11.1.17

All Saints Day

 
November 1st is All Saints Day. We will be celebrating it on Sunday the 5th. In reality we are all saints, but historically who were the ones we remember on this day? And what is a saint with a capital S and how does one become one?
 
A saint is someone having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. But some are considered worthy of greater honor. Official ecclesiastical recognition and veneration is given through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
 
Many religions have similar concepts. Saints across various cultures and religious have the following qualities: exemplary model, extraordinary teacher, wonder worker or exert a powerful attraction and touch the inner lives of others in transforming ways, intercessor, a life of refusing material attachments, and possession of a special revelatory relation to the Holy.
 
The Catholic Church teaches it does not make or create saints, but rather recognizes them. The stages of canonization is a lengthy process and often takes years or even centuries. A saint may be designated as a patron saint to a particular cause, profession or invoked as protector against specific illnesses or disasters. People may often be attracted to the charism or spirituality of a particular saint such St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, or St Ignatius.
 
The calendar of saints is a tradition of assigning a saint for a day on the calendar commemorating the date of his or her death. These Holy Days are also called feast day. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about a few of these saints.
 
On the feast day of All Saints, let us be thankful for the bonds of love that connect us to all the saints and holy people who have gone before us and continue to journey with us. Let us be consoled by this gift of powerful goodness.
8.30.17

Four Christian Formation Sessions for Fall

Beginning Sept. 17th, I will be giving a four week Sunday series on spirituality and prayer. You may think spirituality is only for those who are ordained. Or you might think you have no more room in your very busy life to squeeze in one more thing such as prayer, except in emergencies. But you will find in the Book of Common Prayer: “prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” Many spiritual traditions echo this inclusive definition of prayer. Prayer is a form of life!
 
 
Prayer is a mindset, an attitude, dedicating every act, no matter how trivial, to God. A life set apart from the world for prayer is not our life. We want our faith and our life to connect. People pray doing their work but don’t consider it prayer. Respect for the natural world and enjoyment of its beauty feels sacred, but don’t think to call it prayer. We sense God’s presence in sport and physical movement, but don’t think we are praying with our body. Putting our faith into action, doing acts of kindness for others is our way of being spiritual.
 
 
Prayer may not be a quiet time set apart. It may be embedded in our actions, the compassion we show, or the art we create. Our love and respect for beauty in the world causes gratitude to well up in our hearts, but we hesitate to call it prayer, of living a spiritual life. Our lives are too busy, too complicated, too worldly to have the quality of what we consider prayer. Yet our lives are filled with prayer. Prayer takes a variety of forms: in action, a kindness, an attitude, and in creative endeavors. Even in the busyness, sacred moments break through: in the nudge to go here and not there, an intuition is given us, at moments when awe and wonder overwhelm us. Prayer on the go like this count. Our life and work are sacred callings and are holy.
 
 
The desire to connect with God is a seed planted within us by the Holy Spirit. We didn’t plant it, God did. We water it and nourish its growth. Our daily lives become a living prayer, our response to the unceasing presence of God within us and around us.
 
 
This is what we will be looking at during the four weeks of the series. We will explore how our lives are really more spiritual than we were aware of. We will also explore different ways of praying that traditionally are called spiritual disciplines. There are dozens of pathways of prayer because not one way fits all. We will look at how to pray with scripture, Centering Prayer, praying with beads and walking a labyrinth and much more. Hopefully this will pique your curiosity and desire to learn more about our spiritual life and God’s presence with us.
 
 
Deacon Kathryn
 
 
NOTE: On September 10, a preview of the two adult formation classes will be presented at 9:15am, followed by a forum introducing the new Sammamish Police Chief, Michelle Bennett.
 
8.23.17

"Spirituality and Prayer"

 
Over 2000 years of Christianity has left us a wealth of timeless spiritual prayer practices. Not all of us relate to God in the same way. Each one of us is unique and so is our way of approaching God in prayer.
 
Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic, wrote: “Prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”
 
Prayer teaches us to be honest-before God and with oneself. Honest prayer arises in an attitude of humility that opens the mind and heart, our whole being, to God. In humility we renounce our own power and acknowledge our dependence on God. It is in this truth that we practice the presence of God in the midst of our sometimes chaotic daily lives. 
 
