Feb 22 2010

A Moment in the Day

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A Wordle of my dissertation prospectus

Outside my window…sunshine and chilly wind.

Thinking…that life without migraines is phenomenal.  I had put up with them far too long (years too long) before seeking treatment.  Now it seems that the doctors have cured me, and cured a few other things in the process.

Thankful for…a wonderful office and great people to work with.  I’ve set up a tea station with hot water pot for anyone who needs some space to breathe and debrief.  Come visit!

Listening to…Hilary Hahn Plays Bach, Partita No. 3 in E Major: II. Loure.  Such a lovely movement, my heart and mind feel clearer for the listening.

Creating…a workshop on Cultivating Sabbath Space and Contemplative Living for the Passionate Spirituality Day at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center.

Looking forward…to celebrating my birthday in Seattle this Saturday.

Reading…lots of books on prayer. (Still!)

Hoping…for enough energy to get everything this week that needs doing before I leave.

Favorite thing so far…reading today a lovely, wonderful poem by Mary Oliver:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

(Thirst)


Feb 19 2010

Joy

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My posts have been sporadic these past two weeks as I immerse myself in writing my dissertation proposal: “The Role and Practice of Prayer in Theological Education.”  The first draft was completed on Monday night and now I am working through comments from my two readers.  I’m blessed to be working with both of them and for their encouragement of me as I’ve wrestled through the crucible of doctoral work.

My hope is to get into a daily blogging rhythm with a rotating weekly pattern.  For now, I will continue to share This Moment reflections, photos, snippets of reflections, and quotes.

***

In the Celtic tradition, Philip Newell speaks of “listening to the heartbeat of God.”  John the Beloved Disciple heard the human blood pumping through Jesus as he rested his head on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper. Such an image is so intimate, I almost want to shy away from envisioning it.  But, just as John, we are all invited into such deep intimacy with God.

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the preparation time before Easter and an invitation to listen more deeply for God’s heart in and for the world.

Lent used to be a pruning time for me, giving up things I felt were unhealthy or distracting.  Now, I focus on cultivation–how can I feed what good seeds are already sprouting.  Certainly, weeds need to be removed, but sometimes it’s hard to know at first what is a weed and what is a young sprout.

The best fertilizer and water for God-planted seeds is joy–paying attention for it,  passing it along through little, fun gifts.  Weeds don’t tend to grow well on a steady diet of joy.

One of the ways I see and hear God’s heart is when a person’s face lights up with joy and laughs.  It’s musical and warms all who are near.

What are ways you can bring the light and music of joy into situations and relationships in your life during this season?


Feb 11 2010

This Moment

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Outside my window…brilliant blue sky, bare tree branches, and a large squirrel condo, toasty warm with lint from a dryer vent  stuffed between the twigs.  The three youngins haven’t been out to play yet.

Thinking…as I sit surrounded by yummy books, that the challenge to pay attention and concentrate has little to do with external circumstances.  It is a constant exercise to still my brain in patience and dive deeply, one at a time.

Thankful for…joy in conversations today, a little more peace with memories, and a growing sense of hope.

Praying for…the children of Haiti who have lost their parents.  Lord, bring them into families and communities who will love and care for them.

Creating…my prospectus, still, plus emails and conversations and a couple of day dreams.

Hoping…for 5 more pages written by the end of today.

Going…to plan some events for my birthday year (40 needs more than a day to celebrate).

Reading…lots of books on prayer–Karl Barth, Marjorie Suchocki, Eugene Peterson.

Hearing…the clinking and clanking of the radiators and the whoosh of high winds.

Around the office…it is quiet enough to almost hear the whispering books.

Favorite thing…reading and pondering a beautiful line by Ann Voscamp:

“And they can build monuments and they can make millions and they can write memoirs but this is what lasts, this is what goes on forever and ever and will endure times and winds and all the ages. Heaven and love and Jesus. And there is such a thing as too much money and too much sun and too much of a good thing, but this world has only one thing that there can never be enough of: there is no such thing as too much love. And they may not etch it on memorial stone, but granite erodes and quiet people know it so we get up every day and we make the porridge and wash the underwear and pay the bills and tend to the hurting and we etch the love on the hearts, that which beats on without end and we pulse throughout the universe. There’s a way to do work that lasts forever. Just do everything with love.”

