Monday, December 24, 2018


"...When the human spirit is transformed in deep union of love with the Spirit, motivation for our love shifts. We no longer love because the object of our love pleases us, but the motivation to love is now in God. We love without knowing why; we simply love and can do nothing but love. The soul now loves God, not through itself but through [God].  'I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).'"
St. John of the Cross as quoted in "Welcoming Prayer, Consent on the Go," Contemplative Outreach   
Blessings this Christmas season, and always.

Thursday, December 20, 2018


When I first entered the ministry, I became a member of  First Congregational Church in Palo Alto.  The reason I chose that congregation was because I felt I needed to be part of a church where I was called to expand the ministry, and that was into Santa Clara County.  At one point, I was asked to chair their outreach board, a role I found utterly daunting.  However, this community was, and still is, full of wisdom and compassion, and the experience was good for me.  

All the boards met on the same evening, once a month. Some of my most peaceful moments occurred when we gathered in the back of the sanctuary before our meetings began. Pastor David or one of the associate ministers would then lead us in a short devotional.  I loved those simple moments of sitting in the quiet of that large sanctuary while we listened to scripture or a story, and then prayed together. 
Now, most Wednesday nights I attend choir practice at the San Lorenzo Community Church.  Here, I read a devotional to those gathered to sing.  Before I left my house last week, I looked for a particular book that I had in mind, but could not find it. Instead what surfaced was My Grandfather's Blessings, by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. It probably was a odd choice to make in the middle of Advent because much of the book reflects on the teachings of her Jewish grandfather who was a scholar of the Kabbalah. No, there is no mention of Advent, but lighting candles in the darkness is a common thread for most of us, regardless of our faith tradition.  We must all learn to live in the darkness.    

Recently, I dreamed that a woman was standing in front of a large window.  The word that comes to mind is looking glass, but there was no recognizable reflection - just grayness.  She smiles and says, "I will leave you here,"  and she steps through. In the dream I do not think of following her. I am not concerned about where she has left me. There are people all around, and it seems to be a school or hospital.  A man walks up to me. He seems to have some sort of teaching role.  There are some musicians gathering, and he asks me if I am thinking of dancing as they played.  I join a few others, including the woman at the looking glass, and we did dance in a circle. There is laughter. However, I lose interest and walk into the hall. That is all I remember, but as I write this, I am grateful to realize that while the female figure in the dream is leaving me in a place where, she, too, is staying.  As I often do, I have been thinking of Mary. The feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe was last week, and Facebook was full of beautiful images and prayers. I often pray that She will spread her starry mantle and bring peace to those who are struggling with illness.  That prayer helps me to be a more peaceful presence.  Sometimes I think that is the best I have to offer. 

I think it is time to reread Dr. Remen's book. She lives with Cronin's disease, and certainly this disease, along with the teachings of her grandfather, has deeply influenced her life and work as a physician.  The first time I read the book I had little understanding of chronic pain and illness.  My left knee is teaching me much, and I am learning to accept the blessing.  
A blessing is not something that one person gives another. A blessing is a moment of meeting, a certain kind of relationship in which both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one another. By making a place for wholeness within our relationships, we offer others the opportunity to be whole without shame and become a place of refuge from everything in them and around them that is not genuine. We enable people to remember who they are.  

My Grandfather's Blessings, Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging 
Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.    
The little drawing that is attached appeared in my journal a few days before my dream.     


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Psalm 70

You take delight, O Radiant One, 
in gracing me with new life. 
O Beloved, come and renew me. 
Let me face my weaknesses 
and all that confuses me, 
that keeps me from joy.  
from Psalm 70, 
Psalms for Praying, 
Nan C. Merrill 
Photograph:  October, 2018, mural on McAllister Hotel, San Francisco. On that day, I met a friend in the city and we went to the Asian Art Museum to see the exhibit, "Painting Is My Everything, Art from India's Mithila Region."  Such a day of juxtapositions.  The beautiful and inspiring art, the warm conversation with my friend that spanned several hours, young drug users, looking older than they should,  passed out on the street on a sunny Wednesday morning (I now understand the heart breaking description of wasted), and this wonderful mural on an old Tenderloin hotel with a community garden planted just beneath it.     
We are all held and we should not give up on this life too soon, even with all our weaknesses.  Sometimes we simply need to look around. 


