Archives for June 2012

Quiet for the Weekend – June 29/30, 2012

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,
    who do not put their trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.”
Psalm 24:3 TNIV
“For Christ did not enter into a holy place 
made with human hands, 
which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. 
He entered into heaven itself 
to appear now before God on our behalf.
Hebrews 9:24 NLT 
“Certainly work is not always required of a man.
There is such a thing as a sacred idleness –
the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.”
 – George MacDonald      
 “People are doubtful and skeptical about the church,
they suspect and dislike the clergy,
they are impatient of theological systems,
but of Jesus Christ,
as he stands out to view in the sacred pages,
as they dimly realize him in their own best selves,
as they catch faint traces of him in the lives of his saints,
they have no other sentiments 
than those of respect and affection.”
Herbert Hensley Henson
19th century Anglican priest

Photos taken at St. Mary’s Retreat House in Santa Barbara CA where I met with Brother Thomas for the first time. He is not Abbot David, but we will enter into a contract for spiritual direction for 8 months and see where God takes us in that time. The setting for these meetings is glorious, one I had never seen and it is right next door to The Old Mission, where I go frequently. Just enjoying this view may be among the richest of the gifts of the next 8 months.

Joining with Sandy and Deidra at their Quiet Spaces for the weekend, with gratitude for each of them:

At the Marina: a Photo Essay

It was a beautiful morning – 
clear skies right from the get-go,
warm sunshine,
gentle breeze. 
A perfect day to treat ourselves to lunch out 
at the local marina.
Although boat culture is not our thing,
we love to look at them.
So we took ourselves to a ringside seat,
with a close-up view of hungry starlings 
and brightly blooming hibiscus, 
 and a more distant view of masts and docks.
Dick had his favorite seafood Louis salad,
I had a chicken quesadilla,
and we just sat and breathed for a while,
taking in the spectacular view 
and wondering aloud every so often 
if very many of these boats
before us actually make it out to the open sea.
After lunch, we took a slow amble down the waterfront,
noting how much clearer the water is now,
after a major harbor clean-up a few months back. 


We spied one turquoise-bottomed fishing boat 
as it slowly wound its way into the dock.
We stood and watched a bit, as it idled
in the unloading area while we walked 
south along the wooden decking.
There were others out and about, too, 
enjoying the warmth of the sun,
the sound and smell of the water. 
 One of the things I love about our town 
is the juxtaposition of ocean and mountains.
There is always something beautiful and inspirational 
to look at, no matter which direction you face.
 At least two fisherfolk were still out at sea 
(see their empty slips in the picture below?);
we hoped we might be lucky enough to see
at least one of them come in and unload their cargo.
 Sure enough,
a small, 2-person ship –
complete with crow’s nest –
came chugging into view as we walked along the pier.
 These boats are far more interesting to us than the 
luxury cabin cruisers and humongous catamarans  
that dot our marina.
(See that big one in the right-center-rear 
of the picture above?)
Maybe that’s because these small, well-worn boats 
represent the life and livelihood of a dying breed
in these parts – the journeyman fisherman.
Their territory has been impinged upon by 
multiple facts-of-life –
government regulation, most of it necessary;
predatory otters – all of them adorable, but destructive;
over-fishing and diminishing quantities of some of the
Santa Barbara channel stock-in-trade –
abalone and lobsters in particular.
 The white-haired gentleman atop the boat is the captain;
his long-suffering wife is waiting on the dock,
barely visible through the rigging.
There was one other crewman,
middle-aged and about as worn looking as this boat.
 We’d seen scarecrow-owls atop buildings before,
but this was the first time we’d seen one 
on a sea-faring vessel.
 We waited patiently, walking from one of the
weigh-in piers to the other,
noting two grey, covered trashcans on the deck.
What could be inside this time?
 Slowly, the winch raised those grey cans off of the ship
and onto the dock where a scale waited.
These two gentlemen below,
with Chinese last names,
opened some grey trashcans of their own,
taken from the bed of their small pick-up truck.
And then they poured amazing quantities of…
octopi… into them.
 The longer-haired gentlemen switched position
at the exact same moment I clicked the slow-shutter on 
my point-and-shoot camera, so I did not get a
picture of those slimy critters as they swirled into the can.
The buyers snapped on the lids, to protect their precious 
purchase from the vagaries of freeway traffic,
then got into the cab of their truck,
and drove those things back to somebody’s
favorite Chinese restaurant somewhere. 

Just before we headed home,
 we snuck a peek into the local Fish Market
to remind us of what we usually see
when we come here!
 A beautiful selection of fish,
much of it very high-priced –
all of it delicious and fresh, fresh, FRESH.

