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Incorporating simplicity into my life isn’t a one-time “cleaning out.” I want it to be a lifestyle change that makes a difference for years to come. This week I am tackling my pantry. It isn’t huge, but it’s stuffed with assorted non-perishables that I’ve acquired over the years since the pandemic. In some cases, it was easy to buy “giant-sized” pu…
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This coming week I’m going to be focusing on Simplicity in Possessions. I know that this isn’t easy and will actually be a commitment to a lifestyle change, but I need to start somewhere! I realized that I have areas of my house where I have stored away things purchased during the pandemic. Some of them are “case quantities” of everyday items that …
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image from wayhomestudio on Freepik I’m in the M.Div. program at Duke Divinity and this term I’ve chosen by personal focus to be on Simplicity as a spiritual discipline. Last week I looked at “Simplicity of Time”, wanting to return my relationship with time to a place of holiness. In reviewing Guenther’s chapter on simplicity, I kept coming back to…
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The Holiness of Time, SSJE.org Margaret Guenther in her book, The Practice of Prayer, says that simplicity calls for a “radical trust that does not come easily.” I’m glad to hear that it’s not second nature; I’ve been trying to lead a more simple life for decades. I either fail miserably or seem to have success for awhile and then slip back into ba…
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On December 27th each year, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist, writer of the Gospel and letters, and who many believe also wrote Revelation. St. John’s Gospel is my favorite as I find it to be a constant encouragement and reminder that I am loved by God; I don’t have to earn my way into heaven. The readings for the day include t…
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I’ve just returned from my second hike of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I had such fond memories of my first trip in 2019, I wanted to go back since the day I returned. On the first trip I had gone not knowing anyone on the trip who then became my friends. This time I wanted to return to show friends the beauty and romance of the Spanish landsca…
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It was hot this Summer in Nashville, like miserably hot. I had stopped walking in my neighborhood because of the heat; even my gold retrievers thought the pavement was too hot for their paws. We’d play a bit in the backyard, but then they’d even beg to come back in the house. Today it was a delightful 61 degrees in the early morning and my church h…
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I always enjoy hearing from my readers, but this recent email is special: from Barbara, a “wife, mum and nanna in the UK.” Barbara writes: I just wanted to send you a little message to tell you what a blessing your book “You are loved: praying with John” is being to me. I am fairly new to praying with beads, and recently felt a drawing in my heart …
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It is good to read the stories in the New Testament and have a general idea of the meaning or lesson that the Gospel writers were trying to convey in capturing the teachings of Jesus. But it is even more meaningful when you see the story being lived out in our modern world. The Church of the Holy Trinity is an Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Ten…
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This Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday where we commemorate the Last Supper where Jesus celebrated his final meal with his disciples. After washing His disciples’ feet as a sign of humility, Jesus gave them a new commandment, “"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love…
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We wonder why it seems like God doesn’t hear our cries. With Lent around the corner, I’m reminded of days of fasting and abstinence growing up in the Roman Catholic church. There was a sacrifice involved, but it was hard to not forget and accidentally eat meat on a Friday. It didn’t seem that fasting brought me any closer to God. In Isaiah 58, we h…
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At Duke Divinity School, the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health offers monthly webinars via zoom. I’m looking forward to the one this week: Spirituality, Recovery and Resilience: A Holistic Bio-Psycho-Social Spiritual Approach to Mental Health Treatment. (Anyone can join the free webinar: Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023, 11:00-12:00 CST. Zoom: http…
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Many of us had high expectations for 2022. After two years of the pandemic, 2022 had to be a better year. I heard a lot of people anxious to get back to “normal” and others vowed to make some changes and be thoughtful in their commitments. We were all relieved that the pandemic had subsided and that we had medications that at least made for lesser …
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I feel best when I am serving others. In recognizing and helping with the needs of other people, it forces me to focus on someone other than me. It prevents me from being self-centered and wanting everything to be perfect in my world. I am blessed with abundance in my life, but it is easy for me to take the bountiful harvest for granted. There are …
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I seem to need to “return to center” frequently these days. The news across the world is tragic with wars and human oppression. The news seems relentless in its ability to promote anxiety. Regularly, I need to stop and to pray, but first I need to settle down into the right frame of mind to listen to what God is speaking to me. When I need to re-ce…
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Santiago and Teresa What if a Sabbath isn’t just about rest? We first encounter Sabbath when God finished the work of creating the world and rested on the seventh day (Gen 2:2). In the next verse, God blesses the seventh day and declares it hallowed (or holy). I’ve heard preaching about the Sabbath for years and many times the admonition is to atte…