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

My Father's House

When I woke this morning, the house was warm. I thought of my father who would rise early, often as early as 4:30 a.m. The coffee maker was always set on a timer, so the coffee would have been made by 4:15 a.m. On his way to get his first cup ("Always the best one," he would say), he would stop and turn on the heat if the house was cold. I can never remember waking up to a cold house when I was growing up.  A few days after he died, I went into his apartment at the assisted living community where he lived for only a few months. The timer was still set. It was a strange feeling to turn that timer off. I was amazed that the glass decanter had not broken during those days when no coffee was being made. Dad loved coffee, and I think of him this morning as I sip my own cup.  I suddenly remember that the anniversary of his birthday was November 26. This year, he would have been 101.  Dad, I am sorry to have forgotten, but it seems I have inherited your arthritic knee, and as you all too well know, I can get rather self-absorbed. I am reminded of Jacob wrestling with the angel, and walking away, limping, but blessed.  You and I did struggle to understand one another, but I am grateful that we did find reconciliation, thanks to the common ground of love and humor.  I drink my coffee in your memory today.  Yes, the house is warm and the coffee is fine - just the way you would have liked it.        
We are created, we emerge. And as we emerge, as we grow, as we develop, we become more conscious of ourselves – as where we have come from, or what we are emerging from and what we are returning to, or what we are feeling ourselves linked to. It’s not just a mathematical problem or philosophical question. It’s an existential journey that takes time and in which we change. Even our mistakes are incorporated into the journey. Nothing is wasted. We are who we are. Can’t say I should have been somebody else. I am who I am. And this existence, life, is full of contradictions and paradoxes, ups and downs, life and death, sorrow and joy, fear and celebration, fear of incompetence. It’s very variable and of course unpredictable. It is uncertain, radically uncertain. But in this process of existence, of life, of growth, of growing consciousness, we realise, we become aware, self-aware that we are emerging, we are appearing. We’re coming to know ourselves...

Father Laurence Freeman, OSB 
World Community of Christian Meditation, November 27, 2018  

photograph:  Pismo Beach, September 2018

Friday, November 23, 2018

Preparing to Prepare

I woke early to bake a simple bread made with macerated dried cherries.  Tyler is downstairs practicing guitar. Jack is curled up beside me. He seems to be content to not be out walking at the usual time.  We had such a lovely quiet Thanksgiving.  We cooked and cleaned, napped, and then listened to jazz and talked.  I am grateful I do not feel compelled to answer the ever present clarion call to begin the competitive shopping season.
When Tyler and I married 31 years ago, the date was November 27, the day after Thanksgiving.  Since then, we have always celebrated our anniversary on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  It is an easy day to remember and an easy day to take off from our work duties. Often we go to the beach, but not this year.  More rain is predicted, and I don't think walking on uneven sand would do my knee much good.  For now, I am content to take in the silence and calm of this morning. 

This coming Sunday marks the end of the church year, with Advent beginning December 2. As the bread was baking, I turned to a book that truly is an old friend, "Blessings of the Daily, A Monastic Book of Days" by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, published in 2002.  Brother Victor writes eloquently of the peace that Advent can bring us, if we accept the invitation: 
Once again, we arrive at the threshold of Advent and are invited by the Church to enter into the mystery that Advent represents. During these quiet four weeks that precede Christmas, the Church asks us to think, live, and pray in the spirit of Advent. But what is the mystery of Advent all about? Advent is that unique and privileged time of preparation for the great event commemorated at Christmas: the Incarnation of the Son of God and his humble appearance among us as a tiny child. 
Unlike Brother Victor, most of us do not live in a monastery, and too often, the four weeks before Christmas are full of activities, list making, worry and weariness. I like that as a church, we can remind one another and ourselves that there is also beauty and mystery to be experienced at this time. We light candles and sing special music. We spend at least a minute or two in communal silence, and we listen to the ancient stories told again.  We try to lift the words, hope, peace, joy, and love off printed pages and Christmas cards and live into them. As best we can, we ready our hearts, knowing that Christ is knocking at the door, even if our heart abode is rough hewn and stony. We learn again that angels sit right next to us.    

