 11 and follow through to the end (chapter 21). These chapters are appropriate reading during this week leading up to Palm Sunday, and would be even more meaningful next week (Holy Week) as we walk the way of the cross with Jesus into his death, burial and resurrection. The big difference between Lazarus' resurrection and Jesus' resurrection is that Jesus rose from the dead never to die again.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mary said "Yes"

March 25 is the day that we traditionally commemorate "The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary." Makes sense, doesn't it? Nine months from that date is Christmas. Of course, we don't know for sure the exact dates of Jesus' conception and birth, but celebrate them we must, and Christian tradition has chosen the dates of celebration for us.

This year March 25 fell on Sunday, so the Annunciation commemoration was moved to Monday, March 26. That's because every Sunday is a feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing trumps Jesus' feasts -- not even one for his Mother.

In Nazareth, the tradition is that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary as she was drawing water from a well. "Mary's well" has been preserved and is now inside a Greek Orthodox Church. It is a fresh spring that comes out of the rock, and weary pilgrims can fill their water bottles from a spout through the modern marvels of engineering. No doubt Jesus drank out of that very well as he was growing up.

Inside the Church, pilgrims can meditate on Mary's response to the Angel Gabriel, the messenger of God. And they must behave in a respectful manner. If you sit down and cross your legs - man or woman - a priest or other official will tap you on the shoulder and tell you to put both feet on the floor.

Think for a moment about how Gabriel, and God, and the entire universe held their collective breath while this young teenage girl made up her mind.
Every day at Evening Prayer, we sing the Magnificat -- The Song of Mary as we celebrate her "Yes" to God:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Luke 1:46-55

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Local Resident Makes Good

God bless the Franciscans. They are the ones on the ground in Israel who preserve the ancient holy sites through "Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land." They were primarily responsible for excavating Capernaum in the twentieth century. Franciscan archaeologist Fr. Virgilio C. Corbo and his assistant Stanislao Loffreda worked at Capernaum almost without interruption from 1968 to 1991. The sign on the gate calls the town "Capharnaum." Caphar means "village" and Naum is a person's name, although we don't know who that was.

Located on the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum was a thriving village from around 2000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. During the time of Jesus it was an attractive place to live. Matthew's Gospel [4:12-13] says:

"Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and made his home in
Capernaum by the sea . . ."

As best as we can tell from scripture, five of Jesus' disciples were recruited in Capernaum -- Andrew and his brother Peter, James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee, and Matthew the tax collector. It was there that Jesus raised to life the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. There he cured the servant of the Centurion - the Roman captain in charge of a hundred Roman soldiers. Jesus said of him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this." (Luke 7:9)

It was in Capernaum that Jesus embraced the wider world with his Good News that God loves everyone. We could go and do likewise.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Kingdom of God

Remember the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar?" There was a scene in it that perplexed me for years. It was the one in which Herod was taunting Jesus, who had just been arrested. According to the Gospels, Herod had been wanting to see Jesus in person, but Jesus had managed to avoid the confrontation until he was good and ready to see Herod.

In the musical Herod is singing, "So you are the Christ -- you're the great Jesus Christ. Prove to me that you're no fool. Walk across my swimming pool." When I first heard that, I thought the lyricists were hard up for a rhyme. Surely Herod did not have a swimming pool. Was I ever wrong. On a trip to Israel in 2004, I got to visit the ruins of one of Herod's palaces. This one had been at Caesarea on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

Herod had good taste in real estate, but as you can see from the photos, his kingdom is long gone. Only part of the pillars of the palace are left, but something else of real interest to me is also left. It's Herod's swimming pool. He could walk out his back door and either swim in his pool or swim in the sea.

Herod feared Jesus' influence, and for good reason. Herod had no real claim to be king other than political appointment. It is not so with Jesus' kingdom, which is not of this world. This is expressed well in verse 4 of "The day thou gavest," a lovely hymn byJohn Ellerton (1826-1893):

So be it, Lord;
thy throne shall never,
like earth's proud empires,
pass away;
thy kingdom stands,
and grows for ever,
till all thy creatures own thy sway.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Gift of Tears

In this season of Lent we often turn to the wisdom of saints long gone from this earth. Strange as it may seem, many of them saw tears as a gift from God. Here are a few of their studied opinions:

John Climacus (570-649) The Ladder of Divine Ascent:

"Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. The baptism received by us as children we have all defiled, but we cleanse it anew with our tears. If God in His love for the human race had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find."

