Tuesday, May 31, 2016


I find this to be a very intriguing plant. The blossoms make me think of cliff dwellers.  Jack and I were actually running this morning when I spotted it. I am reminded to keep noticing.  Not all has been revealed.  
A friend has asked me to write again about counting the Omer.  I will do so at some point.  However, the practice is rooted in Leviticus 23:15-16.  I think I am experiencing as an Examen.    
I am a sojourner here within the Mystery. 
Like all my ancestors who came before me, 
I seek a place to dwell.       
Psalm 39:13 
Rabbi Yael Levy 
Day 39, making five weeks and four days of the Omer 



Monday, May 30, 2016

In Remembrance

Today I led worship in a community dedicated to the care of Alzheimer's patients. I stopped in two other communities on my way home to drop off updated schedules. In every home, staff members were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, preparing salads and deserts for the residents and their families. As we rightly remember our military service veterans and their sacrifices, we also need to remember those who daily tend to the old, frail, and ill. Service comes in a variety of forms; let us not forget.    


Trust the unfolding and act well. 
Dwell in the land, and be nourished by faith.
Commit yourself to the unfolding path, 
And guidance will come. 
Psalm 37:3,5
Rabbi Yael Levy 
Today is the thirty-seventh day, making five weeks and two days of the Omer.     


Friday, May 27, 2016


Last night I dreamed of someone I know who lives in a skilled nursing community. In the dream I walk into a round white building. It looks to be a small church. I know I have been away for awhile, but I am welcomed into a discussion.  As I settle in, I look out one of the windows that are just above where I am sitting. There I see Keith leaving, and I am hopeful he will see me.  He does pause, and he smiles and waves. I return the wave. I cannot help but comment, "He looks great."  The others agree. Keith walks on. He still has his cane, but his gait is easy. 
I woke with the phrase, "Luke 15." This morning I see the story of the Prodigal Son, and I wonder if Keith has shed this worn-out life. His body and mind have been failing for awhile now. As I write this, I remember that he recently took communion.  I have known him for a few years, and he has always smiled and declined the bread and cup, saying, "He is with me." Yet, that day, something had changed for him.  Afterwards, he told me a little of his childhood in Oklahoma. He seemed happy.         
Last night I also dreamed that I am sitting with God on a valley floor​. I have a sense the trek down had not been easy, but sitting there, although it was kind of dark, maybe like twilight or an early pre-dawn morning, I feel  a sense of peace. I realize that the ground is level and that God is there.  In the dream I think, "Oh, so this is what rock bottom looks like." I know I am safe. Not only safe; I am happy.   
To serve communion to those who are at the end of their lives is a profound, humbling experience. It is to witness an ancient love affair that is beyond time and knows no limitations. It is when I am at my simplest, and when I often witness the most. It is a feast on the valley floor. 
Quickly, bring out a robe - the best one - and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!  
Luke 15:22  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Finding Pleasure in Gratitude

I woke this morning with the word pleasure on my mind. I had just dreamed that I was in a lecture hall listening to a tall, thin man speak. In the dream I seem to know him as the son of Billy Graham. His lecture was quite scholarly, so of course, I don't remember a thing. At the end of the lecture he asked for questions. I replied that I had two. I ask how his father was doing, to which he never really responded, and I asked about his personal happiness.  To that, he responded that he sought pleasure. He added that pleasure is a gift from God, and even shows up in the Bible. That is worth pondering. Certainly in some of the psalms and in the Song of Songs there is great delight and pleasure expressed. In Genesis, we read of God declaring creation as good, and in Proverbs 8 we read of Wisdom's delight in creation as well.     
Before one of my recent worship services, I was talking to one of the residents about memory.  She expressed concern that she had lost track of a day and had missed an appointment. She felt badly about that.  "I think I need to pull out my paper calendar every evening and mark through the day. I need to bring the day to a close before beginning another one." 
As we talked about her idea, I found meaning in it.  I added that there is a spiritual practice called the examen where at the end of the day one takes time for reflection on the day. We note where we had experienced a sense of God's presence, where we might have been too distracted or self-absorbed to remember to seek God's blessing and guidance, or where we were convinced that God was missing entirely.  We then surrender the day back to God, and rest. In the book Sleeping with Bread,authors Dennis, Sheila, and Matthew Linn write about their experiences of their examen practices that center on two questions:  
For what moment today am I most grateful? 
For what moment today am I least grateful?    
I am grateful for my conversation with Lola. I am grateful for the reminder that without gratitude, we cannot truly experience pleasure, no matter how passionately we pursue it. I am grateful for the opportunity to ponder the morning word, and I am grateful to be reconnected with Sleeping with BreadIt is a deceptively simple book, and I recommend it. I am also grateful for this time in my ministry and my life. I am learning to find the grace in the growing knowledge that those I once called elders, I now simply know as friends.   
I am grateful for all of you.  
The Inner History of a Day (excerpt) 