We may not be part of the boat culture,
but we are most definitely part of the FISH culture.
And we are appreciative of the those who are dedicated and brave enough to gather the fish that we eat from the sea. 
All in all, a lovely summer afternoon.
Joining Michelle and her Graceful Summer invitation each Friday of these summer months: 

TSP Book Club: Scared of the Dark

She wanted to play hide and seek.
In the dark.
This child of the light,
who loves to stride and run her way through life,
she wanted to go into the closet,
turn out the light
and, ‘shhh…be quiet,’ 
and hide from her beloved Poppy.
So I picked her up, held her close and shut the closet door.
She turned out the light and urged me to go further in.
Very carefully –
because it was dark in there! –
I backed us up into the furthest corner,
and waited.
“I can’t see you, Nana,” she whispered.
“I know. I can’t see you, either.” 

She wrapped her arms around me a little bit more
tightly, touching her cheek close to mine.

“Your glasses seem scary in the dark, Nana.” 
“I’m sorry, honey. Can you feel them?
They’re just my regular old glasses.
Nothing to be scared of.” 

“They look scary,” and her voice quavered just a little.
But here is what she did:
as she got more frightened,
she clung to me ever more tightly.
More kisses,
more strokes,
more nestling. 

We had failed to let Poppy in on the game, 
so he never did come find us.
We turned on the light,
opened the door,
and went back to our usual Wednesday happiness –
tea party, books, lunch, nap.

Later that day, as I thought about that 
sweet moment in the darkness, 
I think I finally began to understand something 
of what Julia Cameron has been trying to teach us
over at the TweetSpeak Poetry Book Club.
For the last six weeks, we’ve been exploring,
“The Artist’s Way: 
A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.”
And I’ve been fighting it hard,
regularly resisting the Morning Pages,
generally keeping myself on the edge of things,
watching curiously while others test these waters.
It feels like the dark to me, you see.
Reaching into the muck that is too often my mind
(especially in the morning),
feels strange; it feels scary.
Yet I find myself resonating with much of what Julia says,
nodding at the need for self-care,
agreeing with her call
to creating space for creativity in my life.
I particularly like this sentence 
from our concluding week’s assignment:
“Creativity is a spiritual practice.” (pg. 182) 
I believe this with my whole heart.
I have encouraged creativity,
 in my kids,
in my home,
in my church,
in my ministry life.

Why, then, am I frightened by this ‘artist’s way?’ 
Maybe because even familiar things can take on 
strange forms and shadows 
when we’re operating in the dark. 
Maybe because I’m not sure what I’ll find if 
I hang out in that dark for very long. 
Maybe because I’ll discover a big
audacious dream in the middle of the muck,
and I’m not sure I can handle that. 
Maybe because I’ve forgotten to cling to what I do know,
to cling to Whom I know,
and to trust that who I am – 
even in the dark – 
is held,
A little more nestling may be required.
Joining with Lyla and the gang over at TweetSpeak, with Emily for her last-for-the-summer Imperfect Prose, with Jennifer at God-Bumps and  Ann’s Wednesday group:

ts book club no border


Quiet for the Weekend-June 23/24, 2012

For now we see only a reflection 
as in a mirror; 
then we shall see face to face. 
Now I know in part; 
then I shall know fully, 
even as I am fully known.” 

1 Corinthians 13:12 

“Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow.
Carl Jung called this his shadow work. 
He said we never see others. 
Instead we see only aspects of ourselves that fall over them. 
Shadows. Projections. Our associations.
The same way old painters would sit in a tiny dark room 
and trace the image of what stood outside a tiny window, 
in the bright sunlight.
The camera obscura.
Not the exact image, 
but everything reversed or upside down.”
– Chuck Palahniuk

“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
May your weekend be rich
with intimations of heaven,
dear friends,
that place where we will see
each other and ourselves
and our Good God
in truth and beauty.
Joining up with Sandra and Deidra as we all take time to be
a little less busy,
a little more attentive,
a little more centered.

Sunny Summer Afternoon: A Photo Essay

Joining with Michelle DeRusha and her invitation to sit and savor summertime. It comes on Fridays and it’s delightful and refreshing. Check it out:
Sunshine today, almost all day long,
a refreshing change after many days of June Gloom.
So I took myself to the beach and then on a walk
around my yard,
and enjoyed the beauties of summer.
‘Tis the season for blue blooms in these parts,
blues of every hue,
with a little pink thrown in for good measure.
Honey bees,
humming birds,
lizards sunning themselves,
even those with injured wings,
are among the beauties of today.
Join me, won’t you?
And offer thanks to God for the glories of summertime.

