Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Blessing

This blessing for the lighting of the eighth candle of Chanukah seems an appropriate prayer for all of us as we move into 2017.  The phrase "Let us weave sacred communities"  speaks deeply to me.  This we can do, and must do. Let us go and be.  

As 2016 becomes 2017,
Let us give thanks for the gifts of life.
Let us share the abundance.
May courage strengthen us. 
May kindness spring forth with ease.
With awareness, may we behold each other and the world.
Let us weave sacred communities
As we walk with reverence and care.
Gracefully, may we discern what is ours to do.
And may our lights shine brightly, boldly, clearly,
In goodness and in love.
And may the words of our mouths, 
The meditations of our hearts
And the work of our hands, together
Bring blessing, love, and peace.
Chanukah Samayach—Chanukah Blessings to All
A Jewish Way In,
Rabbi Yael Levy    
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 
John 1:5   

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Invitation and the Egg

Yesterday, over my favorite Korean soft tofu soup, I pondered generosity.  In case you have never had this soup, it is quite dramatic - it comes boiling hot  in a small cauldron and is accompanied by several bowls of different pickled vegetables and other curious bites. It cannot be eaten quickly, and because of the variety of condiments, every bite is just a bit different. It can be served as spicy as you dare. This is soup over which you must take time to linger over and savor.    
What got me to thinking about generosity was the young waitress who brought a small bowl with a white unshelled egg sitting in it. She asked if I would like to add the egg to my soup. I declined because that while I do like to cook eggs in soups, I thought I was already sitting before a large cornucopia of deliciousness. However, the image of that young woman offering me an egg with my soup has stayed with me.  I am thinking that I should have accepted her gracious offer.

A few days ago, we had family in town and this house was full of conversations. We had the gift of being able to spend time with one another. There was silly banter, and serious discussions. There was catching up to do, and some reminiscing to enjoy. I was reminded that conversation needs both generosity and hospitality. Like good music, it consists of the give and take of ideas and silence, and we need to be willing to share ourselves, both as speakers and listeners. If we are to let what we are hearing and experiencing take root in our minds and hearts, time is needed, and time is often in short supply in our society. However, my work with SpiritCare has taught me that no matter how much we value our busyness, or how much we try to hide behind it or hold it up as a banner or a shield, there will come a day when we can no longer carry it. We will find ourselves without the strength, energy, or interest to hold its weight. Yes, there is a paradox here. If we dare to become less, we actually can become more. There is more room for others, and consequently, more room for God. We can live more fully into the love in which we are created. From what I have seen, I encourage us all to to make room now, rather than later. 

 Much good conversation has been started here at the end of 2016 because many of us are giving serious thought to what we truly value for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation.  Let us continue to speak from the heart, and listen to the hearts of others. Now is the time to be generous with ourselves.    

Yes, next time, I think I just might need to accept the generous offering of an egg. Next time, I just might invite someone to join me. I think that is what 2017 is going to be about: the realization that there is indeed time and room at our tables for one another. Let us come together, regardless of what is set before us. This is what God has always called us to do.      
I am giving thought to bringing people together once a month, here in our home, in the spirit of a house church, for a meal and conversation. If you are interested, and live in the bay area, please let me know. Right now, I am thinking the evening of the second Friday of the month.  If you are interested, but that evening does not work for you, do not hesitate to let me know that as well. A Saturday is a definite possibility.  You do not need to worry about committing to every month, and I promise, I do not know how to make fiery Korean soft tofu soup. If you do not eat eggs, that is fine as well.     
Many blessings in the upcoming year.  Let us continue to come together. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23, 2016

