Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dear Friends,

I want to take a moment of personal privilege to speak to you about Referendum 74 which will appear on the ballot this November.

Referendum 74, if passed, will preserve recently enacted Washington State legislation that would allow gay and lesbian couples to enter fully into the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. I want to tell you why this matters to me.

When Barb and I initially formed our relationship there was no way to formally celebrate the love we had found. Instead we focused on gradually sharing the news with family, friends and co-workers.

We set up joint bank accounts, combined households, purchased our current home together, and became co-owners of two Hondas. We made wills, set up powers of attorney one for the other, and amended our beneficiaries on various documents.

In the year 2000 on a choral tour with The Esoterics we purchased wedding rings in Dublin, Ireland and decided that this was the time to make a more formal declaration of our love. At the end of our tour at Sloane Square Cathedral in London, England we held a “wedding” (of no legal standing) with The Rev. Peter Drury presiding.

As we continued to create our life together we learned that I would not be recognized as Barb’s spouse in the event of her death. Because of this legal impediment Barb would need to make a difficult and potentially less lucrative financial decision about her retirement in order that I might receive some benefit.

Two years ago, as the law allowed, we drove down to the Bank of America in Lake Forest Park to stand not in front of our family, friends and presiding pastor, but rather to stand in front of the bank teller and notary public who processed my twice monthly deposits to ask her to witness our domestic partnership signing. We carry these domestic partnership cards in our wallets so that in the event of an emergency we can offer some proof of the status of our relationship.

Just this year the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) revised its own policies so that they might recognize all legal state “marriages” as being eligible for surviving spouse benefits, but does a legal domestic partnership count as marriage?

In other words, step by step we have done our best to put in place all the legal aspects of our life together that might assure some kind of recognition under the law of our intention to love and support one another throughout our lives, to be seen and known as a family.
Marriage matters to me because it is how our society understands relationship and love.
Marriage matters to me because it reflects how Barb and I understand our life together.
Marriage matters to me because I’m weary of wondering if this person or that institution will treat Barb and I differently because we lack legal standing.

Over the past few months I’ve been contacted by a few people asking if Queen Anne Christian Church could join with other communities of faith and endorse Referendum 74. I’ve had to tell them that we do not have a process in place by which we could make that decision as a congregation; I wish it were otherwise. However, we can still use this moment as an opening to deeper conversation with one another about the concerns of our hearts and minds.

It is my deepest hope that you, your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family will vote yes for Referendum 74 and keep intact the Washington State legislation that would extend the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

blessings + peace, Laurie

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lent Begins

Dear Friends,

Most years during Lent I make it a practice to engage in some kind of daily spiritual discipline: reading and reflection, creating small collages, drawing my prayers. I usually take this time in the early morning with a cup of tea in hand, but not this year.

At home right now the living room is filled with our belongings from two basement rooms. As I write this, the drywall contractors sling mud and then scrape, and sling more mud and then scrape. They go away, wait for it to dry, and begin again the next day. 
When the project is finished we will have a clean, bright, office space as well as a room set aside for art, sewing, weaving, and meditation. However, right now we live in a state of chaos: file folders nestle up against watercolor paper while the warping board for the loom keeps company with the grandchildren’s art supplies. If a desired object is not on top of the pile then finding it is hopeless. This is not how I anticipated the beginning of Lent.

As Ruth, Kate, and I met to think and pray, to plan for Lent, and as we read over the lectionary texts we eventually came to notice a theme of God’s persistent covenant that ran through all the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures. It seemed to us that focusing on God’s covenant could offer us a lens from which to view our life together as a community of faith and lead us through Lent. Eventually we settled on a simple phrase as our theme: Come, let us walk with God.

This is what I like about the theme: it is invitational; it implies movement in a common direction; and it suggests a deepened relationship between our community and God that could grow in meaning and in depth as we walk along together.

In the process of our walk together we might wonder:

+ What if God actually wants to walk with me?