Join me on a journey of discovery to look for ways to mature and grow into a practice-centered life of prayer, prayer that speaks to each of us wherever we are in our journey of faith. Starting Sept 17th through Oct. 8th I will be offering four Sunday forums on ways to pray that cover a wealth of timeless Christian tradition.
8.16.17

"Spirituality and Prayer"

 
Where is the summer going? It seemed slow in getting here and now fall is speeding towards us. Program planning and calendar scheduling all create feelings of both excitement and anxiety. Oh for the endless spacious summer days of childhood!
 
One of the exciting things at Good Samaritan this fall is that Adult Formation will be offering two options. Fr. Steve will be giving one and I’ve been asked to give four Sundays on Spirituality and Pathways of Prayer. This should be a fun time to discover what spirituality is and what that means in our lives.
 
Most of us grew up learning to pray in very simple and limited ways: saying grace at meals, bedtime prayer, asking God for things, thanksgiving, and intercessions for others. There are many more ways to finding the presence of God. One way of praying doesn’t fit everyone. And our prayer needs change during different times and situations of our life. The great pilgrims and saints in our Christian history have left us a wealth of wisdom and ways of praying to fit our own individual spirituality and personalities. 
 
Our lives are already so busy with work and family. There is a tyranny of time in our culture. We truly desire more time for prayer in our lives, more peace and serenity in the chaos, but there seems to be not enough time. This will not be a time to add one more thing to carve out more time for. You may be surprised to discover that you are already praying with your life but never considered it real prayer. I hope you will come to explore and share the struggle of living a spirit filled life in the midst of the grist of living.
6.7.17

June 24th Retreat

 
When was the last time you were on a quiet retreat? Maybe you’ve never been on one. Or the only retreats you’ve attended were job related and it was concentrated brain-storming. That is not what will be happening on June 24th. On that day I will be creating a quiet space to reflect on how God has been revealing himself through your life. It will be a time away from the busyness of our hectic lives, a time away to relax and allow yourself to rest in God’s presence.
 
I remember the first retreat I attended. Actually it was three days of silence. I was in nursing school and the Catholic girls had to make an annual retreat. The first year I stayed in the dorm with the other Protestant girls. It was very boring. The following year I got curious and signed up. I wasn’t sure I could be silent that long and I had no idea what would happen. There were three or four short talks in the chapel during the days and lots of time to walk the grounds of the retreat house and read. I discovered I really liked this kind of retreat. Now I go on quiet retreats every year and come back totally refreshed.
 
If you are longing for an oasis of peace in your life consider signing up for the retreat on June 24th, 9:30-2:30 at my home.
 5.31.17

Country Retreat

 
Rumor has it that Philip and I live “waaaay” out in the country. Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I drive to Good Samaritan in 22 minutes. In the morning, Philip gets to the U. of Wa. in 35 minutes. Bellevue is half an hour away. The drive here is lovely. You leave behind the noise and traffic. Soon you are in the trees and countryside. You pass cows grazing knee deep in grass and by the time you arrive you are no longer frazzled and need a Scotch. You are de-stressed, relaxed and happy. The peace and beauty surround you. You get out of the car and look at the view, take a deep breathe and everything is better.
 
We looked for property for 2 ½ years. Then one day it all fell into place and happened suddenly. Philip saw a listing. The next day I drove out for a drive-by. The seller was there and beckoned me in for a look. We talked and found we had so many of the same connections that I knew it was no coincidence. 
 
We came out with our realtor that same evening, made a bid the next morning and it was accepted at our asking price. No haggling. A God moment! Same thing with Good Samaritan. I visited, and then invited Philip to visit as well. Within 5 minutes he tells me he feels comfortable here. Another God moment. 
 
The giftedness of this place demands that it is not just for us but must be shared. The spaciousness allows for family weekend gatherings, dinners on the huge porch and lots of space to stroll or run about on the lawn, through the vegetable garden and orchard beyond.
 
And that is why I’m offering a Saturday retreat on June 24th 9:30 to 2:30. It will be a quiet day to pause and reflect on the sacredness of our lives and try perhaps some new ways of praying that can enrich your spirit.  A simple lunch will be served. The sign up sheet is in the back of church. The space is limited to 12 so don’t hesitate. I will post directions later on.
4.12.17

What do the palms say?

 

What do the palms say?
    We are the rustling witnesses.
    We hear the cheering crowds, the color, the clamor.
    Jesus, constant and solemn on the colt, no victor’s stallion.
    Tense times with the threat of arrest.

What do the palms say?
    We know what you want-
    More free loaves and fishes,
    More miracles and healings.
    Oh, you fickle people.

