Where the Light Begins For Christmas Day (Jan Richardson)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. —John 1:5
Perhaps it does not begin. Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes a lifetime to open our eyes,
to learn to see what has forever shimmered in front of us—
the luminous line of the map in the dark,
the vigil flame in the house of the heart,
the love so searing we cannot keep from singing, from crying out in testimony and praise.
Perhaps this day will be the mountain over which the dawn breaks.
Perhaps we will turn our face toward it, toward what has been always.
Perhaps our eyes will finally open in ancient recognition, willingly dazzled, illuminated at last. Perhaps this day the light begins in us.
Dear Beloved Community,
This time of year always brings up a myriad of memories, doesn’t it? I remember as a child–age 5 to be exact–I came down the stairs on Christmas morning before my parents were awake. As I look back on this memory through adult eyes, I think I was planning to just sit by the tree until my folx got up as I wasn’t allowed to open anything until we were all awake with teeth brushed and coffee in hand for the grownups. But when I got downstairs, there was an amazing model train, laid out in miniature splendor, too big to be wrapped! I sat in wonder, too excited to touch anything, just waiting to be able to PLAY!
Every Christmas after that, I would come down the stairs and avoid looking at the tree and the goodies under it. I wanted to be as surprised as I was that one morning when the dream of Christmas was laid out in front of me, surpassing all my expectations. While I was never disappointed by subsequent holidays, nothing ever compared to that one morning. I kept waiting and hoping to be as surprised as I was that one morning.
This is a child’s Christmas. Waiting, hoping, expecting that Christmas will be realized by something that happens outside of us. We hope for some surprise that will surpass all our expectations and make it feel as if all is well with the world. Even as adults, we still want to be surprised beyond our wildest expectations and we can experience destabilizing disappointment when it doesn’t happen. Somewhere and at some point, like the Whos in Whoville (as someone said yesterday), we recognize that what we seek has been with us all along. We also know that each Christmas is really ‘just’ another day. ‘Just’ another day that calls us into relationship with our Beloved and with one another. ‘Just another day’ to be surprised beyond our wildest dreams with the gift being cherished and trusted as God’s own.
Dec 20 – 27
Hello Dear People,
And so we are here: The week of Christmas. Now we know what the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas is. Still it has become in many ways, that day set aside year after year to publicly demand joy and celebration. Yet we know this is not the case for all of us, especially this year. This day can be very difficult and triggering, lonely and confounding. I know we will all experience this day differently this year. I know there is no right or wrong way to do that! I know that for many of us it will be a Christmas of firsts: being alone, being without a loved one, a new relationship, expectations of new birth.
I truly do wish for all of you some semblance of Joy. Not the kind that comes with gifts and songs. Not the kind that requires a fake smile and a stiff upper lip. Not the kind that is fleeting or assumes all is well. But the joy that sits deep within the core of your being. The joy that is not always on the suffice but lurking just out of sight. The joy that is realized in a moment –even when the world feels like it is ending. The joy that reminds you how much you are cherished and loved. And if you are not sure, I promise I love you all…
How the Light Comes– Jan Richardson
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined” Isaiah 9:2
I cannot tell you how the light comes.
What I know is that it is more ancient than imagining.
That it travels across an astounding expanse to reach us.
That it loves searching out what is hidden,
what is lost, what is forgotten or in peril or in pain.
That it has a fondness for the body,
for finding its way toward flesh,
for tracing the edges of form,
for shining forth through the eye, the hand, the heart.
I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you,
though it may seem long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.
And so may we this day turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies to follow the arc it makes.
May we open and open more and open still
to the blessed light that comes.
Dec 13 – 20
“Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down the extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of [what we can’t see] we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy [what is right in front of us]. A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude and inspiration” Brene Brown
Dear Joy Infused People,
I had a friend so many years ago who was going through a particularly difficult time. I was very young and naive and found her ability to laugh in the midst of it all, quite confounding. I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t deep in despair and furious at God. She offered something I have carried with me since that encounter. She said, “Of course I am sad and pretty ticked off at God, too. But every day I thank God for the ability to feel every feeling. Otherwise, my life would be inauthentic and I would remain numb to the entire world, to every nuanced experience, to every person I might meet.”
Here we are in this third week of Advent, perhaps still stumbling on the meaning of joy. It seems fleeting especially when one begins the day checking out the news–UGH!
But then, we have this remarkable gift of memory which allows, or rather invites, us to remember. We remember those moments when all seemed like what we might describe as pure joy: visits from friends or family; a gift given by our beloved; a good joke that brought tears; the sun shining through the clouds in bursts of blinding light; the wag of a pup of the purr of kitties; the smile of a child; a hug so long and warm it felt like you would melt. Each moment doesn’t just act as a reminder of what, was or what we hope for. Each is a moment when we have deep gratitude for the joy experienced. And this experience lives in our being.
In this season of waiting, longing, praying, wondering, imagining, grieving, feeling, may you know the joy that comes from the Holy One, who gifted us all with this Beloved community. This community which invites us into authentic experiences and wraps us in hugs–in person and virtual–which warm us to our core.
Dec 6 – 13
Hello Peace-filled people,
Just a simple Blessing from Jan Richardson, for you on your contemplative journey…
“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” —Luke 21: 28
It is difficult to see it from here, I know
but trust me when I say this blessing is inscribed on the horizon.
Is written on that far point you can hardly see.
Is etched into a landscape whose contours you cannot know from here.
All you know is that it calls you,
draws you, pulls you toward what you have perceived only in pieces,
in fragments that came to you in dreaming or in prayer.
I cannot account for how,
as you draw near,
the blessing embedded in the horizon begins to blossom upon the soles of your feet,
shimmers in your two hands.
It is one of the mysteries of the road,
how the blessing you have traveled toward,
waited for, ached for suddenly appears,
as if it had been with you all this time,
as if it simply needed to know
how far you were willing to walk
to find the lines that were traced upon you
before the day you were born.
Richardson, Jan. Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons (Kindle Locations 258-276). Wanton Gospeller Press. Kindle Edition.
Nov 30 – Dec 6
Greetings Imaginative People!
It is no secret to any of us how this year has demanded we become more imaginative in how we navigate these unprecedented circumstances. We have to schedule our grocery shopping, rework our finances, become tech geniuses overnight, recreate our homes to be schools, offices, day care centers and still feel like home. We’ve had to overcome isolation and boredom, loneliness and fear. We’ve had to be more creative in how we “do” relationships and make sure our kids get the socialization they need. No doubt our mental health has been dealt a blow here and there, as uncertainty fills our days. And the challenges of what to do about toilet paper??? Well, I’ll just leave that right here.
Yet through all of this, we have remained a flourishing community whose impact on our mission neighbors continuous just as strong as ever. Yearly, we have dedicated our time, talents and tithes, and while we have had to adjust our in-person relationships, we have met those financial commitments we made with our dedicated missions. In fact, this amazing congregation has once again gone above and beyond providing assistance to those whose lives have been adversely impacted by COVID-19: job loss, income insecurity, food insecurity, isolation. Your donations through our mission budget, covid fund, pastor’s discretionary, and direct material donations has allowed us to assist some of our congregants and neighbors with rental assistance, food, blankets, water, personal items, utilities, and transportation for folx to get to and from work.
With the strange passage of time, I admit I was flummoxed–(I’ve always wanted to use that word!) when Dana reminded me that we were not as on top of a stewardship campaign as we have been in the past. I was certainly behind the eightball on that one. She quickly remedied that by sending you all a stewardship letter and reminding us of what is needed to continue our work. Thank you Dana! But then as I was taking stock of the strangeness of this year, my worries about the coming year and the delay in a formal stewardship campaign were alleviated.
Quite simply, as evidenced above, you continue to live into the gospel and the work of justice. I have complete faith that we will meet our budget and that we will continue to be creative as we prepare for all that comes next. You see, in the midst of all that has been, you continue to be a true beacon of hope, of what can be, of how we can use our imaginations to get closer to God’s vision for this world. I am grateful to you all.
Nov 23 – 30
Dear Grateful People,
I struggle with this holiday we call thanksgiving. In theory, I welcome the idea to be reminded of all for which I should be grateful. In the midst of all that is our world today, I could certainly use the reminder. I also believe that most of us forget to be grateful on a regular basis, especially as life’s distractions get more complicated. The problem I have, and that we should all have quite frankly, is the toxic myth around which we have built this holiday. A friend recently shared that her grandchildren are still being taught this myth of Native Peoples welcoming and feeding new and hungry Pilgrims. There are still pageants in our schools where naive children approximate Native garb and give thanks for this generosity. But this is all a myth, a story used to distract us from the real life history so many of us have missed or ignored throughout our years on this planet. A history fraught with misery, and genocide and de-humanization.
