The Longest Night

Advent reflection for the Longest Night service at Trinity Episcopal Church

December 16, 2017

The Longest Night service at Trinity Church in Houston takes place on the Saturday evening closest to the winter solstice during Advent. We gather together in Trinity’s beautiful quiet chapel to acknowledge the sorrows and struggles that can appear during this season, along with the joys and hopes. In community, we reflect and share and pray, and we gather around the table to share Eucharist together. I was asked this year to prepare and offer a reflection and I am sharing it here as well. As we approach this winter solstice, our longest night, may we all know, each in our own hearts, that light is already on the way. Know that I wish you much peace this holy season and always.


Gracious God, we come before you this night as your family, as community. In this very holy season, we await the Light of your coming. We also know our woundedness this longest night, and we wait in the dark. Help us to know and remember that you are already here with us. Help us to not be afraid to hope and to yearn for the light that is You. Help us to come to your table with open hands and an open heart, open to the wholeness and healing that only You can give.

We ask all this on this longest night, in the name of your son and our brother Jesus,




“The only thing I know about the Second Coming is that it is going to happen because of God’s love. God made the universe out of love; the Word shouted all things joyfully into being because of love. The Second Coming, whenever it happens and whatever it means, will also be because of love.”

Madeleine L’Engle

“Time and Space Turned Upside Down”


I have a good friend whose sister is an Episcopal priest in California. Her sister has told my friend that whenever she meets with a bereaved family to prepare for a funeral, she always asks them to “look for the miracle.” In her experience, a miracle always follows a death, sooner or later.

I have seen this in my own life.

In the spring of 1994, I was pregnant and suffered an early miscarriage. Later that year, I became pregnant again. When Christmas came, I was in Cincinnati visiting my husband’s family. I was at the same stage of pregnancy where I had lost our first baby. I was anxious and sad and afraid that I would miscarry again, this time far from home. As I sat in church with my husband and his family that Christmas Eve afternoon, my eyes fell on a statue of Mary. I remembered her words (Luke 1: 38) when the angel Gabriel came to tell her that she would conceive and bear God’s son…”Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  I remembered the words of Amy Grant’s song “Breath of Heaven, Mary’s Song”: “Breath of heaven, hold me together, be forever near me, breath of heaven…breath of heaven, lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness, for you are holy.” Everything felt very risky that day, and I couldn’t help but feel sad, knowing that I would have been holding a baby in my arms if it hadn’t been for the miscarriage. The miracle came about six months later when our daughter was born the next summer. She was, and is, and will always be, our miracle.

Ten years later, my father died after many years of suffering from a slow-growing cancer that eventually made his breathing difficult and brought heart failure. He had been a hospice patient for three years before he died…and he loved life so much. After his death, there was much work to do including helping with caregiving for my mother who moved across the state to be near us. As Christmas approached, I found myself sad and almost dreading the celebration I had always loved. We were in a new church, my husband’s first parish as an Episcopal priest, and were still adjusting to this friendly but new to us community. As I sat in church on Christmas Eve, my mind was filled with thoughts of my father and how much I missed him. After the service, as we went outside, I suddenly heard shouts of joy from the kids. Then I saw the snow. White flakes falling everywhere and sticking to the cold ground. My first thought was that my father had sent the snow from heaven. That he had sent the snow to let us know that all was well and that we should indeed be celebrating Christmas and the birth of our Savior. You all know that we don’t usually have a white Christmas around here. Not in southeast Texas. But that year, the year I felt so sad, we did. And it stayed all through Christmas Day. This was my miracle that Christmas.

And now, here we are in 2017. The year of Hurricane Harvey, the year of so much loss and sadness. This year our community has suffered, as in every year, private sadness and loss that is always present. This year our community suffered through Harvey together, and we are still suffering. We have both private and communal sorrows. We sit here tonight this year as in all years, broken sometimes in ways that no one can see and no one can know. It has been a hard year to be a church community with so much loss in our country…loss from mass shootings, loss from wildfires, loss from secrets that we hold in our hearts. This church and this community and we who call this place home have all suffered, each in our own way.

