Friday, June 30, 2017

Psalm 6

Psalm 6 is problematic to include here. It speaks of enemies, anger, and even ends with a request to put our foes to shame. It does sound like too much of the current political tweets and rhetoric.  
Therefore, as I often do, I return to Nan C. Merrill. Even if we are not feeling sad and weary today, let us pray this psalm for those who are. We know no one is immune to these struggles. 
O my Beloved, though I have turned from You, 
continue to enfold me with your love;
Be gracious to me, Heart of my heart, 
for I am sad and weary. 
Surround me with your healing Light, 
that my body, mind, and soul might heal,
How long must I wait, O Love?
I am tired of so many fears.   

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Psalm 5

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; 
evil will not sojourn with you. 
But I, through the abundance
of your steadfast love,
 will enter your house, 
I will bow down toward  
your holy temple in awe of you.
Psalm 5:4,7  
New Century Psalter 
Chapter 19 of the Rule is entitled, "The Discipline of Psalmody." I do not think I have ever heard the word used, but its definition is the singing of psalms in worship.  St. Benedict writes, "Let us consider then, how we ought to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices." Sister Joan Chittister elaborates that the psalms can become a way of bringing our entire being into sync, setting us "free for deeper, richer, truer lives in which we become what we seek."  
We each must discern where our holy temple is.  St. Benedict was not one for dilly-dallying around. He believed in hell, but he also believed that divine presence was everywhere and that humans could live into that presence. Therefore, we learn to live more disciplined lives, not out of fear of hell, but for the love of God. We can become that love. This is our journey and our song.
Let all who take refuge in you rejoice: let them ever sing for joy (11).    

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Psalm 4

Yesterday's psalm turned into a chant for me and carried me through the day:  
"O God, you are my glory
O God, you are my shield, 
In you I lift my head."   
In the small prayer group I met with yesterday, we explored more of psalm 3, including verse 6: "I am not afraid of ten thousand people who have set themselves against me all around." While we expressed gratitude that we did not feel that we have that many against us, we did talk for awhile about conflict in community.   
The psalms were at the heart of the Opus Dei of Benedict's community life and the monks chanted the entire Psalter in one week. The Rule includes specific instructions about what psalms are to be read when, there  are probably still monasteries that practice that discipline. Yet, even with my highly abridged version, I already feel the psalms taking root, both challenging me and bringing me peace.  
Psalm 4 is a lovely prayer for the night - especially in those times when peace seems elusive, and concern will not release its hold.   
You have put into my heart
a greater joy than abundance of 
grain and new wine can provide. 
In peace I will lie down and fall asleep, 
for you, alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.  
Psalm 4:8-9   
The Ecumenical Grail Psalter     
A chant for the night could simply be:   
In peace I will lie down and fall asleep, 
for you, alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.   
Peace to you all, both in the day and the night. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Psalm 3

But you, O God, are a shield around me, 
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.  
Psalm 3:3
New Century Psalter

Monday, June 26, 2017

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire, 
and the people plot in vain?
They arise, the rulers of the earth; 
nobles plot against the LORD and his Anointed,
"Let us burst asunder their fetters. 
Let us cast off from their chains."
So now, O rulers, understand;
take warning, nobles of the earth. 
Serve the LORD with fear; 
exult with trembling, pay your homage,
lest God be angry and you perish on the way
in the blaze of God's anger. 
Blessed are all who trust in God.   
Psalm 2:1-3, 10-12 
The Ecumenical Grail Psalter      
When reading more traditional translations of the psalms, one must grapple with words like wrath, anger, and evil. I think this grappling is part of the reason for my undertaking this practice.  In order to face this life honestly, we must be able to look squarely at what appears to be an affront to the teachings of what it is to live faithfully. Perhaps this is why people have been praying the psalms for centuries. These prayers and hymns are not about cowering in fear, but rather learning to live in reverence. We are connected to one another, but these connections do not have to be with ball and chain; they can free us with and into light and love if we but let them. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Psalm 1

Dear Friends, 
About two years ago, I made my way through Nan C. Merrill's Psalms for Praying, posting part of a daily psalm and photograph. I again feel the pull to make my way through the Psalter once more, but this time using other translations, including the NRSV, The Ecumenical Grail Psalter, and Stephen Mitchell's A Book of Psalms.  The psalms and photographs will be posted on Facebook. If you want to make the journey with me, know you are welcome. I always appreciate the company and comments are always welcomed.     
Happy are those 
who do not follow  
the advice of the wicked,
or sit in the seat of scoffers; 
but their delight is in the law of the LORD, 
and on God's law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees 
planted by streams of water, 
which yield their fruit in its season, 
and their leaves do not wither. 
In all that they do, they prosper.   
Psalm 1:1-3, NRSV   

