August Journal, Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Writing2I’ve been thinking about authorities, as in what authority lies behind a truth told, what proof or evidence witnesses to the truth told. For we must choose carefully today to whom we listen, to whom we rely on to tell the truth. Are they biased? Are they competent? Do they have sufficient knowledge and background to make the statement?

Our medias fly at us like bullets, thousands of emails, thousands of words, thousands of statements claimed to be facts. Which ones are accurate? Which words do we listen to and believe? For it makes all the difference, which authorities command our allegiance.

I have found that given the liberal left slant of mainstream news, I should balance their opinions, opinings, with conservative versions of the same event or statistics. For the mainstream, I read our local paper, which channels New York Times into a community paper, complete with vicious denunciations of people of faith and people of tradition. For the balance to our local screed, I turn to the Epoch Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The numbers reported in the Chinese Flu Pandemic have been odd ones in the mainstream press. It has been difficult to see real numbers, i.e. death rates by age, by comorbidities, by country. At first I searched online through the major medical sites, CDC, etc., and eventually I would find the case numbers and the death numbers and do the math to get to the death rate, the percentage that, I am told, is standard for comparison of flu, etc. waves. But that took time, and I finally gave up.

I finally found in the Epoch Times this last week a death rate percentage. It was a global rate, so not the best for our country, but there it was: COVID death rate globally over the last year has been .15. That’s the same as the average flu season. The COVID death rate is probably lower than this, since the numbers of deaths in this country have been off by 70% in terms of reporting causal or incidental. All those who died of any cause were tested for COVID and if they were positive, they were listed as a COVID death. A person dying in a car crash would be tested for COVID and, if positive, the death would be listed as a COVID death. One writer explained that death causes are either “causal” or “incidental.” It appears that around 70% of reported deaths due to COVID were not causal but incidental, and they were misreported. Why?

So I choose my authorities carefully. I weigh the numbers and the evidence and consider the source. Then I make up my own mind. I am not a medical doctor (or any doctor, for that matter) so I must look to others to give me the facts.

IMG_4909How can we see things as they truly are? I rearranged a few of my icons in my office, moving them from the bookshelves, where they seem to disappear into the many titles, to a blank bit of wall. I did the same with some family photos, moving them also to a white space. I can see them now, and feel they have been given new life. Life is often like that, so muddled with too many details (or emails). We lose our way in the forest of trees.

One of my authorities is Scripture. But here, too, there are many interpretations. So I consider which source to use, and have concluded our Anglican tradition hits things pretty much on the mark. In the parable of the Prodigal Son this morning, our good preacher reminisced a bit about his own past, and then stepped into the parable, told by our Lord Jesus. I listened carefully, for I trust his insight, I trust his authority. It is a story we have all heard many times, the younger son leaving home for a dissolute life and returning desperate and penniless, the older son jealous of his brother’s reception by their father. The father forgives. The father welcomes. The father celebrates. The young man is like the lost sheep of other parables and the last minute vineyard worker. 

the-prodigal-sonAnd so I was reassured that God the Father loves us, each one of us, and welcomes us home, even after a dissolute life, even after no-matter-what. We are forgiven when we come home. But we must come home.

There is an integrity in the Gospels and the Epistles, an integrity that complements and affirms the whole of Christianity and Christian witness, including the Old Testament prophecies and wanderings of Israel’s people. And there is an integrity, an honesty, in our clergy, for the most part. For they are human too and make mistakes. But if I immerse myself in weekly Eucharists, healing my soul and my body, I sense that I am also healing my heart and mind, and being fed with truth that will shine light on the world around me. I will be less blind. I will see better.

65D6F3F7-EDAC-4F24-A57D-79E5779CC498We all want to be able to see, and to see better, more clearly. We want to understand who we are as individuals and as mankind, as humanity. We can only do this if we evaluate our authorities carefully. Whom do we trust to tell the truth about Man, about God, about the Earth and the Heavens? About a rather nasty flu pandemic?

I am glad they call the Mass the Eucharist. For I give thanks throughout the hour of song and praise and prayer. I give thanks I found authorities I trust to tell me the truth. I give thanks I found God, or rather, he found me.

For this makes all the difference. I sleep deeply. I live and love wholeheartedly. I embrace the world that God made for us. But I will not countenance lies, or slander, or silencing, or malicious reporting. I want the truth.

And I am relieved that the global death rate over the last year has been similar to a normal flu season. I’m double vaccinated, but my mask remains in my pocket in case I scare anyone with my joyful, fearless countenance.

