We must do better.

Recently I spent several hours in a pediatric Emergency Department waiting room, seeking care for my son.  Many things struck me as I reflected on that evening, but one thing stayed with me: the crowded waiting room included many young families who were poor. Their children were sick. But the phenomenon was like what I witnessed 25 years ago, while working for the University of California. Our medical center was the safety net for Orange County, CA. Many folks without access to care or benefits would come to the ED for all their care (urgent and non-urgent). We held many a conference with brilliant health care leaders, struggling to figure out how to offer good, accessible care in neighborhoods rather than in the Emergency Department. This would mean better health outcomes for patients and families and be less expensive.

And yet here we are 25 years later with the same phenomenon. Clearly the “machine” is paying off for enough in power to prevent meaningful change from happening.

St. Clare of Assisi, and those in her order (now called The Poor Clares), dedicated their lives to serving the poor and caring for the sick and marginalized. They did it not because it was profitable or easy, but because it was the loving and compassionate thing to do.

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty may be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart and may love and care for all our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of their station in life, through Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A gentle giant.

Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory, Dear One. 

This dear saint –The Rt. Rev. Charles Lovett Keyser — served as the fourth Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and, upon retirement, served generously in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. Many are in a position to say much more about his work and life. However, as one who has been shaped and formed through my experience of Bishop Keyser, I feel compelled to share briefly.

Just a few of the ways he has blessed me:

Presence. Bishop Keyser shared the love of Christ wherever he went and with whomever he met. He was so full of the Holy Spirit, it was as if it oozed from his pores. I first encountered him when he came to meet with and advise the vestry on which I served. The dean and rector announced his departure and we formed a search committee. You could feel the anxiety and prickliness in the air as many had clear ideas about what type of leader was desirable. When Bishop Keyser joined us, when he sat with us, the presence of the Holy was palpable. All the tension and petty energy in the air dissipated. As if we understood God was present and patiently waiting our surrender.  I felt that same sense of the Holy, as I sat in a church office asking him for any advise he might give a prospective seminarian. “Don’t do it, unless you really have to,” he told me.  “If you go, keep in mind one of the most important things you’ll do is to teach folks to use this (he held up the Book of Common Prayer).”

Unflinching compassion. Bishop Keyser was taken with the power of sharing Christ with those on the edge or treated unjustly. Seven years ago, at General Convention, he asked me to find a Black Lives Matter pin for him; true to our baptismal covenant, he was excited by this new and renewed focus on racism and equity. He was Franciscan in his approach of preaching often but using words only when necessary. He understood that the most transformative evangelism comes not when we hit folks over the head with Jesus or the Bible but when we help create and hold a sacred space in which the Spirit can move. His leadership in bringing Wounded Warriors to Camp Weed and his deep affection for Church Without Walls speaks to this. Clearly, he was deeply formed by his service in the Armed Forces – a place where a nice tame Christianity is worthless, where permission to abandon ourselves to a God in whom we may not believe or who we imagine has abandoned us to utter darkness is most meaningful, most raw, and most hopeful.

Servant leadership. Bishop Keyser’s commitment to pastor and love all people made him a quiet yet powerful leader. It was never about him or what he needed. Rather it was about the person or people in his midst.  When I was in seminary, it was often a lonely time, and the work was very demanding.  I had dutifully written another Ember Day letter to the bishop, checking off another box.  Much to my surprise Bishop Keyser, who has covering during an episcopal sabbatical, wrote to me. He said nothing about my coursework, ministry internship or academic plans. He simply shared a deep love and caring for me as a child of God. His words buoyed me, reminding me I was there for a reason and that Christ was at the center, holding me, recreating me.  To the end, his concern was always for the other. This gentle giant was a true pastor not just for the Church but for all people.

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Sometimes, when we are in the thick of a struggle or crisis, we lose perspective. That is perfectly normal.  When we are able, stepping back can help us find new eyes to see.  This can be a great gift of sabbath time.  This is my prayer.

My son and I were awed as we drove through miles and miles of redwoods, and as we visited Muir Woods. Daron is pictured here at the foot of a tree that has lived more than 1,000 years. It is not possible (at least not with my iPhone camera) to capture the full height of this beauty or of countless trees as we made our way through forests, winding our way north toward Oregon.

I am moved to silent reverence as I contemplate the difference between the limited perspective of my son’s short life (and mine for that matter) versus the wisdom of a tree that has lived a millennium, that has witnessed so much.