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Among Them

Becky's illness is noticeably progressing.  She used to regale me with a couple of stories from her childhood every time I saw her, but lately she has grown more silent, and often nods off in worship. In the past she has always enthusiastically taken Communion while reminding me that she is a lifelong Presbyterian who as a child would walk to church even when her parents would not attend. Yet, yesterday, she was difficult  to rouse during Communion, and I was not sure she was going to respond. However, I was reluctant just to give her a blessing and continue on; the moment just felt too pivotal and I was not ready to let go.  I waited a few moments, tapped her arm, and asked again. 
She slowly opened her eyes and then responded, "I barely know what that means anymore." I held the communion wafer closer to her face, and a smile began to surface. 
'Oh yes, you know I love Communion. I hope I do not forget this.' I promised that we would always help her remember.  She surprised me by replying, 'Yes, I know you will.'   
The last hymn we sang was "God Will Take Care of You." I am always surprised by how many residents know this hymn, even in this community where the residents really do not sing much.  As I was saying good-bye to Fran, she took my hand and nodding, quietly repeated the words,"God will take care of us." I thought, "This is a good day's work."     
Yes, the day will will come when Becky will not respond, and Fran's smile will pass. However, yesterday reminded me of just how much I love worshiping with the frail and the ill. Like those I serve, I need reminders as well. That in the midst of all the anguish and harshness in the world, I am still called to simply return to the practice of walking with faithfulness among the faithful. Together, we remind one another that we, too, matter. 
Learning to hold on and learning to let go. This is my opus Dei.    
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow...
Matthew 6:28   

Friday, June 23, 2017


"I seek to learn about the world around me. I seek to learn about what I actually am. I seek to learn how to be a proper human being."
--Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

A friend of mine shared this beautiful Rinpoche quote this morning. The seeking is what ultimately matters. As Sister Joan Chittister comments in her chapter on humility in The Rule of Benedict, "It is not perfection that leads to God; it is perseverance." Blessings as your journey continues today, and always.  


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Prayer for Peace

One of our main goals of Hesed Community (please see is to learn and deepen the practice of sitting in silence with God and one another.  To deepen our Christian commitment to live in peace with ourselves, our families, our wider community, and our world, we often end our silence with the following prayer. While we would love to pray with you in person, we recognize that is not always possible.  Please consider adding this prayer to your daily devotions. Let us join our prayers together. You are also welcome to visit us on Facebook: hesedmeditationcommunity. However you choose to join us, please know we are grateful to pray with you.    
Prayer for Peace
O God, of peace and love, 
Companion in solitude, 
Protector in exile, 
You inhabit the shadows of our communities. 
Show us the way to stand against injustice 
To protect and nurture life, to live nonviolently. 
Teach us to embrace simplicity, 
To be mindful of the value of all things, 
To care tenderly for others. 
Teach us to conserve 
And preserve the natural gifts of this world. 
Help us to take time and to be present 
To one another. 
Increase among us the spirit of tolerance 
And good will.   
Bring us to the quiet still place of healing
And transform our souls into a reflection 
Of Your love and compassion.   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


When the volunteer and I arrived at the community where we lead a monthly small group discussion, we saw two of our usual participants going out the door for medical appointments.  We checked in at the front desk, and then I suggested that we go to our usual location and see if anyone else might join us.
After a few minutes, one of the long time activity assistants walked by and said, "Oh, I should find you some participants!" However, she then surprised us by  sitting at the table with us, and sharing some of her struggles.  We simply sat and listened. Eventually she looked at her watch and expressed surprise at the time.  She started to apologize, but we both stopped her and thanked her for telling us her story and gave her a blessing.  
The ministry is not only for the residents. We are there for the families and the staff as well.  Over the years, some deep relationships have grown, and I am grateful for these.  Many years ago, a friend gave me a refrigerator magnet with the message, "What people really need is a good listening to." 

There is a reason I have kept that magnet all these years.  

