Monday, April 30, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: in my garden

My morning practice of sitting on the patio with my cup of tea is slowly coming along. I managed it twice this week along with chanting Lauds. It's a new aspect of silence for me and one that I like better than sitting in church in the middle of the day.

I'm also beginning to think there is something to this statement of time stretching out to make time with God fit.

351. baby birds squawking up high
352. solid spiritual direction session
353. a sad tree made happy

354. dogs at door sniffing morning air
355. a crow hopping in a tree too small for it
346. taking half an hour to walk half a block home, talking to neighbors
357. unexpected eucharist
358. bird making a stapler noise-chirp (it wasn't a mockingbird)
359. rain pouring down in the night
360. sun-shower
361. re-set of my year of planned work
362. (getting back on the weight loss wagon)
363. heavy grey raincloud
364. pink poppies in bloom

365. banana pudding milkshake (falling off the weight loss wagon -- all in the space of a day!)
366. first bloom of the last of the poppy varieties I planted

poppy with nigella-in-the-mist to the left, and a poppy bud at bottom right
367. smelling like rosemary
368. tired eyes (from an afternoon of making jewelry)
369. comfortable "at home" dinner with friends
370. night time chirp of crickets

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

"where there is doubt, faith" - Prayer of St. Francis series

Today's guest blogger for my series on the Prayer of St. Francis is Sarah Kidd.
Sarah is currently finishing her second year absorbing the language and culture of South Asia. When not sipping chai and chatting with the neighbors, she's sipping chai and reading good books and blogs. She writes about her adventures at Whispers on the Journey (
“I’m leaving,” she said. We were best friends one semester away from graduating Bible college. Her doubts made her feel a hypocrite in classes about theology and Bible. I would graduate without her.
We had cried together. We had talked God’s goodness and the problem of evil until our brains turned to mush and our voices hoarse. I had spent long, sleepless nights tossing, turning, praying. I had wished desperately that somehow I could believe enough for the both of us.
She began dating a guy who hated Christians. Mocked them relentlessly. I read his scathing, angry blog. I tried to understand where she was going.
I was taking a class in apologetics – the art of defending Christian belief and doctrine. As we dove into class discussion of the vitriolic The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, I struggled to keep my head above the waters of disbelief. Hemmed in by the voices of doubt, they sucked me under. 
Cramming homework during my train ride to church, I pulled my head up from Dawkins, terrified that he had just proven there is no God. “That’s in then,” I thought. “He’s proven it. What am I to do now?” How will I explain to my parents I’ve suddenly concluded the beautiful faith they raised me with cannot stand? How will I reverse the entire course of my life in a single moment? On what will I rebuild?
Just as quickly as the waters closed, they receded. I found enough holes in his argument to keep my fingernails dug into faith until I could lay hold of a debate between Dawkins and John Lennox. I read CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity until I could face my Bible again. I sucked up the class discussion and dogged my professor to his office after class. I confessed to him that Lennox and Lewis had probably saved my faith. He looked at me, paused, and quietly confessed Lewis had done the same for him.
We stood there, silent. Two souls who know what it is to have someone believe enough for you until you can believe on your own again.
I don’t know where she is, my friend of the difficult semester. We still talk, but it’s more about our post-college jobs, her adventures in online dating, and mine in the curried world of South Asia. It’s been a long while since we discussed God’s goodness or the problem of evil. These topics just don’t come as readily outside the world of Bible college and existential crises. 
Her Christmas card said something about my being a “bright presence” to her and I wonder what that means. 
Am I still believing enough for her too? 

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: New Class

I signed up for a new art class this past week. Well, new for me. It's been out for a while: it's about making journals from old books and albums. Have watched up to Week 3 and am really looking forward to diving into my scrapbook paper, and vintage ephemera and getting going. And there just happens to be a sale on for her class until May 1st, I believe.

I'm still going with Suzi Blu's " A Lovely Dream" art journal class which is going to run until the end of the year. I have a spread waiting for my attention in fact. But I must get my list of blessings up for Monday!

332. yellow mustard reminding me of yellow wattle
333. earl grey tea, hobnobs and a "moose"!
334. big blue baby eyes
335. hummingbird
336. oddly silent street: no cars, barely a bird twitter
337. lisanthus recovering?
338. 3 rings resized: 10th anniversary gift, great-grandmother's ring, gran's pearl ring [2 gifts inherited]
339. cool night breeze
340. dog jumping into lap

341. first bloom on new poppy

342. hitting a high G
343. leaf falling
344. marine layer

[2 gifts found in Christ:]
345. reflection of cathedral window

my iPhone couldn't capture the sharp clarity of the window being reflected here, alas. 
346. quote from Lauds reading: 
"Come now, you poor creature, turn your back on your busyness for a little while. For a few moments leave the tumult of your thoughts; throw off the burden of your care and put aside your wearisome occupations. Make some time for God; rest in God for a while. Enter into the chamber of your mind; exclude everything but God, and what will help you find God; shut the door and search for God." -- St. Anselm, from "Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary"
347. chanting group breakfast: reconnecting
348. a marriage questionnaire
349. smiles
350. glad to have a husband who loves me.

