October 31, 2012

Do I *Really* Mean to Be One, Too?

Filed under: Children and Families,Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary,Social Gospel — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 4:20 pm

This morning at the breakfast table I threw out three questions:

What is a saint?

Would you want to be a saint?

Do you believe there are saints among us in this time?

The answers surprised me.

Robert set the bar really high, defining a saint as someone who devotes his or her life entirely and unselfishly to humble service in the name of Christ. While he would love to say that he could, he does not believe that it would be possible for him to achieve that level of discipline. He doesn’t know if there are saints among us because he sees sainthood is an institution of God, not of Man; there is no way he can know the inner life of another person. And he certainly can’t know God’s opinion of that inner life.

What surprised me the most was that he disqualified a lot of what I would have thought fit his definition. In my estimation, Men and Women Religious (of whom his favorite uncle is one) would certainly fit the criteria of devoting their lives to humble service. Yet to him, that is within the ordinary span of their vows and does not rise to the extraordinary devotion of a saint.

Like I said, he set the bar really high.

Mallory, on the other hand, thinks that saints are lovely people, kind and helpful, but she wouldn’t want to be one. She doesn’t like having people make a fuss over her. And she doesn’t think that just anyone should be a saint because it would be exhausting for the rest of us to have to make a fuss over so many people. Even grouping them (as I suggested that we sort of do on All Saints Sunday) is a big effort, plus it loops back to the possibility that someone might someday make a fuss over her.

So yeah, they’re lovely people, but let’s not get carried away.

Of course the moderator couldn’t wiggle out of answering. In fact, they were pretty excited about the prospect of picking my answers apart.

I wouldn’t want to be a saint because I don’t want to have a gruesome death. (Mallory quickly pointed out that not all saints are martyrs.) Plus I’d have to perform miracles; I don’t want to work that hard after I’m dead. (They both claimed that by first asking what a saint is, I had already established that we didn’t have to follow any extant guidelines; this was an opinion question.)

They had me cornered, boxed in by my own attempts to dodge the questions.

So I confessed that do believe that Holy Men and Holy Women walk among us. I do buy into the transcendence of those “who thee by faith before the world confessed.”[i] I believe deeply that that of Christ in each of us does have the ability and the potential to shine a light in deepest darkness.

That’s why I’ll be in church as a congregant this Sunday. I’ve carefully held the day open on my preaching schedule, so that I might be fed by one of my favorite feasts of the liturgical year. That is why I’ll get there in time to let the big opening hymn wash over me, as a cloud of witnesses streams through the gates of memory.

As we cleared the dishes and went our separate ways, packing lunches, taking showers, checking e-mail….one final thought surfaced:

I wonder what other people think. Could you put this on your blog, Mom? Ask people to write their opinions in the comments. That would actually be interesting.

So, what do you think?

Did they live only in ages past, or are there hundreds of thousands still?

Can you meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea?

Do you mean to be one too?[ii]

[i] The Hymnal 1982, #287

[ii] The Hymnal 1982, #293


July 31, 2012


Filed under: Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary,Stewardship of the Environment,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 1:45 pm

How will I use the gift of this new day? How will I notice the glory of creation?[i]

We have arrived at the time of year when abundance both delights and challenges me, the time when our Rogation Day prayers show forth in bounty. Strawberries have given way to raspberries (my favorite!); corn on the cob is totally worth the extra dental work; and I could honestly eat BLTs breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Somewhere in there I find room for peas and beans and watermelon… And most years I’m lucky to have peaches at their peak over my birthday.

There is, however, a moment in every August when I sound more like an Israelite whining to Moses—The garden is your hobby, not mine. … Just how many pickles are you planning to make?! …. I did remind you that a whole row of zucchini would probably be too much….