July Journal, Feast of St. James, Apostle


Friedrich Justin Bertuch, 1806

I have been researching the battles fought in the Pacific Theater in World War II as backstory for my next novel. My father, William Carl Thomas, served as a chaplain in the Navy aboard the USS Phoenix, a light cruiser, from 1944-5. I never knew exactly what happened in that year, except that he experienced the terror of kamikazes dive-bombing close to the ship. So I saw this as an opportunity to find out more.

I was able to chart the route of the USS Phoenix and sense a bit of what my father experienced, if that is humanly possible.

The name intrigued me, for I recalled the ancient myth of the phoenix, the bird that rose from its own ashes, a kind of resurrection. Indeed, the resurrection of Christ has been seen as a kind of phoenix, as if the phoenix were prophesizing the future salvation of mankind.

Our present day is in need of rebirth, for there are many signs that our civilization is dying. Will there be a rising from the ashes of the West? Will the resurrection be in time? Will we even have voices to tell the story, the history, to our children? Or will be silenced?

USS_Phoenix_(CL-46)_underway_at_sea_in_1944The USS Phoenix, named after the Arizona city, was a light cruiser. Her job was to guard convoys in dangerous waters. She shelled beaches to protect American troops in their amphibious landings. She was attacked by torpedoes and kamikazes, many near misses. In the course of the war, she lost only one man. She was a true phoenix and was nicknamed “Lucky Phoenix.”

The ship was present in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese raid of December 7, 1941, but anchored northeast of Ford Island and not hit. The men on board witnessed the attack and the fire and the smoke and sailed to find survivors. My father was not enlisted as yet. He would join the Phoenix on June 3, 1944 according to the Navy’s “Muster Roll.” He had recently graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary.

The cruiser had executed many operations by this time, and the current goal of General MacArthur was a massive amphibian attack on the islands arcing up to the Philippines, occupied by the Japanese (“I will return,” the general had promised). They would liberate the Philippines and thus have a position to invade Japan. The Phoenix was part of many battles off the northwest coast of New Guinea, protecting and escorting at Biak, Yapen, Noemfoor, Morotai, and Halmahera islands, and in the battle of Leyte Gulf, a key victory in the battle for the Philippines.

My father saw a great deal of fire in the year he served in the South Pacific, but he survived, and like many, rose from the ashes of the war to return home, marry, and have a family.


By C. J. Dyer

Curious as to how the town of Phoenix, Arizona, was named, I learned that a Civil War Confederate veteran, Jack Swilling, was prospecting in the settlement of Wickenburg in 1867. He saw an area in the Salt River Valley that could be farmed, providing food for the town. They built a canal. Lord Darryl Duppa, one of the settlers, suggested Phoenix as a name for the town, for they had found evidence of a long-gone native civilization. They would build a new civilization, rising from the old one. 

Today, perhaps Phoenix, Maricopa County, will rise again, this time from the turmoil of purported election 2020 fraud.

And so this morning in our Berkeley chapel, I thought of the freedoms we still enjoyed, the freedom to worship and assemble, to write and to speak, although self-censoring has paralyzed many, and many who have spoken have had careers destroyed, reputations ruined. But this morning, in the chapel, we prayed and praised Our Lord of Resurrection. For America is a country of resurrection. It is a place of new life rising, a beacon burning on a hill, a torch flaming, held high by Lady Liberty in New York’s harbor. Within our nation’s laws, and within its borders, America offers a new life to immigrants escaping tyranny, a resurrection.

AMERICAN FLAGI prayed too, that we remembered to remember the heroes of our nation, at home and at sea, in the air and on the land. I prayed that we remembered to tell these stories to our children so that they would tell their children. In this way they would understand that rising from the ashes happened and can happen again, that they can protect the sanctity of life and all that that means. I prayed for freedom, the freedom for which my father fought and was willing to die, for he knew he would be resurrected too.

Praise for Angel Mountain

RESOURCE_TemplateJuly, 2021: Praise for Angel Mountain

“I soon became involved with each character and the bridge between the past and the present day. They captured my attention and made me think from a mountaintop vantage point. As Abram heeds the call to leave his worldly life to follow Christ, he becomes as John the Baptist in his hermitage on the mount – preaching and baptizing. What man and nature had meant for harm, Abram’s prayers used to bring glory to God on Angel Mountain…  It was a lovely read and makes me look forward with keen anticipation to what comes next!”cbl logo

  – Cindy Rushing, Development Director, Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women,

July Journal, Seventh Sunday after Trinity

I needed another shelf for my books, those titles that would be my research for my next novel. I eyed three shelves that I had not cleaned out in many years, crammed, not with books so much IMG_4899as Sunday School materials. Still, there were children’s books as well, slim shiny covers with happy faces that invited a look inside.

