Thursday, February 14, 2013


"V-Day: Love in the Wilderness"

Image taken from
Only the second day of Lent, and already we are confronted with the temptation to eat chocolate and cheesecake, drink red wine, and dress provocatively!  Yesterday I was wearing black and ashes, and today I am putting on lavender glitter nail polish – the color is “Flirt.”  I am not even kidding.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

When St. Valentine was first listed as a martyr of the church in late 5th century, all that was remembered about him was his name, the date of his death, and his place of burial.  It was only 1000 years later that his saint day, February 14, was associated with romantic love.

My husband and I don’t always celebrate Valentine’s Day (though I am dropping lots of hints this year, because I understand that the Monuts truck will be very near his work today, and doughnuts are my absolute favorite food.)  We celebrate our anniversary, and our “lunaversaries” (the 27th of every month), and each other’s birthdays, and New Year’s Eve, and any other little excuse… but somehow Valentine’s Day has never been high on our list of celebrations.  Maybe this is because Valentine’s Day is a day of obligation – like Father’s Day or Mother’s Day… it is a day on which anyone who is in a relationship is obliged to celebrate it, and not every relationship is worth celebrating.  It almost feels banal to celebrate Valentine’s Day – I am not interested in a day that seems to lead to a lot of “going through the motions” when our marriage is singular, vibrant, life-giving… when our life together is a spiritual discipline, a continuous sharing of grace, a revelation of God’s love for us reflected in our love for each other.

Valentine’s Day is also analogous to Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as a day of obligation that not all are in a position to celebrate.  Just as Father’s Day can be an especially difficult day after the loss of one’s father,  Valentine’s Day screams out, “You Are ALONE!” to those who are not currently in a romantic relationship – even if this is a choice that that person feels good about on every other day of the year.

And so, while there are many who have criticised Eve Ensler for “co-opting” Valentine’s Day, I am glad for her annual V-Day celebrations, drawing attention each February 14 to the continuing problem of violence against women.  Too often, this violence happens in the very relationships we celebrate on Valentine’s Day.  And many women who are not in relationships on this day are “alone” because they have made the brave and difficult choice to end a relationship that was dangerous for themselves or their children. 

Not every relationship is worth celebrating. 

So today, as one of the “One Billion Rising,” I am going to dance – dance in celebration for the many who have broken the cycle of violence, dance in solidarity with those who have been hurt and those who love them back into health and wellness, dance in sorrow for those who cannot yet articulate what is happening to them, dance in pain for those who hurt others – sometimes with the purpose of dominating, and sometimes without even knowing they are doing it. 

And I will dance in gratitude for my husband, whose love for me is like the love of Christ for the church – a feast of love in the wilderness.

-Sarah McGiverin
Follow Sarah on Twitter @ @SarahMcGiverin
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I wonder as I wander: St. Luke's has a labyrinth!

The labyrinth on the left; prayer chapel on the right
We celebrate the completion of a walking meditation prayer labyrinth on the St. Luke's campus! This project was conceived by our evangelism committee as another way to welcome people and invite them to engage with God. By walking the labyrinth's path (one way in and one way out) the walker slows down and takes a little pilgrimage toward God as they wind and turn toward the center. 
Later, when our parish went through a "dream work" process to identify our dreams for the buildings and campus, the idea of a labyrinth emerged as a priority. When St. Luker and Eagle Scout candidate, Kirby C., was looking for a project, we suggested it to him, and he enthusiastically agreed to research and execute the design and building of the labyrinth. The bricks outlining the pathways were leftover from when our church was built in the late 1960's and recently rediscovered in a pile elsewhere on our property. Kirby and his crew of volunteers (Eagle Scout candidates are supposed to lead the project not do it all themselves) have just about finished their work. The labyrinth is adjacent to another Eagle Scout project from years ago, our outdoor chapel (designed and built by Wes B., who is now a youth group adviser). We hope to use this area of the campus much more often now. Many, many thanks to Kirby and all those who lent their time and energy to make this project become a reality. Now it is time for a group of St. Luker's to adopt the labyrinth and share it with the congregation and the community. Be in touch with us if you are interested in becoming a "labyrinth keeper."
Kirby C. the Eagle Scout candidate who made this happen.
Above: the site before. Below: Mr. Foreman
gathering the bricks from the hidden brick pile in the woods
digging the trenches for the pathway borders

work crew as the labyrinth is coming together

laying out bricks. The bricks are reinforced by  metal rods and concrete
With gravel added, now the labyrinth is ready for walking