I am always grateful when Advent begins in December, rather than the first Sunday after Thanksgiving.  We can indeed prepare to prepare.     

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Divine Witness in Each of Us

I received this poem just now.  I am not tampering with the male language out of respect for Hafiz (1325-1390), a Persian poet and teacher who lived in Shariz, Iran.  However, I am sure that Hafiz would understand if you want to rewrite it.  I recommend you do it in long hand.  You may find writing each word by hand a prayerful practice. 
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers concerning my knee.  It is improving, and the doctor I saw at Kaiser was quite encouraging concerning my yoga practice.  I am grateful that my life is as simple as it is for I believe I can be healed back into my regular activities. I am humbled by the the reminder that many in long-term care cannot. Yet, I believe the psalmist who tells us that we can forever reside in the house of the Lord,  or as Stephen Mitchell translates Psalm 23: " I will live in God's radiance forever and ever."  It is a message I never tire of sharing.

 Like many of us in California, I am missing our blue sky and fresh air and I pray this poor air quality is not our new norm.  May our technological advances be used to allow healing in this beautiful world.  Can I get a witness?


I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger

because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our

I have come into this world to see this: all creatures hold hands as
we pass through this miraculous existence we share on the way
to even a greater being of soul,

a being of just ecstatic light, forever entwined and at play
with Him.

I have come into this world to hear this:

every song the earth has sung since it was conceived in
the Divine's womb and began spinning from
His wish,

every song by wing and fin and hoof,
every song by hill and field and tree and woman and child,
every song of stream and rock,

every song of tool and lyre and flute,
every song of gold and emerald
and fire,

every song the heart should cry with magnificent dignity
to know itself as

for all other knowledge will leave us again in want and aching -
only imbibing the glorious Sun
will complete us.

I have come into this world to experience this:

men so true to love
they would rather die before speaking
an unkind

men so true their lives are His covenant -
the promise of

I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands
even at the height of
their arc of

because we have finally realized
there is just one flesh

we can wound.

~ Hafiz ~  


photograph:  San Leandro, November 2018

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Hands and Knees

Well, here I sit with an ice pack on my knee.  Later this morning Tyler will take me to the doctor.  I don't know why the back of my knee is in such pain, but yesterday, there were some moments when I thought I simply could no longer walk.  I had stopped for a bite of lunch before going on to a rehab hospital to see a beloved elder.  Getting back to the car was difficult, and once I got there, I thought surely the smart thing to do would be to go home. However, the rehab community where this elder is was on the way.  So, despite the fact that the parking lot always seems to be crowded in the middle of the day,  I decided to drive there.  I thought that if I could get a parking place close to the door, I would go in.  That is exactly what happened. 
I found myself grateful to simply be sitting at her bedside with nothing to do but enjoy her company.  She told me some of her history, and some of her thoughts about this time of her life. She is delightfully down to earth. We prayed together, and then I hobbled off.  As I limped past the front desk, I had a desire to simply check myself in.  I found myself eyeing one man's cane with envy. 
I don't think anyone would call me an active woman, but I do value being able to move at will.  To go grocery shopping. Take the dog for a walk. Go to yoga class. Walk up and down stairs. Lead a worship service. To not be concerned if I can't park by the door.  Most of that is on pause for now.  I think Tyler may need prayers.  

I recently heard an interview with Yuval Noah Harari, a writer I was unfamiliar with.  However, I found him to be remarkably articulate about some of the challenges we humans face, such as the impact of artificial intelligence.  He contends that AI will likely mean that some people will simply no longer be considered relevant. Of course, most people of faith hold on to the notion that there is simply no such thing as an irrelevant person, regardless of the values a society holds, but yes, there are challenges and I do not think we should risk being naive about them. I bought his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and now it looks like I may have time to read it.  In my ministry with the ill and the frail, I have witnessed on a daily basis the struggle of trying not to succumb to the idea that their lives no longer have meaning.  I wish I could tell you that I have some easy answers. I do not. But I have learned that if we keep reaching out to one another, some of the anguish can subside, and we can once again believe in the worthiness of one another and ourselves.  Isolation is seldom helpful, either on a individual or national scale. We humans need one another, so let us hold on. I know I am stronger today because of the hand I held yesterday afternoon.       
Politicians are a bit like musicians, and the instrument they play on is the human emotional and biochemical system. They give a speech, and there is a wave of fear in the country. They tweet, and there is an explosion of hatred. I don't think we should give these musicians a more sophisticated instrument play on. Once politicians can press our emotional buttons directly, generating anxiety, hatred, joy, and boredom at will, politics will become a mere emotional circus. As much as we should fear the power of big corporations, history suggests that we are not necessarily better off in the hands of mighty governments (80).  
Yuval Noah Harari     
The photograph is from a window I spotted a year or so ago.  Unfortunately, I do not know the artist, but she or he gives me hope for the future.  Stay steady, everyone.      

