Monday, April 30, 2007

Flowers I did not plant

Flowers I Did Not Plant
The Rev. Linda McCloud
April 29, 2007

This morning as I came rushing out my door
I noticed some small blue flowers
blooming by the walkway --
delicate flowers which I cannot identify.
Before they bloomed I thought they were weeds
if I even noticed them at all.
I don't know much about flowers.

My rose bush is blooming too,
and I'm grateful
because just like me it's a transplant,
having lived in that patch of ground
for only three months.
Five Sisters, I think they call it.
But I don't know much about Roses.

Look all around at the flowers
we did not plant.
We cannot make our world.
It has already been made
by our loving Creator God.
We can improve our world, though,
by planting more flowers and
by nurturing the ones that grace our path
-- seemingly by accident.

In Peace,

Linda +

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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Love A Parade

Yesterday's twenty-second annual Crawfish Festival Parade in Woodbine, Georgia drew participants from a wide spectrum of Camden County inhabitants. They were variously driving antique cars and antique tractors, marching in a band, riding on floats, and driving the Teacher of the Year down Bedell Avenue. And then there were the rest of us standing by and enjoying their efforts.

But the parade was only part of the festival. After the parade we all headed toward the River Walk on the Satilla River where there was food and a stage with a band and singers.

Some of the people at the festival were trying to draw the rest of us into their organizations. A certain political party was passing out cards and trying to register people to vote. The owners of Creative Catering set up a table full of their scrumptious desserts right in front of their restaurant. Who could resist?

On the whole it was a good community event. We saw some people we knew in an unusual setting, and we met new people. It was as if we were in some sort of time warp or bubble where life was easier. Someone remarked that no matter how many people you meet, there are always so many more to meet.

I picture heaven as something of a festival, but on a scale infinitely more grand than we could ask or imagine, where we will have all eternity to meet everyone. Oh -- and I'm hoping that the Creative Catering desserts will grow on trees there.

In peace,

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

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Ethics of Kingdom Living

James (back to camera) admitted to me
that he gave the gentleman five dollars.
Photo by Linda McCloud +

Christians are often a curiosity to non-Christian onlookers. Why do we attempt to behave according to certain standards, and who sets those standards? And what happens when we fail to live up to those standards?

I believe our ethical norms of behavior are somehow an attempt to respond to the love of God outpoured on us in Jesus Christ. Still the question remains, “Why do I as a Christian have it as my goal to observe certain behavioral standards?” St. Augustine said that because we know we are going to die, we want peace in our rational soul. In describing Christian standards, St. Augustine says that we view all peace – of body or soul, or of both – in relation to that peace which exists between mortals and Almighty God.

Augustine says that we do so in order that we may exhibit an ordered obedience in faith in subjection to the everlasting law. In other words, we strive to do the right things. We are to love God and love our neighbor, with the implicit self-validation of loving ourselves. In order to do this, there are two norms:

1) Do no harm to any one (this is reflective of the Hippocratic Oath); and
2) Help everyone whenever possible.

These two norms can be compared to a peaceful river which flows along and nourishes everything in its path. But how can we let these two norms govern us? One answer could be virtue-based ethics, or standards of behavior. By way of clarification, the cardinal virtues are temperance, courage, prudence and justice. Christians have baptized these ethics and adopted them, but we hold even higher the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Charity, or love, has them all covered. So let us hold love as our highest goal. I would suggest that the door of the cardinal virtues swings both ways – that if we do no harm to anyone and help whenever possible, we will live lives of temperance, courage, prudence and justice, guided by faith, hope, and love. In the midst of all this, we must be clothed with humility, or else our virtues could turn to vices if we try to impose them on others. Humility means knowing that all virtues come from God. The ideal of the Christian character is the earthly life of Jesus Christ. Even those who were opposed to Jesus conceded that “He has done everything well.”

Do we have peace in our rational souls because we try to conform to the norms of behavior set by Jesus, or do we try to conform to those norms because through faith we have peace with God? And last but not least, is it possible to make these ideals our norms of everyday behavior? Does it all come down to asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” And further, how can we be sure what Jesus would do?