Hearing God

"Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, 
for in you I put my trust. 
Teach me the way I should go, 
for to you I lift up my soul."   
Psalm 143:8   
The first two words of the prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict are "listen carefully." This morning as I listen to the birds, I hear their call to awaken to this day. I hear God in the language beyond language that is ever present in both song and silence, tears and laughter, in all of life.  Let us learn to listen; love is being sung. It may be the only song God knows.   


Sunday, June 18, 2017


"Through the wonder of God's graciousness, life's web continues to pattern rhythmically our daily existence, recapturing something of the serenity, harmony, and joy of the first moments of creation."
Blessings of the Daily, Brother Victor   
This morning I hear Wisdom's voice in Proverbs 8.  While she cautions us to be wise and prudent, she also reminds us that she rejoiced and took delight as humans were created. Let tend to one another and all of life as a sacred gift, taking nothing for granted, but rather choosing to "walk in the way of insight."   
Wishing you all deep vision and a glorious dance today.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Angels, Preachers, and Us All

A colleague read this poem to a small group gathered today around 7 a.m. I am grateful for these first morning words.  
I do think angels show up in surprising ways. Just look closely, and when in doubt, say hello.  

Questions About Angels

Related Poem Content Details

Of all the questions you might want to ask 
about angels, the only one you ever hear 
is how many can dance on the head of a pin. 

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time 
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin 
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth 
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge. 

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing? 
Do they swing like children from the hinges 
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards? 
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors? 

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes, 
their diet of unfiltered divine light? 
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall 
these tall presences can look over and see hell? 

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole 
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly 
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word? 

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive 
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume 
the appearance of the regular mailman and 
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards? 

No, the medieval theologians control the court. 
The only question you ever hear is about 
the little dance floor on the head of a pin 
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly. 

It is designed to make us think in millions, 
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse 
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one: 
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet, 
a small jazz combo working in the background. 

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful 
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over 
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing 
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Psalm 51

"Create a pure heart within me; 
let my soul wake up in your light, 
Open me to your presence; 
flood me with your holy spirit. 
Then I will stand and sing out 
on the power of your forgiveness.  
I will teach your love to the ignorant; 
the lost will find their way home. 
Lord, open my lips, 
and my mouth will declare your praise." 
 A Book of Psalms 
Stephen Mitchell       

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pass It On

I have much respect for John, and I am grateful when he can join me for our monthly gathering. He is the son of an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who struggled through the Great Depression to keep family and congregations together. His mother was educated at a time when it was not common for African American women to receive an education.  His health is failing, but he is so centered in his faith that dialysis treatments, a wheel chair, and other health restrictions cannot separate him from the love of God. I rejoice when I see him, and I know he is glad to see me as well.      
Staffing can be uneven in the community where he lives so I never know if I will be meeting with two residents or a dozen, but this week a new activity assistant had fourteen gathered when I arrived.  I preached and we sang, and it really was a spirit filled time.  Mabel, who speaks very little, was glowing as she "sang" with us, smiling and nodding her head. Because we often meet in a room without a piano, we sing a capella, and I love being able to hear their voices as they slowly lose their self-consciousness and sing.   
As I was gathering up song sheets after the service, John declared the service "magnificent."  He then asked, "Would it be possible for me to get the music to these hymns sometime?" I smiled. Earlier in the week one of our volunteer pianists said that she always felt guilty for printing out the music every month for one service, and she said she is grateful that I always take her copies. They invariably get used; either a pianist forgets his or her music, or my tattered binder gets a needed update. It was her set of pristine copies that I handed to John. I wish she could have seen him hold those sheets in his hands, not as something very ordinary and disposable, but as a rare gift.      
Like many good pastors of the time, John's father had made certain that John learned to play so the churches he served always had a pianist.  In the often rushed transition from hospital to assisted living or skilled nursing, music books and hymnals often get left behind.  Singers stop singing, and pianists stop playing. I am grateful that God gave me a very ordinary voice, limited musical skill,  and the continuing nudge to just sing out loud regardless. This is not about perfecting a performance (as wonderful as that is), but rather about the valiant effort to connect our souls to our voices, and lift both to God just as we are.  This is about daring to sing about courage and love regardless of where or how we find ourselves that day. This is about finding the right key in the midst of the silence and the chaos.    
I have given John some music before, but there was something in the timing of all this that revealed Christ in our midst.  Of sacred music being printed and passed on. Of the lifeline that friendship and service can provide.  Of being held together in a most magnificent way. 
Even the sparrow finds a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, 
where she may lay her young
at your altars, O LORD of hosts, 
my King and my God. 
Happy are those who live in your house, 
ever singing your praise.  
Psalm 84:3-4    