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Word...

I will forever be grateful for SpiritCare for many reasons. However, one of the most important ones (for me) is that no matter the news, I know that tomorrow I am called to a community to preach the Good News that God is with us. I am, of course, preaching to myself. However, together we will sing and laugh and pray. Some may doze. Yet, I know that Jesus will be there, no doubt dressed oddly, and I will find healing. Therefore, I will offer to be a healing presence as best I can, and so will the pianist, and so will others who may join us.  

Tonight I found myself grateful for being able to scrub out my old blue pot. The stew we cooked and reheated in it so many times was delicious. As the hymn asks: "How can I keep from singing?" 

My thanks to the young artist down the street who reminds me as well. Yes, we mourn, but our mourning does not have the last word.   


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In Remembrance

When I walked into the small dining/activity room, it was apparent that I was not expected.  There were only three people present, each at a separate table. The tv was on, and was really loud.  I looked at the day's schedule, and it was almost empty. The activity assistant came in, and we talked for a short while.  He said that the activity director was having some trouble getting organized.  I opted to not add a comment to that statement. Since the volunteer who usually serves with me was out of town, I told him I would sit and talk to Ben (not his real name). I asked if the tv could be turned off.  We compromised with his turning the volume down.  

I walked over to Ben and said hello. He looked up, smiled, and returned the greeting.  Despite the fact that he is of the Jehovah's Witness tradition, he almost always attends our worship services. He asked about the volunteer. 

I sensed he could not see me.
Ben is a Viet Nam veteran, who lost both of his legs during his service.  He is a handsome African-American man, but his face is swollen and he has difficulty speaking and being understood. That is a constant source of frustration for him.  Yesterday he told me that he is 67 years old.  He also told me he now has glaucoma.
We talked a little about the VA, and he said he liked going there and believes he is getting good care. I sensed that there he feels some camaraderie. He smiled and said he was taking a Tai Chi class there that he likes very much.  We also talked of his wife who regularly comes to be with him.   

As I was saying good-bye, I told him we would be back next month. He replied, "I will be waiting for you." Ben, and many of those the ministry serves, wait a lot.  I continue to hear that reply uttered in that nearly empty room.  

When I heard of the recent death of Rev. Eugene Peterson, I bought a book of his devotionals, "Every Step an Arrival." A passage that I had read that morning is staying with me: "The message of the gospel is that God invades us with new life, and the life changes what we presently are. He is not a means to avoid problems. He creates new life. He is not a problem solver but a person creator."   

When humans are in relationship, new life stirs and we each are changed.  I think Ben enjoyed our conversation, and I was grateful I was able to understand as much as I did.  Maybe, in the course of our time together, a new life emerged.  A life that was heard and honored.   
 "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
 Luke 22:19 
I know Jehovah Witnesses do not celebrate Communion, but this scripture is one I believe Ben knows all too well. 

Ben, I remember. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Faithfully Related

Some of you may remember that last year I wrote that I believed that to become part of a faith community required a "conversion to vulnerability." What this conversion is the risking of being known in an ongoing relationship with others. My belief in this conversion has only deepened. We are indeed faithfully related. We come to find our common ground in God. This is how we grow into Christ.

"Faith is about relationship. You talk about having faith in someone, how powerful it is when you feel that someone has faith in you, and how important it is to a relationship, and what a gift it is when you put your faith in someone. It is different from being able to define them or control them. So faith is about relationship in this way. It is about being faithful, faithfully related to someone. That means making a commitment, growing in that commitment over time, going through good times and bad times, staying with it as much as you humanly can, or starting again if you stopped. It means eventually realising that the relationship is taking you beyond yourself, beyond the ego, beyond the ego’s attachment to good times rather than bad times, beyond the ego that says, when it runs into a difficult period, ‘I don’t want this; I don’t need this; this isn’t what I signed up for’."

