Thursday, August 18, 2016

COMPILINGS THREE: Beach Meandering Treasures

As a spiritual blogger/church volunteer, my "new year" starts after Labor Day. So in the waning weeks of summer, I want to share the beach meandering treasures I found during the past year and their messages. Now, I believe wholeheartedly that these items were placed in my path as angelic signs with messages that I deciphered. Another way to look at it is to see these random items as metaphors that can be applied to life.

Interesting thing to note is that it was only this past year that I began walking pier to pier at the beach only five miles from my home. Busy, busy, and all that. I could add paragraphs here about worthiness and the art of not being, but I'll refrain. I'm stalling a bit because the first treasure is intense. Right, so it was 11/11/2015:    

This is what I posted on Facebook with the photo: During my beach meandering this morning, I found a dog tag right by the shoreline. Let me rephrase that, I found a dog tag on the beach on Veterans Day. 

What happened next still makes me cry. Here's how I explained it in a local TV news story. R.I.P. Jesse.

After that happened I knew I had to keep returning to the beach to find meandering treasures:

The message with this one had to do with "baggage" as it was loaded with tiny pebbles. I still can't figure out if it was about letting go of baggage or carrying the good stuff with us.

This one says, "The spiritual embraces the modern as another way to help all those with ears to listen."

This is a rusty nickle, not a penny. So this ones message is that I should prepare to make money in a  unique way. Looking back, I have consistently earned money for my written words during this past year. This was a first for me! Whoop!

This one is about broken-heart people attracting supportive friends. Peer closely in the upper left hand corner and you'll see two angels watching over the scene.

The Angels were clear with this one, "In the only eyes that matter, every diverse one of you is a treasure."

This one reminds us that pets can be Earth Angels, too. Pay attention to 'em.

No explanation needed here.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." John 20:29

"Go for the broken underbelly ones, that's where the purple is." This was a haul from one day. Now, I do collect rocks and shells for stepping stone projects, so there's nothing really out of the ordinary with this collection. Except that I was drawn to the purple, as it's a spiritual color liturgically, angelically (color associated with St. Michael the Archangel), and crown-chakra ly.

This one says, "It ain't a treasure. Pick it up anyway. And stop using 'em for God's sake!"

One day there was feathers all along the shoreline! They were all ocean washed and sun kissed. The loud and clear message in this one is that angels are everywhere!

Which reminds me, sometimes, they aren't. One day last month, I went outside to get the mail, and I heard kissing sounds coming from a tree in the middle of our front yard. I looked up and saw a cardinal making these kissing sounds. Now cardinals are believed to be a symbol of someone in heaven letting you know they are thinking about you. So there I am basking in the "love" of this cardinal because I think it's my grandmother sending me a "you're doing a good job" message when I see a sudden movement along the trunk of the tree.

Yeah, it was a camouflage garter snake slithering towards the cardinal's nest. Lesson learned: not all "signs" are signs. Use your best judgement. Pay attention and listen to your intuition. And never forget to laugh at yourself.

This wounded tortoise-shell shell represents the tortoise-shell feral cat we took in even though she is feral. Did I mention she's feral? The angels were telling me that it was the right thing to do. And, so far, so good, she makes a lovely garage cat.

Then it was summer time when our beach fills up with tourists. So, I've been sticking to the neighborhood for most of my walks. I headed back last Sunday with my husband to join Plastic Ocean Project for a beach clean up. The group consisted of mostly college kids with their young eyes, and they kept walking in my path. I mean, I'm doing this section! But, nevertheless, in an area where many people spied the tiniest pieces of clear plastic, no one else saw two bits of purple sticking up out of the sand. I pulled them out and it was this guy!

I mean, even when you think everything's been said by everyone else, yeah, not so much. The message here is "Write away!" I love this guy.

And here we are, August 18, full moon tonight. I have to admit that I've been in a bit of a slump because I'm just not sure what's next for me creativity-wise. I recently learned clearly what's not next for me and, you know, sometimes it take a few days to get used to that kind of news.

So I've been thinking back through my spiritual journey, or as Brene Brown calls it, breakdown/spiritual awakening, and I'm focusing on the fact that the thing that sparked it for me happened about two years ago. Two. Years. Ago. And I'm still thinking about it. I mean, I so wanted to stop thinking about it immediately or even the next day would have been fine. But it doesn't always work that way.

