Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finding the Starting Point

"Don't start by trying to love God, or even people; love rocks and elements first, move to trees, then animals, and then humans. Angels will soon seem like a real possibility, and God is then just a short leap away." 

Father Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ (p.57)
photograph: San Leandro, June 2019

Might be good to carry a small stone in our pockets - for those times when we find we need to get back to the basics. This idea  also helps me understand mandalas a little more. May we all find someone or something to love today.  Start small if you need to.  We will be led ever on.   


    
    

Monday, June 3, 2019

Morning Questions

dreamed of a fish 
covered with expertly 
placed glinty scales. 
With bright eyes wide open 
it moved silently through  
the glittery waters.
Light was everywhere. 
  
I woke thinking of 
 Apostle Paul's 
knowing  we are  
clothed in Christ. 

Can I really move so freely, 
donned in such light, 
breathing in and breathing out, 
going only where the river 
takes me , 
trusting in that great flow?    
 
Really, where and how else 
could I possibly go?     
   
say,  June 2019   
  
"... for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."   
Galatians 3:26-27

Friday, May 31, 2019

Repair Work

Last night I dreamed 
that a friend gave me a typewriter. 
I had forgotten about it. 
I found it lying in a dusty corner 
of a  ramschackle house I did not live in. 
Lots of things had been left in the house, 
I think about three floors worth. 

It had taken awhile to reach 
the house 
but the gentle path was beautiful 
lined green with shady trees and plants.  
Walking back (to where?) 
from it was so pleasant. 
I had to apologize to my friend 
for forgetting about the typewriter
as I wondered how to use it.  
  
I then dreamed of being underwater. 
Not scary, but so free and blue. 
I felt no temperature 
surely like an unborn child would know
no temperature other than perfect. 
Other people were in this sea, 
we were all having fun 
minding our own sea-business, 
even swimming upside down 
looking like pencils.    
 
A smiling man  
drove up in his large truck.  
He said not to worry; 
He would repair the house.   
But first, he, too, went swimming, 
diving so deep that I did worry.     
 
He arose laughing,
just like Jesus.   
  
say, May 31, 2019

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Light of Wisdom

My gratitude to Father Richard Rohr who sent me (by way of his book The Universal Christ, page 32-33) to the passage below. It is from the Wisdom of Solomon which is found in the Apocrypha.  It is worth seeking out a Bible that does contain these texts.  This passage reminds me of the revelations of Julian of Norwich.  She wrote of a God who is only love, a love that is continually being poured out. I think this is what Father Rohr means when he writes of the "Forever Coming of Christ" which he describes as  "...the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else....A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give no reason to fight, exclude, or reject anyone."  As I ponder how best to be in relationship with someone I find truly difficult, I would do well to remember that Christ is forever coming, revealing, and patiently calling us all to be transformed by love.  How do we let the work that God is doing in all our hearts shine?  This I struggle with even as I know we are all a divine work in progress, being formed in love. The sooner we "see" this, the better, and that includes me.      


But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things,
and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.
For you love all things that exist,
and detest none of the things that you have made,
for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.
How would anything have endured if you had not willed it?
Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?
You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.
For your immortal spirit is in all things.
Therefore you correct little by little those who trespass,
and you remind and warn them of the things through which they sin,
so that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord. 

  
 Wisdom of Solomon 11:23-12:2   




photograph: San Leandro, May 2019 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Revisiting

The following post and photograph are from May 26, 2016, and they appeared on my Facebook page today.  Both fit with my experience this morning  when I served Communion in a community dedicated to memory care. The pianist could not join me, but even without music, several of the residents seemed to appreciate the simple service. I was grateful to be with them. The activity assistant seemed relieved just to be able rest awhile and take Communion. She is now wearing a brace on one knee - a reminder that the work in long-term care is not easy.
 +++

Last night I dreamed of someone I know who resides in a skilled nursing community. In the dream I walk into a round white building. It looks to be a small church. I know I have been away for awhile, but I am welcomed into a discussion. As I settle in, I look out one of the windows that is just above where I am sitting. There I see Keith leaving, and I am hopeful he will see me. He does pause, and he smiles and waves. I return the wave. I cannot help but comment, "He looks great." The others agree. Keith walks on. He still has his cane, but his gait is easy.

I woke with the phrase, "Luke 15." This morning I see the story of the Prodigal Son, and I wonder if Keith has shed this worn-out life. His body and mind have been failing for awhile now. As I write this, I remember that he recently took Communion. I have known him for a few years, and he has always smiled and declined the bread and cup, saying, "He is with me." Yet, that day, something had changed for him. Afterwards, he told me a little of his childhood in Oklahoma. He seemed happy.