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens, 
Transforming our broken fragments 
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us. 
Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious that the smallness 
That fuels us with fear and force, 
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes. 
So at the end of this day, we give thanks 
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work 
Through which the mind of the day
And the wisdom of the soul become one. 
John O'Donohue (from for lovers of god everywhere by roger housden)


Sunday, May 22, 2016


This Sunday morning finds me coughing and sneezing and wondering where this cold came from.  I suppose the answer, even if it surfaced, would not matter much. I would still have a cold.    
Sorting through my emails and drafts, I came across both this photograph and quote by Wendell Berry. I am sure I have shared this quote before, but as my plans have been changed, I am grateful for this reminder that interruptions are real, and expectations often are not, although they certainly do have a powerful allure.
Blessings to you all.  
And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home. It is a journey we can make only by the acceptance of mystery and of mystification—by yielding to the condition that what we have expected is not there.
—Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness  


Thursday, May 19, 2016


I always have to pause before I go into Debbie's room.  She is not one of the old old, but is probably closer to my age.  She is bright and loves to talk.  And talk. The barrage of words often drains me.  She is no longer mobile, except in a wheelchair, and I seldom see her out of her room.  She has a roommate named Betty. Betty is sometimes asleep when I arrive, but she and I have also often talked.  I know she has rheumatoid arthritis, is bedridden, and is often in pain. 
When I stepped off the elevator, I was surprised to see Debbie sitting by the nurses' station engaged in earnest conversation.  She looks up and sees me. "Oh, Sue Ann, can you help? Would you go see Betty? She is screaming."  I understand Betty does this a lot, especially in the middle of the night.  I am not sure how Debbie handles it.  However, I know Betty knows me, so I reply, "Yes, I will go."  
She is indeed yelling.  I walk over to her and place my hand on her arm. "Betty, it is Rev. Sue Ann. I am so sorry you are in pain." I begin to stroke her soft arm, and Betty expresses her frustration that no one has come to her.  I continue to softly talk to her, and knowing she is Catholic, I ask if she would like a prayer.  "No. It never works." Debbie gasps, and Betty's voice grows louder.  "Where are they?" Debbie tries to assure her that a nurse was enroute.  

 I try a simple breath meditation with Betty, and it works surprisingly quickly. Her breathing slows and she begins to grow quiet.  Debbie grabs a clean pillow case and wheels into the bathroom to run hot water over it. She squeezes it out and hands it to me in a plastic bag. I ask Betty where she would like the warm cloth applied.  She indicates her neck.  I place it and continue to encourage her to breathe in God's love and breathe out the pain.  She asks me to place my hand back on her arm.  
I keep the meditation going, and I do add a prayer. Both of them grow very quiet, and Betty falls asleep.  I quietly tell Debbie I have one more call to make so I need to go. She wants to go back down the hall with me.   
As we make that journey, we move slowly. She tells me again about her grandchildren. However, despite the repetition, I recognize that my journey with Debbie has been enhanced. Every person we meet she calls  by name. Some I knew, but not as intimately as she does.  "Bruce, hello, how are you doing?"  Bruce does not respond.  She whispers, "I think he recently had a stroke."  She asks John how his leg is.  He replies, "Not well," and gives some more details. She speaks to Angie, who is cleaning rooms, and asks about her children, and says hello to Mary who is distributing medications.  She greets everyone by name and knows something about them. We talk a little more about Betty and her frustrations.  
As we say our good-byes, I encourage Debbie to continuing being the light.  She encourages me to continue to use my voice. We both agree to keep going.