Five Minute Friday: RISK

Five Minute Friday
It’s been a few weeks – and I’ve missed it. Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker invites us to stop, drop and write for 5 minutes of unedited thinking on the prompt for the week. It’s a fun community, with lots of participants and lots of takes on each week’s subject. Hop on over and check it out. And then – try it, you’ll like it!
This week’s topic?  RISK
I asked my mother about love one day. 
“What’s it like, Mom? Is it hard to say, ‘I love you?'”
“Honey,” she said to me. “It’s the scariest three word sentence in the English language.” 
“Why?” I asked, all wide-eyed innocence at age 17, new to the ways of dating and romance.
“Because, sweet girl,” she replied, looking at me with soft eyes, “love is a risk.”
“What?” I exclaimed. “Why is love risky?” 
“When you say ‘I love you’ to another person, you’re giving them a part of your heart. And you can’t know what they’re going to do with your precious self. When you say ‘I love you,’ you risk having your heart broken.”
“Oh,” I sighed. “But tell me, do you think it’s worth the risk?”
“Oh.My.Yes. It is worth the risk.” 
She turned me to face her, touching each shoulder and looking me right in the eyes. 
“To love another human person is just about the biggest risk there is, honey. But – and this is so hard for me to say because I love you so much and I never want you to be hurt – but . . . to live your life without love is far worse than a broken heart. It is better to explore the feelings, to say them out loud and to bear the pain of rejection than to never allow yourself to love. Do you believe me about this?”
With a very deep sigh, and a bit of a shudder, too, I answered, “Yeah, Mom. I do believe you. But I feel sorta shaky inside. And really scared.”
“It’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to never risk being hurt.”
I have NO CLUE why this one came pouring out today. This was a conversation that happened 50 years ago. FIFTY. 

The TSP Book Club: Taking Heart

 She lied.
It turns out we ARE supposed to read these morning pages.
Well, I’d love to see her try and read mine,
paltry though they may be.
I can’t read them – that’s how bad my handwriting truly is.
We’re talking big-time scribbling here.
Well . . . I can read . . . a little.

And, as much as it pains me to admit this,
I think she just might be onto something 
with these dang pages. 
I’m still not very faithful about it.
I am keenly aware that 
the Rebellious Resistor is still around.
But . . .
what I can decipher is just the teensiest bit interesting.
It does appear that I have successfully vented on occasion.
And I do see some recurring ideas/insights/areas of concern:
I am distracted by my mother’s health;
I am distracted by the number of interruptions 
made by people that I care about a great deal;
I am laden with guilt simply because
I’m trying to listen to that Voice that moves me to take fingers to keyboard and WRITE. 
A lot of issues from long ago are rising 
and in not very pretty ways.
Things I thought I had already worked through
are making their presence known with a vengeance.
 It’s beginning to feel like an epic battle some days:
I struggle to learn more about how to get these words,
these words that are wrestling within my spirit,
 to flow down my arms and out my fingertips.
And as I struggle, I find old enemies,
recently revived. 
Enemies like these:
assuming personal responsibility 
for the happiness of others;
carrying personal guilt whenever
said others are unhappy;
fighting the call of God (and muse?) 
to stillness and solitude;
choosing to do almost anything but what I say I want to do;
resorting to ‘loud’ and nasty name-calling inside my head,
about 95% of which is aimed directly at . . . me.
I am slowly working through the tasks listed at the end of chapter 9, the one titled:
“Recovering a Sense of Compassion.” 

I’d like to tell you that I’m doing them with enthusiasm.
I’d like to tell you that I’m doing them with alacrity.

But I can’t do that.

Instead, I can tell you that I am,
at this moment,
attempting to do these two things with 
sincerity and honesty:
Take Stock.
Take Heart. 

And I’m also trying to give myself a little bit of credit.
Maybe, if I do that,
that stubborn ol’ Resistor will relent a bit.
I remain ever hopeful.
Only one rose blooming in my yard this week,
but it was a doozy.
I’m sure there’s an application there somewhere.

Adding this to the list over at TweetSpeak Poetry as we’re working our way through Julia Cameron’s, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.”
Next week we finish – if I survive that long! – and do THREE chapters.
I have yet to begin. Oy vey.

