Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tenacity



"A pilgrim is one who stays on the journey." 
John Main  
   
Good words to hold on to as we move into 2018.  The turning of the years actually matter little to me, but they are landmarks and guideposts that our society seems to need to function.  Yet, let us remember that God's love is timeless, and it is in and into that eternity we travel. 
 
Tyler and I spent the last few days with family and some friends we have not seen in many a year.  There was laughter, feasting, and heartfelt conversations. This morning, I woke this morning thinking of St. Paul's encouragement to clothe ourselves in Christ, and "let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body. And be thankful."   
 
I am indeed. I do believe Jesus sat at our long table this week.   
  
*Colossians 3:15 
    
  



Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sweet Darkness

In a recent Facebook post, Parker Palmer shared this poem by David Whyte.  I think it is one of his finest.  Sometimes it is not easy to trust the darkness, but we are reminded in Psalm 139:12 that in God even the darkness is not dark. Let us take courage and trust that whatever darkness we must journey through, enough light is there. 

Yesterday I sat with a retired medical doctor who is in deep mourning. He so misses his beloved who has recently passed.  He told me that the night before he had gone on an excursion with others to view Christmas lights.  No, he really did not enjoy them, but he felt he needed to go out and be with others. I said I was glad he did. It then came to me  that maybe mourning is like any physical illness.  We take a few steps to help get our strength back.  And then we must rest.  It is not enjoyable, and even hurts. But we try again. We do grow stronger, but not all at once. Eventually, noticeable healing happens and joy can surface once more. 
  
He thought for a moment, then nodded his head, and said, "Yes. That makes sense."  Faith arises.      
 

Solstice Blessings to all. Trust your light.  
  

When your eyes are tired
 the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
 no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
 where the night has eyes
 to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
 you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home
 tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
 further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
 The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
 except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
 confinement of your aloneness
 to learn

anything or anyone
 that does not bring you alive
 
is too small for you.​   
  
David Whyte
​   
Photograph was taken in Sunol in December, 2017.  I love this tree. It lives by a small creek that runs behind Little Brown Church.  A light shines in both.​
   
 


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Psalm 76

"At last we saw God's glory;
how beautiful you are, 
Your majesty like mountains
rising to the sky."  
 
Psalm 76:4 
Ancient Songs Sung Anew, 
Lynn C. Baumann 
    
 


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Psalm 75

If St. Benedict and his monks did indeed make their way through the entire Psalter every week, I think he might be rather unimpressed that I am just now reaching the half-way mark.  Nonetheless, here we are!   
 
I have learned that Psalm 75 is actually a song of justice to be read as call and response. Even with all my personal shortcomings, I do at times take refuge in the image of God as judge. I find it gives me patience.     
 
More singing and less boasting.  People raising their heads instead of hiding in the shadows.  Less boasting means less fear. Worth remembering as we try to discern the truth of our times. 
  
It is to you, O God, we give our thanks and offer up our praise. 
We speak of all you are and do, 
and call out in your name.
 
God answers back, and says, 'A time is coming to this world
when I shall be the judge, 
and I shall take what is and align it to the good. 
And though the leaders, and their lands be full of fear and dread, 
I will make its pillars sure and deep, and its foundations firm. 
To those who boast, I'll say, close up your mouths 
and boast no more, 
quit your staggering pride and bend your heads.' 
 
For justice comes and will be done on earth from East to West, 
and not a little here or something there, 
but everyone the same, in full. 
 
So I will sing this song in praise, 
to the judge high over all, 
For the necks of those that will not bend in pride will break, 
but those who walk the path of right-relatedness, 
will lift their joyous heads.      
  
Psalm 75, Psalms for Praying, abridged 
Lynn C. Bauman

   

Friday, December 15, 2017

Psalm 74

Come, O Beloved, counsel me with love; 
In your mercy, direct me once again 
before fear destroys me and 
leads me far astray. 
O Companioning Presence, 
make your home in my heart.      
  
Psalm 74, Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill    

   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Psalm 73

When I arrived on the Memory Care floor, the caring, but incessantly busy activity director introduced me to Elizabeth, a woman she described as "very spiritual."  Elizabeth smiled and asked, "What is your role here?" I responded that I simply came as a friend. She looked at me for a moment or two and then replied, "Yes, I believe that is the truth." We then talked for a few minutes about her childhood, her deep Catholic faith, and the Mercy Center's beautiful Taize services.    
 
