Gratitude Note: Dr. Samaniego came in smiling and we smiled back. I got another excellent report at M.D. Anderson and I don’t need to go back for two years – though I will still do six month visits with Dr. Keller in Tulsa. The doctor was almost two hours late getting to us, so we got to leave Houston in the five o’clock traffic – not fun. Got to Denton five and half hours later. I swear all the roads in Dallas and north are all being reconstructed. But we are well on our way to Ponca City and the ECW Convention as happy as can be. So, thanks be to God – and our wonderful family and friends. All is well.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Gratitude Note: For simple messages of concern, support and love. I am learning again how little it takes to make a difference in a person’s day – not to mention the journey. Before we left a woman came up to me, looked me in the eyes and said, “We are with you. I know what this is like. The news will be good.” An email yesterday came from a friend saying, “Any news yet? Expecting a good report.” A text this morning came early, “Praying for you every day and thinking about you especially today.” A Facebook message from another friend simply asked, “How are you doing?” These are just samples of many simple, heartfelt expressions from people who are aware and care. We didn’t make a big deal out of it, but our time away starting last week meant not only getting rest plus seeing family and friends along the way, but also my annual Lymphoma check-up at M.D. Anderson. We are not especially worried. I have been doing just fine in the last twelve months and today’s tests went fine. However, we want to see a smile on Dr. Samaniego’s face tomorrow afternoon when walks in to give us the report. As a priest I do my best to let people know I am with them – to support, encourage and love them – no matter who they are or what is happening. In recent days and now, I am reminded of how much simple messages matter – and Lynda and I are grateful. Your love surrounds us and God’s Presence upholds us. We are not alone and again, we are grateful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:21 PM
Monday, April 20, 2015
Gratitude Note: For M’Liss, The Circuit Driver. (Skip to the second paragraph if necessary) My friend M’Liss is amazing champion for the less fortunate people of Bartlesville. When she worked for the Washington County Health Department, she took on project after project in an effort to improve life for everyone, but especially for the “voiceless” ones all around us. Projects like Bridges Out of Poverty, Suicide Prevention, Affordable Housing, Family Promise, Transportation and others. These are clustered now under the umbrella of the Washington County Wellness Initiative. Time and again she went past her “job” responsibilities in hours and energy to make things happen. She has a way of pulling key people together and charting a path to success. When she was “forced” by the “state health people” to retire (shame on them), M’Liss increased her efforts as a volunteer to help bring everything to fruition.
Well, last week she out did herself. The Circuit is a major transportation project – now in operation for over three years and we are still working on sustained funding. Complicating matters has been a challenge in hiring enough bus drivers in Bartlesville. Last Monday we came close to shutting down The Circuit for the week until the newest bus driver could take over today. That would have meant that an average of fifty riders a day who depend on The Circuit would have been left stranded. Get this: M’Liss drove a church van for two four-hour shifts Monday to Friday to make sure there was no transportation gap! That’s right – she drove a van around The Circuit’s one hour route eight hours a day all week! I am so grateful for this hero in our community. M’Liss, you are one of a kind and I thank God for you.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:46 PM
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Gratitude Note: For the cheers of the people: “Rose Mary is back!” I should own my bias from the beginning – Rose Mary is my Mother. She is a life-long Southern Baptist (who also loves the Episcopal Church) and has played the piano in church for more years than I can count. She has been living in Bartlesville at Green Country Village for two years. She is an amazing woman and exceptional Mother (bias showing). Last year she started going to Heritage Villa Nursing Home on Fridays at 11:30 in the morning to play hymns, as in old, traditional hymns, in the dining room as people gather for lunch. One of my favorite quotes from this 94 year old Mother of mine is “I just love playing for those old folks.”
