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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, July 29, 2005

Outsider Gospels, part deux

If you get Barbara's e-Mo, you know where the original "Outsider Gospels" came from. It's a pleasant surprise to see that we were thinking along similar lines that could dove tail one another.

Some of you may know, I am a bit infamous for my sleep patterns... not exactly in sync with the 9 - 5 world (the expression "Not a morning person" does not begin to even scratch the surface!). As a result, I am occasionally up thinking or ironing or crafting at hours when many people are counting sheep or doing other worthy things. The Info-mercial hours.

These off-peak TV viewing hours must be a bargain for the "direct to" advertiser or the individual who must pay for the airtime. Which might well account for the incredible number of public service ads that run at 1 or 2 a.m. It may also contribute to many tel-evangelists buying (I think the correct expression is leasing) time on local and cable stations for the wee-hours or in the early morning before 9 a.m.

God knows, many a not-very-flattering thing has come from my mouth in the past about some of these latter day evangelists. You may have heard - or made - some comments yourself. All the speaking in tongues and emotion and miraculous healing and jumping and fainting and perspiration (by both preacher and participant). It seems just tooooo much. This isn't REAL. It's all fake - all a bunch of balogna. My own nose was up in the air in a huff of indignation.

Time does have a way of teaching us humility, eh? I can no longer throw that sanctimonious mantle of orthodoxy over my shoulders, clinging to my right way. There are many rooms in God's house, many paths that lead to the same destination - and many travelers on those paths.

Worship services take many forms: this is clearly evidenced in my own diocese where the hip-hop mass in the Bronx is a success. Most of the Episcopal churches in my neck of the woods have traditional row upon row of stationary pews yet there are those that offer the comfort of folding chairs and different seating arragements according to season or occasion. Some have smoke and bells, others sparse appointments and simple language. Some choirs tend toward gospel music while others use guitars and still others are accompanied by string or brass quartets.

It is quite clear that nowadays there ARE evangelists on the TV who are practical teachers and dispensers of wisdom (and probably always were). And for those of us who appreciate a more dramatic or expansive expression of faith there are TV preachers and pastors who can deliver the Word like we have heard or experienced it nowhere else. Our morning worship may be enhanced by throwing in one or two selections from the 'Songs for Worship' series put out by Time-Life Audio (oops! that's an infomercial).

The Word of God will be declared in many a medium by many a preacher and evangelist and activist. The true Word of God, action of God will be understood by discerning hearts. And the discerning soul can differentiate the revealed Truth from anything expounded by a con man wishing to prey on the emotions or sympathies of the lonely or infirm. Here's the litmus test in this situation: Is someone claiming that by making a "love offering" to their ministry that God's will, favor, forgiveness or love can be purchased/bought? NO WAY!!! Change the channel! Kick the dust off your sandals! You have just seen a commercial. However, if you hear a message that strikes an honest chord within you, offers a healthy perspective, or provides you with spiritual food for your journey, it seems like sound stewardship to give the laborer a decent wage (St. Paul will back me up on this one).

So, if there's a night when you are tossing and turning or are up to use the facilities for the third time since hitting the sack and are restless, grab the remote. If you hear something off-putting, keep that finger moving to the next option. If you hear something comforting, some true Gospel (Good News), it just may be just one of the voices of God coming over the airwaves. Amen and Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Peace of Heart

Prayer. What a HUGE aspect of our inner life. It is amazing sometimes that it is put on the back burner.

In earlier days I would toss off the expression "I'll say a prayer for you" until I came to the real awakening that prayer is work - it is intentional - it is deliberate - it should take ones attention and effort. Needless to say, I no longer let that phrase be an expression - it is a promise, a commitment.

Prayer takes practice and, like any other habit or exercise, one gets more comfortable with it the more one does it. Prayer need not be lengthy, but it needs be sincere. Check out the definition of prayer and major types of prayer in 'An Outline of the Faith' (catechism) in the Book of Common Prayer). While most of us are most familiar with prayers of thanksgiving, penitence, intercession and petition there are other kinds of prayer that bring us into the Divine Presence. Adoration, praise and contemplation are not set aside for a select few... they are as close to each of us our heartbeat.

Scripture, books of set meditations, prayers written in any number of resources can be helpful in putting our mind and intention in a prayerful mood. There are many methods which bring us to a more quiet, contemplative mode of prayer.

One may be found by visiting: for the basics of Centering Prayer and a resource for books written on this type of prayer and practice. At the inmost part of this practice is the intention to pray so deeply that one is brought to a place beyond words or language, although using a word or phrase is one way to get to that 'centered' place.

I use an entire phrase and pare it down, peeling away my "busy"ness, other thoughts, feelings, to-do lists, cares, distractions to - quite simply, wordlessly, eloquently - be in the presence of God. In this center there is absolute Peace of Heart.

Try slowing down, putting aside 20 minutes before your day starts and starting with God. Sit comfortably, settle down, silently, slowly reflecting on your own symbol, word, phrase. If your mind wanders, recall your focus. At the end of your prayer time, re-enter your surroundings after a period of silence.

Because I am verbal, sensory and analytical, I use the following with lots of space between the thought layers - borrow it if you like. But whether you use this or some other means to get to that holy place, I wish you well on your journey of prayer, my fellow traveler.

Now let me leave you with the following:

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I AM
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
Be still

4Copyright © 2005 K.L.Joanna Depue and Deacon J

Monday, July 25, 2005

"It's .... like....."

I preached on the standard texts yesterday. I wanted to proclaim the Gospel with the voice inflection of a 'valley girl', but that would have been so off the wall, and did not.

Jesus, on various occasions, tries to help us understand things by giving us reference points... "like" a seed, a farmer, a landlord, a housewife, a servant...

In the reading, He's trying to give us a glimpse of heaven and gives us examples of what heaven is "like". In the greater scheme of things, only heaven will be "like" heaven - just as, no matter what anyone says, only chicken tastes "like" chicken.

Heaven may seem as small as a mustard seed, but when we grow into heaven it is expansive. The way yeast, a living thing, expands when it is fed and added to, so it is with heaven. Heaven's worth is such that you will be and give all that you have and all that you are to be part of it. There is enough room in heaven for us all, just as the net cast out catches all manner and size of fish - heaven will embrace them all. And then the fish will be judged by the Fisherman himself... whose criteria for 'good' and 'bad' may well be different from what our criteria is "like".

There is so much to the love of God and the assured peace of Heaven that we have a difficult time imagining how much that "much" is! We struggle for comparisons, for similarities, for relationship to something we have known or thought or experienced.... yet heaven, as God, is 'like' nothing else. God is awesome. Heaven will be our inherited home: somehow familiar - yet "like" no other home we have ever known. Amen.

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