Monday, February 26, 2018

Conversion to Vulnerability

Obedience is one of the vows one who is trying to walk a Benedictine path must be willing to take. The word can be intimidating until we realize that the root of the word is obaudiens, to listen with intention.  Such listening is a practice that is often not done well in our noisy competitive society.  Yet, if our families and communities are going to healthy, we must indeed listen and hear how God is speaking to us, and how God may be speaking through others. That brings up another scary word - submission.   
Submission, in a healthy environment (where the intent is cooperation, not domination) means to yield, accept, or make room for other's opinions.  In one of the essays included in Called to Community (edited by Charles E. Moore),  John F. Alexander offers the following explanation: 

Submission means knowing you don't know everything. It means knowing that the people of God gathered know more than you do by yourself. It means being willing to listen with an open heart when the body has the audacity to differ with your views. It means being willing pretty often to try out others' views for a while to see if maybe you're the one that's confused...   
That's all submission is - rejoicing that someone is wiser than us, that there are others whom we can respect. That frees us to rejoice that we don't have to know everything ourselves - betting that others know something too.  It's a spirit, an attitude. Out of which grow unity and wisdom...   
When we submit an application, we fill out the appropriate forms, and we release those forms to another. When the send button is pressed, when the envelope is mailed, when the phone call is ended, there is a period of waiting.  Things are usually at that point completely out of our hands.   This is what I am now calling "the conversion to vulnerability" - those times when we actually begin to live into the realization that we must let God be God, and no amount of cajoling or pleading our cause can change things.  Hopefully, in those times, we can tune our ears and hearts, and simply wait. 
For I know this that I shall see your goodness in a living land. 
The path you set me on leads to a place alive with you. 
So whether here or there I shall remain in readiness for you. 
I shall await your every mo​ve. 
​Take courage in God's presence, O my soul, 
wait patiently, yes, wait for God.    

​Psalm 27:16-17  
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman ​   

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Singing the Story

Yesterday when I arrived at the skilled nursing community, the worship team was already in full voice. I was not surprised for they are not shy in expressing their love of the Lord, and of worship and the pianist has a style that is quite lively. This month we have been singing of Jesus, and the frail in particular have been responding with enthusiasm.   
While this particular dining/activity room is really too small for the size of this community (not uncommon now as most skilled nursing communities are dedicating more and more space to rehab), I always give thanks for the floor to ceiling windows along two walls, even if one window does overlook a parking lot. However, the other provides a view of the street so one can see all sorts of comings and goings as the seasons change.  I am convinced that natural light and a view beyond the walls is good for the eyes, including the eyes of heart.  As I joined in the singing (who could resist?), the shy activity assistant who must wear a mask because she did not get a flu shot, did a modest little dance as she moved through the room tending to the patients. One of the old old, raised her thin arms, smiled a beautiful toothless smile, and waved.  The momentum of love could not be stopped even if we had wanted that; it simply swooped in and carried us all.  Ten years into the ministry, I am still deeply moved by how much some residents and patients yearn for and respond to stories and hymns that tell of Jesus' love. In those moments, I believe people are reminded that love is for them, and we come often enough to keep that message alive in their hearts and ours.  I do love to tell that "old, old story of Jesus and his love."*  
Above Everything

I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with water and seed,
plants and animals, others like myself,
ships and buildings and messages
filling the air -- a beauty,
if ever I have seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.

~ David Ignatow ~  

* "I Love to Tell the Story," words by Katherine Hankey (1868) and music by William G. Fischer, 1869. According to Wikepedia, this hymn came about while Ms. Hankey was convalescing from a serious illness she contracted in Africa.       

Psalm 82

Given the recent events, not only in our nation but across the world, I have decided to include Psalm 82 in its entirety. The title of Lynn C. Bauman's translations seems appropriate for this Psalm. The cries for wisdom, justice, and compassion are indeed ancient songs sung anew.    
God comes as judge of all to heaven's court,
and stands among the counselors of eternity; 
Now listen to the verdict as God speaks:
"How long will all your judgments be unjust? 
How long will all the advantage go 
to those most powerful and corrupt?" 
Hear this, I say: "Save lowly ones, rescue orphans, 
defend the humble and all the destitute of earth. 
Reach out to liberate the weak and poor, 
deliver them before they fall as evil's prey. 
You do not know, nor do you understand, 
you grope so blindly in the dark
while all around your world is torn from limb to limb. 
Hear this and listen carefully to what I'm about to say, 
You yourselves are gods, 
all of you are born from deity. 
However, I have made you live and die as mortal beings, 
but live and die as kings and queens, I say, 
who rise and wisely rule the earth, 
for it is yours to govern as you will."   
Psalm 82
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman 


Sunday, February 11, 2018

For the Journey

Ask and it will be given you, 
Seek and you will find. 
Knock and the door will be opened to you.  
Matthew 7:7    

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Gift

A friend loaned me a book of poetry. I am enjoying the experience of picking up the book, perusing its pages, pausing when a beckoning phrase surfaces, feeling a smile come to my lips, or the release of a sigh in my chest.  While I am grateful for the poems that come to me in email, the tactual experience of holding a slim volume of poetry is surprising me with its rich abundance of sensations.    
I keep coming back to this poem about taking a day off from the "voodoos of ambition."  I also keep thinking that in order to be authentic, I should share it when I actually take one of those days.  Yet, that misses the point. We need to take these moments with us, and share them with our fellow harried travelers.  
The book?  A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. My friend received it from her friend who lives in Argentina.  Fascinating and beautiful that she would send it from so far away.  She evidently wants to stay very close. 


