Loving Myself, Loving You

“Walking the Anglican Way” is the way of the middle; there is a lot of freedom here. It helps those of us who have come from other traditions. I bring an evangelistic heart learned from the Baptists but also a heart for the poor learned from John Wesley’s followers (including not only the Methodists but The Salvation Army and the Pentecostals). The Anglicans took me in with all of my ecclesiastical baggage. Another camp are the contemplatives, and so I was not at all surprised when I heard that my pastor, Father Thomas McKenzie, is connected to the Benedictines (a Roman Catholic school of thought and way of living). I’d visited that camp before, and was glad to buy a copy of a book he recommended, LIVING WITH CONTRADICTION, Reflections on the Rule of St. Benedict by Esther De Waal. I have not been disappointed.
Jesus said to remember these two things: Love God with all my heart and my mind and my soul, and love my neighbor as myself. While at some level I understand the words, I have found them increasingly difficult to live out. Actually, God who is never rude or unkind and who came to earth and died for me is pretty easy to love. The other part is what gets me. Not “who is my neighbor?” but how do I work this out when I recognize them? What if they don’t want to know me or my Jesus? What if they maintain distance from me for whatever reason? Where do boundaries come in? You can see that I’d got myself in a muddle.
A question that I have not seen addressed exactly is, “Why should I love myself?” Not that I don’t think of myself: my needs, my wants, my fears, my hopes and dreams, because of course I do, a lot. But from God’s point of view, why should I love myself? Haven’t I failed Him? That is exactly the kind of thinking that contradicts Jesus’ best for me. It might sound like humility, but actually it is pride. It begs for some kind of approval: No, really, Carol, you’re great! But as De Waal discusses in a chapter called “Living with Myself,” I am not loved because of anything that I do. The world tempts me to think this way. How much money do I have? How many degrees have I earned? What title have I achieved? Am I lovable enough? As De Waal says: What I need to remind myself of time and again, until I am at last convinced, is that I am loved and accepted by God just as I am (p. 46).
Now here is the part that frees me (quoting De Waal again):

And now look at what we so often do to people: we batter them with our demands and expectations, we try to influence them to behave in a certain way, we subtly manipulate them to do the things that will please us…though of course we would maintain that it is only for their own good.

The Anglican Way, the Middle Way, is the way of love. Whatever loving my neighbor means, it does not mean seeking to control them even when it looks like they’re on the path of destruction. That’s what I have heard today. Love having been loved offers hospitality and generosity to all in Christ’s name. But it is Christ who is the real host at the table.


The Little Way

One month ago I was confirmed into the Anglican faith—or the Christian faith in the Anglican tradition. My life certainly has changed. One week later I was hired to assist my good friend in her work as Quality of Life Director at a local rehabilitation and wellness center. I love my job. After praying for months, years even, to find my “sweet spot” as Max Lucado calls it in his book Cure for the Common Life, I have. Yes, I have a paycheck again, and I am so thankful. But even more, I get to walk those halls making conversation, inviting folks to meetings, going for walks, encouraging them, sometimes laughing, and even praying. Yes, praying is encouraged. I am delighted.
One of my “chores” is to lead an encouragement group. I lead in a manner similar to a life story writing group I’m involved in elsewhere. To prepare, throughout the week, I listen. That’s the only way I can describe it. I listen for what the Spirit is saying to me either through Scripture or a book I’m reading or a poem or whatever. Then I meditate on that and listen again for whether this might be helpful for someone else. It usually is.
On my bedroom wall is a tapestry with a well-known quote by Mother Teresa: We can do no great things, only small things with great love. It was a gift from my sister on the occasion of my ordination. Most of the time I believe it; sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I fret that I haven’t done bigger things. I fret about bad choices; I fret that I made one decision and not another. So I think I needed to be reminded one more time about “small things.”
Last evening, I picked up one of the books at my bedside and came across a chapter in the book Prayer by Richard J. Foster. He tells about The Little Way of Therese of Lisieux who lived quite a few hundred years before Mother Teresa. According to Foster, she devised a prayer-filled approach to life that anyone can do. She said to seek out the menial job, to welcome unjust criticisms, to befriend those who annoy us, to help those who are ungrateful. Give me a book to read and report on; let me do a research paper; assign me a sermon to preach or even a meal to cook. But…this? It appears that I have a lot of growing to do. But instead of “bigger,” I have to get smaller: less important, not more so. This “rule” however is something like trying to work on humility: to concentrate on oneself in that way becomes a little silly if not out and out sinful.
So what can I do? I can simply let go of trying to defend myself or promote myself and look out to the next person I meet who might need a smile or a kind word, something small that anyone can do. This Anglican way is also being willing to walk alongside someone who is suffering. That, too, has been part of the experience of this month. My dear friend and family have suffered a terrible loss, and all I can do is stand by her side, helpless to make a difference. Others I meet in my work also suffer. Some don’t want my Jesus, my prayers, or anything to do with God. Then I need to offer more, not less. More patience, more kindness, more service. It might be a small thing, but Jesus will have to help me walk this “little way.”