Sometimes, we are a curiosity even to ourselves.

Linda +

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

Friday, April 27, 2007

Of Putting Troubles to Use

Storm clouds at dawn
Mexico Beach, Florida
photo by Linda McCloud +

What good is trouble? Fifteenth century writer Thomas a` Kempis left us this pearl of wisdom:

"Sometimes it is good for us to have troubles and hardships, for they often call us back to our own hearts . . . Sometimes it is good that we put up with people speaking against us, and sometimes it is good that we be thought of as bad and flawed, even when we do good things and have good intentions.

"Such troubles are often aids to humility, and they protect us from pride. Indeed, we are sometimes better at seeking God when people have nothing but bad things to say about us and when they refuse to give us credit for the good things we have done. That being the case, we should so root ourselves in God that we do not need to look for comfort anywhere else."

--From The Imitation of Christ, Chapter 12, "Of Putting Troubles to Use"

In Peace,

Linda +

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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recycling is not a new idea

Recycling is a great idea, but it is not a new idea. I love to recycle such things as paper, aluminum cans, plastics and glass because that is good stewardship, but here's a case of recycling for purely religious purposes:

Text reveals more ancient secrets
By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC News

Experts are "lost for words" to have found that a medieval prayer book has yielded yet another key ancient text buried within its parchment.

Works by mathematician Archimedes and the politician Hyperides had already been found buried within the book, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest.

But now advanced imaging technology has revealed a third text - a commentary on the philosopher Aristotle.

Project director William Noel called it a "sensational find".

The prayer book was written in the 13th Century by a scribe called John Myronas. But instead of using fresh parchment for his work, he employed pages from five existing books.
Dr Noel, curator of manuscripts at the US-based Walters Art Museum and a co-author of a forthcoming book on the Archimedes Palimpsest, said: "It's a rather brutal process, but it means you can reuse parchment if you are short of it.
"You take books off shelves, you scrub off the text, you cut them up and you make a new book." "Just the fact that I could see the words gave me shivers," said Professor Roger Easton.

In 1906 it came to light that one of the books recycled to form the medieval manuscript contained a unique work by Archimedes.

For the full text of this story, see
If you were short on paper, what would you recycle to write out a prayer book?

In peace,

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Saint Mark the Evangelist

Today is the feast day of Saint Mark the Evangelist. His was the first Gospel written, around 65-75 A.D., to Christians who were under persecution for their faith.

Mark's is the shortest gospel -- only sixteen chapters -- but they are power-packed, action-packed chapters. Mark's gospel begins abruptly and ends abruptly. There is no birth narrative. Mark gets right down to the business of addressing his audience with the first verse: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The endings of Mark's gospel can be perplexing. Did the women tell anyone that Jesus was raised from the dead? Did they not tell? The answer is probably yes to both questions.

There are some identifying traits in Mark's gospel that I especially like. One is the story of Jesus being in the wilderness for forty days. Mark says that Jesus was with the wild beasts. I like to think that the wild beasts enjoyed the company of the One who created them. Another trait of Mark's gospel is its use of the word "immediately." This helps move the action along and shows Jesus' life to the Roman audience. It also makes the story easier to read aloud. In the early days of the Church, it is probable that this Gospel would have been read aloud in its entirety at one session. This takes about two hours.

Mark's name shows up in scripture in more places than the Gospels. Mark had to bear St. Paul's disappointment with him when Mark turned back from a missionary journey. By the end of Paul's life, Mark was back in Paul's good graces. Mark was also a friend of St. Peter, from whom it is believed that Mark received much information for the Gospel that bears his name.

Tradition has it that Mark was the first bishop of the Church in Alexandria, Egypt, where he died a martyr's death. We give thanks on this day for his faithful witness.

In peace,

Linda +

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Psalms for Praying

Olive grove on the side of Mt. Carmel
and the valley beyond to the Mediterranean Sea

In yesterday's blog I offered Leslie F. Brandt's version of Psalm 66. Here is Nan C. Merrill's rendition of Psalm 66, which stays a little closer to the original. This is from her book Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness.

