7th Grade Prayers

Posted in Education with tags , , , , on December 6, 2019 by timtrue

A couple of weeks back I posted some prayers largely composed by Imago Dei’s 6th grade class for use in the midweek Eucharist. Here’s another set of prayers, this one from the 7th grade. As you peruse them, please keep in mind the context: all students of Imago Dei live in poverty; and, though not technically on the Mexican border geographically, for all intents and purposes Tucson is a border town. This context naturally enters student prayers on a daily basis, but perhaps especially when I ask them to pray for “The nation and all in authority,” “The welfare of the world,” “The concerns of the local community,” and “Those who suffer and those in any trouble,” as related in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 383). So then, next week’s Prayers of the People:

God, we thank you that different religions make the world a better place. We pray that people would respect other religions and not make fun of them; and that churches and other houses of worship may be safe places.

Hear our prayer.

We thank you that we live in Tucson, a beautiful city, and for the freedoms we have in this country. Help the homeless people in Tucson. Make Tucson safe. We pray for the president to make wise decisions.

Hear our prayer.

We thank you for Jesus’ message of love. We pray that people would clean up the pollution in the world; that the people on the Mexican side of the border will love us anyway; and for justice throughout the world.

Hear our prayer.

We thank you for Imago Dei Middle School and the education we are receiving. We pray for the staff, teachers, founders, students, and parents, that each day will be blessed and full of wonders. Help our school last forever.

Hear our prayer.

Thank you for our friends, families, and pets. We pray for the people we know who struggle with addiction, live in fear, are sick or in pain, are in jail, or are no longer with us. Be with them and help them.

Hear our prayer.

Accept, O God, our thanks and praise for all 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, for the mystery of love, and for your presence and involvement in our lives. Amen.

Thankful at IDMS

Posted in Homilies with tags , , on November 27, 2019 by timtrue

A message for my school today, given at our all-school Eucharist. Also, a new, current photo for the annals:

tim cropped

John 6:25-35

1.

What is Jesus talking about?

Today we hear a story about a crowd who search for Jesus and find him. But he then asks them, “Why are you looking for me? Do you want me to do more miracles for you? Are you hungry again? Is that it? Do you want me to feed you more bread?”

And a little later, he tells the people, “I am the bread from heaven, the bread that gives life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I remember being really hungry last Thanksgiving; and I plan to be really, really hungry this Thanksgiving.

Also, in the year in between, I can remember feeling really, really, really hungry at least a couple of times—like when I fasted on Good Friday.

But today Jesus says he’s the bread from heaven; and that if I come to him—which I do—then I will never be hungry again.

But I do become hungry again. Again and again, in fact—everyday!

Is this another one of Jesus’ irritating riddles? Just what is he talking about?

2.

So, let’s back up a bit; let’s see if the context, the bigger picture, helps us.

Just before today’s story—which is from the Gospel of John—we find another story, a well-known story, about Jesus feeding five thousand people. Do you remember?

Jesus saw a large crowd and realized they had no food with them. They were hungry, all five thousand of them. So, Jesus formulated a rather grand vision: to feed them all.

Good idea!

But then his disciple Philip came onto the scene. Philip heard Jesus’ vision and was immediately overwhelmed by the vastness of it. “How we gonna do that, Jesus?” Philip asked. “Six months’ wages wouldn’t buy enough food to feed everyone even a little!”

Jesus’ vision was big. The funding seemed impossible. Philip was paralyzed.

Fortunately, another disciple named Andrew was there too. And with Andrew a little hope, it seemed, shone through a cloud of doubt. “Here’s a boy,” Andrew told Jesus hopefully, “with five barley loaves and two small fish. But, oh,” (and the silver lining fades) “what are these among so many?”

Well, here, at least, was something Jesus could work with. In Andrew, in the boy, in both, there shone a little glimmer of faith.

So—we know the story—Jesus took that little glimmer and, through love, turned it into so much food that all five thousand people were fed; and twelve basketfuls were left over!

