Saturday, December 20, 2008

In anticipation of a severe winter storm on Saturday evening
we have cancelled worship at church this Sunday, December 21.
Below you will find a service for you to use at home.


Please join us Wednesday for our
Christmas Eve Service at 5pm.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent
—meeting in our homes—

Hum a few bars of: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Light a candle and call it Love


Prayer: Bodypsalm for the holidays


Remember each day is a hol(y)day,
a place to recall presence.
No day is more special than the other, but you can breathe into each day differently.
Remember the simple things – a deep breath into all your cells,
the gorgeous limb of one branch, a place of connection
between a friend or a stranger.
The art of life comes to you everyday, unfolding from its skin
and asks for a greeting.
Welcome the unexpected
and have compassion on the expected.
Live with bold colors from a place of still silence.
Come back to quiet.
May the inside of your body be a zen garden.
Nap daily, for sleep is the sustenance of surrender.
Remember beauty walks before you, now just walk.
Incremental steps, even backward steps towards wonder.
Know you will not get everything done, said,
written, wrapped, made or thought of.
Celebrate incompletion and know that can be enough.
It is all about cracks of opening
into heart, body, mind, soul.
Make peace with the cracks and the interruptions,
for they are echoes of the divine.
Greet the ordinary with fresh eyes,
here is the fragrance of a day set apart.
Know you are held in a wider embrace.
Let the natural world hold you and give in to the weather.
Here you are called back to release.
Bare beauty on the back of December
and lend yourself to rest.
Sip small beginnings of calling yourself and
those around you to the juice of joy.
And drink from your own deep well
and spill when necessary.
—Celeste Snowber, December 2008


Sing a favorite carol!

Read: Luke 1:26-38
Reflect on what it means to say yes to an angel . . .

Pray . . . for those out in the cold . . . for emergency
preparedness workers . . . for utility crews . . . for all those
who cannot be with their family due to the weather . . .
for Ruth McLaughlin, mother of Lori Hutchings,
who hovers near death . . .
for your concerns and for your joys . . .

Drink and eat a little something
that brings you joy . . .
remember the immensity of Love
and call it communion

Sing another carol!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Voting Prayer by David Seidenberg

With my vote today, I am prepared and intending to seek peace for this country, as it is written (Jer. 29:7): "Seek out the peace of the city where I cause you to roam and pray for her sake to God YHVH, for in her peace you all will have peace."

May it be Your will that votes will be counted faithfully, and may You account my vote as if I had fulfilled this verse with all my power. May it be good in Your eyes to give a wise heart to whomever we elect today and may You raise for us a government whose rule is for good and blessing, to bring justice and peace to all the inhabitants of the world and to Jerusalem, for rulership is Yours.

Just as I participated in elections today, so may I merit to do good works and to repair the world with all my actions, and with the act of...[fill in your pledge]...which I pledge to do today on behalf of all living creatures and in remembrance of the covenant of Noah's waters to protect and to not destroy the earth and her plenitude.

May You give to all the peoples of this country the strength and the will to pursue righteousness and to seek peace as a unified force in order to cause to flourish, throughout the world, good life and peace, and may You fulfill for us the verse (Ps. 90:17): "May the pleasure of Adonai our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; may the work of our hands endure."

Monday, October 27, 2008

End of Sabbatical Reflection, October 27

What can I say at the end of this sabbatical time except, thank you.

I say these simple words with humble gratitude that my need for rest found open hearts and minds.

As these Sabbath days reverberate within me I find that monastic rhythm of reading, physical work, and silence during the day filled me with a gentle knowing:
  • the energy of God seeks expression in the world;
  • human beings struggle to attend the deep yearnings of the soul toward God;
  • God’s love surrounds us and will fill us given the slightest opening;
  • loving ourselves, loving our neighbors, and loving God just might be the purpose of our lives.

I am filled with gratitude.

I am ready to come back.

I missed you deeply and look forward to seeing you Sunday, November 2.

Laurie

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, October 13

Last week, following concerts in Tacoma and Olympia and preparing to attend the Turner Lectures in Yakima, I missed my Monday morning writing time.

