Feb 28 2011

Cup Overflowing

Continuing to count all that I am grateful for…

385. Leading the retreat, Cup Overflowing: Joy as a Lenten Practice, for an amazing and wonderful group of Massachusetts United Church of Christ pastors.
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386. The beauty of Ipswich, MA, and the Notre Dame Spiritual Center where the retreat was held.

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387. “who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

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388. Resurrection joy and the tree with the leaves of healing for the nations…

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389. A feathered friend’s home.

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390. Watching ducks land. Hilarious.

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391. Visiting with many good friends in Boston and being back on campus.

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392. Signs of spring when I returned to Seattle.

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393.. A wonderful surprise visit from a friend I haven’t seen in a long time.

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390. A great birthday,  crowned High Queen Susan, and served a yummy dinner with an amazing dark chocolate cake. Thank you Kimberlee, Doug, Jack, Jane, and the twinfants!

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391. Chocolate smiles and dancing.

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Feb 25 2011

Friday Florilegium

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OGod, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship

with all living things,

our companions the animals to whom you
gave the earth as their home in
common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past
we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty

so that the voice of the earth,
which should have gone up to you in song,

has been a groan of travail.

May we realize that they live not for
us alone but for themselves and for you,

and that they love the sweetness of life.

St. Basil the Great, 330-379  AD

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Friday Florilegium 1




Feb 24 2011

Living in the Peaceable Kingdom, or “It’s hard to be vegan when you don’t like vegetables.”

PeaceableKingdom John August Swanson

In the mists of my childhood, I remember a wonderfully fun day of fishing with my dad at a lake somewhere in Kentucky. It was reedy and teeming with life and tall grass and all the fun creatures that live in such places.  I had never been fishing before, though I had some idea that the fish we ate at home had lived in watery homes, free to swim, and that one could take a cool looking pole and bait a hook and entice them to bite.

At the time, Kentucky waters were not the safest (valley of the barrels was a phrase I heard often), so fishing meant catch and release, no eating.

The day was idyllic in all ways except one. The little rainbow fish I caught, laid on the rock under the water after I threw it back in, its white and colorful fins no longer moving.

It died. And I cried. A beautiful irridescent creature no longer lived. Something was lost and I didn’t understand.

Yet I did.

The Hebrew word for the soul’s breath is nephesh. The fish’s nephesh was gone.

Another Hebrew phrase comes to mind, tikkum olam, to mend the world. The world unravels in places like a fraying garment and we are called to reweave the threads.

The world unraveled a bit for me as I hoped without hope that the fish would leave the rock and swim away, shaking off its frightful moment in the world of human air.

I felt in that moment, for the first time, my impact on the world could be destructive and I wanted to reweave what I had unraveled and breath life back into the little fish.

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Years passed and the fish memory faded. My interest in creation took on a more detached quality. I was in biology club throughout school, dissecting and classifying and facing the loss of nephesh with equanimity.

One science fair I had access to the full services of a medical laboratory and set out to prove to my fellow students the dangers of eating too many Pringles potato chips. This involved 12 lab mice and lots of chips.

I’m certain I’m still whispered about in the mouse kingdom as She-who-must-not-be-named.

The results were sobering, but there were no tears this time.

Yet, still, a dissonance lived quietly in the corner of my heart that held that earlier memory. As I recently volunteered for two years with a Boston animal shelter, fostering and nurturing abandoned cats, the dissonance became louder. As I daily watch the feathered and furry creatures that visit my balcony or are on the other side of my camera lens, the dissonance is deafening. As I get older, it seems more and more important to pay attention.

Feline Lectio

But how? Become a vegetarian? There have been a few years here and there when I’ve chosen that practice, but now reading more about factory farming and how dairy production is tied in with meat production, I’m not as comfortable with that choice. The other option, vegan, seems impossible to maintain.

And I must admit, I don’t much like vegetables.