It was a bona fide miracle, one from which we could learn a lot about dreaming big!

3.

But that—dreaming big—is not the point of today’s story. Instead, that miracle merely sets the stage for today’s story.

Today, our theme is Thanksgiving; and today we see people from this same miracle-witnessing crowd seeking Jesus. But they’re not seeking him to thank him. Instead, today, they’re seeking him for all the wrong reasons.

For starters, they’re hungry. Jesus fed them quite satisfactorily yesterday; and so, they reason, maybe he will feed us again today.

Um, I want to say, you’re missing the point!

Next, some of these miracle-seeking people see Jesus and insert their own agenda. He just organized a big event; he showed no small amount of competence; and he said some really good things too. So, these agenda-inserters look at each other, perhaps facepalming themselves, and exclaim, “Imagine what a great political leader he would make!”

Again, I want to say, you’re missing the point!

And then there are some people who just want to witness more magic. These magic-seekers are the people who ask Jesus, “What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you going to perform?”

Really! “What sign are you going to give us?” Didn’t he just feed 5,000 people yesterday; and today you want another sign? Good grief!

And, once again, you’re missing the point!

Anyway, do you see where this is going? This miracle-witnessing crowd was seeking Jesus for all the wrong reasons! Their question was always, “What will Jesus do for me? How will Jesus meet my needs?”

And our take-home lesson from today? By seeking Jesus in a self-absorbed way, they were not thankful.

People who seek Jesus for the wonderful, the spectacular, or the miraculous end up missing out on opportunities to be thankful in the small, daily details of life.

That’s the point!

Five thousand people were fed yesterday, sure. But today, right in their midst, Jesus is the true bread from heaven, the bread that feeds our souls so that our spiritual hunger is satisfied—and our eyes are open to gratitude, thankfulness.

4.

Now, we’re in this chapel celebrating Thanksgiving. That’s what the word Eucharist means—did you know that? Thanksgiving!

So, let’s ask ourselves, what are we thankful for today, right now? How is God showing us God’s very self, right in our midst, right in the day-to-day lives we live?

I’m not asking us to recall something amazing, spectacular, or miraculous.

Rather, where do we find God in the midst of our households? Are we able to find something we’re thankful for, for instance, in a little sister, in a big brother, in a second cousin?

What about here at school? For what are you thankful about Imago Dei Middle School?

For some of you, maybe even most of you, this isn’t too difficult: you’re thankful for food, friends, teachers, education, Playformance, electives, camp, and so on.

Well and good!

But for others of you, it’s not so easy. School feels like a burdensome obligation to you, a chore. It’s just something you have to do. You go to school because your mom or dad or guardian makes you.

And when school’s a burden, I know, it’s not so easy to be thankful.

Well, either way—whether thankfulness comes easy for you or not—I want to conclude my chapel talk today with a challenge that comes from the story we heard about Jesus and that miracle-seeking crowd.

My challenge is this: Please, scholars, don’t expect Imago Dei to serve you.

Now, here’s why I issue this challenge. The people in today’s story expected Jesus to serve them, to meet their needs. They asked, “What can Jesus do for me?” And, in doing so, they missed out on an abundance of opportunities to be thankful.

It’s the same with school. If you and I and the other teachers and students only ask, “What can Imago Dei do for me?” we miss out on tremendous and numerous opportunities to be thankful in our day-to-day life together.

Instead, let’s ask, “What can I offer to Imago Dei? How can I make Imago Dei an even better place, an even stronger community? What gifts and talents do I have to offer?”

And then! That shift in perspective—guaranteed!—will leave us all even more thankful than we already are.

Come to the Eucharist—to Thanksgiving—bringing what you have to offer!

6th Grade Prayers

Posted in Doing Church, Education, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 22, 2019 by timtrue

The prayers that follow are the result of a unit on prayer I just completed with my 6th grade World Religions course. They will be incorporated into next week’s school Thanksgiving Eucharist liturgy (the Prayers of the People), just before school staff distributes about 70 turkey dinners to the students and their families. I hope you find these prayers as life-giving as I do.

