Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Door That Is the Cross

I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  
John 12:24    

If we pause, even for a moment,  to reflect on any aspect of the journey from Ash Wednesday to Lent, to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, we have a chance to open the door of our heart to our mortality, and in that moment we understand that we are so much more than our mortality.  If we muster up the courage to look at , and dare to walk through that door, we are reminded that no matter what, our understanding of the wonder of life and death is just too small.  Therefore, we must live, and we must die, and live again.  That is our cross and we must experience this dying and living for ourselves.  Only then can we learn to not fear, but to know only gratitude for the cross that we each must bear.  Jesus told this story with his life: we do not have to die in vain.  That in relinquishing our small deaths today, accepting the struggles and surrendering to God what we need to let go of, we can bear much good fruit.  That fruit is not just for ourselves, but for life itself.   That is Easter.     
Maybe someday, all humans will know this, and more importantly, live this.  Oh, what a world that would be. 
 Blessings to you in this sacred time of learning that God is always there, in the midst of it all, inviting you, in love, to walk through one more door.  We journey together.  Blessed be.   


Friday, March 27, 2015

For My Mother

On my recent morning walks I have been thinking of my mother.  She died 15 years ago, but were she still alive, I would be making arrangements to send her some of her favorite flowers, the iris.  On March 31, she would have turned 90. 
My mother had a Polaroid  camera that she dearly loved.  My father and I would just shake our heads because it really took terrible pictures.  But she loved it.  I think were she alive, she would very much enjoy my little camera that also makes phone calls.   Or maybe not.  Who knows?
I have seen so much beauty in the year that I have been photographing flowers, and that I know she would have enjoyed.  I am very grateful.  Many of you have suggested that I start a web site, and I think I shall do that. I have over 3,000 images.  I cannot start a physical garden in honor of my mother (I can't even convince the irises in the front yard to bloom), but I think a website, where people can go and experience at least some of the light, color, form, and love that I see glimpses of, is surely feasible.  And there, among the irises, or the wisteria, or maybe the roses, you might also catch a glimpse of my mother with her Polaroid.  Wave and smile.  She would like that.      
Happy Birthday, Mother.  Thank you.  
Sue Ann

by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.   


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Would I Miss?

What Would I Miss?

Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
Psalm 90:12

I would miss the blue heron  
who goes about his day by
a very busy highway that is always
taking people somewhere else. 

I would miss hearing
 the whispered prayers of
 yes, and thank you, and silence.  
I would miss the resurrection  
of greetings and hand holding,
 singing of God and Jesus
and the love in every day.
I would like to think 
as a blue heron, 
I would not miss much.

Yet, like that blue heron,
I often do.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sustained by Wonder

When I was ordained eight years ago, I received a beautiful card that I have kept on my book shelf all these years. A couple of days ago, I picked it up and reread the message inside.   There I found this poem by Denise Levertov. 

Lately, in the midst of the various tugs of ministry, I have felt a longing to return to the refuge of poetry. The rediscovery of this poem has me thinking that God might be feeling the same way.  Perhaps we are both needing to simply pause and enjoy the wonder of it all.   
Primary Wonder
Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
                                                        And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng's clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.    

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Shirt on my Back, the Love in my Heart

About seven years into ministry, I started wearing a clerical shirt and collar.  I obviously did not make this decision overnight.  Nothing about this ministry of mine has even happened quickly.  Like most changes in our lives, the change happened over a period of time.

 The first stirring came when I attended a day long multi-faith clergy gathering,and many men and women who attended wore collars. I found myself strangely comforted by their presence.  I also felt strangely under dressed at the same time, even though I had cleared my ministry schedule for the day.    
The second nudge occurred when in the course of a week, several of the female elders called me, "Sweetie."  I love the fact that my ministry with SpiritCare is affectionate and caring.  I would have it no other way.  However, by the third  "Sweetie," I found myself wondering if my male colleagues were being addressed in such a manner.     
And then, I temporarily lost not one, but two of my stoles.  Losing them was distressing enough, but replacing them seemed impossible.  A good stole is surprisingly expensive.  I already had the shirts and collars, so I just decided to start wearing them.   
It was a bit awkward at first.  Yet, the change did seem to mean something to many of the elders.  Some of those who had consistently refused communion are now accepting it.  The first month one female elder said, "Ah, a change."   The second month she said, "I am grateful you are wearing your collar when you come to see us."  She then really surprised me with, "I feel kind of comforted by it."   
And then, there is the gentleman who greeted me with, "I hate your kind."  We actually had a nice conversation afterwards, but he was quite serious and no, he has never attended a service.  Too many people have been hurt by the church, and when you wear a collar, unless your intent is to deceive, there is no hiding who you are and whom you serve.  
I have not been called "Sweetie" since then, and I can honestly say I do not miss that endearment.  What I do embrace is that now I often hear, "Bless you, sister."  There are still hugs and handshakes, tears and laughter; all the blessings that come with walking among the frail.   
I am going to add another note here.  Dear Mozelle, whom you all have read about before, does grow very frail now.  She talks less, but is still affectionate.  I saw her yesterday, and I was struck by her silence.  When an elder with Alzheimer's passes, I often hear a family member say, "We lost her [or him] a long time ago."  I know it is difficult, but if you have a loved one whose physical presence is diminishing, keep reaching out to him or her.  Mozelle said yesterday, "I may not be Mozelle for long."  No collar can hold back that journey.  We declared our love for one another, and for God who brought us together.  She is Jewish, but she has passed the point when she describes herself as such.  She is transforming, before my eyes and heart, into pure love.  I will never completely lose Mozelle.  She has touched me deeply and has helped me grow into my clothes.    


Friday, March 6, 2015

A Changing Season

A month or so ago I ran into a neighbor whom I have known for maybe twenty years.  We don't see one another often, but when our paths cross, I am always delighted.  He was retired when I first met him, and while he is definitely still dapper in appearance, he walks a little more slowly now, and relies on a cane.  He also is experiencing some difficulty with his hearing.  However, as always he greeted me warmly, asked about Tyler, and shared a story or two.   He has changed, but also not changed.  

Here in the Bay Area, the tender green and bright colors of spring can be seen everywhere.  Yet, just this week I took this photograph of a tree just not quite ready for the leap into this new season.  Seasons rarely, if ever, change all at once. There are the harbingers, and there are the latecomers (perhaps lateturners would be a more accurate word).  This is true of our lives as well.  We do not age all at once, and that, of course, is a blessing.  Yet, when I do my morning stretches, I am aware I am no longer in my twenties.  
This is the season of Lent, a very good time to remember that our physical bodies are temporary, but our souls are eternal.  We are always in the season of change, and not changed. 
Wishing you a wonderful time.
But I trust in you, O LORD, 
I say, "You are my God. 
My times are in your hands."      
Psalm 31:14-15