Now, you may be horrified that I would bring this up at a time when we are trying to celebrate. But this is exactly why I bring it up. Because why we celebrate, others are traumatized once again, at the insensitivity of this national holiday. At a time when we truly do wish to at least figure out if unity is possible, we are celebrating a holiday which, by its history, is about division. To be honest I do not have an immediate solution as to how to deal with this on a national level. But I do have one for this week.
Flip the story. Tell the truth. Proclaim justice to all those you know who are still immersed in the myth. Recognize the trauma this holiday brings to people you know–in our congregation! Challenge the dishonesty, the white supremacy, the invisibility of Native peoples. And then, celebrate a day of thanksgiving where you were able to stand up for those to whom justice has been denied. Celebrate the fact that God has called us into this work! Give thanks that we have voice and hands and feet to do the work of our Beloved. And then, give thanks that we can stay safe this year so that we can join with each other in the future.
Be well. Stay safe. Stay healthy, my friends.
Nov 16 – 23
Dear Holy Ones,
Just a simple blessing for you and your beautiful persistence to be the love of our Beloved in this hurting world.
Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light (Jan Richardson ‘Circle of Grace’)
Blessed are you who bear the light in unbearable times,
who testify to its endurance amid the unendurable,
who bear witness to its persistence
when everything seems in shadow and grief.
Blessed are you in whom the light lives,
in whom the brightness blazes—
your heart a chapel,
an altar where in the deepest night
can be seen the fire that shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines every broken thing it finds.
Nov 9 -16
Good Morning Sacred People,
I imagine that somewhere over the past week you have experienced some kind of relief, a collective sigh signaling a break in the action. This is not to assume that the outcome of the election is satisfactory to everyone, but perhaps that we are just glad it is over–for now at least.
The chronic stress, of let’s just say this past year, has been extraordinary. It is beyond anything I have ever experienced in my life and I am assuming yours too. And even after our return to whatever normal is, whenever that is, our hearts and souls have been injured and beaten up and held hostage. And we are still in it. So, the question we may be asking on this Monday morning is ‘now what?’
A fair question.
Paying attention to our bodies, hearts and minds, our aches and pains is a good place to start. There is a lot of talk about national healing but I would argue we need to address our own healing too. Identifying and expressing gratitude allowing a shift from our grievances is actually one way to begin.
November has historically been that month where we prepare for thanksgiving. Of course I would be remiss in ignoring the harmful mythology of this holiday but for the sake of this reflection I want to focus on the concept of being thankful. How do we approach thankfulness after such a chaotic and unresolved year? While I realize it is difficult to follow up on assignments, as it were, I am inviting you to spend some quiet time to contemplate for that which you are grateful. This is not to dismiss our heartache and worry, but to notice gratitude and even joy co-existing with it. Write down your thoughts and prayers and keep them close, reminding you that everywhere in our lives, our Beloved resides.
Beloved, in the midst of all our present day chaos and uncertainty, it would be so easy to stay stuck in the muck of the unknown.
I admit I get so frustrated with limitations imposed, with fear and exhaustion, with the animosity and injustice I witness.
Yet you are our Beloved, and all my life you have been present reminding me you have been here before.
Your presence keeps me at a deep peace in the midst of all chaos.
Thank you for my family, 2 and 4 legged, who bring joy to the deepest longings of my heart.
Thank you for my Beloved community who continues to join in your name and for your purpose.
Thank you for each morning I wake up to face whatever the day might bring.
Thank you for the gift of feeling deeply: joy, devastation, gratitude, grief, expectation, exasperation, All Feelings which remind me I am alive and connected to your creation.
It is my intention to stay attentive to my humanity so to demonstrate my deep gratitude to your world through my actions and prayers.
Nov 2 – 9
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Ironically, I find I am running out of words. (Insert moment of disbelief here). Truly, what can I say that hasn’t been said these days? You’ve probably heard it all, felt it all, screamed it all. I think we can all in some way, recognize the heaviness of the era in which we are living. What did occur to me last night is that our ability to even struggle with all that is happening is a point of privilege in one way or another.
We can talk and argue, fight and cry. We can take a break and watch something comical or meaningless on TV. We can go for a run, to church, to the store, or nowhere for that matter. We can watch or not watch the news or participate in useless conversations on FB. We can sleep in our beds, cuddle our critters, go to work or collect unemployment. And we will continue to be able to do these things on Wednesday.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the weight of the election and how outcomes are yet to be determined. I am worried for friends of color who are being disenfranchised at the poles and every other place in this union. I am afraid for me and my wife and all queer persons who will affected by the outcome of arguments currently before the courts. I worry about the effects on social security and for those whose quality of life depends on those benefits. I worry for those who do not have health care and the risks which exist because a pandemic is flatly being ignored. etc etc etc. We most definitely need to remain aware of what is happening. We need to acknowledge our feelings and lament or jump for joy, process and rest. And then we need to remember what John Pavlovitz reminds us:
“Every single moment we’re here, you and I get to be agents of equity and justice. We don’t have to wait for an event to choose such things, and we can’t be fooled into believing they have an expiration date either. The gravity of this moment isn’t just about changing Presidents and Senate seats and flipping districts and political victories (though it is certainly is about all those things.) Yes, legislatively there is so much hanging in the balance this particular Tuesday—but the stakes are always similarly stratospheric, even if they are less noticeable. The really critical act is remembering that leveraging your life on behalf of others isn’t an event, it’s your ever-present calling. It’s about you and your daily ability to make this place more compassionate and generous and kind than when you found it. You get to be helper and healer and listener; to be an ally and an advocate and an activist.”
This is what has always bound us together and will continue to hold us regardless of Tuesday’s outcome. And we, as those who have chosen to be in a Beloved community, will go forward as always, loving our Beloved, each other and ourselves–bringing the vision and reality of divine possibility to this world.
Do what you need this week, my loves. Feel. Shout. Lament. Celebrate. Worry. Rest. Rinse and repeat. Know you are never abandoned and always loved!
Oct 26 – Nov 2
Good Morning Friends,
Sometimes no matter how much I try to relay a thought, a concept, an emotion, I just cannot articulate what it is I’m trying to say. It’s as if the words I am able to string together just can’t express what is swirling in my head.
Sometimes it’s just ’cause I’m tired. Other times it may be because the experience is just too big to tuck into the words I have at my disposal. And then other times, a word itself is just too big, confusing, annoying, spiritual, emotional, disruptive, descriptive, deceptive, to describe. LOVE- is one of those words.
Now I can bore you with all the Greek origins of the word -though I’d have to look that up because never actually took Greek! But instead I had an idea.
Below is a link to another song that I ‘love’–see what I did there? Sometimes, poetry, spoken word, music, art just does a better job expressing than trying to ‘explain’.
So, here’s the idea. Let’s compile a list, links, pics, and poems of ‘love’ that speak to us. These may be things you find or things you create! Email me what you have and I will figure a way to craft a presentation of sorts and get it all out to you. Only send what you feel comfortable sharing. Let’s make this a gift we share with one another. And let’s make November 30 our deadline–right as we begin Advent. If you have questions get them to me through email.Meanwhile enjoy the song!
Oct 19 – 26
Good Morning Dear Faith-filled People,
This past week the Rocky Mountain Conference sent out a document/toolkit on how to make sure our elections are secure and fair. I’ve included the introduction paragraph here along with links that may be of interest to you, below. And I’ve included a link to a video which is very much connected to our conversation yesterday.
“May You Vote” addresses to whom we belong and to whom we own our loyalties, our love and our lives. I hope it touches you as it did me. This election season, we are truly being called upon to live into our faith; discerning constantly what it is we are being called to do and be; and being reminded of what it means to be followers of Jesus. I pray we may all be courageous in our decisions.
May You Vote 2020: A Blessing Delivered By The Auburn Senior Fellows
Peace, ClareOct 12 – 19
Good Morning Dear Ones,
I remain a bit in shock by yesterday’s surprise. On Saturday, Rev. Tinsley texted me that she had ‘something’ she was dropping off at our house. When I opened the envelope I found the bunch of cards you all sent my way. To say I was delighted is an understatement! What a wonderful surprise that just made my day. And I had just enough time to pull it together to thank you when Sunday happened!
To be honest, these last 6 months have been a challenge. I miss sharing a physical space with you, random conversations, misc. drop ins during the week, hugs!. All of it! And yet, our time on Sundays, Tuesdays, and other ways we have been connecting, have become just as sacred, just as sustaining, just as much Beloved Community as we previously shared. Yesterday reminded me of just how much.