Father Laurence Freeman, World Community for Christian Meditation, November 4, 2018 

photograph: San Leandro, October 2018   

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Thank you, Mother Teresa

"The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy.…We may not be able to give much but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is in love with God. All over the world people are hungry and thirsty for God’s love. We meet that hunger by spreading joy. Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptation."
Mother Teresa 
Plough Daily Dig, October 26, 2018     
I decided at the last minute to make this quote the focal point of a small group discussion I was to lead later that morning.  It proved to be an interesting gateway to the subject of loss, a topic that comes up frequently.  Irene had just moved to assisted living about five months ago and was really wrestling with adjusting to living in community and the death of her husband.  She has also lost some of her hearing. It was not an easy conversation, but I sensed it was one worth staying with.   
Estelle joined us late, but did not hesitate in joining in.  "I had trouble letting go of those I loved until I knew for sure that they were in heaven.  Maybe not in position one, but they are all in heaven."  This "position one" intrigued us, and Irene asked her to explain.  Here, Estelle faltered some, and explained that she was losing  her words.  I ventured in and asked, "Is position 1 what we might call sitting at the throne of God?"  
"Yes," she excitedly answered, "there are all kinds of levels in heaven. I had to learn to trust that God was with them all."  I smiled for I knew a mystic was among us, and this particular one spoke with a lovely Irish accent.  "When I released them to God, I knew peace."  As she said this, her hands fluttered upwards.  
"Estelle, it sounds to me that you could actually see them go to heaven. Am I correct?"  She leaned forward and nodded her head in agreement and haltingly said, "Then, I had room in my heart to love."  She asked me to reread the quote and she added, "Yes, now I know joy." 
This experience was fascinating.  Two of the residents slept.  Three had trouble hearing so I was constantly repeating and amplifying. Estelle seemed to hear with no trouble, but she struggles to find her words and often has to substitute words.  The questions about her actually seeing her loved ones go to heaven and the throne of God were intentional because I had a sense that she thinks in pictures. I am convinced that even when words cannot surface, images often do, and I have seen some intriguing art done by Alzheimer's patients. Yes, they often do need some assistance with their creations, but that is what staff and volunteers are for.  We are not there just to help them to fill time, but rather to help them find a lifeline so they can cross the some of the gaps that threaten to completely isolate them.  
I reluctantly brought the group to a close as I was already late for a service, but as we concluded, we talked a moment more about the importance of soul conversation. Estelle worded it beautifully:  "You brought a piece; Irene brought a piece. Your pieces connected with mine, and we could understand. Will you please come back?" 
Somewhere I read that Mother Teresa said that even if she was made a saint, she probably would not stay in heaven long, but rather she would return to be among the poor. She certainly is still very much with us, and I am reminded that those layers of heaven can stretch all the way down to a small group of women trying to understand.  Thank you, Mother Teresa.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Yesterday evening, on the ten mile drive I make to attend a yoga class, I sensed I was witnessing more aggressive driving than usual. This drive does not take me on a freeway, but rather close to our small downtown area, which can be congested at certain times. I wondered if some of this driving was a by-product of "lotto fever" - the anticipation of great wealth, and the promise of being able to leave the mundaneness of others behind.  Then, on my way home, I paused as a light was turning yellow because I was not certain I was in the correct lane. There has been a lot of construction and temporary lane changes at this corner, and I was approaching it from a different direction and at night.  The driver behind me sounded his or her horn, letting me know that I was in the way.  This driver was not at all in favor of pausing, and I can imagine the frustration that was experienced during the wait for that great beacon of freedom, the green light, to shine once more. 
During my retreat last week, I was given a copy of "Welcoming Prayer, Consent on the Go" compiled by the The Contemplative Life Program.  It is described as a "40 day companion for learning, refreshing or deepening a Welcoming Prayer practice, an embodied practice of YES for everyday life."  I am enjoying this devotional, and am grateful to be reminded of the beautiful practice of being open to God's presence, regardless of what is going on (including red lights and slow drivers).  Day 3 happens to be about "afflictive emotions," those overreactions that really are not appropriate for the current situation. When these emotions flare, we can be sure that  our egos are demanding their due.       
We often get in one another's way.  Yet, what may be more important is to recognize is that we get in our own way.  We stumble on our habitual thinking, get frustrated, and look for someone or something to blame. Then it is just a short step to begin seeing ourselves as somehow separate from the life around us.  Yesterday when I offered an elder Communion, she started to cry, saying that lately she had been a poor Christian. Somehow, she felt separate from the rest of us who were faltering just as much as she was. I gently reminded her she was loved, and yes, the invitation was indeed for her. She eventually accepted the gift of reconciliation being offered.  Her acceptance was a gift for us all. We could heal together.     
 Holy One, give us the courage to think of ourselves neither as good Christians nor poor ones.  Help us to simply take one more breath, one more step, and continue the journey in love.      
Let us travel gently today.   