"When the soul grows tearful, weeps, and is filled with tenderness, and all this without having striven for it, then let us run, for the Lord has arrived uninvited and is holding out to us the sponge of loving sorrow, the cool waters of blessed sadness with which to wipe away the record of our sins. Guard those tears like the apple of your eye until they go away, for they have a power greater than anything that comes from our own efforts and our own meditation."

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) The Dialogue:

"I have told you how tears well up from the heart: The heart gathers them up from its burning desire and holds them out to the eyes. Just as green wood, when it is put into the fire, weeps tears of water in the heat because it is still green (if it were dry it would not weep), so does the heart weep when it is made green again by the renewal of grace, after the desiccating dryness of selfishness has been drawn out of the soul. Thus are fire and tears made one in burning desire. And because desire has no end it cannot be satisfied in this life. Rather, the more it loves, the less it seems to itself to love. So love exerts a holy longing and with that longing the eyes weep."

According to The Book of Common Prayer, "Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble." (p.299)

Baptism is the beginning of a wonderful adventure with God.

Pastor Linda

The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mmmm . . . lunch

Isn't it amazing how God prepares food for all God's creatures? There's something for everyone.

It would not have occurred to me to eat an Azalea blossom, but the Bumblebee seems to be right at home there.

What sorts of creatures are eating lunch in your Azalea bushes?

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord,
and you give them their food in due season.

You open wide your hand
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

(Psalm 145:16-17)

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dusty Old Books

The summer that I was 14, I went spent a week or so at my grandmother's house. It was there I discovered her old books. Somehow I became glued to her oversized volume of Jane Eyre with its woodcut illustrations. Since there was not much to do at her house on rainy afternoons, I managed to finish the book.

Did you yawn at the titles in your grandparents' bookshelves -- Boring old stuff written by Sophocles, John Donne, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain and Edgar Rice Burroughs? What about Jane Austen? Did your family sell those books long ago? Do you wish you could reclaim some of them? Don't worry about doing that. They probably had a little mold on them anyway, and they would make you sneeze.

If you want to read any of those books, or even sample a chapter of selected volumes, here's an easy way: visit for an on-line library at your fingertips. This could be a good resource for a student in your family, or it might simply give you a chance to catch up on your reading of the classics. This library is free and open to the public 24 hours a day. You don't need to lower your voice or present your library card. An added advantage is that you'll never have to dust these books.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Monastery of The Holy Spirit - Conyers

Right here in Georgia we have a unique place to spend time with God in a setting that is formally prayed in seven times a day. It's the Monastery of Holy Spirit at 2625 Highway 212 SW in Conyers, just east of Atlanta off Interstate 20 at the Panola Road Exit. See for more information and a site map.

Sixty-three years ago today - March 21, 1944 - twenty monks arrived on the Georgia property from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. One famous Trappist monk, Father Louis Merton (pen name: Thomas Merton) was not chosen to go to Georgia. His writings indicate that although he missed the 20 brothers, Fr. Louis did not regret being left behind.

The chosen 20 monks put in years of hard work to build the new monastery from scratch. They labored in the felling of trees, the grooming of the grounds, the building of the church, and in the making of the stained glass for the windows. It was a labor of love. You can tell when you walk into that church that it is a place made holy by much prayer.

My favorite thing about the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is that their retreat house is open to women as well as to men. All those on retreat are welcome to pray with the Brothers, but brace yourself. The first bell rings at 3:45 a.m. and prayers begin at 4:00 a.m. The last prayers of the day are usually at 8:00 p.m., although that changes somewhat in summer. If you need a place to get away and spend quality time with God, this place is worth a trip from anywhere.

Happy Anniversary, Brothers!

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Has Sprung

As of the writing of this blog, we are about twenty minutes into Spring. It is definitely time for a couple of poems:

Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke (1852–1933)

The first day of spring is one thing,
and the first spring day is another.
The difference between them is
sometimes as great as a month.

Two Tramps in Mud Time
Robert Frost (1874–1963)

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

Happy Spring and peace to all,

Pastor Linda+
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Monday, March 19, 2007

Silent Saint Joe

Today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph. According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Joseph was chosen by God to be the protector of Jesus and of Mary the mother of Jesus. According to scripture, Joseph heard from God through dreams, visions and angels. We are not privy to any of his words of response. We only know that he was a man of obedience and action. If something needed to be done, God could count on Joseph.

At all the right times, Joseph took Mary and Jesus out of harm's way. He took them to Egypt to escape the sword of King Herod, who was slaying all infants under age two in Bethlehem. When Herod died, Joseph brought Jesus and Mary out of Egypt to return to their home in Nazareth where Jesus grew up. We are not told the time or circumstances of Joseph's death.