However, our conversation was interrupted by an increasing bustle going on around us.  The bus driver was heroically trying to gather the residents into a cohesive group for an afternoon outing. Walter walked up to me and asked, "Are you going to represent these people?"  Again, I claimed my role simply as as friend. He thought for a moment and then agreed that friendship was the best course of action.  
 
Walter is highly intelligent and seems to care deeply about the people around him. I have not yet been able to glean what he did in his professional life. At one point he told me he worked for the government.  The bus driver, a very lively young man, called out to Walter saying, "We have been given the day off! Let's go for a drive!" Walter was not certain, but I encouraged him to go for it was a lovely day and not too hot. Fortunately for the now slightly harried driver and his continually shifting group, Walter came to the conclusion that the trip was the best course of action.
    
 Walter looks so much like a colleague of mine that I have a hard time concentrating on all the important topics he tries so hard to discuss.  When he speaks, his words and thoughts take off and quickly increase in momentum, enough to overwhelm him and whomever he is talking to. At that point I simply take his hand and we breathe together. For a moment, worry and concern dissolve, and there is peace. 
    
  
In my prayer I said, "God is good to all whose hearts are open and awake." 
But as I said these words I nearly fell; 
my own feet slipped and I was stumbling on the path of life.
So it is good for me to stay near you, my God, 
to make your sheltering presence my safe abode.
And as I walk forth from my place on earth, 
I'll declare your secret, hidden works and words, 
And at the gates of after-life, in Zion's realm, 
I'll carry them as talisman and far beyond. 
  
Psalm 73, abridged, Ancient Songs Sung Anew, 
Lynn C. Bauman 
  
  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Knowing

Generally once a year, sometime in January or February, I will get bronchitis and lose my voice. Since it is now only the beginning of December, I was  surprised that on Monday I had a cough and no voice. Bronchitis does not seem to take into account that the time for singing carols in long-term care communities is now. My voice is inching its way back, but while one can make do with a raspy voice for speaking, the singing voice is slow to regenerate. 
 
Fortunately, a beautiful book also arrived this week, and I have been able to take some time to savor it. The title is A Blessing of Bread, the many rich traditions of Jewish bread baking around the world by Maggie Gleezer.  Like all cookbooks I love, it weaves recipes, suggestions, and touching stories of families and communities. 
 
Here in the Bay Area, as long as one can afford it, there is access to a  wide variety of foods from many cultures.  If you are even more affluent, you can feast on delicacies prepared with an eye focused on uniqueness and perfection.  The quest to sample the newest culinary achievements interests me less and less. Yet, I very much appreciate food cooked and shared from a sense of tradition and love. Such heartfelt cooking can help us put down roots in a lifestyle that is constantly on the move. It also teaches us frugality which can foster a sense of the sacredness of life. To cook and eat is sacramental. This is true whether you come to a table centered with a beautifully woven challah, a stack of fresh tortillas, a pan of cornbread, or a bowl of noodles.  This is communion. At the Christian Communion table, we hear Jesus (revealing his Jewish roots), asking us to remember as bread is broken. To remember what was given up.  What was sacrificed. Who and what was, and is loved.    
  
One of the most poignant stories in this book is a reflection attributed to Helen Spiegel. She remembers visiting her grandparents who lived in Bamberg Germany.  It was a time when everyone would prepare the berches dough (challah made with potato and no eggs), and then would take the their dough to the local baker.  Women could have some time to walk together and talk, and the children would play.  The dough would be dropped off,  and in about three hours the cooks and the children would return and pick up the beautiful braided loaves.   
 
"It was a very, very nice custom. And it lasted till about 1934, and then the Jewish people couldn't come to the bakery anymore for the baking, because the baker was forbidden to do this."  Much worse was on the horizon. Wars, greed, adventures, and disasters can break up families and communities, dispersing the people across land and seas.  Yet, when we can hold on to a few food traditions, making adaptions as needed, we can remember who we are to whom we belong.    
   
As I write this, I am saddened and concerned that there are still voices in our nation and the world calling for separation, segregation, and destruction. Yet, a few days ago, I saw this handmade sign in a window, and I felt encouraged by a young artist wanting the voice of love to be heard.  I also was re-united with a beautiful Advent prayer and I include that as well. This morning I will bake bread to take to a memorial service. We will remember for we are human; we are community, and we love.    
  
Thou shalt know Him 
when He comes
not by any din of drums
nor his manners, nor his airs
nor by anything he wears...
 
For His presence known shall be 
by the holy harmony 
that His coming makes in thee.  
 