I had to dig deep into my psyche. And what I found there was an addiction to approval seeking and people pleasing. Over these last two years, I have had to extricate myself from three dysfunctional relationships. The problem with these kinds of relationships is that dysfunction and love appear so much alike. And so leaving hurts. And grief hurts. 

And then I got to point where I realized that these people are not inherently bad. Other people truly like them and they seem to have decent relationships. It's just me. They treated me differently because I let them. And yet, they don't hate me. They didn't manipulate me on purpose. On a conscious level, they didn't even know they were doing it. Addiction is sneaky like that.

But these last few days, as I was low and in a funk (full moon tonight, just saying), I realized that I don't have those three voices in my head anymore. And what an aha moment that was, because they've been gone for awhile now and I hadn't noticed.  

I didn't dare say to myself, that's it! This time, my spiritual journey is over! This time, for real! I've fallen for that one too many times. But, there's something else going on here, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then today, after my late morning walk and a bit of gardening, I came in and checked my emails at exactly 11:11 a.m. I noticed this because I checked to see how long I had until LUNCH, and I'm always noticing angelic messages. Remember that 11:11 is a sign of angelic beginnings.

It was in a meditation email forwarded to me by a friend:

People in the recovery process are people with painful memories. We remember our losses. We remember our sins. We remember the sins which have been committed against us. It is part of the hard work of recovery to face these memories, to grieve them and to come to terms with them. But sometimes the painful memories become so powerful that it seems like nothing will be able to compete with them for our attention. The memory of pain consumes us. In times like this we need a powerful new memory that can challenge the dominance of our painful memories.

Jesus invites us to receive a new and startling memory. "Remember me," Jesus says, "Eat the bread and drink the wine and remember that I gave my life for you. I gave my life because I love you. Take this new memory. Allow it to shape the way you think about yourself and about life and about me. Allow yourself to remember me."

The rest of this meditation can be found here from the authors of Rooted in God's Love.

Right! I'm in recovery. Because I have an addiction. I've got to work harder on remembering that. 

And so this email from my friend playing on Team Angel for one tiny part of one day helped me to understand that the empty space where those voices were belong to Jesus now. His is the voice I can listen to. His is the voice I can fill myself up with.  

Speaking of friends, the real ones, the supportive ones, the ones who let me go on and on and then say the perfect thing, these are the friends I want to thank for being so consistently there for me -- Julia, Beth, Catherine, Rebecca, and Lauren. You know your last names and you know I love you.

Speaking of friends, beach meandering with friends is the absolutely best!

I highly recommend it!

What? No beach near you. How 'bout a mountain? How 'bout a meadow? How 'bout Central Park? You'll find it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


St. James the Elder, Apostle, Son of Zebedee, brother of John, was among the first called to follow Jesus, and he did so with great enthusiasm. He was the first Apostle to be martyred and his feast day is July 25. St. James is the patron saint of Spain and is honored with a pilgrimage to his shrine called the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James. 

Along with Peter and John, James the Elder (to distinguish him from James the Younger, Apostle,) had a special place among the Apostles. Perhaps it was because of his age and experience. Or perhaps it was because of James’s untiring devotion, loyalty, and faithfulness to Jesus.

Sometimes this extroverted enthusiasm could be a bit much . . .

Enjoy the rest of my latest post at Grow Christians!

Sunday, July 10, 2016


On Wednesday, my daughter and I journeyed from our home in Wilmington to the Winston-Salem/Greensboro area to tour the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

We left the house without a backup printout of our route because we were late and figured we'd be fine with our cell phones. I forgot my charger and my daughter's charger was faulty. But, we made it on time for our tour of UNCSA! This tour was conducted by an admissions counselor. He knew plenty and he showed us lots of hands-on stuff. 

I took this photo behind an "apartment" built on a sound stage. This set up creates sunlight through the window. The message is that we can absolutely manufacture our own sunshine.

This is a photo of my daughter standing in front of one of the main buildings and UNCSA signs. It seems like a sign that this is her school. (We don't know that yet, as she's just about to begin junior year of high school. Plenty of time yet for contemplating.)

This photo is a sign that we chose the correct hotel for our stay because we have a Little Free Library, too. Plus, look how awesome this one is!

This photo is a sign that my daughter performed THE PERFECT parallel park in downtown Winston-Salem and is, according to this New York mom, ready to get her driver's license. She would argue that this photo is really a sign that her mom is ready for her to get her driver's license in a state which doesn't require parallel parking in their driver's test.