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Supplies needed for Holy Cross Anglican School in Belize

children in a classroom at Holy Cross Anglican School
Here is a list of ways you can contribute to our Belize mission teams who are leaving in early February. The supplies are packed in suitcases and hand delivered by our team members. Everything needs to be collected by January 27. Bring the items to the Sprague Room where there is a collection area. You can see much more about  our past Belize trips on our Belize blog:

Feeding Program financial contributions: urgent and will be matched 1:1 by Holy Cross Anglican School 
Foundation until 12/31/2012 (tax-deductible check to St. Luke’s with HCAS Feeding Program on memo line)

San Mateo Sewing Center financial contributions for Team to buy supplies on San Pedro (tax deductible check to St Luke’s with San Mateo Sewing Center on memo line) 

Used simple and functioning (working) digital cameras for a student Literacy Through Photography Project 
2013 (not new cameras)

Security Torch (heavy duty spot light type, weather proof, rechargeable)
Memory USB sticks for teachers (10-20)
Plastic medals for sports competitions (gold, silver, bronze) - 100 each
Portable scale (heavy duty only) for child weights
Jumbo permanent markers (not dry erase) - all colors - especially red, blue, green and black)
Paperback dictionaries (student dictionaries)(English)
Teacher geometry sets (large size compass, protractor, set squares)
Bulletin Board Borders - all colors and patterns (not alphabet or numbers which HCAS has)
Basic medical supplies - durable blood pressure cuffs (adult, adolescent and children) 
Envelopes (regular and legal size)
1 foot rulers
Post It Notes
Staples (standard desk stapler ¼ inch size)
Dry or chalk board erasers (new)
Glass microscope slides and cover glass
Clear packing tape (for laminating)
Red and blue pens
Laminating pouches - letter size - heat activated
White and cream card stock - letter size
Craft books for children, for class projects
Please do not donate (HCAS has an adequate supply on hand):
Old books, crayons, glue sticks, lead pencils and writing paper

If you prefer to make a financial contribution, please write your check to St. Luke’s with Belize supplies on 
the memo line.

Monday, December 24, 2012

#KeepingAdvent: "Presents and Presence"

Image courtesy of Idea go / freedigitalphotos

We all know what today is. It’s Christmas Eve, the day before we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ as God Incarnate, and tonight is when Santa Claus comes. In some households, the festivities begin today with Christmas pageants, dinners, the opening of a single gift or other traditions as many families split the holiday among more than one location. For others it is the last mad dash of preparation spent shopping, wrapping, cooking, traveling, or some hectic combination thereof.

Today is also my birthday. Yes, in the midst of all the other hubbub of Christmas Eve, I had the nerve to come wailing into the world some x-number of decades ago. In fact, I grew up with the story of that inconvenience told again and again each year -- as the youngest of four, it threw a real kink into the rest of the family’s plans – and combined it with other experiences growing up to come to the conclusion that I was not wanted.

Yet, despite all of that (or more likely, with God’s unfathomable help), I have always believed that He and I have something special going on, as if being born the day before Christmas put me just a little bit closer to Him. Now, that’s not to say someone having a birthday any other day of the year can’t be just as close to God. I never thought about it that way. It’s just that from before I can remember I pulled from the experience of my birthday a sense of connection to God or specialness that I now believe is the very definition of grace. It can be yours too.

Each of us has the potential to pull something out of our experiences or circumstances and point to it as evidence of God’s grace uniquely and unconditionally given to each of us. It may be a special talent or simply the miracle that we are here. As I reflect on my life I see a pretty direct correlation, regardless whether the actual circumstances were positive or negative, between how dark or bright certain periods were and my degree of closeness to God. The brightest times have been when I “walked with God,” looking for His love in other people and gratefully noticing more of His blessings, even if the circumstances were quite challenging. The darkest times have been when I tried to go it alone, working harder and faster to fix whatever needed fixing until I finally burned myself out, surrendered and turned back to Him. His presence is constant; mine is what waxes and wanes.