Thank-you just doesn’t seem to say how much I appreciate you, how grateful I am for you. Truly, I find hope in our gatherings. I find joy in our laughter. I find love in our community. Surely the Beloved is in this place!!!!
Oct 5 – 12
Good Morning Dear Ones,
I am truly at a loss this morning. Don’t get me wrong-I had a plan. I had a beautiful poem to connect us to our time together yesterday; to keep us connected to our ancestors and remind us that we are all blessed and cared for throughout the ages–even in the midst of all chaos. It is a very beautiful poem…
But then I remembered. I remembered what I had read about after worship yesterday. Then I remembered what–no, who–I never should have forgotten. I remembered Jonathan Price.
Jonathan Price, a 31 year old man of African descent was shot and killed by police on Saturday night. I will not expound on the circumstances of this shooting–they are all over the news. But suffice it for now that he was not the subject of why the police were called–he was ‘just’ the one who was killed.
You know I have so much to say about this. You’ve heard it all before. When I say I am at a loss this morning it isn’t because I am at a loss for words. It is because in only 24 hours I FORGOT IT HAPPENED!
I can give you reason upon reason why–I was tired; distracted–or focused or something else. Or it was a blur. Having happened so many times before, perhaps it was a numbing, self-preservation for the literal everyday occurrence of people of color being murdered by those who should be protecting. Maybe it’s “racism fatigue” –this is a term I just made up to describe an example of deadly white privilege. This is the kind of privilege that lets us be able to ignore, take a break from, forget the effects of racism. We can be blissfully ignorant that 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, every minute , second, every microsecond of the day, while POC, specifically in this case people of African descent, do not have the luxury of ‘forgetting’. That with every breath they take there is a profound realization that it may be their last.
We of European descent cannot possibly grasp this reality. It is beyond the scope of all of our experiences–physical, intellectual, spiritual, psychological. And yet the deadly reality of racism remains–in the air we breathe. We have only to pay attention.
I am saying to myself as much as to anyone: WE CANNOT FORGET! We cannot be distracted, ignore or explain away this reality. Lives are at stake. People we know and love are at risk–ALL THE TIME. This is not an admonishment or an invitation to feel guilty. It is a critical reminder of our call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly ALL WAYS and ALWAYS.
Sep 28 – Oct 5
I have this very annoying habit–I know you’re thinking, ‘only one’??
But seriously, it is this thing I do after any group I facilitate, paper I write, intense conversation I have and EVERY SERMON I DELIVER: I go back and analyze, re-read, re-play, pray, re-think, and then analyze again. It can be very time consuming for sure, but it is a way for me to hold myself accountable in relationships and in the information/content I am responsible for delivering. There are times I think I can pat myself on the back and be pleased that I did what I set out to do. There are other times when I think I’ve blown it all together. But mostly I, like most of us I imagine, fall somewhere in between.
So this morning as I’m re-reading the texts from yesterday, and my notes and the order of worship, I have been left wondering what it must be like to be God. On the one hand, just from the texts we read yesterday we have literal lifetimes of examples reminding us of how we are to be in relationship with one another and with God. These texts can often be read as reminders of how we as humanity have failed miserably. How many times do we look around and say “nothing ever changes”? How many times do we feel defeated and wonder what’s the point? And for me, I woke this morning wondering what God must be thinking: “What was I thinking when I set out on this creation thing?? Nothing ever changes with these people! How come I keep saying the same things over and over and we are HERE??”
But then there is the other hand…
I know this is going to sound like a great big DUH, but sometimes I just forget.
Throughout the span of time, even just the few thousand years we covered yesterday, there is the most profound common denominator: the constancy of our Beloved. In the midst of all chaos the Holy One remains. In all our distress, uncertainty, fear, exhaustion, joys and achievements, our Beloved remain present. So yes, we can scan scripture, read for connection, and learn of our theological roots (and we should). We can be held accountable and reprimanded when we fall short just as those who have come before us have. We can and must, learn and teach and move the planet closer to realizing the Kin-dom. AND we can and must remember, that through the eons, the sacred Spirit that dwells in all creation, is steadfast and constant.
Hear that again: That in the midst of that has been, is, and will be, our God is HERE, waiting, watching, loving.
Sep 14 – 21
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Believe it or not, I found myself speechless yesterday! Mallory’s Ecclesiastical Council (EC) was extraordinary! It was what has come to be called a hybrid gathering: half the crowd on Zoom the other in person. On this beautiful pre-autumn day we were seated in my favorite building at La Foret- Ponderosa. The shadows were grace-filled, the breeze delightful, the people excited to be there!. But the highlight was Mallory.
This young woman, who is compelled to answer the call to be the presence of the Divine in this world, demonstrated exactly why she was approved to be ordained pending call. I cannot begin to do justice to Mallory’s presentation. For the first time at an EC, I found myself trying to come up with the questions yet to be presented only to be left time and time again in awe of the depth of her spirituality. Her authentic, Spirit driven presence responded with truth and grace to each question posed. But even more, Mallory demonstrated her theology in her Being over and above her answers. If anyone wanted to grasp the conception of God incarnate, all one had to do was watch and listen. ‘Surely the presence of God was in that place”.
In uncertain times, for so many reasons, I promise you that what we witnessed yesterday was pure possibility of what can be. Mallory has been approved for ordination and we are all better for it!!
Sep 7 – 14
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Thank you for a robust conversation on Sunday! I cannot tell you how exciting it is to hear your ideas and your hopes for our community–both church and beyond. Being able to be open to change in order to remain relevant and faithful to our mission is so uplifting!!.
And speaking of uplifting: Mallory Everhart’s Ecclesiastical Council this coming Sunday Afternoon at 3 pm!!
We have been so fortunate to have been on this journey with Mallory for these past two plus years. This relationship began with Vista Grande offering her a place to further her formation while she shared with us her ministerial gifts. In the process, this relationship has blossomed into Vista Grande being graced with her pastoral presence and creative spirit, and Mallory being able to discern that she is indeed called to church ministry.
It is appropriate then, that we “attend” her EC on Sunday so that we can show her and the rest of the Southeastern Association that we support and validate her call to ordained ministry.
Please plan on attending with joy and love!
Aug 31 – Sep 7
Hello Dear Ones,
I first want to thank Kayan for his willingness to share yesterday. I cannot express how fortunate we are to have his voice and deep sacred stories in our church. The depth of his convictions and courage remind me that those of us with privilege are responsible for doing, at the very least, the same as he in the fight for racial justice.
When we are engaged in the work we do and only recognize it as “mission” there is the temptation to forget that our own liberation is intimately connected to anyone who is oppressed. We see what we do as an act of kindness, compassion, as Christian. And while all of that is true, we must also realize that if one person is subjected to injustice we are all affected. Racial justice is hard work. It is probably the hardest work we will ever be called on to do. So much of it is hidden from us of European decent. Either we are not directly affected or we don’t want to believe the experiences of those who are. And we certainly do not want to be implicated in any way. But the reality is we are affected and we are implicated. So let’s acknowledge that and just get to work.
You my dear people, are so open to doing this. I’ve yet to be part of any congregation other than this one that is so willing to be challenged and so willing to work. While everyday I am faced with the enormity of the task at hand, it is because of you I can believe that change can truly happen.
Peace, Pastor Clare
Aug 24 – 31
Hello Dear Ones,
John O’Donohue was an Irish Mystic whose blessings and prayers offer a deep comfort and solidarity that is difficult to explain. The following is one of those pieces. While it is offered as though he is speaking to one person, it can be understood as also speaking to a group. I hope this offers you the soft, gentle shoulder it has offered me these days.
FOR THE INTERIM TIME By John O’Donohue
“When near the end of day, life has drained Out of light, and it is too soon For the mind of night to have darkened things, No place looks like itself, loss of outline Makes everything look strangely in-between, Unsure of what has been, or what might come. In this wan light, even trees seem groundless. In a while it will be night, but nothing Here seems TO believe the relief of dark.
You are in this time of the interim Where everything seems withheld. The path you took to get here has washed out; The way forward is still concealed from you. “The old is not old enough to have died away; The new is still too young to be born.” You cannot lay claim to anything; In this place of dusk, Your eyes are blurred; And there is no mirror. Everyone else has lost sight of your heart And you can see nowhere to put your trust; You know you have to make your own way through.
As far as you can, hold your confidence. Do not allow your confusion to squander This call which is loosening Your roots in false ground, That you might come free From all you have outgrown. What is being transfigured here is your mind, And it is difficult and slow to become new. The more faithfully you can endure here, The more refined your heart will become For your arrival in the new dawn.”
Aug 17 – 24
Hello My Dear Church!
How I have missed you! Though I’m sure that Mallory knocked it out of the park these past few weeks. Yes I have succumbed to baseball metaphors.