Here in part is what Lesser Feasts and Fasts has to say about Joseph:

"In the face of circumstances that distressed even a man of such tenderness and obedience to God as Joseph, he accepted the vocation of protecting Mary and being a father to Jesus . . .

"Joseph was a pious Jew, a descendant of David, and a carpenter by trade. As Joseph the Carpenter, he is considered the patron saint of the working man, one who not only worked with his hands, but taught his trade to Jesus. The little that is told of him is a testimony to the trust in God which values simple everyday duties, and gives an example of a loving husband and father."

Do you want to be like Silent Saint Joe? Just do the right thing at the right time.

Pastor Linda+
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Deaconess Anna E. B. Alexander

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching and celebrating Holy Communion at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Pennick, Georgia. This is yet another beautiful historic church in our diocese, but it carries a different sort of significance that is worth pointing out. It was founded by a woman - a Deaconess - Anna E. B. Alexander. Yesterday, I met a member of the Alexander family who in the family tradition is still serving at Good Shepherd

Here in part is the official word from our Bishop's office about this church:

"Born circa 1865, Deaconess Alexander was the first African-American set aside as a deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1907. She founded Good Shepherd Church in rural Glynn County's Pennick community. There she was to live and teach the young boys and girls to read -- by tradition, from the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible -- in a one-room school house that was later expanded to two rooms with a loft where she lived.

"She ministered in Pennick for 53 years. Her devotion and love still mark the folk in south and northwest Glynn County. Her love and concern led to her working to help make camps possible for young white members of the diocese. . .

"These were difficult times. The diocese segregated her congregations in 1907 . . . [and] it was only in the 1950s that a woman set aside as a deaconess was recognized as being in deeacon's orders. However, her witness - wearing the distinctive dress of a deaconess, traveling by walking from Brunswick through Darien to Pennick, showing care and love for all whom she met -- represents the best in Christian witness."

I am thankful to have been invited to serve in that church. It is holy ground.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Come To The Table

You will often hear a priest say, "All baptized Christians are welcome to partake of Holy Communion. It's God's table."

Author and composer Michael Card (pictured here) has put this so well -- it's really Christ's invitation to us to come to communion.

Come To The Table

Come to the table
and savor the sight,
the wine and the bread that was broken.
And all have been welcome to come
if they might,
accept as their own these two tokens.
The bread is His body.
The wine is His Blood.
And the One who provides them is true.
He freely offers.
We freely receive.
To accept and believe Him is all we must do.

Come to the table
and taste of the glory
and savor the sorrow;
He's dying tomorrow.
The hand that is breaking the bread
soon will be be broken.
And here at the table
sit those who have loved Him.
One is a traitor and one will deny,
Though He's lived His life for them all
and for all He will be crucified.

Come to the table.
He's prepared for you
the bread of forgiveness, the wine of release.
Come to the table and sit down beside Him.
The Savior wants you to join in the feast.

Michael Card: Immanuel - Reflections on the Life of Christ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 145

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Are you going to a Saint Patrick's Day parade? St. Patrick would probably have loved such festivities. Here are some generally accepted facts about St. Patrick from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, which also appear in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:

"Patrick was born into a Christian family somewhere on the northwest coast of Britain in about 390. His grandfather had been a Christian priest and his father, Calpornius, a deacon. When Patrick was about sixteen, he was captured by a band of Irish slave-raiders. He was carried off to Ireland and forced to serve as a shepherd. When he was about twenty-one, he escaped and returned to Britain, where he was educated as a Christian."

In about 431, Patrick returned to Ireland and served there as a Christian missionary for the next thirty years or so until his death in approximately 461. He apparently became a pretty good shepherd of souls. Legends about Patrick abound, such as the one of his comparing the Holy Trinity to a clover.

A hymn attributed to Patrick is often sung at ordinations in the Episcopal Church. We refer to it as "St. Patrick's Breastplate." It's a very long text, so settle in and enjoy the trip:

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:

I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
the patriarchs' prayers,the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
Pastor Linda

The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Garbage Can of the World

Christianity is by its very definition counter-cultural, but daily life is so demanding that if we are not watchful, we will wind up being carried downstream with our culture instead of swimming against the current. This excerpt from the writings of Henri J.M. Nouwen might be helpful:

"An important discipline in the life of the Spirit is spiritual reading. Through spiritual reading we have some say over what enters our minds. Each day our society bombards us with a myriad of images and sounds. . . . Whether we ask for it or not is not the question; we simply cannot go far without being engulfed by words and images forcibly intruding themselves into our minds. But do we really want our mind to become the garbage can of the world? . . .