 I assume the nurse did arrive. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Breath of God

When I awoke this morning after hearing the street cleaner rumble by, I heard the beautiful hymn, Breathe on Me, Breath of God. We have been singing this hymn in SpiritCare this month. It is a profound hymn to sing in the midst of those, including me, who struggle with illness, impatience, and frailty.  It is a reminder that if I ever doubt whom or what God loves, I simply need to look.  Does this mean that everything we humans do is worthy of this love?  Alas, no. Yet, God continues to love with a love that is beyond comprehension.  As the psalmist says in Psalm 139, "such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." Hopefully, this knowing will bring us to a state of humility, not complacency. There is much that we can and should attend to. 
I include two versions of the first verse of this hymn.  The shift in language does make for a subtle change.        
Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
fill me with life anew. 
That I may love what Thou dost love, 
and do what Thou wouldst do.    
Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
fill me with life anew. 
That I may love the way you love 
and do what you would do.
Peace be with you today, and always.  


Monday, May 16, 2016


I woke this morning thinking of doors. How our dreams our waking experiences are really just doors.  Doors that open ever further into God's boundless love.  How Christ is always there, welcoming us and guiding us.  Because of these ever open doors, we, too, can learn to say, "Welcome."  
I believe I dreamed of Christ last night.  That love and light shown all around, and was even within me.  

Blessings on this day, and always.  You are loved, so please, feel free to love.  Your cup overflows. 
Practice for Day 23, three weeks and one day of the Omer  
Do one action today that brings you into connection with others, 
that turns you toward the Mystery, 
that encourages awe and love, 
that is aimed at bringing forth good. 

Rabbi Yael Levy

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Seasoned Veterans

Today I was in a skilled nursing community in the south bay. Several of the residents there are veterans. There is George, who sings, who questions and prays, who voices his opinions and laughs out loud, and who mentioned that evenings in the community were really dreary.  "They play old band music. Every night." He is a Viet Nam veteran, and served in the Marines.  Bob, who served in the Navy around the same time, chimed in.  "Yea, it is pretty bad."  I suddenly realized that these men are my contemporaries, and if I had to listen to big band music every evening just to pass the time, I would be desperate.

 Our ministry is changing.  Yes, we still serve the frail "old old," and these people we cherish.  Yet, there are also the ones I think of as the "emerging aging." Women and men who served in Viet Nam. Those who refused to go. Those who partied way too long. Those, like Hannah, whose successful careers would be waylaid by illnesses like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.  Those who have prepared for this time, and those who thought such a time would never come, or at least not now. Those who need more than music from another generation.  In other words, they are we, and we need to connect with one another.      
The ministry is changing. Come change with us.  People are waiting.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Hope of Serenity

I woke this morning from a dream where I am handing out empty small and mid-size boxes of various sizes and depths to people I know.  The boxes all have lids and would come in very handy at gift giving time. I then was asked to collect them and pass them out one more time just to make certain I am giving the right empty box to the right person. Then, to other people I know, I begin to pass out sheets of colored paper, like construction paper but with a lighter feel, maybe like wrapping paper. Each sheet is of a single color, but the color varies from sheet to sheet. I pause when I come to a white sheet with a piece of smooth blue turquoise attached in the upper right hand corner, like a postage stamp. I think of my friend Kim who recently died, and I feel a sense of peace. I do not know if in her life she was drawn to the actual stone, but I know she loved the bright blue hue of some turquoise. I woke with both my friend and the word serenity on my mind.  
I am not a particularly serene person. However, as I ponder love, serenity, and my friend, I return to a poem I fell in love with in seminary.  Today, as it did then, it brings me the hope of living and sharing in peace. 
Cut brambles long enough, 
Sprout after sprout, 
And the lotus will bloom 
of its own accord: 
Already waiting in the clearing, 
The single image of light. 
The day you see this, 
That day you will become it. 
Sun Bu-er 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid. 
Jesus, as revealed in John 14:27   
Holy Presence, help me to give in your way, not in the world's way.  Amen.     
Sun-Buer was a Toaist sage born in 1124. It is not known when she died.  


