Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reflecting Back on Lent

I decided to take a look at my thoughts on Lent as it first started. I had posted a note on Facebook which included the following practices I would attempt to follow during this season of Lent. They included:
  • I am taking an online class called "Holy Companions: Spiritual Practices from the Celtic Saints.   I did take the class, but (oh that word, BUT) I got distracted by two major incidents that occurred. One was a freak accident of a friend's child, who is all ok, thank God, and another I cannot write about on the blog, but is much more directly involving me. Pray.
  • visiting my spiritual director at least twice - I have seen her once, but(there's that but word again), she got sick, so we missed an appointment, but we did make it up. I would go see her this week, but I do have mercy on clergy during Holy Week.
  • minimize my use of Facebook - I haven't been as successful with this, but (ahem) I have tried...
  • increase my prayer time - I do believe that I have prayed more - for others because of their situations at hand, but also more intentional in general. And for that I am grateful.
  • ????????????? - I have no idea why I had the question marks at the end. Maybe that was left to be open to the Holy Spirit guiding me through Lent??
As Lent closes the door, I HAVE noticed something significant. There wasn't the dark looming cloud of feeling despair as much as I have in the past. That being said, I am saying this with hindsight and it's still light in the evening. February is not a good month for me in general, with the malaise of winter that seems to fall on me. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel of Lent.

The story ain't over yet.... We got some serious stuff this week - all packed into short amount of time. It's exhausting, the emotions go from one extreme to the other. We know how it ends - and it's just the beginning.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book #7 - Hiding in the Spotlight

Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy's Story of Survival, 1941-1946 by Greg Dawson is a fascinating account of two Ukrainian sisters who are child prodigies in piano. During World War II, they were captured by the Nazis, and escaped. Changing their identities, they survived the Holocaust by entertaining the Nazis, who did not realize they were Jewish. After the war, they came to America and their story continues where their talent as pianists are realized.

The author, Greg Dawson, son of one of the girls, wrote the book and traveled to the Ukraine to visit the places his mother and aunt had lived, gone to school, and other places of note in the book. A video shares the story here:

This is probably the most enjoyable book I have read in sometime.  Now I want to go listen to all of the music they mention in the book.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Music - Palm Sunday

We begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday as Christ enters into Jerusalem triumphantly, and we know the story that follows during the week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and for some, more services, before we celebrate the most important day for Christians, Easter. But before we get there, it is not without some of the most beautiful music composed. Some of the music this week cries of anguish and sorrow. "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" is one many will sing this Sunday. This one, sung by Fernando Ortega, is accompanied scenes of the Suffering of Christ, the ones that the tough ones to see and realize of the sacrifice he gave for all of our sins.

Share with us your Sunday worship in terms of the music. Did it prepare you for the upcoming week?  What hymns speak to you on this Palm Sunday?

crossposted at Revgalblogpals on Sunday afternoon 3/28/10

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Azaleas, Azaleas, wherefore art thou azaleas?

The violas, or Johnny jump ups as I like to call them, are in my planters by my door. They have been there all winter, along with the ornamental cabbage and pansies. They have been a joy to see when I leave for work and arrive home. Steadfastly, they have offered the little bit of color during this unusually cold winter. Now the cabbage have put forth their flowering bloom that indicate they are ending their show, and some of the pansies are just beginning to look a bit tired. It won't be long before they, too, will let me know, this is it, I'm tired, put me to rest.

It's the end of March and the dogwood have begun to bloom, a little late, but they are doing their best to show forth through their tardiness. I have seen a few azaleas, but no where near where we should be this time of year. We should be having a flower show with those flowers which are the biggest show offs around here in their range of color from dark reds to white in all sizes.  I'm not sure what's going on, but its put my internal clock off kilter for what is supposed to happen in spring.