Well, near the end of March Rose Mary developed some health issues that ganged up on her – A-Fib, infections, loss of appetite, medication problems, etc. She became so weak she could hardly function. And that meant she could not play on Fridays for about three weeks – she felt like she was letting them down. Gratefully, things gradually got better and her strength started to return. Last Friday someone gave her a ride to Heritage Villa so she could at least play for a while. She walked in the dining room and put her music books on the piano. Someone saw her and yelled, “Rose Mary is back!” Then someone else yelled, “Rose Mary is back!” Then another and another – then the room was filled with applause. She smile and bowed, wiped a tear, sat down and played “Amazing Grace.”
Rose Mary is back! That’s my Mother.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:29 PM
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Gratitude Note: For the recognition of an outstanding layperson and curate on the same day at St. Luke’s. For those who look at Facebook late in the evening or early in the morning, this is a bit of a spoiler – but I don’t care – I am excited. In the morning Jeff Birk will be acknowledged as St. Luke’s Prism of Christ at St. Luke’s. He truly amazing. Twice Jeff served on a mission team from our parish to build houses for poor families in Mexico. He experienced the challenges of having only a few people who could act as interpreters for the crew. So, when he retired he set out to learn Spanish and rather quickly became quite proficient in the language. He now uses this new skills on medical mission teams and in helping Spanish-speaking people Bartlesville – amazing!. He also serves the church in many other ways with a gentle humility and quiet efficiency. I am so glad I get to serve with Jeff -- in whom Christ is often seen.
In the same “Note” I am pleased to say that The Rev. Sean Ekberg, Transitional Deacon, will become our sixth Curate at St. Luke’s starting July 1, 2015. He will be ordained to the priesthood on July 11th at the Cathedral. He is a Cradle Episcopalian from Enid, has an interesting background, is married to Nicole and has wonderful gifts for ministry. I will leave his story for him to tell, but I am convinced he will be a wonderful addition to our staff and St. Luke’s. We are very fortunate to have Sean assigned to St. Luke’s and as I told him. he will be blessed to serve in such a loving, supportive and understanding parish.
May the likes of Jeff and Sean, layperson and curate, increase in the Church. I am grateful for these shinning examples -- the Light of Christ in the flesh.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:18 PM
Gratitude Note: For Bishop Ed’s 20th anniversary letter and prayer.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. This attack resulted in the deaths of 168 people and forever changed our capital city, our nation, and ourselves.
As we approach this anniversary, let us not focus our attention on stories of anger, fear, or violence; but, rather, let us turn our attention to the stories of hope, love, and community that surround that day. Let us remember the immeasurably courageous rescuers who plunged into danger to save our neighbors. Let us remember the unified fortitude and kindness our capital city portrayed, reminding us all that we are truly stronger together than we are apart. Let us remember the love, support, and generosity that poured into our capital city from around the world. Most importantly, let us remember the victims who died, their families and loved ones, and those whose lives were changed forever that day. Let us pray for peace, healing, hope, and reconciliation for all on this anniversary and always. I invite congregations to remember this anniversary in their Prayers of the People this Sunday.
Please join me in prayer:
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 9:43 AM
Friday, April 17, 2015
Gratitude Note: For an Easter gift by default and grace. This happened on one of the high and holy days of the year – Easter Sunday. As one irreverent friend puts it, this is when we put to use our best “Anglican pomp and glory.” Everything was ready to celebrate Resurrection Sunday in the best possible way. Then word came that one of our Torchbearers didn’t make it to church on time for the 10:30 service. His partner, Kimaya, was about to miss being an Acolyte on Easter morning. This nine year old girl had been an Acolyte for less than a year as a Torchbearer and had really been looking forward to serving on Easter morning. Then it was discovered that the Crucifer was also a no-show. One of our two experienced Servers, Anneke or Max, could have been the Crucifer, but the role was given to Kimaya at the last minute. The servers became her “on the fly” coaches. This was the first time she had even picked up the Cross much less lead the procession – and of all days, Easter morning! I first learned of this when I walked into the Narthex for the procession. There was Kimaya – ready to lead the way. Kimaya was wonderful! This was an Easter she will never forget nor will many of us who shared the celebration . I thought more people should know this Easter story.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:25 AM