Gratitude Note: For birthday celebrations over against the suffering. Tonight Lynda and I attended a birthday dinner/celebration for a dear friend. We were actually among the youngest in the group and I am glad they include us in these parties. Most of the group has known each other for many years and celebrated a lot of birthdays. And I do not mean to be unkind, but they have essentially grown older together. Tonight as on other occasions, there was a lot of storytelling and laughter – they know each other very well. There was an abundance of love flowing in that gathering that didn’t just happen. It has been nurtured over many years in share joys and sorrows. In that I am both friend and priest to them, I was aware of the unspoken suffering they had experienced together along the way – most past and some current – but always with connections that run deep and bind them together. I admire that about my friends – especially as we enjoy each other. I marvel at the depth of friendship – the very gift of God they cherish in each other – celebrated on their birthdays – lived in between rhythms of life’s ups and downs. They are special friends and I love them.
Monday, July 6, 2015
I am going to have to get a bigger broom. It seems the one I have been using to sweep the dust of fear out of this world is not doing the job. Somehow the dust comes back, the fear keeps creeping in under the door, sneaking through the windows of this life, trying to cover everything it can touch with the fine powder of anxiety. Sometimes I get suspicious that some people out there are kicking up as much fear as they can, so I am going to sweep even harder. I will send that dirt back to its source with the good right arm of hope and the clean sweep of common sense.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:52 PM
Friday, July 3, 2015
Gratitude Note: For being out of context for a while. This was an odd and interesting day. Friday is my day off – sort of anyway. This was also a holiday – didn’t help being that I was already off. But then none of that matters because I was the officiant for a graveside service in Tulsa – the son of one of our members had died unexpectedly – that isn’t exactly in the day off or holiday category. However, I appreciate what I am privileged to do. So I am not complaining. Quite the opposite – Lynda agreed to go with me for a service that wouldn’t take too long. I left the rest of the day for her to set the agenda. To my delight she chose the Philbrook Art Museum. Normally we would have eaten lunch and headed back home right away. Not this time. I took off my collar and cross – trying to look “normal” – and off we went. We enjoyed the wonderful paintings and sculptures together – the expansive home and the beautiful grounds. We were far, far away for a while at least. And, lunch was quiet except for some mellow jazz. The salmon and wine were good. A stop at Starbucks and then we were ready for the trip home. Being out of context for just a while was just what I needed – and I am grateful. Perhaps this should happen more…stop – just enjoy today.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:57 PM
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Gratitude Note: For getting up in the “fives” for nothing – except great news. I had to get up at 5:00 this morning to shower and be on the road to Tulsa by 5:30. I hate getting up in the “fives!” A member of St. Luke’s and personal friend was having surgery this morning at 7:00 and I wanted to be there by 6:30 to talk, pray and anoint before surgery. Actually, I enjoy the early morning drives once I am up – today with the full moon on my right and rising sun on the left – the radio off – time with God. Anyway, everything went as planned in prep room 388 and at straight-up seven Jim was on his way to surgery. Becky was by herself so I decided to stay though I teased Jim by telling him we would be across the street at the Wild Fork having breakfast. Becky and I went to the waiting room and chatted. Thirty minutes had passed when the phone in the cubical rang. Probably to tell us surgery had begun – but no – we were told to return to room 388 and the doctor would meet us there. That was a scary sixty seconds as we rushed to see what was happening. We opened the door – Jim was sitting up in bed and exclaimed, “No surgery – and I can still play golf!” Seems that the surgeon looked at the CT scan again and decided surgery was not called for – just more exercise to strengthen the muscles. What great news! Happiness everywhere! Then Jim spoke music to my ears, “Let’s go to the Wild Fork for breakfast – I’m buying!” Yes, I got up in the “fives” for nothing – except for great news: no surgery and a free breakfast at the Wild Fork! Thanks be to God – and Jim.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 9:58 PM
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Gratitude Note: For surprise texts just when I needed them. My favorite breakfast place in Tulsa is the Wild Fork at Utica Square. A few weeks ago I was there with my youngest brother and his wife, when I was informed that one of our members had just experienced emergency surgery just across the street at St. John’s. Well, I had to be in Tulsa this morning and took time for breakfast again with Lynda at my favorite spot. Once again I got news I needed to hear. I was told Elizabeth Collins’ was now with hospice care and failing rapidly – I had seen her just two weeks ago, but her condition had worsened. She lives on a ranch half way between Tulsa and Bartlesville. We were able to stop and talk and pray with her on the way home. The timing of the messages could not have been better – both times – and the “texters” did not have a clue where we were. I know some cynics out there may suggest I stop eating at the Wild Fork – that isn’t going to happen. I just like the way things happen sometimes in a manner that matters. No, I don’t think God manipulates things in our lives – but God was certainly present in them and that matters. Charlie K. is doing well. Pray for our friend, Elizabeth, that she will experience a “holy death” and make the transition in peace. Texts may be a bit impersonal, but they can be effective – perhaps even a means of grace in a timely way.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:37 PM
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Gratitude Note: For the dance of the fireflies – and reminders of Presence. I was late getting home and it was nearly dark as I started watering the flowers on three sides of our home. This included putting water in the birdbath down from the deck toward the woods. What I saw startled me with delight. Though darkness was setting in, I could still see the trunks of the trees and the two foot undergrowth. Fireflies were dancing and flashing everywhere – dozens and dozens of them. I stood in utter amazement as the show went on and on. Then that familiar sense of Presence came over me and I knew what I was experiencing was sacred and wondrous. After a few minutes I realized Lynda needed to see this display of nature and God. I ran to the house and made her go out on the deck, pajamas and all, for her to see the fireflies. The delight on her face let me know she understood my excitement. I wish God was that obvious more often – or that I would be more aware and receptive. Regardless, this was wonderful.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 10:50 PM
Monday, June 29, 2015
Gratitude Note: For the privilege and exhaustion in celebrating Greg’s life and faith. Everything came to fruition today of a twelve year struggle to make the most out of life knowing his time was limited – thirty-five is just too young and unfair. Yet Greg touched so many lives – over four hundred people were there for his service at St. Luke’s today – and the stories are loving and full of life about Greg – and full of faith. And, almost everyone came to the Altar Rail to experience Holy Communion – there was joy and purpose in our tears. In the midst of pain came a peace that passes all understanding. As I prepared for the service, shared in the celebration and gave the consecrated bread to Greg’s family and friends, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and honor for being in the right place and time to know Greg and serve in his funeral celebration – what a privilege! Surely the presence of God was in that place – around us and within us – a sacramental time from beginning to end – and even now. I confess I am exhausted in every way, but I will sleep tonight with a holy exhaustion. I am so blessed. Thank you, Greg – and thanks be to God.
Posted by Lee Stephens at 11:13 PM