15th Century Advent Poem/Evensong 
Thin Places, Westminster Presbyterian Church
Minneapolis, MN  
   


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Feast of St. Nicholas

In silence 
learn to give of yourself 
forgive others 
live with gratitude.
  
Then, you need not seek peace 
peace will find you.
  
Lumen Christi
Nan C. Merrill    
    

Friday, December 1, 2017

Psalm 72

This morning I have apples stewing on the stove. Last night I cooked an old-fashioned stew of potatoes and green beans. I added some matzo balls just because I love them.  I do love cooking in the fall and winter, and lately, I have been able to return to a prayer that deeply feeds my life; the prayer of baking a little something on Sunday to take to church. When I can do that regularly, my rhythm in the kitchen changes. When my rhythm in the kitchen changes, so does my life.  
 
Psalm 72 is a psalm for a king. While I certainly do not see the one who was elected as a "Messiah-King", I can pray this psalm for him. 
  
Lord, give a deep-felt sense of justice to the Messiah-King, 
an awareness of the sustaining balances of the the world. 
And this I pray so the people will be ruled on earth with equity, 
and all the poor will no longer suffer pain. 
I pray that from the mountain tops to the foundations of the earth 
prosperity will come to peoples everywhere, 
and from the foothills there shall flow a source of peace.
And may his acts defend the desperate, needy ones, 
and crushing out oppression, rescue all the poor. 
May it never be the mighty ones whom he hears first, 
but the poor and needy of the earth. 
All helpless ones and those alone, 
and all who cry in desperation and are oppressed, 
May he truly care for lowly ones 
and hold the life of each one dear. 
May he take those broken 
by our violence and make them new again.
And may all the blood that's ever shed 
in waste become for him a hallowed thing, 
and every life deemed precious and a sacred good.    
 
Psalm 72, abridged 
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman   
 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving



Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  I have beautiful memories of Thanksgiving when I was a child, and I love to be in the kitchen simply cooking and remembering the laughter and the good food brought forth by my mother and her best friend.  Some years Tyler and I can spend Thanksgiving with friends who live several states away. In those years, my friend and I cook and laugh together.  That is a time I truly treasure.    
  
May you spend Thanksgiving in a way that allows you to pray and give thanks for the blessings of this life.  In The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister writes, "There is nothing more important in our own list of important things to do in life than to stop at regular times, in regular ways to remember what life is really about, where it came from, why we have it, what we are to do with it, and for whom we are to live it."  
   
Blessings on it all. May we all have a slow Thanksgiving, one that we can deeply savor and enjoy.   
  
Love, 
Sue Ann     
  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Psalm 71

Dr. M. is mourning the loss of the one whom he called by name, but also described in that beautiful old-fashioned phrase, his "lady friend". He is also losing his eyesight as glaucoma is turning his world gray. He can can no longer see well enough to draw, so he is left without that longtime companion as well. His grief and age are deep enough that I wonder how long he will stay, a question that only the One he calls Jesus can answer.  For now, we simply come together to talk and pray. I read scripture aloud, and we ponder this achy thing called love that will always ask us to let go.            
  
   
In my old age, my God, I take my final stand, 
for my last refuge is in you. 
You are for me a mountain fortress set high upon a rock, 
your transcendence all the safety that I need. 
With this around me let me never be ashamed 
as you correct the balances of life 
that restore and save the world. 
For in you alone there's hope in life, 
which since my youth I've known. 
And from the moment of my birth 
that hope has been my strength, 
and it possible in the midst of all that is, 
to offer praise. 
Yes, it is true, you've made me taste 
great trouble Lord. 
The deep adversities of life I know by heart.
But you restore and keep me still, 
and bring me from those deep despairing 
places on earth. 
Each step I've made, you've strengthened me, 
your loving arms have held me close, enfolding me. 
So even now I'll take up instruments of song
and with feeble voice I'll sing my way 
to journey's end.    
  
Psalm 71, "Wisdom's Aged Song", abridged  
Ancient Songs Sung Anew, 
Lynn C. Bauman  
 
   

Monday, November 13, 2017

Psalm 70

A few days ago, I sat and prayed with an older African-American man I met last month. Both times I have found him sitting quietly in his room. He does seem to be a little mystified about this woman pastor who has suddenly appeared in his life, and it took him several tries to get comfortable pronouncing my name. Yet, to sit with him is like resting next to an old tree. He is a deacon of his church, and wants to return to that role, but he has lost his eyesight. He tells me he "can't see a thing." However, above all, he trusts Jesus and that absolute trust is no doubt the source of his patience. After I prayed for him, he lifted a prayer for me, and it left me with a sense that he and Jesus are quite close. "Lord Jesus, watch over this white woman pastor named Sue Ann and bless her in her work..." I had to smile as we have certainly never talked about my being white.  Regardless, Lord Jesus, I must ask the same and I thank you for bringing this good deacon into my life. May he always find his strength in you.  
  