Azaleas, azaleas, wherefore art thou, azaleas?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do you know or see any of your children here? Prayer for Children

For the past 21 years, I have worked with young children. Sixteen of them have been with very young children with disabilities. Some days are tougher than others. Today was one of the toughest. This Lent I have worked on trying to see the sacred and God, even in the toughest of situations.  Perhaps where we might think God is absent.  This afternoon, in the back of my mind I remembered a prayer/poem I read a long time ago. Didn't know the name of it, just that it was a prayer for children. After several Googles I found it. Then I went to Youtube - and found it in video form. This is the prayer I think of as I experienced today. I hope those of you who experienced with me will find comfort and for those of you who did not, will find the prayer meaningful to you in some way. Do you see or know any of the children here? A Prayer for Children by Ina Hughs

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing ... not healing, not curing ... that is a friend who cares. 
Henri J.M. Nouwen, from his book Out of Solitude

Monday, March 22, 2010

New life

I was just thinking about changing out my winter plants of ornamental cabbage, violas and pansies. Towards the month of April, pansies start showing signs of "I can't stand the heat any longer"  and the ornamental cabbage is starting to look spindly. As I was walking around my planter, I spotted this small hole. A nest.  Seems as though someone has taking up  an decided that this might be a good place to raise some young. Guess the plants will stay a bit longer now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Church by Tchaikovsky & Go to Dark Gethsemane - Sunday Music

As I was looking for music for this Sunday, I looked through the hymns for this Sunday, and as I searched through Youtube, it will take you to one hymn and you find a plethora of choices, some quite good, some very homemade and rough around the edges. And once you find and listen, you then have further recommendations to "try me", "listen to this one", and so it's like traveling from town to town, and you end up no where from where you started. And this is how I ended up with this one. This was posted just last week and so only a few have viewed it, so it doesn't rank way up there to view as many do,

So perseverance sometimes pays off, and i happened upon this one. I looks like it was intended for public viewing on a public access channel of a local cable system. It's quite nicely done for a homegrown production. The art that fades in while the pianist is playing certainly enhances it, with one of the selections being the 6th century icon shown in this post.

It's a meditative video, one to enjoy with a definite Lenten feel to it.

Book #6 - The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris

It has been sitting on my book shelf for years. A diminutive book with an unassuming cover, less than 100 pages, it resided there and I would glance over it and say to myself "I really ought to read this". It's short and would take me no time to finish, as though "no time to finish" was a good thing.

Well..... it's the sort of book that doesn't take you "no time to finish" as it has lots to ponder.

The Quotidian Mysteries, with its subtitle "Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work"", might turn some folks off. We women who grew up during the time of the feminist movement may think it a book that "puts us in our place". And, to a point, it does.

Norris suggests we look at the work we do every day to maintain our home and relationships and look at them as works of prayer. The day to day never gets done, that once we finish it, we start all over again. Not much different than prayer, liturgy and worship. Once we finish it, we start all over again.

However, as I neared the end of the book and did find a quote that I read over several times and wanted to share with you. Norris shares a time in her life where she was "in love with love" - and in an inappropriate relationship. And again, the everyday ordinariness of human love shines through, albeit unexciting:

"human love is sanctified not in the height of attraction and enthusiasm but in the everyday struggles of living with another person. It is not romance but in routine that the possibilities for transformation are made manifest. And that requires commitment."
  It seems in today's world if we aren't on the "high" of something, whether it be in the excitement of the beginnings of a relationship, the high of a spiritual mountaintop experience, and for some the "high" of some mind altering substance of choice, then something is wrong.  Norris contends that quotidian aspects of our life ARE the times which we can make possibilities for change and those are the holy and transformative times.

It's a wonderful little treasure, with big ideas and lots to ponder.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Experiencing a miracle or miracles!

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.    
Albert Einstein

Each day, I receive a quote from - it's a pick me up, a reminder to be thankful for the day. Sometimes (most of the time) they speak to me. Sometimes they hit me in the face as aha moments.

Most of us think of miracles in terms of the miracles that occurred in the Bible - giving the blind man sight, raising Lazarus from the dead, and the feeding of the 5,000.  Some believe in the literal interpretation, while others believe the metaphorical interpretation of these miracles. I like to believe both of them, and they both point in the direction of the divinity of Christ.

Today's quote from Albert Einstein seems to ring particularly true to me today. For in the past few weeks, Olivia and her family are experiencing a miracle of her healing from a freak accident. When her mother first starting writing her letters to all of us who were praying and following Olivia's chain of events, her letters closed with "expecting a miracle". As Olivia continued to recover from her first surgery, and the outcome was beginning to show that Olivia was going to be fine, she changed the closing of her letters from the "expecting a miracle" to "experiencing a miracle".  Olivia was definitely experiencing a miracle of healing from her freak accident.

