Monday, November 28, 2016

AdventWord #Love November 28, 2016

#Love the smiles!  "God is love and where true love is, God himself is there!"
#AdventWord #Anglican #Episcopal #mission

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#AdventWord November 27, 2016

Love is light, let it #shine forth brightly! #AdventWord #Anglican #Episcopal #SSJE
(photo from Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta, Georgia, 2015.)

Advent I, 2016 sermon by Dr Julia Gatta

Advent I, 2016 sermon by Dr  Julia Gatta
Recorded and distributed with permission!

Link to recording: HERE (audio only)

Advent I (Year A): November 27, 2016                                  
All Saints’ Chapel, Sewanee
In the northern hemisphere, Advent falls during the darkest weeks of the year.  And for us this year, the darkness of Advent is intensified by our post-election situation, a season of deep spiritual and moral darkness.  Last week Chaplain Macfie noted the hundreds of reported incidents of racial, ethnic, and gender-based harassment that have exploded around the country in the aftermath of the election.  Graduates of the School of Theology have sent us photos of their churches, whose walls or property have been desecrated by spray-painted swastikas and slogans such as “Heil Trump,”  “Trump Nation,” “Whites Only,” and “Fag Church.”   At least 200 churches have been similarly vandalized.  Revolting and horrible as these things are, that is not the worst of it.  The worst part of our post-election situation is that we are now on course to make this planet unlivable. 
Addressing us in this grave situation are the lessons we hear on this First Sunday of Advent where Jesus speaks to us of his return—or advent—at the end of time.  I find their ominous tone and apocalyptic imagery bracing and strangely comforting: the gospel finds us where we are.  Faith doesn’t fool around; it’s about reality, including God’s surprising reality, and how we respond to it. 
Today’s gospel begins with Jesus situated on the Mount of Olives, the very place where devout Jews expected the Messiah to come.  There Jesus tells his disciples that even he does not know when he would return; the timing of his “second Advent” is a secret known only to the Father.  In speaking of that momentous coming, Jesus drew upon the apocalyptic imagery of the Old Testament, as did St. Paul in his letters.  In this scenario, our Lord’s triumphant return would be accompanied by cosmic catastrophe: the sun darkened, the moon failing to give light, stars falling from heaven.  On earth, the birth pangs of the new age would be felt in the terror of earthquakes or the horrendous suffering of war.  Most Episcopalians, along with many other mainline Christians, tend to find these passages in Scripture troubling, if not downright embarrassing.  We are so repelled by hearing them interpreted with flat-footed literalism that we have rendered ourselves incapable of responding to their riveting poetry.  We are so disturbed at seeing these Scriptures twisted into weapons to use against others or by ingenious attempts to put the end of the world on a timetable that we no longer hear their urgent message for ourselves.  These passages are disturbing, it is true, but they are nonetheless crucial for a mature faith.  And we especially need to hear them now.
Jesus frames his words about the end time in their largest imaginable social and environmental context: the story of the narrow survival of the human race and all other animal species.  By alluding to the story of Noah and the Great Flood, Jesus drew from his religious tradition a tale of ecological catastrophe and of an entire people caught unawares. Noah’s contemporaries simply got on with their everyday lives as if things would just continue as they always had: “For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.”  The days before the flood were just business as usual; but then, like a thief in the night, the flood came and the world they knew was destroyed.
Our situation is different, for unlike the populace in this primordial myth, we have been warned.  Since the 1970s scientists have been telling us that the earth can no longer sustain the demands we have placed on her.  Like Old Testament prophets they repeatedly urged us to change our ways before it was too late.  We didn’t heed their warnings because we didn’t want to believe them, not because the data they brought forward was insufficient to substantiate their case. We wanted business as usual.  In the Bible, such an attitude of willed blindness is called “hardness of heart.” “For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage . . . and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away.”    
One of the glories of the Anglican tradition, in my view, is its openness to truth from any and every quarter.  St. Augustine once said that no matter where the Christian finds truth, the Christian knows that it is his Lord’s.  This has been the characteristic Anglican approach as well, appreciative of both science and the liberal arts as ways of discovering the depth and breadth of God’s truth and wisdom.  It makes a university like this, Episcopal in its foundation and character, a congenial place for seeking to integrate science, history, economics, literature, and the arts within a unified theological vision.  It is also the mission of education to stretch our imaginations in all sorts of ways; to see that things may be true even if they seem remote and don’t immediately affect us. 
Now we are facing some very disturbing truths.  According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2016 is very likely to become the hottest year on record, surpassing 2015, the previous record-holder.  In fact, of the hottest 17 years on record, 16 of them have occurred in this century.  In September, you may have read that atmospheric concentration of CO2 permanently passed the 400 parts per million threshold—a number way ahead of where we thought we’d be some years back, when scientists were telling us that we could only avoid catastrophic climate change beneath the 350 ppm threshold.  And that’s only what’s happening now.  Because of a feed-back loop, climate change will continue to accelerate, even if we drastically curtail our emissions today.  So the need for conversion of heart, for accepting limitation, for scaling back our greed and worship of convenience, and yes, for using our imaginations, has never been more urgent.  God gave us this beautiful planet to tend and cherish.  When we love and respect Mother Earth she, in turn, feeds and cares for us and all other creatures.  Can you imagine a greater act of ingratitude towards our Creator or a greater crime against our children and grandchildren and the six billion people who share this earth with us than to wreak havoc with the natural cycles that have been in place for the last 12,000 years?
“You know what time it is,” writes St. Paul, “how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” Rest is good when needed, but there is a spiritual sloth that is sheer escapism or despair.  It is time to wake up, our lessons are telling us, in order to live fully alert to our situation—our personal situation and the world’s. Part of our awakening, Paul advises, consists in setting aside those habits that drug or dull our minds or dissipate our energies.  In these dark days of Advent, many of us feel truly in the dark. We can acknowledge being bewildered, scarcely knowing what to do, without shame, for the journey of faith often navigates periods of intense darkness.  Advent, like all the other liturgical seasons, simply underscores a dimension of the mystery of faith that is true year round. The watchword of Advent has always been vigilance: “Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
We are waiting for the Lord to come, for his Advent.  Is there any doubt that we need a savior?  And as we wait, what might be some signs of his coming?  Today’s gospel speaks the apocalyptic language of cosmic catastrophe, but we do well to remember that the word “apocalypse,” contrary to popular notions, simply means “unveiling.”  It refers to something becoming manifest that was previously hidden.  That is why the final book of the Bible is sometimes called the “Apocalypse of St. John” and at other times the “Revelation of St. John.”  In other words, apocalypse is about truth at last revealed.  Having been polluted for so long by an avalanche of lies, even an “inconvenient truth” is welcome and cleansing.  So when Christ comes, even now, he comes as truth.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he said. 
Notice, too, how Christ comes to us in this Eucharist.  He comes among us from the far side of death.  He brings with him his own resurrected life.  He irradiates our present with the future we share with him, filling us even now in these dark days with his life, and joy, and hope.  He speaks to us through words of Scripture, and his holy presence fills humble things of earth: bread and wine, the products of soil combined with human labor and skill.  And he transfigures them, transforms them.  Bread and wine are brought to the table; we receive them back as Jesus our Lord.  Even in the darkness, we have this light.
The day after the election, Dean Alexander charged all of us at the seminary to burrow into St. Paul’s 12th chapter of Romans.  I pass on that sound advice to you.  Some of Paul’s words have been lifelines for me.  For instance, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Or my personal favorite: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Saturday, November 26, 2016

