Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For I Do Not Forget Your Commandments

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;*
search for your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
Psalm 119:176

This certainly says it all: “God, don’t forget me”. Even when I forget God, God is there. It is also a commitment on my part to not forgetting God. And that is the harder part... In my work and my play all too often I fail to look beyond myself. I take the attitude “All I need is to work harder”, that “it” is all in my control... Then all I can do is take faith that God forgives me when I forget, and remains by my side...

God, please help me to honor myself by using and sharing the skills you have given me. Please help me to always keep You as the first tool of my work. Even better, God, help me remember I am the tool You use for the work You do...

Monday, February 21, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: Good morning and Happy President’s Day to all. This is not my assigned week for a meditation, but the thoughts of Steve Garnaas-Holmes have such a powerful message for me that I wanted to share it. For me Steve’s meditation is a wonderful reminder of our loving God who is with us in every moment of our day, whether we acknowledge that Presence or not. God shares our pains, our troubles, and our joys – whether we remember that God is there or not. We are reminded that our individual path through life will have rough as well as easy spots but there is One who is with us at every step, every turn – whether God is in our consciousness or not. I am reminded that I must keep on my path and that God is there, ever faithful, ever present to steady me and give a gentle push to keep me at it.

Shalom and blessings, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” … But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea... — Exodus 14.10-11, 29

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" —Mark 4. 37-38

We walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We strain at the oars of our little boat against a tempestuous sea. We wake in the darkest depths of the night. We suffer difficulties, losses, even despair. And through it all the Infinite Presence, the One who Accompanies Us, whispers in our hearts, “Peace. Be still. This is not where the story ends. Yours is not a story of tragedy, of life diminished into misery and meaninglessness. Yours is a story of abundant life, slowly unfolding. It is a process, a journey. This is merely a passage. I am bringing you through this narrow place into a broad and spacious place. I am bringing you through this valley of tears to a meadow of rejoicing. You cannot arrive without first traveling. You must walk this path, and pass through these dark places. There are rough steps along the way. But I am leading you out of this place into another. Every step, even the fearful ones, even those of suffering and loss, are steps by which I come with you closer to the place of your deepest delight. Your pain is real, and I do not begrudge your despair. But trust this: whether or not you feel it, I am with you. Every step toward blessing is blessing. Walk with me, and let the walking itself give you courage.” And so, picking up the little bundle of our hearts, we go, hand in hand with the Loving Mystery, the morning light dawning slowly, silently, about us.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding God on a Plane (Posting from Angela Churchill)

Dear Urban Abbey Members,
I travelled this weekend to Houston for a family reunion with my cousins. As my daughter slept soundly beside me, after a frantic and hectic departure, the plane provided a rare moment for me to sit and be. Feeling restless and fidgety, I decided I would take advantage of that moment to read a magazine I had brought along. The Sun is a literary magazine that I receive as a gift from a friend--but I have two years of these wonderful writings in box at home. I had thrown one in as a last minute gesture of hope that I would actually find time to read on the plane. And here was a moment!

After reading several short and long stories and essays, I came to an excerpt of a book called "Courage to Pray" by a Russian Orthodox Priest named Anthony Bloom. I thought to myself "This should be interesting." I was stunned by its clarity. I share this with you today because I think it helped summarize for me our purpose and reason for being as an Abbey.

"We must let our heart go its own way, towards its own deepest desire, which it knows is different from all others. This desire is different from all others not necessarily because it is more strongly felt, but because it comes from farther off, from what is deepest in us. It is not simply an act of our free will, but something which is in our deepest being and which involves all that we are. It is something quite simple but inseparable fundamentally from our self- awareness and open to a limitless beyond. God reveals himself to us in this awareness that we are essentially a cry for him.

Our inner atmosphere is not made up only of what we are clearly conscious of and can be precisely expressed. It is also composed of all that is living in our inmost depths. This is what makes us realize what we fundamentally are. It is always there.

Throughout the day we are a succession of social personalities, sometimes unrecognizable to others or even to ourselves. And when the time comes to pray and we want to present ourselves to God, we often feel lost because we don not know which of these social personalities is the true human person, and have not sense of our own true identity. The several successive persons that we present to God are not ourselves. There is something of us in each of them, but the whole person is missing. And that is why a prayer which could rise powerfully from the heart of the true person cannot find its way between the successive men of straw we offer to God....

It is extremely important that we find our unity, our fundamental identity. Otherwise we cannot encounter the Lord in truth. We should be on the watch all the time to see that none of our words and actions are incompatible with the fundamental integrity we are seeking. We must try to discover the real person we are, the secret person, the core of the person to come, and thee only eternal reality which is already in us.

This discovery is difficult because we have to cast aside all the mens of straw. From time to time something authentic shows through.... Our deep reality may take over in moments when we are so carried away by joy that we forget who might be looking at us,... or when we are unselfconscious in moments of extreme pain, moments when we have a deep sense of sadness or of wonder. At these moment we see something of the true person that we are. But no sooner have we seen, than we often turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face . We are afraid of him; he puts us off. Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us."