Home to Baltimore the week our beloved Orioles were in town just to pout in our hotel room as they played to an empty stadium.
This was a trip of joy, respite, and quite frankly, lamentation.
We had a wonderful time traversing cross country (except for Kansas–nothing wonderful except the welcome to Missouri sign ;-).
Our hotel was beautiful but with no amenities.
Restaurants were open but only for take-out or sitting outside.
The weather was great, yet we were stalled by a hurricane.
The city welcomed us with its lights, sights and sounds and yet a good portion of it was closed down for months.
A trip of gratitude and yet bittersweet.
And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
While we were saddened by the state of affairs in Baltimore (and everywhere) we were so grateful for the opportunity to be there.
To eat seafood (a lot of seafood!)
To cry over the best sports teams ever.
To walk and sweat and revel in the humidity.
To miss visits with friends and family.
And having the time–the time–
to recognize and live in the ebb and flow of all feelings rather than being distracted by the business of life.
It was a real and good vacation.
It was sincere, and life giving, and thoughtful, and enjoyable and tasty.
And I can’t wait to see you all!!
Jul 27 – Aug 3
Good Morning Church!
Thank you for indulging me yesterday, joining together ‘Before’ the actual worship service. It was so good to spend that time with you! I hope you found the service to your liking.
Confession time. I admit it is really difficult to listen to a sermon without being critical. The Monday morning quarterback in me is always on point, thinking what was good, what was missing, style points and presentation. I did this with Susan’s sermon, too. I thoroughly enjoy the message of abundance. I like the bit of snarkiness in presentation. I like the challenges she puts forth. There is only one part I would have pressed a bit more: the invasive, and noxious characteristics of the mustard seed plant.
What a weird way to describe the Kin-dom of our Beloved.
But the more we think about it, the more it makes sense. From the perspective of the Roman Empire, Jesus and his followers were just that. Invasive, noxious, annoying fast growing weeds, getting in the way of power and injustice. A demanding, spreading growth attempting to take over and getting in the way of those whose power was being challenged. Rome would have done whatever it could to paint these troublemakers in poor light and to eradicate them by any means necessary.
If we look around at what is happening in our cities these days, we see something very similar, if not identical, to what was happening in the early church. When we hear about these stories of Jesus and his community, we can choose their side. We see Rome as the enemy and Jesus as the hero. We want justice and God’s kin-dom to prevail. But when we hear about the trouble ‘those people’ are causing in our city streets today, we tend to want to admonish the behavior without understanding the resistance. We don’t understand that those who are fighting, are fighting for their very lives. Those noxious, invasive weeds are responding to injustice and demanding God’s abundance for all, just as Jesus preached.
Look, I know you already had a sermon on the subject yesterday. But I’m gone for a bit so I had to add my two (25!) cents. As Susan stated, this abundance doesn’t just happen. It requires our understanding of context and our willingness to engage. It requires hard work. It always has, and it always will. And we are in the good company of those who have gone before us. We are the ones who usher in this abundance and allow it to grow!
So, stay safe. Stay on point. Stay critical in your thinking. Stay grounded in our Beloved. Look after one other. And Know you are Loved.
Jul 20 – 27
Hello Dear Ones,
I have been contemplating this notion of liminal space. That in the space of ‘in between: between knowing and unknowing; certainty and uncertainty; we can even add belief and disbelief. It is a constant for me especially as my wife and I attempt to plan a road trip to Baltimore. We have all the accouterments one might need these days: Clorox wipes, toilet seat covers ( i know TMI!), water, jumper cables, protein bars, masks and more masks, rubber gloves–maybe–we even have a high end disinfectant for the hotel carpet once we get to where we are going. Or if we get to where we are going. Because, we may not go, or even know what we are doing until the last minute.
But this is how things are these days. We are excited by the possibility and we are planning as if we are going, AND we are also planning for alternatives if it doesn’t work out. We will be disappointed if we don’t go and we will also be able to be creative with what we do instead. On some level this is disheartening and exhausting, on another level it is exciting and has great potential for something we haven’t thought if yet.
You see where I’m going don’t you?
Liminal space. If we could choose, I’m guessing we would all rather have some idea (read: control) over what will happen next, but we are learning that this is really never the case. What makes planning our trip under these circumstances palatable in that we are doing it together. We can use the unknown time to be creative, support each other in our disappointment, and then begin to look forward to what might happen instead. One might say, kinda like church these days..
While I’m gone, beginning August 2, Mallory will be leading you on a journey to explore a bit more about what it means to be in this space. You know you are in excellent hands. Enjoy the journey and we can share notes when I get back!
Jul 13 – 20
Good Morning Church!
I am in the process of helping to craft the worship service for our Rocky Mountain Conference annual celebration. In so doing I was creating the invocation for the service and found myself being inspired by this community. It is with immense gratitude for this congregation, that I share this with you.
“We gather this morning to celebrate as a community which exemplifies what it means to be a people of unity in the midst of our diversity. In this gathering we wrestle with what it means to be the presence of the Divine in this world so desperate to know our Beloved.
In this gathering we embrace the paradoxes of our faith:
Of being both a Beloved Community and a community who has not reached the pinnacle of what that means.
Of being grateful for the contributions of our ancestors while recognizing that the land upon which we all now stand was stolen from native peoples.
Of demonstrating gratitude for what we have while acknowledging that what we have was in all probability obtained on the backs of those who were stolen from their homes and are still considered by many, less than.
Of celebrating our diversity and offerings of radical hospitality to all, while also acknowledging that not everyone will find a home in this place.
Of embracing our beloved community while also recognizing our distinct and sacred differences.
Divine Mystery enable us to remain steadfast in our desire to represent your vision for this world. Keep us strong and courageous in our quest to be in relationship with one another. Give us open hearts and ears that we may genuinely appreciate what each of us brings to your open table of belonging. Remind us to be patient with one another and remain grateful for our endearing and individual personalities. May we meet the challenges of relationship with humor, accountability, a desire for learning and understanding, gratitude and most importantly love.
May we stand firm in our faith knowing that in every place we try to live your brilliant imagination of your vision for this world; we will find You there. Amen.”
Jul 6 – 13
Good Morning Gentle People,
I am grateful. Yesterday was an example of grace in community. Your courage and willingness to share yourselves and be available to one another was pure beauty and hope in the midst of so much happening in this world. Thank you hardly seems adequate.
My go to during times of introspection is typically John O’Donohue. His words seem to be able to offer a place to land when the world is spinning. I hope they offer you the same this day.
Poem: FOR LONELINESS
When the light lessens,
Causing colors to lose their courage,
And your eyes fix on the empty distance
That can open on either side
Of the surest line
To make all that is
Familiar and near
Seem suddenly foreign,
When the music of talk
Breaks apart into noise
And you hear your heart louden
While the voices around you
Slow down to leaden echos
Into something stony and cold,
When the old ghosts come back
To feed on everywhere you felt sure,
Do not strengthen their hunger
By choosing fear;
Rather, decide to call on your heart
That it may grow clear and free
To welcome home your emptiness
That it may cleanse you
Like the clearest air
You could ever breathe.
Allow your loneliness time
To dissolve the shell of dross
That had closed around you;
Choose in this severe silence
To hear the one true voice
Your rushed life fears;
Cradle yourself like a child
Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know
That deep in that black hole
You will find the blue flower
That holds the mystical light
Which will illuminate in you
The glimmer of springtime.
Jun 29 – Jul 6
Good Morning Friends,
There are some mornings where there is so much to say; so many things going on in the world-globally and locally; so many overwhelming events, issues, concerns, injustices. And this doesn’t even touch on our personal lives. And here is where you may chuckle a bit.
You would think that given my ‘career’ choice my first ‘go to’ for respite would be to pray. But believe it or not, while I talk TO the Beloved regularly, in my businesses I often forget to actually stop and pray and LISTEN to God.
So this morning, I offer a beautiful prayer by John O’Donohue. I hope it offers you some respite and comfort to nourishment for the journey.
FOR ONE WHO IS EXHAUSTED
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become labor some events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
Jun 22 – 29
Good Morning Beloved Community,
Seeking justice is exhausting isn’t it?
A colleague of mine–a pastor of African descent in a church of European descendant congregants, was blasted by her number one advocate in that church because he was tired of hearing about racial injustice and just wanted a nice sweet father’s day sermon to which he felt he was entitled. Sigh…
My first internship during seminary was in Pueblo at Christ Church, UCC thanks to the interim Pastor, a Rev. Faye Gallegos. According to the timeline, I had to begin the first of March and we were already one week in. You see the first location to which I had applied, and been accepted, had immediately changed their minds as soon as I came out to them. With a phone call to Faye, whom I had yet to meet in person, I had a place to intern.