Saturday, June 10, 2017


"If we reach out and meet God here where God is, if we accept God's will in life where our will does not prevail, if we are willing to learn from others, if we can see ourselves for what we are and grow from that, if we can live simply, if we can respect others and reverence them, if we can be a trusting part of our world without having to strut  around it controlling it, changing it, wrenching it to our own image and likeness, then we will have achieved "perfect love that casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). There will be nothing left to fear - not God's wrath, not the loss of human respect, not the absence of control, not the achievements of others greater than our own whose success we have had to smother with rejection or deride with scorn." 

Sister Joan Chittister, The Rule of St. Benedict  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Carry On

"Here you are, carry on working, and do not be sad any longer."  

In A Life-Giving Way by Esther de Waal, she writes that this story comes from the Dialogues by St. Gregory. The words are reportedly spoken by St. Benedict to a young Goth after St. Benedict retrieved a bill-hook (cutting tool) the young man accidentally dropped into the water. In this short sentence we sense Benedict's care for those in his charge, for work, and for the tools of the monastery.  It also reflects an ability to hold all of that without judgement.     
"This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: 'They should each try to be the first to show respect for one another (Romans 12:10) supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses or behavior...'" 
RB 72:3-5 
"He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected."  
RB 31:10-11   
We are indeed designed to carry on, caring  for one another and this life, hopefully learning and maturing as we go.   

Sue Ann      

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Where Else Could He Be?

"Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves. He is not out there; he is in you. Keep your lamp burning, and you will recognize him."

Mother Teresa


​from Plough's Daily Dig​   


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

On Prayer

"Prayer is [our] only home."    
Brother Victor, Blessings of the Daily    

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Offering

"We are more that the body...Humility lies in knowing who we are and what are lives are meant to garner. The irony of humility is that, if we have it, we know we are made for greatness, we are meant for God."  
The Rule of St. Benedict, Sister Joan Chittister, OSB   
Yesterday, I attended what was called a choral festival.  Some of our time was spent, not singing, but moving our bodies. Even when doing our vocal warm-ups, we moved our bodies.  I loved the reminder that when we come to sing, we are offering all of our being. This is true whatever we are undertaking.  
May the Spirit move us all in a new direction today. God needs all of us! 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost Blessings

As we continue on our path to spiritual maturity, we slowly learn to distinguish between the finite and the infinite. Confusing the two is the source of much grief, anguish, and despair. This is one of the lessons of Pentecost: that the infinite will never be subject to the control of the finite.  I have always loved that Jesus called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. This Spirit can be trusted, no matter what is going on in our lives.   
O heavenly King, the Comforter and Spirit of Truth, you are everywhere present and fill all things. Treasury of blessings and giver of life, come dwell within us, cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.   
Byzantine Prayer from Blessings of the Daily, Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette     
Blessings to you this Pentecost this Sunday and always.  May our lives be filled with clarity and love.  


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Seven It Is

I am reading an engaging book entitled Songlines, written by Bruce Chatwin (published in 1987). While it is a chronicle of a trip he took to Western Australia to understand more about the Aborigines, he also goes on to reflect on what happens when societies put restrictions on humans who have been lived nomadic lives for centuries. I will write more about this later, but about three-quarters of the way through the book, Chatwin inserts some of his journal entries from other travels.  This one from a trip to Timbuktu made me laugh out loud at the car wash (I had a big day yesterday), and I am sharing it simply because right now I think we all need a little more laughter.   
 "The waiter brought me the menu: 
Capitaine bamakoise (fried catfish)
Pintade grillee   (Chatwin does not translate but I think it is grilled guinea fowl) 
'Good, I said. 'What time can I eat?' 
'We eat at eight,' he said. 
'All right, then. Eight.' 
'No, Monsieur. We eat at eight. You must eat before seven...or after ten.'
'Who's we?'
'We,' he said. 'The staff.'
He lowered his voice and whispered: 
'I counsel you to eat at seven, Monsieur. We eat up all the food.'"   
Good advice.  

Chatwin also includes another bit of sound advice:    
Solvitur ambulando. 'It is solved by walking.'   
Eat early and walk often. Got it.