Blessed Hindrances

She said, “Look away!” but I couldn’t. I watched as she locked the forceps on the pin, twisted slightly and pulled hard. There was resistance at first, and then the inch-long pin in my thumb slid out. At first there was a little ache inside, but that quickly passed and now my thumb feels free. The metal pin that had stabilized one joint in my thumb after bursting a ligament was free to move. Tomorrow I can bathe that hand for the first time in six weeks. I still have to be careful with it and wear an orthopedic cuff, but I can see the end of the tunnel when my hand will be back to full usefulness.

I have to be grateful for the pins and the stitches that restrict us where we would move, hold us back when we would rush in, close our lips when we would rather talk so that we can hear, and maybe even trip us up when we are going in the wrong direction.

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Christmas Weather

As if to herald the shortening days, the freeze level in the mountains is creeping down towards us. After the weekend of rain the frost in the mountains dusts the trees with winter quite lower and lower each day. It would be nice to think that we might have a white Christmas. That doesn’t appear in the forecast, but then, forecasts are always guesses. Either way, the snow will not be far away. If need be, we can always run up the hill and see some. It’s all part of the great pendulum swing of the year. We have nine hours of light now and increasing cold but in July will have 16 hours of light and increasing heat.

What is not so obvious is the incremental shift in this pattern that has been noted with increasing urgency over the last 40 years. Though the days are just as short as they always were, the winters are not as wet and not as cold. Though the days are just as long in the summer, they are hotter and dryer. The rate of change has accelerated over the last century in ways that should startle is all. The closer you get to the Arctic, the clearer it is to see.  Perhaps that is why in this neck of the woods one’s carbon footprint is the topic of daily conversation.

Does the religious sense of the season sidestep these questions, for some they do, for me they do not. The coming of the Christ child in my Christian tradition reveals the coming together of the divine and the created. The environment, created by the divine, is linked to the divine. We, part of the created order, are also linked to the divine. If we, part of the created order, destroy that created order, how can we welcome the divine?  I believe that for the Christian who believes in the Incarnation, Christmas is a call to care for all of the created order, not simply by what makes us comfortable or wealthy right now, but in full view of the divine ground of it all.

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The story goes that in 1531 a Christian Indian man just outside the budding capital city of New Spain in what is now Mexico, was going to church at dawn on the ninth of December when he met a lady who told him that she was our lady of Guadalupe. Over three days’ time the story unfolds and ends with the bishop finally excepting the miracle of the apparition and agreeing to build a church on a site sacred to the Aztec goddess of heart and home.  Understood in context, one must note that the story ends with the Spanish bishop taking orders from a conquered Indigenous man, a total reversal of the power structures of the day. Tonantzin, the goddess, takes precedence over Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and of war that demanded daily human sacrifice. Life wins over death, the oppressed command the powerful, society is upended.


The image of Guadalupe is central to that story and has been a symbol of an indigenous Christian faith in Latin America. In the United States, her image is an inspiration to empowerment among powerless people, especially Hispanic women.1 There are those who quibble with the historicity of the story. I think they missed the point. The story is a universal human story of revelation of divine love that turns society back right side up and establishes justice for all. Granted, her image has been used to inflict violence and to oppress, but that is a misunderstanding of the story and a misuse of the image.  This evening at 6:00 p.m., La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección in Mount Vernon, Washington will celebrate a Eucharistic service in honor of our Lady of Guadalupe. We will do so with pride, claiming the best of the story as a source of liberating love. Come one, come all.

1Rodriguez, Jeanette. Our lady of Guadalupe: Faith and empowerment among Mexican-American women. University of Texas Press, 2010.

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All Thum,bs

I cannot ty pe, my thum,b is big

It acts ju st like a woodenn peg.

Now spaces come and space s show

Exactly where they sh ouldn’t go.

A careles step on ice an snow

Had sent me to the ones who know

That bandages s o big and strong

Must couch my thum,b for far too long.

Now ma imed and bound, I type for thee

As one explorer sa iled the sea:

“Columbus method,” my dad said,

“Find a key, and onn it land.”

The words now stumble off the ke ys,

And so ’twill be for many days.

Forgive me, all , who read my stuff.

I fear the road will b e quite rough.