Psalm 66
Sing a joyful song to the Beloved
all the earth,
and praise Love's name;
Sing in glorious exultation!
We say to You, "How magnificent are
your ways.
So great is your power that fear and
doubt vanish before You;
All the earth worships You;
the people raise their voice,
they sing praises to your Name."

Come and see what the Beloved has done;
wondrous are the deeds of Love.
Remember when the sea turned to
dry land?
There, we did rejoice in the One,
who rules by the mighty Spirit of Love
Whose eyes keep watch on the nations -
let not those who strive for
power exalt themselves.

Bless the Beloved, Heart of our hearts,
let the sound of our praises
be heard.
You keep us attuned to life and
guide our feet on solid ground.
For You, O Love, have tested us;
You have tried us as silver as tried.
You have allowed us to fall into
the net;
You have watched us reap all that
we have sown;
we went through fire and
through water,
Yet You have brought us through our
pain and
into your dwelling place.

I enter your house with gifts;
I commend my soul into your
all that my lips uttered and
my mouth promised when
I was in trouble and pain,
I offer up to You;
I abandon myself into your hands.

Come and hear, all you who reverence
the Most High,
and I shall tell what the Beloved
has done for me.
I cried aloud to the Silent Watcher
of my life;
from my tongue came forth words of praise.
Had I cherished greed and power,
I would have separated myself
from Love;
the voice of my prayer was heard.

Blessed be the holy Name of the Beloved,
Loving Companion Presence,
who has embraced me, and
renewed my life.

In peace,

Linda +

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

Monday, April 23, 2007

High Time

What would the Psalms sound like if the ancient Psalm-writers such as David, King of Israel, were alive and writing today? Leslie F. Brandt took this issue into consideration some time ago and gave us a book called Psalms/Now. His ideas are still relevant, but so are the Psalms as they were originally written.

Here is Brandt's concept of what Psalm 66 would sound like if we could update the language a bit:

Psalm 66

It is high time we start making
happy noises about God,
that we boldly proclaim God's name
and shout God's praises.

We already know
what God has done throughout history,
the great deeds God performed,
the people who witnessed them
and worshiped God.

Let us recognize, as well,
what God is constantly doing for us.
God draws us into the crucible of conflict;
God tests and tries us
in the valley of pain and sorrow;
God allows us to taste the agony of affliction;
God gives our enemies permission
to oppose and oppress us.
And then God uses these very things
to purge and prepare us for God's purposes.

Now I renew my pledge to my God.
I strive to carry out those promises I made to God
when I cried for God's help in my troubles.
I yield up to God my life
as a sacrifice and thank offering.

You who are seeking for God,
these are the things God has done for me;
God has accepted me despite my sins and failures.
God listens when I cry out to God,
and God responds with solace and support.

I proclaim God's praises
because I know God will love me forever.

In peace,

Linda +

The Rev. Linda McCloud

Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Music of the Spheres

Do you have time for an astrophysics lesson? Let's set the tone with a little mood music:

This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings and round me rings
the music of the spheres.

Maltbie D. Babcock (1858-1901)

And now this bit of space news should get your Earth Day going:

Staff Writer,
Thu Apr 19, 11:30 AM ET

Astronomers have recorded heavenly music bellowed out by the Sun's atmosphere.
Snagging orchestra seats for this solar symphony would be fruitless, however, as the frequency of the sound waves is below the human hearing threshold. While humans can make out sounds between 20 and 20,000 hertz, the solar sound waves are on the order of milli-hertz--a thousandth of a hertz.

The study, presented this week at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting in Lancashire, England, reveals that the looping magnetic fields along the Sun's outer regions, called the corona, carry magnetic sound waves in a similar manner to musical instruments such as guitars or pipe organs.

Making music

Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen of the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Center at the University of Sheffield and his colleagues combined information gleaned from sun-orbiting satellites with theoretical models of solar processes, such as coronal mass ejections.