It is easy to become the effect of our immediate life experience, to get highjacked by it whether we perceive our circumstances as positive or negative, or as a source of hope or of despair. It is important to remember that while we have our experience we are not our experience. Though it may not seem so in the moment, we are simply beloved creatures made in the image of the One who has created everything that is. Though it may not seem so, we are held tenderly in the Heart of all hearts.

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America’s national crime.

Recently my son and I went on a 3-day pilgrimage to Selma and Montgomery. We were part of a small, diverse group of clergy leaders from Jacksonville. This gracious group welcomed my son, who joined us everywhere, including in the sacred circle of listening and sharing we formed upon arrival and which we returned to throughout our journey.

This was a time of challenge, discomfort, grief, and angst. It was also a time of great hope as we committed to one another to continue meeting, sharing, and growing. As one participant stated: “For me this is not a ‘one and done’.”

Pictured here is my son in a park at the edge of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which memorializes victims of lynching. Ida B. Wells has described lynching as our national crime. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she reported courageously on crimes of lynching, providing essential documentation for executions that might not otherwise be traceable.

My hometown of Jacksonville, FL continues to do the work of identifying, researching and memorializing victims locally that also are remembered at this site in Montgomery.  I will continue processing and leaning into this work. I know in many ways I am just at the beginning. Discomfort is a given. Discomfort is a small price to pay as we acknowledge and begin healing from these collective crimes and the residual continuing impact of racism on all of us regardless of the color of our skin or our “social location.”

Imagine the discomfort of one who was lynched for the supposed crime of vagrancy. Or of those pursued by angry mobs who participated in — and witnessed by the thousands — their vicious torture and executions.

If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I say Hallelujah!  Join us in this messy, awkward journey of collective healing. Join us as we uncover and discover the deep roots and legacy of racism and oppression in our midst. We must persist.

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Using anger.

Tomorrow marks three weeks of this sabbatical season. Entering into this space has been incremental and will continue to be so; it wasn’t until two weeks in that I began to feel I’d arrived at the beginning of this journey.

Rest, prayer and an embrace of slowing down and practicing presence are the fruits so far. No amazing insights. However, I will share a special verse from Nan Merrill’s contemplative translation of Psalm 119, prayed yesterday with a beloved friend, the mother guardian of the Little Sisters of St. Clare:

Recognize your anger as unfulfilled desire,
and lift your thoughts to higher planes;
For those who act out of anger
separate themselves from Love;
While those who live in harmony shall know
peace, assurance, gratitude, and love.

Anger is an emotion we are given as part of our creation. It can be a teacher. A useful tool, inspiring us to take stock and at times to take action. It helps to remember that while we have anger, hold anger, even sometimes feed anger, we are not our anger. We are beloved children of God, designed to radiate Love. When we allow ourselves ultimately (in God’s perfect timing) to make room for this reality, we become complete.

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This morning I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. The first full morning of my sabbatical time — a much needed respite and time for exploring with my son. He is in film camp while I am left to enjoy the beautiful salt air. “The first step to learning to respond well and appropriately to others is to learn to respond well to yourself,” a friend aptly shared. The theme I am bringing into this season involves renewing, refueling and putting the oxygen mask on myself first. It is about coming to know self in a deeper way, with compassion and love.

This summer’s journey will entail a road trip to see dear friends in Savannah, precious time with Cousin Fred on Beech Mountain and with cousins Don and Ben in Virginia. I’ll also spend time in Birmingham, AL, deepening my understanding of the deep roots and pervasive sin of institutional racism. My son and I will watch the San Francisco Giants play ball and take a road trip up the coast to Washington State, where I’ll spend time playing, praying and worshipping with my beloved Little Sisters of St. Clare. As the summer unfolds, I will share photos, art and a few words when inspired. In the meantime, may we be awash with this blessing from St. Clare:

Live without fear.
Your creator has made you whole,
always walks with you,
and loves you as a mother.
So follow the good road in peace.
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with us this day and forevermore.

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Words matter.

(Photo taken at Lake Logan near Canton, North Carolina.)

After the Christmas break, my son began attending a new elementary school. The decision to move was not made lightly but transitions can be challenging.  As we moved through the first few weeks, I prayed a lot and there were tears all around. And yet the staff of this school have been outstanding: supportive, compassionate, firm when necessary – but always loving.  As my son and I found our way, I never once doubted that the teachers and staff had his best interest at heart. Within two weeks, we knew the head of security, the nurse, the counselor, the front office staff, the bus driver and the teachers: A village of support and care.