In the meantime I caught a cold and have spent some amount of time desperately trying not to cough while singing! I’m recovering and am grateful that this past concert series has concluded.

After this week at home, Barb and I fly to New Mexico on Saturday for a week of traveling with dear friends around the land we so love. We’ll be staying in Espanola, about half-way between Santa Fe and Taos. It will be the last opportunity to stay in the casitas owned by Jan Hart, my beloved watercolor teacher, who moved there some time ago.

One of the things I most appreciate about Jan is her capacity to flow with the intentions of the universe for her life (I’m not sure she would use the word God, but she might). Jan was trained as an architect at the University of Washington and taught there. At the same time she began a weekly watercolor class at a small studio just off Stone Way between Wallingford and Fremont.

I had become intrigued with painting while taking, oddly enough, a color theory class for weavers. As part of the class we mixed colors using poster paint. While I like color theory, I learned I really liked using a paint brush!

I found Jan’s flyer tacked to the announcement board at Daniel Smith, a local art supply store. I loved Jan’s class and kept at for a few years until Jan “knew” she needed to move to New Mexico. At the time she had been making frequent trips from Seattle to New Mexico to paint the desert landscape and always came home refreshed and renewed.

What I know, what we all know at some level, is that guidance comes to us in surprising ways. This is Jan’s story as I remember it. One day, a long time ago, Jan was in a drugstore. She picked up a paperback novel. She opened it at random and read these words, Heart, someday you will be a famous artist. She quickly closed the book and put it back on the shelf!

At that point, while she may have harbored artistic ambitions I believe they felt pretty far out of reach. But painting by painting she worked on her craft and her art so much so that she is indeed an accomplished artist who has shown her art work in Santa Fe art galleries and who recently published a beautiful book on watercolor technique.

Over the last few years, while living in Espanola and continuing to teach painting, she also began taking folks on painting trips to Costa Rica. Last year she “knew” it was time to move again. She purchased property in Costa Rica and in the new year will be moving once again.

What I love about this kind of “knowing” is that it incorporates head and heart, it gives energy to vision that allows one to “keep on, keeping on” in spite of setbacks and unexpected obstacles.

While attending the Turner Lectures last week, Sandy Messick (acting pastor during my sabbatical) and I shared a meal together. We talked some about the church and the work you have accomplished while I’ve been on sabbatical. As she talked I found my heart leaping for joy.

I love the emerging directions you are in the process of considering. I’m looking forward to nurturing a collective sense of “knowing” that offers helps us name our purpose and gives us extra energy to pursue God’s dream for us.

I am just about ready to return: two more weeks that will fly by, and then, I so look forward to basking in your presence. You are a beloved community.

blessings + peace,

Laurie

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, September 29

Today I am thankful, filled with gratitude for another day of life; for warm sun (just one more day before fall fully sets in), Flickers scrambling about on fir trees, racing squirrels, and a body that can dance and sing and pray.

This week I want to carry this poem from Mary Oliver in my back pocket.

blessings + peace,

Laurie


MESSENGER

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, September 22

One my persistent delights in life are public libraries. Barb can tell you that I will go out of my way to visit a new King County Library (our current system) whenever we happen upon one.

I remember how at age eight my mom took me to the old Carnegie Public Library on Market Street (now an antique store) in Ballard to get my first library card. The little yellow index cards asked for name, address, and phone number. At the bottom of the card there was a place for you to sign your name. At that time in order to get your own card you had to be able to sign your name. I’ve been checking out books ever since.

In the King County Libraries my favorite shelf is called “Paperback Picks.” There I often find books that I have wanted to read but never got around to putting on hold. My “Paperback Pick” last week was How Starbucks Saved My Life: a son of privilege learns to live like everyone else by Michael Gates Gill. I loved this book!

Each chapter begins with a quote printed on a Starbucks coffee cup. One that called out to me went like this:

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life. – a quote from Anne Morriss, a Starbucks Guest from New York City

Something about this quote awoke a fierce feeling in me that went something like, YES! I want to be strong, committed, and clear!

The most immediate application of that thought led me to work really hard in the last week to really, really, really, learn my music for our upcoming Esoterics concert. I want to be confident and strong in my singing.