#AdventWord 2016 Participation!

Hey y'all! I'm going to be participating in #AdventWord again daily this year on FB, Twitter, and Instagram for myself, for St. Paul's Episcopal NOLA, and I'll also be helping w/ Sewanee Seminary's posts, Yay! Expect photos, music, prayer, poetry, etc. in the posts. You are welcomed follow at any of the accounts listed below AND you too can participate: by praying, reading, pondering and/or by doing! Here's the list of words and the website is below that. Remember to include the following tag: #AdventWord and you might want to add your own. I always try add #Episcopal #Advent and #SSJE
-My Twitter & Instagram: @Conductor222
-My blog:
-St. Paul's Episcopal Twitter & IG = @stpaulsnola
-St. Paul's Facebook: St. Paul's Episcopal Church in New Orleans
-Sewanee's twitter: @SewaneeSeminary and the FB page is School of Theology at The University of the South (feel free to like that page!)
Things like this help me enjoy the expectancy and radiance of the meaningful Advent season. These posts help center my thoughts and focus. They help me to find depth in words and contemplation. Working on them daily is also a challenge I love to accept. :-)
I hope you will enjoy these posts and find something that resonates with you!
#Episcopal #SSJE #Anglican #Advent

Happy Five-year LAUNCHIVERSARY to Mars Curiosity!

