Royal Son

The long-awaited moment has arrived. The royal family in England has a new little boy. The world will welcome this one, 7th in line to the Royal Throne, with accolades and gifts fitting his station in life. Money will not be an issue, but public life already is. Such is the life of royalty into which he was born. All of us who are taken with the fairy-tale story behind this royal family are delighted and wish them the best, even as those of us who have had children of our own know that the life Harry and Meghan lived before is forever gone. There is always a death in a birth.

Saturday, I circled with a family who had lost someone too soon. He was a self-made kind of guy, who had smart hands, the fix-it guy in the family. He made his living manipulating things. That was his station in life. Money may have been an issue, but public life was not. Such is the life of the working class in America into which he was born. His circle of fans was his family and friends, and they wish the family the best. If it is the practice of their community of faith, they pray for the repose of his soul. My spiritual practice acknowledges that death is not the end of life, but can be seen as a birth into a greater life. There is always a birth in a death.

Royal or not, these two human beings are the same, one with you and me and the whole human family. Both are equally essential to a larger fabric of Being. Our prayers are with both.

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Of Death and Life

When I got to the office yesterday I dashed across the street to a rehab facility in search of information about the passing of one of my members. He had been very ill, but only somewhat affected by dementia, not always happy, but always interesting to visit with. Now he was gone. I am hoping for word from one of his daughters or even his ex-wife about funeral arrangements. Even if nothing is forthcoming from them, the church family needs a chance to say good bye, and we will provide it.

Death is an interesting thing. Ten days ago in a visit with this man he had told me about a dream he dreamt the night before. When he was done I had the distinct feeling that in his dream he had been seeing through the veil, partly in this world and partly in another. On a previous visit he had lamented, “I don’t want to die.” I replied, “Then don’t.” After the dream he seemed more at ease with himself, and made an oblique comment that he was “ready.” Obviously he was.

Tragic death comes upon us at the hand of accident, disease or unwise violence. In Spanish, el buen morir, (the Good Death) is embraced, chosen because by the cosmic powers it is the right time, place or moment. Funeral services for a Good Death give voice to the sorrow and celebrate the nobility. Funeral services for a bad death give voice to the sorrow and also the rage. Both ought to end in hope, but it’s much harder with a bad death.

Death becomes the measure of life: A world in which death is good is a good world to live in.

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La Muerte y la Vida

Cuando llegué a la oficina ayer con apuros fui a un centro de rehabilitación al frente de la iglesia para buscar cualquier información que habría de uno de mis feligreses que había fallecido. Estaba muy enfermo. La dementia no le afectaba mucho, y a menudo no era una persona feliz, pero siempre interesante. Ahora se nos ha ido. Espero comunicación de parte de sus hijas o su ex-exposa para planificar su misa fúnebre, pero ausente eso la gente de la iglesia merecen un momento para despedirse, y así lo haremos.

La muerte es cosa curiosa. Hace unos diez días fui a visitarlo y me contó un sueño que había tenido la noche anterior. Después tuve la impresión que en su sueño miraba a ambos lados, en este mundo y el otro a la vez. En otra visita antes me había lamentado,

–Yo no quiero morir.

Le había respondido,

–Pues, ¡no lo hagas!

Pero en esa visita estaba más tranquilo con si mismo, y comentó en una manera indirecta que estaba listo. Claramente estaba listo.

La muerte trágica es impuesta por accidente, enfermedad o violencia no escogida. El “buen morir” es escogida, algo recibida, sabiendo que por los poderes cósmicos es el momento, el lugar o la hora apropiada. Misa fúnebre para un buen morir da voz al luto y celebra la nobleza. Misa fúnebre para un mal morir da voz al luto y también a la rabia. En ambos se debe terminar en esperanza, pero con un mal morir es mucho más difícil.

La muerte llega a ser la medida de la vida: Un mondo en que la muerte es buena es un buen mundo en que vivir.

