Deadheading is for the Birds

I don’t usually upload two posts in a day but this is an exception – tomorrow’s post is being uploaded early because tomorrow my blog is moving and I will not be able to add content. Hopefully those of you who visit the blog will not notice any changes – except that by the end of the day there should no longer be advertisements at the end of the posts. If you do have problems please bear with us – we hope that the change will make it easier to expand the resources available on the site and give us more freedom in what types of files we are able to upload. The url will change to http://godspace-msa.com but if traffic will continue to be redirected from the old site.  So with that preamble….

Dahlias in the garden

Yesterday morning I shared about spirituality and gardening in a class at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. It was a beautiful morning and we were able to wander in the local pea patch for part of the time. Beautiful dahlias are still in bloom and the fragrance of roses wafted on the air. Rosemary, thyme and oregano waited to be crushed in hands to share their fragrance as well. But in the midst of the beauty there was also brokenness and death. Giant thistle seed heads ready to blow away on the wind. Piles of dead leaves, and much to our disgust dirty syringes and broken bottles.

thistle head

Our instinct was to  pull out the dying plants, deadhead the summer blooms and “tidy up”. We don’t like untidy spaces and we like even less, the brokenness it sometimes uncovers. We wanted to throw away the syringes and pretend that the brokenness of the city had not invaded this tranquil space.

But is that really what we should be doing? Evidently those untidy and seemingly dead flowers are an important source of nourishment for the birds over the winter. And the corners full of dead leaves provide warm hiding places for insects, frogs and other garden animals.

Maybe the brokenness of our world has a purpose too we speculated. Perhaps as the birds find nourishment from the seemingly dead flowers, we too find nourishment in the midst of the death and brokenness of our souls. And maybe those “dead leaves” are good places for us to hide too so that we can be protected from the wounds still too painful to bear. If we clean them up too quickly before they have done their winter work maybe our lives will suffer.

We grow closer to God in times of sorrow and heartache then we do when everything is going well. We find healing more rapidly when we recognize and face our pains and brokenness then we do in the height of “summer” when everything in our lives seems as sunny as the weather.

This wander in the garden provided some encouraging and challenging lessons for me. I know there are still broken areas in my life that I would love to tidy away right now. And as I look at my loved ones and my friends I see places in their lives I would like to tidy up as well. But God says be patient, make sure you nourish and protect them until God says it is time to tidy up.

Making Sacred Memorials from Our Memories.

Rock of remembrance

Thinking about All Saints Day has, not surprisingly brought back memories of my mother. This morning images of her last illness flooded in, triggered by looking at my rock collection, which I often use as a focus for prayer. My hands moved unwaveringly to my rock of remembrance. Running my fingers over its bands of light and dark bound seamlessly together into a solid whole, made me think – joy and sorrow intertwining in my life to make me whole.

Recalling memories like this is important for our own health and healing. I see myself again back in the hospital beside her bed – laughing and crying with her, telling her I love her, reading to her about Scotland the home of her ancestors, reminiscing about our childhood, sharing photos, praying and just sitting quietly beside her my heart aching as she journeys through these last challenging days.

Other events triggered memories this last week too. At the St Francis Day celebrations at our church the vicar prayed for stuffed animals, not something I would ever have thought important. However this time it had me in tears. One of my nephews had given my mother a stuffed dog – Spot – for a previous hospital trip and Spot provided amazing comfort through her final illness. She died with it in her hands.

Memories of those we love and those who have impacted our lives last forever. We can never replace what has been lost, but as we make new connections and new meaningful relationships, these memories help shape us into a new reality. Instead of denying our feelings, our memories help us listen, change and grow into the future.

Celebrations like All Saints Day are important times not just to remember those that have gone whom we loved and who shaped our lives, but also to reflect on how they continue to shape and grow us.

All Saints Day can convert memories into sacred memorials, markers along the way of our own journey. They encourage us to remember the acts of God in our past and the intimate moments of love we have shared. This is one important way that we connect to the acts of God in the present and learn to trust and hope for the promises of God in the future.This is a good time to ask yourself: Am I living true to the character and integrity of those who challenged, mentored and shaped us? What new ways might God prompt me to change as a result of their influence?

Time to Get Ready for All Saints Day

Many hands make light work

Many hands have gone before

All Saints Day is November 1st but many churches will celebrate on Sunday November 3rd. Remembering those who impact our lives, those who have gone before and those who are still with us is an important part of our faith.

