Archives for the month of: February, 2011

The Drinking Fountain by Tracey Lind @ 2008

“Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matthew 6.25)   Tell that to someone who is facing unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, or the loss of healthcare.

All week long, I struggled with what was Jesus really saying to his listeners.  I decided to do a little word study.  What the New Revised Standard Version translates as “worry,” the King James Version renders as, “Take no thought,” and other translations translate as “anxious.”  The Jesus Scholars translate it as “do not fret.” Some biblical scholars told me that the Greek word really means, “to strangle.”

And then I went to the dictionary where I learned that “worry” is derived from Old English wyrgan, which meant “to strangle.” Its Middle English descendant, worien, came to mean “to grasp by the throat with the teeth and lacerate” or “to kill or injure by biting and shaking.”  Now that’s a nasty image.   In the 16th century the word meant to harass, assault or attack; and in the 17th century the word implied to bother, distress, or persecute.  By the 19th century, the word “worry” came to be as we know it today:  feeling anxious, distressed, troubled or uneasy.

So what is Jesus trying to teach us?  I think he’s saying don’t let your concerns about security, success and perhaps even survival “strangle” the life out of you or someone else.

What’s the antidote to worry – faith in action by loving your neighbor as yourself.   In the 6th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says don’t worry about food, clothing or drink.   In the 25th chapter, Jesus tells us to feed, clothe and provide drink for the least of our brothers and sisters.  In other words, we shouldn’t be anxious about our own welfare, but we should be concerned for the welfare of others.  And when we all care about one another, then none of us will have to worry, because God will provide.

To listen to my entire sermon:

Life Happens in the Interruptions by Tracey Lind

Come to the edge,
We might fall.
Come to the edge,
It’s too high!
Come to the edge!
And they came
And he pushed
And they flew!
-Christopher Logue
Inspired by Christopher Logue’s words, I went to edge and decided to fly by publishing a website of my photography.  Like my my first book, and this blog, I am calling my new website Interrupted by God: Glimpses from the Edge, because the most important experiences of my life have been interruptions that have allowed to see God at the edge.  With camera in hand I look for and find God on the edge as I explore interruptions of the holy in unexpected people and places.  I hope you will visit it and be inspired to tell your own stories and make your own pictures of how you have been interrupted by God.

When the cold, gray days of winter get me down, I go looking for God with my camera, seeking signs of the Spirit amidst the dirty piles of snow, cracked sidewalks, strewn garbage of our city streets.

On winter morning, much like today, I went walking and saw this tree.  It was big and tall.  Buds were just beginning to form on its leafless branches.  It leaned a bit toward a run-down old rooming house on the south side of the street, and then it shot straight up in the air.

The branches on the street side had been clipped and removed, but the branches overhanging the sidewalk, interspersed with telephone cables and electric wires, were a sight to behold.  They were a virtual store  filled with the remnants of life: a broken doll, an old mop, a bicycle wheel, toilet paper, and a shoe.  I made its portrait and entitled it “The Garbage Tree.”

A few years later, I walked by it again.  Much to my surprise, there was a brand new house smiling on this old tree now flourishing with new life.  It still reminds me that God makes new of out of old, whole of brokenness, and life out of death.  The Garbage Tree teaches me that with God all things are possible.  Maybe I should simply call it God’s tree.

To read more about “The Garbage Tree,” check out my book Interrupted by God: Glimpses from The Edge, published by the Pilgrim Press in 2004.

To finish off this week of the Global Warming Preach-In, I took The Ecological Footprint quiz from The Center for Sustainable Economy.  As I carefully and honestly answered every question, I wondered about how well I would do.  And in the end, I did o.k.  Room for improvement but better than I expected.  Take the test this week, encourage your friends to do the same, talk about it with each other, and then see if you can improve it.  In the meantime, let’s keep praying for the earth.

Looking for the Heart by Tracey Lind

Walking the streets of Manhattan on Valentines Day, I saw men, women and children with flowers, candy, and jewelry boxes in their hands.  I watched people frantically searching card racks for the perfect expression of love, lust and affection.  But then there was this one man looking for that special someone to whom he could say,”Will you be mine?”

Pilgrim's Progress

Listen to this sermon on podcast from St. Stephens’ Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia.

This past weekend was the Interfaith Power and Light Preach-In on Global Warming.  Clergy across the country of all faith traditions preached about the vulnerable state of earth.  Here are some excerpts from my sermon delivered at St. Stephens’ Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia.

The first and last verses of  the Hebrew Scripture text appointed for the day (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) framed the challenge of climate change from a biblical perspective.  “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity…Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors.”

Preparing this sermon, I once again was reminded of a 1999 New York Times op-ed that opened my eyes and changed my thinking.  It was written by Bill McKibben and was entitled, “Indifferent to a Planet in Pain.”   This author, teacher and environmental activist argued that we in our generation have been as indifferent to the threats that plague our environment as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were to the wrongs of segregation.

