Monthly Archives: October 2012

In all we do, direct us

But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42)

When we pray the Collect for Grace on Wednesday mornings, we thank God for preserving us in safety and pray “that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity.” We also pray that “in all we do,” God will “direct us to the fulfilling of [his] purpose” (BCP 100).

The president of my company recently shared a simple barometer by which he evaluates actions — plus-one, zero, or minus-one. That is to say, is any given action positive for the company, neutral, or negative?

In the language of the New Testament, Paul urges us to “build one another up in love,” a plus-one activity for sure. When he writes in Romans about how “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Paul calls out our minus-ones.

Jesus’ criticism today is even more subtle. What the Pharisees do is technically correct, but it has a minus-one effect. What the lawyers do serves only to build themselves up, and so it is also a minus-one.

Discerning God’s will for our lives, and aligning ourselves with that purpose, is not always simple — each of us is called to a particular life and a special ministry “to those among whom we live, and work, and worship” (BCP 543) — but taking time each day to check our direction is critical.

In our morning devotions, we set our sights on the plus-ones. In our evening reflection, we frankly acknowledge the minus-ones. Day by day we check in and “true up.”

In all we do, Lord, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose. Amen.


Not only with our lips, but in our lives

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled *
and marched forward together.

They looked and were astounded; *
they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there; *
they writhed like a woman in childbirth,
like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them. (Psalm 48:4-6)

What does it take to get your attention? What does it take to shake your confidence? What does it take to make you reevaluate the way you’re living your life?

For some people, it’s a natural disaster that flings ships around like toys. For me, it’s a wake up call from people near me whom I trust.

Just as the Psalmist contrasts the terror of the “kings of the earth” with the solidity and glory of Jerusalem’s bulwarks, so in the General Thanksgiving we praise God not only for our creation and preservation in the struggles of life, but also “for the means of grace, and the hope of glory” (BCP 125).

It is possible for us to get back on track, to place our trust where it belongs, to stand on a firmer foundation that we had been on before. It is possible, as Jesus says in the parable, for our eye to be clear and light up our being (Luke 11:36).

We can make the way we live our lives match what we say with our lips. God grant me the wisdom, not just today but every day, to heed the wake up call and stand on solid ground again.

With ardent devotion

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  (Ephesians 4:1-16)

I have a friend who periodically posts on Facebook that when she hears the sounds of Lego bricks she wants to put everything down and join her children for a while.

In our family, playing with Legos absorbed us completely — and I suspect it was the same way for you.

Simon and Jude are two disciples that we don’t know much about, but we do know that they were absorbed completely in the new life that Jesus called them into. The prayer book calls that quality “ardent devotion” — eager love for Jesus and for life lived in his Way.

Following Jesus ought to be our highest joy, but too often it looks and sounds like Christians are the gloomiest people around.

What might you need to remember in order to recapture that joy? The sights and sounds of a beautiful worship service? The steady hand of a friend when you were in trouble? The infectious laughter of the youth group? The stimulation of a study group?

May God grant you that ardor and rekindle your devotion.

Collect of the Day

O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 245)

Asking is not enough

So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  (Luke 11:9-10)

Matthew 7:7 (Commentary)

Asking is not enough,
says Bede
the venerable

We must diligently seek

Read the blueprint
heart’s desire

Lay the first stone

On stone and stone
the house
reveals itself

Plan becomes a home

I must lay my heart
(rejected stone)
firmly in place

Daily build the home I seek

Rodger Patience
Mepkin Abbey + July 1998

Fire and water

If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. (Ecclus. 15:15)

It was a special treat to say Morning Prayer today with my mom, and we will definitely do it again the next time I visit. We had not thought to do it on previous visits, but she made a conscious decision to ask me this time.

This morning’s wisdom from Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) is all about discipline, about making conscious decisions to act faithfully.

When we fail to choose consciously, when we act instead on impulse or autopilot, we may not live up to the faithfulness we desire. When we act on impulse, we may not consider the impact our actions will have on others.

When we sin (the word we use for falling short), we must make the decision to turn around and try again. Turning around, becoming more conscious of our actions, is not always easy, and it often helps to have someone you love or a friend you trust to help you see more clearly what you know you want to do.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5-6)

“To act faithfully is a matter of your own choice,” says Sirach, and it’s a choice we must make each day.

