Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Robin Gone Wild!

I recently made a retreat in a wooded area of western Wisconsin. I retired early my first night there since I was weary from travel and all the activities of the month. I was looking forward to a long sleep. My little cabin was enwrapped by the covering of abundant trees which quieted the hum of the traffic on the distant roads. However, before sunrise, I heard something bumping against the side window. Thud, scratch-scratch, flap-flap. This went on for a few more minutes before I got up enough nerve with a moan and made an effort to open the blinds at the window. What was making this early morning wake-up call here in the middle of the woods? My imagination was getting the best of me. I was thinking that maybe I would be facing a deer, or a woodchuck, or a squirrel, or even a skunk. Yikes, then what?  So I slowly opened the blinds, and there on the edge of the terrace was a very chubby robin that looked very determined. She seemed to wonder why I was looking back at her through the woods!

I soon discovered that the window of the cabin was reflecting the surrounding woods, and she was attempting to “enter” this glass portal, no matter what. She tried again to break through this reflection with another effort. Resolute, she flew directly at the window only to meet the barrier head-on – then falling, she scratched her way down the window and then with flapping efforts, she tried to make her way up the window, eventually falling to the small rocks below that were surrounding the cabin. She tried a number of times – thud- scratch-flap, thud-scratch-flap.  After several more unsuccessful attempts, she flew off probably to think of how to approach this problem upon her return the next day.

 I thought I’d spare her from injuring herself, so I piled a few large branches against the window to keep her from another airborne mishap. However, later in the afternoon, a squirrel climbed up the branches that were leaning against the window, and he threw himself at his reflection mirrored in the window. I laughed and thought- this must be part of the boot camp wilderness tactics for deep woods survival!

I wrote the following - reflecting on this experience.
Robin Gone Wild!  A pre-dawn predator at my window?  Ready-fire-aim! She efforts to enter through the widow reflection that teases her songbird senses. Ready-fire-aim. She undertakes a second flight seeking contact with the glassed companion in the window who mimics her exact movements. 

No luck – thud-scratch-flap. Then she attempts a third thrust. Thud-scratch-flap. She falls dazed to the rocks below. She flies off – perhaps to strategize her approach for another day’s dawn. Isn’t this what Albert Einstein defined as insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Then I wondered . . . am I like this persistent harbinger of Spring when encountering or confronted with or challenged by illusions that bump up against my ego – alluring my senses, my false self with distorted truths or deceptive stories?  . . . What stories do I tell myself when I have certain feelings, perceptions, assumptions, and expectations?  This has to be insanity! It is essential that I find the time and space where my true self is quieted in silent readiness, with aimed awareness, and with the faith-filled fire of hope in God’s abundant grace and unconditional love surrounding me as I journey through this wilderness training called life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

~A Prayer for Moore, OK~

Author, Edwina Gately, once wrote a book entitled, “There Was No Path, So I Trod One.”  This touched me as I pondered how to pray today after seeing and hearing the reports of the destructive tornado at Moore, OK.  I couldn't find an online prayer that would name what was in my heart, so I wrote one. I share it with you and encourage you to write your own as well.

God of Creation, here we are again as a nation devastated by the winds of storms. The east coast is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. I'm sure you remember. Now I place Moore, OK.,before you - Even though sirens and warnings echoed through this city and its surrounding areas, the tornado stepped down all too suddenly from the clouds, and caused a deep gouge in the earth and in the lives of the people of Moore, OK.  So how do we pray at a time like this?

 I recall how Jesus spoke to the winds and the sea while he was with his friends in the boat during the storm on Lake Galilee – yet, there are no “magic words” that can take away the pain, anxiety, fear, trauma, and damage done in the wake of this tornadic episode. It is through the hands, hearts, voices, and skills of responders that your presence is felt.