And then the Astros won the World Series. A miracle, no?

The truth is that we are waiting this very night, this longest night, for that miracle. The miracle of Advent, of Christmas, is that Jesus is born. Of all the ways that God could have entered humanity, in what Madeleine L’Engle calls “an invasion of holiness”, God chose to come as a baby. A helpless naked newborn infant. Someone who would depend on us frail humans for his own sustenance, his own life.

I think that God may have wanted to be sure that we wouldn’t be frightened by the coming of his son. After all, there are so many other ways to imagine the coming of Christ. The scriptures are filled with images of how Christ might return again to us in the Second Coming. But he came in Bethlehem as a baby. A weak and tender baby, and we were not afraid…because the angels themselves told us to “fear not.”

This baby came because of Love. This Jesus entered our world in Love. And it is this Love that brings us together here in this church we call home, over and over and over again.

We know our own brokenness this night. We know well our personal darkness and something as well of our communal darkness. It is by faith that we are here, waiting for the Light to come and to shion this longest night.

If there were no Light, we would not know that this is darkness. We hold both darkness and our belief in the Light this night, even as we hold both our sorrow and our joy during this most lovely of seasons. Every birth is inevitably a death, and we believe that every death is also a birth.

We are here together this night and we bring all of who we are to this table. We bring our sorrows and our joys, we bring our brokenness and our willingness to be made whole in Jesus.

May we always remember that the darkness of this night, of all nights, is only part of the story, only part of the reality of our lives together. May we know the wholeness of embracing all of who we are, all of our experience. May we prepare for the Light to come, knowing well that it is Love and only Love that calls us into being, this night and all the days of our lives.


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Las Vegas, Two Churches, and Our 25th Anniversary

This morning I woke up at 4:00 am. I was just going to the bathroom but my phone lay on my bedside table flashing away. I picked it up and read the screen’s alert about the shooting in Las Vegas. I still went to the bathroom but I didn’t go back to sleep.

I have been to Las Vegas three times, but never before I got married. I went with my husband the first time early in our marriage. It was a winter weekend and airfares were cheap. I went to the airport straight from work but almost missed the plane because I answered a phone call from a patient’s mother. Las Vegas seemed like another planet to me. It was interesting and overwhelming at the same time. I couldn’t get warm enough as the winter wind blew down the Strip. We stayed in a little motel called the Desert Rose Inn.

The second time we brought our young daughter so we did all the Vegas family friendly activities. She was too short to ride the New York New York roller coaster (which made us all sad) but we had fun at M and M World. We stayed at Luxor so we got to ride the diagonal elevator which was strange but fun.

The third time my husband and I went alone while our daughter was at camp. We stayed at Caesar’s Palace and saw Elton John in concert. I was getting the hang of Vegas by this time. We stayed away from the smoky casinos and slept and swam in the pool and walked and ate. It was a great trip.

This day many of us may be remembering our own times in Las Vegas. I only have a little Vegas experience, but my Vegas affinity grew as my marriage grew. My husband and I have begun celebrating our 25th anniversary. It isn’t until next month but we are celebrating the month before, the month of, and the month after…because twenty-five years is a lot to celebrate.

So what about two churches? Well, two churches because my husband recently started his position as interim rector at Ascension Episcopal Church in Houston (church number one) after serving as supply priest all summer for Grace Episcopal Church in Galveston. I have been going to Ascension most Sundays so far. But I belong to Trinity Episcopal Church in midtown Houston (church number two). This is the church where I lead a monthly women’s circle and the church that our family went with to Israel on pilgrimage in 2015 and it is a church that I love. I wasn’t there most of the summer but have started going again to Trinity’s last service, a jazz Eucharist, after I go to the midmorning service at Ascension. So, since the end of the summer, I have been praying in two churches most Sundays.

