Saturday, December 31, 2011


Dear Friends, 
It is not quite dawn yet.  This year that we have marked as 2011 is drawing to a close.  As I prepare for preaching tomorrow, I find myself yearning to be able to assure people that yes, all darkness is now behind us.  But, of course, I cannot.   So, I pray.  I pray that all the world will surrender to God's Shalom.  I pray that all sufferings will strengthen, not lessen, the faith and the belief in God's abiding and transforming love.   I pray that Christians everywhere will be willing to take their humble places in the great story of God's abiding and indwelling love that is Christ.  I pray we will not turn our churches, our ministries, our work, our beliefs into unyielding shrines and altars that need constant attention, but rather that we will allow God's holy breath to bring them to life and set them free to bring love.  May wisdom, grace, and kindness prevail.   May we understand that there is much we do not understand, so let us let love prevail.     
I leave with you a blessing from John O'Donohue.  Blessings to you in the year that will be known as 2012.  We know it will be so much more.          
Grace and Peace to each of you. 
A Morning Offering 
I bless the night that nourished my heart 
To see the ghosts of longing free 
Into the flow and figure of dream 
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.  
All that is eternal in me 
Welcomes the wonder of this day, 
The field of brightness it creates 
Offering time for each thing 
To arise and illuminate. 
I place on the altar of dawn:  
The quiet loyalty of breath, 
The tent of thought where I shelter, 
Waves of desire I am shore to 
And all beauty drawn to the eye.   
May my mind come alive today 
To the invisible geography 
That invites me to new frontiers, 
To break the dead shell of yesterdays, 
To risk being disturbed and changed.   
May I have the courage today 
To live the life that I would love, 
To postpone my dream no longer 
But do at last what I came here for 
And waste my heart on fear no more.   

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Eve Prayer

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, 
stay with us for day is ending.  
With friend, with stranger, 
with young and with old,  
be among us tonight. 
Come close that we may come close to you. 
Forgive us that we may forgive one another. 
Renew us so that, where we have failed,  
we may begin again.   
                                                    - Inona Abbey Worship Book 
Christ comes as Friend and as Guest.  Let us set the table and answer the door. 
Christmas Blessings to each of you.  Thank you for journeying with me this year.  I am grateful.        

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Path

It is evening.  The dishes are washed.  The tree is lit and fresh candles have been set out. However, I do not light them.  Tomorrow our Christmas gets underway, a bit early, but family is coming in.  So, tonight I pause.  It is still Advent.  I remember walking one morning in the high desert outside Sedona in late November.  Gently and quietly, the layers slipped away, and step by step, I traveled a little further, walking a path that so many others have walked.  It is a blessing to be no more than that.      

Lord, I will learn also to kneel down 
into the world of the invisible, 
the inscrutable and the everlasting. 
Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree
on a day of no wind, 
bathed in light, 
like the wanderer who has come home at last
and kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary things;
every motion, even words.     
                     from Coming to God: First Days by Mary Oliver   

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Am Only the Driver

Every month I pick up one of our volunteers so she can join us for worship.  Esther (not her real name) is small, very spry, and probably one of the most opinionated people I know.  She walks just about everywhere she goes, and she would walk to the home we serve together if it were just a bit closer.  She is educated, speaks several languages, is very frugal, and maybe even more stubborn.  In the years that I have known her, I do not know if I have ever seen her dressed in anything but tweed and sturdy shoes.  She has never missed a worship service.         
This week as we were returning home, she said, "Would you look at my hand?"  The middle joint of her small finger was swollen.   
"Esther, that looks like arthritis."  
She looked surprised, as if it was a rare condition just recently discovered in this country.   
"Well, you are 85.  It is amazing that it is just now showing up."  I don't know why I was so confident I knew her age, but foolishly, I jumped right in those dangerous waters.      
She huffed and quickly replied, "I am most certainly not 85.  Try again."  
"OK.  84." 
"Nope. Barely a day over 83. Furthermore, do you know where I was Saturday night?" 
She is always asking me if I know, and, of course, I do not.    
"I was dancing." 
Now I was the surprised one.  I simply could not imagine this tidy woman in her sturdy shoes and practical tweed jacket gliding along the dance floor.  She went on to tell me that her son and daughter had taken her for an evening out, and that she danced, not just one dance, but every single number that the band played.   
I had to ask.  "Esther, what did you wear?"  
"Well, an evening dress, of course." I could almost hear her thinking, "You really do not know much, do you?"
 She smiled, "It was slit up the side.  You know, my husband loved to go out so he was always bring such dresses home (she said this in such a matter of fact way that she could have just as easily said that he was always given to bringing home stray cats).  People were particularly surprised when I danced the tango. Do you really think this is arthritis?"  
"Yes, I do, but talk it over with your doctor."   
"You can let me off at the corner."  She says this every month.    
'No, I can't. YOU KNOW  I can't just drop you off at the corner."  
"All right, darling.  You did a nice job today.  I'll see you next month.  You know, the band leader blew me a kiss when we left."     
So did I. But you know not at the corner.  Band leaders and chauffeurs know what they need to do. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Gift

One of our volunteers has played music with her children, now adults, all of their lives.  Yesterday, her daughter,who plays a flute, joined us for worship.  As we began setting up and settling in, she asked if I would like them to play a prelude.   The residents, all who have Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, had been gathered, and our good mornings had been said.   As the music began, I had one of those wonderful moments of not needing to do anything but to simply  witness.   As I listened to the beautiful music and watch the people's faces, I felt love filling the room.  I felt my very pores opening, and I wept.   Just because everything was so beautiful.  Just because I felt I was right where God wanted me to be.  I heard the voice of the very wise Ms. Edna, who has lived in a convalescent hospital for over four years, saying "God always gives us the community we need."  And I knew the gift, both seen and unseen, was right before me, and in me, and all around me.      
 Yesterday, Sister Maureen pondered keeping her song sheet.  However, she eventually decided that singing alone was not what she wanted to do.  "It is not as nice."  This home we serve twice a month, so I was able to reply, "I will be back soon so we can sing together again."   She said her thank you, and I took her hand.  We smiled. Together.  
May those who sow in tears 
reap with shouts of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
bearing the seeds for sowing, 
shall come home with shouts of joy, 
carrying their sheaves.    
                                                  - Psalm 126:5-6  
And they sang a new song.  
                                                  - Revelation 5:9