This photo is a sign that someone came up with a great idea and sells lots of product at the Old Salem gift shop.

The message in this photo is, with or without fences, goodness gets out.

The message in this photo is that reading that how-to-take photographs book last summer paid off.

The message in this photo is that everyone who recommended eating lunch at The Tavern in Old Salem was right!

And then we drove to Greensboro and got there in plenty of time for our tour. Our guide was a student named Laura. She did a great job! Gave us plenty of information, answered all our questions, showed us a classroom, a dorm room, the library, and the cafeteria where she gave us all cups so we could get a cold drink.  

While we were standing around slurping away, she complemented me on my necklace. It's a tiny "gold" replica of the Icon Cross of San Damiano through which Jesus spoke to St. Francis of Assisi and told him to rebuild his church. She said she saw the real thing when she was in Italy with her mom. What!? What a sign! First of all, St. Francis of Assisi is my birthday patron saint and also my daughter's birthday patron (because he died on October 3, but his feast day is October 4 due to a medieval calendar glitch). AND, we totally want to journey to Italy and do a saintly pilgrimage.

Laura ended up giving us wonderful advice about tour groups and getting to visit the saintly shrines because they are considered a part of the Best of Italy. Now I have a first step! I was soooo excited by this random data dump of exactly the information I needed but was completely unrelated to our college touring.

As we continued on, I reflected on the fact that due to the recent shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, I was wearing an orange tee-shirt with my necklace on the outside of the shirt. Normally, I try not to be all in your-face about my Christianity, so I keep my necklace on the inside of my shirt, close to my heart. But, with one shooting after the other, after the other, while I was away from home on a specific mission and unable to process any of it, I wanted to, at least, be a walking prayer for those who so recently died by gun violence.

So I was marveling about how, via a symbol of a cross that was important to my patron saint, I "randomly" received information that I can use as a first step in bringing me to the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi and perhaps even to visit the real Icon Cross of San Damiano myself! Before I could even offer up a prayer of thanksgiving, we passed this statue.  

The photo is not mine. In fact, I don't have any photos of UNCG, I think it's because I was too engaged in the tour to think to pull out the camera. And then when Laura started telling the story of this statue, I was too enthralled to stop following her to run over to snap a photo. It's a statue of Minerva the Roman Goddess of Wisdom. A tradition got started at some point in which students leave apples with one bite taken out as an offering to Minerva in exchange for an A on an exam.

Fascinating! But all I could really think about was this is another sign! Minerva is the name we chose for a stray cat we took in a couple of months ago. Our Minerva continues to be pretty feral and is just now poking her head out from behind the water heater in the garage to eat her dinner while we our still filling up her water bowl. Now, I named her Minerva after Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter without having any idea that Minerva is the name of a goddess of wisdom! There are signs and messages galore in this coincidence! I haven't truly figured them all out yet. I wonder if it's a sign for me regarding the gaining of knowledge, or if it's a sign that this is the perfect college for my daughter. We shall see.

After thanking Laura profusely, we got in the car and began our three-hour drive home on I-40.

And then, alas.

The message in this photo is UH OH! Alert, alert!

The message in this photo is CRAP! Something is wrong with the coolant system. 

Adding coolant did not help. The phone charger was also kaput at this point and both of our phones were down to single digit percent of charge. Some of us in the car were freaking out a bit. (It wasn't my daughter.) But then, with the guidance of my husband, we purchased a new charger at a rest stop. Then, because he had called ahead and arranged the whole thing, he directed us to a Toyota dealer with a rental car counter. We arrived just before closing and they were ready for us! (Except for the service staff who leave an hour earlier.)

All's well that ends well. Except for the part were we have to drive the rental car back tomorrow, about a seven-hour round trip. But even that's not so bad. We'll have good music, we'll stop by to have lunch with my son in Raleigh, and there's no charge for the service. It was just an air bubble in the coolant system that needed to be passed.

Meanwhile, underneath all this good college stuff, signs from above, phone and car dysfunctions, and nerve-wracking pulling off to the side of the road to assess stuff, I was devastated about the shooting deaths and unable to process or learn anything more about the situations than I had seen during breakfast at the hotel.

When we got home, safe and sound, I think I spent about two hours on Friday night then about four, maybe five hours yesterday on social media sorting through all kinds of articles, news updates, opinions, blog posts, memes, status updates, people's feelings, thoughts, ideas, prayers  . . .