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Journeying On

I received this post this morning from Rabbi Yael Levy.  I have been on retreat this week with some longtime friends, and much of what we have discussed is letting go and being willing to change so that we can be who God is calling us to be today. These discussions are certainly at the heart of what it is to travel deeper into the third part of our lives. It is a blessing to be with people I love as we explore.  

I am leaving the retreat a day early due to a cold.  Not something I readily do, but what I feel I should do, both for me and certainly those around me.   Tyler has been ill as well and could probably use some company.  The days here have been sunny, but this morning the sky is overcast and the air is cooler.   How I love to be in this place called Villa Maria del Mar and to be in the care of the Sisters of the Holy Names.  I also love that God beckons us in so many ways, through many cultures and traditions, through every bit of life, love, and loss. We journey in the  heart of God.      

Be willing to leave what you know.
Be willing to leave who you have been.

 Take your strength, your support and what inspires your love.
 Leave behind the expectations that have constricted your life.
The way forward is unclear,
But as you take your steps the path will appear.
And the goal of this journey?
The reason to leap,
To struggle, to let go, to risk?
The reason to rise and fall
And rise again and again?
Is to be a blessing.
To discover anew the good that we are.
To discover anew
The shape of our blessings
And the ways the Divine can come through us into the world.
Go deep,
Reach high,
Because the ways we live matters,
Not just to us
But to all those who will call us ancestor.
The path awaits our willingness.
The world awaits our blessings.

--Rabbi Yael Levy   

Monday, October 8, 2018

Now, Please

The following post is from the World Community of Christian Meditation and is something I deeply believe.  I do hope we can learn to love while we still have some remaining days and nights to live out that love.  No need to wait until the last second.  Let's be easy on one another and this beautiful, beleaguered planet.   Have a beautful, loved filled week.

St Augustine said that we can only love what is beautiful. This means that love reveals the beautiful even in things or people that don’t strike us as beautiful at first. How often do we find that as our first impression of someone fades, based as it was on superficial appearances or prejudices, a deeper insight comes to the fore and our response to this person is wholly changed. We feel bad about our misjudgement and shed it. Their true nature is now more visible and we resonate with it from a simpler, truer part of our self. Perhaps this is what awaits us all at the end of life, regardless of how mistakenly we have chosen to live. All our ways of seeing and knowing will fuse in a great healing simplicity as we see God. In that instant of pure perception – of the beauty ever ancient, ever new – we will not be able to resist falling in love, with the love that has always surrounded us. And so we will be saved.
( Meditatio Newsletter, October 2012 ) 


Photograph is the front of one of our Little Free Libraries here in San Leandro.  September, 2018

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Today's Interruptions Have Been Brought to You by...

I am tempted to say the interruptions were brought by a printer not printing and no hot water.  One by one those were addressed, and yet I still have a sense of unease.  Therefore, I think the interruptions are rooted in  the prayer/poem that I received this morning from Panhala.  As you know, I love Wendell Berry's writing, but this post seemed to strike an ever deeper chord with me.  Perhaps because I love porches.  Perhaps it is the word forbearance which I almost never hear used, and lately it seems so seldom exercised that I had to look up the meaning.  Merriam Webster defines forbearance as "patient self-control; restraint and tolerance."  Oh, for the day...