Today is a retreat day.  It is not yet dawn, and as I sit with darkness all around, I hear the rain. I am grateful that the house is warm and that I do not have to drive today.  However, I know many others are not warm, and many others must drive, and I pray for their well being.  I plan to cook, do some housekeeping, maybe wrap some presents, and have dinner with friends. At this time of year and at this time of my life, these simple acts seem just a little more sacred.  
As I continue my journey to become a Benedictine oblate, I am coming to believe that this world is a monastery - a place where we come to profess and live out our vows.  Oblation means offering and here in the monastery of the world, we each bring ourselves and whatever gifts we have been given. Of course, at the end of this tumultuous year, I cannot fool myself into thinking everyone is aware of the sacredness of this life and time. Our temple-world may become even more desecrated in 2017. Or perhaps as the world lights candles over the next few days and nights, the light will dawn in enough hearts so that the trend towards destruction will slow. Yesterday, I reminded the small group that gathered with me that God has faith in us. Lola, who is recovering from an illness and time in rehab, told me that she will remember that faith. That is the faith that Jesus had - the faith that comes from God that allows us to face what we need to face and be transformed by it. That is the faith that can move mountains and even a human heart.  That is the faith that gives a frail elder just enough stamina to accept my invitation to walk with me down the hall, celebrate communion once more, and hear the good news that she is loved.    
Each age has its own tasks. For most of us now, our monasteries have no walls except the silence our meditation gathers to the center of our lives, and this is enough - it is more than enough. Our hermitage is the act of living with attention in the midst of things: amid the rhythms of work and love, the bath with the child, the endlessly growing paperwork, the ever-present likelihood of war, the necessity for taking action to help the world. For us, a good spiritual life is permeable and robust. It faces things squarely, knowing the smallest moments are all we have, and that even the smallest moment is full of happiness.
The Light Inside the Dark - Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life by John Tarrant as found in The Almanac for the Soul, Marv and Nancy Hiles


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Night Vision

In the dream I am sitting at the bedside of a woman who is dying. I have my journal with me and she is talking to me. I am using my colored pencils as she talks. I am not ignoring her; it is almost like I am taking notes, not with words but with color. Her husband is moving about the room tending to things; he is quite busy. Suddenly, a door opens and two women walk in. I am surprised for two reasons. First, I thought I was looking at a plain white wall, not a door. Secondly, the view is wondrous. It is light and color and peace with no beginning and no end. I see gentle blues, greens, golds, and pinks. It is the sort of view an artist might spend a lifetime trying to paint - just to get the delicate colors just right. I whisper to the woman I am sitting with, "Look. Isn't it beautiful?" I glance at my journal and am surprised to see I have drawn a door. As of yet there is no color there. She then surprises me; she announces she wants to get up and do some shopping. Her legs are thin and very weak, but she can walk. I go with her. We go through another door. We are laughing.

This morning, I came across the following prayer from the book, Night Visions, by Jan Richardson. The drawing that is attached was done by me in September of this year.

For St. Anne, Whose Symbol Is the Door
Who is also the patron saint of lost objects.
Whom we know only by legend.
Who was the mother of Mary.
Who became the grandmother of God.
Who must have taught her daughter
something of boldness, of clarity,
of passages, of the power of choosing,
of not fearing angels
or their wild propositions.
Who beckons me in this season
as I seek my one threshold
from many doors.
Whom I beseech
bless me for all my lostness
light fire to my shadowy sight...    

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Repeat the Sounding Joy

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the tale of the shepherds in Luke 2.  I love their movement from darkness to light; from fear to excitement.  I love their journey of rushing to Bethlehem and back, talking and singing and sharing their stories.  I can see Mary and Joseph gently smiling as they listened to what I am sure was a less than orderly tale of light, proclamation, and song. I love that even after a heavenly revelation and a daring journey made just so they could see the newborn babe for themselves, they return to their shepherd lives.  It is a hint of things to come with Jesus. He healed people back into their lives, certainly changed, but also still the same. There is always work to be done and a flock to tend.   