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Waters

We

Yesterday several of us went kayaking with the Bishop in the waters of Dayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay. We all managed to return safely to shore, all of us a bit wetter and all of us tired and happy. I’m sure my shoulder muscles will remind me tomorrow. There’s something about being out on the water, floating on the one biggest component of our bodies, the lifeblood of the planet and the context of our births. Water can sustain and it can drown. It can refresh and it can reflect the sun’s rays so that you sunburn your nostrils. It lubricates and polishes.

Floating is unstable and for that, mobile. The gentle rocking of the wavelets or the slapping of a motorboat’s wake, the wind’s effective pressure on your upper body and the tide’s pressure on your paddle, all remind you that to stay in one place you have to keep moving. And even if you manage to stabilize your location, the stuff floating beneath you remind you that the place you are in any moment is not the place you are in the next. The fragile plastic hull beneath my seat is all that separates me from 45° water that can reduce me to hypothermia in minutes.

And yet it is the source of food and livelihood for dozens of harbor seals, sea ducks, shore birds, and Bald Eagles. The salmon that constitute the bread of heaven for the sea creatures sustained a cannery for nearly 80 years, one of the largest in the world. Now the salmon left sustain the wildlife that so many of us enjoy watching. I think I ate salmon every day I was there.

They say (whoever “they” are) that World War III will be fought over water. If so, we will be fighting for life itself.

God forbid!

 

 

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Earth Mother

The glassy sea outside my window is dimpled only by the rings left behind as scoter ducks duck beneath the surface in search of clams, or their contrails as they swim toward one another. The breeding season is on, and the White-winged Scoter drakes have a jaunty white flip of feathers behind their eyes. The Surf Scoters just look a bit like maritime clowns. Sometimes they tuck their wedge-shaped beaks behind their wings and doze, cradled in the shining water. The clam beds must be rich right off the beach here. The ducks are there every morning and every evening. This morning I’m going on a bird-watching tour, part of the perks of the resort we’re in for our clergy conference. I think I know all the big birds. I’m hoping to get help with the myriad of little scurrying surf birds that play dare-devil with the edge of the water.

It’s all rather mesmerizing. I could actually spend hours tuning my spotting scope, first on one bird, then on another, frustrated when they jump from view just as they come into focus. Call it an addiction, maybe, but getting lost in something so apparently small has deeper dimensions. Diving into the quiet within is life-giving. We’re here for rest and relaxation as well as information and worship. Rest isn’t just a cessation of action. It’s diving into the stillness inside and finding the glassy seas within, speckled with wonders. In those places we don’t ask, “Who made this?” That question belongs to a more superficial, more self-driven part of us. Here, we just float with the ducks. We just know. We just be.

Earth Mother invites us to pray.

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New Stuff

Last night I arrived at a resort in Blaine, WA, for the Clergy Conference of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. It’s a gathering of clergy every year to build and renew friendships, worship together, explore opportunities for new ministry, and generally eat a lot of good food. I have always enjoyed Clergy Conference and this is no different.

I’m in a third-floor room with a great view out onto the Semiahmoo bay. A glance out onto the water showed black birds which turned out to be White-winged Scoters, a kind of sea-duck. It’s a new one for my life list. So here I am in a new place, making new friends, in a new diocese with new ministries and a new bird floating in the water out there. My wife would call me a sucker for punishment. I think I’m just curious. I like new things. But then,…

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Excerpt from The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot

 

Perhaps newness is just what we call the recovery of what has been deeply forgotten.

 

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New Stuff

Last night I arrived at a resort in Blaine, WA, for the Clergy Conference of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. It’s a gathering of clergy every year to build and renew friendships, worship together, explore opportunities for new ministry, and generally eat a lot of good food. I have always enjoyed Clergy Conference and this is no different.

I’m in a third-floor room with a great view out onto the Semiahmoo bay. A glance out onto the water showed black birds which turned out to be White-winged Scoters, a kind of sea-duck. It’s a new one for my life list. So here I am in a new place, making new friends, in a new diocese with new ministries and a new bird floating in the water out there. My wife would call me a sucker for punishment. I think I’m just curious. I like new things. But then,…

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

The Hollow Men

T. S. Eliot

 

Perhaps newness is just what we call the recovery of what has been deeply forgotten.

 

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