However, I think my sense of disorientation lies in the first lines, "To care for what we know requires care for what we don't..."  This is where my sense of stirring lies because to me it speaks of that mystery that is worship - that experience we understand, but then again, we cannot. 

This week, I led a simple service in a skilled nursing community. Rita was there, taking time off from work as she always does to spend time in worship with her mother.  Her steadfastness moves me because her mother does not acknowledge what is going on around her, and has not for years. Our rhythm after worship was as it often is: first I greet her mother, and then Rita and I talk.  Both of us regularly spend time in private morning devotionals, yet, we both acknowledge that coming together in community deepens our time spent in community as well as in our solitude with God. This week we talked about how meaningful it would surely be if a community could come together every morning and every evening for worship and prayer.  I have experienced that rhythm in seminary, particularly in my time spent in the spiritual direction program.  For three years, we came together for three weeks every January to study and to practice listening to one another and how we are experiencing God in our hearts and lives. We also came together to pray and sing every morning and every evening.  Once that rhythm settles into your bones, and it does not take long, you are never the same.  You will long for it; just as many of those we serve in long term care long to worship at least once a week.   
Interruptions are important to pay attention to for they are often tangible moments of knowing that Spirit is up to something, and that something is generally a response to a yearning deep within us, a yearning that we might not have yet acknowledged.   At this altar, aka a porch in the wilderness (or in the activity room), our hearts kneel and pray at the knowing.  



To care for what we know requires
care for what we don't, the world's lives
dark in the soil, dark in the dark.
Forbearance is the first care we give
to what we do not know. We live
by lives we don't intend, lives
that exceed our thoughts and needs, outlast
our designs, staying by passing through,
surviving again and again the risky passages
from ice to warmth, dark to light.
Rightness of scale is our second care:
the willingness to think and work
within the limits of our competence
to do no permanent wrong to anything
of permanent worth to the earth's life,
known or unknown, now or ever, never
destroying by knowledge, unknowingly,
what we do not know, so that the world
in its mystery, the known unknown world,
will live and thrive while we live.

~ Wendell Berry ~

(A Small Porch - Sabbath Poems 2014-2015)   


Friday, September 21, 2018


As we began our first hymn yesterday, I looked around and noticed that almost no one was singing.  I also realized that I had made my way through heavy traffic for over an hour to get there.  So, I made that announcement. I also added that my birthday was tomorrow, and I will be turning 66.  "You better sing with me now. Who knows how much longer I will be able to do this?"  There was laughter and applause (I have been visiting this skilled nursing community for almost eleven years), and a little more engagement after that, probably on my part as well.
After the service I began collecting song sheets, and I approached one man who had tears in his eyes.  He asked, "Where does this sweet music come from?"  I immediately had a vision of a human chest with a fountain flowing from it, but opted instead to tell him a little bit about the ministry.  He had mentioned before that he had attended a beautiful seminary on a hill (I think he mentioned Jerusalem the last time I saw him, but I might be getting carried away with images from the psalms), and yesterday I again sensed a deep yearning to return.  He then shrugged his shoulders and said, "But that was 50 years ago. I also went to Aleppo.  Such a beautiful city it was, such wonderful food."  He grew silent and he looked away. I knew he was  seeing a vision that was not mine to see.   

This conversation left me wondering again about the people of faith who are stranded in skilled nursing and other long-term care communities with no day to day spiritual support.  That question is certainly at the heart of why SpiritCare was founded, and I believe we do make a difference in the lives of the frail and those who care for them professionally.  However, I, too have a yearning, and that is to drive less and to be present more. I know this to also be true for those who are employed in the communities, many of whom face long daily drives as they work two or three jobs just to patch together something close to a living wage.      
Here I must pause and thank the pianist who joins me at this community. Her music holds us together with a tender thread as she plays before, during, and after the services.  All of our pianists have unique voices, and Spirit always brings them to the community where their particular gifts are needed.  I am humbled by their willingness to share so generously.    
I start my 66th year with gratitude for SpiritCare, for the San Lorenzo church, for Tyler and my home, for my yoga teacher, for all of those who have assisted me in the past and for those who are journeying with me now. I give thanks to Jesus who sits with me and listens to my prayers, and then gently lets me know when it is time to go.  I am also grateful for Holy Mother's starry mantel that holds us all in peace even in the midst of storms.   
I am grateful for all of you. Come sing with us when you can.       
Keep the song in my soul, 
Let it not lose its music. 
Keep the holy in my soul, 
Let it not ignore its source. 
Keep the love in my soul, 
Let it not close in on self. 
Keep the light in my soul, 
Let it not forget to shine. 
Keep the vision in my soul, 
Let it not lose sight of you. 
Fragments of Your Ancient Name, 
Joyce Rupp 