+ If I open myself to that possibility what new paths might I discover? How might my self-perceptions change?

+ How do my attitudes toward others create a heart “two sizes too small”?  

+What would be different if I softened my heart toward others so that—when in doubt or even when I have no cause to doubt—I might extend grace more often than judgment?

Perhaps, like our living room, things in your life have piled up over the winter or over several years. Now might be the perfect time to begin again, to toss out what no longer serves you and set out on a journey of the heart. Will you join me on the path?

Perhaps this Lent our daily discipline might be to take a walk together with God in order to explore our surroundings with curiosity and wonder. I’m not imagining anything special or difficult. Just find a time when you will normally walk from one place to the next, pause for a moment and notice, come home to your body and your breath, remember your heart and reconnect with God’s love for us, for this astonishing world. It will be enough.

Blessings + peace,

Monday, October 17, 2011

As we enter into a time of contemplating our giving in the coming year we offer this reflection and prayer:
We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give.
- Winston Churchhill
Daily Prayer

God of Grace,
our hearts yearn to be at one with you
to live as blessed and blessing creatures.
In the dawning of each new day,
walk with us and strengthen us;
Through the hours of the night,
guard our sleep and comfort us.
Fill us with faith, with hope, and with love.
Fill us with the generosity of your intentions
for this world that we may shine this day
with the brightness of your glory.

- Pastor Laurie

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

By Its Cover No. 1 - encaustic, book pages and cover 10 x 8 x 3" - 2009 - Shannon Newby, artist

I have always loved libraries. One of my strongest memories is walking from home to the old Seattle Public Library in Ballard on Market Street. In order to check out a book you had to know your address and be able to sign your name on a small yellow card. This meant that you had to be able to write in cursive which meant—in the 1960’s at any rate—you were in the second grade.

Once I knew my address and could write my name, my mother took my younger sister and I to the library and I filled out the precious yellow card that would be like a passport to other worlds; I loaded up my arms with children’s books.

The old Ballard Public Library exuded mystery and a sense of the holy. It was an old brick building set up off the main street with many stairs leading to the entrance. Once inside there were even more stairs that wound around each side of the main entrance finally leading to the actual library.

It was a hushed place with lots of dark wood and leaded glass and rows upon rows of books. And this was the thing that astonished my second grade self and astonishes me still today—they let you take books home! Can you imagine that?

These people trusted me enough to give me books for a certain space of time after I signed a small yellow card on which I promised to bring them back! Wow! Where else does this kind of trust exist?

Over the years I have realized that when I purchase a book, if I believe that I “own” it, I have a much harder time reading it than if I check it out of the library. When I own the book I can read it anytime which translates for me as sometime off in the future.

For me, library books command a different kind of attention. You run the book’s bar code under the scanner and your time starts now! Maybe you’ll be able to renew the book and maybe not. Maybe other people want to read it too. Maybe you yourself waited quite some time for someone else to read it and return it and you want to keep the book in circulation and move it along to the next patron.

It got me thinking about life, about the gift of life, about this quality of living on borrowed time, that none of us will live forever, that at some point we will be returned to our Creator’s love and care. In the meantime we do not have an endless supply of days in which to offer our gifts to the world, to be present, to be a present.

As we walk through these last days of Lent leading to Easter we will hear again the story of Jesus’ last days. We will learn what was important to him as he faced impending death: bread and wine, gathering around a table to share a meal with friends and enemies, robust prayer that cries out to God, truth-telling to those who held his fate in their hands, and a steadfast commitment to love that overcame the most tortuous kind of suffering imaginable.

Everything is borrowed.

Everything is a gift.

Maybe you too signed a small yellow card at sometime in your life and pledged to return your life to God as a gift of love.

On my better days I can see us all out there circulating around, books of God as if on loan. It fills me with joy to imagine us “checked-out” to the world.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The other morning I looked out the window onto the bird feeder and a small bird with bright yellow striping, a Townsend’s Warbler, caught my eye.