They found that explosive events at the Sun's surface appear to trigger acoustic waves that bounce back and forth between both ends of the loops, a phenomenon known as a standing wave.

"These magnetic loops are analogous to a simple guitar string," von Fay-Siebenburgen explained. "If you pluck a guitar string, you will hear the music."

In the cosmic equivalent of a guitar pick, so-called microflares at the base of loops could be plucking the magnetic loops and setting the sound waves in motion, the researchers speculate. While solar flares are the largest explosions in the solar system, microflares are a million times smaller but much more frequent; both phenomena are now thought to funnel heat into the Sun's outer atmosphere.

The acoustic waves can be extremely energetic, reaching heights of tens of miles, and can travel at rapid speeds of 45,000 to 90,000 miles per hour. "These [explosions] release energy equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs," von Fay-Siebenburgen said.

"These energies are plucking these magnetic strings or standing pipes, which set up standing waves--exactly the same waves you see on a guitar string," von Fay-Siebenburgen told The "sound booms" decay to silence in less than an hour, dissipating in the hot solar corona.

Solar physics

The musical finding could help explain why the Sun's corona is so hot.
While the Sun's surface is a steamy 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,538 degrees Celsius), plasma gas in the corona soars to more than 100 times hotter.

"How can the atmosphere above the surface of the Sun be hotter if nuclear fusion happens inside the Sun?" von Fay-Siebenburgen said. If astronomers can get a clearer picture of what's going on inside these magnetic loops in the Sun's atmosphere, they have a better chance of finding the answer.

Where are those musicologists when we need them?

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

Saturday, April 21, 2007

How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways.

Wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee
August 2004 - late afternoon
Photo by Linda McCloud+

Our Gospel reading for tomorrow is John 21:1-19, which describes Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to seven of his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius, also known as Lake Gennesaret and the Sea of Galilee. Part of the story that touches me deeply is the conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Peter had denied Jesus three times during Jesus' trial. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus. Of course the answer was "Lord, you know that I love you." I think that is more than a simple yes, but if you read this story in the Greek language is not quite so simple.

Two separate Greek words for love are used in this story. One is agape, which in practice means that we place the other first in our affections. This would be the kind of love expressed in John 15:12-13: "This is my commandment, that you love (agape) one another as I have loved (agape) you. No one has greater love (agape) than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

The other word used in this story is phileo, which means to have a deep feeling for; love, or like (to do or be something). So, if you put forms of phileo (love) and sophia (wisdom) together you get philosopher, a lover of wisdom.

Phileo can also mean to kiss. Judas had betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Peter had betrayed Jesus with his denial. Peter was probably feeling pretty low.

Let's revisit this scene where Jesus is testing Peter's loyalty:

Jesus: Do you love (agape) me more than these?
Peter: Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Feed my lambs.

Jesus: Do you love (agape) me?
Peter: Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Tend my sheep.

Jesus: Do you love (phileo) me?
Peter: Lord, you know everything. You know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go. (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God). After this he said to him, "Follow me."

The Greek form of Jesus' last word to Peter, "Follow me," is present imperative active. This is not an invitation. It is a command leaning more toward "Follow me, Peter, and do it now."

How do all these words sort out for you? What do you think was Peter's real answer to Jesus?

In peace,


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

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Bike Ride

I was thinking that I should go out for a bicycle ride and formulate my Sunday sermon before writing it down. And then I remembered this anonymous poem quoted in the book Holy Sweat by Tim Hansel:

The Bike Ride

When I met Christ,
It seemed as though life
were rather like a bike ride.
But it was a tandem bike,
And I noticed that Christ
was in the back helping me pedal.

I don’t know just when it was
That he suggested we change places,
But life has not been the same since.
When I had control,
I knew the way.
It was rather boring, but predictable . . .
It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when Christ took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts,
Up mountains, and through rocky places
At breakneck speeds.
It was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”

I was worried and anxious and asked,
“Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn’t answer,
And I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life
And entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared,”
He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed –
Gifts of healing,
And joy.
He said, “Give the gifts away;
They’re extra baggage, too much weight.”
So I did –
To the people we met –
And I found that in giving I received,
And still our burden was light.