When I was just beginning my second internship as a seminary student at Church in the Wildwood in Green Mountain Falls, (and after a shaky start wherein half the congregation wanted me gone for the same reason I just mentioned), I had a interesting interaction with a congregant who shared that she loved coming to church to hear positive sermons which provide her with comfort and made her happy. I looked at her, smiled and said before I thought, “Well, but for appropriate exceptions, I won’t be giving those kinds of sermons”.
Isn’t it a terrible irony, that those who are affected by oppressive systems actually find comfort in those sermons which address injustices, while those of us who are privileged find such sermons discomforting as it draws attention to our complicity. We would rather hear about false hope, peace, comfort AND that we are ‘good’ in the eyes of our God then be challenged to address those injustices that cause interminable pain to our sacred siblings.
Last week, in the midst of Pride month a dear friend was calling for celebration over the Supreme Court’s decision NOT to repeal basic human rights for us Queer Folx. While I am grateful for her support 2 things occurred to me: the first, it never should have been an issue–AGAIN–which needed a “supreme” court to decide; and second, if the court shifts with the addition of one person during the next 4 months, queer folx, I, am doomed.
Yet even in this anxiety which looms on a regular basis, I can still pass as straight, (I know it would take an incredible amount of work!!). And as a white woman, I remain relatively safe in the midst of racial disparities. And while I can find some tentative comfort in the most recent ruling for Queers, can I really dwell in that comfort while my siblings are drowning??
Don’t get me wrong? We all need comfort and breaks from the realities that surround us. It isn’t useful to get overwhelmed by bad news or guilt. This is where community enters to provide accountability and the respite we need. So be kind to one another and yourselves. Take the rests you need. Try not to avoid the difficult conversations and tasks before you. Have fun when possible. Laugh when necessary. Play every day. Love everyone. And take comfort always that our God has found favor in who you are.
Jun 8 – 15
Dear Beloved Community,
I hope you found yesterday’s opportunity to meet and commit to one another ways you will work to eradicate racial injustice. You wouldn’t know this because you were in small groups, but a vast majority stayed after worship to be in conversation. Thank you for your willingness to engage. This is hard, long lasting work so I will be reminding you to check in with one another periodically in order to offer support and accountability.
I am including in this blast a link to The Rev. Dr. William Barber’s sermon yesterday at the National Cathedral In Wash. DC. (It is critical that you hear other voices besides mine–especially those of Africa, Native and Latinx voices.) Rev. Barber is the co-chair of Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival with Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. I encourage you all to read about this Campaign and to watch the sermon given by Rev Barber.
Rest, Pray, Educate and Act. Rinse and Repeat.
Jun 1 – 8
Dear Beloved Church,
I got a quick message from a friend last night who suggested that the times in which we are living are ‘surreal’.
I think we use that word a lot without perhaps having an understanding of its meaning. According to Collins definition: “If you describe something as surreal, you mean that the elements in it are combined in a strange way that you would not normally expect, like in a dream.” A few synonyms include: offbeat, outlandish, absurd, peculiar strange. Initially I was tempted to agree. But then I realized that what I might define as surreal as a middle class, white, professional might very well be ‘very real’ for those who have been marginalized for so long.
From my place of privilege, I have never been confined to my home in order to be safe from the deadly global pandemic — of racism. I’ve never had to risk my life going to a job in order to pay my rent and feed my kids while those of privilege get to hunker down at home. I’ve never been described by those in power as expendable in terms of getting the economy back on track. I’ve never feared the police because of the color of my skin. I’ve never had to have the conversations with my children on how to appease law enforcement so as to stay breathing. I’ve never felt so hopeless in my own world that the rage propels me to riot. All of this sounds ‘surreal’ to me. But it is very much reality for so many.
These are tenuous times for sure. Fear, uncertainty, hopelessness loom ready to grab us in a painful and frightening embrace. We need each other now more than we have before. But maybe there is also something here we need to realize. As we sit through each crisis, each example of how racism permeates our world, each sermon that you could tragically recite from memory, what lies before us is an opportunity to see what we need to see and hear what we need to hear in order to begin to understand how so many live all the time.
So, don’t be afraid. Listen to the stories. Strive to understand the rage and fear our black and brown siblings experience every day. Refrain from judgement and challenge those who would. Reach out frequently to those who are struggling. Don’t run from your discomfort. And always, Love Deeply.
May 25 – Jun 1
Good Morning Beloved Community,
This day is designated to remember those whose lives were devoted to the protection of the rest of us. We can and should spend time and discussion examining and deconstructing our nation’s participation in war with regard to how we are involved in this world.
But today, with sadness, grief, and appreciation, we take the time to remember those who truly were and are selfless in their desire to protect and serve something bigger than themselves. No doubt many are struggling with the mundane choice to stay in or risk going to a BBQ. But today we hold those who literally put their lives on the line for the rest of us who did not.
With humility and gratitude, I wish to offer the below reflection.
May 18 – 25
I want to thank all of you for your patience yesterday with regard to the recording of the national service. I know it was not as smooth as I would have liked. There were some critical moments when we froze or skipped. However, I am still glad we had access to this worship. You’re no doubt sayin “You’ve got to be kidding”, so let me tell you why.
There is the obvious: unity, companionship, support of and from the larger church, I didn’t have to write a sermon ;-). ( although preparing a sermon would have been easier than the struggle with the technology!) I know parts were difficult to follow and I’m not a fan of creedal statements either, but here’s what I noticed.
- Perfection is overrated, not to mention non-existent. The disciples in yesterday’s reading were expecting perfection. They were expecting that from here on in all would be well–No trouble or strife. And that wasn’t the case, then or now. Trouble and strife are parts of life. When we think that it should be otherwise we can get resentful, complaisant, lazy, demanding that God step in and fix things. Difficulty can actually remind us that we need community and that we are supposed to be the ones who ‘step in and try to fix things.’
- There are times when we, too, freeze or skip. Both usually to avoid what needs to be done. The desire to just freeze in place and ignore the world is something we’ve all experienced for good or naught. As is the temptation to skip over the hard stuff and jump right to the end without doing the work–personal or communal.
- We have a lot of white people in our UCC leadership…I’ll just leave that here.
- We have had much difficulty as the early church trying to be diverse and yet also unified: who belongs and who doesn’t, or perhaps more accurately who do we miss. Our services are not very inclusive of Latinx and Native peoples, hearing impaired, or those with mental health concerns as much as they should be given our mission of radical hospitality.
- We really all are in this together! Every person on that video is trying to figure our how to be church in this crisis. How to pastor, do missions, be radically inclusive, how to remain in community, how to grieve without loosing hope, wonders what the future will be and how will we get there? These questions are also indicative of the questions those who were a part of the early church movement faced!
Now remember the first point: perfection is overrated and impossible. And yet we can still strive to do what we are called to do. University of Memphis Professor Andre E. Johnson offers, “When the Spirit of God is working, God will have you doing things that you thought you would never do”. This is exactly where we find ourselves. And believe it or not, this is also where Hope abides: knowing that this Sacred Spirit is moving and out of every part of our lives.
Stay safe and healthy friends. I love you.
May 11 – 18
Dear Beloved Community,
In my first year of seminary we were required to read a book called” Learning to be White”, by UU minister and theologian, Thandeka. I was put off by this assignment. Having been raised in Northern NJ, in a white neighborhood and with an extended family that was classically racist, I should have been so indoctrinated. However, my saving grace was a father who, having spent 20 years as a priest, exuded more acceptance of people than most. He involved my immediate family in a program called ‘Fresh Air’ in which white families opened their homes to ‘minority, underprivileged kids’ (read Black) from the projects of Patterson, to come spend part of the summer in white homes. My father didn’t talk about race, he just told my mother who had plenty of opinions, that this is what we were doing. And as such I grew up with Patty as my sister. She called my parents mom and dad and to this day we are ‘sis’ to one another. So you see, I wasn’t just put off by being expected to read this book–I was insulted (this is called white fragility). I Didn’t need to read it because I was not racist…
That was then…
There are too many reasons, events, confrontations, conversations and conversions that have happened since that year to try to write here, as to why I know differently now. Suffice it say, any transformation in this racially unjust world by a white person, is really hard work. I do it everyday. Recent and ongoing events I bring to the pulpit say why. Lives are at stake. Our souls and our humanity depend on our willingness to be engaged in anti-racism work. I know you didn’t all sign up for this. That statement alone is our point of privilege. We really can ignore the topic. Except for that pesky thing we all our faith, dang it. It demands that we face injustices and stand against them.