Yesterday in a skilled nursing community, the people who gathered with us were ready to sing. Fortunately, the pianist who helps in this home brought extra Christmas music, so we sang probably close to a half hour. As we sang the voices grew stronger; heads were nodding; hands were clapping, and waving.  The activity directors were laughing. At the end of the service, I wished everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and blessings for all regardless of their faith. I thanked them for a wonderful year of worship services.  With blessings of "Thank you and Merry Christmas," accompanied by many hugs, we walked out smiling. Even the resident who can seldom spare a nice word because his energy is usually consumed in the heroic struggle between strong medication and the cacophony of voices in his head, gave us a blessing and thanked us. I had to bow in gratitude. 
In today's reading from The Rule of Benedict, Sister Joan writes of monastery life as an "image of a world unskewed by material values and social definitions." She calls this the "vision thrust" into a world that is no longer marked by sex, money, and race, but rather a picture of "human liberation gone outrageously giddy with the freeing power of God as the sign of its sanctity."  I do not want to romanticize life in skilled nursing; it can be lonely and difficult, both for residents and staff. Yet this liberation that Sister Joan describes is often the reality that I witness as I move among these heavenly hosts. Yes, on first glance they appear clothed, not in glory, but in very ordinary cotton shirts and dresses, old ball caps, and the occasional bib. Their songs are often punctuated with tremors.  Some can be quite cranky and taciturn, but with a little encouragement, most can be coaxed back with hymns and stories of God's love for all. Go tell it on the mountain. Please.  Christ is born ever anew when our hearts open. Let us go together; we can see and experience this for ourselves.    
Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing good news of great joy for all the people;  to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  
Luke 2:10  

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter Is Close

"There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler." 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer  


Thursday, December 15, 2016

15th Century Advent Poem

I found this poem last year in the publication, Thin Places. Because I hold that in Christ there is no male or female (Galatians 3:28), I believe the love and light of the living Christ is beyond any pronoun. However, this is a lovely poem that reminds me of the humility of Christ. Ultimately, what really matters is how we live that humility and love.

Holy harmony. Isn't that a wonderful phrase? May you experience holy harmony this Advent season, and always. 

Thou shalt know Him when He comes
not by any din of drums
nor the vantages of airs
nor by anything He wears...
For His presence known shall be
by the holy harmony
that His coming makes in thee. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2016


On Sunday two of our neighbors hosted a party. I was not able to attend, but I did stop by to add my contributions to the donations they were collecting for a local agency. Because there was no parking close-by, I pulled into their short driveway. When I returned to my car minutes later, there were quite a few young children in the small front yard and driveway. Their presence, while charming, did make me nervous. I needed to back out of the driveway and I knew my vision would be limited. Fortunately, a young father was also there. He gathered the children to him, and then gave me the thumbs up to let me know the way was clear. I was grateful.  

The image of God the Father is not one that generally comes up for me, but that moment was an exception. I was struck by the beauty and care of the father calling the children to him. He and I both needed the care of one another to ensure the safety of the young ones who were enjoying an afternoon of fun.   
In this time of post-election unease, I am hearing many accusations, but more importantly, I am witnessing people reaching out to one another. Conversations are deepening. We humans sometimes need the catalyst of unease and discomfort, and yes, sorrow, to help us to become aware of the preciousness of this life together. The answers to our prayers are often revealed through relationships. In those moments of being called together, the Christ light enters in, and the way is known once more in love.   
I trusted you, Lord, and waited, 
and you came to answer my plea. 
You lifted me from the pit, 
you pulled me out of the mire, 
you set my feet on firm ground,
you made my steps unshakable. 
You put a new song in my mouth
and gave me the power to praise you. 
You opened me to the truth; 
suddenly my eyes could see it. 
And I knew you don't care about rituals
or the mummeries of religion.
The only thing you want 
is our whole being, at every moment.   
Hold me in your embrace, Lord: 
make me transparent in your light. 
Grant me awareness; 
keep my gratitude fresh each day.
Let my song give blessing and insight 
to those who can't see for themselves. 
And let your compassion always 
shine forth from the depths of my heart.
Psalm 40
A Book of Psalms 
Stephen Mitchell 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Our Moral Imperative