The Episcopal Church website explains:

We step aside from the flow of the propers and celebrate all the saints. We stop. We notice, We are surrounded by a flock of witnesses in our midst – many who have gone before us, some we are just now releasing, and still more with a full life ahead of them.

I love the Anglican tradition of renewing our baptismal vows on this day. Reminding ourselves of the journey we have taken personally is a good place to start in remembering the saints of God. In this tradition, all baptized Christians, living and dead known and unknown are considered saints of God. This means everyone including ourselves.

So as you get ready for All Saints Day think about your own faith journey. Remember the faithfulness of God in your past. Notice the movement of God in the present. Think about your hopes and dreams for the future. Get ready to celebrate all that you are as a saint of God.

But don’t stop there. This is a special day for celebrating. Here are some suggestions:

St Aidan’s Episcopal church on Camano Island where we worshipped yesterday is planning a special “remembering” table that will be set up in the nave. The congregation is invited to bring photos or small memorabilia of dear ones who have gone before us and place them on the table. During the worship on All Saint’s Day there will be a special blessing of the photos and memories.

Hold an All Saints’ Day party – a great alternative to Halloween. Get everyone to dress as their favourite saint, or to bring a picture of this saint. During the festivities get everyone to share a story about their saint and the impact he or she has had on their lives. Or you might like to get participants to guess who each person represents.

Plan a family heritage party. Invite people to do some work beforehand researching their family history and particularly the Christian saints who were a part of it.  Ask them to bring photos and stories to share.  Finish with a time of prayer for all those that have gone before us.

Several years ago when my youngest brother went to Greece where my father comes from he found out that it is possible that our family name Aroney comes from the name Aaron and that our family probably originated in Jerusalem many centuries ago.  It is probable that one of the reason they began the journey out of Jerusalem first to Constantinople then to Rhodes and finally to the tiny island of Kithera at the bottom of the Peloponnese mountains is because they became Christians.  There are a number of Greek orthodox priests in my father’s family history and my Aunt Mary was a very devout Greek Orthodox Christian.   I know less about my mother’s family history but would love to find out where her family too has had profound encounters with God.

Plan an All Saints Day pilgrimage. Again this might require some before time research.  Explore the Christian heritage of your community.  Where did the first Christians come from?  How did they interact with the native peoples?  Where was the first church established?  Who were some of the early Christians who impacted your community.  Plan a pilgrimage walk to the site of the first Christian community and if possible have a time of prayer and possibly even a eucharistic celebration to remember those who have gone before.

What are your ideas for celebrating All Saints Day this year? It is a great alternative to Halloween and we would love to hear what you are doing.

Here are some other posts I have written on All Saints Day that you might enjoy.

Coming Home for All Saints Day

Freeing the Saints from Their Hallmark Holidays

Surrounded by Prophetic Voices – Clouds of Witnesses that Call Us Out of Numbness

A Prayer for All Saints Eve

 

Unexpected Surprises – Blessings From God We Rarely Notice

Autumn beauty

This morning was garden morning at the Mustard Seed House. Unfortunately none of my usual helpers were able to come, but as this was my first time out in the garden for a week I was still eager to get out there.

First I wandered round our side garden where an amazing variety of greens – zen, mizuna, arugula, bok choy, spinach, collards and some that I think may have cross pollinated – have self seeded from last year’s compost. Yes I know that means it doesn’t get hot enough but to be honest I kind of like this unexpected bonus and they tend to be the healthiest greens in the garden at this season.

pansies

Then I explored the front garden where I planted pansies last week. This too is thriving. The leeks and chard are the best we have ever grown, and thanks to Kristin Carrrocino’s encouragement we have a new crop of cauliflowers, broccoli, kale and spinach slowly moving towards harvest.

Autumn hydrangea surprise

 

Last I headed to the back garden where I planned to plant garlic. It almost didn’t get done because I was inspired by the unexpected surprises of autumn colours, not just in the leaves but in the beautiful changes the hydrangeas have undergone in the last few days. I soon had my camera out exploring all the amazing and surprising changes in the garden. Not all of them are good unfortunately, the slugs have had a hey day in the hostas and the morning glory is taking over but these surprises seemed trivial compared to the awe inspiring sense of entering int the presence of God I experienced.

planting garlic

 

last week I wrote this prayer about pausing to look and see God in the moment. I was reminded of it this morning as I too paused to breathe in the presence of God around me.