"Clearly we do not, but it requires real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind. But that asks of us not just to be gentle as doves, but also cunning as serpents! Therefore spiritual reading is such a helpful discipline.

"Is there a book we are presently reading, a book that we have selected because it nurtures our mind and brings us closer to God? Our thoughts and feelings would be deeply affected if we were always to carry with us a book that puts our minds again and again in the direction we want to go . . . Even if we were to read for only fifteen mintes a day in such a book, we would soon find our mind becoming less of a garbage can and more of a vase filled with good thoughts." (The Only Necessary Thing: Living A Prayerful Life, p. 99)

The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Thursday, March 15, 2007

One Flew Over the Onion Dome

Are you ready for a different kind of radio station? Tune in your computer to
for a change of pace.
Here is a part of their advertising info:

"Ancient Faith Radio is a pan-Orthodox internet based radio station on the air 24 hours a day. Choose a listen button from the top right of our page to tune in. We provide a steady stream of the rich, traditional music of the Orthodox faith as well as several daily and weekly programs as part of our program schedule.

"Fr. Joseph Huneycutt brings the wit and wisdom of his popular blog Orthodixie to Ancient Faith Radio in the form of a podcast! New Daily Podcast -The Path is a 10 minute broadcast heard 3 times daily on Ancient Faith Radio and also available as a Podcast for download into your Ipod® or other MP3 player. It began January 29 and is now heard daily at 7:00 am CT/8:00 am ET, 11:30am CT/12:30 pm ET and 10:00 pm CT/11:00 pm ET Monday through Friday.

"Fr. Joseph Huneycutt is the author of the popular Orthodixie blog and the book One Flew Over the Onion Dome published by Regina Orthodox Press."

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Monday, March 12, 2007

What are those thistles?

They're everywhere along the roadside in Camden and Glynn Counties. Have you seen them? They have already bloomed and are putting off their downy seeds. I'm sure they serve some purpose in the great world of ecology, but for the life of me I don't know what it is. I have been wondering what kind of thistles those are, but I have not had the nerve to stop and examine them closely. I think they are too close to the ground to be Canadian Thistles.

Every year, American Farmers collectively spend millions of dollars trying to rid their fields of Canadian Thistles, which can grow about two feet tall. They diminish the value of crops. That's what we had in our vegetable garden when I was a kid, and I remember particularly that they invaded my mother's rhubarb patch. They were the bane of my parents' gardening experience. Thistles have sharp thorns on their leaves and we were well taught not to touch them. Otherwise we would have been picking thorns out of our skin.
The Bible often mentions thorns and thistles in one breath. According to the Book of Genesis [3:18], an abundance of thorns and thistles were part of the result of Adam's disobedience: "thorns and thistles it [the ground] shall bring forth for you . . ."
Jesus asked, "Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" [Matthew 7:16]
Thistles have never gotten good press. Apparently, they are just a thorn in our side.
Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Imaging Jesus

Do you ever try to imagine what Jesus looks like? What image comes to mind when you wonder what he looked like when he walked this earth? St. Paul says that Jesus "is the image of the invisible God . . ." (Colossians 1:15) and so, I picture Jesus as not being a slave to fashion.

Image seems really important these days. The Delta Zeta Sorority at DePauw University "reorganized" and dismissed more than a hundred members. The uproar is over whether those women fit the "image" required. Here is part of a recent news article that emphasizes our fixation with the way we look:

"These days, 'American Idol' dedicates hours of airtime to auditions in which judges openly chortle and make fun of would-be contestants' looks, style and personality quirks. Taking a cue from the grocery tabloids, entertainment magazines and TV shows now regularly pick apart celebrities' appearance and attire. It's no wonder, one professor says, that students feel free to mock those who don't fit their image ideal.

"'It's out from under the rocks. They're saying what so many people think and believe,' says Thomas Cottle, an education professor at Boston University who has studied the way appearance affects public affirmation. 'It's tragic.'

"Recent studies have found that a growing number of young adults are more narcissistic and materialistic than their predecessors. And more of them are seeking spa treatments, plastic surgery and anti-aging remedies at younger and younger ages. It's gotten to the point that image is the 'currency' on which youth culture runs, says Jessica Weiner, a Los Angeles-based author and public speaker who specializes in young people and self-esteem. 'We have flung so far out of control in this society based on appearances,' Weiner says. 'We're incredibly more focussed on image than we were even 10 years ago.'

