Archives for March 2010

Beauty in the Wilderness

My mom was visiting (as she does about 5 or 6 times a year) and we wanted to take her on a small trip as she seldom gets a chance to do that. So we headed up to Santa Maria, spent one night in a motel and then drove out the Carrizo Plain National Monument, on the way to beautiful downtown Taft, due east from our coastal central valley area. It was just amazing. Enjoy these few photos of a lovely, lazy afternoon’s drive through a little-known part of our great state.

The Blessing of Family

I’m not sure that I can even put into words how very deeply blessed I feel in the gift of our children and their children. I try, from time to time, but generally find myself quite inarticulate in their presence. I also find myself spending money to shower them with gifts of various kinds, as if I could communicate my love and pride and thanksgiving through material objects.
I count it a privilege and a joy when they choose to spend time with us and with each other. I rejoice in their growth as loving, giving, faithful human beings and I weep when they struggle or are hurt. But I don’t always make that fact known to them or to others. I always worry about overwhelming these oh-so-dear people and somehow coming across as either needy or intrusive – the capital crimes of parents of adult children!
I found a professional life when my children were raised – and I marveled at God’s call to ministry. I also gave thanks for it because I knew a life outside of my family would help me a.) make the transition from full to empty nest; and b.) keep my hands and nose out of their business – because I now had other places to put said hands and nose!
But there are those times when we’re all in the same space and something remarkable happens. Something holy happens – and I don’t use that word lightly.

It happened on the occasion of my 65th birthday on January 23rd. Gathered for dinner in Malibu at a Hawaiian themed restaurant, a traveling musical trio stopped by our table and taught our two four-year-olds how to do the hula hand motions to, “Pearly Shells.” All of us were laughing and looking on lovingly as these two precious littlest ones (until Lilly arrived on February 25, of course!) delightedly waved their hands in time to the music. It was if a halo of light radiated around our entire family group and it was all joy.

It happened again, in smaller circles of light, when we all gathered at Lisa’s for dinner a week ago. This gathering was to give Joy’s family a chance to see the newest member of our tribe, as traveling all the way north to SB/Carpinteria is tough with a full-on body cast, something 4- year-old Griffin has been enduring for 7 weeks now. Several of the grandkids took a turn holding Lilly and there is somehow nothing sweeter than seeing any-sized boy (from 4-16) cuddling a newborn! We have had a really tough couple of years in our family, with a lot of loss of all different kinds. But we have been richly blessed all through the journey. And the arrival of lovely Lilly has reminded us that life continues, that life is glorious, that family is gift and blessing. Thanks be to God.

Colby with Lilly.

Griffin with Lilly.

Just sweet Lilly, with her as-yet-too-large Easter headband!

Luke with Lilly

Eating dinner, full-body cast style!

Not so sure about his Easter headband!

Well, if Gracie has one, too, then it’s probably not all bad!

Wildflower Watch – 2010

We don’t make it out every spring – but we try! This year, we took some time last Friday for a drive over the mountains behind Santa Barbara (actually, we drove around, preferring the coastal route) in search of this year’s crop of wildflowers. There is a narrow, winding, pot-holed road that travels steeply up hill to the Figueroa Mountain campground in the Los Padres National Forest. On the way out of Los Olivos, a delightfully sleepy small town in the Santa Ynez Valley, you take Figueroa Mountain Road out past the horse ranches and small farms – where the pastures this time of year have pretty much given themselves over to the golden wild mustard that is ubiquitous in this section of the California coast and coastal valleys.

The red-winged blackbirds LOVE this mustard, whole flocks of them flitting across the flowered tops of the plants, singing their lovely songs. The mustard grows in and around and under the oaks that line the hillsides of this area – where the hillsides haven’t been completely taken over by vineyards, of course. (They, too, are lovely to look at – but in a very different way to the almost primeval oak scrublands that are natural to this area of the world.)

The bright yellow, almost chartreuse hue of the mustard fields is lovely to see, both at a distance and up close and makes a nice introduction to the climb up to different kinds of wild floral extravagance.

Just when you think there is no hope for the lovely orange and blue of lupine and California poppy, the road takes a bend that brings you to a steep cliffside that is literally covered with blooms. We’ve seen it denser than this year, but the colors of both flowers were exceptionally clear and vibrant in 2010. And maybe in another week or so, the density will rival that of previous years, as the taller bush-lupine has not yet made its contribution to the color display.

As always, it warms the heart and lifts the soul to see these glorious examples of God’s creative genius. A half day drive can bring amazing grace and healing into our sometimes too-busy lives and we are grateful for the gift of color, the ruggedness of hillsides, the warmth of the sun and the chance to be vagabonds for a few hours.

Prayer for the 5th Sunday of Lent…

written for worship at Montecito Covenant Church
March 21, 2010, 10:45 a.m. service
by Diana R.G. Trautwein

We begin our prayer time this morning with words from the 43rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah, words that have long been read on this 5th Sunday in Lent:

This is what the Lord says – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland…I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

O Lord, how we long for you to do a new thing in our midst.
How we long to see the way made in the wilderness,
the stream flowing through the wasteland.
For we are indeed your people,
formed to praise you.
And so we do:
We praise you that you are the God of new things,
that you are the God of wilderness way-making,
that you are the God of life-giving water
in the midst of life’s wastelands,
that you are the God who reminds us
to ‘forget the former things,’
because you are in the business of making all things new.