Five years ago today I got to attend the launch of the Mars Curiosity rover! It solidified my enthusiasm for work in social media and gave me the confidence that also led to applying and becoming a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador! I'm sure all of us #spacetweeps that went still feel like it's OUR rover! :-) Here are some of my photos from that experience!
1. LINK-one
2. LINK-two
It was an amazing week. I met so many people from all walks of life who had my same space interests and excitement. We met scientists and engineers who worked in the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and on Curiosity! We also got to meet several astronauts and members of NASA administration including Charles Bolden. Even though I had lived much of my life along the I-95 corridor, I'd never been to Kennedy Space Center or seen Cape Canaveral.
NASA basically treated us like rockstars and was INCREDIBLY wonderful. Our job for all the lectures we attended, scientists from the MSL team that we met, visiting the launchpad, and watching the launch from reserved seats - was to get out on social media platforms what we were learning and be the voice of the public for NASA and the space program. In addition, many of us took back educational resources to our schools and communities. Eyes on the Solar System is one such fabulous example.
PLUS, Mars is amazing and I believe that we should all support space programs!

#space #Mars #JourneyToMars

Friday, November 25, 2016

Delicious Chocolate Honey Walnut Phyllo Log

I made a Bulgarian banitsa for Thanksgiving yesterday. Today, I made some super simple phyllo dough pastries with saffron-scrambled eggs, two cheeses, and pine nuts! I will post both recipes soon. This afternoon, my project was to use the remaining 12 phyllo sheets and a half bag of walnuts because their expiration date seemed eminent... My idea was to make some sort of walnut honey phyllo triangles, but I ended up making cinnamon walnut honey phyllo logs with chocolate and marshmallows in one half and nutmeg in the other (just in case adding either ingredient made it taste terrible!) It turned out rather well and seems very tasty! Here is what it looks like all finished!
- 2 cups finely-chopped walnuts (*optional to chop them while watching Ancient Aliens)
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (and some more sprinkling of it too)
- 1/4 tsp salt (seemed like a good idea)
- nutmeg to sprinkle
- egg wash (one egg w/ splash of milk)
- melted butter 
Here's what I did...
- Added honey, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt into a small saucepan and cooked for a few minutes on medium heat until it was a nice mixture. I ended up sprinkling some more cinnamon in the pot twice...
- Made egg wash and melted butter
- Buttered cookie sheet and placed one phyllo layer upon it
- Drizzled some butter over it and added another sheet
- Drizzled egg wash over this one
- Added 12 sheets, alternating between butter and egg wash. On top of sheets 5 and 9, I added a stripe of chocolate, some marshmallows (just on one side and just because it seemed interesting. At sheet 10, I added a healthy dusting of nutmeg and a drizzle of honey.
- Finally, I spread the walnut/honey mix from left to right across the middle of the sheets
- Next, I rolled it up into a log and drizzled egg wash and then some butter over the top.
- I added a glop of walnut mix on the top and a stripe of chocolate on one side.
- BAKE at 325 for 30 minutes (* possibly taking it out a few minutes early to add marshmallows so they can toast on the top, if you like that sort of thing...) The temp and time were averages of what I found via the internetz for honey walnut triangles or walnut rolls...
- End result = DELICIOUS and now I have a treat for the whole weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sewanee Moon: October 12, 2016

Just a few simple moon photos from this cool, crisp FALL evening! (YAY actual Fall!). The second one has Picasa's "inverted colors" and I liked it b/c it really highlights the craters.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Life is Brilliant!