I can so relate to sitting down to pray and having various "social personalities parade before God". I do believe the Abbey is called to be a crucible to provide the space for people to journey towards discovering their most authentic self that God created them to to be. And I had to smile as I realized when I had a moment to simply be, God was the one who took advantage and showed up on the plane. I have been pondering this passage since that time. How are we providing those opportunities for people to show up and experience there most authentic self? How do you experience these moments in the Abbey? Please share.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spiritual Growth While Caring For Our Urban Abbey

My first blog in this series (“Our Abbey - A Community of Growth”) spoke of our life together in community and our intent to become more what God calls us to be as we live our lives. Our next Urban Abbey Chapter meeting is this Saturday, February 19, 9:30-3:00 in the Rhodes Room. This is a time of fellowship, sharing, spiritual growth and decision making. You might wonder, as I do, where the spiritual growth is in our chapter meetings. We have services and prayers and this weekend we will also have the Labyrinth open and celebrate the Eucharist together.

But I often forget what I think may be a key element of spiritual growth: our work together to discern God’s call for St. George’s Urban Abbey and how we, all of us, as God’s co-creators, are making decisions for and about our community. This is not how I traditionally think I am “growing spiritually”. Making such decisions often feels like drudging busy-work. However, I expect God does not see it that way. This is important work, and done well creates a wonderful place to share and grow.

So, as you prepare your offerings of food and presence, and look forward to quiet moments with God, join me in asking God for guidance before we arrive, and using our time together as a time to practice caring for God’s creation. What important spiritual growth, to assist God in creation!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Our Abbey - A Community of Growth

This is the first of what I hope will be three "extra" postings over the next week discussing our Urban Abbey community and exploring how the service of doing the "business" of maintaining our community at our quarterly meetings is very much an exercise in spiritual growth, part of our daily work in becoming more like Christ. In this first reflection I share some insight into my personal understanding of our community, a bit of "what we are".

Last week Angela, Scherrone, Wayne and I spent Wednesday evening visiting with Greg Finch of the Community of Reconciliation at the National Cathedral. The Community of Reconciliation describes itself as “an ecumenical network of individuals seeking radical balance in life and a deepening commitment to reconciliation in the world”. We had a wonderful conversation, with much joyous learning and sharing of invitations. We invited Greg, and perhaps a few other members of the Community of Reconciliation, to join us for our February 19th chapter meeting. (Saturday February 19th from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM).

The discussion of what each of our communities “is”, and my daily reading of The Rule of Benedict as part of my personal meditation, brought into focus how our Urban Abbey parallels aspects of the traditional Benedictine monastery. We are not a walled expanse of land, as we think of monasteries, but we are an Abby, which to me, parallels the design and function suggested by St. Benedict in his Rule with:
  • Our specific intent to become more what God calls us as we live our lives
  • Our choosing to come together as a community to support each other in this intent
  • Our welcome to all God’s children to join our life together, whether for an hour or day-in and day-out
  • Our formation of an enclosure where we more deeply seek God in the silence of our Listening Groups
We do the messy and hard work of becoming more like Christ through all four of these, but it is within our enclosure, our Listening Groups, where we truly set aside our outer trappings, let our guard down and get to the task of Christian growth. Here is where we come face-to-face with our Lord, where we may well find wonderful peak experiences and new life, but also find our fallen nature and our need for God in our life…

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: This is my week to post some thoughts/meditation…and I’m late. It has been a very busy week for me. As I was driving home Friday evening and stressing about not having done my blog posting YET, I reflected back on the week and realized how blessed I have been this past week.

My new job with the Navy is in the Appropriations Committee Congressional Liaison office. We deal with questions and interest items from the Defense Appropriations Committees, but we also have to prepare the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). So, it seems we live from one short suspense tasking to the next. As I looked back at my week of going from one hot item to the next, I realized all the help I had been given from the young officers in our office. Our efforts are joint efforts by the office, but my colleagues were caring, calmed me down when that was needed, pitched in to help do “Read Ahead” memos for the SECNAV or CNO, provide guidance on how to arrange transportation, and a host of other tasks. In the midst of all our frenetic efforts, they took the time to listen, help out as they could, provide soothing counsel. To be honest, I can’t really remember how I responded in return. I hope that I treated them as generously in return, but I know there were times when I was a bit sharp.

I guess the message in this rambling is that we can get caught up in the events of our busy lives and overlook the blessings and grace that God is constantly sending our way through others around us. My goal for the upcoming few weeks (which also promise to be hectic) is to try to remember to ‘take a few deep breaths’ in the midst of the business of the day to see the blessings and generosity of others…and to be a blessing to them. In one of his past meditations, Fr. Don Talafous (Saint John’s Abbey) reminds us that, while we cannot always control the events going on around us, we can control our reaction to them.

I am constantly amazed at overwhelming generosity of our God and the way God puts people in our path to cheer us on. Where do you find the blessings of God in your life?

Shalom, George