The Power of Friendship

Depression according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. 

More than one of my acquaintances have suffered from depression.  It makes me angry:  angry that women who are precious to their families and to me are so far back in their own private darkness that they are barely able to function much less enjoy life (or I admit it, friendship with me).  I am no expert on this subject.  But I have suffered, too, and yet I have been able to walk through the sad days to another, better day.  What could make the difference for those lovely, sad women I have known?  One thing I know, I was not able to help them.  They shut me out.  When I have suffered sadness, sometimes I prayed.  Praise is a gift God gave me when my husband died and I was living in England alone.  A lot of the time I just did the best I could with what resources I had at hand, and I waited.  Waiting seems to be one key, because waiting implies hope. “I’m in a down mood today, but I have hope that my life will get better.” 

I thought of this again today as I listened to an interview of a philosopher/historian on National Public Radio.  She approached this subject from a non-religious aspect.  But she was alarmed that suicide is increasingly common among young people in our country. She seemed to be saying, “Suicide is immoral because of the people who know us and who will be affected by this tragedy.”  The thing is, a depressed person has somehow convinced himself or herself that no one cares.  The truth is, as my pastor said this morning, making friends is difficult for adults.  Probably the saddest thing I have experienced in my own personal life is the coldness of people I reached out to for friendship.  They kept me at a distance.  I’m not talking about people out in the community somewhere; I’m talking about church ladies–people I really wanted to get to know.  Their aloofness astounded me.  So I know how hard this is.  I do remember thinking, “I can’t try anymore.”  Depression was a very real threat.  But I resisted.  Somehow, I held on and things did indeed get better.  But it took one friendly woman to make a difference for me.

This morning, Father Thomas preached about Jesus healing the blind man, and about spiritual blindness and spiritual sight.  Jesus let the religious men know that he recognized their blindness and he called them on it.  But they were furious.  So how do we as the religious people of our day prevent ourselves from becoming spiritually blind?  Thomas said, as did the philosopher/historian, that friendship is what we need.  Of course, we need Jesus, but we also need someone who knows us well and who we allow into our life, who can say, “I see this in your life and I am concerned.  How can I help?”  Father Thomas was right, as he usually is.  There is one aspect of this that we could miss.  We have to take responsibility for allowing someone in.  One more thing.  Those of us who do have friends?  We can recognize the great need everyone has, and be alert.  Ask God to open our blind eyes that we not become smug nor cold-hearted.  We have the power to change someone’s life:  the power of friendship. 

When You Go to Meet the Archbishop and Jesus Shows Up

            I really did not expect to be writing so soon after my confirmation into the Anglican Church.  But something happened that I didn’t expect and I need to write about it.  We were asked to be there 15 minutes early to rehearse and I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for someone to arrive at least 30 minutes early; the pastor waved to me as he drove in and the Archbishop saw me, too, and waved and smiled.  It was a little embarrassing. 

            Maybe I should just title this, “What happens when you go to church to meet the Archbishop and Jesus shows up.”  Actually, I had met the bishop the day before at the ordination ceremony for three priests, one of whom I knew.  Truth be told, I wanted to check out the bishop, for he would be laying hands on me the next day.   Maybe I wanted to feel safe.  That was my first mistake, thinking that I could be “safe.”  Did Moses feel safe when God told him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground? 

