Jul 29 2011

Friday Florilegium

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I’ve listened to and sung this hymn for years, but recently, it finally took up residence in that deep space of my heart where only a few songs gain entrance.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

(Rev. Maltbie Babcock, 1901, wrote this song inspired by a place he would hike in Lockport, NY)

Friday Florilegium 1


Jul 28 2011

Hidden Abundance

In both Anne of Avonlea and Little Women there are similar scenes I find beautiful: the poignant moments Anne and Jo decide to write about what they love. Sitting at a candle-lit desk, the sounds of the house stilled in sleep, Jo gets out a clean sheet of paper and simply begins. The pages stack up over time and are finally tied together with ribbon (yes, the ultimate romantic touch) and sent away.

The message is clear: write what you love, let it go, and leave everything else to off-stage resolution.

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My most recent response to questions about my dissertation has been to cite total number of pages written: 55.  The page-count mantra is more me telling myself, “Look! You’re almost a third of the way through!”

Since I’m handwriting this 1st draft, the slow accumulation of a stack of pages also connects me to my writing heroines.  I wonder if my adviser would appreciate me sending her a tied, handwritten draft.

Oh, right. For a moment I forgot it’s the 21st century.

But still, still, even with some sprinkles of writing romance, I’ve wrestled with a (perceived) loss of words (and loss of interest in them), words that came so easily 10 years ago, words and joy that went missing after exams and the often barren environment of doctoral education. Words I betrayed by turning a harsh and condemning gaze upon them, judging them not good enough.

TS Elliott says that words crack under the weight of meaning. What about the weight of expectations?

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The words come from my heart, and my heart went quiet in the face of so much self-criticism.

But, I’ve been reminded quite clearly today, my words are not so dammed as I’ve believed. (Ah, the revealing nature of word choice.)

My dear friend Doug said something to me last week that I took to heart: Don’t focus on your weaknesses, don’t try to change them.  Focus on your strengths.

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I got out my journals–the writing project I do without even thinking about it as writing–and, factoring in page size and a conservative estimate of handwritten words per page, I’ve written over 130 pages since January.

Love, frustration, wrestling, friendship, joy, sadness.  The story of a life.

Easily 3000 pages since I began in 1986.

I’ve spent so much time focused on scarcity, I missed the abundance.

The words are still there. They never left.

What changed was only my perception of them.

What abundance longs to be noticed in your life?  What gift do you ignore because it is like breathing? What strength is inviting you to give it some loving attention?


Jul 27 2011

Night bus companions

I got on the 71 in the University District after an enjoyable dinner with my friend Julia.  Riding a Seattle bus from the Ave to downtown at night never fails to be just another commute.

As the sun quietly disappears and the bus windows reflect back the humanity rubbing shoulders in this moving metal cylinder,  the gathering of party-heels and mini-skirts, make-up, tattoos, piercings, workers, homeless, lonely, and teens is sometimes poignant, sometimes loud, often perfumed with eau-de-bourbon, and occasionally scary.

But most of the time, it’s simply quiet with an undercurrent of loneliness–everyone pretending to be invisible, lost in their own reverie, attached to iPods and listening to their life soundtracks alone.

As I quickly scanned the full bus, taking a seat, I determined the relative peacefulness of the riders and took in the details of clothes, and expressions. Always, for a mind-expanding moment, I’m suddenly aware that everyone has a life of complex relationships and histories, everyone had a “day” and that day was different than mine, unconnected but for city–except we’re all now together on the 71.

I snapped out of my cosmic musings when a movement across from me revealed a rabbit. Surprised, all my surreptitious people-watching skill failed. I simply stared.

Gently held in an older man’s arms was a large charcoal gray bunny.

The man had an animal carrier on his lap, but the rabbit was clearly content looking out the window from the safety of his owner’s embrace. After the man’s seatmate left, he put the creature on his shoulder, and there he (she?) confidently sat, nose moving rapidly.

Whenever the bus slowed to a stop, the man carefully reached a hand up and held his friend in place.  When things got chaotic, he brought the bunny back to the safety of his arms and the creature snuggled close.