At one point, I learned that the Eastern Orthodox Christians practice a vegan diet for Lent. That seemed radical yet possible: a 40-day peaceable kingdom written into the church year. So I decided to try it. Three days in, I crawled to my friend Kimberlee, weak and wan, and admitted defeat.  I had simply stopped eating, unsure what to replace animal products with.

This past Tuesday, I mentioned my Lenten vegan fantasy to her again and she, with inestimable wisdom, suggested I only do it on Wednesdays and Fridays. I’m sure she does not want a repeat of last time.

My response: “You know I simply won’t eat on those days.”

“Fine, then you’ll fast.”

But I want to do more than go without food, I want to find joy (and even yummyness) in other options that allow little lives to not grace my dinner plate. This takes intentional effort.

So today I practiced a meal. The nice thing about practicing something, like scales on a piano, is that no one, including me, expects perfection.

“Are you vegan?”

“No, I’m just living in the peaceable kingdom for lunch today.”

I created a yummy dish of warmed chard (so much better than spinach) with sesame oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, and lemon juice.  With it, I ate gnocchi filled with yams, covered in marinara and vegan mozzarella.

And I, someone who was often told “You drink so much milk, we need to buy a cow,” finished off the meal with a glass of vanilla hemp milk (actually quite good).

It’s only one meal, but it’s a beginning, in honor of that little fish, 3o years ago.

(And if you have favorite vegan recipes, please share!)

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Feb 23 2011

Telling Time

Sun Cat

Years ago, I entered a new world of desks

in straight rows, bells, and tasks like

see-jane-run and

m is for mr munching mouth.

I loved mixing more

paints and colors with gooey glue

all over hands and

paper blue birds with beak and tongue

(Birds need tongues too)

Time was everywhere at once yet now

smaller

faster

marked off by things to do

read. listen. repeat. write.

a start-stop world.

When Time-to-Clean-Up arrived

I always chose my favorite featherduster

to-ing and fro-ing far from the flurry to finish

unworried by missing mittens or colorful gluey messes made

and teacher let me be, for a moment

free

(an edited repost from the archives, Susan Forshey, 10/2009)


Feb 18 2011

Friday Florilegium

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Question the beauty of the earth,
The beauty of the sea,
The beauty of the wide air around you,
The beauty of the sky;
Question the order of the stars,
The sun whose brightness lights the day,
The moon whose splendor softens the gloom of night;
Question the living creatures that move in the waters,
That roam upon the earth,
That fly through the air;
The spirit that lies hidden,
The matter that is manifest;
The visible things that are ruled,
The invisible that rule them;
Question all these.
They will answer you:
“Behold and see, we are beautiful.”
Their beauty is their confession of God
Who made these beautiful changing things,
If not one who is beautiful and changeth not?

Question the beauty of the earth,

The beauty of the sea,

The beauty of the wide air around you,

The beauty of the sky;

Question the order of the stars,

The sun whose brightness lights the day,

The moon whose splendor softens the gloom of night;

Question the living creatures that move in the waters,

That roam upon the earth,

That fly through the air;

The spirit that lies hidden,

The matter that is manifest;

The visible things that are ruled,

The invisible that rule them;

Question all these.

They will answer you:

“Behold and see, we are beautiful.”

Their beauty is their confession of God

Who made these beautiful changing things,

If not one who is beautiful and changeth not?

(Augustine, Sermon 241, Easter 411 AD)


Friday Florilegium 1


Feb 4 2011

Friday Florilegium

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This week I’ve been preparing to lead a retreat on joy and read Annie Dillard’s A Writing Life for the first time.  These two quotes from the book have stayed with me as I’ve considered joy and vocation.

“A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all…You were made and set here to give voice to this: your own astonishment.” (Annie Dillard)

“The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity.” (Anne Truitt)

While these quotes use the terms writer and artist, I believe we all write and create in our daily lives, in different ways.  The key is finding, embracing,  and sharing the astonishment you alone feel and that which inspires the intimate sensitivity you alone experience.

Friday Florilegium 1



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