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