The man saw me watching. I smiled, but he looked away. I’m sure he was used to looks. Dogs and cats on the bus are common sights. A Metro-riding rabbit was a new one in all my bus-commuting years.

What captivated me, though, was not the uniqueness of his companion, nor that said companion seemed so unfazed by the busy bus, but the affection so obvious between them.

Love emanated from the man toward his little friend. He cared for his companion in a way I’ve rarely seen other riders act with their dogs or cats. And though reading the thoughts of a rabbit is beyond me, the bunny seemed confident and caring of his friend as well, nuzzing his cheek, content to relax in his arms or on his shoulder.

They cherished each other, attended to each other. Witnessing the affection, in a setting often marked by a quiet, desperate loneliness, brought tears to my eyes.

Companion is from the Latin companis, with-bread.

They were the food of love for each other.

Love takes many forms. As they left the bus, man and rabbit, I silently thanked them. On a night bus ride of anonymity shone a bond of companionship, that for a brief moment caught me as a witness in its embrace.

Photo: Thomas Hawk

May 11 2011

Resurrecting Hope

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The past couple of months, as the trees leafed out and the wildflower seedlings poked their tiny heads through the soil, I felt the chill of winter.

It could be that Seattle had it’s coldest, grayest April on record.

But as the joy of Easter seeps slowly in, I realize Lent just lasted a bit longer for me this year.

I planted my blue morning glory seeds over four weeks ago and kept checking for signs of life, even as I checked my own heart.

Hope had gone into hiding.

Is anything growing?

Will anything ever grow?

And if it does, what’s its purpose?

I wait in hope that the lifeless seeds will one day bloom. It’s seemed to take forever, just to get this far, and I can’t see the end.

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This morning, asking my questions, I picked up a book by Richard Sterns, The Hole in Our Gospel. Sterns is the president of World Vision.

I  randomly opened it to an amazing story of seed planting.

Edward Kimball taught Sunday school in Boston and invested in the lives of boys and young men. One of these teens was particularly challenging, so Kimball visited him at his family’s shoe store. He spoke about the love of Christ (actually mumbled it nervously, not sure what to say), and surprisingly the young man committed his life to Christ then and there. This teen, Dwight L Moody, would ultimately share the gospel with over 100 million people during his life, as well as start inner city ministries and a college in Chicago.  In 1879, F.B. Meyer was influenced by Moody’s witness and became a minister, he in turn mentored J.W. Chapman, who ministered to professional baseball players. One of those players, Billy Sunday, became one of the most known evangelists of the early 20th century.  Sunday’s ministry of preaching led Mordecai Ham to follow Christ,  and Ham became an evangelist as well. Ham’s preaching and invitation to follow Christ was heard by a young teen, Billy Graham.

Richard Sterns writes: “Do you sometimes feel that you have nothing worthwhile to offer–that you are a nobody when it comes to doing great things for God? I wonder if Edward Kimball felt the same way. He never did anything spectacular or particularly newsworthy. He just showed up out of faithfulness to God, an hour or two each week, to teach the boys in his class. And yet Edward Kimball’s dedication to teaching Sunday school faithfully and caring about those boys changed the world.”

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Our daily work of love is a seed. Loving one person near us cannot but unleash God’s love in some unique way into the world.

And that amazing transformative Love will sparkle and spiral and twirl as it touches the lives of countless others down into the future.

We may never know to where and to what just showing up and sharing God’s love will lead.

But knowing that God’s Word of Love created the universe and raised his Son from the grave, we can hope for a garden of abundance to spring green.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

–Psalm 130:5-6


Mar 27 2011

Visio Divina: Third Sunday of Lent

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Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

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Romans 5:1-11

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

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A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, `I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

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Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, `Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

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As the Lenten Artist in Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, I’m reflecting on the weekly lectionary scripture passages and offering a collection of photos in response.

Lectio divina, Latin for divine reading, is an ancient monastic practice of reading and praying with scripture. Visio divina, divine seeing, takes a similar approach to visual art.  The four movements of lectio or visio divina are reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. For a description of the prayer practice, a colorful handout is here.