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

"where there is discord, harmony"

Today's guest post in the Prayer of St. Francis series is by Lory Garrett. Our paths crossed a few years back and we walked in faith together for a few years before she moved (she taught me how to make psanky eggs amongst other things.)

“Don’t be such a troublemaker, Lory!”  “Can’t you ever just get along, Lory?”  These are the words I grew up with.  Even my 7th grade English teacher’s favorite phase to me was “Don’t be so dogmatic!”  I didn’t even know what that meant (except it couldn’t be good) until I looked it up.
Now, in my 65th year, I often still find myself the lightning bolt or the lightning rod.  I don’t mean to be.  I don’t mean to be a troublemaker.  I do want to get along.  I don’t mean to be so intense when I express something important to me.  
Leanne’s flattering request to guest on her blog hit just at the right time.  True enough, I’m not a fan of St. Francis’ Peace Prayer.  It overwhelms me with my failures.  Particularly “where there is discord, (let me sow) union.”  But I needed the head’s up:  it was time to deal with this issue…again.
So began my Google quest.  There are a multitude of versions out there.  Some don’t even contain the line.  Some read, “Where there is error, truth.”  But then I found the version used in the title of today’s blog:  Where there is discord, harmony.  It struck a (pun alert) chord.
I won’t go near international (wars, uprisings, etc.), or national (politics, immigration, etc.) discord.  People smarter than me have written books about these things.  But there’s a lot of discord closer to home.  So often I add to it.
I need to learn the harmony.
I need to listen, really listen to another’s song.  When someone asks a question, are they really asking “that” question, or do they just want reinforcement for the answer they’re comfortable with?  When someone stands rigid against a change, are they really fighting “that” change, or is their whole life in turmoil and they need the constant?  Or do they see change as a denouncement of them and what’s always been done? When someone fights something new, is it really the “new” or are they afraid of being left out or behind?  When someone pushes an idea relentlessly, is it because they see no other way, or because acceptance of the idea is acceptance and acknowledgement of them? 
I can’t know all the answers to these questions. But I can listen to God, striving to hear the grace notes. My voice can be softer, kinder. My statements, clearer and and gentle.  I don’t have to hear every disagreement as a rebuke; rather I can hear it as an invitation for exploration.  I don’t have to sing the same line.  I just need to sing the same love song.  I can, with God’s help, make the song fuller and richer.
And so I begin…again.  Bring on the music! 

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Morning Quiet Time

Coming back from Mt. Calvary has given me this desire to take the morning quiet time that I spend up there, before Lauds, and do that here, at home.

My morning quiet time there basically consists of making myself a cup of tea and going outside on the patio and listening and watching the world wake up.

So today, I took myself outside with a cup of tea to our back patio, sat down. I listened for a while to the birds and traffic and then started reading morning prayer, the latter really should've been a separate activity, but oh well. "Should haves" is good girl jargon.

And then this happened:

"Puppy!" was the wail as I tried not to spill my tea onto my iPhone or me or him, as he jumped into my lap.

Note the dog in the far distance at the back door. He really only likes to come out when it's sunny.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

St. Francis and the Amazing Shrinking Machine

I have been using this picture (to the right) for the Prayer of St. Francis series running on Fridays. (To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series so far, click here.) So when I visited this particular statue last week it struck me again how small he is. I have gotten used to seeing him in close up, but he's really a tiny statue on the grounds of St. Mary's Retreat House, maybe a couple of feet high.

For some reason I have a great fondness for this saint statue. I think it's perhaps the eyes and the way his hand is held out.

When I go for a walk in the gardens, I like to stop by and see how he's doing. Dirt has settled into various crevices but he has this marvelously expressive face.

So I thought I would share some more photos to put him in perspective for you.

Have you ever experienced things that are smaller -- or  bigger -- than you remember?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: Home from Retreat

I spent last Tuesday to Friday at the Mt. Calvary Community at St. Mary's Retreat House in Santa Barbara. Monks from The Order of Holy Cross (they're an Episcopal Benedictine order) run the place.

The retreat house now has a beehive. I'm not going to show you the kajillion photos I took of the bees going in and out of the hive (just one) but it was fascinating to watch and very difficult to take photos of. I also didn't know how close I'd be allowed to get, although I remembered much later an article I read about beekeeping and a post out there in the blogosphere about how close they could get to a hive -- until the bees got partially Africanized.