There were Bible stories and stories about the Church, about the sacraments, about the existence of God, all written to inform a child, from age three to fifteen. I thought of the many classes I had taught in the past, the young upturned faces ready to absorb my words like a sponge. I thought of how we sang together in chapel time, and how we formed circles and prayed together. We learned the Our Father and we learned hymns – All Things Bright and Beautiful in the spring/summer, I Sing a Song of the Saints of God in the fall, and Advent Tells Us Christ is Near in the winter season along with Christmas carols. Good times.Sunday School

And so I kept these slim volumes handy, to reach for on a Sunday morning for story hour. I wouldn’t give them away, not yet, but keep them in another bookcase in another room for the time.

I needed space for my current project, Return to Angel Mountain.

I sorted and stacked and made piles of craft books and coloring books separately. I couldn’t yet part with Maria Montessori’s titles on how to teach the Faith to young children. They were too precious, too old, and would always be a part of me. They remain. She was a devout Catholic, something not everyone recalls, and she worked miracles with young, disadvantaged children. Her method caught on, but the religion lessons were left behind.

As I recalled those years in the Sunday School, I was thankful. At the time I took on the challenge as a parish duty and, like so many actions done in love and out of responsibility, I didn’t fully appreciate the experience until many years later, when I could see the past more clearly.

It is always difficult to see the present, for we are often blind to what is in front of us, all around us. And so we act from selfless interest rather than self-interest, allowing God to mold us without our knowing it. We try to obey His commandments, and in doing so, immerse ourselves in his love. The growth is not seen at the time. Only later. Only later when we order our libraries of words and paper, volumes living in wooden bookcases, each one a treasure.

So on the shelves, I plan to have a section for each main character. Each character will incarnate a theme that calls me to write: Critical Race Theory, Free Speech, Immigration, American History, the Pacific Theater in WWII. They will overlap and merge, to be sure, but once I have the books domiciled on the shelf, I shall begin the character backstories. These stories are told from a first-person point of view. When I have gotten to know the characters I will consider how they might interact, how a crisis could arise between them, how they might all gather on Angel Mountain.

For novels are all about character, creation of individuals who breathe the turmoil of the present day, who search for meaning, who desire to be free, who want to love as we are commanded to love.

I am allowed to “play God” in a way, allowed to create incarnations of souls, of thoughts, of yearnings, of desires. And so I listen to His voice, always hoping to be in tune with the music we are both singing.

RESOURCE_TemplateMusic was a theme in Angel Mountain, the music of the spheres, the music of prayer and hymns. They are saying now that singing is good for the lungs, that it helps to strengthen them. How sad we were not allowed to sing in church during a pandemic that attacked the lungs. Heaven, I believe, is full of music, full of beautiful melody, ongoing. Will we choose which heavenly choir to join? Do we have glimpses of those eternal choirs as we sing on a Sunday with other faithful voices? Are the choirs looking in on us, over us, or perhaps angels hover close to hear us?

The shelves wait for their volumes to take up residence, a powerful presence near my desk. They wait for the incarnations of characters, as I breathe life into them with letters and words, incarnations themselves. And I, an incarnation of God’s spirit, breathe His name, Jesus, with every word typed. I am in-spired, breathed upon, as I do this, with the breath of life itself.Music

And so the love of God whispers among us, like a soft breeze wrapping us in arms of joy. And now comes the music to inspire the muse, to pull us into the great dance of eternity, and as we dance, held in his arms, we follow his lead, step by step, note by note, letter by letter, and word by word.

July Journal, Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Writing2It was a curious birthday this year, this time of celebrating seventy-three years on Planet Earth, this time of launching my seventy-fourth year. There are days when I feel so much younger than seventy-four, and there are days when I feel so much older, as though my great wisdom has aged like wine or distilled like a fine whisky. And then I trip on something or forget something or . . .

All gloriously humbling.

And so I sit at my desk, my cat Angel in my lap (with her abundant and remarkable tail), and I reflect on my birthday and why it was so curious, meaningful, and strange, as though God was pulling my crooked lines straight, then breathing life into the lines.

