Monday, September 7, 2020

Pausing for Sabbath

 Dear Friends, 

Lately I have been pondering Sabbath and healing. Deep healing, I believe, requires our willingness to keep Sabbath. While I shall try to concentrate more on taking a full day of Sabbath, I also want to take note of those moments when I feel God's healing presence - that Presence who asks only, "Pause awhile with me."  Like a trusted friend, God does not always require conversation or good works. It is enough to simply share a moment. 
Jack and I took our walk early this morning in the hopes of staying reasonably cool, but we both got pretty warm as we made our way back home.  This persimmon tree beckoned with the invitation of shade and a promise of a sweet harvest. In that moment I needed nothing else.  Sometimes, promise can sustain us like nothing else can.  That is the gift of faith, and of life.             
Peace on Your Journey, 
Sue Ann   

   photograph:  San Leandro, September 7, 2020 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Giving and Receiving

 Yesterday, I needed to go to our local drugstore.  There I witnessed conversations that gave me concern, but also great hope.  They took place at the pharmacy window.  When I first walked by, an older man was standing there, and the pharmacist (she may have been a pharmacist's assistant) was trying to explain to him that he could get his flu shot today.  He was confused, probably because of his hearing. It took a couple of attempts on her part to help him find some clarity. Yet, even though she had to speak up in the hopes of being heard, her voice came from a place of kindness. I felt she knew him, but I got no sense of "Oh, no, not this again." Her next client also struggled some with confusion, this time about her checking account. Again, I got the sense the anchorite at the window knew her as she gave good guidance to give her bank a call, but for today pay for her prescription with a credit card. She, too, was invited to get her flu shot.  If you heard only the inflection of her voice, you might think the anchorite was inviting them to tea as she assured them she would prepare things for them if they would take a seat. The plastic chairs beckoned and they quietly settled in.  

This week I took part in my first Zoom worship service with a long-term care community.  I was welcomed cordially, and I was delighted to be with them, and to see the activity director again. There really was an air of excitement for us all.  We were even able to talk to some after the homily, and the director helped all of us when our hearing just was not quite enough due to masks and physical distancing.  While Zoom is not perfect, it is a welcome bridge in these times of isolation.  For the sake of the hearing of the residents, it was helpful that I did not need to be masked.     
As we closed our Zoom session, I was told that the residents had prepared a song for me and I was asked if I wanted to hear it. That was akin to asking someone walking in the desert if he or she would like a glass of water.  For the first time in years, I loved hearing "Jesus Loves Me," and I simply let the words flow over me. A very important aspect of any ministry to elders is to allow them to minister to us.  In a healthy society that is the role of elders.  They teach lessons about dignity and vulnerability. They guide the young and the not so young, and they keep valuable traditions alive. They teach us to be human.  
Were all these moments simple ones?  Of course.  However, it is simple moments that make up our days and nights, deeply influencing the quality of our lives. I am grateful for these sacred gatherings.  I am grateful for all of you.   
Stay well, everyone.   
Sue Ann 




photograph: Oakland, September 2020  
During one of my recent morning walks, I came across a box marked "Free."  In it was a notepad with pages entitled, "Do more of what makes you happy."  That seemed to be a suggestion worth bringing home.   

Saturday, August 22, 2020


 I found this week to be hard. I wept through much of the Democratic Convention. To hear words like God, hope, dignity, and light spoken right out loud on a national stage reminded me that I had been thirsting in a dry land, and that I was certainly not alone.  We have been battered by an onslaught of venomous name calling, falsehoods, disease, economic despair, racial inequality, and now fire.  This week it all caught up with me, and try as I might, it seemed I just could not get much accomplished at all.  Of course, as I write this, I wonder why I tried so hard.  The effort was probably misguided, and not particularly kind to myself.    

I think what led me to this understanding was a dream I had two nights ago.  I woke in darkness with a sense of anxiety.  That has not happened in quite some time.  However, I did what I always do in nocturnal wakings: I prayed. While a return to sleep took a little longer than usual, I eventually drifted off. I then dreamt that I was in the ocean.  Not on, but in. However, I felt no fear, no desperation of not being able to breathe. I was not even trying to swim. I was simply enjoying being in the sparkling clear blue water as I watched hundreds of colorful, glistening fish of all sizes and shapes swim by me, all gracefully moving in the same direction. I was mesmerized.  Also present were remoras, the small cleaner fish, who were tending to the gills of the sleek, silvery sharks.  I mentioned the dream and the remoras  to a friend who commented, "Ah, cleaning up."  I so appreciated that comment.   
This morning, another friend of mine shared on FaceBook the attached photograph of this  incredibly beautiful quilt, entitled, "Thetis - the Goddess of the Sea," attributed to Lila Tilipan, a quilt artist from Budapest, Hungary. I am reminded of just how connected we all are, despite any messages intended to lead us to believe otherwise.   
Blessings, friends, and take good care of all of you.  You are worth that much, and so much more.   Alas, I am waiting to hear from the friend who commented on my dream to let me know if she and her husband had to evacuate. The fires on our beloved coast are fierce right now, and the firefighters are stretched thinly.  Let us hold on and pray. 
Sue Ann   


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Morning

 This morning we have thunder, lightning, a little rain, and a stressed dog. Tyler just spotted a rainbow. Such goings on makes one yearn for a Psalm. I turn to a portion of Nan C. Merrill's, Psalms for Praying Psalm 104.