            After we received our instructions, I sat down close to my Bible teacher and her husband, in the second row.  At the proper time, the Bishop stood up to preach.  I had read what I thought was the day’s Gospel passage earlier that morning, so I wasn’t prepared for what came next.  The Bishop began to talk about the Samaritan woman and her encounter with Jesus.   As he spoke, I began to weep, sobs that came from somewhere deep inside.  I was that Samaritan woman, the woman with five husbands and the current one that “she hadn’t bothered to marry.”  As Jesus engaged her, He engaged me.  But as the Bishop spoke, I wasn’t being condemned.  Jesus was saving me; forgiving me, healing my shame.  Then it was my turn to go up to receive the blessing.  I could identify with that Samaritan woman when she said about Jesus, “He told me everything I ever did.”  The Bishop smiled at me as I knelt before him and He seemed to know that for me, it was very much like Jesus himself was smiling.   

            The preacher said that Jesus saves insiders and outsiders.  I could identify with both.  All I know is, when you approach that altar (where the priest stands, where the Bishop sits, where Jesus comes), you might not be safe but you can expect to be known and forgiven and healed and loved. 

            I don’t think Jesus did this only for me.  Oh, He did indeed bless me.  But I think he wants me to go out and find some other woman who is feeling condemned by past sins and He wants me to offer her forgiveness and healing in Jesus’ name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done. 






            For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  Ephesians 1: 4  TNIV version


            The Bishop is coming!  Actually, the Archbishop.  He is coming to ordain several people as priests and to lay hands on those of us who are being confirmed.  I am excited.  I’ve always appreciated the connection to other Christians, and by being confirmed into the Anglican Communion, I will belong to Christians all over the world.  Of course, I belong to all the others, too (though some might disown me), but this group will claim me.  It’s like the adage, “Home is where when you knock they have to let you in.”  Once I belong, they have to let me in!

            The more formal atmosphere is conducive to worship for me, creating a sacred space.  But I admit that the clothing of the priests (pastors) and especially the pictures of the bishops in those pointy hats have been a bit confusing.  I remember thinking, “If Christ could walk around the dusty roads of Jerusalem wearing simple clothes, what are those men thinking?”   (There are women priests, too, of course, but more men; it was convenient to blame the men.)

            It didn’t take long for the Spirit to check.  Do I in fact live as simply as Jesus did?  Do I not enjoy my electric appliances, my cell phone, my kindle, my computer, my car?  Oh, dear, this really applies to another lesson I seem to need to learn one more time this Lenten season.  It goes back to a moment in my past when I had a “knowing.”  No matter my good intentions, no matter how much I wanted to live in love and in peace with people, sooner or later I would sin against my neighbor.  I appreciate the Anglican confession on Sunday morning.  We confess to God that “We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” 

            The thing is, though we are being sanctified as we abide in Jesus and in His Word, it’s just impossible not to hurt someone’s feelings occasionally or slight someone or ignore someone who needs us, not to mention other sundry ways we find to disappoint our Lord (like judging the Bishop’s clothing).  Sometimes people take offense and we mean no offense.  We want to live in love, but it is an intentional, slow process to grow into full maturity and to be perfected in love.  Till the day we die, we need to confess our sins and be forgiven.  Also, we need to freely forgive others.  We need to examine ourselves before we come to the Lord’s Table, our pastor reminded us recently.  That’s what Lent is good for, I think.  We take stock of our lives, we examine ourselves, and we repent if necessary.

            Oh, and by the way, I got my answer about the bishop’s hat!  I wrote this and saved it a few days.   In the meantime, my Bible teacher just happened to send me a link to a video explaining just about every detail of the Anglican way of worship (called the “Nuts and Bolts of Anglican Liturgy.”)  Now I know!  The pointed hat reminds us of the flame of the Holy Spirit and the two pieces of clothing hanging down in the back speak of both the Old and New Testaments.  I recommend this video (5 years old now) and also a book being written by my own pastor, Rev. Thomas McKenzie.  Oh, yes, I love this Anglican Church.  Confirmation is four days away. 