Just yesterday, I picked my son up early from school for an appointment. It was great to see Mr. B and Miss G. They shared my excitement at my son’s progress in adjusting to a new environment and routine.  Just that morning he’d told me “I don’t go to school because I have to. I go because I want to.” I shared that with Mr. B, and he was filled with a palpable joy. He said “I love your words! I don’t know what it is, but I always love your words.”

I was surprised and grateful, considering that at the beginning of term, I was often frustrated by the time we got to school. Transitions are challenging and can bring up all sorts of fears and anxiety. Yet it is a relief to imagine that I had shared hopeful words even on those days.  Not because I am some spiritual giant. But because I move in a community of the faithful. And the willingness of Mr. B and others to meet us where we are was life-giving to me – and in turn must have evoked a life-giving response from my tired, frazzled self.

Words always have an impact. They are informed by the company we keep and the community in which we move. My congregants and our outreach volunteers will attest that I am fond of saying “All ministry is mutual.”  In these challenging times, we are all pandemic weary. This weariness, combined with an already highly divisive political and social environment, has resulted in a perfect storm.  We needn’t look far to find folks who will welcome another with whom to commiserate. We needn’t look far to find platforms for venting frustration and anger, for tearing down rather than building up.

Still, if we are intentional about it, we need not look far to find dialogue that is uplifting, that generates a sense of welcome and care. That is life-giving.

Where and with whom we choose to spend our time and energy is important. There is a ripple effect, and it is mutual. Words do matter – and they are informed by our choices.

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There is only now.

(Photographed in the “garden of hope” at Clara White Mission, Jacksonville, FL.)

This sermon was offered on Sunday, May 30, 2021 — Trinity Sunday
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, FL

Isaiah 6:1-8
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17
Psalm 29

In the name of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“There is almost no such thing as ready.

There is only now.”

This quote popped up on my meditation app last week.

It has stayed with me. 

A good reminder for someone who can

fret about what is to come,

and who rarely feels ready.

“There is almost no such thing as ready.

There is only now.”

The quote is attributed to Hugh Laurie.

The star of the TV series “House.”

He plays a hospitalist.

A doctor called in to solve complex medical cases

that have stumped other physicians.

If you’ve ever watched the show,

Dr. House always discovers the answer in the now.

Lots of footwork and questions –

lots of actions are taken — but the answer surfaces

when the answer surfaces.

The “now” is where the eternal operates,

and makes itself known.

It can’t be forced.

And it is always a surprise.

In Isaiah, we encounter a prophet who is certain

that he is not ready.

“Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,

and I live among people of unclean lips;

yet my eyes have seen the Lord.”

He is terrified.

He must have been frozen in shock as

the seraph flew to him, touching his lips

with a piece of hot coal.

Definitely not ready.

Yet, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, willing.


I suspect that the teenage girl who

filmed George Floyd’s death was terrified.

I doubt that she felt an overwhelming sense

of being ready.

And yet by grace she was willing.

Her action was pivotal in the quest

            for truth and justice.

We are just like that young girl.

Just like the prophet Isaiah.

And probably on some level just like Hugh Laurie,

God is calling us out of our comfort zone.

If you don’t feel ready: Good.

Because that sense of feeling not adequately prepared,

of feeling vulnerable, is what opens us to depend

on God and God alone.

12-step literature says that the alcoholic who has hit bottom —

who is unable to save herself –

must find a power greater than herself

which will solve her problem.

The literature is blunt: “Either God is everything.

 Or God is nothing. What is our choice to be.”

On this Trinity Sunday, I can’t help but return to that

beautiful, strange vision of Julian of Norwich.

Lying on what was thought to be her deathbed,

she had a series of visions.

In this one, she simply saw an open hand, cradling

in its palm what appeared to be a hazelnut.

She asked God: “What is it?”

The answer: “Everything that is.”

The Trinity embodies all of creation.

Nothing is left out.

No one is less than.

Our theology of the Eucharist tells us that

Christ is present in the elements

of bread and wine. 

We can take that further and affirm that

the Holy Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit,

is embodied in that sacrament, for they are

in constant communion with one another and –

through Christ — with us.

The Gospel lesson from John speaks of how

this communion of Trinity moves in and

through us – of how it includes us –

during our earthly pilgrimage.

Nicodemus asks “How can anyone be born

after growing old? How can anyone enter into

the mother’s womb to be born again?”

He shows us the limit of a strictly literal

interpretation of the Word.

Jesus does not want us to reenter

our mother’s womb.

He wants us to be open to the

transforming power of the Holy Spirit!

We are called into the light of Christ

to be transformed into his likeness.