I don’t expect that you will do all that I’ve done or continue to do with regard to racial justice–we all find our call in different places. But I do expect you will do something. Below are some links to recent articles for your engagement. If you wish to discuss them let me know. If you just wish to read them and let them be, Ok. And if you wish to ignore them that is up to you, too. You know by now I will continue to keep this in our vision either way. I am heartbreakingly certain that Ahmaud Arbery’s murder will not be the last we bring into our sanctuary or into our hearts. And I know for certain that I will continue to work for racial justice for all of our siblings. Will you join with me please…
- The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying
- We’re Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholders’ Republic
May 4 – 11
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” (Mother Teresa, 20th century )
Good Monday People of the Resurrection,
Last week during one of our clergy gatherings with the conference, Rev. Sue Artt, (Conference minister) commented about the word ‘awe’. She shared that she never uses the word except in how it was intended: an experience of wonder and reverence; one of astonishment demanding respect. I find myself in ‘awe’ this morning when I look at the parallels in our current world with those stories in scripture we’ve been reading over the past 2 months. The end of Lent, into the Holy Week narrative, for example, connects us to our ancestors as both worlds are turned upside-down. Isolation, abandonment, grief, fear, a reminder of deep injustices for those who have historically been oppressed, are just a few examples. The entire world–then and now- entered this time period one way and emerged very differently. And in the midst of that emergence was and is the question of identity, both individual and corporate.
We, like the early church, are most definitely on the cusp…of something. Fear and trepidation are still present, with perhaps a measure (large or small depending on who you are) of curiosity and imagination. We ask questions like: Who are we as community when we only meet on a screen? How can we be the church stuck at home? How can we do the work of our missions if we can’t ‘do relationship’ like before? How do we fight for justice against racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, economic disparity, etc, etc etc, when we can’t even leave our houses? How do I think of others, when my own sense of self preservation, grief, fear, disorientation, leaves me motionless?
All of these questions are critical to ask and ponder as we negotiate a new world. The temptation will be to try to return to what was, to re-gain that known sense of equilibrium even as we know that the world was one where injustice and disparity of all kinds flourished.
But for this community, that just will not do.
We have always taken the challenge to rise up for ‘the least of these’, (perhaps a better phrase: ‘the equal to us in the eyes of our Beloved’). We have been in the fore of new ways to be community, to do ministry, to fight injustice, and we will not be deterred any more than those whose world was upturned 2000 years ago.
So hang in there. Talk to one another. Feel what you need to feel. And most importantly, remember who you are and to Whom you belong.
“The death of Jesus left a fledgling faith community bereft until they themselves rose out of his grave to begin life over again, wiser for what they knew, stronger for what he was, determined now to finish what had already been begun. All things end so that something else can begin.” (Sr Joan Chittister)
Peace, ClareApr 27 – May 4
Good Morning Friends,
The Road to Emmaus has always tapped my imagination in ways other stories in scripture have not. I think part of it has been, that even as a child, I found trying to digest the resurrection story very confusing. It wasn’t about trying to wrap my little head around someone literally waking after having been dead for 3 days. That brain-twister came later. For me, it was this idea that the people in the Jesus story could go from sad to happy in a matter of days, when they had just lost their best friend. Regardless of the theological metaphor, which of course eluded me, I was still in the throws of the loss. I had watched all the movies during Holy Week. I had really bought into the relationships Jesus had with his friends. My imagination allowed me to enter the story and so I really felt the horror and deep sadness of Good Friday. And then poof! All was well again, be happy, find your eggs and jelly beans and let’s move on. How weird…
Then, a couple of weeks later, like balm on a deep wound, there is the story of Emmaus. And in this story, I was invited to re-visit my grief, shout my disbelief and rage at what had happened, and ask questions that had been pushed aside at the tomb.
Over the years, whenever I hear this story, I again allow my imagination to wander and as I close my eyes, I am walking down the street with a friend, discussing my pain and grief over the events of the days. While talking and walking with one who is listening and sharing, I find the Divine walking with me, listening intently, encouraging me to share my take on the story, my deep feelings, everything about what has happened. And then, at the end of the story, there is the gathering of Beloved community who continues to hold the grief, the hope, and one another. In the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine, this community is reminded they are not alone, even as they continue to grieve.
Even today, I am profoundly amazed at how this one story tugs at my heart and brings me home.
My friends, we are that Beloved Community. Each of us is at a different place in terms of this long journey we are on during this time in the life of our world. Where are you on this road? What part of the story has you befuddled? To whom are you sharing your deep feelings, worries and fears? What questions do you have that have been stifled? What do you need to suddenly feel your hearts burn within? What ritual will bring you home to that place where you know you are held and loved?
Apr 20 – 27
Good Morning Church!
I have been exploring various writings about this notion of ‘doubt’ this morning. Progressive Christian thought welcomes and embraces the idea of doubt as a way for us to use our minds, to explore possibilities and potentialities, to avoid dogmatic thinking that leads to exclusion and stagnation. We are invited to participate in critical thinking, embrace scientific facts, and remain inquisitive and imaginative. Of course, this sounds good on the surface, but it doesn’t exactly engender hope in a crisis…or does it??
Look, it would be so comforting to actually know ‘certain things’ wouldn’t it? Like, if I believe a certain thing I am rewarded with another certain thing. Like, if I trust everything will be ok then it will be ok according to my definition of ‘ok’. Like, if I accept this way of thinking or that way of believing I will get stuff, while your lack of stuff is because you don’t believe this way or that way. (Please note that none of these past conclusive statements actually have anything to do with God! yet have had everything to do with religion!)
In a crisis, all of this kind of dogmatic thinking is put to the test. No amount of ‘faithful’ certitude of who deserves what, works in a global pandemic. And I think this is what has so many folx riled up and pushing back against the restrictions about social distancing. Theology that privileges one group over another because of a belief system falls apart when the entire organism, humanity, is affected. As such anger and fear can propel some into reacting in a way that is harmful to both others and themselves.
So we have a choice. We can recognize that we don’t have all the answers, that we aren’t better than another, and that we are all at risk; or we can ignore factual scientific information, succumbing to a misguided privileged notion that we are somehow exempt from being hurt or hurting others.
And you ask, ok how is this helpful?! I know this already!
And here it is, the paradox of our faith in a chaotic world: we know we are loved; we know we are held in hope and grace within our community; we know that in the midst of suffering and uncertainty WE still have the power to love and care for one another, even as we are apart; and we know that amidst all of the challenges yet to come, we will trust in one another for continued love and support.
So stay at home my dears, caring for yourselves and one another. In the midst of the unknown allow yourself the ‘certainty’ of the love of your community. Try to find a moment of peace in each day. Reach out to one another regularly. Don’t be afraid to lean on each other or ask for what you need.
And please hear this, I love you.
Apr 13 – 20
Good Easter Monday, Church!
I cannot repeat enough how wonderful it was to see all of your faces, see your presence, gathered in our new sacred space! I truly meant it when I said that your gathering is the living example of resurrection!
We explore quite frequently the invitation to experience our lives from a non-dualistic place. We speak of the tensions of feeling gratitude and apprehension, fear and comfort, joy and grief, all at the same time. And these deep, profound experiences reflect what the first communities of followers must have felt. Our Humanity binds us to those ancestors in ways in which we never really paid attention. How many times have we found ourselves in the throes of a multitude of emotions and compared that to what those who lived through Holy Week and Easter must have experienced?! It appears we are in good company!
Once again Jan Richardson offers words to this affect. As you walk past your butterfly, catching a reminder of the community which holds you, allow yourselves to also ponder this blessing. Peace to all of you, my friends.
The Magdalene’s Blessing For Easter Day.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” —John 20: 16
You hardly imagined standing here, everything you ever loved suddenly returned to you, looking you in the eye and calling your name.
And now you do not know how to abide this hole in the center of your chest,
where a door slams shut and swings open at the same time, turning on the hinge of your aching and hopeful heart.
I tell you, this is not a banishment from the garden.
This is an invitation, a choice, a threshold, a gate.
This is your life calling to you from a place you could never have dreamed, but now that you have glimpsed its edge, you cannot imagine choosing any other way.
So let the tears come as anointing, as consecration, and then let them go.
Let this blessing gather itself around you.
Let it give you what you will need for this journey.
You will not remember the words— they do not matter.
All you need to remember is how it sounded when you stood in the place of death and heard the living call your name.
Apr 6 – 13
Rob Bell, 21st century
“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, ‘God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.’ The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments. The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, ‘Me too.'”
Good morning Beloved Community,
As I write this I have of course been listening to the news and the latest information about our current circumstances. We are in the throws of it. It’s very strange to hear about the very dangerous and potentially deadly conditions we are facing and not try to offer some kind of comfort in the name of pastoral care.