But the miracle was more than that. The miracle expressed itself in more than the healing. It brought a community of those who know and love the family in ways to show their support of them. And it went beyond that. People who did not know the family also showed their support to them.  Some of those miracles were quiet ones, ones that no one will know how it happened. Others will be evident in how they helped the family. Then there is the miracle of those who receive the blessing of seeing the faith this family holds so deeply to their hearts, "that their light shined forth before others, that they saw their good works and praised their Father in heaven".

It is a two way street for that miracle that continues. Miracles are happening for Olivia and her family, some quite quotidian in nature, while others are the "wow" miracles. However, we too, are seeing the miracle of a family who, though, are going through tough times, are keeping the faith and have hundreds of others who are supporting them during that journey. In return, we see the  miracle that faith offers them and us.

Today, we all experience the first official day of spring. For those of us who live in the deep south, we are seeing the awakening of new life in the flowers who are blooming, and those that are ready to burst out and show us the beauty of God's glorious flower show. Spring for Olivia means new life, as her second surgery (and hopefully the last) will allow her to experience new life, that she will be ready to bloom, as God's healing powers continue to show us that miracles continue to occur in our lives, through Olivia, her family, and each and every one of us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


O God, open our eyes that we may see the needs of others; open our ears that we may hear their cries; open our hearts that we may feel their anguish and their joy. Let us not be afraid to defend the oppressed, the poor, and the powerless because of the anger and might of the powerful. Show us where love and faith are needed, and use us to bring them to those places. Open our ears and eyes, our hearts and lives, that we may in these coming days be able to do some work of justice and peace for you. Amen.
 - a prayer from the Sabeel Center

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Today has been an interesting day. Several opportunities have come my way via different venues. One by good ol' fashioned snail mail, another by email, out of the blue. That one felt like God opening up a window to something completely unexpected. I need to give that one some thought and prayer before I am willing to post about it. Mull it around in my brain for a bit and see if it is the right time.

I requested some information about a place to go on retreat. It came in the mail today. I am very excited about the thought of going away for several days and pulling the plug and just to be. I am thinking a 3 day silent retreat will be a good way to start.

I had the opportunity to work with two of my fellow church members today. Not under the best of situations, but certainly affirms the fact that I see those walking the journey with me actually using their work as ministry. It was an honor to work with them today.

On a different note, my arthritis in my hands have been bothering me today some. Just enough to know it is there, and it is here to stay. Praying for a little relief tomorrow.

I hope I can go into more specifics about some of the things I have mentioned. I am most excited about the prospect of a retreat. Please pray that it can happen in the near future.

Dream - Music from the past

It's no secret that music plays a big role in my life. It's an aspect of each and every day of my life, whether it be work, play, relaxation, worship, and at the close of the day. Sure, there are types of music that I would prefer not to listen to, but I think I have a broad range of music I love, from across the centuries and from different cultures.

On public television, the music from the Big Band era was featured. It was from the era that my parents were growing up and through their young adult life. Then, as the the years progressed, music transformed and the music of when I was growing up and throughout my adult life has continued to change as it has become the music of the youth of today.

We all become nostalgic when we hear the music of when we were young. I can remember listening to certain music on the Channel Master transistor radio that I had. I can remember listening to some of the music as I sat on the curb of the neighborhood with friends. I can remember listening to some when I had my radio underneath my pillow at night while I listened to radio stations from far away, as AM stations could be reached from long distances in the night time, including the Spanish stations. Was it Tampa? Cuba? I was close enough to the Gulf of Mexico that it could have been from numerous locations as the radio waves bounced around.

Television had the Lawrence Welk show, which we watched on Saturday nights and danced and sang the songs of my parents and more contemporary music, but always played with the orchestral flavoring of the music of my parent's time. Ed Sullivan brought in the music that changed it all for our day,  The Beatles were the music of the 60s and brought in the music of a new generation.

As the generation of my parents have aged and passed away, the music of their life is heard less frequently it seems. The music of their lives were affected by The Great Depression and World War II. It was a music to lift spirits, to pine for those who were away at war, and for those who were returning. The harmonies were lush, the voices smooth as velvet. One never had to worry about the content of the music.