Underneath the bird feeder amongst the fir cones and leaf litter still cluttering the wood deck a Rufous-sided Towhee scratched for seeds alongside three Dark-eyed Juncos. Then a few Chickadees flew in for a landing on the feeder each taking one seed and flying off to the rhododendron for shelter.

A few years back I took a morning bird watching class at Discovery Park. I learned some about our native birds and was able to catch a glimpse of a juvenile Spotted Owl.

For a while I took my binoculars on my morning walk and enjoyed hearing bird calls and then searching to find them. After a while I stopped taking my binoculars but I continue to listen for bird calls which fill me with delight.

This year the time between Christmas and Easter is about as long as it can get, from December 25 to April 24, so we’ve had a little extra time to move through the hardest parts of winter. The returning light feels particularly welcome this year and I have taken heart in the courage of the sturdy daylilies beginning to poke their leaves up into these really, really cold days.

As we approach Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6, there is still time to think about what steps you might want to take to include time for prayer and reflection in your daily journey.

For many years now I have made it a practice to start some kind of spiritual practice each Lent.

One year I began a prayer journal, clipped pictures from magazines, glued them in the journal, and then wrote short prayers.

One year I began a time of focused reflection on the work of the writer Parker Palmer.

One year I played music and moved my body in ways that felt a lot like prayer.

And one year I sat in quiet meditation soaking up God’s love and mercy.

From these experiences what I know is that the form of prayer does not matter. What matters is that I choose something and do it.

From these experiences what I know is that it is really, really difficult to do one thing (other than brush my teeth) every single day.

And from these experiences what I know is that the important thing is to pick up the practice again and again and again.

I’m not sure yet what form my Lenten practice will take this year but I’m looking forward to it.

Maybe I’ll sit in the living room and stare out at the birdfeeder and offer simple prayers for the birds of the air who, as Jesus observes, “neither toil nor reap” but know God’s tender care nonetheless.

Something tells me I could learn a lot from them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wordle: Prayer Words for 2011

On Sunday, January 2, we prayed to see if a particular word might reach out to us as a focus of spiritual discipline for the coming year. These are the words we generated.
"Wordle" was used to create the "word cloud." It gives you a composite sense of our congregation at this particular time. May you find and live out your particular calling and blessing for this new year. May God's presence be near to you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kasey is 10 years old and just completed 4th grade at Whittier Elementary in Seattle. Kasey is a Jr. Deacon and a member of the Seeds [Sprouts] of Knowledge Class at Queen Anne Christian Church.

On Saturday night, June 12, her dad still needed to prepare his elder’s meditation for Sunday morning. She asked her dad, “What is an elder’s meditation?” After some discussion, Kasey went off on her own.

Her mom later found Kasey with a yellow pad and pencil and asked her what she was doing. Kasey told her she was writing her dad’s elder’s meditation for him. This is what she wrote:

What does it mean to be kind?
Helping someone on the asphalt when they skinned their knee?
Well, lots of things are kind.
Please and thank you.
Can I help?
What’s wrong?
Many things you do everyday can help. Little changes help people around you.
My oldest daughter, Kasey, likes to help worms not getting killed in the rain on the sidewalk by picking them up and putting them in the nearby dirt. That is very kind.
If all the worms die in the world the plants would die because of no air holes in the soil.
Some people out in the world are mean and hurt people both inside and out.
Deep down inside them is a yearning for love and happiness. They have been scared and now want other people to feel their pain. If someone just helps and loves, his or her heart will be healed.
Help others in need.
Love others.
Someone could and can really change how they see the world.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I cannot say it any better.
The work of God through this church touches lives in a myriad of meaningful ways.
Let us love kindness and walk with humility as God’s partners in this most blessed life.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The mystery of God touches us — or does not —in the smallest details: giving a strawberry, with love; receiving a touch, with love; sharing the snapdragon red of an autumn sunset, with love.
—Marion Woodman, Coming Home to Myself

Recently a friend sent me a beautiful poem, a reflection on wild strawberries in a cemeterty and it got me thinking about those luscious red fruits.