Not neglecting to meet together …

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25)

Today I will be attending the Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac.

The day begins with Morning Prayer, during which the Deans will be commissioned. In between business sessions, Bishop Jacobus will deliver his pastoral address in the context of Noonday Prayer.

It is good to pray the Offices with others, in part because you realize that even when you pray the Office by yourself, as most of us do, you are not truly al0ne.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name, you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen. (BCP 102)

Red-Letter Days


In my post this morning I reflected on the lessons appointed for the Thursday after Proper 23, having completely missed the fact that today is actually the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Perhaps if the Calendar in the front of the Book of Common Prayer still printed the Major Feasts in red (the origin of the term “red-letter days) I might have caught it. The current prayer book (see above) is a bit more subtle.

I probably wouldn’t have caught it, anyway, since my early-morning, barely-caffeinated routine has me turning first to the bookmarked Daily Office Lectionary, 961 pages away from the Calendar page for October, and then marking psalms and readings with the appropriate ribbons.

Oh well, there’s always Evening Prayer. I’ll have a chance to erase the black mark soon enough.


In the Daily Office, several themes recur on particular days each week.

On Sundays we rejoice in Christ’s resurrection, on Saturdays we relax in God’s creation, on Fridays we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The collects appointed for those three days (BCP 98-99, 123) draw the themes out fairly obviously.

It’s a little more subtle, but on Thursdays we can discern a baptismal theme. The canticle suggested for use after the first lesson on Thursday mornings is the Song of Moses (BCP 85). The story of the Exodus is linked in the Christian mind with the Easter Vigil, and therefore with Baptism. For that reason, the Song of Moses is also to be used on Sunday mornings throughout Easter season.

Today’s readings center on two characters in peril on the sea.

Jonah, who has survived being in the belly of the whale (baptism by ingestion?), finally gets around to his mission, preaching to the people of Nineveh.

Paul’s confidence in God reassures the sailors that they will survive the violent storm and the shipwreck. Note that Paul also celebrates the Eucharist with them, the breaking and blessing of bread that follows Baptism.

We are baptized into Christ’s life, and each week we can remember, relax, and rejoice in God’s saving grace.

Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child

O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever receives a little child in the name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give you thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them a child. Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence with them, and give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they seek to bring this child to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, lovable and gracious, excellent and admirable, following the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCP 443)

My wife and I have just become grandparents, so in addition to the prayer above (from the service Thanskgiving for the Birth of a Child) I’ll be saying the Magnificat at Evening Prayer tonight with a new appreciation.

Rejoice with us as our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord!

Continuous, if marginal, improvement

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you. (Psalm 5:3)

I grow weary because of my groaning;
every night I drench my bed
and flood my couch with tears. (Psalm 6:6)

The company I work for is the leader in patient flow automation — improving patient care and hospital operations by making data more visible, smoothing out communication, and coordinating the efforts of employees in every area of the hospital.

We provide enormous amounts of data — dashboards to help you see in the moment whether you’re on track, standard reports in more than 90 flavors to help you drill down into the details and uncover roadblocks, and a custom reporting solution that will even email you the report automatically.

Our best clients have literally transformed their health systems by streamlining their patient flow, taking care of hundreds more patients every month in the same number of beds they have always had.

But, here’s the thing.

A few of our clients never look at the reports. They try to do their work without knowing what to expect. They make the same mistakes over and over again because they can’t see the pattern. They end up acting like every day is a crisis, when most days they will simply need to discharge some patients and admit some more, just like they do every day.

Think of the Daily Office as your dashboard, as your daily report.

“Early in the morning” and every evening,” as the Psalmist says, you can check in and see how you’re doing. Early in the morning you can remind yourself of the direction you want to take, and every evening you can take stock of where you strayed. In Morning Prayer you begin the day with the praise of God on your lips, and at Evening Prayer the words of confession bring the day to a close.

Using reports in your work, using the Daily Office, is not a magic bullet. You won’t necessarily change overnight, but you won’t change at all if you’re not paying attention. Continuous, if marginal, improvement is the order of the day.

For Guidance

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 832)