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A new book by Norman Wirzba has redefined “agrarian” for me. He says that it shouldn’t be reduced to a “farmer” but instead include all people who work to promote the health and vitality of creatures in their places, understanding that “a human life cannot flourish apart from good food, clean water, amiable company, good work, excellent tools, fert…
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A man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years was healed by Jesus in Bethesda (John 5:1-15). In Luke 8:43-48, Jesus healed a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years in Capernaum. I’ve wondered about the healing miracles. How did Jesus choose who to heal? It appears that having faith (or having friends or loved ones wit…
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In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the body as a unit being made up of many parts and that God has arranged them all just the way God wanted them (18). Paul goes on to say, “those parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable (22). I was glad to re-read these verses this week for reassurance that all God has made is important and all work…
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I return to thoughts of my time walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain in 2019 almost every day. It was my last great adventure before the pandemic and it was spiritually enriching, clarifying what retirement from full-time employment would look like. It was my Camino that eventually led to a renewed dedication to my faith and enrollment at Duke D…
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I’ve prayed with prayer beads for most of my life, both Roman Catholic rosaries and Anglican prayer beads. I like the flexibility with the Anglican prayer beads because there are no set prayers. Sometimes I pray for 33 of my friends; either for their health or in thanksgiving they are my friends. Other times I pray through the Psalms. It is this fl…
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As I embark on my quest to be a better disciple, I’ve been studying core courses at Duke University in Old Testament. I hear lots of Scripture read and preached each Sunday as we follow the Revised Common Lectionary, but I am coming to understand that the parts that we don’t read in the three-year cycle may be as important as those we do, particula…
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The Hebrew word for psalm, mizmôr, has a root that means “to pluck” as in a stringed instrument. The Psalms are meant to be sung as we hear in monasteries throughout the world. The Psalms are divided into five books, perhaps to suggest the division of the Torah, and are also grouped into five types: thanksgiving, royalty, wisdom, lament, and praise…
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The story is familiar: this is the season where we await the birth of a baby that changed the world. Growing up Roman Catholic and now Episcopalian, I enjoy the familiar rhythms of the liturgical year. Advent starts the new year with four Sundays before the Christmas season. With Ol’ St. Nick and gift exchanges, everyone knows the story of the baby…
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Many churches have “stewardship campaigns” in the fall when church members pledge how much they will be able to monetarily support the church in the coming year. Knowing this amount and applying historical information allows churches to predict both income and expenses to ensure a balanced budget. In Deuteronomy we are instructed to “set aside a te…
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Osamu Fujimura by Bruce Herman November 1 is All Saints’ Day where we celebrate the Communion of Saints. We’ve lost many loved ones these past 20 months and we’ve had little time to grieve. This is my last week of Preaching class at Duke Divinity School and I chose to preach on the Gospel reading for today from the Gospel of John. We’ll be moving t…
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Our first “full-length” sermon was due this week for Preaching in the Digital Age Class and I’ve included it here. I value your feedback to make me a better preacher. The first 1:50 is a reading of the text from the NRSV and the remainder is the homily. I read from the text, but the sermon was preached without a manuscript. Could you answer the fol…
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This week in our Preaching in the Digital Age class we learned a lot about technology and its usefulness in spreading the Good News both through worship services and extemporaneous short homilies posted on social media. Father Cathie does a 2 minute “GOOD NEWS” episode each Monday morning on social media. We are learning a lot about what works and …
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In our Spiritual Formation class for first-year M.Div. students we are reading, So Much Better: How Thousands of Pastors Help Each Other Thrive (The SPE Peer Learning Project) (2013). The early chapters of the book talk about forming peer groups of ministers and pastors who, “(1) gather around their calling; (2) make an intentional covenant for spi…
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Last week was “intensive week” at Duke Divinity School. Yes, I’ve enrolled in the 4-year M.Div.-Hybrid program where I’ll be on campus in Durham, NC three weeks each year (August, January, May) and then have synchronous on-line classes for the remainder of the semesters. I won’t be in an ordination track but instead hope to be a better disciple and…
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In The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism and Justice, Tony Campolo writes: “The good news is there are spiritual practices that enable us to be renewed spiritually and have that “first love” with God again and again.” One spiritual discipline uses the ancient practice of praying with prayer beads. I’ve…
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In Ephesians Chapters 4-5, Paul provides us with practical advice on how to best live in our neighborhood. In addition to “putting away falsehood”, Paul tells us to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” These words echo hollowly in my head when I scroll through my Facebook feed, or glance at the evening news. Most posts ap…