I somehow wish the garden were like manna—not too much, not too little, just the right amount. The lesson for me, as it was in the time of Moses, is to look at abundance—and my attitude toward it—a bit more generously. Do I really yearn to sit by the commercial fleshpots and eat my fill of processed food, tempted by the value of super sizing? Would I rather have factory-canned pie filling and flash-frozen fruit for the baking I so love to do? Of course not! I do want this abundance.

But more than that, I yearn to bring humility and gentleness to the tending of fragile young plants. I envy those whose patience brings them into unity of spirit with the soil. I wish I had the forbearance to live in the bonds of peace with insects who want to bite me and weather that makes me sticky and miserable.

My gifts are different. My place in the body of Christ lies in another limb. I thank God for those who are called to till and nurture, to garden and farm and tend, without whose bounty my joy—and my prayer life—would be diminished. I am thankful that together we are no longer children, tossed to and fro and blown about, that we are instead a whole body, building itself up in love.

Holy One, hear our prayers and make us faithful stewards of the fragile bounty of this earth so that we may be entrusted with the riches of heaven. Amen.[ii]

[i] Daily Prayer for All Seasons, Final Draft, January 2011,  p.83.


June 15, 2012


Filed under: Children and Families,Cycle of Prayer,Social Gospel,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:08 pm

Here the People may add their own thanksgivings.

Thank you for the invitation. I accept!

It seems that my daily life and vocation are dominated by thinking, speaking, and writing about the offerings that we make as whole and healthy stewards. This week, however, I am more mindful of the many, diverse, and sometimes seemingly unrelated offerings that make my community a whole and healthy place to live and move and have my being.

The end of what turned out to be a tough school year and the start of a more relaxed summer pace has been a time of particular mindfulness as my child transitions from grade school to middle school. We have been incredibly blessed with teachers who are genuinely partners in helping my child become her best self. I give thanks for their love, dedication, talent, and gifts.

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they my worship you and serve you from generation to generation. (BCP, 261)

Last weekend I watched as 20 youth updated their lifeguard training, preparing for the start of the summer camp season. I wasn’t a camp kid; in fact, I have rarely been as miserable as I was during that single week in July, 1974. As an adult, however, I deeply appreciate camp and town rec for their formative place in our children’s lives. I give thanks for the counselors, staff, and volunteers whose time, talent, prayer, presence, and service make camp a life-giving and life-changing experience.

Dear God, You brought us to camp where you’re not judged and feel safe. Each day we grow together, with your help along the way. The happy moments we’ve shared and good times that never end. Without you there wouldn’t be the beauty in the world which we see, like the sky, the clouds, the mountains, and the weather throughout the year. So last of all we thank you for answering all our prayers. (2002 sports and games campers; Wanakee United Methodist Center)

This weekend, 2,500 cyclists and several hundred supporting volunteers will Trek Across Maine to raise $1.5 million in support of the American Lung Association. I give thanks for the time and dedication they offer in riding the 180 miles from Sunday River to Belfast. Together, their effort makes a significant impact on clean air and improved lung function through medical research and community support programs.

As we bike through the city streets, the highways and mountain trails, Protect us Lord from spills and crashes, dogs who like to bite our shapely legs, potholes, cracks and sharp objects that flatten our tires, rains and thunders, and all kind of nasty accidents. Give us the energy and strength to wake up in the morning and ride up the hills and mountains to reach our destination. Grant us the courage to descend rapidly down the hills and toward the finish line. May we experience the joy and the ecstasy as we are moved by the beauty of nature, as the sun and the wind caress our face, as we feel one with the bike and the road and forget about the time, as we get in touch with the child within us, as we enjoy each others’ company, as we feel we could bike forever.  (A Cyclists Prayer, adapted)

Tabitha’s Closet is a collaborative project of several churches in my small town. Three times each year, clothing, toys, games, and household items are offered free of charge to any who are in need, without screening or qualification. I give thanks for the simplicity of this ministry, following Christ’s example of clothing the naked and caring for the poor in our midst.

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy. (BCP, 260)

And finally, I give thanks this day and every day for the father, and the father figures, who shape me. Their strengths and their failings are at the core of my essence. They fill me with an abundance of love, compassion, dedication, talent, prayer, presence, and gifts that I can only hope to pay forward through all the days of my life.

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen (BCP, 230)

February 2, 2012

The Presentation of the Lord

Filed under: Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary,Legacy,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:51 pm

Simeon had only one thing on his Bucket List—and it was a big one.

As a devout Jew, Simeon waited and prayed for the day when the Messiah would deliver his people. This wasn’t an easy hope. Simeon didn’t have the option of cashing out a life insurance policy, hopping on a plane, and spending the summer solstice above the Arctic Circle just to say he did it. No, the only thing Simeon could do was to remain faithful, making sincere and devout offerings of prayer that this “light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of … Israel” would come.

I have to wonder if this baby, this 40-day-old infant, was really what he had in mind, but there it was—there he was—and Simeon could do no other than to make a heartfelt offering of praise and thanksgiving.

For me, a 21st Century Christian and steward of the Gospel, the Song of Simeon raises a profound question: What is the one thing, the one big thing, which would inspire me to burst forth with songs of praise? What is my devout hope for God’s people in my time?

When one chooses Christian stewardship as a way of being in the world, there is a lot riding on these questions:

What does my deepest hope for God’s people ask of me? Can I assist in bringing it about through offerings of time and material gifts? Or am I limited to offerings of prayer and supplication? Can I discipline myself to resist frustration and trust in prayer alone?

Do I have the strength to get out of the way and offer only my presence? Is my one hope for God’s people something I could miss if I weren’t paying attention? Would I know it if I saw it?

And then the even bigger questions: What would I do if it happened?

Simeon’s humility is breath-taking. His song of praise asks for nothing more; he has lived to see the day. He has received God’s greatest gift, the gift of knowing peace. This is not the over-hyped final episode of a pointless reality show. This is the most intimate moment of steadfast faith between a man and his god.

These are the questions that I ponder on this Feast of the Presentation. I would love to hear from others: What is your deepest hope for God’s people in our time? How are you called to make offerings of prayer, presence, gifts, and time that your eyes may see what God will bring about, in the presence of all peoples? How are you moved to unbridled joy and unbounded praise, this day?

December 1, 2011

Comfort, O Comfort My People

Filed under: Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 12:05 am

How beautiful and bittersweet that World AIDS Day falls in this Octave of Hope. How different Isaiah’s comfort sounds when we pause to remind ourselves that we are all living with AIDS. Whether in personal or family suffering, the rending of a social fabric, the local and global economic impacts, or the overt and subtle stigmas, discriminations, glass ceilings, and sticky floors of personal fulfillment…we are all living with AIDS.

It is in this spirit of mindfulness, and as stewards of the Gospel through our baptism, that I invite you to join in prayer, and in hope.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

Pray for all who those directly afflicted by HIV and AIDS. Pray for the counselors, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, volunteers, and mentors who encourage testing, treatment, and responsible stewardship in community.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Pray for those who are trapped in lives of poverty, exclusion, stigma, and hopelessness. Pray for those whose medications are working and who are being given fresh starts and new opportunities.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Pray for clean water, access to appropriate nutrition, and access to health care. Pray for affordable and accessible alternatives for mothers who cannot breastfeed because they are HIV positive. Pray for all who seek to lift up the valleys and make low the mountains that stand in the paths of the afflicted.

A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows up it; sure the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

Pray for all who are discouraged, who feel their lives fading and withering. Pray for those who have given their all; give them strength to know that they are not empty. Pray for those who have died, and those they have left to mourn.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

Pray for those who have heard God’s call and have committed their time and talent to research and education. Pray for the day of good tidings to all who watch, and wait, and weep this day.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.


August 26, 2011

Beautiful Minds

Filed under: Children and Families,Cycle of Prayer — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 3:07 pm

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


This week in our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray for theological education, Campus Ministry, and all teachers and students who return to their classrooms in the coming week. In many of our congregations, these prayers will be enacted through blessings of backpacks, rejoicing in our abundance through outreach ministries to school-age children and their families.

This is a precious time in our stewardship of all gifts. In this intentional moment, we acknowledge that our minds, our teaching and learning, must be counted among the gifts of God, for the people of God. We focus our hearts on the vocations of those who are called to teach, to indeed be nothing short of stewards of the intellectual well-being of their communities and the greater society.

It’s a tall order. I therefore invite you to make a “new school year’s resolution.” Whether you are a teacher, a student, a parent, or a member of the broader community, commit yourself to stewardship of teaching and learning as part of your on-going life of prayer: When you are stuck behind a school bus, pray for children, teachers, and families. When you notice someone wearing a college logo, pray for Campus Ministry, young adults of faith, those who are seeking, and those who don’t yet know they are seeking. And in your own daily life and ministry, celebrate the call and response of those in all orders who are engaged in theological education.

Pray for all these beautiful minds.

August 13, 2011

For Youth

Filed under: Children and Families,Cycle of Prayer — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:58 pm

Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?

Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?

It all sounds easy enough, with God’s help, as we stand there with our sweet babies in their family-heirloom gowns, mentally reviewing the arrangements for the brunch we’ve been planning for months. Of course we’re going to raise her up right!

But it’s not long before she hits the wiggly stage, then the kicking the back of the pew stage, the I can’t go if they don’t offer child care stage, and sadly, the church is boring stage. We persist, with God’s help, in keeping the church as present as possible in family life. We make it work.

We make it work because we know that one day, through the dedicated ministry of deeply committed, Spirit-gifts leaders, she will find belonging, and will find belief. She will discover both the inner strength and the inner peace of choosing to kneel before her bishop in the rite of Confirmation. She will, with God’s help.

This week in the Anglican cycle of prayer, we lift up the International Anglican Youth Network, “that young people are strengthened and supported in ministry and participation in the church.” In our diocesan cycle of prayer, we lift up the youth and their adult companions who will gather at Camp Bishopswood for Believe It Or Not (BION), a five-day experience for youth to engage in traditional summer camp fun as well as fellowship, worship, and spiritual exploration.

And so as stewards of the next generation, stewards of the future of the church, stewards of the hopes and dreams and prayers of all who would continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers…. Will we do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ?

We will. We absolutely will. Amen.

July 26, 2011

Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Filed under: Children and Families,Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 5:35 pm

On the patronal feast of my daughter, Mallory Anne, I have spent a fair part of the day reflecting on parenting as stewardship.

The truth is, we know very little about Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know that Mary had “kinswomen,” but I find it curious that after Jesus’ conception, she turned to her cousin Elizabeth. Perhaps her parents had been older and were no longer alive, or maybe she was no different than any other unwed pregnant teenage girl, turning to a trusted relative before she tackled the big talk with Joseph and her parents.

What I do believe the Gospel shows us, however, is a general picture of a confident, faithful young woman. If an angel of the Lord appeared to my daughter and dropped the bomb that Gabriel dropped on Mary, I would be very proud of such a calm and humble response. Like many who are called, Mary seems up to both the challenge and the work at hand.

That image gives me an extra measure of respect for Mary’s parents. If we assume that they had no idea what God intended, that they were just raising a daughter like any other parents of their time and place, it says a lot about them that she turned out so well. They weren’t grooming her for any particular role, any particular match, any particular place in society, yet look who she turned out to be!

Mallory is only nine; I have a long way to go. I don’t know who she’ll turn out to be; I only know that today I look to Joachim and Anne and pray that I, in my own time and place, am following in their example and offering to God a good and faithful servant.

June 17, 2011

Pray without Ceasing

Filed under: Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 7:15 pm

As this octave of Pentecost moves rapidly toward Trinity Sunday, I find myself reflecting on the life of prayer—and having a good laugh that I can even say that.

For about 25 years of my adult life, I did not pray. Oh, I was a faithful Christian, attended church, tithed, read my Bible, completed Education for Ministry (EfM), and lived deeply in the life the church and the liturgical seasons. I admired the prayer lives of others, did not hesitate to ask for help from those who were better at praying than I was, even took a few mini-classes on improving my prayer life. But I just wasn’t a pray-er.

It is only in recent years that I have allowed myself to name that I do, in fact, pray. I just don’t always do it the way I thought it was “supposed” to be done. It started with a layperson saying, “Oh, you pray; you just don’t call it that.” Then a deacon stared at me, speechless, “Really? But I never would have thought that from sitting with you!” The priest standing beside her said, “Nah….you pray.”

So I took it to my spiritual director. “Prayer can be a lot of things. So maybe the real question is how to let go of a definition of prayer that seems to bind you and name the prayer that’s there.” Good insight, but not entirely helpful.

Somewhere in the midst of this, my bishop asked me to write a prayer for our diocesan stewardship program. Do I even need to tell you that I freaked out? I froze! I sputtered… I don’t pray! I don’t know how to pray! There’s no way I can write a prayer! She calmly spelled out the formula for a Collect and told me when it needed to be finished, her way of pastorally blowing right past my protests.

And then one day, completely out of context of any of the things we were discussing, this same bishop looked me square in the eye. In a voice that was frankly a rather frightening mix of bishop, mother, boss, and friend she said, “And one more thing. You continue to insist that you don’t pray. I don’t want to hear any more of that crap from you. Got it?”

That was it. That was the moment. I can’t explain it except to say that I did, indeed, finally “get it.”My prayer life clicked and I’ve been fine ever since. In fact, I’ve been more than fine—I pray all the time now! I have learned to find and celebrate prayer and forms of prayer in the most unexpected times and places. I have learned to make prayer the foundation of every aspect of my vocation in stewardship and to share the importance of prayer with others.

And so on this second Ember Day in the Octave of Pentecost, take a moment to embrace your prayer life. Remind yourself that in all the busyness of the end of the school year, thinking about your summer, winding down your role in the church program year, or looking ahead to “what we’ll need to tackle when we get back in September,” prayer is at the foundation of it all. Breathe into your favorite approach or try something new. Don’t worry about how it’s supposed to be done; just enjoy it.

June 15, 2011

Ember Day

Filed under: Cycle of Prayer,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 3:04 pm

Greetings to you on this first Ember Day in the Octave of Pentecost!

Even though I am not, and never have been, in the process for Holy Orders, as a discerned layperson I love Ember Days. Why? Because I believe that for all of us, regardless of our order of ministry, it is good to pause, step back, and reflect on how our lives of ministry and witness are unfolding, how we are growing in the Apostles teachings and fellowship.

Ember Day reflection is a vital part of our lives as stewards of all that we have: our time, our gifts of the Spirit, our secular talents, our relationships in family, congregation, and community. As stewards of the Gospel is it empowering, energizing, and life-giving to reflect on how we live the baptismal life in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

You heard me correctly—the words of confession can be prayed just as faithfully in celebration. And isn’t it true that there are times when the ministry lies in an action not taken, a word not spoken?

And thus I keep this entry brief, inviting you into your own time of prayer, reflection, and Ember Day accounting. If you practice journaling prayer, try an Ember Day summary of where your spiritual life is today, how you are fed, where you seek to grow. Perhaps begin the practice of using each instance of Ember Days in the liturgical year to check back on what you have written, see where you are, and reflect anew. You may also choose to engage in an Ember Conversation in a small group, a fellowship circle, or a trust community of companions. Or you might prefer to spend time alone, reflecting quietly and meditating on your own thoughts in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Regardless of form, I wish you a blessed Ember Time and offer my own prayer that it will lead you into a long green season that is, indeed, no ordinary time.


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