Gratitude Note: For St. Luke’s Parish Profile. Well…I just saw the Search Committee’s product called the “Parish Profile.” What an amazing piece of work! This one is certainly more truthful than the one when I came to the parish twenty years ago. Of course there was stuff you really wouldn’t want in the profile if you are actually trying to sell yourself to the next priest. However, I believe this profile actually catches the essence, spirit, worship, ministry, status, health, – and most of all – the desire of the parish. I believe that desire is to truly live like Christ with Arms Wide Open to God, each other and people in need. The next Rector will be so fortunate to be called to be with the people of St. Luke’s. I am confident that God is already preparing candidates as well as the Search Committee, Vestry and Parish for the next step in the process. The Parish Profile is an inviting and affirming sign that things are falling in place. Reading the profile was a humbling and exciting experience for me personally. See for yourself on St. Luke’s webpage at www.episcopalbartlesville.org. What a parish! I am so blessed and grateful as we lean into God’s future for St. Luke’s – and for Lynda and me. All will be well.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Gratitude Note: For surprises of God in God’s world. Of course God’s world is everywhere and Presence is always available – our awareness is the issue. On this occasion I am speaking of that part of God’s world at Dauphin Island during my retreat. I could have chosen pictures of the gulf or the beach or a pelican. If I could I would post a picture of the gulf breezes. Being surround by all of this makes awareness easy for me – allowing for deep quiet. I found this true also in the midst of the maritime forest which surround the house where we were staying. There were tall pines, sturdy oaks and cypress trees. Vines and undergrowth were thick including swamp areas – all so naturally beautiful. Plus everywhere I looked were palms like the ones we use on Palm Sunday. I chose to share a picture of a simple orange butterfly – a surprise in the midst of God’s larger and stunning creation. I was taking Lord Mason on a brief walk in the yard to do his “business.” The yard had not seen a mower in several weeks. As we came around the corner of the house I saw a patch of weeds with white flowers – nothing special. That is nothing special until I saw this butterfly and four others like it dancing from flower to flower. I stopped in utter delight and just watched. Presence enfolded me and my heart began to sing a Gloria with no words. I went back later to take this picture. The moment was gone, but not the memory to which the picture points – and my gratitude for another surprise experience of God’s Presence.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:22 PM
Gratitude Note: For a personal retreat – a time of preparation. Over the years I have taken some personal retreat times to be away – I suspect not as much as needed. On this occasion my retreat is in anticipation of my retirement and I am so glad this came to fruition at Dauphin Island. I have done the necessary paperwork for the Church Pension Fund and Social Security – and discovered a few more forms I need. Lynda and I were able to make some important decisions about our future. I met with Fr. Roger Porter who is ten years ahead of me in retirement and had some interesting insights and encouragements. I am keeping a spiritual journal along with writing at least one Gratitude Note each evening – and there is so much more to the story on each one and added to my private reflections. My focused reading is Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now. My pleasure reading is Jane Gardam’s Old Filth—the story of an old man about my age recommended by a friend! Contemplative Prayer has been woven into this time walking in the surf as well as time at night. While the center of this retreat has been time with Christ in a variety of ways, sharing this time with Lynda has been good for me – for both of us. Anticipating life for a year with St. Luke’s being off-limits is difficult and yet necessary for us. I am so blessed to have Lynda on this life-journey and on this retreat as my companion, best friend, lover, encourager and soulmate. I am blessed beyond measure in the past and now. Thanks be to God!