            I’ve been avoiding Ash Wednesday for most of my life.  Finally, it’s caught up with me!  Actually, Father Thomas’s sermon on Sunday clinched it.  In preaching about Satan’s temptation of Jesus (and of us), he said there were really three good questions.  Who’s going to provide for me?  Who do you trust?  Who has control?   He talked about four human conditions that put us in danger:  hunger, anger, loneliness and fatigue.  This made sense to me; the only thing I saw missing was financial stress.  I frequently get tested there, but it’s been exciting over the past five years since I bought my little house to see God provide for me.  I’ve been tested frequently with expenses I wasn’t prepared for.  Time and time again, God has provided.  I mean checks in the mail that I did not expect, had no reason to expect again and that came again anyway.  I would look “up” and pray, “Lord, how many more times can you do this for me?”  God is definitely the one I trust for my financial needs.

            Trusting God for my emotional needs has probably taken a bit more work.  Without going into all the sad times when I didn’t trust, I’ll mention one when I did.   I had moved into graduate student housing at the age of 50, starting over in more ways than one.  My roommate went home to her husband every Friday, and every Friday I felt the loneliness.   Finally, I offered up my loneliness to my Lord.  I didn’t feel like I had anything else to give at that point.  Very soon, I met Bud Roberts who became my sweet companion for two years and three months of marriage.  But in those two short years we lived in England, did ministry together, traveled around like kids with backpacks on our backs visiting cathedrals and charity shops and the like.  I loved the ferry that took us back across the water to the Isle of Wight and our little granny flat and loving friends Brian and Betty with whom we lived that year.  I read a book at that time called A Severe Mercy about another story similar to ours.  Bud died of cancer.  That mercy of God’s, to allow our very short marriage, certainly seemed severe at the time.  But meeting Bud was one example of God meeting emotional needs—mine and Bud’s.  My husband said to me soon after we met, “I don’t want to die alone.”  He did not know then that a malignant tumor was growing inside his body.  But indeed he did not die alone. I needed ultimately to learn to trust God for my emotional needs, and finally, I do.  He is my very sufficient companion. 

            But Ash Wednesday this year tested something else:  hunger, or at least what I think of as hunger.  I realized at the end of one short day of fasting that in fact I am never hungry.  This is important; my health is at stake.  I know what to do:  allow myself to actually get hungry before I eat, and train my mind that I will not die if my stomach growls.  Ultimately, God is in control of how long I live…but I think He’s asking for a little cooperation here.  I’m trying.  Anyway, thanks Father Thomas, I needed that.



“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and the second is like it:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matt. 22:35-39


            One of my favorite authors discovered recently is Dallas Willard.  He wrote a book about hearing God.  It was the richest, most satisfying book I had read in a long time.  Of course, I, too, have been walking with God a long time, and I, too, have learned to listen for God.  Sometimes I hear Him, sometimes I don’t.  It would seem that after walking this walk with God for 50 or so years, I could get it right, but I don’t always.  Amy, a sweet-natured cook, comes on Channel 4 some days and says in her tiny voice, “I’m not the perfect cook” – and then she teaches us how to fix a pretty perfect meal.  “I’m not the perfect cook, but if I can fix this delicious meal in 30 minutes, so can you.”  And we believe her. 

            The assistant pastor’s sermon a couple Sundays ago was convicting; I wanted to go home and write some checks.  Then I did my budget and realized I had less money in the checking account than I thought I did, but I’d already told the pastor I would do it.  Should I tell him I had been too eager and couldn’t carry out my impulsive claim?  Would he think the lesser of me if I did that?  Did it matter?    

            What I think was going on was the kind of self-love that continues to need other peoples’ approval.  It’s a hard habit to break.  So I prayed.  I asked God to help me to be thankful for the things I am asked to do and that He enables me to do.  Then I prayed, “Please, help me to let go of people and places and acts of service that are not my responsibility.”  I know in my heart that it’s the Lord whom I need to please.  I want to know it in my sub-conscious, in my dreams even.  I also know that loving God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself does not mean pleasing everyone or fixing anyone.  It doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to every need.  It doesn’t mean I have to be perfect.  (Well, it does sort of but it’s with God’s help and this is not the place for that conversation.)