Last night I also dreamed that I am sitting with God on a valley floor. I have a sense the trek down had not been easy, but sitting there, although it was kind of dark, maybe like twilight or an early pre-dawn morning, I feel a sense of peace. I realize that the ground is level and that God is there. In the dream I think, "Oh, so this is what rock bottom looks like." I know I am safe. Not only safe; I am happy.

To serve Communion to those who are at the end of their lives is a profound, humbling experience. It is to witness an ancient love affair that is beyond time and knows no limitations. It is when I am at my simplest, and when I often witness the most. It is a feast on the valley floor.


"Quickly, bring out a robe - the best one - and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet... let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!"

Luke 15:22    
     

Friday, May 24, 2019

Finding Home

While I will often stop by a garage sale or a thrift store, I generally avoid estate sales.  Going through objects that belonged to someone who has passed feels disrespectful.  Therefore, when I saw that there was an estate sale going on a few houses down, I made no plans to visit.  I left our house and went about my work as usual, stopping by the market on my way home.  Yet, as I was unpacking the groceries, I thought of LaVerne, and wondered if I could find something that would remind me of her spiritual life.  She converted to Catholicism as an adult, and over the years I think we both enjoyed our conversations about faith and church.  She even helped me in my ministry once a month.  She and Ms. Cleo, my elder standard poodle who has also passed, made a popular pair of chaplains.  I often felt I was simply the chauffeur who happened to preach. I picked up my purse and decided to visit. 

The living room  was set up with tables, and a wide variety of objects were available. Many I recognized.  I walked over to the mantle, and there I found this St. Francis. I had never seen him before, but I knew she had a lot of objects in her garage that I never saw.  I smiled when I noticed he was missing an arm.  It looks like it was repaired at one point, but goodness knows what happened to the missing limb.  I decided he should come home with me. 
  
Then I walked into the kitchen, and there a deep peace came over me.  It's not that I sensed her presence, but I think I felt what drew her to buying the house.  She told me that as soon as she walked into the house she knew she wanted to live there, and she did for many years.  As I stood in the kitchen, I was barely aware of other people moving around me.  I was in another time.  I looked out her kitchen window and pondered her apple tree and the gift of Granny Smith apples that would grace our front porch.  I then noticed a medium sized pale green ceramic bowl, and decided to bring that home as well.  I paid a bit more than I normally would for the bowl, but I was given St. Francis.  He now has a place on my bookcase that has all kinds of found items and gifts, and yes, even books. 
  
Thank you, LaVerne.  Your last years were not easy, I know.  Yet, I believe you are at peace, and I am grateful.  

Love, 
Sue Ann    
 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Residing

"It is impossible to make individuals feel sacred inside of a profane, empty, or accidental universe. This way of seeing makes us feel separate and competitive, striving to be superior instead of deeply connected, seeking ever-larger circles of union."  
  
The Universal Chirst, Richard Rohr (p. 16)   
 
photograph:  San Leandro, May 2019  

 
     

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Birthing Christ

I have been pondering this photograph for a few days now.  I am intrigued by what looks to be a small vessel and the center of the rose, and have been wondering what sort of writing should go along with it.  A Psalm? A poem?  Nothing has, until now, surfaced.  

Sister Julian (I really do not know how else to speak about Julian of Norwich; her writings are so intimate that I feel we are related) often referred to Jesus and/or Christ as Mother.  While I usually see a rose as a symbol of our linear journey (that is the journey from our physical birth to our physical death), this morning I realized that this particular rose speaks to me of birth, and how birth is a cycle, not just a one time event.  Yes, we are birthed a physical mother, but we are also birthed by Christ, and we give birth to Christ.  We are the inn at Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary wait so Christ can be born again.  This photograph also reminds me that Christ is continually pouring out the Christ Self for all.   There is no end to this cycle, only an enriching as (hopefully) our hearts become more open.    

The picture itself is small  because it is so closely cropped.  I hope you can experience the expanding largeness that I sense. And I pray the Mother Christ can be known to you today as you are brought forth into this world.     
   
Our human mothers 
bore us into a world of 
pain and death, 
but our True Mother, 
Jesus - All Love - 
bears us into joy 
and endless life 
(Blessed may She be!)
In this way, Mother Christ 
supports and holds us
in love within Herself 
(as a pregnant mother 
holds her unborn child).   
  