Today I am flying low and I'm 
not saying a word. 
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. 
The world goes on as it must, 
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. 
And so forth. 
But I'm taking the day off. 
Quiet as a feather. 
I hardly move though really I am traveling 
a terrific distance. 
Stillness. One of the doors 
into the temple.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Psalm 81

Part of my Lenten fast has begun. I decided to start early because it is time to stop complaining about my commute. I realized that such disgruntled monologues and dialogues weren't doing anyone any good,  and the last thing our roadways need is one more unhappy driver.  Yesterday I began listening to a CD by Father Lawrence Freeman entitled, "Relationship with Jesus." I can't listen to fiction while I am driving because I forget what I am doing. However, pondering Jesus puts me fully right where I am. Helpful in so many ways.   
Lynn C. Bauman subtitled Psalm 81, "Wisdom's Voice Across the Desert."  Quite appropriate.  The enemy that is mentioned in this Psalm is certainly my restless mind. 
So I let hardness in your hearts become your guide, 
you followed it instead of me through the desert lands. 
O my people, my beloved ones, 
if you would have only learned to hear, 
then you could have walked in such a different way. 
I would easily have made your enemies flee from you, 
to become as nothing instead of overlords. 
And those who blocked your path 
would have simply disappeared, 
or come to stand before your feet in shame. 
And even now, if you will, 
I myself can make you bread, 
I myself will feed you from the finest wheat. 
I will satisfy your longing for earth's sweetest food, 
with honey extracted from the rock.   
Psalm 81:11-16
Ancient Songs Sung Anew    
Neighborhood bees are returning to my bee/birdbath.  I am delighted to be a way station for them in their journey.  Most of us can do a little something for our bees, even if it is just to offer them a drink of cool water. If you have some herbs growing in your garden, let some of them flower, and if you are blessed with dandelions, do not curse them, but let them flower.  The second picture is a bee on some arugula from last fall. a few stones in your birdbath give a place for the bees to land.       

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Poem for a Neighbor

The moment Sunday's football game was over, we heard a neighbor, who lives several doors down from us, roar a victory cry. He has been a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles all his life, maybe even from when he was still in the womb. Laughing, we went out to meet him in the dark street.  The following morning I received this poem.     

The ordinary miracles begin. Somewhere
a signal arrives: “Now,” and the rays
come down. A tomorrow has come. Open
your hands, lift them: morning rings
all the doorbells; porches are cells for prayer.
Religion has touched your throat. Not the same now,
you could close your eyes and go on full of light.

And it is already begun, the chord
that will shiver glass, the song full of time
bending above us. Outside, a sign:
a bird intervenes; the wings tell the air,
“Be warm.” No one is out there, but a giant
has passed through town, widening streets, touching
the ground, shouldering away the stars.
~ William Stafford ~
(My Name is William Tell; contributed by Beth Atchison)  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Psalm 80

During Lent I hope to be a bit more diligent about reading a Psalm a day.  The more I delve into them, the more I have come to treasure Lynn C. Bauman's translations. It is an interesting experience to take the Psalms as they come to me, rather than seeking  one that might fit my mood.  At times I very much feel God's hand directing me, and I feel Jesus' presence as well for he, too, read the Psalms. I am grateful for the company.  

There are some wonderful images of cherubim online so do peruse when you have a moment.  I just remembered that I  had a dream last night of a very large bird with wings outstretched. On its face, between its eye and beak was a spiral. The feathers were so wonderfully detailed and his wingspan was huge.  I do wish I had the skills to draw it well.  Why did this winged creature come to me last night? The answer is not yet known.  I remember no interaction with this creature,  but because he did not look directly at me, I could see the spiral clearly.  That seems to be the message for today, but it will take some pondering and living to understand it.   
Wishing you all a restorative day. Celebrate the mystery.         
Listen, O shepherd of humanity, 
leading your people like a flock, 
let your splendor come flashing forth, 
And shine in beauty from the throne 
that rides on the wings of cherubim. 
Rise up, come strong 
among our tribes and clans, 
and with your overflowing love, 
Recall us back to life, O God of all, 
that we may see the shining brilliance 
of your face.
Yes, that will be enough for us, 
for we will be restored to you again.   
Psalm 80:1-3
Ancient Songs Sung Anew 
Lynn C. Bauman