Around the same time, Jewish scholar Roger Gottlieb, in his book The Spirituality of Resistance, likened our avoidance and denial of the environmental crisis to the world’s early response to the Holocaust.  He said, however, this ecocide is “so vast and yet so diffuse that it is extremely hard to hold it in our minds.” (p. 29)

The environmental sentinels have been crying in the wilderness for sometime now.  Rachel Carson, a marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was one of the first ecological prophets to speak out.  In her landmark book entitled Silent Spring, Carson warned of the dangers of pesticides. When Silent Spring was first published in 1962, my playmates and I  were riding our bicycles behind the mosquito-killing DDT truck as it passed with its death-dealing fog through our middle class suburban neighborhood.  We imagined that we were riding into the clouds of heaven; we had no idea that we were breathing in toxic pollutants.

Fortunately, fifty years later, our children are no longer riding their bikes behind DDT trucks, and we have come to acknowledge the gravity of the environmental crisis.  It is no wonder that so many of our talented young people are majoring in environmental studies.  Through music, art, scholarship, politics, careers and daily living, they echo the words of the prophet Hosea: “The land mourns and all who live in it languish, and together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing.” (Hosea 4:3)  Whether or not they are religiously-inclined, the millennials understand that we live in a world of environmental threat and pain.

The Bible presents us with a clear and simple choice.  Are we going to follow God’s commandments and teachings and live, or disregard them and perish?   The writer of Deuteronomy says that if we choose to follow God, we will find our way to the Promised Land of life; but if we choose another way – the way of idols and false gods – we will become lost, and death will soon find us.

According to the rabbinic tradition, when God created humanity the Creator said: “Look at My works!  How beautiful and praiseworthy they are!  And everything I made, I created for you.  [But] be careful that you don’t spoil or destroy My world – because if you spoil it, there is nobody after you to fix it.” (Kohelet Rabbath 7:13)

We live in a global commons.  All of creation makes up the commons – earth and sky, waters and dry land, mountains and valleys, vegetation of all sorts, sun and moon and stars, fish and ocean life, birds and animals, insects and bacteria, and human beings.   But if we destroy it, if we ruin it, there is nobody else after us to repair it.  We are, whether we like it or not, the caretakers and stewards of God’s creation, what some are coming to call The Commons. Read the rest of this entry »

No Comment by Tracey Lind

This coming Sunday is the National Preach-in on Global Warming sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light and the National Council of Churches.

I’m preparing to preach this Sunday as part of the Centennial preaching series at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. I am pondering what it means for us to choose life on what Bill McKibben calls “eaarth” and Thomas Friedman describes as ‘hot, flat and crowded.”

Living between two aging electrical power plants and two enormous nuclear power plants on the shores of Lake Erie, one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water, I can’t help but believe – isn’t there a better way to power our lives. I imagine earth, wind, water and sun.

And so I say, preachers – preach out this Sunday and claim the power of your pulpit! And people of God – live out God’s call to, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors.” (Dt 30.20)

Stay tuned for the sermon on Monday’s blog.

And by the way, I’ve been making a photograph of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station. Owned by First Energy Corporation, this enormous power plant is located on The Navarre Marsh, some 730 acres of wetlands bordered by Lake Erie and the Toussaint River in Ohio. Known as the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, it is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, fox, bald eagles, ducks, geese, hawks, owls, heron, egrets, rabbits, squirrels, muskrats, mink, snakes and turtles. Especially in the winter, Davis-Besse stands in stark contrast to the natural beauty of the marsh. Everytime I drive by it, I am speechless, but the third eye of my camera wants the last word.

So laugh at me.  I joined Curves.  Yes, a few months ago, realizing that I was no longer my same tall and slender self (so what if I haven’t been seeing clearly in the mirrors for a few years), I walked into my neighborhood Curves and signed up for a free week.

I can’t believe how nervous I was about walking into a fitness center for women.  I’ve tried gyms before:  a downtown Y – too much testosterone; a university athletic center – too young and noisy; a suburban fitness center – too pushy; a downtown athletic club – too much like work, and the list of reasons and excuses goes on and on.

Oh yes, and did I mention my  Wii Fit.  Actually it’s a good workout, but I can’t stand the sound of that balance board saying, “Oh my….” in a condescending tone when I step on it. I also hate the voice that reminds me of my GPS saying, “We haven’t seen you in a while,” to which I reply, ‘It hasn’t been that long.”  Or, “Would you like to hear a fitness tip?” to which I answer, “No,” or the worst of all, “You’re overweight!” (just by a little) to which I cringe and wince with embarrassment, even though nobody hears her voice or sees my weight.