We now hand you the lives of those lost as victims; we send blessings and strength to families, friends, and citizens of this city; we send the support of courage and compassion to those who are responders, health care workers, rescue workers, and all who assist in any way to rebuild homes and hearts of these people.  God, it is written, that in the beginning you created out of chaos, bring your Spirit of comfort to all who walk these paths, streets, and neighborhoods of destruction and chaos. Place your words of “Peace, be still” in their hearts as they work, walk, and wander among the wreckage of this terrifying storm. We trust in your loving care with all who now are moved in any way to respond to this disaster.  We place all these needs and concerns in your loving embrace. Amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Memorial Day - Let us do as much as we can!!

“Prisoner at the bar,” said the judge, “I find you guilty on twenty-three counts.  I therefore sentence you to a total of one hundred and seventy-five years.” The prisoner was an old man.  He burst into tears.  The judge’s facial expression softened.  “I did not mean to be harsh,” he said. “I know the sentence I have imposed is a very severe one. You don’t really have to serve the whole of it.”  The prisoner’s eyes brightened with hope.  “That’s right,” said the judge. “Just do as much as you can!”

No doubt, we are all called to “do as much as we can” in our little corner of the world to be peacemakers.  I recall a phone call I received some years ago from a woman who went daily to church for liturgy with her neighbors, friends, and others from the surrounding towns.  She told me that she was calling because she was very concerned about the way the people at liturgy were treating her. She went on to tell me that at the “sign of peace” when everyone reaches out with the gesture of a handshake or even a hug, she has decided not to reach out and she does not want to receive the handshake of peace.  She continued her story with the details of how people approach her in her bench and extend their hand and she turns away from them. She explained that after liturgy, people even had the audacity to follow her to her car in the parking lot and offer her a handshake of peace.  Again, she spoke of how she hurried to enter her car, roll up the windows, and lock the doors – not wanting to share this sign of peace with anyone. Her question to me was, “ Aren't they wrong?  How can I get them to leave me alone?”

As I listened I prayed for insight as to how to proceed.  After she was finished describing her concern, I then spoke. I told her that the liturgy is not a private experience. We gather as a people of God – praying together in song – listening to the Word, breaking the bread and sharing the cup.  It is a ritual of communion and union!  Then I said that the handshake of peace is meant to be a sign of our willingness to live in harmony and right-relationship with each other and to let it be a prayer sent across the world for peace throughout the universe!  She hung up on me!! I just did as much as I could to have her consider a conversion to being a peacemaker or “peace-hand-shaker.”

This weekend, we observe Memorial Day. Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, it was established as Decoration Day – a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the ward dead with flowers.  The proclamation by Gen. John Logan’s orders reads thus:  “We are organized for the purpose, among other things, of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.  What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe?”

Let us observe this Memorial Day by doing as much as we can - remembering our power and capacity to gather as peacemakers; to strengthen our spirits and vision; to decorate our hearts with the flowers of nonviolence.  It is a day of gathering with those who mourn at monuments, graves, and memorials. A day of gathering with those who stand in confusion, anger, shame, guilt, and vulnerability.  A day of gathering to remember sacrifices and great losses. A day of gathering to remember ones still held captive throughout the world, or suffering mental anguish from the trauma of terrorism and the ravages of war. It is a day of gathering with those who stand with pride for courage demonstrated and for freedoms won.  Finally, let us do as much as we can to pray, assist, give comfort,  express understanding and support to all those who have chosen to reach out in peace, and to those willing to  make sacrifices through service to their country – and may we cherish tenderly the memory of our heroic deceased women and men.
“Suffering arises from the simple circumstances of life itself.  Sometimes human suffering is dramatic and horrifying.  More often it is ordinary, humble, and quiet.  But neither way is it ‘God’s Will.’ The divine presence doesn't intend us to suffer, but is instead WITH us in all the experiences of life, in both suffering and joy.  And that presence is always inviting us toward greater freedom and love.” (Gerald G. May, M.D.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pentecost - In and Through and Back Again!

A story is told that there were two groups of ships on maneuvers. It was a foggy night and because of the terrible weather the captain stood the bridge – he didn't want the ships of the other group colliding with his ships.Toward dawn as his ship was going along in the ocean, the captain saw lights blinking ahead.  He ordered the signal master to signal by light to have the on-coming ship to change course 20 degrees.  The message was relayed and sent.  And back came the reply, “You change course 20 degrees.”