Post inspired by http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com


Feb 7 2010

Glimpses of Beauty

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Rabboni!

On Friday morning, I was woken by monks chanting morning prayer.

I’ve been leading a Reading Retreat for BU students at the Society of St John the Evangelist and staying in the most wonderful room.  It has a balcony to the chapel.  When I was a young girl in Germany, surrounded by beautiful gothic churches, I had a secret wish to live in one.  They were so quiet, and every nook and cranny was marked with some creature, winged being, or stained glass window.  They smelled sweet with candle wax and incense. It was a feast for my little senses.  Staying in the balcony room brings back those memories!

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For more glimpses of beauty at the monastery, I invite you to my photostream.

Sunday blessings to you!

Susan


Feb 3 2010

Finding Words

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“Words don’t mean anything.”

I found myself saying that a lot in 2009.  Words I read.  Words I wrote.  Empty.

It’s not surprising that I started mixing up my letters, using wrong words, and consistently neglected endings.

There were too many words to keep track of, to remember, to reach out and try to capture, kicking and screaming, from thought to paper, sometimes jumbled, sometimes ridiculous, rarely loved enough to reveal their beauty.

The last few years, I drank from the fire hose of academic theology (and drowned)…books and ideas coming so fast, I lost the larger text of my life in a cascade of others’ ideas and opinions. I lost my words.

And the books which once gave me so much comfort lost their life, “just words on a page.” Not flesh and blood. Incarnation stripped away and the meaning with it.

Too, so much of life became virtual words, 140 character snippets of breath-taking moments, so easily sent into the ether, so easily erased and forgotten.  What about the heart and love they expressed?

(I love hand-written letters, taken out and read tenderly over the years, testimony to a life lived, honored by safe-keeping, ribbon-bound, in a special chest.)

Losing my words, especially my prayer words, woke me up.  Now, drinking from the Word is reconnecting life and heart, text and meaning.  I see that what I lost was not simply a string of letters and punctuation, but Someone to talk to, Someone I trusted to welcome my heart and reply with His own.

“In the beginning was the Word…” John 1:1

God with us. Love spoken into the world with flesh and letters,  bound with ribbons of an Always-Presence everywhere I look.  Word-who-took-on-skin, this Love, can hear and respond, can still speak today through frail earthly language.

“Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
will not stay still.”
(TS Elliot, Burnt Norton V)

Human words may crack under the weight of meaning.

But You do not.

Lord, may the words I speak and write be rooted and planted in Love.

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Feb 2 2010

Blessing Light: Candlemas

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My two favorite feast days of the liturgical year are not big name celebrations.

Certainly, I get goosebumps hearing the first strains of “O come, O come Immanuel” or “Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” each Advent.  Knowing that the palm branches so green the year before become cross-shaped soot smudged on my brow never ceases to quiet me, dust to dust.  And in turn, I wave those palms and wash feet and listen in morning darkness to the story of salvation across the centuries, and wear red for tongues of flame and gifts poured out.

All great and important days.

Yet two less known, not widely celebrated feasts fill me with simple, smiling delight.  The first is sometime around October 4th, St Francis Day.  All the animals get to come to church for a blessing.  Hamsters, cats, dogs, rabbits, birds. Or in rural areas… sheep, horses, chickens, goats, the whole peaceable kingdom come to worship.

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Your righteousness is like the might mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.” Psalm 36:5-6

My other favorite day is…today.  Known by a number of names, Candlemas, or the Presentation, remembers Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the Temple to be offered in service to the Lord as a first-born son.  In Luke’s Gospel, the family is met by Simeon and Anna, who have both longed to see the Messiah:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss  your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

In more liturgical churches, Candlemas is when all the candles set-aside for the coming year’s worship are blessed.  At St James Cathedral, Seattle, this is taken seriously: hundreds of creamy beeswax candles are stacked around the baptismal font, enfolding worshippers in their delicious honey fragrance. My mouth waters with the memory.

Although I’m no longer part of a community that celebrates Candlemas, today I light my morning candles with a prayer, honoring the Light which was foretold, birthed in the stable, held to Mary’s breast, blessed by Simeon and Anna, and presented to God in the Temple. Hope. Life. Love.

“The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.  The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:1-5

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