During Holy Week we are usually called to spend time focusing on the ways we have stumbled as followers, holding ourselves accountable to how we have not lived into the mandate of doing unto others and loving without conditions. Certainly it’s fair to ask your pastor to back off a bit so that we can just look out for ourselves and our own wellbeing. We can get about the task of repentance and restoration later–for now let’s just focus on us.
And we can most definitely do this. However, I would suggest that we do both.
There are a lot of unknowns these days and it is easy to succumb to fear and tribalism–you know hoard all we can; ignore our neighbors; forget our spiritual life; keep any resources we have to ourselves. The list can be endless. On the other hand, we can ignore warnings; think we are invincible; pretend that we are neither susceptible to or potentially responsible for transmission. So many ways we can feel overwhelmed and out of control. And we are.
But let’s not forget:
Holy Week reminds us of the tension between fear and salvation; of isolation and profound love; of betrayal and forgiveness; relationships ending and relationships re-defined becoming more intimate; death and a new understanding of life. This is the week we can enter the story in ways never before. We have been presented with an understanding that before we could only imagine. We have been given the opportunity to recognize the intense meaning of Holy Week. Yes, it is overwhelming. Yes, it is frightening. Yes, it is confusing, and frustrating, let’s not forget exhausting, and the real truth that it can end for some with profound grief and loss.
I know it is hard to think of any of this as ‘gift’ or ‘opportunity’. And I don’t want to minimize your experiences or feelings to suggest you should feel other than how you feel–Only to point to the invitation to further understand and know that God is in all of this –just as God has been in every Holy Week from the beginning.
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, 21st century
“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our humanity.”
Mar 30 – Apr 6
Hello Dear Beloved Community,
How good it was to see and hear all of your yesterday! Thanks you for continuing to show up in this holy gathering!
Years ago when I was in seminary, a dear Professor, Rev. Jane Vennard, shared a story about the depths of comfort familiar prayer can have in community. She told the story of having at Iliff the day of the Columbine shooting. While these shootings have become sinfully commonplace, it was a relatively unknown and profoundly traumatic event. She shared that her class looked to her, the prayer guru, for direction and comfort. She said she found herself gathering her class in a circle and leading the Lord’s prayer over and over. This familiar mantra held them in their shock and despair and offered unexpected connection and comfort. Articulating the words we mutter time after time– often without awareness– , bound them to one another and their God that day and in years to follow.
My friends, I have taken a page from Jane’s playbook. Below are the words so familiar to us. I have expanded the content a bit which I hope lends itself to your prayer. Whether you choose to include the expanded words or just the traditional, I invite us all to say this prayer daily, out loud or quietly, by ourselves or with another. In this way we will know that we all remain connected to one another this day and always.
I love you all.
Mar 23 – 30
For Such A Time As This
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”
Hello Dear Ones,
These are beautiful words from the author Clariss Pinkola Estés. (the entire essay “Do Not Lose Heart, We Were Made for These Times” is available on the Progressive Christianity website) her words grasp the heaviness of the times while still reminding us of the power each of us has to create and re-create hope and light in this world.
These are for sure troubling times. I would gather this is not just because of the fear a potential illness may bring, but also in light of all of the uncertainty surrounding how we as a nation, a world are being charged to protect the most vulnerable– saving their lives even at risk to our own sense of security and certainty. While there are governments and power brokers out and about trying to either assist or manipulate for their own gain, we are left to waiting and wondering how all of this will play out. Interestingly, this is a profound time in our history to really do great things. Theologically, we have entered a time where all of our actions may have a direct impact on the life of another. what a gift to be asked to be selfless and other centered as we put our lives on hold in these moments. Don’t get me wrong. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice is not useful . And sacrifice that causes you further suffering is not what is called for. But recognizing that the sacrifice you are making now by tucking in and staying home is potentially life saving for another is extraordinary.
And then we gather on Sundays. We see one another. We share our stories. We get energized once more. We are reminded we are loved and cared for. And we go at it again!
I love each of you. Stay healthy, friends.
Mar 2 – 9
Good Monday Dear Ones,
I had the privilege of being asked to co-facilitate an anti-racism workshop this past weekend in Yonkers New York, with a Sacred Conversations colleague Rev Kris Watson. The group was a Climate Extinction activists from all over NYC, who came willing to work. Specifically, integrating the intersectionality of racism and the catastrophic environmental conditions under which we find ourselves these days. To be clear, these conversations can be overwhelming at best and devastatingly hopeless at worst.
Except for this:
Over the course of these 2 days, two seemingly separate groups of social justice activists found each other and agreed to work together for the sake of all. Out of this workshop plans are already in the works to have another gathering with more CE folx to get them on board. The members of this group have asked for monthly check ins to make sure they are holding themselves accountable in checking their racism and being more inclusive in their work. They have also paired with one another to continue their studies. Kris and I have also covenanted to be more conscientious in our congregations with regard to climate changes and the ways in which our churches can become more intentional about doing our parts to literally save this planet.
This collaboration links three communities–2000 miles apart–in the work to which we are all called: Co-Creating the world our Beloved has envisioned for all of us. And in this type of collaboration is what reminds us that the Hope we so desperately seek lies within each of us to realize.
Feb 24 – Mar 1
We begin the season of Lent this week, a time of introspection, reflection and a sacred opportunity to return to our Beloved. Historically, the church has focused on the toxic emphasis of the ‘sinfulness of humanity’, diverting us from the invitation to embrace ‘right relationship’ with our God. You have no doubt read the following piece in previous offerings. I leave it here again as an important reminder of how to enter this season…
Beloved Is Where We Begin Jan Richardson
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” —Matthew 3: 17
If you would enter into the wilderness,
do not begin without a blessing.
Do not leave without hearing who you are:
Beloved, named by the One who has traveled this path before you.
Do not go without letting it echo in your ears,
and if you find it is hard to let it into your heart, do not despair.
That is what this journey is for.
I cannot promise this blessing will free you from danger,
from hunger or thirst,
from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night.
But I can tell you that on this path there will be help.
I can tell you that on this way there will be rest.
I can tell you that you will know the strange graces
that come to our aid only on a road such as this,
that fly to meet us bearing comfort and strength,
that come alongside us for no other cause
than to lean themselves toward our ear
and with their curious insistence whisper our name:
Feb 17 – 24
“The primary importance of human relationships seems to be lost as individuals are rendered less-than because of race, gender, and sexual orientation. In the first-century church, would anyone dare admit that they were contributing to the problems Matthew wrote to address? It is easy to look at the problems and name them as the fault of others, but the bigger challenge comes when we dare to find ourselves in the midst and ask how am I contributing to the problem? Or, how can I bring difference to what I observe around me?” (Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson)
Good Monday Dear Ones,
I have been pondering this notion of “right relationship” since we met yesterday. Ironically, the cliché often used to describe our relationships keeps coming into my head: ‘It’s complicated’. As such, we could spend hours, days, and years trying to fully define it, make it happen, and then we would have to do it all again! And as church, this is exactly what we should be doing.
Lets’ simplify this. How about we begin where it all begins? “You shall love your God with your whole being and love your neighbor as you [should] love yourself”. This ‘simple’ statement is the cornerstone to what it means to be in right relationships. Truly choosing to Love God calls us to be in right relationship with the Divine: talking with, crying with, lamenting with, celebrating with, being angry with, seeking guidance from, and trusting in. Loving your neighbor also demands us to be in right relationship: treating neighbor/creation as God would treat them, respecting, honoring, holding accountable, desiring flourishing for and working to assure this can happen, and seeking justice when it doesn’t. And the most difficult right relationship demands Love of self: talking with, crying with, lamenting with, celebrating with, being angry with, seeking guidance from, and trusting in, respecting, honoring, holding accountable, desiring flourishing for and working to assure this can happen, and seeking justice when it doesn’t. We can’t just choose which of these precepts to follow, by the way—leaving one out to focus on the other.
In this dualistic world, I would contend that each one of these mandates cannot be possible without the one which precedes it and the one which follows. See? Simple.
This is a lifelong venture. Every day we should ask ourselves “How am I realizing this commandment today? And in what ways have I failed to do so?” Every day, we ask. And every day we commit to try again.
Feb 10 – 17
Good Morning Dear Ones,
Next week’s gospel reading will continue our conversation on the meaning of “Restoration”–what it means and how we do it. But before we get there, I have some homework for you–and yes I will be referring to this on Sunday.
Find a quiet place for a minute or 10. Make yourself comfortable. Grab a journal or make mental notes so you can ace the exam on Sunday. Breath. Ready?
What are you hiding from in those dark places where light is not welcome?
What are you afraid you will find?
Or that others might see?
What keeps you from shining that light so that you can see yourself?