What do the palms say?
    You want a king to free you from Rome,
    A king like David of old.
    You long to relive the past.
    Alas, you think you know what Jesus’ kingdom should look like.
 
What do the palms say?
    But our thoughts are not God’s thoughts,
    Our ways not His ways.
    Jesus teaches love.
    His kingdom is of peace,
    He is the Prince of Peace.
 
What do the palms say?
    Two wrongs never make a right or peace can never reign.
    His kingdom absorbs all hurts, heartaches and harshness.
    It is about peace and service to other, giving, going the extra mile.
 

What do they the palms say?
    You are caught up in the present excitement.
    The test comes in the coming week when all will change.
    Can we stand by him in conflict?
    Can we wash his weary feet?
    Do we stay awake in the garden?
    Stand by at the cross,
    Our hearts and souls pierced?
 

What do the palms say?
    This is the test of our faithfulness.
    Can we strive for holiness in tough times
    When God seems far and all is dark,
    When life seems empty and aimless?
    Can we trust such times are growing times,
    Growth in faithfulness and holiness?
 

What do the palms say?

What do the palms say to you?
3.29.17

A Lenten Reflection

I’m not exactly surprised when Lent arrives, but I am never quite ready for it either. It somehow comes too soon and it takes me a while to sink into it. It’s a long journey with Jesus to the cross. I know what is coming and it’s hard not to shrink from it. It’s not just the death but the unjust, agonizing torture. I’m humbled by the extent to which pure love will go for me, for all of us.
 
I’m not afraid of death. I’ve looked it in the eye many times as a nurse. I’ve stood at the foot of the cross of cancer as my first husband died when a young man. It’s the intense anxiety I hate and the pain when part of my very heart is ripped out, leaving a throbbing hole.
 
Lent is a time to once again peel another layer of attachments and ego away. It is death to selfishness. It creates a hole, a tomb that can only be filled by love, the pure love of Christ. And in his crucifixion, he comes into that tomb to bring his light which bursts forth into the new life of his resurrection. 
 
All births feel like death. I’m sure a fetus feels like it is dying when it is squeezed and pushed through the dark before bursting into the blinding light of life. Our own death, through the tunnel of darkness into the brilliance of heaven, is a birthing into the new life of resurrection. 
 
Dying and rising. It is the pattern of life. Each day dies at evening and night dies with each new dawn. We ritualize it in our baptism. We die to the old in order to rise into the new life of Christ, to become members of his very body.
 
Lent is a time to pray for the grace to walk with Jesus to his ultimate fate. We cannot desire this on our own but must ask God for the grace to open us to this intimacy with Jesus, to share his sorrow and have compassion for him. As mind-boggling as it may seem perhaps, Jesus wants us near as part of our mutual friendship; it is a comfort to him. This grace fills us with compassion. Indeed, the mystical body of Christ is still suffering in all the people who suffer on this earth. Such compassion means taking on the heart of Christ and the compassion of God.
 
Love is mutual sharing of what one has and is; thus, God, who is love, shares with us what he has and is. We would not exist if God did not share life with us out of love. Moreover, God wants us to share in his own community of life, the life of the Trinity. God also desires that we share what we have and are with him. God desires our love and mutual friendship. We are also called into the universal community where we share and care for everyone. Then, we truly are part of the joy of the Trinity and God’s dream for the world.
3.16.17

"Fasting and Feasting in Lent"

 

The Church instructs use to fast, pray and alms-giving during Lent in preparation for Easter. Better than giving up chocolate, perhaps this might be a better way to go.

Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purity.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-violence.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from discouragement; Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; Feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.

3.8.17

Last Sunday's Gospel - Matthew 4:1

Usually this Gospel reading about the temptations of Jesus is talking about the worldly values of prosperity, power and prestige. I found this reflection by the Loyola Press, a Jesuit Ministry, an interesting poetic twist.

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert.
 
There was so much sand in all directions that it seemed like air or water-not a thing in itself, just what contained everything else. So it was the scattered stones, the only objects in that barren landscape, that Jesus noticed. And when the voice came, what else was there to talk about? Turn these stones into bread, it said. Or send angels to save you from dashing yourself on a rock. Jesus stayed seated among the stones. And see these stones laid out like kingdoms? The voice said. “All these I shall give to you.” Yet it was not the stones at all but the man who was the bread of life, the stumbling block, the kingdom. So the voice disappeared, and suddenly it was as if every stone became an angel and gathered around the one who was and is the everlasting Rock.
3.1.17

“Turning the Tables”

Rev. Kathryn Ballinger
As a child, I was taught that Jesus was gentle, meek and mild. Now, I also believe he was strong, courageous, and very clever. Much of what we have been taught doesn’t tell the whole story. What did some of his teachings really mean in the context of his time, culture, and life in an oppressed nation under Roman rule?
 