So....where to begin....?!
It must be midterms, HA! #SeminaryLife 
Since the last time I've written, I have traveled a bit, seen some terrific friends, attended a glorious wedding, survived two midterms (well, pending one grade return!) Summer has gone and Fall is turning, there's a refreshing chill in the breeze, and light fades earlier.
Sewanee hosted the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, as the 2016 DuBose lecturer and I got to work on the social media team. I live-tweeted each lecture, got to meet Rowan Williams, and got to know a few of my colleagues a little better. They are amazing and talented folks! We had a few "reading days" surrounding the lecture days where we could catch up on work and study while also on sleep and other "life things". The whole week was a fantastic experience!
Despite all the goodness, the past week was hard. I wasn't sleeping well, the attempts at staying up late into the night for extra studying failed, and I had taken two whirlwind trips which set up a joyful juxtaposition with varying friends and walks of life that made me a little homesick when I left each place (St. Louis and New Orleans.)
I also had several distinct opportunities to observe people and their behaviors as well as examining my own. I have learned a ton in the "School of Life". Body language, habits, schmoozing, happy reunions, cheerful banter, gossip, assumptions, and forgetfulness. I witnessed chauvinism AND chivalry, basically life. I am an E/I-NFJ personality, but the 'I' was emphasized to the extreme, especially at the DuBose dinner/dance. For a 45-year old, I felt very nervous and back to college days....or even high school prom days. Pretty much, the only such upscale affairs I've attended since then have been concerts etc. at which I've been singing or conducting. Even though I am almost always a positive person and many times a confident one, I found myself nervous.......usually, I love it! It was rather petty of me, but I felt woefully underdressed - my shoes were the simple ones I wear daily, my purse a disaster, tearing at the strap, and I hadn't even noticed that one flutter of my dress was actually torn (and I'd never had it fixed). My hair was a mess. I was a mess, but it didn't matter in the end. Thank goodness for positive and encouraging people taking the time out for conversation, for new friends, and for fun professors! I was eventually very glad that I attended :-)
The daily stresses peaked last Thursday when our class had a midterm. Afterwards, virtually everyone disappeared and the quietness was overwhelming. I couldn't even find any dogs to pet along the way home! 
Images of high school again flashed back to me. I remember standing near the buses, waiting for my ride home and how starkly deserted the school was. I remember feeling sad that I had to go home for an entire weekend. I loved school. I love school again now and it was striking to me that after all the energy of the week was over, I felt that same way for a whole two days (Thurs and Fri). I recognized it though and consciously joined friends for lunch. Later, I attended Thursday's Community Eucharist and though I was the only single person there, I still automatically felt better just being around people and wow, their kids made a huge difference! There was actually a great feeling of community (good for a community Eucharist, eh?) Friday evening, I attended a neighbor's Compline & Wine (and a hilarious run of Cards Against Humanity).The group was about 18 people and lots of fun. 
The next day, I thought a great deal about why I had felt so oddly listless and foreboding about the coming weekend. After all, I needed rest and I needed sleep. I also needed to catch up on readings. I have not ever felt homesickness in my entire life so......why now?

I think it has to do with the fact that I live by myself and it was the sudden and overly-pronounced thought of facing a whole weekend alone, without people - this was what I wasn't looking forward to. Over my solitary years, that has indeed arisen every now and then. There was no specific longing for another place/home. Not seeking pity, folks, nope. It's just a fact of life that we are happy or bored or saddened or up or down at various times in our lives. It happened a great deal when I lived in Milledgeville. This feeling happened occasionally in New Orleans as well. It was always a little funny to me because on random other weekends, and truthfully, MOST of them, I relished having down time to myself after a busy week. Even THIS past weekend ended up being JUST what I needed: time alone to think, recharge, do errands, sleep, read, finish homework, dream, and ponder life etc. 

So, this weekend, I did those things: slept in, did errands, straightened up a bit, cooked, played with Bluebell, took a NAP, and somehow managed to do ALL of my reading for the entire week so I may now focus solely on my paper for Church History and the regular events coming up! YAY! I also reminded myself how thankful I am to be here in this gorgeous place with all of the new friends, professors, and learning experiences! 
Life is SO SHORT - one needs to always live it to the fullest. What I continue to learn is that sometimes, living life to the fullest includes resting and time for self, even if you already live alone. Also, while I am comfortable with myself and I like living by myself, it doesn't preclude a natural slump every now and then. Recognizing that and that it is normal is as important as reaching out to others when you need to do so.
Life is brilliant! :-)

Look down, Lord, from your heavenly throne...