So what again? Well, because praying in two churches every Sunday for a few weeks has been balm to my soul but it didn’t stop what happened in Las Vegas last night. Being married for twenty-five years to the love of my life who took me to Las Vegas three times so far makes me so grateful that I can’t see straight thinking about all the joy and goodness in my life. But all that joy didn’t stop what happened in Las Vegas last night.

Or in Orlando. Or in Sandy Hook. Or in Columbine.

I grew up practicing civil defense drills curling up under my desk at school or curling up in the hall. But it seems like no matter what drills you practice, you just couldn’t be ready for what happened last night in Las Vegas if you were there listening to Jason Aldean sing.

Things happen like this. And it seems, at least so far, that nothing will stop it. Not two churches, not all the churches in the world. Not twenty-five years of marriage, not all the marriages in the world. And Las Vegas is only the most recent tragedy.

There are a lot of ideas about what could be done. About gun control. About better and more accessible and more proactive mental health services. About security. And all of these things and many more bear fervent consideration.

But for today, I am only brought back to grace. Because in the mass shootings and the earthquakes and the hurricanes and the wars and the everything, we remain human beings. I believe that grace exists and that my life depends on that grace every day. There is light that is offered and hands that are extended in a million different directions every moment of our lives. If not for this grace, this very air that I breathe, why anything?

I am not a theologian and I am not an expert in anything. We are drowning in sadness and anger and it gets harder to remember how things can be different. But I know what keeps my heart beating and I know what enlivens my spirit. I am humbled by my circumstances and I know that all is gift.

And so, being married for almost twenty-five years and going to two churches for now and carrying sweet memories of our trips to Las Vegas, I turn again to pray for our sisters and brothers, the ones who died, the ones who may be dying even now, the ones who are hurt, the ones who will carry the trauma the rest of their days, the ones who lost loved ones, the first responders, and all the responders. And I pray for all of us. I pray that somehow we will find our way through this season and learn the way of wholeness, the way of kindness and mercy, the way of grace. There is nothing easy about any of this…but I trust that grace is here in our midst. Our children and their children and all the children need us to hold it and treasure it and share it.

May we learn to remember who we really are together. May we know the bonds of common humanity that make us whole. May we make room, even a little room, to trust in this grace, today and all the days of our lives.

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Ash Wednesday

Tonight I knelt in a beautiful church, closed my eyes, and felt fingers brushing dry ashes on my forehead in the sign of a cross. These words were whispered to me: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

So begins another season of Lent. For some reason, this night the ashes felt friendly as they touched my skin.  Hearing the word “dust” reminded me of a playground on a hot summer day, spinning on a merry go round and seeing clouds of dust swirl as my friends jumped on and off. Kicking the dirt with my bare feet as I sat in a swing. Remembering that dust comes from dirt, from the good earth. And that one day, that good earth will again hold me and everyone I know and love.

We heard the words from Isaiah, chapter 58:

“Is this not the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in darkness and your gloom be like noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

And from Matthew, chapter 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I am called this night to remember my visit to the Holy Land two years ago. A friend of mine is visiting there now, and as I see her pictures on Facebook, I am reminded of how it felt to sit in the dark Judean desert waiting for sunrise. The light always comes in time. 

And so my prayer this night:

May we aspire to be called “the repairer of the breach” for indeed our world overflows with breaches. May this season of Lent make our hearts tender for the sake of all God’s people. May we breathe in peace with every step, and in our hearts and in our souls may we know always and only grace, apparent grace. 






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Inflection Point


“The only truth I know is that light is everywhere.”

A long long time ago in math class, I learned about inflection points. About the points where curves change direction, where shifts occur, where calculus reigns. Aside from the calculus that I learned before applying to medical school, I have come to believe that inflection points are scattered throughout our days and throughout our lives.  I have come to believe that there is always an opportunity offered by an inflection point, and that often the hardest time to see the opportunity is when we are right in the middle of the inflection point itself.