The captain became furious and said, “You signal that guy back, and tell him that I’m a captain and have been a captain for 25 years. Tell him I’m ordering them to change course 20 degrees.”  The message was sent.  The reply came back.   “I’m an ensign, second class.  And I suggest you change course 20 degrees, now.”

The captain became even more irate and the light was fast approaching.  So the captain said, “You tell that guy that I’m the captain of a 55-ton ship, and they’d better obey my orders immediately.”  The message was sent.  Back came the reply, “I’m a lighthouse, and suggest you change course immediately.”  And the ship changed course 20 degrees.

Change always happens at a point in time, transformation happens over time. Change is an opportunity to see life differently now than we did before. The feast of Pentecost invites us to consider listening deeper to the call to change and the summons to transformation. We are being challenged to reflect on those places and spaces in our own lives where we may need to change course – possibly just a few degrees – or even more.

The spiritual journey is always about change and transformation – in sacred language, it is often called conversion.  The spiritual journey is not about an “extreme makeover” on the outside of us with tucks, lifts, peels, alterations, implants or porcelain veneers.  No, this journey calls for a deliberate change of course; a no-nonsense “in and through approach.” As one author remarks, “When the outer world monopolizes attention, the inner world is neglected. This inner world is the hidden place of communion with the divine.  If we do not visit it, the relationship to God withers.” 

On the spiritual journey in times and places of slowing and quieting, we enter into a sacred place and time with a willingness to move ever deeper into that inner world of solitude and communion with the Holy, although there may be a slight reluctance and resistance, now and then, on our part.  However, God continues to woo us deeper into this space assuring us of our safety and that God will never be invasive.  We also know in our being that going within does not mean staying within. It is about discovering something that will allow a much different way of being of ourselves in the outer world.  When we return to the outer world, we will bring with us a new perspective, new learning, and new wisdom.  We will see and hear differently. We will be more patient with ourselves and others; we will reclaim our way of attending to our needs and the needs of others.  

We will become more conscious of being better balanced in our way of living and doing ministry, while remembering to gently take care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Going within allows us to reflect on our motivations for what we do, and reclaim the sacredness of who we already are in the eyes of the Beloved. Perhaps we will feel great love in the center of ourselves, in our soul space as it opens and receives the love of God. Then this love will explode and push us into the outer world once again.  

The journey into the outer world must go through the labyrinth of the inner world.  However there is a paradox here. When we go without, we also stay within.  In other words, we enter the fray of the world, without forgetting who we are. We remember the understandings of the soul space as we go about our work, our living, and the proclaiming of the mission of Jesus. This means that from now on, no matter what we do, no matter what we encounter, we do it with a deeper awareness of the Spirit, whose love is being poured out into our souls.  “For God is able to make every grace abundant for us, so that in all things we will have all we need.”

So what is the good news for us?
We are always being invited to consider changing course on our spiritual paths. . .
For to encounter Jesus is to change, to encounter the Spirit is to be transformed.  

The Spirit, who is the energy of creativity, the energy of possibility is always at work re-creating those who open their hearts to the power of God’s generous love.  

So let us move forward into the future with freedom, and change course so as to release ourselves from what we have come to hold as illusions, projections, unhealthy motivations, the certain, the familiar, the comfortable and the controlled.

Let us move forward into the future with boldness of heart, and change course so as to give ourselves over to the Mystery, the Vision and the Power of the Spirit, and allow this energy of possibility and creativity to companion us into the now and not yet.

Let us move forward into the future with a holy newness, and change course so that with hearts filled with the wisdom of God’s unconditional love, we will risk being prophetic voices for the least, the last and the lost.

And let move forward with hope into the future, reverencing and welcoming the outer world, while being aware of the richness of our diverse gifts, then we will embrace the invitation to change course together, and to deepen our commitment to the transformation of our church, our world and ourselves.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Farmers - Our Earth Whisperers!