Look down, Lord, from your heavenly throne. Illuminate the darkness of this night with your celestial brightness, and from us, the children of light, banish for ever the deeds of darkness. God our judge and our teacher, let us not waste time when the day is done in guilt or self-reproach. Give us rather the courage to face whatever has been, accept forgiveness, and move on to something better. Amen. 
(from the New Zealand Prayer Book)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Have you ever rejoiced in the simple fact that you exist?

Have you ever rejoiced in the simple fact that you exist
Be....What does it mean to take time to just "be".....not to "be with" or "be for" or "let it be". Think about it, we exist in a habitable zone at JUST the right distance from the Sun, and have had JUST the right amount of time to evolve into intelligent beings (though levels of intelligence are sometimes in question with all the messes we get ourselves into as a warming, violence, world strife and poverty.) Just HOW lucky are we? Our Sun and our Earth are actually an unlikely pair for supporting life. As a habit, we take many things for granted, including our existence.We would like to think that they will always be there...or perhaps even worse, we go about our daily lives, more than slightly oblivious to the precious and fragile nature of our lives. It would be reassuring to know that our galaxy is full of clever creatures and others with technology and that we might hope for communication. In fact, we do hope. 

However, for the present time, we are all we know. 
Made in the likeness of a divine being, God, we exist
Let us give thanks!

What makes Earth such a perfect home? Well, here are some reasons. 
Take a moment and tell those you love that you love them. Take a moment to say thanks to God, to family, friends, teachers, mentors, pets, and yourself. Consider all that is and has been and will possibly be....and meditate upon the fact that you exist. Be kind to one another, even if you disagree. Be a good citizen. Be a good neighbor. Grant yourself permission to rejoice in the wonder of life itself, the joy in all of creation, and the joy in one another. 

We are temporary.
We are fragile.
We are here together on this Pale Blue Dot

If that isn't something to be happy about, I don't know what is! 

Friday, September 9, 2016

God is Here

As I finish my third week of classes at the Sewanee School of Theology, I am typing away some time in the computer lab while my laundry dries down the hallway :-) With this "free time" comes an odd I forgetting a meeting? Is there some place I should be right now? What should I currently be working on? This meme sums it up all too perfectly:
I am pondering the new environments into which I have come...
There are many. 
They are exhilarating.
They are intimidating.
They are a challenge.
They are an adventure.
They are God-filled.
- Chapel services in the COTA (Chapel of the Apostles): Morning Prayer, Eucharist, Evening Prayer, Taize, other. I am so lucky to have the privilege to worship at such a beautifully-organized and executed level and so regularly. The singing is terrific and the Anglican chants are moving smoothly. All the sermons I've heard have been excellent. I love to hear my fellow classmates read or to watch them serve as chalice-bearer. If only I had the stamina to attend everything! As it stands currently, I am doing what I feel that I can with regards to stabilizing my schedule, fatigue, homework etc. Still, I've gone to about 3/4 of the services thus far. There is simple beauty in sitting still and breathing before each service. Gathering your thoughts, opening up a space for the spirit to move. 

It didn't feel right not to go to Evening Prayer tonight and so...
I thank God for that!

- Classes: Each level of class has its own atmosphere (and humor), but everyone seems open to hearing from each other and all of my professors are BRILLIANT. In fact, my classmates are BRILLIANT and magnificently articulate. I love that there's a quote board and that our junior class has already populated it a bit!
- Classmate groupings: Sewanee is so so sooooooooooo welcoming and inclusive. It is idyllic in one sense and just plain friendly in another. There is also a community cookout each week, a community garden, a chess club, mission society, intramural football team, choir, and so much more for everyone. Nothing is forced either. I appreciate being asked to attend things, but also being understood if I simply need to chill on my porch and stare up at the treetops. (That's awesome, by the way.)
- Nature....literally the environment of Sewanee and the diversity of the Cumberland Plateau.....all the trees, bugs, and outside stuff! It's a TON of breathtaking diversity of creation and beauty.
As much as I love being outside....that lovely much nature.....well, let's just say I'm cool with it as long as it stays out of my apartment. 
(I love nature, really I do....)
The baby snakes inside the apartment, not so much.
Giant spiders....NOPE.
Spiders that apparently FLY/FLOAT on webs and puffs of air. I experienced this today.
Thanks, God.
But I didn't there's hope. 
And there was encouragement (and humor) from fellow classmates.
And there was God, turning my attitude a bit. Thank you, God.
I'm learning that the Cumberland Plateau is one of the most diverse areas of the US. I had rarely seen praying mantises before this week and now I've seen three. I had never seen Walking Stick insects and now I seem to live in the midst of a Walking Stick convention. Seriously. They are everywhere. 
Meet Jacques...