On my birthday (Friday) my sister and I visited the columbarium which has been pre-arranged for our mother’s future cremains. Our mother lives in assisted living, at the feisty old age of one hundred-and-one, and will probably live on for some time. The interment space is outdoors in the Kurth Memorial Garden to the side of the sanctuary of the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, known locally as “LOPC,” east of San Francisco.

Our father, Carl Thomas, was the founding pastor in 1953-4, having come from Berkeley First Presbyterian as a Student Chaplain. Our mother was the founding pastor’s wife, with her own amazing talents. So LOPC was a natural location, and the church welcomed the idea, even suggesting that my father be remembered there too, even with his ashes scattered at sea forty years ago. He was a popular pastor, loving and inspiring and full of faith in those early years. He preached the love of Christ in the new suburbs east of the Caldecott tunnel, to young families still bruised with war but grateful for survival. He had served in the Pacific in WW II and had survived. He was grateful too, and glad to bring his family (I was seven and my sister five) to these rolling hills and comparative safety.

And so we toured the present-day church in blistering heat, pausing in shady places, and letting memories flood us. Here is where we went to Sunday School. It’s now turned into offices, but a new building houses a preschool and classrooms over there to the right. Here is the Fellowship Hall where our father preached. Here is where his old office used to be. Here is where we had choir practice and Confirmation classes. Do you remember? Do you recall? It’s quiet this heat soaked afternoon but it was bustling then when our young energy was, for a few hours on Sundays, corralled and tamed, for we were in church, within boundaries that required good behavior.

booksAt home we grew up surrounded by walls of books that informed quiet purposeful pursuits.  Our mother was organized, and while not wearing heels and pearls in the kitchen (that I recall), she took pride in her homemaking skills, and we were the beneficiaries of the home she made for us. She took pride in her neat-as-a-pin rooms that graciously opened onto one another, the sofas and the matching draperies, the color schemes carefully considered. Quiet and balance and beauty surrounded us. Our daily schedule was ordered as well, breakfast, school, snack, dinner at 6. Homework and reading and more reading. Piano lessons. Tennis at the public parks. Brownies and Girl Scouts and merit badges sewn on to a wide green band. Sometimes tea in the afternoon, a lesson in manners and pouring and offering and conversation. We listened to music played on long-playing records in the hi-fi cabinet: Mozart, Beethoven, show tunes.

We didn’t have much income, but a great wealth resided in our mother being home, in charge of bringing us up to love the Lord. She became our finishing school, teaching us table settings and table manners. We wrote – in cursive – thank you notes and prayer journals. We had “Quiet Times” to reflect and wonder and write. We said bedtime prayers that placed us safely in the Savior’s palms.

She and my father hosted church dinners, and “LOPC” became famous for their potluck gatherings for newcomers in one another’s homes. We children would peak around corners to see what was going on in the living room, or spy the pies set aside in the laundry room, around the corner from the kitchen. We counted the dishes on the buffet in the dining room, casseroles sitting on hot pads, lids tight, waiting to be eaten, bites between words.

She saw her first calling as wife and mother. My sister and I were blessed to be raised in such love and safety and order.

Many years have passed since those years in the ‘fifties. Many experiences have molded and moved us in ways both good and bad, to bring us to this moment in the heat of a Friday afternoon on a hilltop east of San Francisco, touring the church in which we grew up. And considering our mother’s future ashes, and my future ashes too, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, thoughts on my birthday.

I thought of my father, and how he lost his faith and left the ministry. I thought of my mother, who followed his thinking (or perhaps he followed hers) and abandoned all Christian belief. They embraced the new world of self expression and psychology and proclaimed the new religion, that God is dead; we have been fools.

And I gave thanks that our parents would be remembered here, in this Presbyterian church on a hillside. Before we left, the current pastor’s daughter gave us a heartwarming welcome and tour. She was so very gracious, full of grace.

I had completed a circle in some unfathomable way, stepping through the past, through the shadows and the sunlight, seeing our parents return to their glorious time of faith, where they made a true difference, saving souls for all Eternity.

birdOne day my mother’s cremains will be placed in the stone vault, and one day my own body will be buried in a local Catholic cemetery, Queen of Heaven, awaiting St. Peter at the gates. Both locations are in the same town, Lafayette, where we grew up, one on a hill, one in a valley.

This morning I thought of these things, as I joined in prayer and praise at St. Joseph’s Chapel in Berkeley. I thought how these fellow worshipers were my true family, had been for many years, for we were one body in Christ. We were mask-free, our faces glowing with the love of God. How can one describe such joy? The joy of letting go, all the worries of the week, the pain of the past, the fear of the future. We give it all to Christ on the cross, Christ of the empty tomb, Christ of the ascension to Heaven. We offer our sufferings and we are healed with joy. We know our Redeemer lives and we shall live with him. We are giddy when we leave St. Joseph’s Chapel. We are giddy with grace.