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Goings On

The limitations of iPhone photography intrigue me almost as much as what it does very well.  I am in the process of intentionally deleting photographs. At times I am reluctant to delete an image. I think if I return to it at a later date, maybe I will see something that I am not seeing on that particular day.  Sometimes that does happen, but usually I forget to return to complete the work.  This morning I realized I had a better eye today for deleting than for cropping, and I made use of that current state of mind. Photography is an interesting cycle of seeing, cropping, saving, or deleting. The cycle can sometimes be completed in a minute or two, but usually takes longer. I need to remember that deleting is very part of the discipline. We must learn to let go in all aspects of our lives. That process can be painful, and resting in it seldom comes easily. Yet, in learning to let go, we learn endurance. We learn to trust, knowing there is always more to be revealed. 

Take notice, 
The Mystery calls,  
I am doing a new thing. 
Right now it is sprouting. 
Suddenly you will know it.  
Isaiah 43:19  
Rabbi Yael Levy   
Day 17 of counting the Omer  


Monday, May 9, 2016


I am trying to take note of my first thought of the day. This morning, I woke thinking, "The fireman does not just look for the house number. He looks for the fire."  At first, the words felt foreboding, but then I started thinking about passion and its need to be kindled.  
Last week I sat around a fairly small table with a group of elders I am just now getting to know. I think we have finally found a schedule that works for both the community and myself, and our comfort level is growing.  After some time in conversation, I asked if they would like to share communion.  One woman quietly replied, "Well, if it would not be too much trouble..."  Another responded, "Only if it would be okay. I am Catholic."  I assured them that it would certainly be a blessing, not a burden, and encouraged them to remember that we are all God's children.   
I then set the table and began the story of Jesus gathering his disciples for that last Passover meal. Just then, another resident walked up and asked if he could join us.  We all responded with our own version of  "Yes, of course!"  He pointed to a chair just behind us and said, "I will just sit over here." That meant he would not be at the table, but just off to the side.  However, we all had already begun to make room by shifting our chairs and some walkers, and asked him to please join us at the table.   
At first, he was a little reluctant, but I tried to encourage him by saying, "This is what people of faith do. We make room for one another."  I almost used the word Christian, but decided not to because I had never met him. Sure enough, he told he was Jewish. I learned his daughter still regularly takes him to the synagogue where she is very active.  I sensed his pride in her.  "I think you have left her a beautiful faith legacy, and she is now sharing that legacy with others." He looked happy.     
We all then began talking about our faith traditions, and how they intersect. It really was a beautiful conversation, full of pauses as we each remembered our experiences and tried to put into words our beliefs and values. I think each of us, whether man or woman, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or one who is struggling with it all, realized we have much in common. Eventually, I did resume the story of Jesus gathering the disciples on that Passover night. It felt to me to be a really tender time of communion and presence.  Our Jewish friend did not take communion, but we shook hands and wished one another God's peace.  He thanked me for inviting him in. However, the invitation never comes from me. The source is much deeper than that. 
Letting go. Making room. Finding common ground. Expressing gratitude.  I pray these practices will always be what fuels my faith in God who holds us all.  
I will travel the path of connection, for You have expanded my heart. 

