Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gone to the Fields

Yesterday I learned that Anita had passed. I woke this morning wondering how to acknowledge that passing. I appreciated her very much. I have written of her before, how she struggled with learning her whole life. She loved people and I never heard her say a negative word about anyone.  Even if someone was excelling at being belligerent and arrogant, she would say, "Oh, honey, we love you." Invariably, calmness would return. She loved to sing hymns, and had a good ear. Late in her life, and maybe always, she struggled with trusting that God's love was really for her. I take refuge in the belief that she must surely be convinced of that now, since that is where she is.  She was probably in her 70's when she died.  
This poem came this morning in my emails.  I feel an old friend has just come to the door.  I love the line, "Gone to the fields to be lovely."  That is where Anita is today.  This morning, I will practice setting my work down, and take Jack for a walk. Perhaps the flowers will sing to us. Sometimes their beauty is such that I can almost hear them.    
Anita, thank you for befriending me. I shall think of you when I sing. I will miss your voice, and the encouragement that no matter what came out of our mouths, you would quietly ask, "Isn't that lovely?"  I have no pictures of camas lilies, but this white calla lily will surely do. I sense you may have felt that you never bloomed in this world.  I am your witness that you certainly did.  

Honey, we love you. 

Camas Lilies

Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas
opening into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you — what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down —
papers, plans, appointments, everything —
leaving only a note: "Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming."
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.

Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
~ Lynn Ungar ~   

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


"​The strength to yield
​​The willingness to hold our judgments lightly
The radiance of a generous heart that sees clearly 
and guides us in valuing what is difficult, what is different
Rabbi Yael ​Levy,
A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness​  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Yesterday, when I arrived at a small community dedicated to the care of those with advanced dementia, I remembered I had some lap quilts in the trunk of my car.  I thought some of the residents might enjoy their softness and bright colors, so I brought them with me. The activity director, whom I will call Lorraine, was there, but she was distracted with all that was going on. When I handed her the quilts, she was quite surprised.  She stopped, looked at them, and felt them, both front and back (the reverse side is quite soft), and expressed her gratitude. The substitute pianist then came in and announced she would need to leave right after the service. She had to leave her small dog in the car and she could not find much shade. Lorraine encouraged her to bring the dog in, and during communion the pianist dashed out the door and retrieved a very sweet and curly toy poodle. Lorraine took the dog, and sat, holding the dog in her lap. Both became quite calm. After the service, some of the residents petted the dog, but really, it was Lorraine who benefited the most from the dog's presence. She was calmer and happier. Therefore, the entire community was as well. 
Our time together was a reminder of all the layers that make up the ministry, and how each layer contributes to this beautiful mosaic. I cannot quilt. The dog I currently have is not confident enough to be a therapy dog. Every month I pick up printed schedules and song sheets generously created by someone else. I can't play piano, and several of our volunteers, including the one with me yesterday, sing much better than I. The board of SpiritCare does much more than I can even describe. Yet, this reliance on others is what it is to serve Christ. None of us can do everything, nor are we expected to. God, who may be thought of as a quilter of life, gathers us all together so that our service is enhanced and becomes whole. That is the vulnerability and the joy of walking this path. We learn to rely upon one another.
Yesterday's worship began even before I crossed the threshold of the community. I had a few minutes to spare, so I stepped into a shop, and there I spotted some large magnifying glasses. I thought of this beautiful psalm, and the reminder that together, we are more. 
I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise will always be in my mouth.
Praise the Lord,
let the suffering listen and rejoice.
Magnify the Lord with me,
Together, let us exalt his name together.  
Psalm 34:1-3   

Sunday, April 23, 2017


At the beginning of  our Saturday afternoon meditation time at Hesed, our leader often dedicates a few minutes to the listening to some of John Main's talks on Christian meditation. Yesterday, I heard him encourage each of us to not think of our meditation time as our own time, but rather God's time. I found that helpful for it reminded me that the invitation to sit with God is always present. Too often my sense of time is really more of an agenda than anything else. God invites us to set our planning and plotting aside, and simply sit in the love that is God.    
Lately, I have been thinking of an activity assistant, whom I will call Nadia. I always think of the activity room as her room. It is bright and sunny, much like her disposition, and is always colorfully decorated with the results of her various craft projects.  She always greets us with much warmth, and enthusiastically joins us in our singing. As she sings, she helps the residents with their song sheets, talking with them and encouraging them by name. However, these elders are among the frailest of the frail; there is little, if any outward response. Yet, if you watch only Nadia, you would never guess that. Her call and response are from and to a very deep source within her.    
If you look at the center of this rose, you may see what looks to be a figure at prayer. At least I do. I like the image of prayer moving ever outward. This is how our prayer affects the whole world. John Main writes, "And meditation is a pure opening of the heart, a being energized by God's infinite love."     
May we all be energized like Nadia, and simply tend to our work with love. 
John Main, Silence and Stillness in Every Season, 1997, p. 173.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Gift