God, we thank you for the religions of the world, the hope they bring, and the wisdom of religious leaders around the world; may all their members follow their missions, so that the world will become a better place. We pray that religious wars everywhere would come to an end.

We thank you for Tucson’s nice weather, that we don’t have to deal with hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. We also thank you that we live in a democracy where people can make a difference through voting. We pray for our political leaders, that they make good decisions not for just a few people but for everybody.

We thank you for all the people who care about cleaning up our world; and for all the people working to bring peace to the world. We pray for a world where people are not judged by the color of their skin or because of how they look; and we pray that love, justice, and peace would increase throughout the world.

We pray for the suffering, betrayed, homeless, and enslaved; and for those who have died.

We thank you for our school’s staff members and teachers and the other people who care about our education. We thank you, also, for camp, Playformance, and electives; for the Family Pantry; and for all the food and fun we have at school. We pray that we learn to love and care for one another, that we will be ready for high school and college, that Imago Dei Middle School grows, and that our donors keep donating.

Accept, O God, our thanks and praise for all 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. Amen.

In case you don’t know, Imago Dei Middle School is devoted to breaking cycles of poverty through Episcopal education. It is a tuition-free private school. All students are living in poverty. Most are considered at-risk. Please let me know if you would like to learn more.

Divine Impetus

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2019 by timtrue

I will deliver this homily at St. Michael and All Angels in Tucson tomorrow, Oct. 20, Proper 24 of Year C. Prior to what you see written below, I will offer a brief introduction about me and my work at Imago Dei Middle School. (Advocating for my students and their families in local churches is something I plan to do a lot of over the next few years.)

Luke 18:1-8

1.

The Roman historian Livy tells a story that goes like this:

In 75 BCE, the man we know today as Julius Caesar was captured by pirates. These pirates had a notorious reputation, having controlled the Mediterranean Sea like the mafia for more than a millennium. They would release their captive, they announced, for a ransom of 20 talents of gold.

In case you’re wondering, I looked it up. In today’s dollars, one talent of gold is worth about $1.4 million; so, 20 talents is worth approximately $28 million.

Well, Julius caught wind of the ransom, called the pirate chieftain over, and said, “Pah! 2o talents isn’t nearly enough. Increase it to 50!” In other words, $70 million.

Which the chieftain did. And which the Roman people paid. (Not sure how the ancient taxpayers felt about that.)

Fast forward nine years, to 66 BCE: Julius Caesar has risen in rank from Army General to Emperor; and part of his agenda as Emperor is to rid the Mediterranean Sea of those notorious pirates. He commissions this task to his Army General, a man named Pompey.

So this becomes Pompey’s vision: rid the sea of pirates. But how?

Pompey decides to collaborate. He calls his best engineers together, lays out his vision, and together they formulate a plan.

More harbors will be needed, they determine, harbors all over the empire. To do that, land will have to be cleared, channels dug, large amounts of earth moved.

One of the engineers then suggests the use of a tiny, invasive seed that, when planted in abundance, will strip the soil of nutrients and suck out all moisture, making their earth moving projects much easier.

In fact, this seed—the mustard seed—proves to be highly effective. So crumbly became the affected soil, Livy writes, that even the hardiest of all trees, the mulberry, sometimes would fall of its own accord into the sea.

And thus were the necessary harbors created. And so, in the span of three months, according to Livy, Pompey rid the entire Mediterranean of pirates; and, he also relates, this accomplishment became widely known throughout the empire.

Hmmm. “Widely known”? Do you think, a century or so later, Jesus and his disciples might have known this story?

After all, Jesus taught them, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed. . . .”

2.

But that was the Gospel from two weeks ago. Today’s Gospel tells a different story, not about a mustard seed and a mulberry tree but about a widow and a judge.