But those who seek for you 
let them be glad, 
as you restore their loss, 
and give them back their joy. 
    
Psalm 70:4
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman   




Friday, November 10, 2017

Ora et Labora

Earlier this week I visited an older skilled nursing community.  The noise level is high here, and I always wonder how anyone can heal in the midst of such noise. The mental and physical health of the patients and residents varies greatly. Some are there for the rest of their lives and are quite frail; others are in rehab, and while their physical health has been impacted greatly, their stay is generally short-term.  Sometimes when I step into the activity room, I feel I am being tossed into a giant mixing bowl. Yet, the staff is remarkably stable, and we are always greeted as returning family. We find our way through the tables and the wheel chairs, and make some space for God.   
As I walked down the hall this week, I passed by the cramped administration and admitting offices, the kitchen, and the rehab area.  I have walked down that hall for over nine years, saying hello as I dodge mops, brooms, carts, and pails. Yet, this week it struck me that people were praying. They might not be aware of it, but as they perused emails, checked records, mopped the floor, or encouraged a wobbly elder to take just a few steps more, that is what they were doing. My paced slowed, and I let the silence in - the Silence that that is always there but seldom heard, and I joined my prayers to theirs, just as I am this morning.  
  
All work can be prayer, but in the crush of our busyness and distractions, we forget that Christ is at the heart of our work when we allow our work to connect us to others. St. Benedict knew this. Mother Teresa knew this (even the orphaned children she cared for would be assigned a regular task to do for the community). May we know it as well. Human beings cannot flourish until we recognize that we do not work, nor do we live, just for ourselves.      

Benedictine life is immersed in the sanctity of the real and work is a fundamental part of it. The function of the spiritual life is not to escape into the next world; it is to live well in this one. The monastic engages in creative work as a way to be responsible for the upbuilding of the community...Work and prayer are opposite sides of the great coin of life that is both holy and useful, immersed in God and dedicated to the transcendent in the human.  It is labor's transfiguration of the commonplace, the transformation of the ordinary that makes co-creators of us all.
The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister, O.S.B., 
page 132    
  
 ora et labora  pray and work 

  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Psalm 69

Psalm 69, like many of the psalms, begins with anguish and even a sense of drowning. However, also like many of the psalms, the psalmist works his way through his despair, the "miry clay", to a renewed sense of God's unwavering presence.  This makes for rich fodder for us  in our own trials, when we feel we have nothing but tears and worry to offer God. Eventually we can return to offering praise, but we first must reach that deep well. That can seem to be an arduous journey, but is a journey we must undertake.    
  
And all afflicted ones in life will hear my song and finding strength, 
will seek you, God, with all their hearts and live. 
For your own ears are always tuned and turned to needy ones. 
You never spurn or cast away those bound in chains, 
So let everything in heaven and on earth offer up their praise, 
let every living creature both on land or sea. 
For God restores the people and rebuilds their walls, 
their land is freely given back in full.  
And even children of the lowly ones who trust your name, 
find lodging safe and home secure at last in you. 
​  
Psalm 34-38
Ancient Songs Sung Anew, Lynn C. Bauman​    
   
Praise is about celebration.  Certainly the news today is deeply serious and disturbing, and there are times when we must mourn and acknowledge our sorrows and our fears. That acknowledgement is the beginning of a psalm. However, we must also give ourselves time off from our dismay.  In a book of essays entitled, "Called to Community, the Life Jesus Wants for His People", Richard J. Foster writes of the need for celebration:
  
Far and away the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. This is desperately needed grace...It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.      
   

​Dear friends, if you can, find something or someone to celebrate today.  If you cannot, keep reminding yourself that you are being held in a love that is beyond comprehension, and you will be able to excavate your joy again. Let us be easy on ourselves in this time and remember that our sorrow never has the last say - that last word belongs entirely to God, and God is love.        