 
Once I attended a workshop given by a Seattle University professor where I learned some very enlightening interpretations on Matthew 5. Jesus has been saying, “Do not resist an evildoer; if someone strikes your right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone sues you and takes your coat, give him your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to walk one mile, go the second mile.” So how do we reconcile Jesus’ teaching about non-violence and what we have been taught as the Christian way, which seems passive and even cowardly?
 
 
Jesus never displayed that kind of passivity. The Greek word for “resist” means to “stand against.” It is a military term meaning to stand your ground and not flee the enemy. Jesus is telling us to oppose evil by transcending it by finding a way to be assertive yet non-violent.
 
What about turning the other cheek? A right handed strike would land on the left check. To hit someone on the right cheek would require the left hand which was only used for unclean tasks. The only feasible blow is a backhand which was meant not to injure but to insult and humiliate. It was a sign of domination to a non-equal subject. Turning the other cheek makes it impossible to use the backhand. Only equals fought with their right hands. The last thing a master wanted was to establish equality. By turning the other cheek, the inferior one is saying: “I am a human like you, I refuse to be humiliated. I am your equal and won’t take it anymore.”
 
 
In a second example, a creditor has taken a poor man to court over an unpaid loan. As collateral, the poor man has given up his coat, but by Old Testament law it had to be returned at night because it was all he had to sleep in against the cold. Roman taxes were exorbitant, humiliating the Jews be stripping them of their lands and goods, even the clothes off their backs. Jesus is not advising people to renounce justice, but to use the system against itself. By giving up his cloak as well, the poor man would be walking out of court stark naked! Nakedness was taboo in Judaism. Shame fell less on the naked person than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness. By stripping, the debtor brought shame on the creditor. The debtor had turned the tables on the system. Imagine the guffaws this saying must have evoked.
 
 
The rank and file Roman soldier had to carry his own pack and baggage, but he could legally coerce someone to carry it for one mile and no more, as was the command to Simon the Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross. The second mile was an infraction of military code and was punishable by stiff fines or flogging. By walking the extra mile, the oppressed took the initiative and threw the soldier off balance. Imagine the soldier pleading with a Jew to give back his pack. The humor was not lost on Jesus’ listeners.
 
 
Jesus’ teaching on no-violence reveals the evil of an unjust system by unmasking the cruelty and offers a way for his people to liberate themselves from servile actions and mentality. It is integral to the dawning of the reign of God, a way to recover their dignity and freedom while still under Roman rule. Jesus offers a way to oppose evil, fired in the crucible of love, a way where we do not become what we hate. He points us toward a new way for personal and social transformation today as well.
2.8.17

"What is a Deacon?"

Many people seem confused about deacons. Some people don’t even realize we’re clergy and ordained, even though we wear a collar. They see us every Sunday in the liturgy, proclaiming the Gospel, bidding the prayers of the people and leading confession, setting the table, distributing the bread and wine, cleaning up and giving the final dismissal. But they are not clear about how we differ from priests. Reading the ordination promises of each in the Book of Common Prayer spells it out.

 

Deacons function not only in the liturgy, but they must have a ministry outside of the church. They are the bridge between the church and the world, bringing the concerns of the world to the church for prayer and action, and living the gospel in the world. Many deacons have ministries with the poor, sick and lonely, and in social justice. The ministry depends on the gifts and charism of each deacon.

 

My ministry is holistic health: body, mind, and spirit. I have been a Registered Nurse for over 40 years with a Master’s in Counseling and I have 35 years of experience in spiritual direction. A more modern term might be spiritual companion or guide. It is not counseling. The formation takes years of study and training but also experience in in-depth prayer. Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on their spiritual journeys. Simply put, it is helping people tell their sacred stories. It explores the deeper spiritual aspects of being human and also the different pathways of prayer and meditation. It is all about finding meaning and purpose in relationship to the Holy One. The Holy Spirit is always in the midst of such conversations. God is constantly and gently drawing us to Himself. He turns all the grist of the mill of life into good. A spiritual director helps discern where God is in the experiences of life and to learn to listen to what God is saying to us.