And I think finally I have reached a level of understanding of the situation and what it means for us as country and what it means to me personally.

I also realized with this process of my seemingly too-much-with-the-Facebook, that for me diving deep is absolutely necessary. I need to face it so I can understand it, so I can learn from it, so I can move on in a better way.

This procedure is exactly the same way I handled the rejection trauma that launched my spiritual journey in October, 2014. The one that changed my life from the inside out. The one that most recently showed me how significant childhood trauma is to our development. We can't hide from it. We can set it aside for while, just so we can get through the day, so we can continue to breath in and breath out.

But at some point, when we're ready, we need to dive deep and face those memories. To seek professional help, or read all kinds of books, articles, seemingly random stuff that pop up in the Newsfeed which we create just for ourselves with our likes and other post interactions. And then we get to a point where we realize that we are ready to face and experience the traumatic memories as they rise to the surface. Those days aren't pretty, but they're necessary. And then, thankfully, they are purged. I've already had several really bad emotional days. But I know this is all part of the process, I let it happen, and follow letting go and releasing toxic energy procedures. I also know that the sun will shine again tomorrow and if it doesn't, I have the ability to manufacture my own sunshine.

So what did I learn about the recent shootings? I learned that there is a way to meet on that bridge. That we can come together as a united people and grasp this solution together. We all need to face it and we all need to understand that, yes, there is absolutely something we can do about it.

I began my fight for gun safety when Sandy Hook happened. Those babes were exactly where they were supposed to be doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. No one did anything wrong here. Not the parents, the teachers, nor the administration. Those children should not have died. And yet.

And yet. So many. Every day. And when there are these highly traumatic ones that affect all of us, most recently Orlando 49, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, at first we stand around in shock, going what the hell is happening?! But then we realize that we have to take our efforts up another notch.

For example, in the past I have actually had the thoughts, God bless you with your bathroom fight, LGBT community, I'm dealing with gun violence. And, God bless you with your blacklivesmatter fight, black community, I'm dealing with the NRA. But, it's become glaringly obvious to the point that I'm embarrassed that I didn't see it before, it's all the same fight! We're all on the same side. And my daughter's fight to save the environment is also freaking important. We can't wait on that one either. We really have to get it together as a country and not only do the right thing, but do the right things. Plural.

So, how am I doing that? I intend to keep showing up. Next week I'm attending a Potluck for Peace discussion at the local YWCA and later a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense meeting. I might also attend a blacklivesmatter march for which I just received the invite while writing this post. I have to check it out with my and my daughter's schedule.

But you know what? We don't have to attend everything. One would do. As long as whatever we do, we're taking it up a notch.

And then this morning's sermon. I so wanted a sermon that would speak to us about this past week's nationally traumatic gun violence, and I got one. The preacher went deep into the parable of the Good Samaritan. He didn't say that we should act like the Good Samaritan and take care of those less fortunate than ourselves as I was expecting.

He said (and I'm filling in the blank to make it personal to me), imagine that you are the one who got beat up and left half dead on the side of the road. Imagine that instead of a Samaritan, it's an Assault Rifle Open-Carrying NRA Nutjob who takes care of you while everyone else walks by. That's your neighbor. Go and do likewise.

Holy . . . Wow.

But here's the thing, by imagining this particular scenario, I'm actually stepping closer to the middle of that bridge.

Won't you please join me there?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I learned early on in my study of the saints, that Jesus Christ is highly instrumental in the making of a saint. It’s not just the holy person’s true, abiding, unfailing love and striving towards Jesus, but that He actually takes part in guiding, influencing, and, especially during the gospel era, communicating directly.

But what I had not realized until just this past month as I worked on writing assignments for Grow Christians was how vitally important other people were along the journey to sainthood. I wonder if Paul and Mark would even be saints without Barnabas, or if Peter’s story of Jesus’s ministry would be so clearly known to us without Mark’s Gospel.

The interconnectivity of their life stories and their influence upon each other is clear and inspiring:

St. Mark the Evangelist and Sautéed Mustard Greens

St. Mark the Evangelist was one of the 70 Apostles of Jesus Christ, author of the Gospel of Mark, and the father of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt. He suffered a martyr’s death in 68 A.D. and his feast day is April 25.

Although ancient scrolls offer no certainty, it’s traditionally believed that St. Mark was the young adult son of the woman who hosted the Last Supper, that he assisted in serving the meal, and that he was a witness to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Pentecost.

