Sunday, March 27, 2016


Dear Friends, 
Well, every Easter is different, of course, but this Easter will probably find me back at Kaiser sometime today, and I think this is a first for me.   The cough has worsened.  I will not try to attend a worship service.  Yet, I have always found encouragement in the post-resurrection stories.  Jesus appears very much a human being, but even those who were aching in what they thought was his absence were slow to recognize him.  I do not think much has changed.  

So, as organs ring out, alleluias are raised, and greetings exchanged, let us not forget to look for Jesus among us.  In waiting rooms, airport terminals, and grocery stores, let us remember to look for Jesus.  In the silence and the storms, let us take note of the very human Jesus.  When we are feeling stranded, let us look for the one who will remind us, that no matter what, we are loved.  And let us be that love for someone else. Whether we are atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or follow some other faith practice that may not even have a name, we can be love.  We are part of the resurrection.

While they were saying all of this, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet - it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this.   
Luke 24:36-40  The Message 

Friday, March 25, 2016


Good Friday finds me in an unexpected place: on my couch reading Take This Bread by Sara Miles accompanied by what is now being called a sinus infection.  Most people I know read this book years ago (the copyright is 2007, the year I graduated from seminary).  I am not certain why I have dawdled.  It is a fine book, and she is an excellent writer. I think, and I know this sounds silly, because we both experienced conversion at the communion table, I just was not ready to read her story.  I needed to make my own way for awhile.  Yes, I know that is a fine way to get lost in the wilderness.  Fortunately,  God has spoken to me more than once through a used paperback edition, and I trust that compass. Today, I am grateful for the company.   
A few days ago, I walked up to an older man in a wheelchair, and asked if he wanted communion.  He looked up me, paused,  and then nodded his head. I dipped the wafer and held it to his lips. He tasted it, and then quietly asked, "Is that enough?".  He just did not seem to have the energy to take even a quick dissolving slip of wheat and water.  I placed it in a paper napkin I always keep on hand, and assured him that the bread and cup of eternal life in Christ was his.  He nodded his head again and closed his eyes.  In this same service, Holly, the activity assistant's much beloved dog, decided to sing during the Lord's Prayer.  I looked around to see many of the residents smiling.  I could not think of one reason why we should not smile while saying this prayer. It is so often approached by rote or with great solemnity, but maybe God would appreciate it if we lightened up and celebrated forgiveness and our daily bread with some enthusiasm.  

After her role as cantor came to a close, Holly walked up to me and I assured her that she could always sing with me, much to the relief of the director.  Holly then walked over to the pianist who also paused to chat with her. The residents continued to watch and smile and even laugh. They are familiar with her gentle wily ways.  Eventually, we all began to sing once more.   
Blessings to you all this day. Tremble, but do not despair. Attend to your heart.  
Miles quotes this passage, calling it one of her favorite psalms.  According to a section of a prayer book I found online, it is from Psalm 4, but I cannot locate the translation that uses these exact words.   Nonetheless, may this ancient call to courage give us strength to not despair in these trembling times, but to lovingly, and even enthusiastically attend as the servants we are called to be.     

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mary Weeps

Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. 

This morning I received an email devotional indicating that today is the feast day of the Assumption of Mary. I do not think that is correct. That feast day is August 15, but my knowledge of the Catholic tradition is limited. Regardless, after reading about the Brussels suicide bombings, I found I could take solace in the prayer above. I often feel Mary's presence in skilled nursing communities. I believe a lot of prayers are lifted to her, and occasionally I am blessed and humbled to hear the soft murmuring of those devotions. This morning, I must add one of my own.   
Holy Mother, I know you weep this morning for the suffering and needless deaths of your children. Be with those who are mourning, frightened, misguided, and hurt.  Help us to turn from the seduction and illusion of death, and learn to celebrate and share the fruit of this life.  I thank you for your guiding presence in the halls and at the bedside of the elders I serve.  My tears join yours, so I know they are not in vain.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Here, the first day of spring is full of flowers, gentle light, and soft air.  Say yes, go out and fall in love with God once more. In this world of sorrow there is also joy.  Holy One, I thank you. 

The Opening of Eyes 
David Whyte  
The day I saw beneath dark clouds 
the passing light over the water 
and I heard the voice of the world speak out, 
I knew then, as I had before, 
life is no passing memory of what has been 
nor the remaining pages of a great book 
waiting to be read. 
It is the opening of eyes long closed. 
It is the vision of far off things 
seen for the silence they hold. 
It is the heart after years 
of secret conversing 
speaking out loud in the clear air. 
It is Moses in the desert 
fallen to his knees before the lit bush. 
It is the man throwing away his shoes 
as if to enter heaven 
and finding himself astonished, 
opened at last, 
fallen in love with solid ground.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Early this morning I decided to empty out a box that looked to be filled with paperwork I no longer needed.  For the most part, I was correct. However, in it I discovered a book entitled Consultation by John E. Kolstoe.  I then remembered the very kind member of a Baha' i community who graciously gave me this book to me during a discussion about addressing conflict in community. As I perused it this morning, the paragraph below caught my eye. It seems worthy of pondering during Lent. 