Video of Jacques talking a walk.....across the porch...

My awe in God's creation is being touched and renewed.
The space inside myself is slowly cracking back open as I get settled and make connections.

I'll end these ponderings with a few words from Fred Pratt Green and his hymn "God is Here". I'm singing it to the tune Abbott's Leigh. It fits what I'm not eloquent enough to my laundry is probably ready now...

God is here! As we his people
meet to offer praise and prayer,
may we find in fuller measure
what it is in Christ we share:
Here, as in the world around us, 
all our varied skills and arts 
wait the coming of His Spirit 
into open minds and hearts 

Here are symbols to remind us 
of our lifelong need of grace; 
here are table, font and pulpit, 
here the cross has central place. 
Here in honesty of preaching, 
here in silence, as in speech, 
here in newness and renewal 
God the Spirit comes to each.

When I am among the trees ~ Mary Oliver

In our New Testament Class, Dr. Bill Brosend opens by praying through poetry. I love this! Here is one of the poems he used recently.

When I Am Among The Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

- Mary Oliver (b. 1935)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

To Nap or Not to Nap... (After 16 days at Seminary)

View of storm from the Cumberland Plateau
Today's one of those Saturdays where I would have loved to sleep in. In fact, I truly need to catch up on sleep because now that seminary orientation, Quiet Day, Matriculation, and the first week of classes have all come and gone, I am a bit sleep-deprived. Last night featured lots of fun and new friends together for a fun community cookout and big birthday party too!
All Saints Chapel in Sewanee
Nevertheless, it was not to be. My new neighbor's music was loud and constant from 6 AM onward. So, by 8 AM, I had decided to leave and drive to Manchester, TN to explore a bit and pick up a few more necessary items at the Walmart there. 
I found a couple of farmer's markets while there and bought a few things: muscadines from a nice man playing the autoharp, honey & lip balm from a local beekeeper, and lemon bread & a peach fritter from a nice grandmother .
St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Manchester, TN
I found the local Episcopal church, St. Bede's, and decided that I'll attend there tomorrow morning! After exploring the town and finishing errands, I cam on back and straightened up the apartment, fixed my sink drain, sprayed some more for bugs and spiders (I have a feeling this is going to be VERY regular up here!) and dozed a bit after starting the crock pot on a delicious roast for later. 
I'm loving being here! Everyone is so nice and our 2019 class is full of super smart folks. The choir has begun and the director, Kenneth Miller, is outstanding, both as organist and rehearsal technician. It's going to be great to sing for him. I'm really very happy about that as I was worried that I'd be picking apart every choral thing and feeling like I'd want to jump up and fix things. Those feelings will surely arise every now and then, but I'm happy that Professor Miller is excellent :-)
I also love all my other professors. EVERYONE is BRILLIANT. Wow. It is truly and deeply humbling. I'm a bit worried about getting behind already because the vocabulary and amount of assumed knowledge and reading history is MUCH higher than I expected. I bought a book on an "Introduction to Theology" and will be buying a dictionary so I can try to catch up behind the scenes on some of the basics which every one else seems to have already. There are more than a few students in my class who majored in Philosophy or Classics and they all are very well-read. Even though I have a D.M.A. degree, the learning curve is STEEP right now.
Chapel of the Apostles, Sewanee School of Theology
Chapel services are plentiful and well-arranged. Sermons have been terrific and thought-provoking. I've gotten to read and be a chalice bearer once in a noonday Eucharist and that was both exciting and a little scary since the community is new to me and everyone is both listening and watching intently!
I have two work study positions and they are:
1- sing in the choir! (YAY!)
2- social media and photography! (YAY!)
Here are some albums I've taken already:
1- Seminary's Quiet Day and Matriculation 2016 (none from during the service from me)
2- Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage 2016

Last night, a fellow student's suggestion (Garrett Boyte) of raising funds for Episcopal Relief and Development to be given for Louisiana flooding was realized in the weekly community cookout. My rector in NOLA at St. Paul's Episcopal asked his friend Jude Tauzin from Tony Chachere's if they could donate anything and they sent a GIANT box of spices, jambalaya mix, and koozy's. 