Monday, November 6, 2017

Psalm 68

More from this intriguing translation by Lynn C. Bauman. May all who feel the pull of violence, learn that is not where their majesty lies.  They are so much more than their violence.  I love the images of all the people going to the temple singing.  Even with our differences we become one when we sing.    
 
And gathering all the tribes of earth, 
let blessings rise as if it were a song upon a flood, 
For it is you who are for us the everlasting fount of praise, 
your name as source of all we raise in song. 
And gathered there the least of all the peoples sing
and mingle with the greatest ones. 
Then summoning the power of God  
they grow in strength, 
And at the temple in the city of your peace, 
they bring their gifts 
and raise their voice in thankfulness...
Let everything be offered up in praise and prayer
from East and West and North and South their voices raised. 
O Rider of the powers of heaven and earth, 
send forth a voice, a mighty voice. 
Awaken us to majesty beyond all time. 
Restore us to our ancient strength again, 
So we may say, how great your deeds, O God, 
O Holy One who rides the heavens.   
 
Psalm 68: 26- 29,33-36   
 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Embrace




A human being is a part of the whole – called by us Universe – a part limited in time and space. We experience our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires, and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.


​Albert Einstein, Cosmic Religions, from the Daily Dig 
   
  


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Psalm 68

Lynnn C. Bauman writes that Psalm 68 is one of the more difficult psalms to translate, and certainly its 36 verses are for me not the easiest to read.  However, the poetry in Bauman's translation is captivating, and I may spend a few days here. 
 
Last night as I drove a short distance, I listened to part of Cynthia Bourgeault's instructional cd on chanting the psalms.  In it she presents various examples of chants, and even in those short, instructional snippets, I became engrossed in the language of the psalms. I heard the struggle, passion, and the boldness to believe and re-believe that God's love is there in the seemingly deserted places in all of us.I fell in love again with the human voice singing and crying its way to heaven. For a few minutes, there was no darkness to befuddle these bi-focaled eyes. There were no streetlights, headlights, and signs beckoning and informing. Another way was made known: nameless, eternal, and wide.    

Psalm 68
The Rider of the Heavens  
  
Rise up within our midst, O God, 
then everything else but you will vanish, 
our enemies disappearing from sight. 
Like smoke on wind, 
like wax before a burning blaze, 
evil itself will cease before the white light of your gaze. 
For everyone in right relationship to you 
is filled with overflowing joy, 
And music fills the space where you abide, 
and singing rises to your nameless name, 
O holy One who rides the heavens.        
 
Psalm 68:1-4     
  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Psalm 67

Oh God have mercy upon us 
and bless us with the light 
streaming from your face. 
And so that here on earth we know
and walk your ways, 
restore us back to health again. 
May every person, every creature 
become an instrument of praise to you, 
And may you be the song that makes us glad, 
and every nation sing with joy.
For your pure justice reigns and rules, 
guiding all with equal hand. 
May every creature, every person, then, 
be an instrument of praise, 
And earth itself abound with a fullness yet unknown, 
as you alone become "our God" for everyone. 
Your blessings fill us full, 
and cover us and earth with awe from edge to edge.   
  
Psalm 67, Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman    
  
Yesterday on my morning walk, I was lamenting how many front gardens in our neighborhood have been turned into rock and succulent gardens.  Most of them are nice, but this change does not bode well for pollinators or photographers.  You can then imagine how delighted I was to turn the corner and be greeted by these bold ones proclaiming God's presence in the morning light. 
   
  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Psalm 66, Continued

Lynn C. Bauman's translation of Psalm 66 reminds me that I can only come to God as I am. When we try to avoid such honesty, our prayers and our lives lack authenticity and our souls are restless.  This morning, I am grateful for the time to come into God's temple, which is my soul. 
​   
I have only recently learned that marigolds are often placed on the altars celebrating Dia de los Muertos in the belief that the souls are guided by the flower's bright color. I know color often beckons me to God's temple. I have never believed I am simply photographing flowers.      
  
"So now I enter your abode, my God, 
and offer you this burning gift. 
I pray the vows that I have made, 
and speak to you in my despair. 
I'll give you the best of everything I am and have, 
leave nothing out in all its plenitude; 
So come and listen as I declare 
all that God has done for me. 
For when I cried my grief and pain, 
I spoke out using human words, 
I could not hide the darkest things, 
or God would never heed my prayer. 
Yes, it is God who heard and answered back, 
who listened deeply to my call. 
So blessed be the name of God, 
who does not withhold great love from us
or turn aside our prayers."  
  
Psalm 66:12-18 
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman