The parish is raising money for new asphalt... Not the most seductive of altruistic endeavors, but one of the most basic. With the help of a couple of sharp shooters, we've come up with a plan... All we need is some hearts and wallets cracked open. (Below is a screen grab from the trifold brochure.) Want in? Just say the word: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Sandra Kramer
Learning to Pray
When I was growing up, I was exposed to Michelangelo, Rubens, and Frederico Barocci who depicted biblical passages in magnificent art. I appreciate art, but it was hard for me to conceptualize God as a being contained in the body of bearded European man. The only images of an altruistic deity I could really embrace were composed by Niroot Puttapipat who illustrated Clement Clark Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas.”
Not surprisingly, I unconsciously lumped God in with Santa Claus; and my prayer life was a direct reflection of my misinterpretation of my place in God’s creation. I asked God for a puppy, a big brother, and a new bicycle. I asked God to make people do what I wanted them to do and to bail me out all sorts of predicaments I created. I gave him my wish list with a dismissive “Get back to me when you’re done with that and I’ll give you some more stuff to do. Amen.”
I had no idea that my whims might not be aligned with God’s will. On more than one occasion I was REALLY ANGRY at God when I didn’t get my way. I quit talking to him sometimes because I was a spiritually selfish, peevish child. But when I became very ill, I turned to him again to utter the three desperate words of my life and death crisis: “Please help me.” The fact that I am writing today is a product of a miracle.
Over the past year, I have realized the fault of my faith. God is not at my service, I am to be of service to him. For me to be of service to God, I have to ask him daily to take away my fear, my ego, my stubbornness and my impatience; for these are the flaws in my character that always separated me from him and his work on earth.
Now, daily, I ask God for only a few simple, but complex things: “God, please grant me faith, willingness, patience, humility, and let me be of service to others. Amen.” This one daily prayer is always answered.
And sometimes, God even lets me be his Santa Claus.
The school honors a group of stellar women and men for their service to all of us. Amazing.
Who, me? Lead a halloween parade? Yes, please.
So good, I need to read it again and again!
Dear Wondrous Faculty and Staff of St. Martins!
As we prepare to move into November (where there is so much going on!) I wanted to share some thoughts about our values theme for the month: “Humility.”
The word “humility” stems from the Latin humus meaning “earth, soil or ground.” The same Latin root also gives English the words “humus”— composted soil gardeners use — and “exhume” — to take something out of the earth. And, importantly, it is the root of the word “human” — reflecting the second creation narrative where God forms the human being out of the soil (Genesis 2:7). God literally forms the human from humus. Human — from the earth, from the soil, by the hand of God. Handmade by the Living and Life-giving God. A good way to think of humility is being grounded—our feet planted firmly on the earth from which we came. Grounded in REALITY.
Grounded in the reality that we are created beings designed to live in relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. To be humble is to be honest about who we really are and WHOSE we really are. This is why in Christian tradition humility has been referred to as one of the two “Queens of the virtues.” The other is gratitude. Humility and gratitude are like fraternal twins, distinct and intimately related at the same time. Very fitting for the month of November as we look at celebrating American Thanksgiving. It is very much about truth – the truth of who we are. It follows well on our previous value theme of Honesty. Humility is about being honest about ourselves, being truthful about ourselves. To be truthful about ourselves includes accepting and embracing all our gifts, capacities, and skills.
The 19th Century mystic and theologian Therese of Lisieux put it this way: "Why do people so mix up the meaning of humility? Humility isn't at all about denying one's abilities and accomplishments. Humility is simply knowing the truth about yourself, and about where you come from, and about Who gets the ultimate credit."
So humility involves being modest, acknowledging the Source of who we are. Since we are loving our neighbors as ourselves, we are not trying to put ourselves above others or ahead of others, not bragging about ourselves. In the light of the Gospel of Jesus we see ourselves—our gifts, skills and capacities; our weaknesses, inabilities and areas of growth—we see it all in relationship to our life with God. And we see EVERYONE ELSE’S gifts, skills and capacities in that same relationship.
Humility. Humus. Earth.
Honesty. Truth. Gratitude.
Grounded—our feet planted firmly on the earth from which we came. Grounded in REALITY. Handmade works of art by the Living and Life-giving God. As always, if you ever have any questions, please ask. It is truly my blessing to serve you all. Grace and Peace!
David J. Kitch, Chaplain
St. Martin's School
The Eighth Grade does a fabulous job of taking a funky plot of nothing and turning it into pure joy. Amazing!!
from 8am parishioner Sandra Kramer
grace (noun) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
When our Vicar said I could write here, I had two thoughts: 1.) “Hooray,” and; 2.) “I am not worthy.” Apparently, God thinks otherwise.
I am Jimby’s daughter. We came to St. Martin in-the-Fields 45 years ago when I was seven. I lived elsewhere for 25 years; but the Valley was always home. I’ve worried about my mom for two decades, but she deflected assistance unless it was wrapped in Christmas paper. Regardless, I talked to her at least once a week and waited. As Mom aged, my more frequent visits became wellness checks.
Meanwhile, over the past two years, situations changed my relationship with God completely. I owe my physical life to Him and His grace. When I finally put myself in His hands, I suddenly saw His hand was in everything. I could claim no responsibility for my job, my health, my house, or my new car. Everything that I had messed up previously by trying to do it my way is managed perfectly by God. I surrendered.
In March, Mom called me to say she was “having trouble with an ankle.” Two days later, ankle trouble was “hospitalized overnight” trouble. “Sam, I can’t do this,” she said. Translated from the language of stubborn, old ladies, “can’t do this” means “Emergency!” I made no “decision” about coming home. All of the blessings of the previous months materialized into a southward pointing compass and God’s unmistakable command: “Go.”
The certainty I felt on the highway has been elusive ever since. Nothing but the location of this house feels familiar. My roadmap for life is gone. The comforts of regular income, routines, and people are gone. My once strong, decisive mother has been replaced by a fragile woman who lets me open her jam jars. I have no idea what I’m doing.
The only things I can absolutely rely upon are love and a willingness to trust God even when I’m terrified. I am faced daily with the memories of my selfish youth, tasked with this scary, uncharted territory of caring for a parent, and have no ability to predict or plan my future. But, God has granted me fearsome blessing, indeed.
Do-over (noun) a … second chance.
I have today.
This pretty much sums it up...
from 8am parishioner Sandra Kramer
Over the past few years I have had several lessons in dealing with difficult people. From kids to coworkers, drivers to divas – there’s always someone who can twist us up inside.
I like to think I have come a long way from my days of plotting political revenge; but, I still have it in me. I now know, however, that bottling up anger is so unhealthy for me, that it is akin to taking poison and hoping the other person will die. My good intentions couldn’t fix me, but God has helped me.
In learning about what motivated my bad behavior, I had an epiphany about other people as well. People who annoy me the most are the very same people who teach me love and tolerance. This is a space of miracles.
I recently had a roommate who was clean, cool, and generally good to know. But, all of the sudden, this nice person started having awful, angry days. It wasn’t just me, he was raging at everyone. At first I was defensive. Then I started listening. What I heard was pain, fear, and suffering. My friend needed medical care and he was afraid.
I thought about all of the times that I attacked other people. Inevitably my negativity was a manifestation of sickness or emotional misery. Wouldn’t I want others to overlook my actions and come to my aid? So, I was kind and forgiving. I started praying for my roommate as I would for any sick person. For months I prayed every day, sometimes many times a day for God to help my soul sick friend. At my friend’s most emotionally vicious, I cried for him, surrendered him into God’s hands, waited, and prayed some more.
Finally, left with only a handful of coins and a collection of burned bridges, my friend called on a cell phone that was out of minutes. “Please help me,” he said. God granted me the gift of escorting my friend to the medical team that was waiting for him.
People will be rude, annoying, and insulting. You will feel like you just “Do not have to put up with this!” Well, there’s a prayer for that. “God, please help them and help me to be kind to a person who is having a bad time.” And wait for the miracle.
A water main broke on Friday. Thanks to the quick work of the Summer School teachers (and with some help from the Fire Dept.) we shut it down pretty quick. Good thing, too. I was ready to start renting kayaks... Now to get it fixed and back up to speed before school starts. Oy. :-)
this from parishioner, Sandra Kramer
A Still Small Voice
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings, 19:12
The world is a loud place. I know this because when I was a newspaper owner, I was part of the problem.
People who like to keep abreast of current events focus on breaking news. In journalism, there is a saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.” What that really means is the event with the greatest shock value will be the first story on the evening news or it will appear on the front page of the newspaper “above the fold” tomorrow morning. Paying attention to the horrors of life is, unfortunately, part of human nature.
Even without the news, life is filled with the kind of commotion that can arouse negativity and drain our energy: Kids, traffic, cell phones, deadlines, crowds. The whole work/life balance feels like a squeaking teeter totter. It never seems to stop. Even in the middle of the night we can’t turn off the committees in our heads jabbering about what we have to do tomorrow.
By Sunday, getting to church can feel like one more exhausting commitment. We don’t want to feel that way, but we’re so tired. We all have had moments when we think: “I’m doing this religion thing wrong.” When we become aware of our negative thoughts about going to church we worry that we have “lost God.” At times like these we may even wonder, “Hey, where did He go?”
While we were rushing to the next appointment, taming children, and listening to the talking heads on TV, we didn’t misplace Him like a set of keys. We simply forgot to notice Him. But, He’s there. He’s everywhere, remember?
So, stop. Close your eyes. Take a breath. Let it out. Now, open your eyes and look at any plant, or animal, or human. See the little miracles of creation? God suddenly appeared again right before your eyes.
He’s there between dog barks, and in the eternity of a basketball minute. He is present in the cacophony of an airport. God lives in our appreciative sighs at the end of a busy day and between the breaths of a sleeping baby. In the stillness of any morning, with no blaring horns God says: “Look, be amazed, I made this for you.”
We can’t have any expectation of stopping the world to find God. What we can do is take a moment at the beginning of each day for gratitude. In the time it takes to think the words, “thank you, God, for waking me up today” we have found Him on our pillows. When you feel the warmth of your gratitude you will know His still, small voice speaking in your soul thanking you for waking up to Him.
A beautiful Memorial Day service, put on by the school children for a number of wonderful vets. My father-in-law even made an appearance. And a fly over finished the ceremonies (thank you, Linda J.) Quite a moving morning.
A lovely donation by a lovely school family. The vicar and chaplain broke it in. In my mind I was a much better player. Harrumph.
The parish has written cards and promised to pray for each student during this week of testing. My only question is where were they in the '60's when I was taking tests at Beverly Hills Catholic School? I could have used some help. :-/
it's good to be the vicar...