In this way, we become more fully a part

of the conversation – of the communion

of Trinity.

Jesus calls us children of God.

He calls us friend.

This is a God who is love,

who gives us eternal life in Christ.

In this ongoing process, we are called to be

co-creators with this Holy Trinity.

The world is saved not because enough

people declare that Jesus is Lord.

The world is saved through our actions.

Jesus tells us to do as he has done.

To speak the truth in love.

To embody the truth in love.

I read an article this week about a rural

farm community outside of Palm Beach.

The government set up a vaccination site

to make it easier for folks living in this area

to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Free! No appointment needed!

The hope was that this largely African American,

impoverished community –

a population that has been getting vaccinated

at a much lower rate than people of means –

would be able to be protected.

Can you guess what happened?

Wealthy folks from Palm Beach drove in their

Mercedes Benz’s to take advantage of the convenience,

and, in the process, they depleted a supply

intended for the locals.

Sometimes our fears and anxiety cause us

to act without regard for our neighbors.

So how is the Holy Trinity to transform the world?

How is the world to be saved?

Through acts of love.

Our neighbors – especially those who feel

excluded or forgotten, who have been treated

their entire lives as less than –

will experience the healing love of Christ

through our actions, through our willingness

to insist on – to demand justice.

Last week we celebrated the Day of Pentecost –

widely regarded as the birthday of the Church.

It is a joyful occasion — and it should be.

Jesus has ascended to the Father and

given us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This Holy Spirit is the Advocate, who prays

to the Father on our behalf.

But it is also the Advocate of the forgotten and

neglected, of the invisible and diminished.

It is the Advocate of anyone whom our world

regards as “other” or less than.

And it is the Advocate which empowers

those of us who can stand with them.

We are called to love not just in Spirit

and truth.

We are called to love through our actions.

To be co-creators with the Holy, Unknowable,

Trinity of love.

You are in good company if you do not feel ready.

“For there is almost no such thing as ready.

There is only now.” Amen.

Posted in 12-step spirituality, Christianity, community, compassion, Diocese of Florida, Episcopal church, faith, Grace, holy, love, reconciliation, Recovery, unity, urban ministry | Tagged | 1 Comment

The price of love.

This was offered as a Good Friday reflection on the Seventh Word of Christ, at St. John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville.

Luke 23:44-49 “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”

At the beginning of this week

we saw Jesus welcomed, hailed and celebrated

with cries of Hosana! as he entered Jerusalem. 

Jesus had become a well-known figure.

He was sought after and celebrated

by many as the coming King of Israel,

as the Messiah — the Savior of the world.

But then the mood shifted.

Many people – especially those in power —

became increasingly wary of Jesus.

No one knew quite what to make of him.

There was a growing consensus that he was dangerous.

A threat to the powers that be.

The cost of being his friend or his follower

rose sharply.

That last supper, which we remembered

yesterday, must have been wrought

with tension. 

The foreboding that filled the air surely

could have been cut with a knife.

One of those closest to Jesus

rose from the table, betraying him

in exchange for a small purse of coins.

By now Jesus’ closest friends have scattered.

As the horror of his execution

comes into focus, a few followers gaze

on the scene from a distance.



Perhaps feeling betrayed


Jesus is isolated and alone as

he hangs on a cross at Golgotha.

For him, the betrayal is complete.

All he has left is a Father who seems

      absent at best.

At worst, indifferent.

Excruciatingly cruel.

In the midst of unimaginable suffering,

at the point of death, Jesus finds the strength,

the courage – despite evidence to

the contrary — to trust.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

We may have moments in our lives

when we are able and willing to trust,

even in the face of immeasurable hardship.

But to be so completely free of self-interest,

free of self-centered fear and worry that

we are able to surrender our wills,

to let go absolutely?

Our 12-step friends know that the courage to

surrender in the face of such pain and fear

is grace-filled. It is God-given.

A few weeks ago, we met with Catholic lay leaders

at the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary,

to see how they might join with us through

our Church Without Walls, to collaborate

in our ministry with the homeless and urban poor.

After our meeting — when we walked out

onto Duval Street —

I met a man named Antoine.

He had just walked past us, but then

spun around and lurched toward me.

“Can I talk to you?” he pleaded.

His face was contorted in anguish.

“I’m having such a hard day,” he explained.

“I’m homeless. Everywhere I turn, people

are being so mean.

Shouting at me, cursing me.”

In the course of that one day,

Antoine had been spat upon,

threatened and shamed.

Looking into the depths of those dark,

soulful eyes, I saw Christ.

