Gratitude Note: For M’Liss Jenkins, one of my heroes in Bartlesville. Tuesday night M’Liss received the Jim Gillie Outstanding Citizen Award from the Bartlesville Chamber of Commerce. I had to miss the gala when the award was given to her – we are with our Twin Grandchildren who were graduating from high school in Kansas City. M’Liss has a heart for the “voiceless” poor of Bartlesville who struggle to survive day to day. For years she did this professionally with the Washington County Health Department as well as a volunteer way beyond her work responsibilities. When the fools at the state level forced her into early retirement, M’Liss didn’t miss a beat and became a “super volunteer.” She has made sure the many projects she helped start continue. Much of my recent work with M’Liss has been with The Circuit – a limited bus system for Bartlesville. A few weeks ago The Circuit was going to be shut down for a week because the transit system we use had no drivers. She knew this would make life more difficult for people who have come to depend on The Circuit. So, M’Liss borrowed a church van and drove the bus route every day for a week! M’Liss is beyond incredible – she is amazing – she is one of my heroes in Bartlesville. She isn’t a member of St. Luke’s, but if she were, we would identify her as a “Prism of Christ and Christ’s Ministry.” Thanks be to God for M’Liss.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Gratitude Note: For Lauren and Cayden – our oldest grandchildren – “They are Twins, you know.” They graduated from high school tonight. This Gratitude Note actually includes their parents, Michael and Catherine – two terrific parents. Graduation took just over an hour of listening to several speakers and at last hearing their names out of four hundred and seventy-seven of their closest and best friends – with the strict rule of no applause much less yelling or using the air horn I smuggled into the place (just kidding). The two moments we waited for lasted less than thirty seconds as they walked across the platform to get their diplomas. Aside from getting to see them from the balcony in the crowd of about four thousand (that’s right), the best part was the night before when we took Cayden, Lauren and their parents to dinner. We offered to take them anywhere they wanted to go – their choice was Jose Peppers – the bill could have been much larger – even the Margaritas were only two bucks! But the time with them talking about their high school years and their plans for college was priceless. I watched the interaction with their parents and delighted in how well they have done with the Twins. This is one of those times when you are aware of the flow of life, at least for the time, is magic and promising. There will still be times when the water will be either raging or down to a trickle, but right now it is a well-spring of joy and I am soaking it up. Life is good and I am grateful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:45 PM
Monday, May 18, 2015
Gratitude Note: For Senior awareness. One never knows what Seniors will say when they get up to speak on Youth Sunday in May. They always look good in their caps and gowns and we are all so proud of them – yet parents and priests wonder what they will say? Usually they rise to the occasion and we realize they have indeed grown up a bit – and we probably know too much about the process and wonder – and they will tell you later we didn’t know half of it. Anyway, on Sunday I was struck by several things that were said. A.J. mentioned how the youth sponsors were there for him – especially when he was struggling and not doing very well. Max talked about the many activities of the Young Disciples, but seemed to be most impressed with the Outreach projects of their group in helping the poor. Katie shared how impressed she has been with the “Prism of Christ” recognitions at St. Luke’s – “Such awesome people,” she said. All three were vulnerable in their sharing and affirming of family and friends who have helped them get to this stage of their lives. What more could we ask of our children? They are wonderful – parents and priests can relax and claim them as our own – beyond relief to gratitude. They are special as are the parents and the church that raised them.