I am not talking about the ones we can now get year round in the plastic containers. I am talking about those beautiful Northwest berries—so fragile that you need to hold the green cardboard box with tenderness as you carry it to the car, so sweet that you hardly need any sugar but you put a little on them anyway so they make some juice.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family that reflected my father’s North Dakota farming roots. In that family supper was not complete without bread and butter. It was the same in our family. The table was not set unless we had bread and margarine resting on their little plates.

My mother’s side of the family, going back three generations, is from Seattle. They usually ate in a meat and potatoes fashion as well except for once a year.

Sometime, usually around the end of June or first of July, whenever the strawberries were really ripe, mom would make biscuits the size of a dinner plate. Hot from the oven she split them open and put a huge pat of butter on the bottom half. Next she piled on sliced strawberries sweetened with just a little sugar. Then she plopped on freshly whipped cream flavored with just a little powered sugar and vanilla. Finally, the top of the biscuit was placed like a crown on top of all that and more strawberries and whipped cream were added to that. Then we ate dinner: that was dinner.

Once a year my sister and I stared incredulously at the biscuit, the pile of strawberries and the dripping whipped cream concoction simply unbelieving in our good luck to be born into this particular family.

Sometimes we had bacon on the side, a concession, I think, to my father who could not imagine a meal without protein.

So I’ve been thinking about this meal unlike any other we ate all year. I’ve been thinking about dry times in our lives when it seems like the same meat and potatoes meal will be our sustenance forever.

Agatha Christie has written: I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable. . .but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

I think she might be talking about grace. . .the iris so deep blue-purple you want to dive into the yellow center and drown in its light; the soft chick-a-dee-dee-dee that falls on your ear like a forest Muzak; the buoyancy of prayers that lift us up in times of sorrow and grief; of unexpected moments of reconciliation in relationships that take our breath away.

This life we have been given—so precious, so tender—it is as if God offers us strawberry shortcake each moment of every day and our only task is to remember to eat with gratitude.

Laurie Rudel

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Being extravagantly generous is an enchanting way to become holy and Godlike, for God is awesomely extravagant — as is revealed by even a casual glance at creation.

Edward Hays
The Great Escape Manual

Last month I received the last inheritance check from my mom's estate. Again I decided to tithe (plus a little bit more) from that amount. Yesterday I wrote out the checks to two organizations I want to support.

The first time I adopted this spiritual practice I had a hard time dropping the checks in the mail so they traveled around with me in my car, in my purse, making the journey between home and church, between Queen Anne Hill and Lake Forest Park.

This time it seems ever so much easier. I'm realizing that giving takes practice. We practice giving by giving something away, by being generous givers.

Maybe we start small. And maybe we notice all the different ways that generosity comes our way. We give thanks. We share with others. We receive. We begin again.

Life is meant to be lived in this cycle of grace.

blessings + peace, Laurie

Friday, February 19, 2010

Our Lenten Journey

Lent began Ash Wednesday, February 17, ushering in a season of reflection that takes us through Holy Week to Easter.

During this time we are invited to move in two directions—in and out—kind of like breathing.

On the one hand we might choose to do things a little differently. Traditional Lenten activities often involve such practices as dedicating time for prayer each day, or we might fast and then offer the money from our meals to our food bank. We could begin a practice of taking a walk each day or visiting someone who is lonely.

All these kind of practices could be described as "breathing out," showing up in the world in a slightly different way.

On the other hand we might choose a "breathing in" kind of practice. We might take time each night before sleep to notice where our lives seemed strained that day or out of balance. We might also notice what was particularly life-giving.

We could begin a simple journal where we make a list of just those two things: what was life-giving, what was life-draining.

We might want to search our heart for places of tension where we need to offer the gift of grace and forgiveness, not only to others, but also to ourselves.

We might also reflect on the nature of our thoughts: how often do we respond reflexively to someone. Are we really listening to what the other is saying or do we already know what we will say next?