"The glory of the Radiant One endures
forever, for the works of Love are sure.
You are ever-present to us, even as the earth trembles,
even as the mountains spew forth ashes and smoke.
I will abandon myself into your hands
as long as I live;
I will sing praises to You while I have breath."

photograph: entrance to Arcosanti, Mayer AZ, January 2020
"Manipulating materials in such a way as to make conditions in the future a little better than they are now...that's the function of architecture."
Paul Soleri, founder     




Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Sacred Pausing

Ruth T. West is on the staff of San Francisco Theological Seminary, so this prayer must have come to me through an email from them.  Photograph was taken in San Leandro, August 2020.  One of these days I am going to surprise you all with some exotic location.  For now, I will simply pause and give thanks right where I am.  What else can we do?  Here is where we meet the Sacred.  

Dear Holy One,
As time flashes past so quickly before us, bless us with the gifts of pause and memory –
So that we might re-encounter your steadfast love for us again.

Allow us to be brave enough to correct wrongs that still lay on our hearts –
So that our empathy can flow more freely.

Give us the capacity and humility to make new strides towards reconciliation –
So that our boundaries of care and imagination might expand.

Let our souls be filled with joy and forgiveness. May we be generous with time by holding spaces for others to be heard.

Ease our pains of rejection and abandonment while showering us with your love and grace, even as we carry our whole and authentic selves forward into each day and new circumstance.

Highlight what makes us special, important and beloved and then give us the courage to believe it –
So that we lead by example for others to do the same.

With hopeful hearts we pray,
Rev. Ruth T. West    

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Present

The month of July ended up being partially dedicated to bringing some of my medical procedures current.  I visited my dentist, and I made several trips to Kaiser for blood work, a pneumonia vaccination, and a mammogram.  
On my first trip to Kaiser, I was running a little late.  In this time of a pandemic, I find most scheduling to be a little off, but not being on time still makes me nervous. When I arrived at the front door of the medical building, I discovered everyone had to enter through the hospital.  I picked up my pace, and walked on. 

When I arrived, my intention was to move quickly through the hospital door, and once inside, get my bearings.   However, before I could put that plan into place, I was greeted by a pleasant young woman who told me that first I needed to stop by one of the outdoor hand washing stations.  I had walked right by them, but I never once thought they were there for me to actually use.  I retraced some of my steps  and placed my hands under one of the faucets.  Nothing happened.  Oh, yes.  I needed to press the pedal with my foot. After washing and drying my hands, I could then proceed.  For the second visit I was more efficient with the routine, but in the third visit, I felt a change come over me as I washed. I remembered that I was entering a place of healing.   As I dried my hands, I looked up and noticed a  pregnant young woman.  As I walked, I then saw an older woman trying to help a very frail elder get out of the passenger side of the car. Also in my view was a man walking slowly, relying on the help of a cane.  I was humbled to witness these stages of life, and to remember my own body.  I understood that the cool water, the soft foaming soap, and the rough paper towel were Communion elements.  I gave thanks as I entered the door.     
"When all three inner spaces [mind, heart, and body] are open and listening together, we can always be present. To be present is to know what you need to know in the moment. To be present to something is allow the moment, the person, the idea, or the situation to change you."
 Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water, 2011, page 10. 
photograph:  San Leandro, July 2020  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Workshop

Dear Friends, 

I have started what may be the beginning of the book.  Or it may be the middle.  Or it may be nothing more than a way to get things started.  My intention is to not critique too soon.  Also, to drink more green tea, which is what I am doing now.  Yes, it is tempting to add honey, but I think I shall wait on that indulgence.   
I will, however, indulge myself in the joy of reminding everyone that you are blessed and loved.   

In Gratitude, 
Sue Ann

Decide. Decide you will fulfill your highest potential. Vow you will not let another day go by that is not anchored in your divine intent. Live your spiritual life now; fall in love with your life as the creative workshop of your soul. Every day is a chance to wake up. Every day is a chance to live the divine life. To do it consciously, we must decide. 
 Ellen Grace O'Brian

 photograph:  San Leandro, July 2020.  This image gives me a sense of prayer. The plant is called "Arctic Summer".  It grows quite large, well over my head.  When it is in full bloom it is not uncommon to see many bees feasting on its offerings in the warm sun.  It is a gift to be able to stand before it in wonder.  We are all at the temple gate, and it is all prayer.