Today is the feast of St. Isidore and his wife, Maria. Isidore is considered the patron of farmers. On this day, I recall my years of teaching in a rural area of Wisconsin. The children - of all ages - worked hard in their homes, barns, and fields. They even invited me to help them “pick rocks” in the spring, so as to clear the land for plowing and planting (this is a glacial lobe area) - Today there are machines that can do this back-breaking work. 

It seems that when I lived in this rural area, I was more aware of the changes in the seasons and sensitive to the conditions of the environment. I always watched the skies and listened to earth around me. I listened also to the wives who often spoke about the harvests and the possible stresses they would endure financially if they had a bad harvest. They were always at the mercy of the weather - for it would affect their crops and livestock in every way. But they were always aware that they were in partnership with their Creator God in caring for the earth, and the crops for their families, and for those whom they produced these crops, along with milk production for numerous dairy products.

 I consider these farmers and their families “Earth Whisperers.” They could communicate with the land and they certainly, over and over, manifested a deep faith in God as a true partner in this sacred work. Today there are fewer farms in Wisconsin but more milk production being calculated. Farmers have transformed farming into an art. For now there is an increase in organic farming and they are truly engineers, accountants, business executives, marketers, scientists, meteorologist, geologists, and chemists – just to name of few new titles for this often forgotten “ground breaking” and “back-breaking” ministry!!

"Organic dairy farming in Wisconsin is experiencing rapid growth and capturing an increased share of the market. Although the organic dairy sector in Wisconsin is still relatively small, accounting for two percent of the state’s cows, Wisconsin is one of the nation’s top two producers of organic dairy products and home to the largest organic milk cooperative. The expectation of strong demand growth for organic milk products provides plenty of potential for continued expansion in organic dairy farming within the state. Yet, relatively little is known about how organic farms compare with other types of dairy operations in terms of the demographic characteristics of the farmers, size and structure of the farms, management practices and technologies utilized, their overall economic performance, and quality of life experiences." (Bradford L. Barham, Caroline Brock, and Jeremy Foltz)

A story: (I write this from memory.) The story is told that farmer Goldberg had a little plot of ground in the corner of his small village. Each day the Rabbi on his way to the Synagogue would shout, “What a beautiful garden, Goldberg. Truly, you and God are partners.”  And Goldberg would smile, and respond, “Thank you, Rabbi. And each day when the Rabbi returned from the Synagogue, he would shout, “Goldberg, what a beautiful garden you have.  Truly, you and God are partners.”  This would go on day after day, week after week. Meanwhile, Goldberg was busy picking rocks, clearing weeds, tilling the earth, planting, and watering the garden. Then one day, Goldberg was frustrated with the Rabbi’s greetings, and he decided to prepare a different response than, “Thank you, Rabbi.”  So it happened.  The Rabbi was on his way to the Synagogue that morning. As usual, he stopped by Goldberg's garden and exclaimed, “What a beautiful garden, Goldberg. Truly, you and God are partners.”  In reply, Goldberg surprised the Rabbi with his response.  “Thank you, Rabbi - but you should have seen this garden when God had this garden all alone!”

Let us pray for farmers who have come through a serious drought last summer and pray that this year will be a fruitful and kind season for all “and in commitment to see farmers properly supported and rewarded."

Gracious God, you provide us with food from the earth through the work of human hands:
after a poor summer and long winter, we pray for all those who grow and produce our food in the most difficult conditions.  We remember the physical hardships and distress of farmers dealing with livestock that have died, and those who are still to sow crops to harvest this year.   Bless the work of all those who care for your land and animals so that we may have food to sustain us. This we ask through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The prayer is written by Dr. Jill Hopkinson, the CofE's National Rural Officer based at the Arthur Rank Centre in Stoneleigh)

Monday, May 13, 2013

On Becoming a Well

Over the past week, I have been deeply moved and troubled by the story of the three women who were kidnapped and held captive for ten years in Cleveland, OH.  Their resiliency is phenomenal. I was so touched by their words of gratitude for all who helped them, searched for them, assisted them in any way to be free . . . I am still trying to process WHY!  But what I have found is the reading, “On Becoming a Well.”  They certainly were “wells” for one another – they survived in spite of the terror they endured.  Others, who have experienced “being taken” – abused, terrorized, and  hidden, came forward – such as Jaycee Dugard, who commented:  "These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world.  This isn't who they are. It is only what happened to them. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More than ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope.”  