            I get to do so many things:  advocate and assist, pray, bake, teach, lead, serve, cook, study, listen, encourage, read,  write and show hospitality.  I am not the perfect Christian, but I think I have heard from the Lord.  God helping me, I can commit this day to God and trust Him to show me who He wants me to bless—or pray for.  I’m not the perfect Christian, but if I can hear God in this my very ordinary life, so can you.  


i love the bookshelf at my church in the front lobby (it probably has a better name but I’m new to this Anglican Way, remember).  I have just finished reading (fast, I admit, to get it over with) a book by Kathleen Norris.  I loved her first one—DAKOTA, A SPIRITUAL GEOGRAPHY—and so every now and then I give her another go.  This was hard going, as a matter of fact.  It is a subject—acedia—that the church needs to understand, but a long essay would have done it, I think.  Acedia is a painful spiritual malaise, akin to boredom and laziness and depression, but worse.  It says about everything good or bad:  I don’t care.  Thomas Merton said it is a passion (negative connotation) that if not checked, will lead to sin.   Last week there was national sad news was about the death of a heroin addict, and the reminder of how many more people in the world are addicted to drugs of all kinds,  not to mention alcohol.  These painful statistics fall along other painful ones about child abuse and neglect, sex trafficking, violence, homelessness and poverty in general.  If you weren’t depressed before reading this, you probably are now.   But there really is good news.

At Church of the Redeemer (Anglican) in Nashville we start worship by responding to the “Celebrant’s (Pastor’s) Acclamation:  “In the name of Christ who died and was raised by the glory of the Father we welcome you; grace, mercy and peace be with you all.”  The people pray:  Loving Lord, fill us with your life-giving, joy-giving, peace-giving presence, that we may praise you now with our lips and all the day long with our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  In other words, “To all sad people in the world, ‘We have an answer for your pain and your sin” – Jesus!

Then if that wasn’t enough joy, there is The Great Thanksgiving we proclaim before what I grew up calling communion.   We eat bread and drink wine together, partaking in a mystical way the Body and Blood of Christ.  I like what the priest said in class—and I am paraphrasing:  We are not like the Baptists who don’t think anything happens; and we’re not like the Catholics [who think more happens]—we’re somewhere in the middle:  something happens but we can’t really explain it.  Trust me, this is a paraphrase but I get it.  The Presence of Christ is with us and in us and all around us and who can explain that, really?  So here is what we say.

            Celebrant:       Is the Father with us?

            People:           He is.

            Celebrant:       Is Christ among us?

            People:           He is.

            Celebrant:       Is the Spirit here?

            People:           He is. 

Do you hear the joy?  Then, The Blessing after Communion is another surprise for the visitor.  The first time I heard it, I looked up startled as all the people reached their hands out toward the big cross at the front and called out:

            Celebrant:       All our problems

            People:           We send to the cross of Christ.

            Celebrant:       All our difficulties

            People:           We send to the cross of Christ

            Celebrant:       All the devil’s works

            People:           We send to the cross of Christ

            Celebrant:       All our hopes (hands uplifted this time)

            People:           We set on the risen Christ

Sometimes I look around me as I hear people call out these words:  young people, men and women, older ones, too—all actually saying these words as if they mean it.  I think they do mean it. 

It’s really the opposite of acedia.  As I experience this worship, I weep.  There is a sense of community, so it’s not just “Jesus and me” here.  That last celebration speaks the reality of “we.”  We come into that place with money problems, marriage and family tensions, work pressures, and so forth, but during that hour or so, WE come to the cross of Christ together.  Together we go out informed, inspired and strengthened, and together we look forward to the next time we meet.  To all sad people, we have an answer for your pain and your sin:  we set our hopes on the risen Christ, and so can you.   I can’t explain it, you just have to be there.