I believe this poem succinctly and beautifully describes both the paradox of the faith journey, and the freedom that meditation offers us. In this simplicity, we expand. When are in silence together, we begin to experience the limitless being in Christ that is our reality and our destiny.  This is the gift that we are offered. Let us accept it.  
When we are weak, we are 
strong. When our eyes close 
on the world, then somewhere
within us the bush 
burn. When we are poor
and aware of the inadequacy 
of our table, it is to that 
uninvited the guest comes.
- R.S. Thomas    

Monday, April 17, 2017


"Even though you may be eating all by yourself, you are in communion with all. Eating is always a communion, a celebration with all those who have labored to bring you this food, with all those creatures who have lived and died to give you this food, and with all others who eat on earth."  

David Stendel-Rast, O.S.B.
Music of Silence     

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Christ has risen, and so have my biscuits! Have a beautiful Easter Sunday. If you are wondering what to do this morning, come join us at Little Brown Church in Sunol. Worship begins at 10:30. Biscuits served a bit later...

“Do not cling. Let me be bigger than your heart can hold. Rise with me to a larger vision.”  
 Ann Lewin

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Way

"Follow him there? We recoil. We close our ears. We hurry on to Easter. But we will not know what to do with Easter’s light if we shun the friendship of the darkness that is wisdom’s way to light." 
 Richard John Neuhaus    
May those who sow in tears 
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping
bearing the seeds for sowing
shall come home with shouts of joy, 
carrying their sheaves.  

Psalm 126:5-6    

Friday, April 14, 2017

Carrying Easter

I experienced several tender moments this week, especially in the memory care communities. I was able to sing with John, and I again enjoyed his beautiful voice. I know he plays piano, but I have never heard him play. I asked him, as I always do, if he was still playing. He usually replies that he plays very little now. This week, however, he responded, "No, God has returned that gift to heaven. I think someone else is needing it. But, I am grateful that I had it for awhile." 
Later in the week, I was surprised to see Jewel. She must have moved away and then moved back because I have not seen her for over a year.  In the past she has entertained us with stories of growing up on a farm in Idaho, but now her words are garbled. As I listened, an image came to mind of balls rolling down a set of stairs, impossible to catch or control.  She joined us for the hymn sing, and although she held the song sheet she did not sing.  Yet, when we all started singing from memory hymns like "Amazing Grace," and "I Come to the Garden," she joined in without reservation. I told her how glad I was to hear her singing.  She responded in a clear voice, "Oh, I had no idea that I was doing that."  Then, her words began to tumble once more.    
Jewel's comment reminded me of Mary whom I was with a few days prior. Mary can no longer read and when I ask her if she knows a hymn, she will usually respond that she cannot remember. Yet, she sang in a choir for many years, so if I begin singing, she readily joins in with a lovely clear voice. I think there are many layers to memory - the mind beneath the mind.      
In the communities I serve, every worship service is an Easter service.  We celebrate the living Christ who is always with us. The cross is celebrated as well because these good people certainly know what it is to pick up their cross and go.  We speak of death, and mourn those who have passed. In order to practice not being afraid, we sing our alleluias whenever we can, and at times, even when we can't.    
During our good-byes yesterday, Betty said, "Thank you for adding your Easter to ours."  If each of us did just that, what a glorious life this could be. 
Yes, I know this is Good Friday, a day of somber reflection. Jesus, please forgive me, but you know I must start out the day at the temple of Mel's Tires. I simply must get a tire fixed. I still have a ways to go and I am grateful.  
I was glad when they said to me, 
"Let us go to the house of the Lord!"
Psalm 122:1

Thursday, April 13, 2017


New things are possible for us in our life
once we acknowledge the inner mess.
Jesus comes to life here and now, 
And if we begin saying: 
"Where we are, he has been,

we begin to hear the other side of this great message, 
"Where he is, we shall be."  
Rowan Williams 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I Come to the Garden

"Though a life of retreat offers various joys, 
none, I think, will compare with the time one employs
in the study of herbs, or in striving to gain 
some practical knowledge of nature's domain. 
Get a garden! What kind you get matters not." 