They now drink of the Wells of love, compassion, and healing from their family, friends, neighbors, and from across this planet. May they know that there is a Well deep within them – and may they drink deeply in gratitude and joy!

So let us reflect this week:
How have we experienced Wells of wonder, beauty, and awe in our lives?
Who has been a Well of support, healing, and life-giving calm for us?
Whose Well have you been able to drink from – enabling you to bring out the best in you? How are you a Well for others?

On Becoming a Well
What makes this world so lovely is that somewhere it hides a well. Something lovely there is about a well, so deep, unpiped and real filled with buckets and buckets of that life-giving drink . . . But what makes the world so lovely is that somewhere it hides a well.

Sometimes people are like wells, deep and real – natural (unpiped), life-giving, calm and cool, refreshing. They bring out what is best in you. They are like fountains of pure joy. They make you want to sing, or maybe dance. They encourage you to laugh, even when things are rough and maybe that’s why things never stay rough once you've found a well . . .When you find a well, and you will someday, drink deeply of the gift within. And maybe soon you will discover that you’ve become what you've received, then you’ll be a well for others to find.

So lift up your eyes and look all around you; over the mountains, down in the valley, out to the oceans, over the runways, into the cities, into the country, sidewalks and highways, paths in the forests, into the hearts of a thirsty people . . . The world hides a well, a well that hasn't been found yet . . .! (Author Unknown)

Thursday, May 9, 2013


The Song of the Seed
Life unfolds a petal at a time – slowly. The beauty of the process is crippled when I try to hurry growth. Life has its inner rhythm which must be respected. It cannot be rushed or hurried. Like daylight stepping out of darkness. Like morning creeping out of night – life unfolds - slowly - a petal at a time – like a flower opening to the sun, slowly. God’s call unfolds a Word at a time – slowly. A disciple is not made in a hurry.  Slowly I become like the One to whom I am listening. Life unfolds a petal at a time like you and I becoming followers of Jesus, discipled into a new way of living deeply and slowly. Be patient with life’s unfolding petals. If you hurry the bud it withers. If you hurry life it limps. Each unfolding is a teaching, a movement of grace filled with silent pauses, breathtaking beauty, tears and heartaches. Life unfolds a petal at a time – deeply and slowly.  May it come to pass!  (From The Song of the Seed by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Mother's Day Recipe!

When God created mothers, it was well into overtime on the sixth day. An angel dropped by and commented, ‘God, you are taking your time over this creature!’

God replied, ‘You should see the special requirements in the specification! She has to be easy to maintain, but not made of plastic or have any artificial components. She has one hundred and sixty movable parts, and nerves of steel, with a lap big enough for ten children to sit on it at once, but she herself has to be able to fit into a kiddies’ chair. She has to have a back that can carry everything that is loaded onto it. She has to be able to mend everything, from a grazed knee to a broken heart. And she’s supposed to have six pairs of hands’

The angel shook her head. ‘Six pairs of hands? No way!’ ‘The hands are easy,’ God said. ‘But I’m still working on the three pairs of eyes that she needs.’ ‘Is this the standard model?’ the angel asked.

God nodded: ‘Oh, yes. One pair to look through closed doors, while she asks, “What are you doing?” even though she already knows the answer. A second pair at the back of her head, to see what she’s not meant to see, but needs to know about. And, of course, the pair at the front that can look at her child, let him know that he is misbehaving and had better change his ways, while at the same time letting him see how much she loves and understands him.’

‘I think you should go to bed now, God, and get some sleep,’ said the angel. ‘I can’t do that,’ said God. ‘I’m almost there. I have nearly created a being who heals herself when she’s ill, who can delight thirty children with one little birthday cake, who can persuade a three-year-old to use his feet to walk and not to kick.’