And, you know, widows in the ancient world had it rough. There was no Social Security, no Medicare. Unless she had a son to take care of her, she was largely on her own. Where could she turn for help?

Well, this particular widow turns to a local judge. “I demand justice,” she cries; “justice that both God and humanity deserve!”

However, the judge she turns to is self-serving; he cares nothing about God and even less about the dignity of persons. He’s a key player in the system already stacked against her.

Nevertheless, incredibly, after presenting her case before this self-serving judge, day after day, over and over, she gets what she asks for. The judge gives in—because she persistently wheedles, hounds, and annoys him.

Just what is Jesus teaching us through this parable?

Is there some kind of lesson here about stewardship—maybe if the rector wheedles, hounds, and annoys us persistently enough, the parish will raise 100% of next year’s budget through pledges alone?

I’m a little confused.

St. Luke the Evangelist states at the outset that this parable is not about stewardship; but about praying always. And yet—I didn’t see it; did you?—this widow never once prays!

And, besides, is this unjust judge somehow supposed to be a picture of God?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t view God as some aloof arbiter who cares nothing about me and only gives in to my prayers because I persistently wheedle, hound, or annoy God enough.

Just what does this parable have to do with prayer? Is anyone else confused?

3.

If we go back to the Gospel again, but this time to the end of the passage, then we find a key connection.

There, after telling this curious tale about the poor widow and the unjust judge, Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

There, in other words, at the end of the passage, Jesus connects prayer to faith.

This is the key to unlock our understanding of the parable.

For what have we been hearing about over the last couple of weeks? Hasn’t it been faith?

Last Sunday—do you remember?—we heard a story about Jesus encountering 10 lepers. He healed them and they left rejoicing.

But then one of these lepers returned to give thanks. And so we heard some more about this one leper, a foreigner, healed precisely because of his faith, a faith that took on a visible, tangible form, namely face-to-face contact and a warm smile. The healed leper’s faith was concrete.

And the week before that? Jesus told us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can say to a mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey us.

This too is a tangible, concrete faith, a literal seed by which Julius Caesar and General Pompey were able to fulfill their vision—a means towards an end.

That’s what faith is for Jesus. Something literal. Something quantifiable. Dare I say, something, even, utilitarian.

But how often have we heard an entirely different message: that faith is some invisible, intangible thing? If God doesn’t answer our prayers, how often have we been told it’s because we lack faith; or because we haven’t prayed hard enough or just need to believe more?

Hear me now: that is not, nor was it ever, the good news of Jesus!

For Jesus, faith looks like the warm smile of thanksgiving from a healed leper. Or, another way, faith looks like a tiny mustard seed that alters a vast landscape. For Jesus, faith is tangible and concrete, a quantifiable means toward God’s ends.

4.

So, it’s time to ask ourselves: if faith is not the invisible, intangible something we’ve always heard, what does a quantifiable, tangible faith look like for us today?

Well, I can tell you what it looks like for the kids I work with, the kids of Imago Dei Middle School. For most of them—maybe for all—they’re vision includes earning a college degree.

So, you know what their faith looks like—a tangible, concrete faith? A means to that end?

It looks like a pencil!

“If you have faith the size of a pencil,” I tell them, “you can earn that college degree, land a stable job, and break free from poverty.”

What about you? Does your faith look like a pencil? How about a dollar? Or a pink ribbon? Or a rainbow? What is the best means for you to accomplish God’s ends?

5.

Anyway, now, finally, I think we are able to see what Jesus’ parable has to do with prayer. For this kind of faith isn’t easy, is it?

It wasn’t easy for Pompey to rid the Mediterranean of pirates.

It wasn’t easy for a foreign leper to give thanks to the Jewish man who healed him.

It wasn’t easy for a widow in Jesus’ day to plead for justice repeatedly and persistently, again and again, over and over to an unjust judge.

And it definitely isn’t easy for the Imago Dei scholars to break out of the cycles of poverty they find themselves born into.