Psalm 119:32
Rabbi Yael Levy 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Road Work

A voices cries out: 
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, 
and every mountain and hill be made low; 
the uneven ground shall become level, 
and the rough places a plain. 
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, 
and people shall see it together; 
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. 
Isaiah 40:3-5  
The last thing I remember hearing in a series of chaotic dreams this morning was the opening lines to this passage.  As I stirred to waking consciousness, I began to think of our struggles and sorrows as preparing or clearing the way.  Hopefully, we learn to trust this road work as we make a path in and and to the boundless frontier that is God's love. Once the way is made somewhat clear, we will surely see that we have been there all along.  
Be strengthened in your journey.  Come, let us clear the way together. 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

From the Mystery

From the Mystery, the Holy One gazes upon us 
to see if there is someone who
has the good sense 
to see God in all.  
Psalm 14:2
Rabbi Yael Levy​    

Friday, May 6, 2016

May Bee ll

Take time to feel your strengths to give honor to your abilities. 
Make a commitment to use your power to bring benefit and blessing.    
Rabbi Yael Levy 
13th day, one week and six days of the Omer    
I appreciate the phrase, "to give honor to your abilities."  We are called to bring our gifts to the world. 
 moment ​
​an ​
altar where we honor God and the Christ among us.  
​At this altar we live out our days, whether we choose to be of service or not.  Perhaps if we think of our every activity as a gift freely returned to God in gratitude, we might be able to live in peace with one another.    
​Our blessings are gifts that are meant to be shared. 


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Abide With Us

I think it was three months ago when I received an email from an activity director in a beautiful assisted living community. She advised me that our service was being moved to a smaller activity room. She apologized because the room has no piano.  The results of this move have actually been positive. While I do still serve communion, I spend most of my time sitting with them in a circle.  This change has ushered in some rich discussions and even some a cappella singing that has gone surprisingly well. We generally use the small spiral bound hymnals that I keep in my car, and the residents pick the hymns they would like to sing.  
As we closed this month's gathering, one of the residents asked if we could sing  "Abide with Me."   I was surprised as this is a hymn we are singing this month in SpiritCare, but I had just picked up my materials, and I had not had a chance to sing it.  I knew I could not lead it and I asked her if she thought she could.
"Oh, no," she replied. I explained the situation, and added that we surely we could sing it next month.  
Then quiet Mary, who always smiles, but seldom speaks, simply began singing the hymn.  We all scrambled to join in (fortunately, the hymnal is alphabetical order).  

I was stunned.  "Mary, thank you!  That was wonderful!"  The group also expressed their gratitude.  
She smiled her beautiful smile and said, "I used to be a music teacher and I sang in choirs. I can't read very much any more, and my memory is not good, but this hymn I remember."   
It is almost Pentecost. Yesterday, as I moved through a busy skilled nursing community, I heard many languages and conversations. The nursing station was its usual busy hub.  The front desk receptionist was valiantly trying to figure out what the caller was really trying to tell her.  Some CNAs were being instructed on how to safely feed a patient. Several families were gathered with their loved ones  and they were speaking in Tagalog and Cantonese. I had talked about Pentecost in the service, and as I was saying my good-byes, I was thinking about William. I had not seen him in the past few months, but he was in worship yesterday. I told him how glad I was to see him. He looked at me and I sensed recognition, but he did not smile and he said not a word. The activity assistant told me later that William had stopped talking and they did not know why. They cannot understand his silence.  As I walked to the parking lot, I found myself feeling wistful about that day of Pentecost when everyone understood what the other was saying, and maybe even not saying.  I yearn for that day to return.   
Come, Holy Spirit. Abide with us. Help us understand.   
When other helpers fail and comforts flee, 
Help of the helpless, 
O abide with me. 
Francis Lyte

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 
Acts 2:4   


Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Bee

I took some other pictures of this bee that are probably what we might call "better," and you will no doubt see them at some point. Yet, I feel the tug to share this one because of the fairly clear shot of the pollen on her legs. These industrious, but all too vulnerable creatures astound me. I am reminded that we must tend to our gardens wisely, so life can live.
"We ask ourselves in each encounter: What is the wise and compassionate choice?"
Rabbi Yael Levy   
One week and one day of counting the Omer