As I continue to read Dr. Paul Farmer's story in Mountains Beyond Mountains, the phrase, "moral imperative" surfaces. Surely we each have at least one guiding imperative, and probably our imperatives evolve over time.  We should always be asking ourselves, "What  propels us forward? Is it healthy? What are our deeply held beliefs? What stirs us to love another? Are we being good stewards of what God has given us?" Perhaps one of the gifts of this unsettling post-election time is that these questions are taking on some new urgency. There is no longer any room for complacency. We must follow Jesus' call to be awake. 
Earlier this week, I and our worship team were on a floor dedicated to Alzheimer's care. The staff turnover is extremely high, but there are always at least a few residents that we can connect with and simply enjoy being with them. We were singing Christmas carols, and that is always fun because the memory of those hymns and songs is deeply embedded; almost everyone can join in with a nod of the head and at least a word or two. Between hymns, one of the residents  asked if she could talk to me. She said, "I do not want to disturb the others, but I am Jewish. These songs are nice, but why Jesus?" I replied that the love of Jesus comes from his showing people that God's love was for everyone. She asked if Jesus hated Jews. I replied that he himself was Jewish so that was definitely not the case, and I encouraged her to think of him as one who carried the story of God's love further into the world.  She smiled and asked, "Oh, so we are still worshiping the same God?" I responded that yes, that is true, and the answer seemed to make her happy; we had found common ground. How much of this conversation she will remember we shall have to see. However, to remember the conversation is not Pauline's moral imperative. It is mine. 
In today's reading of The Rule of St. Benedict, the subject concerns artisans in the monastery.  Sister Joan's interpretation of St. Benedict's stance on this topic is that artists should indeed practice their art; that beauty should never be suppressed. However, art should not tyrannize the community either. "The unusually gifted also required to see that their giftedness does not get in the way of their striving for sanctity." I interpret this to mean we do not worship our giftedness; we use our giftedness to worship God.    
Our collective moral imperative is that we use our gifts to serve God, our families, and our wider communities, and to allow others to do the same.  That is sanctity, whether we are brilliant doctors working on a global scale, a mother of four tending to the growth of her children, or somewhere in between.       
Perhaps what’s needed is not some grand gesture, but a thousand small decencies. Perhaps it is enough to address the needs that are right in front of us, to become light this Advent for the people there in our midst … in the shops, on the street, in our workplaces and yes, most especially in our families. And by doing so, add our light to the sum of light. 
Judith Valente, author    


Friday, December 9, 2016

Revisiting Week 1

Last night I dreamed that I was walking along a narrow desert cliff ledge that was located just below a railroad track. The situation was unnerving, but when I got to a bend and saw that the path grew narrower with a sharp turn upwards, I had to stop.  A female companion was with me but I don't remember talking to her. I knew she would understand that I just might not be able to go further. I was very afraid. Yet, as I continued to  pause, I began to believe that I could maneuver that  narrow upward bend.  I woke just as I was stepping forward. 
 The dream reminded  me of a narrow road I traveled once a month when I first began in the ministry. I am including part of my first posting about that road.  The original post is dated October 19, 2007 - day four of my time with SpiritCare, and about three years before I began putting everything on a  blog.  This resending marks the 500th posting of my blog.   Some of you have been receiving emails from me since before my time with SpiritCare began. That is a lot of emails.  Do not hesitate to let me know that you prefer to simply read the posts on the blog or on Facebook.     
Another chaplain is now visiting this community.  I do remember that tree; I often stood under it and listened to the frogs.  They were good traveling companions, too.   As are all of you.   
I have grown more easy with the twists and turns, but I still call God and Tyler a lot.  I would like to hear more frogs.   