Mark was deeply influenced by these events, so he took his place among the large group of apostles and set out to preach. Yet on several occasions, Mark refused to step up as a spiritual leader. One time, St. Paul rejected his assistance because Mark had left him during a previous mission. (See Acts 15:36-40.)

Mark believed in Jesus with all his heart, but because he wasn’t part of the group that traveled with Jesus during his three years of ministry, he didn’t have the experiences or know the story well enough to share it.

What Mark needed was a teacher/parent-figure/guide. So he traveled to Rome and found all this in St. Peter.

Peter accepted Mark and treated him as if he were his own son (See 1 Peter 5:13). He shared his experiences during Jesus’s ministry and taught Mark how to preach. When Peter believed Mark was ready to spread the Word, he deemed him a priest and sent him off.

At some point, Mark returned to Paul who later referred to him as a “fellow worker, useful in my ministry” (See Philemon 1:23-34 and 2 Timothy 4:11 ). It was probably during his time with Paul that Mark wrote his gospel based on Peter’s memories. Parts can be read like a preacher’s manual:

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” – Mark 4:30-32

By sharing the words of Jesus Christ in his ministry and written words, St. Mark scattered seeds of faith that continue to grow Christians.

The young Christians in our lives need us to be the Peter to their Mark. They need us to teach them the words, share what we learned from our mistakes, and reinforce their confidence through practice.

Help them practice honoring St. Mark on his feast day by preparing:

Sautéed Mustard Greens


2 bunches fresh mustard greens (If unavailable, frozen will do.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Optional Garnishes
Splash of apple cider vinegar
Goat cheese crumbles


(If using frozen mustard greens, heat until thawed and skip the first three steps.)

1. Soak mustard greens in cleaned sink or large dishpan for a few minutes.
2. Rinse under cold running water. Remove stems, and rip leaves into bite-size pieces.
3. Place in large pot with about ¼ cup water, cover, and cook over high heat until leaves have wilted, about one minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. In a large frying pan with olive oil, sauté garlic and onion until golden, about five minutes. Stir in toasted pine nuts.
5. Drain and add mustard greens. Cook until coated and heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve hot with optional garnishes along with Egyptian Chicken Kebabs and Apostle's Bread. Since the flavor might be too strong for young palates, provide the option of grilled cheese sandwiches with a schmear of yellow mustard.

[Editor’s note: The plant which Jesus refers to in the mustard seed parable was likely Brassica nigra or Salvadora perscia, which grows into a large bush. Mustard greens may not be the same plant, but they call to mind the same parable.]

I'm still laughing over my inability to grasp the fact that greens do NOT eventually grow into a bush. I mean, I had a hard time figuring out how it would work. I guess I thought a miracle was involved. Anyway, this is why editors were invented. Thanks, Nurya!

St. Barnabas the Apostle and Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)

St. Barnabas, one of the Seventy Apostles, played a prominent role in growing the early Christian church through conversion. He worked mostly in Cyprus, a Greek island, and Antioch, a Greek-Roman city in modern-day Turkey. He is known especially for his works with St. Paul (Saul) and his encouragement of St. Mark. Tradition holds that he was the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and was martyred in 61 AD in Salamis, Cyprus. His feast day is June 11.

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. – Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas was educated and had a knack for encouraging people in the way of Jesus Christ. He saw something deeper in them that others couldn’t always see. For example, after Saul, the brutal prosecutor of Christians, experienced his conversion, Barnabas saw Saul as being sincere and valuable to their mission. He stood up for Saul among the apostles who feared him and his earlier deeds:

Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. – Acts 9:27

Later, Barnabas was chosen by the apostles to assist in the conversion of Hellenists (Greek Jews) in Antioch:

When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion for he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.

So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” – Acts 11:23-26

In the years they worked and traveled together, Saul became Paul and the more outspoken of the two:

After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company: Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. – Acts 15:36-40

Barnabas accepted Mark and, no doubt, encouraged him in his mission. Mark then traveled to Rome to study with Peter where he grew in knowledge and confidence. Later, Mark returned to Paul who soon referred to him as someone valuable in his work.

The other day, I happened to mention to my 20-year-old son that I was researching St. Barnabas. He said, “The purple saint?”

Ha! But, then again, Barney the purple dinosaur, was nothing if not an encourager of young children. My son, for one, loved him. Probably in much the same way that early converts, fellow apostles, and his younger cousin loved St. Barnabas.