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
Image taken from

This year I received an early birthday present, in the form of Bishop Gregg’s December 2nd sermon, when he said, “Every day, always and no matter what, you and I, my brothers and sisters, are the beloved sons and daughters of God where God is love. And everything comes from that truth.” He made it clear: it matters less whether the right people love us or if certain people love us in the right way. God does.

Isn’t that what each of us really wants for Christmas, and isn’t that why God sent Jesus in the first place?

Merry Christmas,
Elizabeth Witherspoon

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Will our Marys have Elizabeths?

Mother of God Icon - Photo by: Klášter Pražského Jezulátka
image taken from
Who better to think about in the season of Advent—when the church waits and prepares for Christmas—who better to look at as an example then Mary? Mary, bless her heart, seems to have been just minding her own business when the angel Gabriel shows up to tell her she’ll be carrying and bearing the incarnation of God. Mary being pregnant when she isn’t married in that time and that place is no laughing matter; it was a HUGE deal. Joseph, her fiance, had the legal—and biblical—right to have Mary killed, stoned, in fact—not something that’s very Christmas cheery, but something’s that true nonetheless. Despite the picture of the grown woman that I know pops into my head when I say Mary, the fact of the matter is, at this point, Mary was young, really young--maybe even twelve. Though we may think of Mary as being meek, accepting, and/or obedient, I think Mary must have been so incredibly brave. She deals with what was indisputably the biggest challenge in her life incredibly graciously.
Our own lives can be dramatic on occasion, like Mary's. Obstacles and speed bumps pop up, because that’s just life. Maybe we don’t make a certain grade, make a certain team, or get into the certain college in the way we originally envisioned. Relationships evolve—we make new friends, our families might change or move, friends and family get sick and sometimes they don't get better. The only thing we can expect is the unexpected. I don’t know much about what Mary’s plan was, but I can almost guarantee you it did not involve getting pregnant when she was twelve or thirteen before she was married.

The reading from Luke for today picks up right after Mary’s found out this incredible, life-changing news. What does Mary do when life throws her the ultimate curveball? What would anybody do, but particular a teenage girl?  She went to go talk to someone about it.  Notice who Mary goes to see. Mary didn’t go and see any of her friends. Mary didn’t go talk to Joseph. Mary doesn’t go talk to her mom or her dad. No, Mary goes and sees another adult in her life, an adult with whom she already has a relationship. Mary goes to talk to her aunt Elizabeth.

I see our generations as being increasingly isolated. Families live further apart; kids have less free time to get to know the people they're not with all day long (their school peers). That can be one of the gifts of a church family--one of the last intergenerational spaces. Every Tyra needs a Ms. Taylor, Helen Keller an Anne Sullivan, DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle an Uncle Jesse or Uncle Joey, Harry Potter a Dumbledore. We all get sent down some twisty, kinda weird paths sometimes. Mary’s journey must have been waaaayyy different than she expected.
Will our Marys have Elizabeths?

Written by Ann Bonner-Stewart

Saturday, December 22, 2012

#KeepingAdvent: "Waiting"

Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting……

I have been waiting for so many things this year.  Some good.  Some awful.

Waiting for my new home to be complete enough to move into.  Waiting for the punch list completion (still!).  Waiting to spend the night there (finally did that on a 22 hour visit to Durham).  Waiting for the rest of my belongings to be delivered from storage.

Waiting for airplanes and rental cars.  Waiting for doctors, nurses and aides.  Waiting for my mom who was moving more and more slowly.  Waiting for my dad who is looking harder for his words these days.

Waiting for the next Advent candles to be lit—this year in three different churches in three different states!  I also enjoyed the Advent wreath in my Maryland godchildren’s home and a lovely godfamily* reunion there.

Waiting for Mom to get better while praying, “God’s will be done,” and knowing Mom’s prayers were for her trip to heaven to come soon.