So maybe the next time I'm up there, I'll go in a bit closer. There was dead honeycomb on the ground that looked just fabulous for a collage piece.

I had a lovely retreat. This time my husband and a friend came along, which meant less quiet time, but all spent in good company.

305. not rushing
306. delivery of book [a gift hiding]
307. Easter candy 50% off
308. good company
309. vibrancy of young retreat group
310. turtles

311. rushing of swollen creek

(this was taken during a break in the rain, not the greatest lighting)
312. sunlight breaking trough rain clouds and filling canyon with green
313. little tiny daisies amidst yellow lilies [a gift budding/blooming]
314. great wisps of cloud moving steadily south -- so small am I; and they but water drops yet magnificent
315. morning bird chatter: "I am here! I am here!" God is here.
316. sunlight hitting the rocky ridge opposite
317. my associate's cross [a gift worn]
318. yellow roses on a fence

319. bees working

320. a moth flexing wings on the gravel path
321. a largish bird hiding in a bush
322. benches that I have not seen before here and yet have been there for a while
323. set in rain
324. lightning! thunder!
325. a break in the weather so I could walk the labyrinth
326. lilacs!

327. blue clouds, reflecting the last bit of sun at twilight.
328, gusty winds like home
329. red throated hummingbird hovering in one place above a tree [gift looking up]
330. bird flying overhead, pumping wings like the breaststroke.
331. boba tea

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

“Where there is injury, pardon …”

Today’s post in the Prayer of St. Francis series is by Christianne Squires. She is a trained spiritual director through the Audire School for Spiritual Direction and completed an MA in spiritual formation through Spring Arbor University. She is a writer who lives in Winter Park, FL, with her husband and their two cats. To learn more, visit her website.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“So My heavenly Father also will do you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
—Matthew 18:23-35

Here’s something I’ve learned about forgiveness: it is impossible if we are not in touch with our own need for it. 
Several years back, there was someone in my life I needed to forgive. I had held on to unforgiveness for many years very intentionally. I kept asking God to teach me what it meant to forgive—really forgive—because I didn’t want to pay lip service to an offer of forgiveness if I didn’t really mean it. 
In what seemed to be a completely unrelated course of events several years after I began praying to be taught how to forgive, I became interested in the study of nonviolence and peacemaking. This interest led me to commit a year of my life to studying the great peacemakers, and in the middle of that year’s commitment, I was able to dedicate unqualified time in the summer months to that study. So I loaded up my book list and set myself to it. 
Except I didn’t get much studying done that summer. Instead, God seemed keen to show me my own heart—ways that I have, in the past or in the present, done violence to others through thought, word, or deed. One day in particular, I was led to set down in my journal a list of all the ways that I knew I had wronged others in my life. It was a long list—and a very unfinished one—but it accomplished what it needed to do. It got me in touch with the reality of my own sinfulness, which had been an abstract concept most of my life and which I knew had kept me from truly understanding my full need for grace. 
It was a painfully revealing time. 
At the end of that summer of study, I was thankful to have been able to write a letter to that person I’d needed to forgive and to truly, from the depth of my heart, be able to offer that forgiveness they had requested and that I knew they deserved from me. Not only that, but I was also led to ask their forgiveness, too, for ways that I’d brought harm to them. 
It was such a freeing experience. 
Through that summer experience of learning the depth of my own sin and need for forgiveness, I learned a number of things about forgiveness. But one of the things I learned is the importance of being in touch with our own personal need for it. It is then that perhaps we, as the servant in the story above, can learn to offer others who have wronged us the same forgiveness that has been granted to us. 

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: after Holy Week and Easter

Having counted almost 300 gifts from my own perspective, I decided to make a small change and start following Ann Voskamp's monthly suggestions in addition to my own.

279. no messes in the kitchen this morning
280. barium poop (means no obstruction in dog's intestines)
281. [three gifts white] white shirt found at thrift shop

[three gifts surprisingly found]
282. baby spit up
283. Little Debbie oatmeal cookies (yuk!)
284. a bouncy dog

285. [three gifts in His Word] Saul, who hates David, forgives him

286. rehearsing Easter Vigil and getting to play the part of the fire
287. rehearsing with the Newman Center choir for our combined Good Friday service
288. carpet of closed yellow daisy like flowers
289. hot pinks of annuals
290. poppies and nigella flowering!