ACFW Publishes Post, “Freeing Righteousness”


ACFW, American Christian Fiction Writers, has published Christine’s post, “Freeing Righteousness,” how Christian writers free RESOURCE_Templaterighteousness with the perfect law of liberty, as seen in her recently released novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock, 2020). Many thanks, ACFW!

July Journal, Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Independence Day

AMERICAN FLAG“O eternal God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”    —The Collect for Independence Day, July 4, Book of Common Prayer, 263

I had forgotten there is a special prayer for Independence Day, independence from Great Britain who gave us our Prayer Book and our liturgy, essentially an English translation of the Roman Mass in the sixteenth century, with added prayers or “Collects”, those prayers said at the start of the liturgy to collect us together to begin the sacred rites. I had forgotten, and was pleasingly reminded this morning in our Berkeley chapel where we thanked God for all His blessings in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (eucharist means thanksgiving). We prayed and we praised in song. We looked to the Lamb of God for our righteousness and our peace. We gave thanks that we had the freedom to worship again together. 

Puritan pilgrims came to these shores to escape religious persecution in England. They were followed eventually by Anglicans who brought their Book of Common Prayer with them. It was only natural that when, a century later, they declared their independence from the mother country that they enshrined religious liberty in their declaration as well as their constitution. Religious liberty lay at the heart of who they were and are.

Declaration of IndependenceFreedom to practice our religion was the founding principal of our nation. This liberty became a part of the greater freedom, the freedom to speak and write, and the freedom to assemble peaceably.

This remarkable guarantee had never occurred before in the course of human events. It was an attempt by a fallen humanity to correct the injustices, the tyrannies, of those in power over their subjects. Democracy in America would be different. These colonies, united into a federation of states, would enshrine these rights, with the help of God.

And so it is stated in this prayer Collect, that God helped us do this. It was God’s mighty power that won these liberties of old, these self-evident truths.

The Declaration of Independence holds true today. We are created equal before God, with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. The Founders were right, and they were bold.

They realized, of course, that this could only succeed if a higher authority demanded righteousness, if the Judeo-Christian ethos controlled the fallenness in all of us, so that we shared common ideals, that we at least tried to care for one another. This ethos has been called “natural law” or “nature’s God”, appealing to a basic inherent code of conduct.

And yet today, we see the erosion of this ethos. We wonder if we are seeing the last of our freedoms, that we will be governed not by the people’s consent through fair elections, but by powerful institutions partnering in their power. We the people wonder if we the people no longer count, if our little vote no longer is counted. We wonder why criminals roam free to plunder our cities. We wonder why our borders are no more. We wonder why children are indoctrinated in schools to hate our country. We wonder why our history is vanishing before our eyes. We wonder why we cannot speak out against these things without retribution. We wonder why we must self-censure to protect our families. We wonder why we are so fearful.

We wonder why, and we weep for America.

And yet, some are waking to the woke. The blind can see. Prophets speak without fear. Mothers shame school boards. Courage blows across our land.

Advent St. JAnd so we pray, pray for America, waiting on God’s power once again. For the Collect is correct: It is only with His mighty power that we will be granted the grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace. For we must be within the heart of righteousness. We must call for peace among our people. We must seek to end these divisions, so that we can be once again united in love and in a shared human dignity. We must protect the innocent and the vulnerable. We must give life to the unborn and honor to our elders.

The world, teeming to be free, dreams of embarking upon our shores. These immigrants seek the America that is united, that protects freedom from tyranny, that values free speech. We welcome them in the righteousness of law and the peace of love.

June Journal, Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Trinity 4 BCPI don’t think I ever fully appreciated, in my fifty plus years of being an Anglican Anglo-Catholic, the marvelous Pauline epistles that populate the summer Sundays. We are in the green, growing season, a long season of parables and preachings, as we learn more about how Christ Jesus commanded us to live. And in the Liturgy of the Mass, the Gospels are introduced by the Epistles, letters sent to the fledgling churches sprinkled throughout the shores of the Mediterranean during the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire.

To be sure, the Gospel rang true this morning, as I listened in our Berkeley chapel, as Jesus spoke of forgiveness and judging not and motes in our eyes. Still, St. Paul writes these poetic words, sung in hymns and echoing two thousand years into our present. Our Lord chose well when he appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, for Paul was (and is) a poet. He knew how to use words and he understood the meaning of the Incarnation, the Son of God walking among us.