Mar 25 2011

Friday Florilegium

ONE time our good Lord said: All thing shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see
thyself that all MANNER [of] thing shall be well; and in these two [sayings] the soul took sundry
understandings.
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One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but
also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He
saith: ALL MANNER OF THINGS shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall
not be forgotten.
Another understanding is this, that there be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms
taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end. And upon
this we look, sorrowing and mourning therefor, so that we cannot resign us unto the blissful beholding
of God as we should do. And the cause of this is that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low,
and so simple, that we cannot know that high marvellous Wisdom, the Might and the Goodness of
the blissful Trinity. And thus signifieth He when He saith: THOU SHALT SEE THYSELF if [1] all
manner of things shall be well. As if He said: Take now heed faithfully and trustingly, and at the
last end thou shalt verily see it in fulness of joy.
And thus in these same five words aforesaid: I may make all things well, etc., I understand a
mighty comfort of all the works of our Lord God that are yet to come. There is a Deed the which
the blessed Trinity shall do in the last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it
shall be done, is unknown of all creatures that are beneath Christ, and shall be till when it is done.
[” The Goodness and the Love of our Lord God” will that we wit [know] that it shall be; And
the “Might and the Wisdom of him by the same Love will”
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hill [conceal] it, and hide it from us what it shall be, “and how it shall be done.”]
And the cause why He willeth that we know [this Deed shall be], is for that He would have us
the more eased in our soul and [the more] set at peace in love—leaving the beholding of all troublous
things that might keep us back from true enjoying of Him. This is that Great Deed ordained of our
Lord God from without beginning, treasured and hid in His blessed breast, only known to Himself:
by which He shall make all things well.
For like as the blissful Trinity made all things of nought, right so the same blessed Trinity shall
make well all that is not well.

Today’s florilegium is from the 32nd chapter of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love. I recommend reading it aloud–this allows the lovely flow of the prose to aid in deciphering her meaning.

Julian’s anchorhold (a little two-room cell with a garden built against a church) was right on a busy street, in Norwich, a town of over 10,000.  She had one window that viewed the church altar, one window for people on the street through which people sought spiritual direction, and, most likely, a cat. She is the first woman to write a book in English.

Her book is the fruit of twenty years reflection on visions she had of Jesus during a brief life-threatening illness. Julian wrestled with reconciling the love of Christ with a Christianity of hellfire and brimstone, and the reality of extreme suffering. Her local bishop led a bloody Crusade and burned heretics a half mile from her home. She also witnessed the plague kill 80% of the population of Norwich when she was 6 and then 80% of the children (the adults had some immunity from the first time) when she was nineteen, likely losing her own children.

For all that she would have witnessed, Julian’s book is full of joy and trust that God would “make all things well.”

One time our good Lord said: All things shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well; and in these two sayings the soul took sundry [many] understandings:

One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He saith: all manner of things shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall not be forgotten.

Another understanding is this, that there be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end.

And upon this we look, sorrowing and mourning therefor, so that we cannot resign us unto the blissful beholding of God as we should do. And the cause of this is that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low, and so simple, that we cannot know that high marvellous Wisdom, the Might and the Goodness of the blissful Trinity. And thus signifieth He when He saith: Thou shalt see thyself all manner of things shall be well. As if He said: Take now heed faithfully and trustingly, and at the last end thou shalt verily see it in fulness of joy.

And thus in these same five words aforesaid: I may make all things well,  I understand a mighty comfort of all the works of our Lord God that are yet to come. There is a Deed the which the blessed Trinity shall do in the last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it shall be done, is unknown of all creatures that are beneath Christ, and shall be till when it is done.

And the cause why He willeth that we know this Deed shall be, is for that He would have us the more eased in our soul and  the more set at peace in love—leaving the beholding of all troublous [troubling] things that might keep us back from true enjoying of Him. This is that Great Deed ordained of our Lord God from without beginning, treasured and hid in His blessed breast, only known to Himself: by which He shall make all things well.

For like as the blissful Trinity made all things of nought [out of nothing], right so the same blessed Trinity shall make well all that is not well.

Friday Florilegium 1

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