Aug 28 2010

Weaving

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Wer seines Lebens viele Widersinne

by Rainier Maria Rilke

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads

of her life, and weaves them gratefully

into a single cloth–

it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is You.

In the softness of evening

it’s You she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,

the unspeaking center of her monologues.

With each disclosure You encompass more

and she stretches beyond what limits her,

to hold You.


Aug 25 2010

Inspiration

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.” TS Elliot


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Moments of inspiration are powerful landmarks on the geography of life.

I write this listening to a song by Loreena McKennitt called Dante’s Prayer.  I still remember when I first heard it over 13 years ago, how the strains of Russian Orthodox chant gently drew me in, then the piano, her voice, the poetry, and I was transfixed.  I played the song again, and again, and again, lying on the living room floor with the lights out, next to the speakers. I’m sure my housemates wondered what was going on.

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So many years later, Dante’s Prayer remains my very favorite song and is never off my playlist.  I was thrilled to hear it performed in concert a few years ago, 1st row seat, and meet her afterwards.  The only thing I could say in my shyness as I shook her hand was, ” Thank you for Dante’s Prayer, it has meant so much to me.”

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Loreena McKennitt writes a travelogue for her CDs–where she was in the world when she wrote a song, and what she was reading.  For Dante’s Prayer, she was riding the Trans-Siberian Railway, reflecting on Dante’s Divine Comedy.  On her travels, she heard the haunting tones of Orthodox worship, incorporating “Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom,” as bookends for the main tune.

Thirteen years ago, ordering a CD of Russian Orthodox chant at the local music store was a bit unusual (and this was just at the beginning of Amazon), but I persevered.  I also got out my dusty college copy of Dante and read it while I listened.  The wideness and depth of life, literature, history, spirituality, and travel, all things I had already loved, opened before me more deeply.  Art beckoned to be created and I painted a series of canvases on the crucifixion and resurrection for a chapel.  My bedroom had a deep walk-in closet with a little window.  I painted it to look like a forest and created a little anchorhold with candles and fountain and comfy chair, dreaming of distant lands and times. I decoupaged a large old steamer trunk as a “hope chest,” and it has now made a number of cross-country journeys.  And I read…so many books, especially on the mystics and monastics, the Celts and medieval Christianity.  It’s not surprising, looking back, that within three years, I embarked on my own train adventure to study monasticism at a Benedictine monastery.

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Why now? Why does this song newly speak to me? What brings these memories back so clearly now? In Revelation, one of the churches is told, “You have forgotten your first love.”  I know in context it refers to Jesus Christ, but I keep hearing those words with a different twist:  “Susan, you have forgotten your first love: history of other lands and peoples and distant times, prayers of the great communion of saints centuries in the mist, poetry, literature, beautiful words…beautiful lives lived, which will still speak today if given voice. And you have forgotten how I met you in this love.”

Many days I wonder what I did with my 30s and whether theological education was really worth a decade of my life.

If it was just to get a degree, the answer is no, I can think of a number of vocations I’d have preferred.  But I’m not sure they would have been loves.

To spend one’s life and have it transfigured, it must be no less than a love affair. To give one’s life to any journey or any person, and not have it end in disappointment or despair, Love can be the only reason.

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This past month, now that I’m settled, I’ve been trying to (read: playing at) work on my dissertation (cue Yoda saying: “Do or do not, there is no try“).

It simply will not get done without love.

I believe the song and memories of that season so long ago are a landmark reminding me to return to the Love that began the journey.

So today, I say yes, to this life the Love has crafted.

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Dante’s Prayer

by Loreena McKennitt

(listen here)

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and fire

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Though we share this humble path
alone how fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We’ll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Please remember me


Aug 23 2010

Visual Thanks

Mondays are for gratitude…counting to 1000 and beyond…

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256.  A lovely almost-full moon shining in my window.

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257.  Fabric and thread picked out by my little friend Jane  for me to make her a skirt.

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258.  Fun twisty vine stitch in yummy pink.

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259.  Finished…and for the smile on Jane’s face that could light a small city when I gave it to her after church. She promptly put it on and ran around the sanctuary.

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260.  For the Liturgy of the Hours, a practice of daily prayer I go to when I am at a loss for how to begin or want to feel part of a greater rhythm of corporate prayer.  Even the simple ribbons marking the days remind me that all time is God’s.

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261.  A Black-headed Grosbeak who frequently feasts at my feeder.

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262.  For the artful brush of yellow just at the head of the wing.

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263.  For the fountain pen my Mutti gave me, and a to-do list with a few more things crossed off.  And for my friend Terese, who also appreciates the importance of a good writing instrument.