Garrett made a ton of delicious jambalaya, another student in my class, Forbes Mann, made tasty boudin balls, and I made chocolate walnut pralines! Over $1500 was raised because lots of folks came out, the seminary's St. Luke's Mission committee agreed to match raised funds up to $500, and the Dean got us to the level we needed to have them match! It was a great success!

It HAS been busy indeed. It's hard for me to fathom that I've only been here since the evening of August 11th! Only 16 days and SO MUCH HAS BEEN GOING ON!
Please keep me, my fellow classmates, and our tremendous faculty and staff in your prayers! 
A beautiful misty Sewanee morning

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This Fullness...

Frenchmen Street, New Orleans at Washington Park. This is right across the street from my old apartment and I usually park my car on the street near where this bike is.
The last few weeks for me have been full, VERY full. In fact, it's been so full that it reminded me of the December concert season and trying to be in several places at once, scrambling just to reach the finish line before 1:00 AM so I can legitimize sleeping five or six hours! 
There have been lots of goodbyes, especially the last three days. There have also been old friends coming into town and some hearty and wonderful times of catching up! 
A few of my NOVA friends: margaritas and Mexican food at Superior Grill :-)
Then there was the packing. 
LAWD, the packing
If my friend Meg hadn't come over to help me wipe out the kitchen, I wouldn't have finished a few days early and wouldn't have been able to enjoy the last three days here as much as I have! The packing was exhausting because at first, I had to sit down and pack. *Just so you know....when your doc says "no bending" or "as little as possible of the bending over" you try to follow instructions, BUT, as fate (or Mr. Murphy of Murphy's Law) would have it, you drop more on the floor in one month than in 
your ENTIRE life.
I speak the truth y'all. 
Keys, my brush, the cat, keys again, my fork, and on and on.
50's themed farewell from St. Paul's
Packing, sweating, fancy dinners, coffee, 
one heck of a send-off from my beloved St. Paul's Episcopal, 
a nice chat with my amazing bishop, staff lunch, cat shenanigans. 
"I sure hope Mom remembers to take me too...maybe if I pack myself, that'll work!"
Let me stop and say here that little miss Bluebell went to the vet from Monday until we left. She was driving me crazy climbing on boxes, pulling stuff out of bags, scampering all through the night, and she looked pretty stressed as more stuff started to pile up. It was for the best....and so I could get some actual sleep.
Loading the truck! Wow! I had a team of super phenomenal friends helping me and it took only from 9-11 AM. I could not have done it without them. I'm only allowed to lift 25-30 lbs right now (surgery recovery) and don't want to be doing that repeatedly for hours on end.
Cleaning the apartment, blech.
That last meeting (I'm looking at you, ACDA!) the afternoon after loading and discussing the fabulous Louisiana Fall Vocal Conference!
Cutting off utilities, turning in keys, banking errands, getting gas! (Side note: I'm so impressed that I remembered to fill the tank!)
Nice, quiet Starbucks, thank goodness. Feet up, relaxing! Enjoying the oaky view :-)
Coffee!!!!!!!!!!! I spent a good while in the coffeehouse. As time passed and I was sitting in a super comfy chair, I began to discover previously unknown muscles, presumably from the truck loading adventure.
I'll be wandering the French Quarter with a friend in a little while for my last evening around in NOLA and for dessert too, of course. Either beignets or white chocolate bread pudding, I haven't quite decided yet. What a gift to be able to chill and enjoy a restful evening! Glad the rain stopped!
Tomorrow, I'll pick up my sweetie pie Bluebell and get on the road for this great new adventure! SEWANEE!!! 
My heart is so full right now!
This fullness has no words and yet has every word. It has swept me off my feet.
The fullness of friends who have become family. 
The fullness of goodness. 
The fullness of fun. 
The fullness of help. 
The fullness of the mixture of sad and happy. 
The fullness of anticipation, of change, of newness.
The fullness of love. 
The fullness of calling.
The fullness of life.