Hazlenuts from Julian of Norwich
Ellyn Sanna 
   
   

photograph:  San Leandro, May 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019

Stirrings of the Primal

On a humble street 
where there are no 
sidewalks 
and the pavement 
needs attention,   
 roses thrive 
in small gardens 
filled with perfectly 
acceptable colors 
like yellow, 
mauve, and white. 
 
Yet, it was  
 the red that  
called me 
to stand at full attention
 in the sun. 

For once I listened,  
and there in that perfect warmth and brightness, 
I felt the stirrings of a primal yearning  
to unfurl my many layers,
letting my soul be revealed 
in daring color and light.    
    
say, May 2019 



Thursday, May 2, 2019

Sightings

I moved from flu land to allergy land pretty quickly.  Some of that is my own fault.  Can't stay out of the neighbors' front gardens.  I call this picture "The Beast among the Roses."  Don't you think he has fine ears and a good looking tail?  My thanks to Panhala for sending this poem today.   I fell somewhat short of my poem a day goal in April, but that happens.  At least for now, the world of poetry, and surprises can still be found among the flowers.   What a relief.     


Starting with Little Things
 
Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands --
 
Like spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.
Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.
 
Tomorrow the world.
 

~ William Stafford ~  




Monday, April 29, 2019

Seeing Red

On my walk this morning, I thought about a note that one of my colleagues sent me yesterday.  He is an artist, and wrote that a few years ago, he was trying to paint the vibrancy of a particular color he was seeing in some flowers.  He found he was not successful until he "subdued everything else."   
Red is a primary color, but as I walked, I began to wonder how often I really do see true red.  Now, I am generally walking in a suburban landscape, so in many ways, my environment is not what one might describe as  natural.  Nonetheless, as I walked, I realized that I seldom experience a solitary color.  For example, I might see yellow flowers juxtaposed with blue ones. And then there are the green leaves.  In other words, I usually see color in relationship with other colors.  This morning, when I was putting my old fuchsia jacket over my grey shirt, I thought, "I really like these two colors together."  While I was seeing individual colors, I was also seeing them in relationship with each other. There is probably quite a bit going on in the brain when we see two or more colors together, and I don't think any of us experience color in the same way.  The same can be said of patterns.  If the colors are complimentary, I sometimes enjoy seeing combinations of stripes, dots, even plaids.  I have a dear friend who cannot stand the idea (I will say that she has what I consider excellent taste. I think I fall a bit off that lofty mark.)

So, as I walked this morning, I looked for a true red.  I found that many flowers that I might initially describe as red do have some pink or blue in their coloration, and these colors seem to be what the iPhone highlights.  Towards the end of the walk, I came across this red rose.  It seems to be about as close to true red as I will probably see in this neighborhood, and I think the light was conducive for photographing it.  

Unless we are taking part in something really experimental, most of us generally prefer harmony in music and art.  It seems to me that we can best hear music when notes and rhythms are in relationship with one another.  I think the same organizational relationship is true of color. Music has a circle of fifths; color can be mapped with the use of a color wheel. 
 
For the past few years, I have let color guide my walks.  When a color catches my eye, I will generally try to get closer to it.  I will walk across the street or down the block just because a color beckons.  Certainly, light plays a big part in how we experience color, but I am already out of my depth.  However, this morning I was reading a book that a friend recently gave me: The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr.  Father Rohr writes, "Remember, light is not so much what you directly see as that by which you see everything else (14)." He also comments that "what looks like darkness to the human eye is actually filled with tiny particles called 'neutrinos,' slivers of light that pass through the entire universe."  Amazing.  A universal sliver of light lasts long enough to allow one befuddled artist to gaze upon one red rose in wonder, and then journeys on.      
  
And God saw the light was good...
Genesis 1:4    
   

Of the Soul and Roses

I have found that red is one of the most difficult colors to capture with an iPhone.  When I saw this one, I almost did not take my camera that also makes phone calls out of my pocket because of the color and because well, it is a rose.   I have many pictures of roses.  Yet, the soul continues to urge us on because the soul craves union with God, with the world, with ourselves. Let us be wary of dismissing those stirrings.  I am not sure my soul recognizes a flower, but certainly recognizes what it finds beautiful in form and color. That is the lesson I continue to learn and relearn.  This red may not have photographed perfectly, but my soul finds inspiration here. 
Have a beautiful Sunday.  I am grateful that I will be with the beloved community today.  The flu subsides.  My voice?  Definitely showing signs of wear, but I am up and I believe as the old hymn goes, "It is well with my soul."  
Stay well all, and thank you for your prayers and wishes. 

 Let your soul speak.
      