I did not trust him, at first,
To be in control of my life.
I thought He’d wreck it;
But Christ knows bike secrets –
Knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
Knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
Knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I am learning to pedal
In the strangest places.
And I’m beginning to enjoy the view
And the cool breeze on my face
With my delightful constant companion,
Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I can’t do any more,
He just smiles and says, “Pedal.”

I can go work on my sermon now.

In peace,

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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Casting Call: Jesus at Age Seven

I have taken on a new role as wanna-be casting director for an upcoming motion picture.

Here's the challenge:

CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT, the motion picture based on Anne Rice’s best-selling novel about Christ’s early years, will begin shooting in Israel this October. Good News Holdings’ decision to make the film in Israel has the full support of the Israeli government and casting has begun in Israel to find the boy who will play Jesus at the age of 7. A theatrical release is planned for Fall 2008.

Here's my solution: James Higgins -- get this kid to play Jesus. He has such a heart for the part. Check out this news blip about him:

Got a Catholic Question? Boy, 7,
Has the Answers

By Philip Turner

WASHINGTON -- Among the faithful gathered at the 7 a.m. daily Mass at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, one face always stands out. James Higgins, 7, has been attending daily Mass since he was 3, and he hasn't broken his 200-day streak since his First Communion last fall. “I have it in my heart to go,” James said. At the same time, James has amassed an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Church that would send even the most devout nun's head spinning. He can spout the 10 Commandments in about eight seconds flat. “Give me something hard, really hard!” he says. The feast day for St. Augustine? He sighs, as if he's disappointed he didn't get a harder question. “Aug. 28.” He's correct.

Let's take a vote. Should James Higgins get the part? Who would you like to see play the role of Jesus Christ at age 7?

Have you read Christ the Lord out of Egypt? I highly recommend it as a can't-put-it-down page turner.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We are Virginia Tech

In case you missed her passionate rendition of this poem at a convocation today, here is the text composed by Nikki Giovanni:

We Are Virginia Tech
We are Virginia Tech
We are sad today
And we will be sad for quite a while.
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning.
We are Virginia Tech
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry ...
And sad enough to know we must laugh again.
We are Virginia Tech
We do not understand this tragedy.
We know we did nothing to deserve it.
But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS.
Neither do the invisible children
walking the night away
to avoid being captured by a rogue army.
Neither does the baby elephant
watching his community being devastated for ivory.
Neither does the Mexican child
looking for fresh water.
Neither does the Appalachian infant
killed in the middle of night in his crib
in the home its father built with his own hands
being run over by a boulder
because the land was destablized.
No one deserves a tragedy.
We are Virginia Tech.
The Hokie nation embraces our own and
reaches out with open heart and hands
to those who offer their hearts and minds.
We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid.
We are better than we think and
not quite what we want to be.
We are alive to the imagination and the possibility.
We will continue to invent the future.
Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness
We are the Hokies.
We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail
We are Virginia Tech.

-- Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor of English, VTI&SU

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

"Pray for the Church"

May 13, 2005
Sewanee, Tennessee

In less than a month at The University of The South School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee, approximately thirty Master of Divinity graduates will be turned loose on an unsuspecting world. The Rev. Dr. Don Armentrout, the professor best known for teaching Church History, will be standing by wringing his hands and saying, "Pray for the Church."

This blog is a special prayer request for the Church. It is a request for prayer for all church planters, and especially one of the newest, The Rev. Connie Gordon of the Diocese of Utah. She has answered a call to plant a new church in South Salt Lake County. Now we must now revise and add Connie's name to the prayer written by our classmate The Rev. Kevin Fisher:

Lord God, through holy scripture you have taught us that some plant and some water, but that only you grant increase and growth. Cultivate and nourish, we pray, all church planters and their missions, especially Connie Gordon, Linda McCloud, and Frank Logue, that knowledge of your love, healing, and saving grace may grow without limit throughout the world. We pray your blessing especially upon the Bishops, priests, deacons, and lay persons of the Diocese of Utah and the Diocese Georgia that your will may be done through them for the Churches that are planted. In the Holy Name of Jesus Christ we pray.