Papaver poppies
291. heart-shaped rosebush

292. bread and wine (body and blood) entombed in earth
293. "Take my body" chanted during Passion at Trinity Wall Street (it's about a quarter of the way through)
294. finally finding the blessed book lights for Vigil
295. 2 cats (not ours) in our raised garden bed (hummingbird squawking at them, our dogs oblivious)

296. a waft of white smoke from altar candle to cross
297. rose petals scattered on altar

[three gifts waited for]
298. cold green tea (homemade)
299. hot cross buns
300. finally able to say "Alleluia" again

301. darkened church with just candelabra behind the altar while Revbecca chanted the Exsultet

[3 gifts rising up]
302. "Alleluia! He is risen indeed!"
303. the freedom of Christ (from Sunday's sermon: 4/8/12 -- hopefully online soon)
304. champagne bubbles

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

God's Stories: After Holy Week

I usually start collecting a month's worth of blog posts to share, but only the first two come outside of Holy Week this week.
  • in rather neat parallel to my post yesterday on the second line of the St. Francis prayer, this guest post by Fr. Christian over at Elizabeth Esther concludes: "Being a Christian means we must be committed to love. Love sometimes calls us to be prophetic witnesses to the truth when it is unpopular to do so. It never calls us to slander another person, and it never calls us to hate."  The post is less about Catholic institutions offering contraception and more about how Christians should behave when talking about difficult, polarizing issues. I don't agree with this particular Catholic position, by the way, but Elizabeth Esther provided a nice exchange of the "two sides".
  • I found Elizabeth Esther via Rachel Held Evans, whose book I have but haven't read yet and I'm already looking forward to her second book. I didn't even realized she blogged. Yes, sometimes I live in a cave.
  • Rachel Held Evans writes about the Women of the Passion
  • Christianne writes about the difficulty of staying present to Holy Week.
  • And this gobsmackingly beautiful chanted Passion (according to the Gospel of Mark) from the Trinity Choir at Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church. No music, just text, one rehearsal. I was almost in tears as the chorister who played the part of Jesus sang: "Take, eat, this is my body." [Link is to the blog post with more details on the singing, plus video]

And that's a good place to leave it. (The video is about 40 minutes long. But worth it.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Where there is hatred, let us sow love..."

This is part two in the Prayer of St. Francis series, the others can be found here.

"Where there is hatred, let us sow love."

It sounds so noble: to be loving in the face of hate.

I really don't like the word 'hate'. And I don't like the part of me that falls so easily into hateful behavior: like harsh words, cutting someone off, ignoring them.

How can I sow love when I'm reacting and being horrible, hateful?

By not reacting. By considering why I want to react. By knowing myself.

This is not remotely easy. I fall down a lot and have to apologize.

Which is why it's hilarious that none of my guest writers chose this line so I have to write about it.

Hate is a reaction. Love is a response. There's a third choice that is even worse: apathy.

Not acting in face of a wrong. Not speaking up in the face of someone being treated as inferior, as an animal, less than human.

But how to do this without using hateful language, without lashing out, without falling into despair that nothing will ever change?

How do you sow love when confronted with hate? How do you be love?

Especially in a world today that is so polarized with no room for discussion or compromise. It's Us vs. Them, Left vs. Right, etc etc.

Jesus shows us how to show love -- and in a way which is extraordinarily uncomfortable -- he submits.

The son of God could take out Pontius Pilate, the priests who wanted him dead, heck, the entire Roman Empire!

But what does Jesus do instead? He doesn't fight, he calmly holds his ground, speaking truth.

In the face of the hatred of the priests and the people, despite Pilate's offering to help him, he speaks truth. 

And then, at the end, when there is no more to be done, he forgives those who have conspired, condemned, beaten and mocked him.

He forgives extravagantly.

And that is how we sow love: calmly speaking truth and forgiving.

It isn't an easy task. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Maybe that's the first step. Asking God to forgive on our behalf first?

Forgiving so that we love instead of hate them right back, forgiving so that the truth can be heard, forgiving to sow the seeds of love so that hatred is banished forever.

Where there is hatred, let us speak truth.
Where there is hatred, let us forgive.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.

(To read other posts in the Prayer of St. Francis series, click here.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Joy Dare Monday

Just a list this week....

256. delicate wildflowers growing along the roadside
257. breathing in cool sea air
258. soaring pelican spotted between buildings
259. crescent moon and Venus so bright, so close together
260. tapping finches let me look at them up close
261. snail trails
262. entertaining baby
263. answered prayer, reminding me to really trust in God
264. brainstorming
265. quiet
266. dogs gulping water
267. getting to the bus stop on time
268. talking about retreats
269. getting my focus back
270. lizard climbing up a tree
271. too tired to think
272. Lauds
273. foot long poopy rope
274. an art journal spread done in one day
275. procession of palms
276. singing
277. waffles for lunch
278. learning how to use Twinkling H2Os properly.

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)