Lord Jesus Christ,
May we pause to look
and see you in this moment.
Mountains red and white with morning sun,
Quiet gaps between traffic flow,
Smiling faces welcoming the day.
Lord jesus Christ,
May we draw breath,
and reflect on your presence,
enlivening all things,
sustaining all things,
transforming all things.
Lord Jesus Christ,
May this moment call me to respond
with just living,
generous giving,
grateful actions.

My unexpected surprises were not finished there though. Having planted my garlic I wandered inside for a cup of coffee and my attention was caught by this amazing orchid.

flowering orchid

It is at least 10 years old and every year I tell myself – I must repot it, it is so pot bound that there is no way it will flower this year. Yet it does. This year 16 flower spikes so far and still counting. This too is an unexpected blessing from God, a surprise that I almost missed because I was eager to move on to my next task.

How often do I miss the unexpected surprises of God because I am too busy, too distracted, too focused on work? How often do I fail to pause and breathe in the presence of God they reveal? And how often do I fail to respond with praise, with thanksgiving and with generosity towards others out of those blessings?

Gardening is always a good reminder to me of my need to pause and enter the presence of God. What provides that much needed prompting in your life?

Other People’s Words by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and a newly released memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.

Butterfly_on_beach

A friend tells me she has no words left. I get it. Oh, do I get it. She tells me she doesn’t even have words to pray. I get that, too. I’ve been there more times than I can remember, when the words just won’t come, when I stare out the window at the blue or the gray or the black sky, wanting to pray, and I have no words.
I’m there now.
I sit at my computer, staring out the café window at the blue awning of Ken’s Market and the yellowing birch trees beyond it and the clouded sky beyond them, and I’m supposed to be writing a post about prayer, and I have no words. I spent them all on my book.

What do you do when words fail you? What do you do when you can’t pray?

My friend who’s run out of words tells me that for the better part of a year, her prayer life consisted of reading Streams in the Desert day after day after day.

And I realize that I do that, too—turn to others’ words when I don’t have my own. It’s why I’m such an avid reader, and why I own so many prayer books. When I can’t generate words of my own, I simply read the words of someone else. If I have enough energy, I ingest them. These days, I don’t have enough energy. So I just murmur the words on my lips or send them silently from my eyes to my brain. It feels so…not enough.

But I’ve been here before, so I’m learning that this weary wordlessness will pass and that keeping the faith is not a matter of generating anything at all, not emotions, not passion, not desire, not even words. It’s a matter of faithfulness. Hence, faith.

So I open Daily Strength for Daily Needs, and I read these words of Julian of Norwich:

He showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel-nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as meseemed, and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereon with the eye of my understanding, and thought, “What may this be?” and it was answered generally thus, “It is all that is made.”

I marveled how it might last; for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding, “It lasteth, and ever shall: For God loveth it. And so hath all things being by the love of God.”

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is, that God made it. The second is, that God loveth it. The third is, that God keepeth it.

For this is the cause which we be not all in ease of heart and soul: for we seek here rest in this thing which is so little, where no rest is in: and we know not our God that is all Mighty, all Wise, and all God, for He is very rest. God wills to be known, and it pleaseth Him that we rest us in Him. For all that is beneath Him, sufficeth not us.

And I trust (sort of) that God will hear these words on my lips and know that I want to believe them, want to ingest them, want to make them mine, even though I’m feeling listless and stale and oh so tired. I want to find my rest in God. I do. Because I am that tired. I want to know God loves me. Because I am that vulnerable and small right now, a mere hazel-nut of a human being. I want to believe that God made me. Because the voice of materialism hisses in my ears, trying to tell me that I am dust, no more, no less, and certainly not God-breathed.

And so I read Mother Julian’s words, again and again and again. I have no words of my own. But I have hers. And since we are both in Christ, we are the same body. Her words are my words, the cry of my heart, the longing of my soul, the prayer on my lips.

For anyone who finds no words to pray, there is a wealth of riches in our heritage as Christians. I highly recommend Daily Strength for Daily Needs and Streams in the Desert as well as The Book of Common Prayer and Phyllis Tickle’s three-book series The Divine Hours. All have Scripture, prayers, poetry, and prose to feed your starving soul during those times of spiritual drought that we all encounter from time to time.

More Prayers for the Journey

This week has been a very active one on the Light for the Journey Facebook page. I hope you enjoy these prayers.

As we enter a new day – we take time to prepare our hearts for all that lies before us.

Prayer to greet the day!

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace,
help me in all things to rely upon your holy will.
In every hour of the day reveal your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all.
In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.