A Little Help from God (again)

Woke up this morning with two sorts of thoughts:  thankful for the various ways I serve as a volunteer but apprehensive about this big decision I’m being invited to make:  do I confirm my faith and my desire to be a member of the Anglican Church world wide…or just go and attend and put it off another year?  Of course, none of us knows whether we even have another year.  As the sun came up this morning, I brooded over other (bad) decisions I’ve made.  Is God in this, guiding me, or am I just pushing this because I love worshiping there so much?  Will I be allowed to serve there in ways that are using my gifts?  Is that a selfish desire?  After finding “Morning Prayer” on my Kindle, I checked my e-mail.   I’m on a lot of lists:  Voice of the Martyr, Wycliffe Bible Translators, to name a few.  Another one is Sojourners.  Sometimes I read these posts, sometimes I don’t take the time.  This morning for some reason I read Sojourners.  The blog was by Joy Wallis, the founder’s wife.  I did not know that they were Brits (“Anglican simply means “of England”). The bio stated that Joy Carroll Wallis was among the first women to be ordained to the priesthood in England in 1994.  That was the year I entered Emory University, Candler School of Theology and began a journey that would take me to marriage and a year’s internship with the British Methodist Church, and eventual ordination in 1999.  Those two years in England were not always easy but they were life changing, more than I knew.  I never really got used to being back “home.”  

The thing is, Joy Carroll Wallis moved to America with her husband (the president of Sojourners) and the blog I was reading was about being a “priest” in or out of the formal ministry.  The entire blog is good, but I need to quote from her last paragraph:  

“These days I feel thankful for the grace of being able not to work and the great thing is that although I have chosen to be an “at-home” mom, the priest has not disappeared.  I have discovered a wonderful integration of priesthood and family that is immensely satisfying…”   

Only God knows how this spoke to me.  I’m in a different place in life; my children are rearing children of their own.   I have noticed this same integration myself, but today I needed to be reminded.  While I left the full-time formal ministry, I didn’t leave my commitment to serve God.  God has helped me be creative in serving in the name of Jesus in the past and He’s already given me an idea for the future.  But today this blog by a former Anglican (female) priest was timely.  Finding Anglicanism in America has been a precious gift.  I can receive it with a thankful heart. 


I have been baptized three times.  My parents took me to the local Presbyterian Church to be baptized as an infant.  When I was nine years old, I asked to be baptized by immersion at the Church of the Brethren where my parents took me on Sunday mornings.  Afterwards, I asked my Mom, “Does this make me a child of God?”  I don’t remember her answer, and at age nine I think I knew I was going to have to work this out myself.  Oddly enough, at 71 years of age, I am indeed “working this out myself.”   It’s about time, I guess.  At age 20, I was baptized by immersion together with my husband after I really knew who Jesus was and believed in Him.  This additional baptism was required of “new believers.”  Now I am dealing with the subject of infant baptism and how it relates to salvation.

When my own children were born, I remember that there was something cold about the Church’s basically ignoring their birth.   We took them to Sunday School, of course, where they heard the stories about Jesus.  I read to them stories of children’s conversion, and sure enough one by one each child asked for Jesus to “come into their heart.”  Subsequent to their prayers, each child was baptized by immersion.  But when they were born, I was so overwhelmed with the gift and the responsibility of each child’s life (especially the first time).  I needed a ritual.  What would have been wrong with baptizing them then?  As the Anglican and other churches do, they could have confirmed their baptism when they were older. 

I’ve come across a blog by an Anglican pastor from Sydney, Australia, by the name of Andrew Errington.  He wrote a sermon at the baptism of his own child.  I would like to quote part of it here: 

“…infant baptism makes it plain that salvation is more about God’s work than our response. It is only God’s sovereign, powerful grace that saves anyone; and God can save even helpless, dependent children — indeed only helpless, dependent children (cf. Mark 10:13–16). Third, infant baptism reminds us that God can and does save people who cannot make an intelligent response, whether they be children, or the mentally ill or severely disabled, or perhaps the senile. To say that only those who make an intelligent response can be baptized is to shut God’s mercy off from those we know receive it. “

I am at peace about this.  I would love to have had the ritual for my own children.   But either way, the challenge is for them, now, to follow Christ and to bring up their own children in the faith.  They are!  You can be sure this grandmother’s prayers will go up on their behalf, all of them, for all of my days. 

Now to another Wednesday night and another class in the Anglican Way.    .