The One who poured himself out for us all.

The One who chose to trust, when those

closest to him had pulled away.

When the Father who sent him was

seemingly absent.

In our brief exchange, Antoine somehow

chose to trust.

He asked for nothing but someone to listen.

He shared his heartache and exhaustion.

We prayed together. 

Then, as quickly as he’d approached me,

he turned on his heel to make his way

down the street.

My Catholic friends were perplexed.

“How did you know it was safe

to engage with him?

How did you know what to do?”

I assured them that there are incremental,

concrete steps that can be taken to educate

and equip those interested is learning

this ministry of presence.

There are trainings and supportive

conversations we can provide that can

help build a comfort level for

engaging in this transformative work.

No experience is necessary.

In fact, it is often better to come to it

empty-handed, with open hearts and minds.

For, when we are willing to bring only ourselves,

that is when the Spirit moves

most profoundly among us.

It takes courage to be present in the

face of another’s suffering.

It is human to resist it.

That’s why so many of us get anxious even at

the thought of visiting someone in hospital.

When we become willing to take the first step—

   to suit up and show up –

the Holy Spirit always fills in the gaps.

“We cannot serve at a distance,” writes

author Rachel Naomi Remen. 

“We can only serve that to which we are

profoundly connected,

that which we are willing to touch.”

The greatest gift the Church can offer

in the face of immeasurable suffering

is a compassionate presence.

It is counterintuitive – and very awkward at first —

for we are a society of people conditioned

to Act. To Fix.  To Measure. To Solve.

Antoine owned nothing but the clothes

on his back.

On the street that day, he did not seek

money or material things.

He sought something that proved nearly

impossible to attain.

He sought human connection.

He sought someone to listen.

Jesus has done the heavy lifting,

walking to his death, willingly.

Shedding the comfort of friends and community

as he found himself rejected, vilified,


“All of his acquaintances, including the women

who had followed him from Galilee,

stood at a distance, watching.”

In our own way, each of us suffers

during our earthly pilgrimage.

But it is hard to imagine that the One

who created everything that is —

that the One who is Love —

wants us to suffer alone,

utterly abandoned.

As followers of the Way of Jesus,

we are called to draw on the well of compassion

that is shaped and filled by our own suffering. 

We are called to be present to the suffering

in our hurting world.

Jesus does not call us to pay the price of sin.

He calls us to pay the price of love.


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Holy grit.


We enter a New Year with a sense of caution but also with great hope. 

Recently someone asked me what title I might give the year 2020.  The first thing that came to mind was “holy grit.”  Many of us have learned in a new way what it means to dig deep to mine the dregs of our spiritual and emotional reserve.  It is messy, exhausting, and at times desperate. 

I have watched friends walk through painful events – things that, under more ordinary circumstances would be extremely trying: loss of loved ones to cancer, to COVID, to alcoholism and addiction. Loss of jobs, delay of opportunities that this time last year had been within reach. In June a man in our pantry line shared that he was next to be rehired at his company – just as soon as the pandemic is behind us.

The tragedies and challenges have at times seemed unjustly harsh and relentless, wreaking havoc, one after another.  In moments of utter exhaustion and emotional depletion, when it can seem that the universe is unnecessarily cruel, how do I explain to someone in the midst of their suffering that God loves them? That Christ is with them? 

At this writing I just learned of two friends who had to say goodbye to a cherished adult son, who was on life support following a sudden cardiac event.  Life can be so cruel.  Surrender is the only way through. To trust that somehow God will make a way for us.  Somehow there will be enough to sustain us.  An old friend long gone used to say “You always get what you need but never five minutes too soon. Never a nickel more.”

A stable with a manger: definitely not a nickel more for Mary, for Joseph.  Yet they surrendered though the circumstances were not ideal, were not what they imagined or dreamed.  When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, marking the beginning of a series of events that would forever change her life, forever change the world, she responded May it be with me according to your word.  Even as she agreed, Mary surely could not imagine how all that she was told would come to pass, how events would unfold over the years. If she could, she may not have said yes.

We will always have questions, many unanswered at least in the ways we’d like them answered, especially when the heat is on.  For me this requires daily – sometimes moment-by-moment – surrender.  It requires digging deep, leaning on prayer and an inner reserve of grit to keep going, to focus on what I can affect rather than being victim to those things outside my control.

We must dare to believe that the light shines most brightly in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.  Sometimes, as we peer into the night of our lives, all we can find is the faintest glimmer, and sometimes only after much waiting, much seeking.  But that glimmer is enough.

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