“The only truth I know is that light is everywhere.” I wrote these words after a trip to the Holy Land in the summer of 2015. In all the many and diverse places we visited, holy sites of Christianity, of Judaism, of Islam, I saw light. Candles and light everywhere. Sunrise on the Judean desert followed by Holy Communion. Glass lanterns swinging in the Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Golden light sparkling on the surprisingly blue waters of the Sea of Galilee. I was in awe of the light, and the reverence, that I saw everywhere in the Holy Land.

Tonight is an important inflection point. Tomorrow a new president of the United States will be inaugurated. There will be shifts and direction changes. We are not unified in how we see and understand the opportunity in this particular inflection point in history.  There is so much unknown ahead.

We need light in this inflection point of time. We need the gift of light this night and in the days to come. We need to be able to see and to not miss the opportunities for light and for service…for this season, like all seasons, is holy.

My prayer tonight is that we kindle and keep alive the light that is already in our hearts. I pray that the fires of love will keep us warm and the flames of hope will light our way as we reach out to the future. I pray for peace, for compassion, and for that light that shines in the darkness, the light that the darkness has not and will not overcome. May the hearts of all know this light this day and all days and may honest and apparent grace abound.

“The only truth I know is that light is everywhere.”













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Beads, Safety Pins, and Candles

This past week. 

On Monday, Leonard Cohen died. 

Tuesday was Election Day. When we finally went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. 

Wednesday I saw my spiritual director and spent time with my sister. 

Thursday was my birthday. My husband and I drove to New Orleans. I took a picture of the Mississippi River and tagged it #runningawaytogether. We did what we always do, drank cafe au lait and ate beignets at Cafe du Monde. It was not very crowded. For the first time, on Bourbon Street I caught beads tossed from a balcony. 

Friday I bought safety pins at CVS. Two packages. One all silver and one black and white. We walked over 15,000 steps around the French Quarter. 

Saturday I wore a safety pin. I saw two bartenders wearing safety pins at an uptown cafe. I read posts on Facebook about why and why not to wear safety pins. When we got off the street car, a woman touched my arm, smiled, and said “I love your safety pin.” I took pictures of candles. We watched as Kate McKinnon opened Saturday Night Live singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Today is Sunday and we are heading home. Sunday, the day full of grace. My prayer is that I remember that I can speak up, be kind, be compassionate, be myself, be present to others known and unknown with or without wearing a safety pin. My prayer is that we all leave room in our hearts for community, for catching beads tossed from a balcony for the first time. My prayers is that candles will always remind us to look for the light. And that love wins. And that grace abounds even and especially when we may not be so sure anymore. Apparent Grace. 

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There is that moment

Right before everything changes

When I stop, breathe, yield

Surrender to what I already know to be true.

That moment, wistful, anxious

Maybe a little sad

Maybe nostalgic

Hangs in my knowing like an icicle ready to melt.

And in that moment

And in that knowing

Lies the seed of what is to come

Lies the seed of new life.

Guided by kindness

Heart open to the future

I open my hands, knowing what I know

And breathe in the sun.

Life is like this

Moment by moment by moment

Consenting to now, saving our own lives

And trusting in Grace.

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Living Compass in Chicago

This past week I had a wonderful opportunity to spend a few days at the Nicholas Center at St. James Cathedral in Chicago and participate in training for congregational wellness advocacy via a program known as Living Compass. This program offers participants an opportunity for self-assessment in eight areas of wellness as well as support and encouragement in growing into more wholeness in heart, mind, soul, and strength. The training was led by founder Dr. Scott Stoner, Holly Stoner, and Edith Lipscomb. My husband and I were part of the group with new friends from all over the United States and Ireland! 
It was such a gift to spend time reflecting on our call to wholeness. We were invited to consider how we might continue to help bring forth healing in our churches and our communities. I can’t imagine a time where Living Compass could be needed any more than right now in our world. 

The website is if you would like to take a look. I give thanks for this work and for the gift of time together this past week. This was abundant and apparent grace for me!

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