I love the music of my parents' generation. Below is music from the early 50s, when I was a glimmer in my parents' eyes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven

I enjoy the resources that we have with the internet. At our fingertips are resources of most anything we want to know. One of these resources is from Oremus (this is the link for the recommended music for each Sunday in Year C of the lectionary). It allows us to choose, if we are musicians choosing Sunday's music, or if we just want to hear or check out the music for that particular Sunday that supports the readings in our service. Click on the link, and voila, you can many times hear the music for the hymn. Or you can many times go to Youtube and find the hymn already posted from many resources, some professionally done, others raw recordings with no editing, with live music recorded. Some are excellent, others are recorded with the best of intentions, and are near and dear to those who are somehow connected in some way to the recording.

One of the hymns recommended for the Fourth Sunday in Lent is "Praise, my soul, the King of heaven." It's an old favorite, a chestnut of the many hymns in our 1982 hymnal. And, not surprisingly, there are numerous videos of the hymn.

The one I selected is a recording from the Choir of Westminster Abbey, with pictures from Westminster Abbey. The hymn includes a beautiful descant sung by the choir on the last verse. However, it is not the one that is in our hymnal. Beautiful all the same.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Taking Time to Pause

This morning was an impromptu meeting of a trio of Scrabble partners at a locally owned cafe in my hometown. The place was packed, as folks from all walks of life came in to the tiny space with minimal to no ambience. We grabbed the last table available and placed our orders. And, of course, I had fully intended to order sweet potato pancakes and changed my mind at the last minute to go with the more traditional breakfast fare.

Our conversation bounced from Scrabble to retreats to travel to family. We had one hour, just long enough to want more to talk of this and that.

I glanced over and saw a woman sitting by herself. Hmmm. I know this face. Well known in the community and even nationally for her work on Prairie Home Companion and for her latest works with Macrina Wiederkehr. Oh my, I know her, but she does not know me. Since she was by herself, I was timid. What if she wanted peace and quiet? What if she did not want to be disturbed? But what if I never had the opportunity again?

Two more came to sit with her, perhaps a friend and their child. We were getting ready to leave and I got up the gumption to go over to see her. You see, she sings to me every night, and wakes me in the morning. How can I not go talk to her? I introduce myself and tell her how much I like her CD. I even get bold enough to ask her if her "singing circle groups" were still happening. Well, yes, there would be some this summer and fall perhaps.

It was a time to be with good friends, and looking forward to future possibilities.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women from the cradle to the cross

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man ... A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised ... who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female ... Nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything [inferior] about woman's nature.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, from her book, Are Women Human?

Book #5 For 2010 - Their Eyes were Watching God

I read Zora Neale Hurston's book "Their Eyes Were Watching God" for a book group - I attempted to start reading it and had a hard time reading it. I found the book on Audible - and listened to it - it was a 6 hour "read".  And for me, probably the best read book I have listened to with Ruby Dee as reader. It took me two days to listen to it and had the opportunity to knit and "read" at the same time.
Hurston's book is probably one of the most important pieces of literature written in the 20th century and it poetic flow in the story spins the story of a woman who is a woman evolving into her own being through three marriages, becoming increasingly more independent, despite the many trials and tribulations she experiences.

Set in Florida in the early 20th century, many cities and towns will be familiar to those who have lived in Florida. Whether you read it or listen to the book, you are in for a treat.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dwelling Place - how lovely

I was looking for the recommended hymns for Sunday - and saw the hymn "How lovely is thy dwelling place". What comes to mind is not the tune in the hymnal, but the one from Brahms Requiem. It's one of the first choral works I remember performing at some point in my high school years, and brings warm memories and the presence of the Lord and His dwelling place to my heart.

So I went looking on Youtube, as I usually do, and had in mind posting the Brahms version. I tried to find the one which had the clearest, cleanest sound and one that suited MY fancy for you to hear.

It was not to be.

I can tell you that it caught my attention.

Now, if you will indulge me.....
Interestingly, same exact music, different video. See the difference.