Waiting for the endless line of people to file past, hugging us and telling us how much they’ll miss my mom.  They were stopped only by my dad insisting Mom would want her funeral to begin on time!  He was right, of course.  And we had followed her instructions to close the casket so there was no danger of her sticking her tongue out at us!

I knew her prayer book was marked and we had talked about her earthly death for years so I knew how to plan the service and the day.  All our talking made the time so much easier as I stepped into the manager role Mom always played in the past.  Talk about this!  I promise it doesn’t make death come sooner.  We’ve been talking about it for at least 35 years.  I’m so thankful this time didn’t come until I was old enough to really understand what Mom meant.  I also saw clear evidence that my brother had been unwilling to discuss it.  My answers to some of his questions were, “Mom would haunt us if we did that!”

Amidst all the other waiting, I am waiting, as we do every year for our glorious celebration of the birth of Christ.  I especially look forward to celebrating with my St. Luke’s family this year.

Although we wait to celebrate His birth, He’s among us now, each and every moment of each and every day.  In this time when I’ve needed Him most, Jesus has made his presence known and felt.  It’s been so strong I couldn’t possibly have missed it.  So many prayers ascending on our behalf by friends all over the place!  I pray the same for you, my friends.  Amen.  Alleluia!

*If ‘godchildren” is one word, my logic says “godfamily” is, too.  In my book, a gathering of one godchild (her brother’s in college!), two parents and four godparents is a “godfamily reunion”.

Written by Nancy Usher Williams

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Apocalypse Now"

Episcopalians are pleased, on the whole, not to be a religiously-demonstrative lot; we can, as well, be a mite smug about our denomination’s relative lack of credulity. Still, our Lord is gracious. Occasionally, Jesus will bonk one of us on the head with a two-by-four, make jazz-hands, and say, “Yo! I’m over here!”  St. Thomas the Apostle is a perfect icon for such apocalyptic moments, and we celebrate his feast today.

If you are reading this on 12/21, as planned, we can all breathe easier knowing we’ve avoided the Mayan Apocalypse. Some folks (more credulous than we) were sure it would all wind up today with a burning bang, but have we dodged the apocalyptic bullet? As Inigo Montoya once famously said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

‘Apocalypse’ is from the Greek words meaning ‘the veil away’ (απο + καλυμμα). Our sight, our hearts, our minds… are unable to see Truth clearly. We are unable to perceive ourselves and each other as God knows us and loves us. The perfect Beauty of all creation and perfect Goodness of God’s movement in and through that creation are veiled to our sight unless God removes the veil. The veil is not our sin (if it were, all we’d need to do is perfect ourselves, et voila!). Sin is a wound that God is healing day by day. Rather, the veil is our human finitude, and there’s no cure for that but grace bonking us on the head. The Good News is: that can happen anytime.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle Thomas: the Doubter and perfect Episcopalian, who was confident enough in God’s grace and power to express his doubts honestly, but who was nevertheless completely unprepared for that grace and power to reveal itself quite so personally. Jesus ripped the veil away, just for a moment, and Thomas fell to his knees and worshipped. His life would never be the same. Apocalypse will do that to a person.

My Lord and My God!

God’s kingdom is one of peace and plenty. Our own is full of violence, destruction, and horror. We use the word ‘apocalypse’ to describe such things as 9/11/01, Katrina, and Sandy Hook – and rightly so, for in those events, the veneers of virtue, dominion, and invulnerability protecting our tiny proud selves are ripped away. Our faultiness, finitude, and need for grace pull us into a praying jumble where we wail together for help. When the veil is lifted, we see ourselves more accurately, and respond appropriately – as children who are grievously hurt, and in need of healing…. lost in the darkness, and in need of guidance and Light… 

The apocalypse is always NOW. THIS MOMENT is the moment of revelation and judgment that can turn us toward Light and transform us. Today is also the Solstice: one of the oldest holy days of humankind. The Solstice is the ancient celebration of Hope – of proclaiming Returning Light even on the longest night. And in our darkened world, with our veiled but hopeful hearts, we gather to proclaim that the veil is being lifted, even now.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Written by Peach McDouall