This week I met a beautiful bed-bound woman named Sadie, who asked me to pray the Lord’s Prayer with her.  I followed her, and she missed a couple of lines, which of course does not matter, and it was so lovely to hear her pray.  Afterwards she smiled and said, “Oh, I remembered.  With you, I can remember.  I have trouble remembering when I pray by myself.”  She broke her back years ago, and I think she lives her life in bed in a perpetual comma shape.  However, she asked me to pray for the people around her, for she was fine and happy.  I went to a facility yesterday that is home to patients with severe dementia and mental trauma.  The home sits on a hilltop. I had to drive up a windy road which sometimes gives me a sense of claustrophobia, and sure enough, claustrophobia was my traveling companion.  When I got to the home, there was a large gate, so I knew that dementia was also going to be my traveling companion.  The gate was opened for me.  I drove in, parked the car, and I walked into the home.  Sometimes, humanity slumps, and can’t quite get up again. One younger woman wore a helmet and pretty much stayed completely covered under an afghan that someone must have made.  In my cheeriest voice I said good morning, but soon found I needed to step out into the nice, quiet garden out front.  As I often do when I am confused and want to bolt, I stood under a tree.  My mother died of complications from Alzheimer’s, so other traveling companions had joined me as well.  I called Tyler while standing under the tree.  I called God while standing under that tree.  What I heard was that, of course, there is always a choice.  I could simply get in the car and drive down that hill.  That response was tempting, but truthfully, it did not seem to be a response that honored my chaotic traveling companions who seemed to be needing some attention. So I walked back in.  The communion service was – well, for now, I shall call it uneven - but fortunately, there were three volunteers present and caregivers.  And something happened during communion.  We all calmed down. Some people smiled.   A younger fellow who cannot speak and whose feet seem to have trouble taking him where he wants to go, helped me serve. One of the volunteers told me that he liked to help, and I am grateful for otherwise I would not have known.   I loved taking the wafer from the small tray that was so tenderly held by those hands whose growth had been thwarted early in life.   Even the man who periodically yelled out that he hated God grew silent and he had such a look of happiness after I placed the wafer on his tongue.  And then, I followed the three volunteers  down the hill to another community.   They  have been serving the ministry for a very long time, and proved to be wonderful guides.  My own clamoring companions had grown quiet.  As I drove down the hill, I reflected on the fact that the night before I had found my birth certificate.  I may know why. 
Blessings on the journey.  With you, I remember. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016


A friend of mine recently recommended the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.  It is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer (born 1959)  and his work to bring some semblance of health care to Haiti, a country wrecked by poverty and greed (alas, those two always seem to go hand in hand). I have not finished reading it, but so far it is a compelling, thoughtful read that I recommend as well. However, please know there will be times when you will squirm. There will be times when you will mourn.  Why wouldn't we? In too much of our world, including this nation of ours, people live in dire poverty.  Yet, above all, the story is inspiring. 
On page 79, there is a paragraph that continues to stay with me. I am grateful for Farmer's interpretation. I am not sure I could have figured it out on my own.      
"How could a just God permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: "Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe," in literal translation, "God gives but does not share." This meant, as Farmer would later explain it, "God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he's not the one who's supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us."   
Yesterday, as I was going through a door of a skilled nursing community while trying to balance my communion bag, song sheets, and some lap quilts, I caught my hand in the door.  Nothing serious, but it did smart.  The elders I serve in this home are very frail. Three of them, at separate times throughout my time with them, took that same hand and kissed it (one must get used to that when serving the old old). I had said nothing about my tangle at the door. 
It is Advent and Christ stirs in the depths of our being.  May we let that love be born anew. There is still much to do. Fortunately, God wishes us well.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Be Encouraged

Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.   
James 5:7 

​This was part of our Monday night lectio, and I was surprised how comforting not only I, but the rest of our small group found the passage to be.  The reminder that all has not yet been revealed was a gift for us all.    
 I love red poinsettias and always have one or two in the house this time of year. Yet, white flowers, even the very small, always seem to speak of the potential of peace that Christmas can bring.   May we go about our preparations with love. Let your love go even further; as you shop, support local businesses and artists as best you can.   
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.  
People look east: Love, the Guest, is on the way.     
"People Look East" 
Eleanor Farjeon 