Where is your dwelling place?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sacred Space

I would like to create a sacred space in my home, where we (or I) can go to meditate, pray, find quiet, etc. I googled sacred space in the home (or something like that) to see some images and there were some there, some conventionally Christian, others eclectic, while others did not appear to be what I would think of as a sacred space, but that's ok.
I have an icon that my son brought to me from a trip to Poland. I treasure that, and I know that will be a piece of my space. But I ask my readers of this post. What do you have as part of your sacred space? Or, if you were to create one of your own, what would be a part of it? Where do you have it? or where WOULD you have it?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gentleness and Strength

Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
Nothing so gentle as real strength.
St. Francis de Sales

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Walking with Saint Melangell

For Lent, I signed up to take an online class with Seminary of the Southwest, auditing the class Holy Companions: Spiritual Practices from the Celtic Saints. Each week we are given readings and resources to read and then choose one of the saints to spend time with, or to journey with them as one experiences their week. It's a time to reflect on the spiritual practices we are using that particular week.

This week I chose to journey with St. Melangell (pronounced Mel-en-geth), a 7th century saint, born of an Irish chieftain in the country of Wales. At an early age, she felt a call to solitude and prayer. Her parents did not approve of her calling, so she ran away in search of a place to pray.

Her story continues as she encounters a prince who is hunting hares, and the hare finds refuge underneath the hem of Melangell's garment.  The dogs found the hare with Melangell, and they withdrew, recognizing the saint's strength and holiness. The prince was humbled after learning of Melangell and her dedication to a life of prayer. He honored her by declaring the valley in which she had chosen as her refuge as a sanctuary for men, women, and animals who came to seek refuge and protection. The place, after Melangell's death, came to be known as Pennant Melangell and was a site for pilgimage for those seeking healing or seeking a place to escape opression. Today the place continues as a place of prayer and a refuge for wandering souls.

I felt drawn to her, not necessarily from the animals in the story, but from Melangell's desire for searching for a place to pray.  I have places where I pray, and sometimes it is not necessarily the location of where I am praying that really matters.  However, for some reason, I have had this calling to go... find a place to seek refuge in solitude to pray, where the worries of the world can be left behind, and I can allow myself to clear my slate and pray openly to God and I can listen and hear what God might be telling me at this time in my life. And, this is not a running away as in her case when she ran away from her parents, but a running to a place, to be protected and  surrounded by the hem of God's garment of love.

I don't know the time or the place, and am being open to being patient and knowing that when the time is right, the door will be open for my soul to wander and soak in God's love. In the meantime, I will take tiny spaces of time and place to talk and listen through prayer whenever and wherever I can find it.

Image comes from Patricia Banker's illustration of St. Melangell

Monday, March 1, 2010

Doodlebug #2 - Olivia

Almost two weeks ago, a precious little girl at our school experienced a freak accident which resulted in major surgery, including a colostomy, to allow for healing to take place. This is a family with five children, the oldest being in 3rd grade. Little Olivia's accident resulted in a perforated bowel, and was taken to a children's hospital three hours away to receive top notch care. As many accidents, it turned their life upside down. The community has surrounded them with support, providing meals, keeping the other children, providing financial support, and praying for Olivia and the family. 

Olivia is going to be fine.  It may be tough what she is going through, learning to adjust to her new way her body is working right now. I am sure that the responsibilities of the parents are overwhelming, trying to juggle all that is going on in their life. The family is a shining star in how they are handling this - how they allow God to surround them in the toughest of times. Their faith has been their backbone. But it doesn't mean they wonder why, or get scared, or wonder what will happen next.

I was reading one of the blogs I have found that has been a source of wonderful quotes and words of wisdom. Today's post made me think of what has happened to Olivia and how her family has handled this situation. This quote from Barbara Brown Taylor made me think of them and the challenges which they are experiencing now.

"Terrible things happen, and you are not always to blame.
But don’t let that stop you from doing what you are doing.
That torn place your fear has opened up inside of you is a holy place.
Look around while you are there. Pay attention to what you feel.
It may hurt you to stay there and it may hurt you to see,
but it is not the kind of hurt that leads to death.
It is the kind that leads to life."
Barbara Brown Taylor, from "Life-Giving Fear, Christian Century 1998.

and so we pray:
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves:
Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls,
that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body,
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
Book of Common Prayer, Collect for 3rd Sunday in Lent
Olivia, Aimee, Joel, and the rest of the "doodlebugs",  my prayers, among many others praying for you, surround you with healing love.
Special thanks goes to Roberta for providing the resource of the quote at her blog.