Start with us, please, Lord.
Start with us.
Make us new, inside and out.
Teach us to live as new creatures –
not because we’re fad-hungry,
or driven to own the latest new device;
not because we’re bored with life and need a new kick,
not because we’re in need of a diversion.
Make us new because we need your transformational energy
at work within us in order to live as whole and holy people.
Make us new because we’ve worn out the old ways,
we’ve tried them repeatedly and learned the hard way
that they just don’t work.
Make us new because we want to be people who radiate
the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus – that amazing multi-faceted,
lovely fruit-of-nine-sides that we’ve been looking at
all through this Lenten journey:

So…start with us in this making-new business.
Because if we’re truly open to the newness
your Spirit can bring,
and if we truly live out of the fruit your Spirit grows in us,
then we can carry that newness into every situation
and relationship we find ourselves in –
whether that’s our family home,
our dorm suite,
our place of business,
our classroom,
the grocery line,
the traffic jam,
the blog comments,
the political debate,
the kitchen at Transition House,
the table at Los Arroyos,
the well-worn beach path or hiking trail –
wherever our lives lead us –
we can bleed newness,
your newness,
into our world.

So…we ask that your church worldwide might be
a sign of newness,
a whisper of beauty,
a word of kindness,
a presence of hospitality,
a ray of civility in an increasingly uncivil world.
Convict us when we fall short of this worthy goal;
convince us that we,
with you at work within us,
have the inside scoop on the hope this world needs;
consider that we are but dust – but then
continue the work of new creation even in our dustiness.

And please,
bless our very dusty political leaders who are, this very day,
engaged in such important decision-making.
Grant us peace in our civic discourse,
wisdom in our national decisions,
and grace with one another when the day is done.

Thank you, Great God of all things new,
for your everyday goodness and grace,
for your mercies which are new every morning
and which sustain us our whole life long.
In the name and for the sake of Jesus,
your son, who makes it possible for us
to be made new each and every day.

Table Prayer, 2nd Sunday in Lent 2010

written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
for worship at Montecito Covenant Church
March 7, 2010

“Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for
Faithfulness is what I need
Faithfulness, faithfulness is what You want from me

(So) Take my heart and form it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours, to Yours, Oh Lord.”

We’ve sung that sweet song a lot around here, Lord.
I’d even go so far as to say it’s a favorite of ours,
one that we like to sing,
to create harmony to,
to wail with a bit.
It’s a really good song for that –
for lettin’ it all hang out there a little.

But I wonder,
speaking for myself at least,
if we really think about what is we’re lettin’ all hang out there.
“Take my heart?
My mind?
My will?”
Wow – that feels like a whole lot of stuff to let go of
when I say those words
and don’t sing them.
Because when you think about it,
I mean when you really think about it,
those hearts,
those minds,
those wills –
well, that’s pretty much all of us, don’t you think?

And, then,
there are all those rhyming verbs in that song –
Now those are really strong words, Lord.
Really strong.
Kind of like the words that show up in places like
fitness centers,
or artist’s studios,
or science labs.
Places where you make something entirely new and different
from just regular old stuff like
out-of-shape human bodies,
or paint or ink or clay,
or elemental chemicals,
your basic liquids or solids.

Yet they are – each and every one of them –
words that also come right out of your holy scriptures.
And I do believe that you mean every single one of them.

So I thank you this morning for the words of that song,
and the words of the sermon we’ve just heard,
and the words we say together around this table today, Lord God.
Because all those words are about taking ordinary, everyday stuff
and making something wonderfully and powerfully new out of them.
And as scary and overwhelming as that can sometimes be,
especially when we are that ordinary, everyday stuff,
they are words for our good,
for our very best, in fact.
Because these words speak to us of hope,
and of promise,
and of restoration,
and of transformation.

So let us celebrate your promise of newness
by setting ourselves straight with you this morning.
In the week just past, we have thought and said and done
some things that work against your good will to change us
into our best selves.
In this moment of quiet, we’re going to –
remember those things,
tell you how sorry we are for them,
and then release them into the waves of
your grace and forgiveness which are waiting
to wash us clean.
Hear our prayer, O Lord:

Thank you for grace,
thank you for the power of forgiveness.
Thank you for Jesus.

We also need to say, Lord, that we are oh-so-aware
of people and situations,
here at home,
and all around our world,
where your transforming power is desperately needed.
So as part of our table celebration today,
we want to remind you of these things,
just by saying first names or
very simple descriptions out loud,
all around the room.
And for each person or problem mentioned,
we’re all going to agree by saying, “Yes, Lord!”

Thank you for inviting our prayers,
thank you for listening,
thank you for answering.
Give us eyes to see and ears to hear
as you work your winsome way in our
messed-up world.

So we’ve gotten ourselves straight with you,
and we’ve reminded you of those people and places
we care about the most,
and we’ve said thank you for your great gifts to us
of grace
and forgiveness
and presence.

Now, Lord, we want to eat together as you’ve asked us to do.
Take – once again – these ordinary, everyday things –
this bread and this juice –
and transform them into
bread of life
and cup of salvation,
for Jesus’ sake,
until he comes.