Love, Jim Dale style


Here’s something true: my dad loves me. I know this because he says: “Cortney, I love you.” 

But my dad also says other things like “Cortney, have you gotten your oil changed in your car lately?” “Cortney, you need to get your oil changed.” “Cortney, why haven’t you gotten your oil changed, yet?” “Cortney, if you don’t change your oil every 3,000 miles you’ll have to replace your engine and you don’t have the money for that.” “Cortney, if you take care of your car, it will take care of you.”

Everyone has their neurosis. In his line of work, my dad meets a lot of people who’ve lost loved ones tragically on the road. His own father was a trucker who saw 47 of the lower 48 over the hood of a big rig. 

Dad doesn’t take safe travels for granted. So when I feel like I’m being nagged at for maintenance on my car, it helps to remember that it’s all dadspeak for, “I love you. I want to keep bad things from happening to you.” 

The Bible presents God in this same light sometimes. “Do this. Don’t do that.” It helps to remind myself that God is not petty and controlling. Instead, a lot of it is Godspeak for, “I love you. I want to keep bad things from happening to you.” 

Sometimes love presents itself over concern of a 1997 Honda Accord. And, yes, I just got my oil changed, Dad. 


Church and the Arrow of Time

First, watch this video that explains what the arrow of time is:

Did you watch it? There’s also a wikipedia article on it, of which I understand about 17%. 

We are compelled to travel into the future. That’s because the arrow of time dictates that as each moment passes, things change. And once these changes happen, they are never undone.

And then there’s the church. This morning I listened to a recording of the Diane Rehm show from about a month ago. She interviewed the newest Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Marianne BuddeThere was one caller who asked the bishop to explain what the Episcopal church is, and I listened to her give the response that I probably would’ve given myself: a history lesson. (King Henry VIII, Church of England, American Revolution) Knowing where we come from is important, but I really wished that she or I could come up with an answer to that question that was more present focused: tell me about the church today

Of the many callers, there were two presumable baby boomers who expressed dis-sasatifaction with the Episcopal Church and referenced a stronger, healthier Episcopal Church from their childhood. I was born in the 80’s so I’ll just take their word for it. The church that was. *sigh*

There’s nothing about the laws of physics … that prevent [the molecules] from all getting together on the surface of the lake, jumping out of the water, sticking together into a block of ice and then gluing themselves back to the surface of the glacier again. But, interestingly, we do understand why the world doesn’t run in reverse. There’s a reason, and it’s called the arrow of time.

I don’t want to claim that all change is good. Issues still need to be thoroughly debated and teased out. Change happens and our strength doesn’t lie in resisting it, but in marrying the bloodline of our traditions with the present.   

I think the church should function like a dance partner – the leading one, which, for the sake of tradition, we’ll say is usually a dude. It’s not just a matter of reacting to the music, but leaning into and offering it our best. 

Sometimes I feel like certain churches are trying to waltz while the world is playing a swing song. “But the waltz is a great dance!” they insist. 

The mystery of faith notes the past, present and future: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. There are things that need to happen in 2012. 2011 would’ve been too soon and 2013 will be too late. (That’s not a Mayan joke.) It’s the arrow of time. 



Similarities I’ve found between my faith journey and putting together this 1500 piece puzzle map of the world. 

eff you, Russia. 

1) Some pieces make total sense and give me an elated sense of ‘a-ha! I’m awesome at this.’ Those mainly came towards the beginning. 

2) The longer I’m at it, the harder it gets. But as long as I’m moving toward the bigger picture, I still feel satisfied. 

3) There are still a lot of odd pieces I’m combing through, but I’ll find a place for them and I refuse to get discouraged by them now. 

4) Good background music is key. 

5) I love being in Africa. 

A Not So Spontaneous post on Being Spontaneous


Recently a friend of mine posted a quote from Oswald Chambers on her facebook status and asked people to comment: “Love is spontaneous, but it has to be maintained by discipline.”

Now, I liked the idea, but perhaps because spontaneity is easy for me and discipline not so much. If I could just consider spontaneity discipline, then I’ve solved both. Kind of like politicians who can lower the unemployment rate simply by redefining what it means to be unemployed. (magic!)

But on my friend’s facebook wall, other people disagreed, stating that disciplined spontaneity was a contradiction. And, yes, it’s that seeming contradiction that caught my attention in the first place. But I think the mistake was in only seeing a discipline as a purposeful habit. Really, is discipline can and should be much more.

So perhaps, dare I suggest, spontaneity is the only thing that can be a discipline, as its simply the act of doing things we wouldn’t otherwise do. All else becomes habit. And with all due respect to Stephen Covey, habits do not a Christian make. God can only work in our lives as much as we give God room.

The discipline to strike up a conversation with that person who you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
The discipline to see beauty in something you would otherwise overlook.
The discipline to learn what you didn’t plan on learning.

Like a lot of good thoughts, Tomas Merton said it best:

Every moment and every event in every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.  Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.”

So here’s to spontaneity. Get out there and do it!

Top 9 (publishable) Things I learned during my Discernment Internship


So Christmas Eve was my last service as an intern with Calvary Episcopal Church. My 6 months there included countless lessons, some learned the hard way, some the easy way. 

9) I love sushi! Ok, this one is just about the timing (I said during my internship, not through) that I happened to give sushi a shot again, and lo and behold, it stuck. Now all I have to get is Indian food and I think I can have an appetite for any americanized international food. 

8) How to use a thurible. Mostly. I could probably still use some practice. High church can be fun if you know what you’re doing. 

7) I love the multi-generational aspect of parish ministry. Four-year-olds who are quick with a hug. Opinionated octogenarians. Frazzled college students. Esteemed professionals who let me see their vulnerabilities. Step back, squint your eyes and say it with me: “Oh, hello, God.”

6) Ministry can be awkward. Or maybe more accurately, I can be awkward, and that won’t change with any professional title. I will never be a smooth operator when it comes to pastoral care. But I won’t let that stop me from trying earnestly. Besides, as luck would have it, it’s not all about me. 

5) Buy coffee and breath mints in bulk. I like my coffee black and I regrettably get to around noon before I put anything else in my stomach. 

4) Good sermons sometimes usually don’t show up until Saturday afternoons. I never procrastinated in writing a Sunday sermon. However, most of my mid-week writings were mis-starts that can be filed under “Really, Cortney?” But usually in a moment of desperation around 2pm on Saturday, I would get quiet and let the sermon come to me, instead of hunting it down. Grace can be coy. 

3) Speaking of sermons, guess who has two thumbs and can deliver one heck of a sermon- this gal! Pause like you mean it. Look people in the eye. Slow down, then get slower. Believe what you’re saying. And, when in doubt, quote Tina Fey. 

2) Everything is emotional. Everything. Pause. Be patient. Listen. There’s nothing rational about the gospel so why should churches be different?

1) The altar is humbling. Every Sunday morning, three times, I’d stand behind the altar and see a crowd of people facing my way. A crowd of people who’d woken up early and gotten dressed on their day off to come here and meet God. If you think about it for a moment, that’s a little bit crazy. And especially crazy that God might someday trust me (me!) to be the one in charge of that. Enter grace. And community. And tradition. This mystery is still unfolding.