St. Barnabas shows us how to create a space of acceptance and encouragement for our children and youth where they can discover ways to grow their own faith.

We can also encourage them to honor St. Barnabas and eat their vegetables by mixing up a batch of Tzatziki, a version of which was a part of the every-day meal in Cyprus and other biblical cities.

Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)


2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated, strained
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)


1. Squeeze handfuls of grated cucumber to remove liquid. Place in medium-size bowl.
2. Add all other ingredients. Stir.
3. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least two hours so that flavors can blend.
4. Blot off any liquid that rose to top. Stir.

Serve as a dipping sauce with roasted meats such as Egyptian Chicken Kebabs, triangles of Apostle's Bread, or raw vegetables and fruit.

St. Peter and St. Paul Apostles & Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Peter and St. Paul, Apostles, were martyred in Rome in 64 A.D. The Episcopal Church celebrates their sacrifice with a feast day on June 29. They are remembered as great teachers and fathers of the Christian Church.

Jesus called Simon, whose name he changed to Peter, to follow him, thereby setting the stage for Peter to learn as much about himself as he did about God. Among the many things Peter learned is that fear can make people do things they’ll later regret. How bitterly he wept when he realized that he had indeed, just as Jesus predicted, denied knowing him three times. (See Luke 22:54-62.)

Later, after the Risen Jesus appeared on the shoreline and shared breakfast with several apostles, he questioned Peter. (See John 21:15-19.) John’s Gospel doesn’t describe how Peter felt when he understood that Jesus held him accountable for his betrayal and allowed him to make amends, but we can imagine. With each declaration of Peter’s love, Jesus gave him an assignment and then indicated that Peter would later die for him. This incident cleansed Peter’s heart and fortified him for his future works.

St. Paul, earlier known as Saul, was a well-educated Roman citizen from a strict Jewish sect. He approved of and witnessed the stoning death of St. Stephen, the first Martyr of the Christian Church. (See Acts 7:54-8:3.)  He became a brutal persecutor of what he believed to be a band of heretics.

Why was he so brutal? As Saul walked along the road to Damascus, Jesus called down from Heaven in a flash of blinding light and asked him this same question:

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 
He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” - Acts 9:4-6

Saul endured three days without eyesight, food, or drink in a house where he was watched over. Then a disciple arrived:

He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. -Acts 9:17-19

Saul/Paul set out to preach, convert, and establish new Christian churches throughout the land. The story of Paul’s works in Acts, as well as in his own writings, especially Galatians, has served as a sort of Christian code based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I’m fascinated by the way Jesus handled the sins of these two men. He forgave, through accountability, the one who acted in fear but with a pure heart. He healed with clear sight the one with the misguided understanding of his purpose. The forgiveness of Peter gives us hope that in confession we are forgiven, and the conversion of Paul gives us hope that prayer and communication can open the eyes of those who have lost their way in the dark.

Peter and Paul worked together along with other apostles. Paul remained a stickler to the Christian code of behavior. For example, he believed that Jesus taught that the apostles should eat with the Gentiles whom they were converting, and not follow strict Jewish laws about ritual cleanliness. Even though Peter had a vision showing him this same teaching, (Acts 10), he and Barnabas were rather easily swayed to follow the custom of the community in which they were staying. Paul lectured them and wrote a great rant about the incident in Galatians 2:13-21.

Peter then left for Rome, where he’s remembered as the first pope, and Paul prepared to travel with Barnabas to visit all the Christian communities they had established together. But when Barnabas said he wanted to take Mark with them, Paul had had enough and refused to allow someone who had earlier abandoned their mission to now join them. So they broke up and set out on different journeys.

And yet. Barnabas, Peter, and Paul all influenced the young apostle, Mark. First Barnabas encouraged him along his journey, next Peter taught him everything he knew about Jesus’s three-year ministry, and then Paul accepted Mark back into his circle, praised his work and gave him the space to write his Gospel based on Peter’s teachings. Despite their differences, Barnabas, Peter, and Paul were able to focus on the important work of growing Christians.

We can do that, too.

And when we break bread together, we can enjoy this appetizer made with first-century Roman ingredients:

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini


1 loaf crusty Italian bread
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup goat cheese
1/4 cup fig jam
1 pint fresh figs, sliced

(Since fresh figs are seasonal, apple slices would make a great swap because early Romans loved apples and propagated them throughout their empire.)


1. Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast.
2. Spread toasted slices with cheese.
3. Carefully spread jam on top of the cheese.
4. Set a sliced piece of fruit on top of each and serve as a snack or appetizer.

I'm happy to be a part of Grow Christians, a collection of writers organized and edited by Rev. Nurya Love Parish that shows us ways to grow Christians in our own lives and works.

And since we all become saints in the Communion of Christ upon baptism, we can think of ourselves as saints growing saints.

Monday, June 6, 2016


     Guideline Number 37 of the Bloggers' Code -- Bloggers are allowed to make up words. Mmmmm, compilings.
     Now that we are finished with the school/program year, and I've completed Education for Ministry: Year One in which we read and reflected on the Old Testament, I have time to gather my various writings over the past few months in one place.  

    The following three posts appeared in Forward Movement's 50 Days of Fabulous edited by Rev. Laurie Brock during the Easter season. Check out the site and "subscribe" to make sure you receive the daily emails next Easter season. You can also follow 50 Days of Fabulous on Facebook. 


As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. – Luke 24:28-35
Today’s Gospel has spoken “deep acceptance” to me three different ways on three separate occasions.
On Brokenness -- Not so recently, some people broke my heart. They didn’t mean it. They were doing the best they could with the emotional tools they had available. At the time, I didn’t realize this, so I was deeply hurt and confused. The question that occupied me for months was, why did they break my heart? The answer came to me in baby steps along my spiritual journey. Because I let them. Because my own emotional tool box needed some heavy sorting.
Before I got to that place of understanding, I spent a lot of time angry and sad. And then I attended a youth workshop and had a conversation with the chaplain. We were discussing options for my future with the Church and I said, “I’m too broken. They won’t want me.”
His eyes got wide and he said, “We’re all broken. Jesus was broken on the Cross. He had to break to share his love. And remember that passage in Luke? They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. A beautiful loaf of bread is useless until it’s broken and shared.”
The next day, he preached a sermon on this passage to a room full of youth ministers, and my eyes weren’t the only ones filled with tears. My broken heart wasn’t the only one mended that day and every day we receive Holy Communion.
On Theology – Shortly after joining my new church, a retired priest/member preached a sermon on the importance of sharing scripture and she quoted the above passage from Luke focusing on the part where Jesus explains scripture to the two he met on the road to Emmaus.
First, my heart leapt at the recognition of this passage on brokenness, and then I settled in to absorb her message on how Jesus was recognized, not only in the breaking of bread, but in the act of teaching. I knew that Jesus wants us to emulate him in breaking of bread and in sharing meals and our gifts with others. 
But I didn’t think I was qualified to share my own thoughts on theology. The message I had received for years was, you are an uncredentialed, stay-at-home mom. Therefore, you are not to be taken seriously, except to pat you on the head or get annoyed when you disagree with my outlook.
Later, it so happened that at the beginning of the first faiths against gun violence meeting sponsored by my new church, another retired priest/member read aloud this passage from the back of the Book of Common Prayer:
“The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.” Catechism 855
Boom. Mic drop. Credentials galore in that one, baby.
On Bread – Today I focus on how the Resurrected Christ used bread as a symbol of himself, and in that moment allows himself to be recognized. Jesus traveled a long, long way so that he could return home to our hearts. I seem to have traveled far, too:
Four years ago, when I started writing about saints and their recipes for spiritual living, I was particularly drawn to St. Francis of Assisi. He is my birthday saint, and in him I find the courage to be crazy in love with Jesus. More than animals, more than poverty, Francis loved Holy Eucharist because it connects us directly to Jesus breaking and sharing himself with us on the Cross. St. Francis highly respected those charged with the sharing of these gifts, and spoke often on the gifting of bread as a symbol of friendship, almsgiving, and Christ’s love for us.
When I tried to actually bake homemade bread myself, I failed two or three times in great frustration because I kept accidentally killing the yeast. Then I got it. And I wrote about my mistakes and what I learned from them. I studied, cooked, and wrote some more.
And so, I moved forward and over many boulders on my spiritual path. Eventually, I landed at my new church which serves homemade whole wheat bread for Communion and had an open spot on the team of bakers. I get to devote myself to the baking of bread to provide for the Sunday Holy Eucharist once a month and then experience the joy of receiving a piece of this same bread as a gift of love from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My heart is full.
     Do you think your emotional tool box might need some sorting? Begin by reading DARING GREATLY by Brené Brown then work your way backwards and forward from there.
Many times, spiritual journeys, or awakenings, are launched via heartbreak. This is usually because you are already starting to change and people around you don’t like it so sometimes they lash out. Has this happened to you? Are you afraid to take that first step because of others people’s potential negative reactions?
If you know you’d be heading closer to Jesus, you’ve got to go for it. Although there may be some deep transitional hurt along the way, Jesus is there with you, holding you up and guiding the way.

