Gratitude Note: For Canon Jose’ McLoughlin, Bishop-elect in the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. He has been an incredible gift to the Diocese of Oklahoma – fresh, bright, thoughtful, open, experienced, capable – I could go on and on. He is a rare one! He will be greatly missed here, but he is now a gift of God to the people of the Diocese of Western North Carolina – and to the Episcopal Church as a whole. He will be a wonderful bishop. And, as a relatively young bishop, his ministry will have an impact for years to come – that is encouraging. I am happy for Jose’ and his family even as I already feel the loss in our diocese. Yet I know all will be well – here and there – all a part of the Kingdom of God – at least the Episcopal portion thereof. Thanks be to God!
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Gratitude Note: For a childhood friend, Al Cuite. Al died Sunday evening after a long fight with cancer. We became friends at Osage Hills Baptist Church, Tulsa, in the late fifties – along with Jim Glasgow and Gary Yust. We also went to school together at Tulsa Central High School when it was downtown. However, relationship centered around our church youth group which included Falls Creek, softball games, early years of dating, Sunday School class and the usual adolescent stuff. In particular Al and I were the closest of friends in those days. Our college years and professions took us in different directions. We reconnected on Al’s sixtieth birthday and several times since then. Each time it was like no time had passed as we shared memories and current events. Both of us questioned many of the Baptist beliefs in our teen years, but appreciated how the church loved us anyway. It is ironic that when we got back together Al was a devout Roman Catholic and I had become an Episcopal priest – that was a source of mutual joy. I saw Al for the last time a week before he died. Because I had been making hospital visits, I had on my clericals – collar, cross and all. When I stepped into Al’s bedroom, he threw his arms wide open and with huge smile on his face yelled, “The priest is here. God, I really must be dying!” We laughed and cried together. We talked for a while about old times and his present condition. Before leaving I gave Al a blessing and then almost at the same time we said, “I love you” to each other. I am grateful for my life-long friend, Al, and the memories. Thanks be to God!
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:43 PM
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Gratitude Note: For forty-nine candles plus one. This was Father’s Day, but also a week since the horrific massacre in Orlando. I didn’t want the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. Luke’s this morning to focus on nor ignore what happened. Saturday evening I remembered that we have a stand of votive candles people use for extended personal prayers – ironically it has fifty candles. So this morning as people received Holy Communion they were invited to light a candle... for each of the forty-nine victims plus one. The fire came from the Gospel Candle on the Altar. I was touched all the more as the two communion hymns were “Lord and Father of Mankind” and “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.”
May the Light of Christ bring comfort and healing to the suffering. May the Light of Christ give us courage and grace for the days before us. May the Light of Christ make us One in a way that lasts. Amen.
Blessings, Fr. Lee+
Blessings, Fr. Lee+
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:14 PM
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Gratitude Note: For the Last Rites of Tears. Like many other people, I have been watching the news today and deeply troubled by the horrific shooting in Orlando. Fifty people dead and perhaps more will be added before it is over. I have been sitting in our den reflecting on what has happened. I remembered that a few weeks ago I provided the prayers we often call “Last Rites” for Linda Cubbage. She was dying from a brain tumor. Linda was aware and even said the Lord’s Prayer with her husband, Tom, and me. Her time of transition was coming and she was ready – though it was hard to let her go. Tonight in my imagination, I wanted to say the prayers for each victim at the Pulse with the hope that somehow that might help them, their families and us. Then it occurred to me that perhaps the river of tears from family, friends, supporters and strangers across the nation, even the world, will in some way bless them – love them – in the realm beyond here. I believe we are all connected in the mystical depths of life which includes death – I have been there with others. The river of tears will bless and love them – and help heal us – and perhaps lead to changes in our common life.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 11:14 PM
Gratitude Note: For prayers from the Book of Common Prayer that speak to the pain, grief and outrage of this day after another mass shooting.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Lord of All, grant to all who mourn a sure confidence in your Godly care, that, casting all their grief on you, they may know the consolation of your love. Amen.
God of Grace, help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting. Amen.
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Posted by Lee Stephens at 9:41 PM
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Gratitude Note: For this historic night for our nation. Regardless of one’s political perspective and loyalty, this is truly a remarkable time – to witness the first time a woman has become the presidential nominee of a major political party. That is not a reason to vote for her, but it is cause for celebrating what is not only an incredible accomplishment for her, but in many ways for everyone – especially women. Congratulations to Secretary Clinton and her supporters.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:10 PM
Monday, June 6, 2016
Gratitude Note: For Presence and Practice in difficult times. In the last two weeks St. Luke’s has had more people with difficult health issues at one time than I can remember in nineteen and half years. These include two broken hips, a broken arm, eye, shoulder, bladder, breast cancer and two knee surgeries, two cancer diagnoses and one person who died of cancer – and I am probably forgetting someone at the moment. First, I have been aware of an abiding Presence at every turn – and I am so grateful. Second, this remarkable parish has been so responsive to the patients and their families – truly “Practicing” faith through prayer, calls, food, transportation, visits, cards, flowers – people have been bathed with love in these times of pain, uncertainty and grief. What a parish family! Thank you for being who you are.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:48 PM