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We’re still unpacking. It seems like it will never end. Boxes get emptied onto most any horizontal surface that will support the contents, that are then sifted through and sorted into: “Throw away;” “Goodwill;” “Find a place to put it.” And “Find a place to put it” is hampered by all the stuff laying around! Every day more and more boxes are put out on the front porch for recycling, and we do see a dent in the stacks, but it just seems never-ending. Will we ever truly be unpacked?

Maybe not. Maybe to be alive is to be continually unpacking of life. When we’re settled in a casket, we will not have to unpack anything more in this life. Until then, things come and go, and we have to deal with them. People come and go and we have to engage with them. Times come and go and we have to relate to them. Always in flux, change as the only constant, each day is a gathering of energy to be expended on unpacking. But what are we unpacking? Is it merely a train of sensations, flowing through us with no residue or effect? That would truly be a pointless existence.

No. We bear witness to significance. As things, people and times come and flow away once again, we notice what truly matters and announce it to the world. For some it will be one thing, for others it will be another, and perhaps the true significance is yet one level deeper where things come together as one and all significance is seen for what it truly is—or maybe even that is to be unpacked deeper still, where all is one in the One, and redemption is complete.

Then borders will be seen as a means to greater humanity, not politics or economics or (worst of all) blind xenophobia.

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Second Annual

I’m at the Second Annual Border Ministry Summit of the Episcopal Church, meeting at St. Philip’s in the Hills Church in Tucson, AZ. Last year we hosted the first (and rather exploratory) event in El Paso. We had 60 people there. 200 have registered for this one. People have come from all over the nation. Apparently, this idea scratched an itch, and as we normally do, we make it a “thing.” Second Annual…and Third, and Fourth, until just past its useful life, and then it will go down in the annals of our church as “something we did.”

But it’s something we’re doing now, and it’s important now. Granted, we’re singing to the choir—the people here have come because they have an interest in border issues—but as numbers grow in this initial stage, others will come to the place where they cannot ignore it any longer. Then the story of José Antonio Elena Flores being shot across an international border by a border patrol officer because rocks were being thrown over the wall, and of the officer’s subsequent acquittal, can become important symbols of a broken system into which we’re trying to shine a light. Then the fact that Latino immigrant workers, (as USA Today reported today) many of them undocumented, are becoming the backbone of the economies of increasing numbers of sectors in our society will be openly acknowledged, and we can deal with the contradiction that we secretly believe our economy needs to keep them here AND keep them illegal at the same time. Then the fact that, on a minimum wage salary, so many undocumented workers live here and send half their earnings back to families in Latin America will confront the insane opulence to which Middle Class America has grown accustomed. Then the link between violence in Central America and US foreign policy over the last 100 years can be owned and mourned, spurring us to constructive work to rebuild peace where we helped to destroy it. Border issues are much bigger than an imaginary line between two nations. The implications run to every line we draw in the sand between the we and the them. And I am guilty, too.

But it’s not all bad news: Second Annual…and Third and Fourth and Fifth—or whatever it takes until we see merciful justice rise up like the morning sun.

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To See

When we lived in New Mexico, the room in which I did my morning prayers faced south-east. I wrote many a blog post about Cooke’s Peak, 30 miles away, across the prairie. I prayed looking out the window. Now I live in town. At this time of year, I do my prayers in the dark, facing southwest, looking at a wall. It is tempting that in such a place I cannot see, but I am finding that not to be true. For many years, part of my prayer awakening exercises is to place myself in my mind’s eye on the surface of the earth, looking down from high enough to see the continents. I can see the trajectory of the horizon, curving around me, and I am located globally. I see mountains and seas and forests and prairies in relation to where I sit in prayer. Now I am just north of the 48th parallel, farther from the equator, my birthplace, than I have ever lived. I’m closer to the North Pole.

With this inner map drawn, I can center down to this particular place, at this particular time, and see what is going on here and now. Breathe in, breathe out, count the breaths, my weight on the chair, sitting here, just north of the 48th parallel, with the Pole behind me and the Salish Sea before me, seen by the mind’s eye. Suddenly it opens up into its brilliant isness, and I have seen once again. Then the eye of the heart and the eyes of the head have become one eye.

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