I have to admit it: I don’t like exercise for the sake of exercise.  I’m happy to walk a few hundreds miles across Spain or ride my bike around Lake Erie.  I love to swim, hike and cross-country ski.  I even enjoy a round of golf once in a while.  I used to play tennis and field hockey. And, I was a pretty good gymnast until I broke my collar-bone falling off a balance beam in fifth grade.  But I really don’t enjoy running on treadmills, riding exercise bikes, working the weight machines, or God forbid, tripping over my feet in an aerobics class.  Actually, I don’t mind it once I get going, but it’s the getting going that seems to be my problem.  Based on my behavior, I’d rather organize my closet, file my old sermons, weed the garden, or even clean out the garage than actually get in my car and drive to the gym.

Anyway,  a few months ago, I ran out of excuses and joined Curves – my neighborhood women’s fitness center.  It’s convenient.  I can walk there in fifteen minutes, saying Morning Prayer with my iPod.  It’s not pretentious.  I arrive at a simple storefront with purple curtains blocking all the windows – it gives me a new appreciation for the burka. It’s friendly.  I walk in and am greeted with a smile by one of the two owners.  There’s a pot of coffee brewing on the over-sized window sill.  It’s clean.  There’s even a sign asking me to please not wear my street shoes on “the circuit.”

I register on the computer.  It says, “Welcome Tracey,” and then reminds me to weigh-in once a month.  There’s even a pair of reading glasses, just in case I can’t read the screen. It tells me my target, whatever that is, and then, off I go.  I move from machine to machine (30 seconds on each) with a recovery station in between.  No recovery for me – I’ve got to get in shape.  So I run in place or do sit-ups, push-ups or leg lifts on the floor – trying to make the most of those thirty minutes.

And then there’s the music.  Nothing like working out to the beat of  “Y-M-C-A” or “In the Mood” with that wonderful 30-second reminder, “Change stations now.” It’s actually a good workout, and thank goodness for the fans strategically placed throughout the room with little signs, “Please adjust for your comfort.”  How else can they possibly keep a room full of women-of -a-certain-age comfortable?

And then there are the other women – my sisters in the struggle for fitness.  We’re all ages, shapes and sizes.  It’s one of the most interracial and multi-cultural places I hang out.  I can be exercising with a few African-American women, a couple of Slovenian women, a woman from Columbia, another from Brazil, and a couple of white bread Midwesterners like me.  I can be sweating next to a life-long Euclid resident and someone who moved into town just last week.  And then there are my heroines and role models – all those older women who actually stay in shape.  Sure they don’t move fast or push as hard as I might, but what the heck – they are out there at the age of 70 or 80, working out and having fun.  I hope I can say the same when I get to be their age.

Oh and did I mention the games?  I haven’t signed up yet, but there’s a different trivia question every day.  If you answer enough of them, you can actually win a t-shirt. You can also place your Avon order, request a mass to be said for your friend, sign up for a bus trip,  examine the menu of a new restaurant in town, hear about the closing of the local butcher shop, or check out the business cards on the bulletin board.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll learn the results of last night’s winner of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” or ” Dancing with the Stars.”

But what I really love is that when I go to my Curves, I am a part of a diverse community of women who are all there trying to lose weight, stay strong, and get in shape.  It’s a wonderful sisterhood.  Now, I just have to get there enough to see my name on the list for good attendance.  But, what the heck, I signed up for a year, so I’m committed.

Please Pass the Salt - Tracey Lind - 2011


My Sermon

February 6, 2011

The Fifth Sunday in Epiphany

Matthew 5:13

Listen to this sermon on podcast from Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland: 

Back in the 1990’s, there was a popular commercial on television for some sort of fruit spread.  It showed a group of very proper people sitting at a dinner table.  One by one a different character would say in a rather snobby English accent, “Please pass the All Fruit.” One man with a distinctly American accent would interrupt the flow of polite conversation and say, “Would you please pass the jelly.” And everyone at the table was horrified.

Sometimes I feel like that guy as I watch what’s going on in our nation and our world.  I find myself sitting at the dinner table with lots of proper folks, and I want to say, “Please pass the salt,” knowing that some (if not many) around the table will be horrified.

But I ask you:  Don’t we need some more salt?  And I’m not talking about road salt.  Although, I’ll bet that more than one big city mayor would like to pass that salt shaker onto somebody else’s watch.  Seriously, have we forgotten what it means to be “the salt of the earth?”

Read the rest of this entry »


Parishioners sometimes say to me, “Tracey, you were preaching to me.” or “That sermon really spoke to my heart.”  Well, I just read a book that preached to me and spoke to my heart.   In fact, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, by Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver, speaks the truth of my life for the past quarter of a century in ways that only two clergy could.  Every page and chapter talks about what it’s really like to be an ordained minister in today’s world – from visiting a hospital room, to shaking hands in the Sunday receiving line; from learning how to pray by having to do it in public, to orchestrating a theatrical production every week;  from having friends who don’t care that I’m a minister, to that question – “What shall I call you?”  These two clergy authors get it and say it outloud.  And I’m one grateful reader.  So to all my clergy friends and colleagues, to our spouses and partners, and to those lay people who want to know what our lives and professions are really like, get your hands on This Odd and Wondrous Calling.  It’s terrific, truthful, good read.