"The problems come when people get so wrapped up in image that they lose themselves. 'They're trying to emulate an image given to them that's really not encouraging them to discover who they are, truthfully,' Weiner says."

Does it improve our spiritual health and well-being to improve our image? This is a trick question. See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 for one possible answer.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Lord, it's hard to be humble."

I have a vague recollection about a Country Music song that said, "Lord, it's hard to be humble . . . but I'm doing the best that I can."

Some say that nothing helps our humility like a little humiliation. I think humility is power under control, but here is what Thomas Merton says of humility in his book Thoughts in Solitude:

"Humility is a virtue, not a neurosis. It sets us free to act virtuously, to serve God and to know Him. Therefore true humility can never inhibit any really virtuous action, nor can it prevent us from fulfilling ourselves by doing the will of God.

"Humility sets us free to do what is really good, by showing us our illusions and withdrawing our will from what was only an apparent good.

"A humility that freezes our being and frustrates all healthy activity is not humility at all, but a disguised form of pride. It dries up the roots of the spiritual life and makes it impossible for us to give ourselves to God."

Merton's prayer of confession about humility, in part:

"Lord, you have taught us to love humility, but we have not learned. We have learned only to love the outward surface of it -- the humility that makes a person charming and attractive. We sometimes pause to think about these qualities, and we often pretend that we possess them, and that we have gained them by 'practicing humility.' If we were really humble, we would know to what an extent we are liars!. . . This is the terrible thing about humility: that it is never fully successful. If it were only possible to be completely humble on this earth. But no, that is the trouble: You, Lord, were humble. But our humility consists in being proud and knowing all about it, and being crushed by the unbearable weight of it, and to be able to do so little about it."

Do you think that Merton was just a little neurotic about being humble?

That's all for today.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Friday, March 9, 2007

Hunger and Poverty

The United Nations continues to remind us of the world's realities:

"About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds . . . Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.

"Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

"There are effective programs to break this spiral. For adults, there are 'food for work' programs where the adults are paid with food to build schools, dig wells, make roads, and so on. This both nourishes them and builds infrastructure to end the poverty. For children, there are 'food for education' programs where the children are provided with food when they attend school. Their education will help them to escape from hunger and poverty."

The UN says that if every nation gave .07% of its income to stop starvation, the $195 billion would solve the problem. What do you think it would take to stop hunger and poverty in the world?

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hungry for Food for Thought?

Here is some Lenten food for thought from Thomas Merton's book Thoughts in Solitude:

"The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived. Like all life, it grows sick and dies when it is uprooted from its proper element. Grace is engrafted on our nature and the whole person is sanctified by the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual life is not, therefore, a life entirely uprooted from our human condition and transplanted into the realm of the angels.

"We live as spiritual people when we live as people seeking God. If we are to become spiritual, we must remain human. And if there were not evidence of this everywhere in theology, the Mystery of the Incarnation itself would be ample proof of it. Why did Christ become Man if not to save us by uniting us mystically with God through His own Sacred Humanity?

"Jesus lived the ordinary life of the people of His time, in order to sanctify the ordinary lives of people of all time. If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere."

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

My Favorite Dictionaries

Do you love dictionaries? Go ahead -- admit it. Any bibliophile loves a good dictionary. My favorites are The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church and An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church> A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians> Don A. Armentrout, Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
Both of these are indispensible for quick reading as you munch down your sandwich at lunch. Here are a couple of entries:

From The Oxford Dictionary:

Dominus vobiscum. A Latin liturgical salutation, meaning 'The Lord be with you', to which the response is Et cum spiritu tuo, 'And with thy spirit'. Both formulae are probably as old as Christianity. The salutation occurs in Ruth 2:4; the closest scriptural approximation to the response is in 2 Tim. 4:22. Both the salutation and the response are found in the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus.

From An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church:

Low Sunday. The Sunday after Easter, the Second Sunday of Easter. The term may reflect the somewhat less intense celebration of the day relative to the great feast of Easter on the preceding Sunday. Many parishes experience lower attendance on Low Sunday than on Easter Day.

Amazing information can be yours at a glance.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Monday, March 5, 2007

Neighborly Neighbors

This dead tree near my home used to be occupied almost solely by Cormorants. I have counted as many as seventeen at a time. Now, Wood Storks and Cormorants roost in the same tree almost every evening. They have become neighborly neighbors. I never see them fighting or jockeying for position on any certain limb.

