Thursday, June 30, 2011


This poem came to me through the Parabola website.  When elders or those suffering from chronic illness tell me what they miss or what they find themselves most yearning for, generally their richest memories are of what we might call simple things.  

As each of us tries to understand where our freedom truly is on this 4th of July weekend, perhaps contentment might be a good place to start the good and fruitful furrow.     

The Farmer's Winter Dream(after Robert Hass)
You would think it might be
bountiful harvest that in the night he
dreams of, bumper crops, great wealth
arising from fertile soil.
But a simple man dreams of simple toil,
the sweat labor to maintain or restore health
to the land; its loss is his only sorrow;
he dreams modestly, of plowing a straight furrow.

Red Hawk

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hearth Psalms

About a month or so ago, this blog was created. I recognize that I underutilize this space, but its existence does give me a sense of having a central place for some of my writings.  While I was trying to think of a name for this space, the word hearth, as in center, came to mind, as did the word psalms.  I love the image of singing at the hearth while tending to the fire.    
Recently I was perusing the Celtic Daily Prayer , and I came across this curious entry (p. 380).  This story of the psalmist singing while sitting on a narrow ledge "speaks to my condition," as a lovely Quaker friend of mine might say.   I do find writing as a way of keeping my balance.  I think I journey further than just outside the mouth of my cave, but that may be an illusion.  Perhaps none of us travel nearly as far as we believe.   
My prayer today is that the calm voice of a messenger bring us comfort and inspiration as we both tend to the hearth and journey just a bit further along the ledge.    
A story about David, one of the authors of the Psalms.  The angel Messenger takes Christian to meet David where he is squatting as a fugitive on a narrow ledge in the mountains. 
'Wait here,' ordered Messenger.   
Christian paused and looked down. They were on a narrow ledge high on a mountainside. 
'Who goes there?' came a frightened cry. 
'A friend,' replied the calm voice of Messenger. 
'How did you find me? Do others know of this place?'
Your secret is ours alone, and it will remain so.'
'What do you want of me?' came a slightly more confident voice. 
'A moment ago, as we approached, were you singing?' enquired Messenger of the man squatting in front of a small care on the the side of the mountain ledge. 
'Yes, I often do. There is little else I can do.  Things I feel here, deep inside me - I often write them down.'
'That goatskin bag beside you - are your writings in there? I would like to show them to my young friend.'
Christian balanced himself carefully as he squatted precariously before the open bag of scrolls. One by one he opened them and read. 
'It's the entire book of Psalms!' he declared, as he watched Messenger for some hint of explanation.  
'No - not all of them. Perhaps one third.' 
'Why have you shown them to me?' 
' No great reason,' came the reply, as Messenger lifted the sack and turned away. 'Although,' he added almost as an afterthought, 'I thought you might be interested in seeing the music room in which they were penned.      

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In Passing

By the time I reached the first home today, I had learned of a beloved elder's passing.  When I first began serving this home, there was a small, but very loyal group who would join me for worship.  Velma was the last of this group to pass, and the home is now dedicated to the care of those with dementia.  They are doing a fine job, but it is different.  I could not help but think of those who had gone before: Thelma, Roger, Betty, and others.  I could see their faces and I missed them.  They really helped shape how I go about this wondrous ministry and I am grateful to have known them. 
When I got to the third home, I was really happy to see Rae sitting at her spot at the table.  She is frailer now and is in a wheelchair, but she is always glad to see us, and she still sings.  After the service, the pianist continued to play, and Rae and I talked.  I have known her for 3 1/2 years as well.   
Today she said, "After church sometime, you should come over to my house and relax. Just put your feet up. "  I replied that I would like that very much.  She then told me that she always talks to God and that she believes that He listens.   "I can see him in my mind,"  she said.  I asked if she would share with me what God looked like.  She grinned and said, "Oh, He is a doll.  He is always laughing, and He wears beautiful robes.  I tell him I am sorry for all the bad things I have done, and He reminds me to keep smiling."  
The room was a bit warm and it was such a lovely day on the peninsula.  I asked Rae if she would like to go outside.  She said she thought that would be a good idea, so I unlocked her wheelchair and slowly pulled her chair away from the table and out the door.  We stopped to look at the large roses and the beautiful large tree.  This garden is very safe for those with dementia, and we slowly strolled and rolled.  As we went around one corner, Rae said, "I don't think we can make it all the way to where I live."  
"Where do you live, Rae?"  "Tucson, "  she replied.  "No, I don't think we can go quite that far.  Shall we go through this door?"   I took her back to her spot at the table and locked her wheels.   "How about that, Rae? Door to door service!"  She laughed and told me I was kind of silly.   She then said, "I love you."  We hugged.  "I love you, too. I will see you in July.  I like the way they have done your hair today."  
I have often walked in that garden with an elder.  The pace is slow.  Sometimes we walk in silence.  Sometimes we have a conversation.  I may be pushing the wheelchair, or holding a hand, but regardless I am always following.  I want them to always feel safe in the garden, and with me.  I am renewed in that small garden.   
Perhaps God is as well.   

Monday, June 6, 2011


This morning finds me sorting through a large box of bulletins, church newsletters, and annual reports that I have been accumulating for several years now.   The box has to go in order to make room for a sleeping crate for a rescue standard poodle we will be picking up in a couple of days.  
While it would have been easy to simply throw the box and its contents into the recycling bin, I am unable to do that.  Yes, some of these bulletins have already gone that way, but others will continue to be saved - especially those marking special occasions and services.  As I sort through this material, I am amazed at how many words have been contained in this box.  
Many faith communities are moving away from bulletins, and most have given up on printed newsletters.  Yet, there are those individuals who like the sense of holding something in his or hand hands.  Certainly, many elders whom I serve often want to keep the song sheets  we pass out.  I think it is an attempt to hold on to the worship and the music, to somehow keep that sense of immediacy alive after the good-byes have been said.     
As I peruse and sort through this box, however, I am reminded that worship is something that can only come fully come alive and be kept alive in community.  It is more than words on a page, and is more than a solitary act.  It is something that must be returned to time and time again.  And that repetition of the "sounding joy" is a blessing - and certainly is at the heart of SpiritCare.   
I understand that not everyone is drawn to worship, but if you are, this Sunday would be fine time to take part.   You can always join me - just give me a call.   Let us all help one another make room, not for boxes of words and memories, but to the nowness of God's love.       
As we gather
May God's spirit move within us.
As we gather
May we glorify God's name. 
Knowing well that as our hearts begin to worship,
We'll be blessed because we came. 
Yes, we'll be blessed because we came.  
                                                              - adapted from As We Gather
                                                                 by Mike Fay and Tom Coomes