Sunday, December 4, 2016

In the Presence

The question, "How is your friend?" startled me. For one thing, I was engrossed in Annie Dillard's story, "In the Jungle" and at that moment I was sitting on the bank of the Napo River in Ecuador. It took a moment or two to return to the restaurant, my tea, and the presence of this particular waiter (This is why I cannot listen to fiction while I drive. My reflexes slow and I forget where I am. This book is not fiction, but the language has that same rich and transporting quality.) I looked up and now was even more surprised. This generally surly young waiter actually seemed to want to talk.  I know I must have had a quizzical look on my face, because he then asked, "Don't you usually come with a friend?" I explained that yes, I do sometimes get to have lunch with a friend, but not in this particular restaurant. He then went on to complain about how slow it was that day. I offered the idea that people might be out shopping. I smiled and said, "Perhaps someone is buying you a present!" That notion seemed to please him as he walked on, large tea pot in hand. I heard him ask the next table, "How is your friend?"  
I had never read any of Annie Dillard's books, so when Teaching a Stone To Talk, Expeditions and Encounters surfaced, I took it.  I think Ms. Dillard would laugh if she saw me try to read this particular copy. It is falling apart, so I am often trying catch sections before they fall to the floor.  Yet, despite its decrepit condition, it is an engaging read, and I recommend the investment of a few more dollars to get a decent copy that holds together.      
Recently, one of God's old old was in worship with me. She reached out her hand for mine. While her hand was certainly flesh, her essence seemed to be only of light and a magnificent toothless smile. I felt the presence of Christ so strongly that I felt I should kneel and ask for a blessing. Of course, the blessing had already been given. It is written that God told Moses that he could not look upon God's face and live. I believe this to be true. God cannot be reduced to something we can comprehend. So, we have been given the gift of Christ. We can see glimpses of Christ in those who are suffering, and also in those who are dissolving into love. I am grateful for these sightings and encouragements on my pilgrimage.  I am reminded of the prayer, "For this, I have Jesus." 
The question, "How is your friend?" may be an old waiter's trick (I think I have been asked this question before), but it is a good question to ponder. While we may not always be able to say, "Oh, my friend is just fine; thank you!" it does open a moment for a short prayer for those we hold in our hearts. Much of life is about coming together and falling apart, so it is well to keep our friends in mind as we continue our journeys. 
The Napo River: it is not out of the way. It is in the way, catching sunlight the way a cup catches poured water; it is a bowl of sweet air, a basin of greenness, and of grace, and it would seem, of peace.  
Annie Dillard 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Psalm 4 Book of Psalms

Last night I dreamed I was in the cave of a tiger. The tiger was not there. A man was with me, but we did not interact much. We were too much in awe of the cave to even speak.  The stone was layered, like sandstone. The colors: greens, golds, and orange were bright, like the sun was shining through them. We had to pause just to take in the flowing colors. However, we were aware enough to know that we needed to get out of the cave before the tiger returned. Yet, this knowing came more from politeness than fear. This was the tiger's home, not ours.  
Many of the psalms are not easy to read. Sometimes our lives are not easy to live which is why we have been given the gift of the difficult psalms: to put on the armor of light. I woke before we walked out of the cave. I hope we walked out dazzling.  
Even in the midst of great pain, Lord, 
I praise you for that which is. 
I will not refuse this grief 
or close myself to this anguish. 
Let the shallow pray for ease; 
"Comfort us; shield us from sorrow."
I pray for whatever you send me,
and I ask to receive it as your gift. 
You have put a joy in my heart
greater than all the world's riches. 
I lie down trusting the darkness,
for I know that even now you are here.  
Stephen Mitchell 

So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  
Romans 13:12   

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Yesterday, I ran across two friends I have not seen in awhile.  With one, I stopped and talked. While we touched of the difficulties of this time, in reality we spoke more of the encouragement that beauty and friendship can bring. With the other, A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell, I gratefully perused its pages over a bowl of soup. A very good day. 
Psalm 1 
Blessed are the man and the woman 
who have grown beyond greed 
and have put an end to their hatred 
and no longer nourish illusions. 
But they delight in the way things are 
and keep their hearts open, day and night. 
They are like trees planted near flowing rivers,
which bear fruit when they are ready. 
Their leaves will not fall or wither. 
Everything they do will succeed.    


The Psalms speak as poetry and prayer. Some of them are very good poems. But as prayer, even the greatest poems are inadequate. Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.  