In every case, their faith is the means to accomplish God’s ends; but more than faith in necessary.

As I read today’s parable, though prayer is never mentioned, I cannot help but imagine the widow going through her daily regimen—another tiring, wearisome day of facing a heartless brick wall of a judge—I cannot help but see her praying herself through: every night, after she returns home heartbroken yet again; and every morning, when she rises to find, somehow, another small ray of divine hope flickering in her soul, thanks be to God.

Faith is the means to accomplish God’s ends; but prayer is the divine impetus that enables us to persevere.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

The Riddle of the Shrewd Steward

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , on September 17, 2019 by timtrue

IDMS Chapel, 9/18/2019

Proper 20C

1.

I’ve got a couple of classic riddles for you:

First, “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?”

This riddle comes from Greek mythology, posed by the Sphinx. A man named Oedipus figured out the correct answer: man. . . .

Second:

This thing all things devours;

Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;

Gnaws iron, bites steel;

Grinds hard stones to meal;

Slays king, ruins town,

And beats mountain down.

This riddle comes from a story called The Hobbit. Bilbo and Gollum are having an epic battle of wits in the heart of the mountain; and Gollum posits this “tricksy” one. But Bilbo figures out the answer: time.

2.

Jesus tells a similar riddle today about a man who is about to be fired from his job because his boss thinks he is dishonest, who then acts desperately and cleverly; and because of his actions his boss then commends him.

It’s a surprise ending! We’re left scratching our heads asking why. In fact, for two thousand years people have been asking why; and have come up with a lot of different answers, with very little agreement between them.

So, what we heard was that this guy was about to be fired, so he “sweet-talks” his way into favor with his boss’s customers; and this behavior impressed his boss.

Other versions of the Bible give us more detail. What this guy actually did was to go to one of the customers and ask, “Don’t you owe my boss a hundred jugs of olive oil?” And the customer answers, “Why, yes I do!” “Well then,” this guy says, “I have the authority to make it fifty. Would you like that? Now you only owe my boss fifty!”

This steward is shrewd!

Similarly, he goes to another customer who owes his boss a hundred containers of wheat and says, “Now you owe him only eighty.”

And the boss finds out! And he goes to his shrewd steward and says, surprisingly, “Well done because you have acted shrewdly!”

And for two thousand years, people who have heard this riddle have been saying, “But this guy just hurt you financially! How can you commend him?”

Just what is going on here, Jesus? Just what is the answer to your riddle?

3.

So, here’s where I land on this. I’m not saying it’s the right answer—that I’ve figured it all out, et in saecula saeculorum, amen! Rather, it’s my best guess right now, at this point in my life, knowing what I know at this moment:

Letting go is to have and possessing is to lose.

That’s what I think Jesus is getting at in this story about this shrewd steward. To let go is to have; to possess is to lose.

Whahuh? Isn’t this just another riddle?

So, here’s what I mean. This guy—I just called him a shrewd steward—so, this shrewd steward is about to get fired and he knows it. What does he do?

Now, while he’s still working for his boss, while he still has the authority to make important decisions, he takes huge risks and gives up everything. He’s not going to have his cushy job anymore, he realizes; and he’s really got nothing to fall back on except for whatever pension he may or may not have saved up. And no one else is hiring right now—and, besides, he’s got only a bad reference anyway!

So, he throws caution to the wind and risks everything.

When he cut that customer’s debt in half—a hundred jugs of oil? Make it fifty!—and when he cut that other’s customer’s debt down, you know what I think he was doing? He was giving up his own commission!

It was his money he gave up, not his boss’s!

But why in the world would he do that? He was just about to be fired! He needed some extra cash in his pocket, to stockpile away as much as possible!

Instead, dishonest or not, he knew an important truth. This shrewd steward had learned that true freedom is not found in possessions. Rather, he learned that letting go is to have and possessing is to lose.

In my thinking, here is the answer to Jesus’ riddle. Here is how Jesus encourages all people to live. Freedom is not found in what we possess but in a generosity that stretches us to the extent of, even beyond, our means.