“I RECKON that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God…because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:18+, BCP 194)

He is speaking of Heaven and Earth, of life and death and life again, and the resurrection of our new bodies. Our corrupted, earthly bodies which we know so well, will be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” That glorious liberty is something we can experience here and now, in the intimacy of the Eucharist, the joy of many voices singing as one, praising our Creator. We are free, now and forever. And we, now, having the first fruits of the Spirit granted in Baptism, groan for that day of glorious liberty when the hints and shadows that T.S. Eliot speaks of become fully realized.

ADCA260B-D73F-4397-B958-08C57CAB0DB8_1_201_aThe rim running between Earth and Heaven is a theme explored in my recent novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock, 2020), in which our hermit Abram visits Heaven (plot spoiler). He leaves his body and soars through the thin veil that separates Heaven and Earth. We too can puncture that veil, can glimpse our future if we pay attention.

088A74B8-27CA-43EC-8E98-FDADC41FC3FF_1_105_cToday, there are glimpses all around me, for here in the Bay Area, the wind blew the morning fog bank back out to sea, and the sun lands like diamonds upon the silvery leaves of the olive tree in my garden. The light glances off them like blinking stars, saying, pay attention, watch and listen and wait. I also glimpse Heaven in the glorious creatures I am privileged to see, like my kitten Angel with her huge fluffy golden tail, a tail beyond measure. Then there are the rapt faces of my fellow worshipers in the chapel this morning, the sense of renewal and the sighs of relief that we can once again worship together, mask free, even singing! I could go on and on. Once I start looking, I begin seeing, and the groaning within isn’t as loud, as I wait for the adoption of my body into God’s glorious liberty.

Fernando Ortega, Christian composer and songwriter, describes the Second Coming of Christ in his song, “Beyond the Sky.” He says that God will “fill the skies.” In his song, “Creation”, he writes, “He wraps himself in light as with a garland, spreads out the heavens, walks on the wings of the wind.”

We live in a fallen world that seems to be falling farther and faster each day. And yet believers hold it together, like a garland wrapped around Earth, a garland of love and praise. For we know the groaning of our corruptible bodies, which began to die with their birth, will be no more. Our bodies will be made incorruptible by the one who created us in the beginning.

woman-praising-on-god-illustrationAnd in this fallen world we are given glimpses of future wonders. We are given the Church, Christ’s Body, to nurture us in this mean-time, to catch us when we fall and set us upon the right path again. For Christ lives, here, in our own time, in us and outside us, in the Bread and the Wine, as we wait for our manifestation as sons and daughters of God.

In the meantime I will work on the mote(s) in my eye. As Christ commanded, I will give, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. Then, perhaps, the mote will be gone, and my blindness turned into sight. Glorious, glorious, sight. Glorious, glorious liberty.

June Journal, Third Sunday after Trinity

Today is Father’s Day and a day to celebrate. We celebrate fathers of all kinds – Founding Fathers, biological fathers, stepfathers, fathers who fathered the fatherless, priestly fathers who care for their flocks in the pews.

Christ the Good ShepherdIt is also Good Shepherd Sunday, when the Gospel tells of the telling by Jesus of the parable of the good shepherd who finds his lost sheep and rejoices. (Luke 15+) In other scripture we learn the shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know his voice. The shepherd is a father to his sheep. He protects his children.

The Epistle (I Peter 5:5+) bears that colorful warning from St. Peter that we must be sober and vigilant, for our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. The devil is seeking sheep, no doubt, lost sheep stranded on a cliff, alone. The Good Shepherd finds the lost sheep and saves him from the lion’s mouth.

Our preacher mentioned this morning that the role of the father is to protect the child from outside threats, but also to introduce him or her to the outside world. The father protects and emboldens, training his children to enter the world, a world of wondrous things and events, but also a world of harm and disarray.

And so, as Christians, we are protected and sheltered, yet also empowered, encouraged, urged on to do what we are called to do. The Body of Christ is also the Family of God, and clergy (if they are good ones) are our spiritual fathers who protect us in the name of the Good Shepherd. If they are not good priests, justice awaits them in the next world.

In this world, however, there is a sense of a great awakening as the Good Shepherd calls his sheep to gather other sheep into his fold, in time, before the lion roars. The pandemic, the drastic lockdowns, the fear, the disruption of lives, the loss of jobs and businesses, the loss of school, and the unforgivable masking of children have all given folks a chance to reflect upon what is important. In the losses, some have used the change in habit and communities to evaluate life and death, good and evil.