Break your heart wide open and let Him in.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. -- Jeremiah 29:11-13
The Angels deliver messages to me from God. Here’s an example of how it works:
Recently, while walking my regular three-mile neighborhood route with the goal of getting it done and getting back to work, a penny appeared on my path. I knew that copper is the color associated with St. Gabriel the Messenger Archangel, so I picked it up and held it in my hand as I walked on. I thought about what this sign might be saying about some of my recent communications and stayed on high alert for any incoming messages.
And then I walked into the neighborhood of a woman who says mean things to people as they pass her house if she happens to be outside. After she spoke to me, I could tell by her smile that this act gives her great pleasure.
I walked on and thought, what the heck is the message in that?
Go to the beach. Why are walking in a neighborhood of negativity when you could be walking at the beach where positivity permeates?
     Because I’ve been exercising this way for years, and I’m used to it.
Stop it. Go to the beach. You deserve the time, mileage, parking fees, sunshine, cleansing breezes, pelican and dolphin sightings, message-filled-beach-meandering treasures, and the ever-changing beauty of the horizon.
Trust me. It’s safe to release dysfunctional habits and thought patterns. It’s safe to go forth. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Oh. That’s a good message.
When I think of the term “spiritual journey,” I usually visualize a rocky mountain path curving upward. But today my path seems straight and true, “Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
I don’t know what I’ll come upon as I journey along, but I know who travels with me, and I know to whom I’m going.
Spiritual Journeys aren’t always rigorous mountain climbs. Sometimes the trail runs downhill to a rocking-chair porch with people who love you, or unwinds at home on a cozy couch with family and felines, or rambles by a shoreline where the sea whispers sweet somethings to your heart.
During those times when your spiritual journey levels off, where does your path lead you? How does God show up for you there?

     “The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. ‘Blessed is the fruit of thy womb’ it says in Luke 1:42; and ‘His fruit was sweet to my palate’ in Canticles 2:3. This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle, and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in the word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell, and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘Jesu-the very thought is sweet . . . sweeter than honey far.’”  -- St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, SUNDAY SERMONS
I’m a sermon connoisseur. Whether they are satisfying a particular question, serving up something completely new to me, or reviving my faith, I love sermons. For me, sermons are as much a part of a Holy Communion Service as the bread and wine because they feed my hunger for spiritual wisdom.
My favorite sermons are those that show me a new way of looking at a situation that completely changes my understanding and gives me hope for the future.
Of course, there are those Sundays in which the sermon doesn’t speak to me at all. No worries, I can usually find a good one to read on social media. Or I can go to the saints, such as my family’s patron, St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon.
Anthony (formerly Fernando Martins de Bulhoes) was raised in Lisbon, Portugal, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest. Later he became a Franciscan Friar who served quietly with deep humility in Italy.
Eventually, Anthony’s superiors, including the head of his order, St. Francis of Assisi, discovered his theological knowledge and gift for preaching. They encouraged him to speak his heart and spread the word.
Overjoyed to receive this permission, Anthony became a teacher of friars preparing for priesthood and a life of preaching.
The above passage seems like an entire sermon in one paragraph – he quotes scripture, explains, suggests, and even ends by quoting a popular song of his day (Jesu Dulci Memoria). His advice is to read the gospels and remember that in all moments of His life on earth and in heaven, Jesus Christ is pure goodness.
In other words, there is no historical moment when Jesus became Christ on earth, he was the complete package his whole life. God’s gift of the baby Jesus contains the Crucifixion of Christ, and the Resurrection of Christ includes the death of the baby Jesus.  Christmas and Easter are meaningless without each other. Together, they mean everything.
That’s a perspective I can get behind in much the same way that we stand, metaphorically, behind the saints as they guide us, through their examples and teachings, ever closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In what ways has your understanding of God deepened by listening to or reading someone else’s perspective? Who was your guide?

I have three more compilings to go. Sign up to follow me here and on Facebook at Saints and Recipes.