It’s not just Jesus who says this, by the way. Gandhi says it too:

Golden fetters are no less galling to a self-respecting man that iron ones; the sting lies in the fetters, not in the metal.

There is goodness as well as greatness in simplicity, not in wealth.

4.

So, let’s think about what this means for us, here, at Imago Dei Middle School. What does it mean for us to be free of greed and wanting more? What does it mean for us to be generous?

Most of you met my daughter Emily. In seventh grade, she attended a private Episcopal school where many of the students came from homes with a lot of money. Quite a few of them lived in mansions. Some showed up to school in a Ferrari or a Maserati; others in Teslas.

So, one day Emily came home in tears. She had saved up her own money for about a year to buy herself an iPhone. I was so proud of her; she showed so much discipline. Anyway, she came home in tears on that day because she had dropped her iPhone on a concrete sidewalk and cracked the screen. “I’d ask for a new one,” she told me, tears streaming down her face, “but I know we don’t have the money. . . . But, Dad,” she continued, “the hardest part is that my friend Angela dropped her iPhone in the toilet and her mom just went out and bought her a new one the next day. It’s not fair!”

You ever feel like that: Other people have way more money than I do; it’s just not fair?

Yeah, me too.

But here’s what Emily did. Instead of thinking about things that weren’t possible, or that would take way too much time and focus for her to achieve, she looked around her immediate world and focused on the present. And she realized that already, here and now, she had much to be grateful for: friends, family, a warm bed at night, enough food; life’s simple yet profound pleasures.

What do you have that you are grateful for? You are part of a great school, a place where you are being challenged to grow into tomorrow’s leaders; surrounded by people who have your best interests at heart.

Also, think about the risks the shrewd steward took. Here at IDMS you are being encouraged to think and act in creative, innovative, risky ways.

You—all of you—have so much! Right here. Right now.

Throughout today and in the weeks ahead, remember this puzzling story from Jesus today, this riddle; and the challenge he leaves us all: letting go is to have and possessing is to lose.

Update: Chapel Rock

Posted in Reflection with tags , , on August 27, 2019 by timtrue

Have been posting infrequently lately, I know. Transitions tend to do that for me, tend to leave me processing, contemplative. And I haven’t written any new sermons since making the move half way through May. Still alive though; and still intending to keep this blog active. So here’s one for the August, 2019 archives.

This week finds me at Chapel Rock, the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona’s camp and conference center, in Prescott. The whole school is here, a kind of solidifying experience for the student body, faculty, and staff.

Getting to know Imago Dei Middle School has been everything I’d hoped it would be. It is a genuine blessing to work with people on the margins of society, to be their advocate, to take on their struggles, challenges, and elations as my own.

Yet, already, it has been more than hoped for. I’m not chaplain just to a group of 5th through 8th graders. The IDMS community includes family members of students, for whom we offer ongoing ESL classes and a food pantry. We run a graduate support services program, offering (for instance) free tutoring to alumni now in high school. We also (surprise!) own a couple subsidiary nonprofits that employ alumni and family members of students.

This, then, is the community that I serve. Though a school, it feels more a church to me than any other church I’ve been a part of!

Anyway, stay tuned for more. In the near future, I will be finishing up my several-part answer to the question, “Why School Chaplaincy?” I will also post more reflections as I get to know this unique community that everyday fills me with a sense of wonder.

Right now, however, I’ve got to go grab some camp breakfast!

Why School Chaplaincy: Ideals Bow to Pragmatics

Posted in Rationale with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2019 by timtrue

Soon two kids became three; then three became four. All daughters. Each roughly two years apart. Yep, when our oldest turned six, Baby Number Four was about to say hello to the world.

The dream of ordination was now clouded by the necessity to get food on the table and diapers on bottoms.

On a teacher’s salary.

That’ll put one’s faith in ideals to the test!