Where this has happened, it is a vivid example of God writing straight with crooked lines, a turning of despair into hope, darkness into light. For in reflection upon our own deaths, we see our own lives more clearly.

You or I do not know if tomorrow will be our last day on this good Earth. It is beneficial perhaps to hear time ticking, for it quickens us to live more fully, listen more acutely to the Master’s voice, the Shepherd’s call.

And we are all called by him. How do we know his voice? How can we hear him?

In scripture, sacrament, and song. In prayer and care and love. We immerse ourselves in the Shepherd’s words so that we recognize his voice, his calling us, his warning us of the darkness coming and the edge of the precipice.

IMG_3111 (4)As I drove to our Berkeley chapel this morning I considered that I had at least a year of eucharists to make up. The bread and the wine, changed into the Real Presence of Christ, nourishes us as no other. I missed the sacred elements feeding both my body and my soul. I took part via screens, singing and praying, but I missed the Holy Eucharist, the presence of the Real Presence.

It is a mystery, the action of the Eucharist. And yet fully supported by scripture and two millennia of doctrine. I know, with faithful attendance now, I will be like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. I will be made whole, holy once again.

And then I will know the Shepherd’s voice. I will hear him calling me out from a crowded place, the world of souls remaining on the planet. I will follow the voice, the voice of love, the voice of protection and comfort, the voice of salvation.

candleAnd across this land the fathers who are truly fathers will encourage, give courage, to their children. They will protect them from the world. They will shepherd them, and send them into the world with the shield of salvation, speaking truth to lies, good to evil, peace to war.

The Founding Fathers – those noble souls who worked to achieve a perfect union of disparate peoples in this great nation of immigrants – will never be forgotten, will always be honored, will teach us how to unite and not divide, to love and not hate. They too are our own national fathers, our own shepherds. They have given each of us a great gift: America. We must always remember and hear their voices on page and in song, voices lighting the way.

We are awakening from a long slumber. We hear the fathers’ voices, voices of love and light. We need merely listen and follow.

June Journal, Second Sunday after Trinity

APCK Logo newLockdowns, we are told by the State of California, will be lifted on Tuesday, June 15. But I fear the fear remains locked into many hearts, a place where it has found a home, fed by fear and led by fear. The lockdowns have robbed us of time, talent, and treasure, have isolated us from family and parish, have done incredible harm to each one of us.

Most of my Sundays these last fifteen months have been sheltered ones, tuning in with my husband to Facebook and Zoom screens. We watched and listened. We sang songs and repeated responses and prayed prayers, as if we were heard through the screens, our voices carried by invisible angels of mercy. Some of the liturgies were masked, then unmasked, then masked again. Some got off to a rocky start, taking several months to upgrade equipment and signal boosters (a challenge in Berkeley). Some were outdoors, in courtyards, such as our Arizona parish and in the dead of winter those blue blue blue skies were welcome on our screens. Some kept the organ playing; some didn’t. Some teetered toward a semblance of the Eucharist we all know and love. They all did their best, given the mandate to close down.

Each parish, each Mass, had its own character or personality, a quality I have long enjoyed in our travels through Europe, visiting churches and abbeys and monasteries, each one different, the Mass always the same, yet each a living breathing incarnation of God’s love, his magnificent acts in history.

It is those acts in history, the first years of the first millennium, that we re-member in the Mass, and it is those salvific works that we eat and drink at the altar rail, embodying the mysteries of the universe living in the bread and the wine.

And so today I considered the value of symbol, of word as symbol, of musical note as symbol, representations of a greater truth or truths for which we all hunger, our longing coming from somewhere deep within. I considered these things on the periphery of my delight, my lingering joy as I drove home from our chapel in Berkeley.

I realized that the screens are a poor representation of the Body of Christ, and that the purpose of the living gathering, with real people in real time in real space, kneeling on real cushions, praying to the Real Presence in the tabernacle, was to embody the love of God. We meet together, a disparate gathering from all walks of life, many races and backgrounds, to worship the real and living God of Abraham and Isaac, who became one of us as Jesus of Nazareth, and who loves us beyond measure. I experienced the real thundering notes of the real organ behind me (five feet away in this intimate chapel), the real action of the Mass celebrated by a real priest, sung and chanted, sending real notes into real ears. I felt the real hard tiles under the real velvet cushion under my bony knees and the gentle ache of my back, unused to such posture.