The capacity to focus our attention deeply on ourselves might seem, at first glance, a little self-serving. But these are the very kinds of practices that begin to open us up to the leading of God, to free our hearts and minds for the mission of God’s work in the world.

Our part, again and again, is simply to reduce the interference within us, to be clear channels of God’s grace.

blessings + peace, Laurie

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Prayer for the Twelve Days of Christmas

Peter Drury:

Holy One, I pray for peace between peoples

and the wisdom of leaders.

I pray for peoples,

for countries,

and for the spirit that may unite us together.

I pray for a sense of identity

which is more profound than national, but global.

I pray for peace on earth,

good will toward all,

and a song of joy everywhere.

Help us to mend the earth, O God.

I pray for people – here and everywhere –

that we may grow in understanding,

in hope,

in prosperity,

and in faith.

Help the religions of the world not cause division,

but nurture peace.

Help me understand my place in the world.

(Silent Prayer)


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day - December 25

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Marietta Tower:

One of my favorite ways to picture Jesus is on the day of his birth. As he lives his life he becomes someone I respect and strive to emulate, but not someone I can easily see myself in. On the day he is born, however, he is just like every other baby that has ever been born – a perfect blend of the human and the divine. I remember looking at each of my babies faces at the moment they were born and being struck by how tender and raw they were, so beautiful it was almost incomprehensible. The light of God seemed to radiate off of them. I remarked on the day my first child was born and I still maintain that I don’t see how anyone can not believe in God when they have witnessed a birth and gazed into the face of a newborn baby.

We need to remember that we each started out just as precious and light filled as Jesus did. We too started with an even mix of God and humanity, but the difference is that Jesus maintained this balance throughout his life while the rest of us covered up and buried that piece of God inside us under thick layers of hurt, sadness, anger, unkindness, and greed. Our job as Christians is to work to peel away some of those layers and let the light of God within us shine. We are all precious children of God, full of grace and truth; let us remove our protective shell and share that divine part of us with the world.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve - December 24

And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people . . .
Luke 2:10

Juanita Kirkland:

Christmas, truly kept, is love. A person very close to me lives by the creed, "If whatever you do is done in love, you are indeed doing the will of God."

Are you willing to forget what you have done for others, and to remember what other people have done for you . . .

To ignore what the world owes you and to think what you owe the world . . .

To see that your fellow humans are just as real as you are, and to try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy . . .

To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness . . .

Are you willing to do these things, even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas!

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children . . .

To remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old . . .

To stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough . . .

To trim your lamp so that it will give more light than smoke . . .

Then you can keep Christmas!

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world - stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death . . . . and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem 2000 years ago is the image and brightness of eternal love?

Then you can keep Christmas!

And if you keep it for a day, why not always? But you cannot keep it alone . . .

God of Christmas,
God of our hearts,
May we bear the Christ
to all who need Him,
and allow His birth
in us again. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Love - Wednesday, December 23

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:19 (NSRV)

Jeremiah Oliver:

To love with an open heart is the highest command Jesus delivers. To love the stranger, to love that which is unknown, no matter the actions they have performed, no matter who they are, no matter the actions they plan to perform, is to acknowledge that the heart is more important than having clues and evidence and concrete judgements. Loving fully is an act of courage, saying: not only are you worthy of the graces light offers, but the parts of me which I do not know or am not happy with or do not appreciate, these too, are worthy of the love that transforms strangers into friends, friends into families, families into communities. Love acts through compassion—approaching people and situations from a point of view that is not singular, is not judgemental, but is open to hearing and learning. Love binds light together. Love is what creates life, the greatest miracle. Let our hearts be a channel for the love that lets us see strangers as we see ourselves.

May the earth support your heart and make it strong and whole.
May the winds blow through and leave it clear and open.
May the heat of fire fill it with passion and energy.
May the waters flow through your heart, carrying that love to others.
May the divine light illuminate all that is good for your heart, awaking that good all around you.