If I get too close with a camera, the Wood Storks move to another tree, but the Cormorants stay firmly in place. Maybe they don't mind the fact that I am in some sense their neighbor. Or maybe they are so busy being birds that they are oblivious to my presence. Either way, we humans could take a lesson from these big birds about sharing space. Think about this the next time someone gets on your limb of the dead tree.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sunday Evening Prayers from Holy Island

In a recent blog I talked about pilgrims going to Jerusalem during this holy season of Lent. Another favorite destination for pilgrims is Lindisfarne, off the northeastern coast of Great Britain. Many Christians call Lindisfarne "Holy Island" because it was made more holy by the blood of ninth century martyrs who had been taking the Gospel to England.

Lindisfarne is unique in that it is an island for only a few hours twice a day at high tide. Since it regularly reconnects with the mainland, Lindisfarne is a good metaphor for Lenten retreat. Those who can only take a few hours for a retreat but then must reconnect with their world can have their own "Holy Island."

Daily Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are a part of the rhythm of life on Holy Island. Here are some meditations from worshippers on Lindisfarne for Sunday Night, when the Resurrection is contemplated:

"Almighty God, from whose love neither life nor death can separate us: let the whole company of heaven praise you; let the whole church throughout the world praise you. Let us this night praise you."

By your death upon the cross
Raise us, good Lord.
By your burial in the grave
Raise us, good Lord.
By your descending into hell
Raise us, good Lord.
By your mighty resurrection
Raise us, good Lord.
By your conquering death
Raise us, good Lord.
By your risen appearances
Raise us, good Lord.
By your presence among us
Raise us, good Lord.

Pastor Linda
The Rev Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Hymns For Lent

It is a mark of the richness of The Hymnal 1982, which is the primary hymnal for the Episcopal Church, that we have hymns dating to the early days of Christianity. These are especially abundant in our choices for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and hymns for Lent and Easter. For example, the name of an eighth-century saint, John of Damascus, appears on three hymns in the Easter section.

One of my favorite hymns for Lent is attributed to Gregory the Great (depicted above), who became Bishop of Rome in 590. He sent missionaries to England who set up their base in Canterbury.

Here is the text of this hymn:

Now let us all with one accord,
in company with ages past,
keep vigil with our heavenly Lord
in his temptation and his fast.

The covenant, so long revealed
to those of faith in former time,
Christ by his own example sealed,
the Lord of love, in love sublime.

Your love, O Lord, our sinful race
has not returned, but falsified;
author of mercy, turn your face
and grant repentance for our pride.

Remember, Lord, though frail we be,
in your own image were we made;
help us, lest in anxiety,
we cause your Name to be betrayed.

Therefore, we pray you, Lord, forgive;
so when our wanderings here shall cease,
we may with you for ever live,
in love and unity and peace.

One of the best things about this hymn as it appears in our hymnal is that we have a choice of melodies. We may sing it to a twelfth-century plainsong chant, or we may sing it to (my favorite) an eighteenth-century mountain melody from Bourbon County, Kentucky. Another choice is that we may simply memorize the text as poetry and let it roll around in our minds until Holy Week and Easter.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Friday, March 2, 2007

Praying for the Victims of Disaster

Every day we hear of disasters in various parts of the world. We become almost numb to the numbers -- "13 killed in suicide bombing" -- and other statistics too gruesome to contempate. But when natural disaster strikes and young people and children are taken away from us, our attention is riveted on that situation. So it is with the storms and tornadoes that struck Missouri, Alabama, and Georgia. This is so close to home, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families.

Our prayers are offered on their behalf:

"Grant, O Lord, to all who are bereaved the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of your great goodness, and in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. And this we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen." [The Book of Common Prayer, page 505]

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Thursday, March 1, 2007

How's Your Day?

Among our most common greetings to friends and family is "How's your day going?" This is meant as a conversation-starter to gauge moods and find out other vital information, but mostly, it helps us realize just how precious each day is. Today where I am it is pouring rain, but that did not stop the workers from coming to do their building project at my house. The rain will not stop the post-person from making his/her appointed rounds.

Here is a musing from poet Tom Hennen, entitled "The Life of a Day."

"Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has its own personality quirks which can easily be seen if you look closely. But there are so few days as compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it would be surprising if a day were not a hundred times more interesting than most people. But usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don't want to reach our last one for a long time.

"We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn't one I've been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well-adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night's meandering skunk."

God bless Tom Hennen. He gets it.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek