A Word from Grace Street: love and belonging

My Dear People,

I see the moon, the moon sees me.

The moon sees the one I want to see.

So God bless you, and God bless me,

and God bless the one I want to see.

It seems to me, the God above

created you for me to love.

God picked you out from all the rest

because God knew

I’d love you the best.

For several years, we sang Nelson to sleep each night with these sweet words; and we now do so with Fin each night. We learned them from Deane Mountcastle while we were in town during the rector search, and they have had a special place in our family’s life since then.

Singing those words is easily one of the best, sweetest, highest moments of each day. A part, and no small part, of the joy of it is, of course, the consciousness that we are so regularly and unmistakably communicating to our son how lovable and beloved he is.

In the same spirit, Gena often has the boys repeat after her, “I am worthy of love and belonging.”

If I may, I’d like to invite you to say those words yourself as well.

For we each are, and you certainly are, worthy of love and belonging.

It’s quite simply what we were made for. It’s why we’re here.

Your brother in Christ,



A Word from Grace Street: giving thanks

My Dear People,

As we all prepare for Thanksgiving, I draw your attention to a prayer (below) that was new to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Written by the late Reverend Charlie Price, it has come to mean a great deal to a great many people.

So then, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Your brother in Christ,

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

A Word from Grace Street: D.U.D.E., not

My Dear People,

I can count on Dave Coogan to steer me right. And he did so once again last week, introducing me to Travis Mines. Travis is the executive director of Roots, a local organization committed to helping ex-offenders re-enter society; in particular, helping place them in, get them to, and keep them in jobs. (As you likely know, many businesses will not hire those who have been incarcerated.)

Well, among the array of things that Travis, Dave, and I talked about, I’ve found myself returning to “D.U.D.E.,” an acronym that Travis coined and which he uses in the Roots program. D.U.D.E. stands for “Defective Understanding, Destructive Energy.” It’s about the “false self,” as it is sometimes called, those wrong-headed, distorted ideas about ourselves that we take on and develop, and which lead to no good.

Sometimes Travis will come into a Roots meeting, and one of the men or women will say something like, “Travis, the D.U.D.E.’s got me down!” Which then leads to reflection and discussion on how to redirect one’s thoughts, and thereby one’s behavior.

It reminds me of a bumper sticker I have in my office, “Don’t believe everything you think.” And we could add: Especially about yourself.

Let us pray for a true and healthy sense of who we are: that we are beloved of God, that we are precious beyond words, and that we are destined for loving kindness.

Let’s pray for that.

Because that’s what’s true.

Your brother in Christ,


A Word from Grace Street: joy and service

My Dear People,

Last week I relayed some wisdom of Brené Brown’s regarding the way to joy, that the way to joy is through the cultivation of gratitude.

As promised, this week I’d like to relay another bit of wisdom I recently encountered regarding the way to joy. This from the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and, behold, service was joy.

It is when we serve that we know joy.

And, indeed, we know this to be true, from lived experience.


So then, gratitude and service as ways to joy.

Interesting that they are both outward-oriented and both forms of action.

Gratitude and service, as ways to joy. Anything else you would add to that list?

Your brother in Christ,


A Word from Grace Street: joy and gratitude

My Dear People,

Twice in the last two days, I have encountered wisdom about the way to joy. This week, I’ll share one, next week the other.

Brené Brown says, “I will never talk about joy for the rest of my career without talking about gratitude. Because, for twelve years of research, I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude.”

With no apologies, I can say–and I’m guessing you can too–I want joy. Who wouldn’t, who doesn’t, want joy?

So then, what are we doing to cultivate gratitude, and thereby grow joy, in our lives?

For one, we celebrate the Eucharist weekly–“eucharist” from the Greek for “thanksgiving.” Every Sunday, no matter what’s happened in the preceding week, we begin the new week by giving thanks to God. As I never could tire of saying, we are a Eucharistic people. We are people of thanksgiving!

That being the case, are there other disciplines of gratitude we practice, or might practice, in addition to the Eucharist?

This month many people around the country are participating in what’s being called “Thirty Days of Thanks,” daily lifting up something they are grateful for, be it in a prayer journal, or by sharing their gratitude with a companion, or posting a thankful word on social media, or all of the above.

A practice, or discipline, of gratitude can take any number of forms.

Meanwhile, joy awaits.

Gratefully, your brother in Christ,


A Word from Grace Street: baptism, on purpose

My Dear People,

Yesterday, at the Bishop’s Fall Retreat for Clergy, Bishop Gulick spoke of how his life has been changed through sharing a daily disciple of prayer with a young priest. They both say Morning Prayer on their own each morning, and then they e-mail one another the “word” (in the broadest sense) they have heard for that day. The experience, the Bishop reports (and he does so in a voice choked with emotion), has been transformational for him in a way he never imagined. It was moving to hear him speak about it.

Bishop Gulick then, yes, challenged us to reflect on our own discipleship, while, perhaps, the water from our morning shower washes over us, and we say, “May my baptism make a difference today.”

What might I do, what might you do, to live out our baptism more intentionally, more consciously, more on purpose?

What might we do in order that our baptism makes a difference every day?

Your brother in Christ,

A Word from Grace Street: hearing from God

My Dear People,

The question was, and is, “How do you hear from God?”

“Facebook, duh! JK, bro!” was the first answer, from a childhood friend (and, as you can gather, a first-rate card!). I had asked the question on, yes, Facebook.

Other answers came tumbling in: “When I stop talking.” “By listening, which can be difficult, but is oh so worth it.” “When I am quiet and open.”

Quite a few answers spoke of quiet, listening, and silence; one of “honest prayer.”

Three people mentioned their children, two wrote of crosses they had been given as gifts, someone mentioned the ocean, and another the harvest moon setting over the river (“the rivah,” I should say).

And another wrote, “Sometimes very directly in his own words.”

And another, “I don’t.”


Open, dear Lord, the eyes and ears, and the hearts and minds, of all your children, to your presence and movement, in the world and in our lives. We pray this for each day, for each moment, and for each and every one of us. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Your brother in Christ,


A Word from Grace Street: utterly present

My Dear People,

This past week I got to spend time with an old friend. I’ll call him James.

As a matter of fact, as he and I were reflecting upon together, it was twenty years ago this year that our friendship took root, in the spring of my senior year at Sewanee. As we thought back over those two decades of friendship, among the many experiences that came to mind is the fact that on three separate occasions we have run out of gas together!

Once in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina; once in Chattanooga, Tennessee; and once on a country road somewhere in Ireland. That last time, we ended up sipping a cup of coffee at the kitchen table in the home of a family of farmers.

James’ daughter joked, this week, about how that all must be a sign of some really good conversation over all those years. And, indeed, she’s exactly right.

Conversation, yes. And, on a more fundamental level, a sign of presence, I’d say. Utter presence.


So then, where in our lives are we truly, utterly present? And–you could hear the next question coming, I expect–what would it look like to give ourselves all the more fully to being present, utterly present?

So present that we might end up sipping coffee at a stranger’s kitchen table.

Your brother in Christ,


A Word from Grace Street: Good church

My Dear People,

“It felt like a homecoming,” he said. Even though–and I love this!–even though, he’d never even been to St. Paul’s before.

I shared that vignette in Sunday’s sermon, the message having come to us last week from a young man who joined us for Evensong on the 29th.

Just today another message has some in, a message likewise from someone attending worship at St. Paul’s for the first time; in this case, this past Sunday. He writes (and he gave me permission to share), “We were warmly welcomed by the staff and congregation. The liturgy and music moved us spiritually. My wife and I were so glad that we joined you for this service. We were both impressed and touched.” 

He went on to talk about how beautiful the church is. But then he circled back around to the following, and, as soon as I read it, I knew I had to share it, “But the beauty of the building and architecture cannot match the beauty of the spirituality of your community of faith.” 

The beauty of the spirituality of your community of faith. 

Amen, amen. 

And let us pray that God will grow and deepen and enlarge that beauty all the more. 

Before closing, I have to add, he assured me that, going forward, we’d be seeing him and his wife regularly. 

They want more of what they found, in worship with us. In the presence of God. 

Now that’s good church.

Your brother in Christ,


A Word from Grace Street: A bishop’s counsel

My Dear People,

Krister Stendahl. (I’ve always loved that name.) A theologian, New Testament scholar, and bishop in the Church of Sweden, he was a significant figure in the life of the worldwide Church. So then, for my friend Russell Levenson, an eager student at Virginia Seminary at the time, it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to pick up Bishop Stendahl from the airport and ride him back to the seminary, where the bishop would do some teaching and preaching for a few days. In anticipation, Russell thought about how to make the most of the opportunity to spend even a few minutes with such a celebrated and wise teacher.

So then, the day came, and Russell met and picked up the Bishop, and they began the short drive from Reagan National to Seminary Road. And Russell went ahead and laid it out there: What counsel would you, Bishop, have for a young seminarian preparing for a lifetime in ministry?

What did the Bishop say?

“Remember Jesus.”


When my life and my mind get cluttered, which they most certainly sometimes do, I will often return to Russell’s story, and to what a good man and a faithful disciple said.

Yes, remember Jesus.

Your brother in Christ,