Everything reasonable should be done to re-establish harmony... But if concerted efforts do not work, let go. Learn to live with it. Everyone has his [or her] own spiritual battle. The contentious have theirs; one of yours is learning to live with them. Place it in perspective. Pray for them. Look for opportunities to establish harmony, but do not worry about it excessively. Concentrate on teaching. It may be best to simply leave them alone (168).   

 Lent is often viewed as a private journey, but for those of us in community, it is, hopefully, also a communal one.  Most Christian faith communities will offer some sort of study or book discussion during this season. However, it might be fruitful to ask at the beginning of Lent (and really, just about any time), "How will we make this journey  together? What do we, as a community, need to consciously surrender to God? How are we being called to being more present to one another and the wider community? From what do we, together, need to fast?"  The answer to the last question may still be chocolate or potato chips, but at least we will have some company!  And yes, this is an example of why getting rid of books can be so difficult.   
Blessings to each of you as your Lenten journey continues. Let us pray for one another and encourage one another on the way.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Those Who Go Before

Today, I visited one of my favorite long-term care communities.  As we settled in and watched the rain come down, we talked of anointing one another with our love just like the falling rain.   We talked of Mary anointing Jesus' feet in John 12. Some of these dear people no longer speak, but several  were nodding their heads in agreement. Anita, who still struggles with the idea that God's love is for her, wept as she often does, and said, "That is amazing."  So we sang, "Amazing Grace." A  younger woman who had declined to join us at the table saying she preferred to stay where she was, joined in from the far corner with a surprisingly strong voice.  I asked her if she sang regularly.  "Oh, no," she replied. However, she continued to sing with us as we made our way through several hymns, and even some much beloved Christmas carols.  

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and the cheeriness of these services does confuse me.   However, today when I read the "Weekly Seeds" reflection that comes from the United Church of Christ, I felt a little more clarity. In her reflection,  Rev. Kate Matthews reminded me that there were those who made a way for Jesus. They walked with him, cooked for him, ate with him, listened to him, anointed him. They were not the ones who cried out for his crucifixion, but rather they were the ones who simply laid down what they had for his ride into Jerusalem: palm fronds, a few garments, and tears. Maybe that faithful love is what we are celebrating. As I said my good-byes to the community today and walked out the front door, I gave thanks for the tenderness that always greets me there.  The rain stopped for a few minutes, and I spotted two tattered, rain soaked palm fronds lying by the front door.  
None of us go alone. 
"This week, as we stumble toward Jerusalem, we can rely on God's grace to carry us every step of the way. On this Palm Sunday, though (with or without palms), in this one moment, we can make a way for Jesus, we can throw our cloaks on the ground and sing our songs of praise, and trust the unknown future to the God who works good in every circumstance and in every, holy week of our lives."     
 Rev. Kate Matthews  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ms. B.

I walked into the activity room to find one of the beloved elders already there.  We greeted one another with hugs.  She then patted the chair next to her and said that her friend was celebrating her birthday. I knew whom she was talking about because the two of them have sat together in worship for several years now. I asked her if Ms. B. (definitely not what we call her) was with her daughter.  Alice replied, "I am not sure. I know they went out last night."  However, in just a few minutes Ms. B. did join us.  We celebrated with singing "Happy Birthday," and dear George gave her a small box of chocolates.  He keeps a stash of these gift boxes just for such moments.  Ms. B.'s 95th birthday is certainly such a time. 
Afterwards, I talked to Ms. B.  We have talked often of her struggles with depression.  She misses her husband. Her energy is lagging, and her vision is deteriorating.  Yet today, she took my hand as she always does, smiled and said, "I know I am blessed."  I pray this knowing will stay with her.  Yet, what is really wonderful is how much she is loved by the worshiping community whether she is feeling blessed, or she is feeling blue. Here, everyone is a friend, and ultimately, love is what endures.
And yes, Ms. B. is going out again tonight. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2016


As Jesus' co-workers, one thing we have to learn is to sow joy. We don't need bombs or weapons to bring peace to the world. We need that love and compassion that we ask for every day. We need a truly compassionate love - a compassion and love that bring joy and peace. The world is hungry for God...
Mother Teresa, One Heart Full of Love from Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton, edited by Jonathan Montaldo and Robert G. Toth    
The image of our working side by side with Jesus is a beautiful one.  We often hear of "following Jesus," but what if we move a little closer - not just following, but serving together as we tend to the task at hand?  What a blessing for the world even our simplest work could be. As this day gets underway, let us remember to look around and see who there, right beside us, encouraging us to sow peace. 
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them...  
Luke 24:15