Posted by Lee Stephens at 7:56 PM
Friday, September 23, 2016
Gratitude Note: For the Lighthouse Bakery wifi and Mom’s miracle calls. One of the gifts of being at Dauphin Island, Alabama is that we are for the most part away from emails, texts, phone calls and Facebook – there is no wifi where we are staying. The downside is that we don’t have all of the above! This works well for being on retreat and truly leaving everything behind. Still, one of my disciplines for the week is to post a Gratitude Note each day. So I write them at night and then in the morning drive up to the Lighthouse Bakery that has public wifi even when closed. It is a little strange, but I can sit in the parking lot and do my business. In addition, there is no phone signal where we are staying except for an occasional twenty second one bar. My Mother had need to call me twice about my middle brother’s health. Both times the call came through and the signal lasted until we were finished! That woman has pull! So I am grateful for free bakery wifi four minutes away and the miracle of Mom.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:35 AM
Gratitude Note: For St. Luke’s Parish Profile. Well…I just saw the Search Committee’s product called the “Parish Profile.” What an amazing piece of work! This one is certainly more truthful than the one when I came to the parish twenty years ago. Of course there was stuff you really wouldn’t want in the profile if you are actually trying to sell yourself to the next priest. However, I believe this profile actually catches the essence, spirit, worship, ministry, status, health, – and most of all – the desire of the parish. I believe that desire is to truly live like Christ with Arms Wide Open to God, each other and people in need. The next Rector will be so fortunate to be called to be with the people of St. Luke’s. I am confident that God is already preparing candidates as well as the Search Committee, Vestry and Parish for the next step in the process. The Parish Profile is an inviting and affirming sign that things are falling in place. Reading the profile was a humbling and exciting experience for me personally. What a parish! I am so blessed and grateful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:32 AM
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Gratitude Note: For Christ Church, Tyler – a safe and nurturing people for my internship, curacy and priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I had plenty of education and pastoral experience in going to Christ Church to work with a Rector ten years younger. Both David and that parish were just what I needed for the next step in my spirituality and practice – I had gone as far as I could go in “my previous life.” While not perfect, the parish had all the ingredients of a healthy, serving and growing church – the way church should be. Thankfully, I went through the stages rather quickly as the experience was truly all I had hoped for and more. This is the way church should be for priests and lay people alike – progressing together – though many of the issues at hand were difficult. When I left for St. Luke’s after six years, a friend gave me a box display of two tiles like those on the church roof – one broken and the other whole – he called it a metaphor (read EFM) of “then and now.” What a gift! I must mention the Prime Timers – for people 55 and over who were actually seventy and over. What an alive, faith-filled and loving group of people – they became family for Lynda and me. Most of them have “moved on” now – and I have become a Prime Timer. Much of what they taught me will no doubt help. Surely you can see why I am so grateful for my time at Christ Church and why I can say with a full heart, “Thanks be to God!”
Posted by Lee Stephens at 8:51 AM
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Gratitude Note: For the work of the Spirit in my transition to the Episcopal Church. The whole process had mystical qualities as well as incarnational overtones. In the mid-eighties, I was taking a course at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta when I went to church at the Episcopal Cathedral with David and Mary Galloway where he was on staff. I immediately felt at home. A few years later I was doing work for the Southern Baptist Convention in downtown Kansas City. I had to meet the Dean of the Cathedral, Earl Cavanaugh, to apologize for parking violations on church property. We spent an hour talking in his office about everything but parking. Again, I felt at home. About a year later, Fr. David Galloway, a friend from Dogwood Hills Baptist days, called and asked me about becoming an Episcopal priest and working with him in Tyler, Texas. When I told Lynda about the offer she responded, “Let’s go see. This could be the answer to my prayers.” The Bishop of the Diocese of Texas readily gave his approval when we met – amazing in that we would have disagreed on some key issues if he had asked. My studies for ordination were to be at the Anglican School of Theology in Dallas. When I visited the school and learned nothing I needed was being offered anytime soon, Doug Travis, the Dean, stopped in the office to get his paycheck. On the spot he offered a plan for independent studies to give me what I needed. My parents, Tom and Rose Mary, who were life-long pillars of their Baptist church were delighted with the news. There are stories that go with each step of the transition for another time. I am not one who believes God treats us like puppets to act out a divine script. However, the work of the Spirit was so clear – so mystical – so incarnational. This is available to anyone seeks, knocks and listens, but this is my story. I continue to be amazed and grateful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 9:41 AM