Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Content in Love

In my Bible studies in May, we have been reflecting on Romans 5:1-5, and the gifts of struggle, endurance, character, and hope.  I have found the sharings to be quite moving. In a gathering last week, one elder shared that her father died when she and her twin sister were only two.  Her family lived on a farm in Ireland, and even after the passing of her father, her mother, with the help of brothers and a sister, kept the farm going.  Farm life in Ireland sounds quite idyllic, but of course, there is little that is idyllic when it comes to raising children and tending to a farm without a spouse. Mary has a deep faith that no doubt springs from her beginnings of a life rooted in the hard work of struggle, endurance, character, and hope.   
Other stories emerged in this small gathering, and the time passed quickly.  As I walked to my car,  I felt a sensation that made me pause - and I realized that what I was feeling was a sense of deep contentment.  I discovered that I was happy.   
I was ordained to this ministry three years ago today.  That year, we were already in Pentecost, so the church, a lovely historic building, was beautifully decorated.  Perhaps one could say that ministry looked quite idyllic in that day filled with music, flowers, robed clergy, beautiful stoles, liturgy, and celebration.  Yet, we know ministry is far more real.  For me, it happens in hallways, multi-purpose rooms, and at bedsides.   It happens when I take an elder's hand and lean close to hear.  It happens when  I hear frail voices singing.  It happens in unexpected, unadorned, fleeting moments that always leave a little something with me.  It is here where I find Christ.
All of us start out with dreams, plans, and goals, and of course, we should.   However, we must also learn to periodically let those go, and simply be present in the midst of a continually unfolding love that is beyond our understanding and planning - a love that is not an ephemeral, dreamy concept, but is far more real than we can possibly imagine. 
Yes, I am happy.   For this grace, I thank God, and I thank God for all of you.   
God pays attention to our love.
                                    - Mother Teresa  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fine Tuning

Fine Tuning 
When I was a young girl 
I had a transistor radio 
complete with a leatherette case. 
During the day, 
it received no reception, 
but at night 
I could hear one station, 
KOMA Oklahoma City, 
where I learned of places like 
Lincoln Nebraska and Boise Idaho, 
and I heard Petula Clark 
singing to God and the rest of us that 
we didn't need any more oceans 
or rivers or hills to climb.   
She was probably right.  
We don't seem to take care of 
the ones we have  
but  she assured us then, 
and I think she would say  
the same thing now, 
we only need more love.  
There in that West Texas darkness, 
trying to picture a Lincoln Nebraska or a Boise Idaho, 
and wondering how people got 
a Name like Petula in a world so full of Bettys, Charlies, and Sues, 
love did seem mostly full of static, but 
could sometimes with great clarity 
rush out over 
midwestern plains, mountains, rivers, and oceans 
when the air was just right.  
I thought love to be someone else's secret then, but now I 
know God does not stash love so far away.  
It is kept very close, 
like in a transistor radio with a leatherette case
sent to a lonely young girl who knew about wind and stars and silence, 
the sender and receiver both trying to tune into a mysterious world.  
                                                                                        - say 
                                                                                          September, 2006 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Worth the Trip

This posting was actually first written in January of 2010.  It is about Walter, who asked me to check in on his sister a few days ago (see "Relations").  Much of the ministry is about letting our walls fall away, leaving not ruins, but rather our love.  Let us do that sooner, rather than later.    

I first met Walter several months ago.  He has gained some color, but still is so thin and frail he appears almost translucent.  In December I asked him if he would be seeing friends or family at Christmas.  "No," he whispered. "They live in San Francisco. Much too far away."       
Despite his illness, every month he comes to worship, and he always wants a song sheet, even though singing seems to be out of the question.  And yesterday, when I walked into the crowded multi-purpose room, he saw me before I saw him.  He caught my attention by waving and smiling - an effort I pray I never take for granted. 
After worship, I thanked him for his presence.  He softly replied, "I thank you - for sharing the word of the Lord."  He paused and then smiled.  "Our Lord," he added with emphasis.     
In a world of "Why is this happening to me? " and "Who are you and what are you doing?"  or "Leave me alone," SpiritCare tries to plant the idea of us.  That God is with us.  That regardless where we find ourselves we can be a community where God's love takes root.   That the Christ table is set for all of us, even those of us who are frail, ill, maimed, frightened, or confused, and that pretty much includes all of us.   And all of us, through this great love, can reach out to the world. 
Walter is one to whom we must lean very close to in order to hear and maybe even see.  It is worth the effort.  He really is not all that far away.  Blessed be.   
Jan 24, 2010

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Time Before Preaching

The Time Before Preaching
The candles are lit.
Soft golden flames rise  
Surprisingly tenacious,
Yet new ones will be needed soon.