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267.  For the continued challenge of Proverbs 31 as I reflect on my life as a Christian woman.

holy experience


Aug 15 2010

Esperanza Mission Week

Esperanza Mission Trip

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This past week, I’ve been in Esperanza, BC, with 1o people from my church working on whatever projects needed doing. The little cluster of houses is on a salt-water inlet, deep in a remote region of Vancouver Island. The staff provide community, support, counseling and love for families in crisis.

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Work on the house included building a back porch, siding, putting kitchen cabinets together, staining siding, and smoothing floors.   Tuesday evening ended with a camp fire where we sang praise songs and heard from the staff about the work of Esperanza.

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Wednesday and Thursday, the construction projects continued, along with weed whacking, gardening, and time with the 6-week old grand-daughter of Nancy, one of Esperanza’s staff members.  I enjoyed working in the kitchen for dinner–helping to prepare the salmon, prawns and halibut that were caught on one of the fishing trips.  A single halibut weighed 85 lbs!

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One of the volunteers from New Life Church in Abbotsford, Greg, injured his hand on a saw while laying wood flooring and was taken to the hospital for surgery Wednesday.  He returned to Esperanza on Friday to spend the next few weeks recuperating.  Thankfully, his hand will be okay.

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It was not all work.  The team got to take  sight-seeing boat trips to the ocean–seeing sea otters, sea lions, and eagles.

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Friday, as the temperature rose, jumping off the dock became a favorite activity of both kids and adults!

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Through-out the week, we enjoyed getting to know the other teams working–from Elim Baptist Church in Wallingford, and Parkland Church in Surrey.

The journey home began at 7am Saturday–by boat, road, and ferry–until we arrived back in Seattle around 6pm.

If you’d like to see more photos from the week, you can find them here.

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Gratitudes:

The Bethany team!!

The staff at Esperanza

Jesus’ love lived out among and with the coastal peoples

Delicious food (thank you Randi, Paula and Anna)

God’s creation

A starry night without any light pollution, lying on the dock watching the Perseid meteors and the Milky Way rising.

Wonderful sunny weather

That Greg’s injury was repairable

Seeing how much got done in 5 days

Bug spray and cortaid

The kids’ laughter as they leapt from the dock

Ocean waves

Sweet evening light for photos

New friends

holy experience


Aug 10 2010

Mission Week, Day Two

Esperanza Mission Week

Where we are staying…

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The building many of us are working on….

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Esperanza’s view…

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A trip to empty the prawn traps (a shark tore holes in three of the traps, so the catch was small).  The girls were comfortable holding prawns and crabs by the end of the trip…

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Yummy sugar cookie…

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Aug 9 2010

Mission Week, Day One

Esperanza Mission Week

A couple months ago, a mission trip was announced at church and I had the stomach-flip-flop-I-believe-Holy-Spirit-moment of “Susan, go!”

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Early, early Saturday morning, my friends and I embarked on a journey with six others from our church to a remote mission in British Columbia called Esperanza. For most of the year, the mission provides counseling to area people. During the month of August, groups come to do work projects, aiding the staff in caring for the physical needs of the mission. People from our church have gone to help with construction and other odds and ends for years.

We drove from Seattle to the Tsawassen Ferry, just south of Vancouver. After the longest ferry ride I’ve ever taken (two hours) and some more time on the road, we overnighted in Qualicum Beach.

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And the journey was still not over.  More hours of driving until we reached a twenty mile stretch of gravel road through the most beautiful mountain scapes I’ve ever seen, I listened to the music from the Lord of the Rings, certain we’d crossed into Middle Earth somewhere along the way. At the end of the road, the little fishing village of Zaballos perched, where we waiting with our gear for boats to take us on the final leg of the trip. Local kids took turns leaping from the pier into the fish-teeming waters. Birds circled overhead, and the mountains surrounded us.

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On the water for nearly an hour, we arrived at the mission: and a cluster of houses and cabins, new and old, finished or unfinished, in good repair or not-so-much, and to the warm welcome of the mission staff and another church group already arrived.

Now, after a quiet night with no machine sounds (even the generator shuts off) and the occasional rustle of little creatures, I’ve woken to the water and mountain view out my windows. And a lovely absence: no cars. Commuter traffic here is little speed boats heading back toward Zaballos.

I have no idea what I will be working on this week, I’m not even sure about the schedule. But I am so thankful I followed the voice that said, “Go!”

I’ll be posting each day this week with more about the adventure!

Gratitude for:
234. A safe journey
235. Great friends to travel with
236. The beauty of creation
237. A wonderful Jesus-loving community in Qualicum, St Stephen’s United Church.
238. Seeing a bald eagle.
239. Internet access
240. Adventures
241. The work of Esperanza and the people who faithfully serve

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