Friday, May 29, 2015

Waylaid by Tenderness

As I began my morning walk, I decided to be firm.  No lallygagging among the flowers.  A brisk, purposeful walk.  I made it across the street before the wonder set in once again.  Even these simple little flowers stopped me in my tracks.     
As I ponder a beloved elder who has recently passed, I am surprised to remember that when I met her, she had already grown quiet.  Yet, she always greeted me with a smile and an outreached hand.  We laughed together.  About what I guess I do not really know.  This is often the world in which I walk, and it usually brings me great joy.   Yes, sometimes I do wonder if it is enough.  Yet, God's promises are for us all.    We can perhaps do better, but we are always enough, and I am grateful.  
"Because she loves me," says the LORD, 
I will rescue her; 
I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name. 
She will call upon me, and I will answer her; 
I will be with her in times of trouble,
I will deliver her and honor her. 
With long life will I satisfy her 
and show her my salvation.   
Psalm 91:14-16  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Giving Voice

Pentecost morning, that great celebration of Spirit, church, and lively worship in a multitude of tongues, found me with no voice.  I knew preaching was right out, and I also knew New Community of Faith would do just fine without me.  They did, and I celebrate their resilience.  However, as much as I was grateful to be able to simply rest that day (as best one can actually do that while coughing and sneezing), I thought about my voice, and how through most of my life, I have depended upon it for my livelihood.  Even when I was a massage therapist which is really a pretty quiet way to move through the world, I needed my voice to call clients, answer questions, make appointments, and just be willing to converse.    However, leading worship takes that dependence to a whole other level.  
I then found myself thinking about the elders - our elders - whom I serve through SpiritCare.  It is a rare day that I do not come into contact with at least one elder who can no longer speak, due to stroke or some other illness, or who seems to simply be running out of energy to dedicate to the the effort.   I thought of Helen, whom I hope to see tomorrow. I do my best to sing with her, although she can do little more than smile, nod her head, and move her hands with mine.  To sing a hymn like "Love Lifted Me," with her is quite profound.    And she is just one of many, including those who can still muster up the energy to sing in rusty voices, and for those who can no longer speak, but who can still sing.  And then those are those, like Nancy, whose memory is failing, but she still sings with a sweet, sweet voice.  At one point during the service, I always ask her, "Nancy, do you remember this hymn?".   Her eyes will light up, and she will often respond, "Oh, yes, one of my favorites."  If she does not remember it, I assure her we can all learn it together.  And we do.   We may all forget it five minutes later, but we are stronger because we dared to sing.     
My voice is lurching back into existence.  Dear God, I know that may not always be the case.  While I cannot promise that every word that comes out of my mouth will be in praise of you, please know that I am grateful of those times when yes, that is exactly what is going on.        

Thursday, May 14, 2015


The email I received today said the prayer below is from a 16th century prayer entitled "The Frankfurt Prayer."  I  have never heard of it, and a quick search did not turn up anything. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful reminder that even with our prayers, our songs, our fellowship, and our proclamations, faith is ultimately a silent leap.

Savior, teach me the silence of humility, the silence of wisdom,
 the silence of love, the silence of perfection, the silence
 that speaks without words, the silence of faith.

Lord, teach me to silence my own heart
that I may listen to the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit within me
and sense the depths which are of God.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Second Wednesday

My last stop today was at a lovely assisted living community.  While a very worshipful group of people used to gather with me for worship, most of them recently have either passed or moved to another community, and did so in a fairly short amount of time.  A couple of months ago I decided to simply go to the community once a month and rather than try to lead worship, I would simply sit in the activity room and talk with anyone who came into the room.  It has proven to be quite fruitful.  Sometimes a  serious discussion surfaces; sometimes our conversation is light and frivolous.   Both truly have worth.  
Today I walked into the very nice activity room and was greeted by Pamela, who has played piano for our services in the past.  She handed me the schedule for the day and said, "You are not on the schedule.  You were on the schedule last week, but not this week."  I invited her to sit with me and we talked for a few minutes.       
Esther walked in, and I greeted her as we have talked several times.  She said, "Oh, yes, I remember you. You are here to lead the Goodwill Group? I have my badge.  It took me half an hour to find it."     
I smiled and replied that no, I was not here to lead the Goodwill Group but that her badge was very nice.  I asked her, "What does the group do?"  
She responded that it been a few months since they had a meeting so she could not remember.  Pamela rolled her eyes and said, "Years."    
We continued to talk, and a few more residents came in.  I greeted those I knew, and those I did not.  The activity director then rushed in.  Esther reminded him that he was running late and that she had spent considerable time looking for her badge.  He was about to respond, but then looked at me in alarm.  There are advantages to wearing a collar.    
I smiled and said, "I think there is a scheduling snafu."  Pamela, who by then was on mission, explained that I had been on the schedule last week, but that was not right.  He looked flustered, checked the schedule,  and said he could not imagine how that could happen; he had a system.  I tried to assure him to not worry and that I had left the June schedule on the front desk, but that yes, I come, not on the first Wednesday, but the second.  He then asked, "Do you want to do your activity? It is a nice group that is gathered."  
I guess I will never know if I made the right decision, but lately I have been thinking a lot about trust.  I replied, "Yes, it is a wonderful group.  However, these people have gathered for the Goodwill Group. I do not ever want them to feel that they have been duped into taking part in a worship service."   He nodded his head, and I said my good-byes.  Several people asked, "When are you  coming back?"  I looked at the activity director and smiled. 

 He said, "I know. The second Wednesday of the month."  
I  plan on being there.   

Care Fully

No question.  The neighborhood is changing.  Lawns are disappearing, as are some flower gardens. Sadly, I am also witnessing the passing of some old fruit trees. This makes me think that people are being a bit hasty about jettisoning their plants and trees, and truthfully, seeing any of it replaced with artificial turf makes me cranky.      
Yet, there is still much beauty to be seen. Because San Leandro is is a city that allows vegetable gardens in the front yard,  I am seeing some creative and thoughtful gardening.  I also often hear busy back yard chickens.  I see people keeping their most beloved plants watered one shower bucket at a time.  I recently saw an elder come out of his house with a small pan of water.  He carefully poured that water at the base of a tree. Yes, our landscape may be in the process of being permanently altered, but let us  tend to the life and beauty around us.  Maybe this is really how we learn to care.     

Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you. 

Hold On To What Is Good  from Many Winters, 1974, by Nancy Wood