GIVING THANKSOur preacher preached on the wedding feast parable and all the excuses that are made not to come to the feast. I recommend tuning in to the tape still on Facebook (St. Joseph’s Chapel) to hear what he said, words that expressed ideas and imperatives that made sense. For we must answer the invitation to the feast of the Eucharist, if we are at all able, in person. We must gather with our fellows and sing together as one voice, uniting many voices. We must praise together with the Gloria and repent together with the General Confession. We must kneel together as the precious words are spoken and the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. We must pray together, out loud, prayers that are prescribed for the very reason of saying them together as one, an anthem of heart and soul raised to the altar, to the Real Presence of Christ who enters each of us on this bright warm morning in a small chapel near the university.

It usually strikes me during one of our Anglican liturgies, when I am physically present in the nave, the diversity, the many differences among us. I have come to believe that Christ continually creates us, and recreates us, his brush strokes adding something here, something there, to the canvas of our person, spirit and flesh. He does this if we engage in the greatest love affair of all time and all eternity, the love between each of us and God. He does this if we allow him to order our goings, to prepare the path for us to walk on, to enter our hearts and minds, to accept gladly our invitation to accept his invitation to live in one another. He does this if we say yes as Mary did.

And so our priest (who is half Chinese and half African-American) spoke without notes from the head of the aisle before the altar, his eyes twinkling in love for each of us. He was so joyful as he spoke I wondered if he might burst into laughter, but instead he simply enjoyed us, each one of us, sitting in our spaced folding chairs, rapt. I found at one point I laughed out loud myself, enjoying his enjoyment. He moved from the Gospel parable to St. John and another passage on loving one another. We must love one another, he said, and we cannot do this looking into screens.

I sighed my thanksgivings. He was right. And meeting the challenge in parish life is rather like meeting the challenge in any group of devoted people. Each one of us has opinions about masks and sheltering and hoaxes and what we have gone through in the last year plus. Each one of us has thoughts we would like to express that might not be another’s thoughts. There even may be some strong disagreement, some hissing, some biting of tongues. But that is because we are so very different with each passing day, month, and year as the Master works his will upon us in this great creative dance of life.

So we learn to love one another, differences and all, a beautiful diversity. We learn to love in the greatest school of charity (love), the Church. The English mystic Evelyn Underhill wrote a short book called The School of Charity. She was speaking of the family as I recall, and here too we learn to love those under our roof, those whom close proximity provides a challenge. But the parish is also a school of charity and we must attend liturgies in person in order to fully partake of the lessons to be learned. When we stumble, we are raised up by others, held by others. When they stumble we raise them up. We listen to one another. We see the intricate complexity of each person, glimpses of their true hearts and souls. We learn to love as one before Christ in the tabernacle, as we use symbol and song to express the inexpressible.

Our nation is a school of charity as well. It is a parish of individuals that come together to love one another in spite of our differences. We love one another also through symbol and song, through high-flying flags, through pledges of allegiance intoned together, hand upon heart. We have stories that tell our history, just as our faith is told in Epistle and Gospel, and in the Nicene Creed. As Americans, united under one flag in one nation, we gather at appointed times to renew our love for one another and our freedoms – at Thanksgiving, on Memorial Day, on the Fourth of July, on Veterans Day, and many other celebrations of who we are as a free people.

US_Flag_Day_poster_1917Flag Day, tomorrow, June 14, is often neglected. The flag, with its increasing number of stars over the years, reminds us that we are Americans, a union of many peoples and states and tribes. Our differences, the flag says, are our glories. Our unique populations from all over the planet, have chosen this land, this nation, in which to live and in which to love. The many differences we see all around us are why we are the envy of the world. For we are called by symbol and song, and story too, to love one another, to celebrate our human worth.

Our nation, like our church, has a calendar of seasons, and these seasons call us in real time to be a union and not a disunion, to heal and to not hurt. Memorial Day steps into Flag Day and Flag Day prepares us for Independence Day, July 4. The men and women who gave their lives defending our nation, did so under our flag, and we sense them watching over us as we celebrate the anniversary of the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1976, the flag billowing against the blue sky, for the Declaration declared our national creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thirteen colonies, each one vastly different from the others, signed the Declaration. Each one would have to learn to get along, learn to love in this national school of love.

The Declaration was a piece of parchment with markings on it. It was words that symbolized deeply held convictions. Just so we today, in our little chapel, declared deeply held convictions about the nature of man.

And so we learn to love one another, to welcome all to the feast.