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:01 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Gratitude Note: For the Seniors’ thanks to EVERYONE. First, the context was this morning at St. Luke’s, Bartlesville which was Youth Sunday – and more specifically Senior Sunday for those graduating this year. How ironic that this Sunday was also called “Senior Sunday” by the diocese, but for those of us on the opposite end of the age scale. Anyway, the day was delightful as the Young Disciples led the service and the Seniors provided the “sermon.” A.J., Max and Katie spoke in keeping with who they are and what they had experienced over the years. I am very proud of all three of them. But, here’s the thing. Each of them said something like – “I want to thank EVERYONE for loving and helping me over the years. And, I want you to know I love EVERYONE of you.” My first reaction was “not everyone even knows you. Many people don’t even know your names or your parents!” Suddenly I realized that either intentionally or intuitively they were thanking the “Community of Faith” that indeed gave them a faithful, safe, loving, affirming, modeling and guiding context to grow up. The necessary people knew them personally – like Bob, Miriam and Tim – the EVERYONE – as in the Body of Christ at St. Luke’s – made space for them to be ONE with us on the journey. Now, how cool is that!?! I hate it when I slip into being a literalist and miss the deeper meaning. Our Seniors got it – and I am grateful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:34 PM
Friday, May 15, 2015
Gratitude Note: For a torn score card – a birthday present. Jim L. and I take turns at being the worst golfer on the course. We played on Thursday afternoon after the heavy rains. We sloshed our way around all of nine holes. The afternoon was beautiful and spirits were high. Tomorrow there is a “surprise” birthday party for Jim L. Well, not really a surprise because he has worked like a slave to get everything ready for weeks – you can guess who the slave-drive is! But for the afternoon, he enjoyed hitting balls all over the course – as did I. We talked as we walked and laughed at ourselves – “church talk” was limited to two holes – ok, maybe three. On several occasions when he really messed up, I suggested he hit another ball – “Happy Birthday!” On other occasions, I missed some easy chips and putts which were more opportunities to suggest they were birthday gifts. Jim L. and I have known each other many years now and shared more than a few of life’s joys and sorrows – challenges and successes – dreams and disappointments. We are actually better at life than golf – thank God! We finally made it back to the clubhouse – tired, mud-splattered and happy. We sat on the porch to drink a celebrative beer. Jim L. threw our score card on the table. Laughing, I picked it up and tore it in half and said, “Happy Birthday! No one needs to know.” In my grateful heart I said, “What a friend.” What a gift Jim L. is to me on the journey.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 11:10 PM
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Gratitude Note: For thirteen voices, hearts and friendships. Every Thursday morning for me starts with St. Luke’s Men’s Fellowship at 6:45. Today our gathering seemed extra special – though it could just be me. There were thirteen of us this morning – a few “part-timers” were not there. People started arriving about 6:30 for the pre-fellowship gathering and coffee. There were various groups in the kitchen and dining areas. The conversation was lively and lots of laughter. At 6:45 we went to the Chapel for Morning Prayer. The thirteen men’s voices reverberated into the Nave with every canticle and prayer – especially with the Easter Alleluias. Then we returned to the tables for our fruit and non-fruit breakfast provided by two of the men. Because of the number of people, no one commanded the group as a whole. The conversations were in threes and fours around the triangle of tables. There was a positive spirit circling the group. We ended with a “huddle” and our arms around each other to share concerns and prayer. Throughout our time I was aware of how much I love my friends – I would do anything for them and I suspect they for me. They are special and I am grateful they are a part of my life.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 11:14 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Gratitude Note: For vulnerable, caring and committed clergy friends. I spent an amazing day with my Episcopal clergy colleagues from Northeast Oklahoma – from Pawhuska, Pryor, Claremore, Vinita, Grove, Miami and Bartlesville. We had not seen each other for several months and there were welcoming with smiles and hugs as we gathered. We respect, trust and love each other. That became evident as we shared what was happening in our churches and our personal lives. Everyone was so open and at times vulnerable as she or he talked about struggles and hopes in ministry – and in life. The atmosphere was a safe, supportive and affirming. As always there was fair amount of laughter. At times I found myself quietly admiring and loving them for who they are and what they do. In worship we shared reflections on the Gospel for Sunday and then gathered around the Altar for Holy Communion – and as was true at moments in our sharing, we experienced a “oneness” that stirred my soul. Today fed me and I am grateful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 11:07 PM