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

Monday, April 16, 2007

You Can't Copyright A Title

Sometimes I'm a little behind on "cool," but I'm catching up as fast as I can. This can be credited in part to my Gen-X friends, one of whom put me on to an absolutely hilarious You-Tube video. Check this out at

The video is "Title of the Song." It blatantly gives away a formula for writing popular Contemporary Christian music. I got an enormous kick out of it because when I worked in Nashville, Tennessee for Tree Publishing/Meadowgreen Music (later sold to Sony), our songwriters considered formula songwriting to be taboo or at least in poor taste.

Formula writing was contrived and was the playground of amateurs. It was like copying a famous painting and calling it your own idea. Great hits came out of the writers' hearts before they were ever formulated in their brains, and we all knew a hit song when we heard one. Usually they were so obvious we kicked ourselves for not writing them first.

When I used to be in touch with copyright law, the deal was that you could not copyright a title. But then, who could re-write "Amazing Grace," which came out of John Newton's very soul. Who could write anything to compare with Charles Wesley's majestic Advent hymn, "Lo! he comes, with clouds descending."

But the pressure is on to keep producing hits like these, and the only way to do that is to keep writing. Every now and then you'll get one that's just right. Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is reputed to have written more than 6,000 hymns, but only 23 made it into The Hymnal 1982.

In every genre of expression originals are nice, but look-alikes are expected. For an example, read Psalm 118 and 136 back to back and then come and tell me what you think. And yet, we have this request of us in holy writ:

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

(Psalm 149:1)

Have you written any good songs lately? Don't be shy.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Great Poetry Set to Music

The beloved Christian writer C. S. Lewis once observed that he did not like to sing in church because the music (to put this mildly) did not suit his fancy. Lewis went on to say that just when that thought ran through his mind, he looked over at his neighbor who had mud on his boots. Lewis says he realized he was not worthy to clean the mud off the boots of his neighbor, who was singing to the Lord with all his heart.

I have wondered just what sort of music the Church of England could sing that would have displeased the man who gave us The Chronicles of Narnia. I hope that he loved at least some of that music, especially great poems set to hymn tunes.

Lewis would have recognized the work of George Herbert, an Anglican priest who died about a month shy of his fortieth birthday in 1633. Herbert's texts in our hymnal are: "King of glory, King of peace" (382), "Let all the world in every corner sing" (402-403), and [my favorite] "Come my Way, my Truth, my life" (487).

Herbert's Book The Country Parson is a staple on the bookshelves of many an Episcopal priest. Here's a snippet:

"The Country Parson, as soon as he [sic] awakes on Sunday morning, presently falls to work, and seems to himself so as a Market-man is, when the Market day comes, or a shopkeeper, when customers use to come in. . . . To this end, besides his ordinary prayers, he makes a peculiar one for a blessing on the exercises of the day, that nothing befall him unworthy of that Majesty before which he is to present himself, but that all may be done with reverence to his glory . . ."

The blog would be incomplete without a poem by George Herbert:


J E S U is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th' other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev'n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where E S, and next where U was graved.
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to my whole is J E S U.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Women in the News

Here is a news item I cannot resist passing along:

Charlotte Winters, oldest American female World War I veteran, dies at 109

[Episcopal News Service] Charlotte Louise Berry Winters was the oldest living American female World War I veteran until her death March 27 at a nursing home near Boonsboro, Maryland. She was 109.

A member of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Frederick, Maryland, and a Daughter of the King, Winters was a Civil War buff who met face-to-face with the Secretary of the Navy to fight for women in the military.

Her death leaves just five known surviving American World War I veterans.

Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Living in the Moment

Photos by Linda McCloud+

Sunset at Mexico Beach, Florida - December 2005

Trumpet vines and white azaleas -
Honey Creek 2007

Miss Angel Cat misbehaving
October 2006

Miss Angel Cat living up to her name.
October 2006.

There is a difference between living in the moment and living in anticipation of a moment. If we live for a certain moment to arrive we hold our breath and let a lot of other moments pass us by. If we have an important appointment our entire day might revolve around preparing for that event. Eyes on the prize, we miss the road beneath our feet.

If we live in the moment we might actually notice how good that granola bar tasted -- the one we called breakfast. If we live in the moment we might stop and stare at a sunrise or sunset, or at a butterfly on a flower.

With today's overloaded schedules it is difficult to be present to our surroundings and to the people with whom we work or live. Spiritual writers have long tried to get us to pay closer attention to the details that make up our day.

One such person was Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751). He taught that living in the present moment brings us closer to God. Here's a brief quote from Abandonment to Divine Providence (New York: Doubleday, 1975)

"Our only satisfaction must be to live in the present moment as if there were nothing to expect beyond it."

So -- did he have nothing else to do but pray? Far from it. Caussade loved his solitude, but he was also a teacher, priest, writer, spiritual director, and a sometime diplomat. But he had discovered a secret to happiness. The destination might be glorious, but the joy is in the journey.

How would life change for you if you began living in the present moment?

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

This Joyful Eastertide

Today in our church calendar is "Wednesday in Easter Week." Easter Sunday is only the beginning of our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday is a celebration of his resurrection, and even in Lent every Sunday is a "Little Easter."

There is so much to take in that the Church celebrates Easter for The Great Fifty Days. The fiftieth day is Pentecost, on which we celebrate the birthday of the Church by the descent of the Holy Spirit on 120 people gathered in the Upper Room. On that day, those 120 burst into their world to proclaim the Good News of Christ in the languages of their hearers.

Our continuous celebration of Easter gives opportunities for more hymns and prayers, such as this one by George R. Woodward (1848-1934) found in The Hymnal 1982, No. 192:

This joyful Eastertide,
away with sin and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
has sprung to life this morrow.

Death's flood has lost its chill,
since Jesus crossed the river:
Lord of all life, from ill
my passing life deliver.

My flesh in hope shall rest,
and for a season slumber,
till trump from east to west
shall wake the dead in number.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
ne'er burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain;
but now is Christ arisen,
arisen, arisen, arisen.

We also have a prayer for Wednesday in Easter Week:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, 223)

I wish you a wonderful Great Fifty Days of Easter.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"This is the way; walk in it."

A Reading from the Book of Isaiah [30:18-21] - from today's Morning Prayer:

The Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem,
you shall weep no more.
He will surely be gracious to you
at the sound of your cry;
when he hears it, he will answer you.
Though the Lord may give you
the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more,
but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
And when you turn to the right
or when you turn to the left,
your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,

"This is the way; walk in it."

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

Monday, April 9, 2007

Building Bridges Takes Time

This afternoon I had a pleasant surprise. A stretch of road that is usually reduced to one lane with orange barrels was open in both lanes. After I zipped across the spot I always dread, I noticed that I had done so with a lane beside me to spare.

I had been listening to a really good CD by Anonymous 4, but I snapped back to reality when I realized what had happened. I had crossed a new bridge. I have been traveling that section of highway off and on for a couple of years, and it has always been slow and go through the construction. With the new bridge, crossing that spot was a breeze. No wonder the construction took so long. Building bridges takes time.

Cultivating good relationships also takes time, but the results can be extremely rewarding. Our acts of kindness can build bridges to each other and to the wider world. In the interim period, we can look for slow and go and maybe even some orange barrels.

Pastor Linda

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

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Good Day for Baptisms

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.

Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast. -- The Book of Common Prayer, 298

On this Easter Day, Churches around the world are baptizing new disciples of Jesus Christ as we continue to proclaim that Christ is risen from the dead. Here are four people I baptized at St. Mark's in Woodbine, GA today, along with the mother of two of them.