“This Difficult Friendship” – Living in Bodies

And the body, what about the body?
Sometimes it is my favorite child, 
And sometimes my body disgusts me.
Filling and emptying, it disgusts me… 
This long struggle to be at home
in the body, this difficult friendship.
-Jane Kenyon (From “Cages”)
 Yesterday, I was in need of some solitude,
some time by myself,
away from the interruptions of home and family.
So I packed a lunch, got in my car,
and waited to see where my car would take me.
Turns out, my car likes the Slough.
 The parking lot was much more crowded than usual,
filled with family and friends of UCSB graduates
who were gathering at the nearby park for 
celebrations of all kinds on this graduation day.
I found a spot between a large motor home,
which served as a gathering spot 
for a group of middle-aged guys I’ve seen here before,
and a car filled with a family of beach-goers. 
I ate my lunch.
I did some reading.
And I got in and out of the car,
taking pictures and paying attention.
 It took me until today,
after hearing a fine sermon this morning by
our Associate Pastor, Jon Lemmond,
to more fully understand why this particular spot,
of all the possible spots I could have chosen,
is such a special one for me.

I like birds.
A lot.
I know very little about them,
I just know I love to sit and watch them,
to try and capture some of their beauty and grace
with my camera,
and to reflect on how completely  
at home they are
with the bodies God gave them.
You don’t hear birds complaining that they’ve
got too many feathers or too few,
that they wish their beaks were just a bit narrower,
that their feet were a little smaller,
that their tummies were tighter.
No, you don’t.
Besides the fact that birds don’t speak English,
I think the reason we don’t hear (or observe) such
kvetching behavior in birds is this:
they know who they are,
they accept who they are,
they live a one-piece life.
I want a one-piece life.
I want to keep body and soul together,
I want to recognize that I am a body.
And I want to accept that body with grace and with gratitude.
And I have a long way to go on that journey.
Today’s sermon was a strong, clear word of encouragement
to keep on truckin’. 
Jon took a few verses from a favorite psalm 
this morning – Psalm 139:13-18.
And he laid out his observations beautifully:
1. Our bodies are spiritual – 
we want not to err on the side of gnosticism 
(the most stubborn of historical heresies in the church) 
and denigrate the design of God for our physicality.
It is with our bodies that we glorify God.
It is in our bodies that we are saved.
We are, in truth, our bodies.
In Genesis 2, God takes the dust of the earth 
and breathes life into it…
spirit and flesh, joined forever. 
But unlike the birds, our bodies need redemption,
restoration, renewal.
And they are so valuable to God,
that God took on our bodily form so that redemption
and restoration and renewal might be possible. 
2. Our bodies are praiseworthy.
And this is where most of us badly twist the truth 
of who we are as embodied creatures.
The most usual translation of verse 14 goes something like this:
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
But Jon’s OT prof, Leslie Allen (who was also my OT prof!),
translates it more like this: 
God is wonderful. And we are made in God’s image.”
We should indeed stand in awe of who we are,
at what our bodies can do –
wounds heal,
pupils contract and dilate 
according to the ambient light,
our skin and sweat glands 
help set a healthy thermostat.
We are indeed wonderfully made!
we are wonderful because of who made us,
not because of any intrinsic ‘perfection’ of our own.
Therefore, beware our cultural predilection for
believing we are the center of things.
When the Bible tells us that our bodies are wonderful,
it is not meant as, “a psychological pick-me-up 
aimed at bolstering our self-esteem.”
Rather, these words point us first to the Creator,
and only then, to the creature.
If we can grab hold of this astounding truth,
then maybe, just maybe,
we can begin to believe that every single one of us,
able-bodied or not,
fat, thin, tall, short, young, old –
every one of us – 
broken and imperfect as we are –
is a thing of wonder and delight to the One who made us.
Not just cute babies.
Not just Hollywood celebrities.
Not just the perfect bikini-body.
Not just the strong, ripped muscles.
“We are beautiful because we are the Lord’s.”
And then my friend and former colleague offered the most
beautiful analogy to help us latch onto this 
powerful truth.
The stole he is wearing was a gift to him on the 
day of his ordination into the ministry.
It was made for him by his mother and his grandmother.
It is lovely to look at…
but it is not perfect.
It doesn’t lie flat at the back like 
a more professionally made stole would.
Some of the stitching around the six lovely 
symbol patches is a little rough. 

But it is one of Jon’s most priceless possessions.
When the Tea Fire hit his neighborhood three years ago,
he first made sure his wife and children were safe.
And then, Jon rushed into his house and grabbed this stole.
Not because it is perfect.
Not because it is without flaws.
Not because it does everything it was meant to do.
Jon grabbed it because of who made it.
Jon grabbed it because of the love that was poured into it.
Jon grabbed it not because of its intrinsic value,
but because of the relationship 
he has with the ones who made it.
It is beautiful,
not so much for what it is,
but because it reflects the love of the creator(s).
Can I begin to value my body for what it truly is?
The gift of my Creator?
My body.
The dust of the earth,
into which God breathed life 67 years ago.
My body.
The embodiment of God’s dream for me 
as a whole person,
a unified human being,
body, soul, spirit.
My body.
A reflection of the God who loves me.