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Only in John’s Gospel do we read the story of Jesus healing the paralytic at the Bethesda Pool by the Sheep’s Gate in Jerusalem. Tradition held that the first person immersed in the water would be completely healed. When Jesus encounters a man outside the pool and learns he has been an invalid for 38 years he asks him if he wants to get well (John …
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Two years ago I started planning for my retirement from full-time employment in healthcare and I also started an informal process of “discernment” about what I would be doing with all the “extra time”. In my denomination, Episcopal, there is a formal process for those seeking ordination to the clergy or diaconate. I’ve served on a handful of those …
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Much of art depicts the struggle of man against man in the spiritual quest for meaning. Picasso was renowned in Cubism in being able to take a familiar object, dismantle it and then re-assemble it. It is still recognizable, but in a distinctly new form. I had the privilege of revisiting a favorite artwork: Man on Fire, the mural by José Clemente Or…
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My parents instilled in me that decisions have consequences. It was unfortunate that Jon Rahm had to withdraw from the Memorial Golf Tournament this weekend for a positive COVID-19 test after taking a 6-shot lead on Saturday. Jon missed out on winning the tournament and also the $1.675 million top prize. Rahm has made over $3.8 million on the Tour …
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Cheekwood, Nashville, TN, 2021 Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday where the Christian denominations celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples as detailed in the Book of Acts, chapter 2. Matthias had replaced Judas and we read that all the disciples were together in one place where they experienced a violent wind and saw tongues of fire w…
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The Prodigal Son, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1669, The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia I’ve enjoyed photography ever since I received my first Kodak camera when I was ten years old. Photos hold memories of travels and people and the experiences we’ve shared. They also have allowed me to dwell in God’s creation like birds at the zoo, or a mounta…
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SSJE, Cambridge, MA I participated in a live-stream on May 1, 2021 of the Holy Eucharist celebrating the Feast of St. John the Evangelist with the Brothers of the Episcopal Monastery in Cambridge, MA. Ordinarily, as members of the Fellowship of St. John the Evangelist, we would participate in-person, but the guesthouse and chapel continue to be clo…
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The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, 2011 It was more than a week ago that we re-enacted the Passion of Christ on Good Friday. As we bask in the glory of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday we often forget the instruction of the thieves that were crucified with Jesus. Each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Luke and Mark) recounts the thieves joining with…
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Akko, Israel, Nov 2011 One of my daily meditations this week was Romans 11:29- “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Most commentaries remark that this short verse contains God’s promises to us that through His covenants He will never forsake us. His gifts to us are those of pardon, peace, joy, sanctification, and eternal life. The same c…
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Sunrise, Sea of Galilee, November 2011 I’ve been a morning person most of life with a hospital career that often started at 6AM or earlier. I took up photography later in life and learned that the “magic hours” for outdoor photographs are either first thing in the morning (right before sunrise until 30-40 minutes after the sun has risen), or right …
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Growing up Roman Catholic in a small town in Upstate NY, confession with a priest was a weekly ritual. In the 1960’s, you couldn’t go to communion unless you had confessed and said your “penance” of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Times have changed and now that I am an Episcopalian, it appears that in most congregations a public confession is more of …
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My Facebook News Feed is filled with anxious friends trying to get an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine. I was lucky to start the Moderna vaccine last Friday when I located a small independent pharmacy with an available appointment for group 1a2. Since each county is moving through the Tennessee algorithm at a different rate, and the rate of vac…
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The Woman from Samaria at the Well, James Tissot, 1886-1894, Image courtesy Brooklyn Museum of Art In my career, I had lots of training in management and leadership and ‘how to be a good boss’. There were some variations, but the core element of all the training programs was that in order to be a good boss, you had to be a good listener. I hope tha…
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“Adam and Eve”-Peter Paul Rubens, 1629, courtesy Museo Nacional de Prado A new Bible Study has led me to start at the beginning, with Genesis. In addition to telling us about the “beginning” and “creation”, the early chapters also tell us about the character of God as told by Moses. Creation is “very good” but then we learn of The Fall in Chapter 3…
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Proverbs 6 (ESV) 16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Blessings, my friend, A…
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Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, Spain I’m welcoming 2021 with great enthusiasm. It’s time to turn the page on 2020 and get a fresh start. A lot changed in 2020 and it’s time to keep the new that is good, and discard the bad. There’s another reason that 2021 is special: It is a Holy Year in Santiago, Spain. Tonight, on December 31, the Holy Door…
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