What “flavor” are you? Sweet, bland, sour, salty, bitter, savory…
How would you like to be seen and ‘tasted’ (experienced) in this world?
What does it mean that no matter your answers to all of these questions, our Beloved sees you as light and love?
And lastly, how does the last question make you feel?
PS–you can’t mess this homework up
Feb 3 – 10
Beloved Is Where We Begin by Jan Richardson
If you would enter into the wilderness,
do not begin without a blessing.
Do not leave without hearing who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path before you.
Do not go without letting it
echo in your ears,
and if you find it is hard to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what this journey is for.
I cannot promise this blessing
will free you from danger,
from hunger or thirst,
from the scorching of sun
or the fall of the night.
But I can tell you that on this path there will be help.
I can tell you that on this way
there will be rest.
I can tell you
that you will know the strange graces
that come to our aid only on a road such as this,
that fly to meet us bearing comfort and strength,
that come alongside us for no other cause
than to lean themselves toward our ear
and with their curious insistence whisper our name:
Beloved, Beloved, Beloved.
Shared by Pastor Clare
Jan 27 – Feb 3
“If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Good Morning Church!
What an exciting day yesterday was! It was wonderful to have so many folks show up for our meeting, especially those who are not yet partners. Thanks, you all for your interest and support of Vista Grande.
Often it may be difficult to recognize what seems to be the mundane work of a church to also be the work of our Beloved. After all, we don’t typically read stories of Jesus and his disciple planning out a budget for the upcoming year of ministry, do we?! One could certainly argue that Luke’s follow up to his gospel, Acts, does it fair share of talking about those folks, specifically women in the early church, who provided means and money towards the mission. We wouldn’t be where we are now had that now happened. Still, sometimes it is difficult to make the connection between church business and the business of church.
Bonhoeffer’s statement above articulates both. The business of church is to care for those in need, stand up for those who are oppressed, respond to a community in crisis, and seek justice for all. You know, the work of a Disciple, the ‘Mission’, (one might say mission statement) of the church. But there is also the church business, the work of planning ahead, preparing, preventing the crisis if at all possible. This is the role of the Prophet, the vision of the church (again, one might say Vision Statement), the big picture view of what is, what might be, and what can be. Do you see what a difference it is to see and understand all of what we do through a theological lens? In other words, through the lens which reflects the imagination of the vision of God? Suddenly, every aspect of what we do becomes ministry. Every activity, every committee, every song we sing, every bill we have to pay, every repair we have to make, becomes a sacred act of ministry. How fortunate are we that we can participate in the overarching life of this church in a way that can recognize our priority to BE THE CHURCH?! You have made this happen! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Beloved people!
Jan 20 – 27
Good Morning Dear Ones,
As I write this I am trying to map out my day. I have a lot to do today in terms of worship planning for the next weeks and months and with regard to the upcoming SC2ER programming. I put this day aside to get a good handle on some work things. Of course, the MLK breakfast is this am at CC and I am without a ticket–not a bad thing at all: it sold out in 3 days! And there is a march at 10 AM and I am still debating whether to attend. I am sitting in the tension of how much I can do and how I should do it!!
And isn’t this always true? When we are called to do the work of the church, and to getting involved in Justice work there is always something to do. I think our tendency is to think we are supposed to do it all ourselves which is, at the very least, incredibly overwhelming. Often, rather than take on something we dismiss it all, believing that our contribution is useless. And truthfully, if we all let that direct us, nothing would ever get done!
The stories of Jesus calling followers-disciples-reminds us that we are not supposed to do this work alone. He had the wisdom to surround himself with those who could take on some of the work. They were not always passive followers though! They argued, questioned, pushed back, rested, prayed, ran away, came back, and started over. This is the nature of discipleship. And while we are called to be in it together, remember: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (Talmud)
Remember, Vista Grande has a Just Peace Church ministry team. This is a way to get involved in justice work with a community of disciples! If you are interested get in touch with Kayan Cross for details!
Jan 13 – 20
Dear Beloved Community,
I will be the first to admit that it is often difficult to trust that we are truly Beloved by our Creator and as such we find it difficult to love our whole selves. And then even if we do accept and love our entire being, we often do not take care of ourselves as is necessary to flourish.
I was serious when I suggested that New Year’s resolutions can often come from a place of judgement thereby setting us up for a sense of failure when we cannot reach those goals. However, there are certainly some things we can do which are more in keeping with self-care, not predicated on some cultural expectations.
Here are a few ideas to help give yourselves some long overdue and perhaps, avoided self-care.
- Intentionally set aside some prayer/meditation time each day to help with centering yourself.
- Exercise by doing an activity that lifts your spirit but does not demand weight loss or muscle gain! (You can do the other too, as long as you can eliminate the judgment)
- Connect with nature. Allow yourself a few minutes each day to contemplate, walk, hike, sit, take in your surroundings. Breath, look, listen, and breath again.
- Take a bath, candles, scents, music, etc.
- Read a book you’ve been putting off.
- Allow yourself to be creative, in whatever medium, without judgment.
- Speak your truth. Don’t be afraid to trust your heart and mind.
- Practice forgiveness. Allow yourself to no longer be bound to suffering imposed by others.
- Laugh more! Expose yourself to things that bring you joy!
- Honor the sacred. Find God in the everyday places.
And there are so many more ways to let yourself be present and loving to you. Start here. Enjoy the journey. Replenish and renew. And know you are so Loved!
Jan 6 – 13
Happy New Year! Here are John Dorhauer’s Top 10 list of hopeful resolutions for the world in 2020.
John Dorhauer is the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ.
Happy New Year!
I am not really one who takes new year’s resolutions all that seriously. What I have taken to, instead of promises to myself to change behaviors that I will return to within weeks, is using the turn of the new year to remind myself what I want to spend my life’s energy on.
So, here is my top ten list of commitments to change the world for the common good.
- Love More: This isn’t #10 because it’s the least important. I wanted this to be first because it grounds all other options. More love. More stories of love. More actions that emanate from love. Just more love.
- More family: I have a family that doesn’t see me as much as they should. Time with them restores my soul. My job gets in the way. This year, more family. More mom; more grandchildren. More Mimi. More family.
- Vote: The UCC will again run the Our Faith Our Vote campaign, reminding people of faith that when we vote we do so to support the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the earth, peace, justice – and so many other important matters.
- The Earth: Our mother is sick. We are the cause. Only we can heal her, and by doing so we will heal ourselves. Without this commitment to change, we will continue to witness disaster after disaster, destruction after destruction.
- White Privilege: We start with teaching white people how their privilege manifests itself. Won’t be easy – because most of us are in complete denial about it. After that, we learn new behaviors that emerge from nothing but that love for all I talked about earlier.
- Reparations: We must repair the damage. This won’t be easy. The damage has been inflicted for 400 years on this soil. It will take more than the transfer of and access to wealth and power – but it has to include that. And the Church has a role here. We can’t ask the nation and those who inhabit it to do something we have not done ourselves.
- Welcome the stranger: Yes, this is about immigrant and refugee justice. But also remember the stranger you meet on the street each day. Practice a spirit of welcome to all whom you meet. Let that spirit infuse you. When we all do that there will be no need for a wall.
- Smile: Tikh Nhat Han once wrote: “Sometimes, my joy is the source of my smile. At other times, my smile is the source of my joy.” Choose joy. Cultivate it. Smile more often. Let that be the greeting you offer those around you. It makes a difference.
- Peace: War must end. We aren’t throwing rocks and hurling insults at each other anymore. Drones, chemical weapons, and nuclear arsenals now give us the capacity to end life as we know it without discrimination. All die in this new wave of hatred of the other. Time to unlearn the ways of war.
- Quiet: We all need more time in silence. No noise. No distractions. No wandering thoughts about impending anxiety. Soul time. Silent time. A quieting of mind, body, and spirit that refreshes us. More of this.
May this year bring you new joy, and advance the causes of peace and justice as we travel together Into the Mystic.
Dec 30,2019 – Jan 6
I HAD PLANNED
Shared from The United Church of Christ daily devotions.
Written by Talitha Arnold
King David rose to his feet and said, “I had planned to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord … and I made preparations for building.” – 1 Chronicles 28:2 (NRSV)
King David had great plans, but God had other plans. The one thing he wanted most—building the Temple—he had to leave for his son Solomon.
David’s story is a good one for this year’s final days. What plans did you have for 2019? What do you need to let go of?
As the year draws to a close, a prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, written shortly before his assassination in 1980, offers this insight:
“It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.”
“We plant the seeds that one day will grow,” Romero continued. “We lay foundations that will need further development. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning … an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”
“We may never see the end results,” Romero concluded, “but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.”