This fullness of God.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Today was my last Sunday as director of music ministry at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in New Orleans. Last night, my beautiful, sweet, caring, fun, and amazing congregation threw me a gigantic going away party and fundraiser. 
It was a 50's themed Grease dinner/dance event, complete with poodle skirts, pony tails, delicious 50's comfort foods, live music, tributes, balloons, letter jackets, and much more! 
Here's a piece of the Second Line I got to lead with my parasol "made of Episcopal colors!"   
(Please excuse the giant gap between the video and this text...something in the embed code I don't understand!) 
As usual, I was a little nervous, but that passed very quickly as people entered, laughter ensued, and hugs were shared. SUCH a wonderful evening! I got to talk to so many folks that I wouldn't have been able to reach otherwise because of everyone's busy schedule. 
I also got to dance and I was serenaded - twice! The first song was "Summer Nights" from Grease with new lyrics written by my dear friend Meg that totally busted me and my stickers, puns, and coffee habits. I laughed SO HARD! Everyone enjoyed that and laughed right along with me! I promise to add the photo of the lyrics tomorrow. (It's in my car down the block and I am being lazy right now.)
*holding spot for the picture / text *
Next, I was given the benediction written by John Rutter sung by three choir members and it was super lovely and heartfelt. I cried. I love them so much.
Several folks spoke and my heart is so full from hearing their kind words. I will miss everyone so very much. 
My organist Liliia, who has taken up painting as a hobby, even painted a portrait of me WITH STARS in the background! 
I know that I will return. I will see them again. It's difficult to leave, but I am SO EXCITED for the journey ahead! I'm deeply grateful for St. Paul's - my choir, Fr. Rob, Bishop Duncan Gray, Fr. Ed, the congregation, the staff, our amazing school, and the beautiful building itself. I thank God EVERY DAY for this place and such genuinely loving people. I have changed in seven years here and I have grown. I have opened. 
In a super cliche of words....
I am extremely grateful!
It's hard for me to accept gifts sometimes. It's also hard sometimes to accept unconditional love. I have trouble during these wonderful times with overthinking and wondering what I can do to say thanks or to give back in response to such wonderful support and love. I will "give back" by studying my rear off (and there's plenty of THAT to work off!), working on a fulltime ministry of BEING - and at that - being a student of theology. This is all a given. It's what I'm going to seminary to do. In addition, I am stepping back and enjoying this love and these fun times. I am accepting this wondrous love. I am simply being grateful. 
You know what? It makes it easier to see God this way.
God is love...
I see God in the people of St. Paul's and in their ministries. I see it in the ways that they interact with me and with others. I'm seeing and experiencing God in the outpouring of thanks and love.
Expressing gratitude helps us benefit from the world and people around us. By getting out of ourselves, we become blessed. It also helps me to think that one doesn't create gratitude, but one sort of...."channels" it. How do we know the depths of gratitude? I think we must become aware of its source which for me, is God. Practicing gratitude allows us to connect with God through the humility it brings, followed by God's grace. How's that for a cool circle / trinity of motion?! 
Gratitude also reveals how much we need God, love, and each other.
So, THANK YOU my dearest St. Paul's and friends!!!! I love you all! I will savor the love, kind words, songs, cards, gifts, and laughter.  Thank you SO MUCH for my very first study Bible and the GORGEOUS St. Paul's cross! Thank you for also letting me keep my office laptop as I am in need of a computer that isn't thirteen years old with 100 MB left on it (yikes!) 
You are not only in my heart, but you own a piece of it :-) 
"God be with you til we meet again..."
(I'll be returning to New Orleans for holidays after semester exams and Sewanee's Lessons & Carols and I'll be spending a couple of weeks in the Crescent City. It will be in a different capacity, but I will be helping out at St. Paul's as needed. I know I'll probably be doing some singing. In the community, I'll be conducting a New Orleans Civic Symphony concert and the fabulous St. Paul's Lessons & Carols!)