The earth draws the grey cloak round,
Rain begins to fall.

It is quiet here.
I sit for a moment with eternity,
Before moving on.  
-          SAY
           May, 15, 2011 

He replied to me and said, “The creation cannot move faster than the Creator, nor can the world hold at one time those who have been created in it.”  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             2 Esdras 5:44 


Saturday, May 14, 2011


Walter grows quite frail.  The pianist and I both miss seeing him in his usual spot during worship, so now we stop by his room to say hello, knowing that someday he will not be there.    
Today Walter asked me if I had seen his sister.  I was a little surprised by the question, as last year he had told me that he had no family nearby.  I asked if she was visiting and he said no, that she lived there in the hospital, and he just wanted to make certain she was okay.  I asked him her name, and I told him I would try to check on her, and then I would come right back and let him know how she is doing. 
However, when I talked to the person at the front desk, he informed me that there was no one in the facility with that name.  He pulled Walter's contact records, and discovered that yes, a sister with a very different name was listed, but she lived in Los Angeles.  The pianist smiled, took my things, and headed to the lobby saying that he would let me handle this one.      
I paused, drew a breath, and then returned to Walter's room.  I told him I was not able to see her, but that I understood that she was doing just fine.  "Oh, thank you," he whispered.  "I am so glad to hear that."     
Afterwards, I walked down the hall, grateful that we are are never alone.     
for you are with me ...my whole life long. 
                                     (Psalm 23:4-6)   

Friday, May 13, 2011


Dear Friends,
This morning I pause and give thanks that on May 31, 2008 I was ordained to the ministry of SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors.  Some of you were there.  Going a bit further back, Ponderings had their beginnings in June, 2005, and some of you were there as well.  Others of you have just recently joined.  Regardless, your presence is tangible to me, and I am grateful.  
Last week, I was blessed to sit for a few hours, and talk to some friends of several years. As we shared thoughts and feelings about God, family, ministry, community, and other topics, we eventually began to talk about the subject of home: what that word means to us and what images come to mind when we think of this word. This conversation, as many conversations do, has stayed with me, and a poem that I shared with you a few years ago continues to resurface.  It is from a book entitled A Book of Luminous Things  edited by Czeslaw Milosv.  I will include his introduction to the poem, as sightings of smoke coming from a chimney becomes rare, at least here in the bay area.  The poem was written by Leopold Staff (1878-1957).  
This poem was written immediately after World War II, in Poland, among the ruins, of which those in the figurative sense were even more oppressive than the physical ones.  There was literally nothing. How could a poet react to that situation? What was left was to do what a child does, who when trying to draw a house often starts with smoke from the chimney, then draws the chimney, and then the rest. So this is a poem of naked faith.   
I built on the sand 
and it tumbled down, 
I built on a rock 
and it tumbled down. 
Now when I build, I shall begin
with the smoke from the chimney.     
I find this a beautiful reminder to start with the hearth, the center.  My personal metaphors are changing, from those of a journey, to those of building.  Writing helps me to spot that gentle smoke that tells me that I am getting close to home, and this is where God calls us to be, regardless of where we are.        
I have used email for quite some time now, and will continue to do so.  However, email is not without issues.  At one point, I had two lists, Ponderings, and a second list   for the reflections of my ministry.  As I traveled further into the ministry, I found I could not keep the two lists separate.  This, I believe, is a good sign, but as the list grows, I, too, feel the need to stretch. Several of you have encouraged me to start a blog, and despite my reluctance, I am now thinking that this may indeed help me continue to lay the foundation of gathering my writings, correcting some punctuation, adding a word here and there, and expanding some of the themes.   Once this hearth is created, I will let you know.    I pray you will continue to gather with me.  Your presence gives me the courage to dig a little deeper, and open the door a little wider.   And yes, the emails will continue.  
Come to a warm place in this house...
My heart and I agree, 
                           (from Celtic Prayer  Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community)