christmas day liturgy

img_0133On Christmas Day I had the honor to be the guest preacher at St John’s Sudanese Episcopal Church. Worship there is an ¬†experience. Prayer and song and Scripture and Preaching all weave together and play off of each other.

Most of the worship happens in Dinka. Yet I found myself powerfully drawn in by the singing. The soaring voices, the driving drums, the joy, and the motion all gave ample opportunity for the Spirit to descend in power. The sanctuary was filled with praise and prayer as the people gave themselves to the beautiful work of worship.

Though I don’t understand Dinka, I was carried away by the worship. It was incarnational, as worship is in the Anglican tradition. I usually experience worship intellectually and emotionally. Today I experienced worship primarily emotionally and physically. Something about the drum and the voice employed in the praise of God hit me at a primal level. Also looking out at all those beautiful black faces in their Sunday best, spoke to me of home.

When the time came for the preaching, I was so fired up that all I had to do was open my mouth and the words flew out. It was one of those days when the gift was on full power. It was hard just to keep up with what the Spirit was giving me. And the people were so with me. They were talking back and encouraging me as I preached.

This was the first time in four years that I had been among the Sudanese in worship. I was pleased to see how much the community has grown. I told them how happy I was to see them thriving and growing. I took time in my sermon to speak of the children (their children, our children), as on this day we remember that God became a child. I promised I would share with diocese the good news of their growth in faith and in numbers.

After about 2 hours I took my leave of them and came home for Christmas dinner. It pleases me to have Christmas Day as the first day of my return to supply priest work. And it please me all the more to have St John Sudanese Episcopal Church be the first place for me to serve in my new role.

christmas weekend, yes!

nativity3The work week is over and I feel like I’m coming to life again. Mostly it’s because of what I’ll be doing on Saturday and Sunday.

I’ll have a nice lie in on Saturday morning. No crawling out of the bed at 5:55am and pushing myself to get ready to go to a job where I’m over-worked and under appreciated.

When I decide to get up, I’ll make myself a nice breakfast: eggs, sausage, a bagel, some coffee. I’ll finish my gift wrapping, put the final touches on the Christmas Eve sermon (a presentation of Theological Theater), and kick back until it’s time to head to Ascension.

When there, I’ll take delight in the gathered children and the assembled adults for the 4pm Eucharist with Christmas Pageant. I’ll enjoy the telling of the story from our kids. After a time of rest and fellowship I’ll get ready for the 9pm Choral Eucharist. I’ll have the joy of a full on Christmas Eve liturgical celebration with a community that I love. And then return home to hearth and home. I will honor my private Christmas Eve traditions and then retire for the night.

Sunday I’ll wake with the household to see what Santa has delivered. I’ll play with a 6-year-old as Christmas dinner is preparing. In the afternoon I’ll travel to the Church by the Side of the Road to be with St John’s Sudanese Episcopal Church for presiding and preaching. I’m looking forward to being lifted by the music of that community. Afterward I’ll return home to dinner and to a good night’s sleep. All the while I’ll dream of the Monday, when I don’t have to go to work.

Ah, the next few days look glorious.

facing unhappiness at christmas

lucy-psychiatric-helpIt was another hellish day at the job. I came home tired and hurting (which apparently is the new normal). My night’s sleep was again interrupted by all the madness swishing around in my brain. The week has been painful in many ways. Physically I’m aching at the end of each day. Emotionally I’m in pain. My sleep is hurting. I feel an all around decline in my energy and mood. I suspect that my old friend depression is back for a visit.

I’ve been listening to a reading of A Christmas Carol. This time I’ve been struck by the words of Ebenezer Scrooge in stave one:

What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you?

With the work at Prov no longer holding the promise of increased financial reward, I’m wondering about my future there. This causes me a good bit unease and has me feeling anxious. Also the growing discontent I feel at my job is beginning to eat away at me.

So it does not feel like a very merry Christmas this year. Still the good news of Jesus Christ continues to be the foundational strength of my life. When the storm is raging and I feel overwhelmed, Jesus continues to be chart and compass for me. So it is only fitting that this year I find myself preaching on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’ll be at very different venues and will preach very different homilies. May God bless the efforts.

In the midst of a lot of things that are sapping my happiness, one thing is for sure. The use of “the gift” will bring me joy and will encourage God’s people. That’s a double blessing and that will bring me joy.

promotion and raise. NOT!

aaeaaqaaaaaaaauvaaaajgyznwixnmiyltm2ndutndk4zc05otu2lwnmnji3yzkwnmqynwMy workplace has asked me to take on new duties. My previous boss (wonderful guy) is gone and the transition to whatever is next is in full swing.

Work is falling on me like lake effect snow on the east side of Cleveland. I’m struggling to learn new stuff and put new practices into place. I’m trying to handle the storm of incoming emails and calls about the changes in print at Prov.

I’m losing sleep and hair. My stress level is as high as it was two years ago when the deaths of three that I loved rocked my world. Things are tough now. No doubt about that.

However in the midst of this I’ve found a little humor. Maybe it’s black humor (double entandre intended) but I’ve decided to do what Providence won’t do. I’ve given myself a promotion and raise.

Since Prov has given me no increase in salary, I’ve decided to double their pay raise. I can afford to pay me twice nothing. And I’ve given myself a new title.

Please raise your glass to Carla Robinson, PIC. That’s Peon-in-Charge. Long may she reign over the Print Center, Print Closet, Print Kiosk—-whatever. All hail.


christmas is coming but i’m still in advent

downloadIt’s been an anxious and stressful Advent for me. It shows no signs of ending simply because the 24th of December is this Saturday. Don’t get me wrong. I’m ready to pray the collect for Nativity of our Lord and say to God on that night, “You make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ.” At the same time my heart is praying the collect for Advent 3: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us: and because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us.”

I am in a time of anticipation and change. That comes with hope and uncertainly, with faith and fear. I’m in a time of waiting because of the things I can’t influence. I’m in time of action because of the things I can influance. I have no clear sense of what is to be. However I have hopes and fears from all my years.

My prayer life is dominated by my awareness of how much is beyond my control. I find myself understanding and inhabiting the Kyrie. It is a plea for mercy and a stance toward God that admits that we are all baggers before God. However this stance is not that of slaves before an ambivalent master. It is rather the stance of a child in the presence of a loving parent, the position of the one who cries out, “Our Father.”

This is me as December nears its end. This is me as I look to whatever future is ahead in the year 2017. Praying, begging, trusting, hoping, planning, acting, believing, living.

the new era begins

providence-financials-03-750xx5472-3078-0-285Today was the first day of the Post Darren Era at the Providence Print Center in Renton. For five years, this talented, hard-working, dedicated man held forth as the guiding light of the place. He has now gone on to bigger and better things. May God bless him in the road ahead.

Now in this Post-Darren time things are changing fast. The transition from Print Center to Print Kiosk has begun. By the start of the year, the workload will decrease and the focus of the new smaller Print Center will be the Renton campus of Providence Health and Services.

What does that mean for yours truly? It means that my workload will eventually decrease. I find that both encouraging and discouraging at the same time.

I’m encouraged in that I won’t feel overwhelmed and behind and under the gun most of the time. I won’t have to pull 9 to 10 hour shifts 4 out of every 5 days. I’ll be able to have time off and do things outside of Providence. It will mean that my body will take less of a beating on a daily basis and less pain at the end of each day. It will mean that I won’t be lying awake each night thinking of how I’m going to make the impossible happen when I get out of the bed each morning.

On the other hand I’m discouraged because the skills I’ve acquired will not be used to their fullest. I will be asked to do 60% less work with 75% fewer resources. I fear the advent of job boredom and stagnation. On top of all that I know that I will get no raise in pay. With my hours going back to regular hours, the result will be a slight pay cut. In the long run I wonder how long it will be before a Print Kiosk is deemed “no longer essential”at Providence Health and Services.

Away I go into this new era. May fortune favor the foolish.

Goodbye to the boss


Today was the last day at Prov for my boss Mr DM. He goes on to something that will be wonderful for him. I’m happy for him. He’s a good guy. He will do well for himself and his family. There was cake and sparkling grape juice and a huge card.

I was sad to see him leave. DM was more like a player coach than a boss. He and I did the daily work together. His expertise and experience was the mainstay of the shop. I saw him every day and worked with him every day. I got to know him and he got to know me. As a result we trusted each other. We worked hand-in-glove.

The new boss is more like a boss. He doesn’t know the print industry. He doesn’t know the work of the shop. I will rarely see him. He’s not even based on the same campus with me.

I am now alone in the Print Center as it slowly shrinks. It will be a one person job but I wonder if I will find it satisfying. Today I’m still alternating between sadness and anger. Eventually I’ll move beyond these feelings but not today.