Eastern Orthodox Prayer,

Posted by Contemplative network

God may our eyes be opened 

to see the threads of your glory
intertwined in our lives.
God may our ears be unstopped
to hear the whisper of your grace
comforting those we meet.
God may our hands be liberated
to share the generosity of your blessings
full measure pressed down
overflowing into the world we love.

Christine Sine 

Let everything within me cry holy,
Let everything around me cry holy,
Let everything above and below cry me holy.
God the maker of heaven and earth is worthy,
Of praise and worship and honour,
Let all that is, all that was and all that will be cry holy.

Christine Sine

May the God of grace
lift you from where you are
and raise you onto higher ground.
May the God of peace
still the anguish of your soul
and bring you to a quiet place.
May the God of love
who warms our fragile hearts
be the strength you find today.

(http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship)

God interrupts
inviting us to pause
and notice.
God interrupts
inviting us to listen
whispers quieting our hearts
bells ringing in our souls
God interrupts
inviting us to pause.
Use it as you will
but remember always
God interrupts
inviting us to life.

Christine Sine https://godspace.wordpress.com/

From Parker Palmer’s Facebook page

 

Creator God,
on windswept beaches
your saints of old
held their hands up to you
in wonder and amazement,
felt your power through the roar
of wind and surf and,
exposed to the elements
felt a oneness
with the One
who had created all things.
This world does not often allow us
such intimacy with you, Father,
we are crowded out
by circumstances of our own choosing,
seeking fellowship with each other
rather than with you.
Forgive our unwillingness
to follow in the footsteps of your saints,
to meet you in the solitude of your creation.
Forgive our unwillingness
to get our feet wet

© John Birch – http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship

Lord may I take time today
to be alone with you.
May I create the discipline of presence,
Knowing that inner retreat,
regardless of outer circumstances
is a gift worth pursuing.
May I remember that in the midst of storms
you slept in perfect confidence
rocked to sleep by your faith.
May I take courage when the waves swamp me
Knowing that to our cries of terror
you respond
be not afraid.

Christine Sine

Seize God,
the weaver of heaven and earth.
Bring your past,
Bring the present day,
Bring the promise of the future,
before the Eternal One.
Seize God,
choose love,
seek the holy presence,
Let the Lord,
make your life extraordinary.

Christine Sine

Bless to us, O Lord,
the earth on which we walk,
each mountain top,
sunlit sky.

Bless to us, O Lord,
the beauty that we see,
soaring eagle,
butterfly.

Bless to us, O Lord,
the peace within our heart
when filled with joy
or sorrow.

Bless to us, O Lord,
the journey that we make,
the footsteps that
we follow.

©John Birch: http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship

 

Can We Rest in the Midst of Storms?

Jesus Calms the storm – Rembrandt

This morning I read the story of Jesus in the storm from Mark 4:35-41

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!”Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Something struck me that I had never thought much about before – Jesus was actually deeply asleep in the midst of this storm. Now I lived on a ship for 12 years and I know that it is hard to sleep in the midst of a storm when the ship is rocking and rolling, the waves are crashing and the cargo groans against its bonds threatening to break loose at any moment. Even now when I live in a stationary home, I know how anxiety can keep awake, often creating its own storms of fretting, fear and uncertainty.

Sleeping in the midst of storms is a sign of extreme stupidity or of supreme confidence. Jesus’ response when the disciples woke him shows that his sleep was one of confidence. He trusted completely that the God who formed the waters and allowed the storms, the God who called him beloved Son, was still in control and would keep them all safe no matter how violently the waters raged. In the midst of the storm he was able to find rest and refreshment.

Sometimes I think that we forget that Jesus is in the boat with us. Sometimes I not sure that we really want to wake him. The storm itself is frightening, Jesus calming of the storm is terrifying.

We are in the midst of stormy times as the government shutdown here in the U.S. and its accompanying storms continues to rock all our boats. My neighbours are out of work for the duration and the poor are tightening their belts even more as programmes like SNAP, WIC and low income housing assistance are suspended.

How much confidence do we have that Jesus is in the boat with us? And what would it look like for him to calm this storm? It is so easy for us to pray for the solution we want to see happen – extreme conservatives for the disintegration of the government, democrats for the passing of a budget that still includes health care reform. But it is hard for us to have the faith to believe that whatever God allows to happen in this storm, Jesus is still with us. It is he, not us who is in control.

So my prayer today is that God will calm the storm and that we will be able to find rest and confidence in whatever that calming looks like.