Saturday, September 15, 2018


I have much respect for Teresa.  When I see her patiently sitting in her wheelchair in a community where most of the residents are much older and frailer than she, I sense an admirable resiliency. When I first met her, she told me that when she first arrived in the community she realized she had dreamt about it while she was in the hospital.  Because of the dream, she felt, at a deep level, that she was safe.  This sense of belonging does seem to ground her. 
When I saw her yesterday, I offered her a song sheet, but she replied, as do many, "I do not sing."  I expected her to wheel out the door, but she stayed in the room, but kept in the back, away from the group.  However, eventually she moved closer. Then, a few minutes later, she signaled that she wanted a song sheet. 
After the service, I walked over to meet a woman who was sitting close to Teresa. Teresa said that Carol was her friend. I was delighted to hear this introduction and told them that.  Then Teresa said to me, "You have been coming here for awhile now."  That is true; I have been visiting that community for several years. Then she said, "I am going to try to sing more." I think some of her willingness to give singing a go was because of the presence of Carol, a woman she calls friend.  Trust, always a welcomed participant, had entered the room and found a place to settle in. 

I periodically share with the people who gather with me my story of almost not accepting the call to SpiritCare when I realized I would be leading the singing. I was convinced that I was not up to that leadership role, but Jesus would simply not let me go. Yesterday, I told those with me that had I insisted on holding on to my reluctance rather than listening to that deep voice within, I would have missed the rich experience that SpiritCare has been for me. I would have missed knowing them.  

My voice is profoundly ordinary. I can read music, but only at a rudimentary level.  I have never been able to sight read.  I know I test our pianists' patience because I seldom think to count. Yet, I am grateful for my common voice.  If my voice was beautiful and skilled, I think people would be even less likely to join their voice with mine.  One of my deepest desires is that the frail and ill use their voice and sing their praises.  Our voices and our faith must be exercised or they get buried by ennui and a sense that our lives simply don't matter anymore.  Once the voice is no longer engaged, isolation, and even despair, can quickly take hold.  These  are forces to take seriously for they are not easily banished.   
Teresa's slow movement into the group was wonderful to witness.  The quiet voices that surfaced that day were beautiful to hear. I never tire of hearing rough, shaky voices come to life because I know what I am hearing is courage rising.  I hear Jesus listening, and I know love.        
Your ear, beloved Listener, opened wide, 
Pressed to each portion of my heart, my life. 
Attuned to the slightest vibration of my being, 
Attentive to the constant rhythms of my soul. 
You hear the cry in the throat of my heart. 
My troubles do not cease with your awareness
But they soften, loosen some of their grip, 
Become bearable, touchable, endurable. 
If your attentive solicitude blesses so fully, 
Surely I, too, can listen that closely to others.   
Fragments of Your Ancient Name, 
Joyce Rupp  

Friday, August 31, 2018

As August Draws to a Close

The past few days have been so enjoyable.  It is not that I have done anything special, but the cool weather has been such a pleasant traveling companion.  When I spotted these asters, I knew for certain that September and autumn were on their way. I am grateful.  
Today will find me moving some dirt from one area of the front yard to various pots and planters.  A neighbor loaned me his wheelbarrow, a nice old rusty thing that makes me smile every time I look at it.  I have learned that I am not a very good gardener, at least at this time of my life, so I am simplifying things.  Perhaps this is what it means to let nature take its course.  I must let mine do the same.  
Have a beautiful last day of August. May we all enjoy our tasks at hand.  

Give Thy blessing, we pray Thee, to our daily work, 
that we may do it in faith, and heartily. 

-- Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) 
 from Spirituality and Practice, 
August 30, 2018