Gratitude Note: For the renewal of my ordination vows for the forty-fifth time. Every Holy Monday all the Episcopal clergy of the Diocese of Oklahoma go to the Cathedral to share in the Holy Eucharist and renew our ordination vows. This happens when we are typically busy over the top with Holy Week observances leading up to Easter Sunday. Yet, I cannot think of a better time for this meaningful reaffirmation of our calling and commitment than when we are following Jesus Christ through the last week of his ministry. Actually, only twenty-four of my forty-five years have been as an Episcopal priest. In my “previous life” I was a Baptist pastor, but even then I was aware that I needed to renew my vows, my calling and commitment, again and again. This was a spiritual necessity and privilege. A mystical experience in my high school years and repeated affirmations from my home church in Tulsa let me know this was and is my calling. I have not always done my best or fulfilled all my opportunities and responsibilities as I should, but God’s grace has been more than sufficient in my journey. I am so blessed to have been a pastor and priest for all these years. How humbling and affirming it was today to join my Bishop and clergy colleagues again in renewing our ordination vows. To say I am grateful does not begin to express the way I feel. I am a man most blessed. Thanks be to God!
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Gratitude Note: For being completely worn out in a good and holy way. That may seem a bit strange, but this has been a wonderfully marvelous day and I am done. Our Vestry Retreat (for others read board) began last night and continued today at Hillsong – what incredible leaders at St. Luke’s! They are some open, insightful, eager and committed. The last hour and a half was spent meeting two candidates for becoming our Curate (read associate priest). I asked them to interview the Vestry instead of the other way around – that was revealing. Then in the afternoon there were personal interviews with each of them and then an extended conversation with both of them together. They are incredible, young, "all most" priests who are aware of their calling, with good gifts for ministry and full of desire to serve. This was followed by dinner with our candidates and our two Deacons and their spouses. This was topped off with dessert back at our home and polite conversation – too tired for much more. Now everyone is gone. Time for a quick gratitude note in the midst of my tiredness – aware of God’s many gifts of this day – and ready for Palm/Passion Sunday. What a day! What a tomorrow for each of us!
Posted by Lee Stephens at 9:56 PM
Friday, March 27, 2015
Gratitude Note: For an incredible evening with St. Luke’s Vestry. We started with wine and appetizers for our dinner. The laughter and conversation told me people were not only having a good time from the very beginning, but like and enjoy each other. When we actually began our “retreat,” I simply asked them how they had experienced God/Christ at St. Luke’s. Then I sat back and listened as the sharing flowed freely. My heart was warmed again and again. Our conversation went on to explore how we can live less on the periphery of our lives to more from the center of who we are in God. That was more challenging but also enriching and full of potential. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring for our retreat, but tonight was exceptional. What a wonderful group of leaders for our parish! I am so blessed.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:42 PM
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Gratitude Note: For an enlightened and excited face. We have been using Fr. Richard Rohr’s book of meditations, Wondrous Encounters, for our Lenten Study at St. Luke’s. Well… it isn’t really a study, but rather a daily experience of scripture, meditations and contemplative prayer. We have had three groups going – each in its own way. You never know who will come and stick with it in these kinds of groups. One of our new participants said she had never tried anything like this before but was needing something more in her life. As we are nearing Holy Week and the “study” coming to an end, her countenance is revealing. She has been to every session and learned quickly – and sustained the desire. As she talks about her experience, her enlightened and excited face glows. Even if she is the only one to “get it,” this Lent is fulfilling for me. I am so happy and grateful for her.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:15 PM
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Gratitude Note: For radar and white blooming trees. The early spring weather has been kind to the Bradford Pear Trees and allowed them to have a full blooming this year. Then add the Wild Plum Trees with their blooms deep in the woods – I just learned what they are – and the drab of winter has been splashed with accents of white everywhere. They even dressed up the drive to Tulsa and back for over a week. How refreshing. But now with the wind, rain and hail, a lot the blossoms will likely be gone. Nonetheless, my appreciation for the colorful radar has increased again. We have certainly come a long way when it comes to weather alerts and watching weather events develop in real time. No doubt this ability saves a lot of lives with alerts, shelters and knowing what to do when threatened. Of course enjoying the beautiful signs of spring and benefiting from the radar warnings means paying attention -- and so it is with much of life – and I think it works best when I not only pay attention but also when I am grateful. Meanwhile, my heart goes out the family of the person who died, the people were injured and those whose lives were impacted by the nasty side of spring tonight.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:28 PM
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Gratitude Note: For personalized funerals with the same liturgy. We have had a series of funerals lately at St. Luke’s – three this week and one last week. I love the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. There is liturgy for all occasions such as the Holy Eucharist, Baptism, Marriage, etc. One of the best is for Burial – also called a funeral, memorial or Requiem Mass with a variety of differences but essentially the same liturgy (order of service for some folks). Reflecting on our recent services, I am aware of how very different they have been. Today’s service for Ralph was rich with music, laughter and love reflecting something of his life. Mary, with her British background, had a warm and Anglican feel to it. Virginia’s was traditional with humor and respect. Mary’s service on Friday will be simple and comforting. What makes it personalized? Well…the choice of scriptures and music, the homily and reflections, family and friends attending, the faith and experiences of the deceased, flower’s on the Altar, casket vs ashes – perhaps something of the Holy Spirit blowing in different ways. I guess there are all kinds of possibilities with the same liturgy. One thing is clear – it is always a Celebration of Life and Grace. Thanks be to God!
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:38 PM