- Stephen Mitchell 

Attachments area

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Knowing in an Adventuresome Advent

Yesterday, I was in a home dedicated to the care of those with advanced Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Sometimes when we are there, the residents are very engaged, and other times not.  Yesterday was a kind of in the middle sort of day. 
As I opened my Bible to find a suitable passage, I came across one of my favorites: "The Canticle of Zechariah", Luke 1:67-80, and decided to read part of it. I began at verse 76, "And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High," After reading 
it, I asked the residents to imagine that God was holding them as closely as Zechariah was holding that tiny baby, and to know that God believes in us every bit as much as Zechariah believed that his son, who would grow up to be John the Baptist, would be a great prophet for the Lord.  My "plan" (I use that word loosely) was to finish with the encouragement that we are loved so much and held so closely that we can have the confidence to say thank you.  That is pretty much what began to come out of my mouth, however before I finished, "we can have the confidence to say..." 
the effervescent Maureen walked boldly into the room, looked directly at me, and announced, 
​just as ​
boldly, "I know you!"  
Therefore, what 
the people heard was
​ ​
that we are loved so much that we can have the confidence to say, "I know you!"  I had to pause a moment and let the power of that statement sink in. I thanked 
Maureen and told her that she was absolutely right​
. Yes, we a
re so held 
​so closely ​
that we can confidently say that we know God, and we know one another. She came over and gave me a big hug. That is what Maureen does. 
I walk among the prophets. They tell me we know and we are known. Pass it on.  

'And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
 to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. 
Luke 1:76-80

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adventuring into Advent

As Advent begins, I am finding both comfort and inspiration in the book, A Touch of God, Eight Monastic Journeys, edited by Maria Boulding.  This book was first published in 1982 by SPCK in London, England. One of the reasons that I enjoy the book so much is that the worldview of these monastics who lived, were educated, and eventually took their vows in Europe is different that mine.  Yet, the struggles are much the same:  the struggles about how to honor our calls, whatever they might be, both in times when our lives seem to be bearing the good fruit, and in times when we fear we are withering on the vine.  Those times when we are confident in our choices, and those times when doubt seems to be the only voice crying in the wilderness of our heart. Yet, in each of these testimonials, there is are a reminder that if we keep going, our cagey egos will begin to lose their separatist grips. In this process, we can come to accept that regardless of how we are called to work our way through this world, we are first and foremost called to be in relationship. It is in relationship when we can begin to garner a new understanding that hope, peace, joy, and love are not just lovely candles lit in the four weeks before Christmas, but rather are the reality of who we are.  Yes, the journey from ideals to experience can be rough going, but is one that is definitely worth taking. It is in this pilgrimage when we learn to be a friend to God, to one another, and to ourselves.   
Dame Paula Fairle wrote in her chapter that she was born in 1940, so she was in mid-life when this book was published. She acknowledged that even then, sixteen years into her vocation, her personal prayers were “often far from inspiring,” but that she had learned to simply accept that most of her moments of deepest peace came outside of that time formally called prayer.  She concluded her chapter with part of a beautiful prayer/poem that she wrote and that I would like to share. In it, we hear God yearning to be in relationship with us, and the love that eternally lights our way. It seems a fitting way to begin Advent. Let us remember that we are not running to cross the finish line in some sort of Herculean pre-Christmas marathon designed by retailers and marketers. Instead,we can take the time to explore the possibility that anytime a heart begins to open to the experience of love, Christ is born anew. Christmas can then be transformed from a deadline, into a way of being in this world and probably the next.  This is the candle of hope I light today.

...and let the questing mind be still…
In the ground of your being I have my home,
so do not seek me in the world apart.
Within your spirit true communion lies.
You are no homeless stranger in a land afar,
No alien on a foreign shore,
for I am with you.
Do but be still and know that I am God.
I look upon the world with your dark eyes;
I feel the flowing air on your cool cheek.
I hear the twittering in the moving trees,
For with your senses I perceive.  
I am with you, I am within you.
So do not turn away but come to rest in me.
Within you is our meeting place.
Be but still, and I will speak in silence
To your loving wayward heart.