But we managed, somehow, by teaching piano, voice, and violin students out of our home. I also took on evening jobs, usually having to do with music in some stripe of church or other.

And that was life for a while.

Treadmill.

Plodding on.

The vocational dream was still there, but now more like a phantom, leaving me to wonder often if I was merely imagining the ghost or if it was actually something of substance.

So I poured myself into my work, trying to extract value from it and not just going through the motions. I filled holes when they came up, offering to do extra work, administrative work, development work, curriculum work, as long as a few more dollars fit into the scenario.

Which is how I ended up, among other things, learning and teaching Latin. Teacher shortages were real and I was willing and energetic.

Having joined a Presbyterian Church by now, the pastor learned of my latent sense of ordination vocation and encouraged me to apply to a sister church in Texas, a church looking for a full-time staff person to focus half-time on education and half-time on music.

A chance to get back into church ministry? Heck yes! I was interested.

The interview went very well. My wife liked the idea. I was offered the position. We packed up and moved 1500 miles east.

So certain were we of this turn of events, in fact, so certain were we in our faith, that we bought a house.

This was God’s will for us, surely.

Only it wasn’t.

Somewhere between California and Texas the church’s elders decided that the timing wasn’t right to build the education program: the budget couldn’t support me.

Only they didn’t say anything to me until after we’d closed on the house.

Well, we decided the house would root us; we’d take the adventure that awaited us. An adventure, I might add, that wasn’t to include the Presbyterian Church.

So it was there–after returning to the profession where I had found success–teaching–but otherwise feeling back at Square One–no friends, no family nearby, no professional network yet–that we decided to check out the Episcopal Church.

And–why had it taken us so long?–we were home!

Here was a church that didn’t cheapen grace by calling Christianity fun. Here was a church, too, that recognized the faith as not so simple, not so black-and-white as our evangelical roots kept trying to tell us. The Christian faith, in other words, was more like real life: genuine.

That was a breath of fresh air for us.

We also liked the beauty of the music and liturgy, and a theology that included kids in the Eucharist, etc., but that’s another topic for another day.

Fast forward a year or so. By now my wife and I had been confirmed and received into the church. Then, suddenly and rashly it seemed to me, not long after the 2006 General Convention, the rector stood at the pulpit on a Sunday and announced,

“Well, the vestry and I have been having some serious discussions. We’ve come to an agreement that next Sunday will be our last. We’ll march out of here together to another building we’ve rented two blocks away. We’re leaving the Episcopal Church!”

My wife and I were floored! We’d just found our spiritual home–at long last!

So I called the bishop directly to express my concern and mentioned, “I wish I were ordained so that I could jump in here and help out.”

Truth is stranger than fiction, they say.

My words struck a chord with the bishop. In a short time I found myself entering a formal discernment process. Adult-lifelong dream, always met with obstacles; until now, when it was happening almost without any initiative or effort on my part!

By spring of 2008 the bishop asked if I was interested in relocating to attend a residential seminary.

Gulp!

By now we were expecting Baby Number 5, so I said something like, “Sounds great! But I can’t see how we could afford it–five kids in the house!”

We agreed to take a year to process, pray, daydream, and otherwise consider this new/revisited idea. Would seminary 2010 actually come to be?

During that year of daydreaming etc. it dawned on me that there is a very strong network of Episcopal schools all over the country, most of which employ a full-time chaplain, an ordained priest.

So, what if I could combine my ideal vocation with my realized one–priest with educator?

“Bishop,” I asked one day in the middle, maybe during winter, “what if I were to become a school chaplain after ordination?”

“Tim,” he said, with a look on his face that was somewhere between dejection and disapproval, “I don’t send people to seminary to become chaplains. I send them to be parochial priests.”

“Okay,” I replied, quickly realizing that pragmatism would have to trump my idealism in the moment–like it had in so many other moments over the last fifteen years–“of course! Yes. I want to be a parochial priest.”

The bishop and I never brought up the subject again.

But the idea remained lodged firmly in my psyche.