Jacob and his brother Zachary enjoyed their baptisms. Little Henry seemed to have no opinion either way, but his sister Amelia was not amused. That's OK. Some day she will thank her parents for bringing her to the font.

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

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Many people have wondered why women went to the tomb on Easter morning. They ask, "Where were the men -- Peter, James, John, and the rest?" The women were out there doing their job. Jesus had been given a rather hasty burial on Friday and the women saw it as their duty to more properly prepare Jesus' body to stay in the grave.

On that first Easter morning, the women probably could have traveled the dark streets of Jerusalem unnoticed simply because they were women. It was the first day of the week, so the markets would have been open. They could have been on their way to buy food to prepare meals. Instead, they went to the spice merchants.

They were sorrowful and bogged down with practical matters, wondering who would roll away the stone for them. But when they arrived they encountered angels and the empty tomb, with that troublesome stone rolled away. They were dumbstruck. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. Some feelings are too deep for words.

The Gospel according to Luke (23:53) gives us a very particular description of the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been laid on Good Friday. It says that Joseph of Arimathea “went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down [from the cross], wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.” This is the key phrase -- “where no one had ever been laid.”

In those days, in that hot Mediterranean country of Israel, dead people were put in tombs, and when their bodies had been reduced to bones, the bones were collected and put in an ossuary, or “bone box.” The bones could then be buried in a smaller space. Maybe this is the origin of the phrase He/She knows where all the bones are buried. The fact that only Jesus’ body had been in that tomb offers further proof that only Jesus could have been raised from the dead in that tomb. And he never needed an ossuary.

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Keeping Silence

Everything is really quiet today. It's unseasonably cold outside. I hear some birds but not as many as usual. It's a quiet day in churches that keep the liturgical year. It's "Holy Saturday."

On this day there is no celebration of the Holy Eucharist until after sundown. It's the day to commemorate Jesus' time spent dead in a stone-cold tomb. This is a day to enter into the desolation the first disciples of Jesus must have felt. Jesus was really, truly dead. If there was anything the Roman government knew well how to do, it was to execute trouble makers. And to them Jesus was a trouble maker. He had a following because he gave people hope. We especially remember that time he fed five thousand people at once.

When we get this quiet, we get alone with our own thoughts. Things that went flying past us last week come back to mind. In the silence, important issues of life and death bubble to the surface of our consciousness. We could contemplate world hunger, or global warming and its effects on the poor and underprivileged who have no defenders. I've been thinking more about an incident that happened closer to home.

A couple of days ago in Orlando, Florida, Eric Montanez of the charity group Food Not Bombs, was arrested for feeding homeless people. Montanez violated a law that "allows charities to feed more than 25 people at a time within two miles of Orlando city hall only if they have a special permit." They can obtain two permits a year. The last time I checked, no one can live six months without food. I don't live in Orlando and I don't have an answer to their civic problems, but I can spot trouble even this far away. Why am I thinking that Eric Montanez reminds me of Jesus.

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

Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday -- "Good" for whom?

Crucifix in the cell of St. Jerome, Bethlehem

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
of the mighty conflict sing;
tell the triumph of the victim,
to his cross thy tribute bring.
Jesus Christ, the world's Redeemer
from that cross now reigns as King.

Thirty years among us dwelling,
his appointed time fulfilled,
born for this, he meets his passion;
this the Savior freely willed:
on the cross the Lamb is lifted,
where his precious blood is spilled.

He endures the nails the spitting,
vinegar, and spear, and reed;
from that holy body broken
blood and water forth proceed:
earth, and stars, and sky, and ocean,
by that flood from stain are freed.

Faithful cross! above all other,
one and only noble tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peer may be:
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
sweetest weight is hung on thee.

Mural in Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Praise and honor to the Father,
praise and honor to the Son,
praise and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One:
one in might and one in glory
while eternal ages run.
Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (540?-600?)

Therefore, since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith,
who for the sake of the joy that was set before him

endured the cross,
disregarding its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV)

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