The angel walked slowly around the prototype Mother. ‘It’s too soft,’ she said. ‘But tough,’ God retorted. ‘You wouldn't believe the wear and tear this Mother will tolerate.’
‘Can she think?’ asked the angel. ‘Not only think, but reach wise judgments and essential compromises,’ said God. ‘And she can do more than that. She can forget!’
Finally, the angel ran her finger across the model’s cheek. ‘There’s a leak,’ she said. ‘I warned you that you were trying to get too much into her.’

‘That’s not a leak,’ said God. ‘That’s a tear.’ ‘What’s that for?’ asked the angel. ‘It flows whenever she feels joy or grief, disappointment or pride, pain or loneliness, or the depths of love.’

‘You’re a genius,’ said the angel. God looked again at this work of art, with pleasure and pride. ‘The tear,’ God said, ‘is her overflow valve.’ (Source Unknown)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ascension Day – A Heavenly “Up-rising”!

Ascensions into heaven are like falling leaves, sad and happy all at the same time. Going away isn't really sad, especially when your going enables a new kind of presence to be born.

Long have the leaves known the trees. They've danced together in the wind days upon days. But now, growing older and wiser, they know they can’t cling to the trees forever. And so they say good-bye falling to the ground waiting for the mystery of death to transform them into nourishment for the earth.

And the trees? They stand alone for one short season but they are at peace, waiting for another mystery to enfold them with its presence.

When I saw you leaving I covered my face with my heart. Oh, the ache of letting go. But then I remembered the trees and so I stood in peace remembering your return.

When you come back, we will be new for each other, much will have happened in our lives. There will be more for each of us to love, more for each of us to know. The Spirit will have  left a footprint in our lives, and we will be excited like a new leaf come home to a tree! 

(From: Seasons of Your Heart by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Keepers of the Word!

Jesus and Satan have a discussion as to who is the better computer programmer. This goes on for a few hours until they come to an agreement to hold a contest with God as the judge.
They sit themselves at their computers and begin. They type furiously, lines of code streaming up the screen for several hours straight. Seconds before the end of the competition a bolt of lightning strikes, taking out the electricity. Moments later, the power is restored and God announces that the contest is over.
God asks Satan to show what he has come up with. Satan is visibly upset and cries, “I have nothing. I lost it all when the power went out.”
"Very well, then,” says God, “let us see if Jesus fared any better.”
Jesus enters a command and the screen comes to life in vivid display and the voices of an angelic choir pour forth from the speakers. Satan is astonished.
He stutters, “Bu-b-but how?  I lost everything, yet Jesus’ program is intact.  How did he do it?”
God smiled all-knowingly, “Jesus saves.”

The Gospel reading this weekend is from John.  I am moved by the words of Jesus . . .”if anyone loves me, they will carefully keep my word – and the One who sent me will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  I have been pondering what it means to “keep my word.”  For I know that when someone asks that we keep a secret, we hold it in confidence for the other- not sharing it in anyway.  When we are asked to keep something, we hold onto it – possessing it.  And then there are a plethora of other “keep phrases,” such as: keep back, keep time, keep to oneself, to keep at, keep track, keep a stiff upper lip, keep an eye out, keep a straight face, keep the change, keep watch, and keep on keeping on!.

But I have pondered that the keeping that Jesus is speaking about is not possessing but giving  - the giving of oneself – living the words, teachings, values, attitudes of Jesus – embracing it all and allowing him and the One who sent him to move into our deep down sacred self Home within  –  with bag and baggage – Word and Wisdom – Mystery and Mercy – with everything and every grace that God is – to empower us all to be disciples of the Word – to be Keepers of the story, Keepers of the Spirit!  The feast of Pentecost is soon to be celebrated. It is the great outpouring – as said by Richard Rohr – where everyone spoke in different languages about the love of God, and everyone understood!

Jesus is “Word” – his life is story, movement, flame, mystery, power, unconditional love,  reign of God . . .He comes to us again and again in the Scriptures, in the faithful assembly and in the sharing of the cup and the breaking of the bread. So to keep his Word is really to give it away – to gently hold it, and to share it with all peoples, and all creation.