An added spot of beauty to our worship last Sunday was a new offertory song. Our Director of Worship Arts, Bob Gross, wrote a lovely melody to go with these powerful words written by Mechtild of Mageburg in the 13th century. This translation was done in 1991 by Jean Wiebe Janzen, but the words in bold are Bob’s addition and served as a beautiful refrain throughout the piece. He tells us he’s going to do a YouTube version, and when he does, I’ll post a link here – and undoubtedly elsewhere, like Facebook and Twitter.  I sat amazed at how these lyrics sort of wrapped up my entire weekend. Read them carefully:
I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.
I cannot leap in gladness, unless you lift me up.
From love to love we circle, beyond all knowledge grow.
For when you lead, we follow, to new worlds you can show.
Love is the music ’round us, we glide as birds in air,
entwining, soul and body, your wings hold us with care.
Your Spirit is the harpist and all your children sing;
her hands the currents ’round us, your love the golden strings.
Play me a medley. 
Play me a song. 
Lead me, I am yours. 
I cannot dance alone. 
O blessed Love, your circling unites us, God and soul.
From the beginning, your arms embrace and make us whole.
Hold us in steps of mercy from which you never part,
that we may know more fully the dances of your heart. 
Joining with Michelle, Jennifer, Laura, Duane and L.L. this time.
And at the middle of the week, also joining Ann V., Jennifer Dukes Lee and Emily W.

On In Around button

Quiet for the Weekend – June 16/17, 2012

“Listen, O Israel! 
The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  
And you must love the Lord your God 
with all your heart, 
all your soul, 
and all your strength.  
And you must commit yourselves 
wholeheartedly to 
these commands that I am giving you today.   
Repeat them again and again to your children. 
Talk about them when you are at home 
and when you are on the road, 
when you are going to bed 
and when you are getting up.  
Tie them to your hands 
and wear them on your forehead 
as reminders.   
Write them on the doorposts of your house 
and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9, The New Living Translation
 Wooden gates and doors from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church,
where the Kindergarden Commencement for our granddaughter Grace 
was held on Thursday morning of this week.
This church is four driveways from our home.
I have been inside a few times, but never wandered the grounds with camera in hand.
It is an old mission style church, built for the families of the soldiers in the presidio when Father Serra 
built the mission trail in California in the late 18th century.
It is gloriously beautiful and someday I’ll do an entire photo essay about it.
But these gates and doors spoke to me this week.
Perhaps the scripture above and the one below are part of why they did.

  “Yes, I am the gate. 
Those who come in through me will be saved. 
They will come and go freely 
and will find good pastures.  
The thief’s purpose 
is to steal and kill and destroy.  
My purpose is 
to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
John 10:9-10, The New Living Translation
And surely one of the sweetest gifts of a rich and satisfying life
is a purple hydrangea still glistening with morning dew.
This one was located next to the doors shown above.

May your weekend bring reminders of the rich and satisfying life of Jesus, the gate.
Linking this with my friends Sandy and Deidra at their quiet gathering spaces for our weekend reveries.

A Few More Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer, Please

 It seems I am a slow learner.
I need considerable amounts of downtime.
I need it so that I can find center,
so that I can breathe with my mind, as well as my lungs.
I need it so that I am an easier person to live with.
I need it to live, period.
 And one of the gifts of retirement has been
the increased accessibility of such time.
Without the schedule of a regular work week,
it is sometimes easier to sit in the backyard;
to take a field trip to a local nursery;
to sit in the car on the bluffs overlooking the ocean.
 But they say ‘pride goeth before a fall,’ right?
 Or maybe it’s ‘the truth will out…’
‘water finds its own level…’
or some other such hackneyed cliche.
Whichever, whatever –
the downtime has up and disappeared of late.
And I’m feelin’ it.
So… I am very grateful for Michelle’s invitation to 
stop and savor,
look and listen,
sit and set a spell.
And I’ll try to find my way here each Friday,
and to Sandy’s place on Saturday,
and over to Deidra’s on Sunday,
just to honor the gift of downtime,
of Sabbath rest,
of soaking in the beauty of this world.
I’ll keep it short, and hopefully sweet – 
with a picture or two,
a word or two,
a sigh or two.
Maybe you need a little more breathing room, too?
Come along and slow things down.
Joining with Michelle DeRusha’s invitation to celebrate the slower pace of summer living over at her blog, Graceful.