    

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Listening to the Thistles

Tyler and I both have had the flu, and neither of us has fully recovered. Yet, this morning, I finally felt alert enough to look at some of my recent photographs, and as usual, most I discarded.  Yet, this photograph I shall keep, not because it is a remarkable piece of art. It is not even a good picture of thistles. At best, it is a snapshot taken as I was returning to my car after one of my worship services. I paused here simply because I could stand in one spot and see a glimpse of open space.  
 
I certainly cannot call this land untamed. It is a fairly small patch that is indeed surrounded by buildings.  The inhospitable thistle  in the foreground seems to be saying, "Do not tread here." I bow to that request to simply let some land be.
 
The clamor for housing here in the Bay Area is loud, and I really do understand that people need to be able to both afford a place to live that is at least somewhat close to where they work, and to be able to find such a place.  Yet, the cost of the tech industry growth is  high as more of our open space is given over to high density housing and roadways.  At what point do we say that we simply have no more room for building?   When do we acknowledge that we really do not have enough water to sustain unlimited growth?    

I suppose I am showing my age.  Well, I know I am because that eventually is what we all do.  I spent time this morning with some of Wendell Berry's poetry, a wise old Kentucky farmer who once wrote that we cannot let our hope depend on our feeling good.  This morning I must agree, so I will accept the encouragement of some prickly thistles, including Mr. Berry.  I will try not to tread where hope should be allowed to reside.  
  
     
    
Sabbath Poem VII (1982)
The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.
We join our work to Heaven's gift,
Our hope to what is left,
That field and woods at last agree
In an economy
Of widest worth.
High Heaven's Kingdom come on earth.
Imagine Paradise.
O Dust, arise!-- 

Wendell Berry (born 1934)


photograph:  Redwood City, April 2019     





Saturday, April 20, 2019

Giving It a Go

In the dream 
I am swaddled in white 
and I have a white cap 
on my head.  
I know this because I 
will shortly stand in front  
of a mirror. 
My arms and hands 
are not free 
but I am given 
instructions to 
draw with my 
"non-dominant hand." 
I do not feel trapped 
nor am I frightened,  
but I do wonder about 
drawing with my right hand 
for I think of myself as 
quite left handed.  
Then a series of geometric 
figures and even some simple houses 
stream across my mind 
much like an old 
black and white film clip.  
There are no other colors in this 
dream but black and white. 

I think, "Well, I will give it a go." 

It is then when I find myself 
standing  in front of the mirror. 
I am startled, even frightened;
I see a film over my right eye. 
For the first time in the dream 
I am frightened.  
Then the film, much like a 
wayward contact lens, 
pops into place over my eye. 
I can neither feel it, nor see it. 
My eyes are dark but wide open; 
 my vision is clear.     
   
I have found that writing about my dreams in this format is very freeing.   I will shortly try drawing with my right hand.   Drawing with the non-dominant hand is often suggested as a spiritual practice, and I suspect it is good for the brain.   

At no time in this dream did I see another person, but there is certainly another presence in this dream.  It is neutral - that is, neither frightening nor comforting.  

Today is Holy Saturday, and there is a Holy Week feel to this dream that is a little difficult to describe.   Holy Week is often a time of change and even challenge for me, and this week has been no different.  Tyler is sick, and a good friend who is out of state is quite ill.  I think the challenge is to stay open to the events as they occur because there is always more to be revealed.   Drawing with the non-dominant hand means that I will need to give up any idea that what I am drawing might be "good."  It may be a lesson in re-learning that it is the process that matters.       
   
Blessings as we journey to Easter.  It is indeed a journey to wholeness.      
    
I am afraid many of us have failed to honor God's always unfolding future and the process of getting there, which usually includes some form of dying to the old. In practical effect, we end up resisting and opposing the very thing we want.  The great irony is that we have often done this in the name of praying to God, as though God would protect us from the very process that refines us!    

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ,  p. 93  

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Holy Tuesday

"Tuesday is perhaps the most unremarkable day of the week. Today, however, is Holy Tuesday because it belongs to Holy Week. Perhaps we would do well to ponder on this truth: If God can make Tuesday holy, what might be done with us?"   
Rev. Dr. Michael Piazza     
 

As  I continue to ponder my post dated April 15, I am coming to understand that there is a difference between unraveling and dissolving.  When things unravel, they can be knitted back together.  When they dissolve, they are  returned completely into the essence of God, and are literally out of our hands.  We can weep and wail all we want, but we would be better served to bow in wonder and awe at this elemental change. 
      
    

         
photograph:  San Leandro, April 2019