Walafrid-Strabo, Hortulus, 
Latin Manuscript, Ninth Century  
from A Monastic Year, Brother Victor-Antoine D'Avila-Latourrette        
Bee and Borage, San Leandro, April, 2017   
I did indeed work in my garden this afternoon. Alas, my garden is not quite as composed as my neighbor's.  I have been pausing by her front garden for years, and I am grateful. 


Sunday, April 9, 2017


During my morning meditation, I could hear Tyler sweeping the front driveway. The gentle, steady rhythm was comforting.  I seem to be at an age where I prefer the way to be cleared by one simple broom, rather than a crowd waving a multitude of palms.    
Regardless of how you make the way today, know you go with God.      
Photograph was taken in Pismo Beach, September 2016.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rising Sacred

This Sunday is Palm Sunday.  Many churches will have their children process in waving palms. I have never been at ease with that tradition because Jesus' journey into Jerusalem was a treacherous one. Yet, I will be in church on Sunday, and perhaps this year I will come away with a new insight.  For now, I am grateful Lent continues for a while longer.  Lent is like a secret that we hold dear: that life seems just a little more fragile, a little more precious.  It gives us courage to continue our journeys that at times can be joyous, and at other times perilous. Lent helps us to remember that no matter what, we are more than what we are going through. Certainly that is one of the lessons of Palm Sunday: the one celebrated will be the one reviled, but both conditions pale to the ultimate reality that the sacred will always rise up and be made known.  
Peace on your journey.  Please know you go with God. 

"Yet, Lent for me feels in some way a refreshing break from religiosity, a reduction in the dosage. The emphasis is on the desert rather than the church, silence rather than words, stillness rather than ritual. The monk’s life, as I quoted from St Benedict some weeks ago, is a perpetual Lent. I take it in this sense, not only walking the tightrope of moderation but not allowing religion to get out of proportion. For example, Benedict (who was not a priest) said that the work-tools of the monastery should be treated with the same reverence as the vessels of the altar. Religion should not be sequestrated, isolated from ordinary life. The sacred and the profane must merge in a religion centered on the Incarnation and the humanity of God."    
Father Laurence Freeman  



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

For Lovers of Air

Wring Out My Clothes   
Such love does 
the sky pour, 
that whenever I stand in a field, 
I have to wring out the light 
when I get 
Saint Francis of Assisi  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Not Knowing

Learning to rest in the unknowing is the beginning of faith. My thanks to a friend who introduced me to Panhala - a poem a day. I have been sitting with this one for a couple of days now.  It grows richer in the rereading.  

A Note
Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;
to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;
to tell pain
from everything it's not;
to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.
An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;
and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,
mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
something important.
~ Wislawa Szymborska ~  


Monday, April 3, 2017

Offering Ourselves

The following came to me from Rabbi Yael, A Way In, Jewish Mindfulness.  I love the idea of inter-faith meditation.  What if many of us, regardless of our faith traditions, simply sat together and experienced the One who Is called by many names but who is only love?  The mantra I speak is peace.  When thoughts, images, or impatience arises, I can then release them to peace.  I like to think that for a few moments each day, I am peace in the world.     
If you are interested in Christian meditation and live in, or close to Oakland, come sit with us. Our website, has our weekly schedule.    

The Infinite Mystery calls to each of us, to all of us,
Seeking our presence.
Draw close, the Mystery calls,
Draw close to me.
Make an offering of yourself.
Be vulnerable. Be Present. Be real.
Bow deeply in gratitude, notice and name your blessings.
Be true to your word.
Place phrases upon your heart to live by, to return to.
And ask for help. Do not be caught in the illusion that we do this life alone.
Ask for help, for guidance, for support.
These are the offerings I desire, the Mystery calls,
Through these offerings, you draw close.
And I seek your presence. I call you to me.
Draw Close.   


Saturday, April 1, 2017


"The wonderful revelation that is there for all of us to discover, if only we will set out on the path with discipline, is that our spirit is rooted in God and that each of us has an eternal destiny and an eternal significance and importance."  
John Main