I took on this project because I was on sabbatical and had the time for it. I took on this project because I love to sing. I took on this project because I love to sing with Barb and it was something we could do together as part of our sabbatical time. I took on this project to support our director, Eric Banks, who has thrown his heart and soul into writing a unique piece of music.

But when it came to time to follow through and I looked at the rather arduous schedule again, I found myself wishing I was doing something else, feeling incompetent musically, and generally thinking I had made a big mistake.

What I remembered in this past week, I learned from InterPlay: we get into and out of trouble in little tiny steps.

Measure by measure I began to go over the music. Measure by measure I learned to sing in a new language. Measure by measure my musical confidence began to return.

I still have work to do but I have sent my “internal critic” on a little vacation to an island filled with lush palms, sandy beaches, and a really good book. She is happy for the moment, and so am I.

Laurie

ps: I hope you will come to one of our concerts. Check out The Esoterics website for more information on times and locations: http://www.theesoterics.org/

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sabbatical Reflections, September 15, 2008

This past week Joan Dennehy, Pastor of Findlay Street Christian Church, and I flew to San Jose on Thursday and traveled south to Land of Medicine Buddha Retreat Center in Soquel, not far from Santa Cruz in the Redwood forests.

The night before I left, Stan Larsen (a member of QACC who died last December) came to me in a dream and held pine needles under my nose urging me to take in the scent. I took it as a good sign that Stan’s love of the out-doors (he continued to back-pack in the Olympics well into his 90’s) would be with me on this journey.

The retreat center itself is set on the side of a very steep hill at the end of the road. The Redwoods make our Douglas firs look like babies. During our time there the weather turned chilly and the sun barely filtered through the trees and costal fog.

Much earlier in the year Joan and I committed ourselves to attending this facilitator training event for SoulCollage ®. We both love art, we love collage, and we love deepening our understanding of self and soul and leading others along the path of mutual discovery.

Without exactly knowing what we were getting ourselves into we could sense that there was something here for us, so in March we took our hearts (and credit cards) and threw them out over the months to this past weekend in September.

The backbone of SoulCollage are pieces of mat board (usually 5x8 inch) covered over with a background image which in turn hosts another image (or images) that continue to amplify a particular energy.

The idea is to each card reflects one kind of energy of our souls that could be described with the words: I Am the One Who . . . procrastinates over large piles of paper, delights as a happy child, knows melancholy, finds joy in creating with my hands, brings forth fruit from the garden, and so forth. Each energy has its own card so that when you lay out all of the cards you have created it is like looking at a kaleidoscope of your soul!

The SoulCollage process also invites us to name and hold the larger energies that sometimes grab us (some examples might be: The Great Mother, The Warrior, Death, Resurrection, The Creator, The Fool,. . .).

In addition we also make cards for our allies, guides and challengers who have walked upon this earth (for me that list includes Barb, our families and friends, various teachers - some of whom I have studied with and some of whom I have read but never met, pets . . .). There is, of course more to all this than I can describe here but I want you to have a flavor of what we experienced.

The overall idea behind SoulCollage is that the Many (all the parts and pieces of ourselves) are contained in the One. For me, that One is the unity of God-energy that permeates all of creation. In creating SoulCollage cards we bring to consciousness various pieces of our life-energy and allow those parts to be recognized and given voice.

It’s like this: within us, at any given moment, there are a myriad of voices vying for attention: I want another cup of tea. No, you need to start the laundry. Monday is laundry day, remember? What I really want to do is finish that novel.

SoulCollage helps us have a sense of humor about it all and make it easier to choose which voice, which part of the soul, to bring forward in any given moment.

Throughout our time together Joan and I came up with lots of ideas about how to bring this back to our congregations. We hope that some folks in each of our congregations might be willing to sit down with us for a few hours. All we need are some old magazines, a pair of scissors, a piece of mat board, and some glue. It really is that simple.

Laurie

If you want more information check out the SoulCollage website: www.soulcollage.com/home/index.php

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, September 8

It was a family-full weekend. On Friday grandchildren Maggie (6) and Ambrose (3) spent the night. Our evening outing took us to St. Edwards State Park where the play structure for children is outstanding! Built by community volunteers, they spent the vast majority of their time before construction talking to children about what they liked to play on and around.

Once the volunteers finished their extensive research the actual building of the structure went rather quickly. The result takes kids up and over and down and through a castle-like building. Around the outside of the castle children can swing on bars, walk on a balance beam, play in the sand, climb a rock wall and more!

In the soft evening light of almost fall children jumped and swung and played and swarmed all over the structure. I heard three languages in our time there.

After playing, with Happy Meals in hand for the grandchildren and Kidd Valley burgers for the Nana’s we sat outside Kidd Valley and watched the traffic whiz by on Bothell Way. Meanwhile Maggie and Ambrose were totally mesmerized by two brothers, maybe a year older then each of them, who cavorted freely around the out-door seating area bouncing off the shrubbery, the garbage can, the tables, and each other.

The father sat nearby. He stared off into space seemingly exhausted from a week’s work and unable to summon enough energy to connect, to teach, to do the hard-work of parenting. He uttered not one word to his (from my perspective) completely out-of-control children who off and on strayed (from my perspective) way too close to the busy street. Meanwhile Maggie and Ambrose stared with open mouths at that much mayhem so close at hand.

In all honesty, my heart went out to the dad. Who knows what was going on at work? Who knows, maybe both children are hyper-active? Maybe he chooses his battles wisely and this was not one of them.

On Saturday we dropped the grandkids off at home and took Great Aunt Gladys (102) to a Dahlia Garden in Sea-Tac. This particular garden is in the midst of a residential area. We drove up, got out, and looked at the small garden in the front of the house. Aunt Gladys was not impressed.

She had really wanted to see a Dahlia Garden in Tacoma that she had learned about while watching Martha Stewart. We could not find out which garden that was but found Sea-Tac Gardens practically in her own back yard – which was part of the problem – Aunt Gladys wanted to get out of the Burien area!

We wandered around in the front garden and could see that there were more gardens beyond the gate so we walked on in. From a distance we thought we saw three more rather small gardens. Still unimpressed, Aunt Gladys grumped a bit about how she had seen larger gardens elsewhere. Then it came into view.

Just over a small rise there were thousands and thousands of Dahlias. I have no idea of the acreage; suffice it to say that we did not get around the entire garden. We eventually talked with the owner of the garden who has propagated over forty varieties Dahlias. His life’s work is right there for all to see; beautiful Dahlias laid out row by row and dug up every fall. He does a mail-order business all over the country. Order forms in hand we marked off the ones we intend to plant next spring.

At first glance once can never know the true state of any given situation. From outward appearances we think we know, we make suppositions, we guess, we intuit . . . but unless we open the gate and walk into another’s life we cannot know the extent of the beauty and the pain mingled side-by-side.

For this week I want to remember one of my favorite benedictions by Henri Amiel:

Life is short and we have not much time for gladdening the hearts of those who travel the way with us. Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.

Laurie

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, September 1

By nature I am an instruction follower. I frequently read the instruction booklets that come with new equipment and I am forever going on-line to find about how to do things that I’ve never done before.

Last weekend we finished cleaning and pressure washing the deck. Then it rained. And it rained some more. And then it really rained. By the end of the week I could feel the mold creeping back. The instructions on the sealer told us we needed the deck to dry out and we needed 24 hours without rain after sealing and staining.

Discouraged, we scanned the weather forecast each day, and each day the forecast would drift from sun to chance of showers to sun. No matter how carefully we had prepared we could not control the weather!

By Friday, the weather report looked a little more hopeful and I nearly started sealing and staining but a “chance of showers” loomed for the afternoon and I so I worked on yet another house project – removing moss from a brick walkway: truly, in the course of this sabbatical the putty knife and I have become one!

Saturday morning, the sun was shinning, the deck was all dried out (it had not rained on Friday after all). The forecast predicted “very slight chance of showers” early Sunday morning: we went for it! By the end of the day we had finished sealing and staining the deck.

That night the slight chance of showers rained down. Puddles formed on the deck. The sealer remained nearly as wet as when we left it Saturday afternoon. By today, Monday, it is slightly drier and I live in hope that all will be well.

It got me thinking about life in general. You can do all the planning and prep work possible, internalize all the directions and follow them, and if the conditions are not right – it doesn’t matter. Knowing when to move and how to shift becomes an art in itself and we don’t always get it right.

As I’ve worked, my mind has been freed to think about church and its purpose, as well as my life and my purpose. Scraping away at accumulated “smutch” between the boards of the deck or scraping off accumulated moss on bricks I can sense that I’m also removing a sort of plaque that had built up around my soul. I can feel a certain joy beginning to return to me; a tiny bubbling up of simple purpose.

This Sunday we attended worship at the Ananda Community, a blend of east and west that comes out of the tradition of Yoganada, founder of Self-Realization Fellowship. Barb had been active in this community for a number of years and she was able to re-connect with her teachers from that time.

Each worship service we attend offers something of interest and I find myself also longing for our dear home – Queen Anne Christian Church. Thank you for these days of labor and reflection.

Laurie

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 24

I love it when things just work out and flow with the mysterious meanderings of the universe.

Sunday we attended worship at University Christian Church, the church that shaped me as a child and young adult. Their new pastor, Rev. Janetta Cravens Boyd, began her work there in August. We enjoyed meeting her and greeting old friends, some of whom I've known now for over forty years.

In the tradition of many a church-goer and in addition to the order of worship, we also held in our hands the Sunday afternoon shopping list: Dunn Lumber, Seattle Paint, and Home Depot. We had carefully created this list Saturday evening while sitting in the sun on our newly pressure-washed deck. Each item on our list would move some project forward, the most important one being sealing and staining the deck.

But before we could go shopping we also engaged in the fine “after church ritual” of lunch. In this case we stumbled upon Ivar's Lake Union take-out just west of the freeway bridge. We sat outside, warm and cloudy, with our salmon chowder and fish and chips. Just as we finished the rain began. We dashed to the car and drove one block to Dunn Lumber to get the sealer/stain: no luck, one gallon in stock. We looked at each other and kind of lost heart about the rest of the list. Let's go to Trader Joe's and pick up a few things.

Cheese, vinegar, tea, chocolate soy milk, crackers . . . we turned the corner and there we saw our friend Martha Dimmers, with all three children and two shopping carts. We briefly blocked the aisle and learned that Stephen was ill. Martha had assured him that she would be fine on her own with the toddler twins, Gabriel and Genesis, and five year old daughter Carys. And indeed she was fine. With the twins in one shopping cart, she had her helper Carys - the envy of every five year old dressed in a lovely pink tutu - pushing the other cart.

We offered to help and Martha told us no worries, Carys is a good helper, all will be well. In a moment of sheer insanity we all believed this and went our separate ways. Half-way down this aisle, Barb turned to me and said we have to help Martha, you finish our shopping, and off she went.

Our check-out went quickly and so we hung out with the children while Martha negotiated the check-out line.

Earlier this weekend Barb had read the book Sleeping with Bread, that details a simple exercise to end each day: What brought you life today? and What was deadening to your spirit? I'd like to do this, she said.

We began on Sunday night: What was life-giving? We both answered that the most life-giving part of our day revolved around unexpectedly meeting Martha and the children at Trader Joe's.

The Spirit of God blows where it will, we are told in scripture. And sometimes, despite all our careful planning, life finds a deeper, truer, more blessed flow and we find ourselves blown to just the right place at just the right time.

Laurie

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 18

Over the past week I’ve continued to grow in my learning of religious history from Karen Armstrong’s book The Great Transformation: the Beginnings of our Religious Traditions. Armstrong's work feels like an intensive self study course on the development of religious thought in China, India, Israel, and Greece. It feels like material I ought to have learned years ago in school. Did I fall asleep or perhaps boredom set in?

No matter, I get it now and sometimes become so excited that I over dinner I regale Barb with the significance of Greek tragedy and the words of Confucius. I’m amazed at the intensity with which these sages thought about life. They left the world significantly different by their diligent searching and teaching, and in the process left their cultures a pathway to an expanded consciousness.

On the physical labor side of life my body tells me that for today, Monday, take a break! By the end of last week I finished flossing the deck. Over the weekend Barb and I began cleaning and pressure washing which meant that this Sunday we did not attend worship. We got about two-thirds of the deck cleaned. I’ll keep at it this week after a day of rest.

I’ve spent a lot of time on my hands and knees thus far during sabbatical – most of it has not been in prayer, but I do find myself marveling - really, praying with, in a way – those who must labor day in and day out.

As I struggled to carry three gallons of “tsp water” from the kitchen to the deck without tweaking my back, my thoughts have turned to those all over the world whose lives depend on the physical capacity to carry water long distances each day. The handle of the bucket, the sheer heaviness of water digs into my hand and leaves an imprint on my heart.

This past week I finally gave my self permission to take naps in the afternoon. I’ve found that it has taken a few weeks of sabbatical to truly realize how tired I have been. I continue, to the best of my ability, to treasure each day.

Laurie

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 11

My days begin to take on a certain kind of rhythm: a walk first thing in the morning, breakfast, reading and reflection, lunch, physical work in the afternoon.

Of course not every day goes like that. Appointments come up, a friend needs help unpacking and the morning works best, sometimes my reflection time goes on into the afternoon, but I’m finding that just lightly holding my intentions gives me a simple structure that sustains my soul.

In the past week I “flossed” about two-thirds of our nearly 1,000 square foot deck that wraps around almost a quarter of the house. By flossed I mean working on my hands and knees with a putty knife, slicing between every single board to bring up all the fir needles and smutch.

In the building of this particular deck the builder placed the boards way too close together. To put it another way: nothing falls between these cracks. And to answer your question, pressure washing (at this point) does not help the situation one bit, in fact it makes it worse. I do have a putty knife duct-taped to a pole but I find that motion hard on my back. I hope by the end of the week to finish “flossing” and get on to the cleaning/pressure washing and staining while the weather permits.

This weekend we painted our bedroom and dressing room. When we remodeled the upper level of our tri-level home two and a half years ago we painted one wall with an accent color, York Harbor Yellow. We like the color so much we painted a second wall the same color but in the end chickened out and left all the other walls a neutral color that we didn’t like all that much.

Gradually as we’ve lived with these colors it became clear: paint all the walls the same yellow/gold color! And so we did. We like painting together and so had a companionable weekend.

On Sunday morning we attended the second service (out of three) at Center for Spiritual Living to listen to the teachings of Rev. Kathiann Lewis. Affiliated with Science of Mind and based on the teaching of Ernest Holmes, Center for Spiritual Living’s purpose could be summed up in this Holmes quote, “we don’t tell you what to think, but how to think.”

Sunday evening found us at Queen Anne Christian Church for an Esoterics rehearsal . . . which, honestly, felt a bit odd! However between Esoterics rehearsals and an InterPlay training session at the end of September, I will be in and out of building a fair bit.

I continue to be so thankful for this time apart. I can feel my body begin to come to rest. My mind relaxes from the need to communicate clearly, to make meaning, to hold so much. Just for today, I relish the freedom to be.

blessings + peace,

Laurie

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 4, 2008

Saturday we took our grandchildren, Maggie (6) and Ambrose (3), to Barb’s company picnic at her work place (Phillips) in Canyon Park. Filled with large inflatable structures and fueled by BBQ chicken, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, and ice cream bars, children bounced their way toward an inevitable nap time. Hoola hoops made an appearance along with a gunny sack race and egg toss.

Sunday I attended worship at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church www.stpaulseattle.org/ (Melissa Skelton, Pastor) at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill. Barb intended to attend as well but excessive incense drove her back to the car to listen to a book on tape.

After worship we drove to Burien to pickup my Great Aunt Gladys (102) and drive to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma www.museumofglass.org/ What a great place! The variety of glass objects astounds the mind as you keep asking yourself, how do they do that?

As if to answer that very question the core of the museum contains a “hot shop” amphitheater where glass artisans offer daily demonstrations of their art. “I’ll remember this day as long as I live!” Aunt Gladys said.

We made her day complete with a quick stop at Fred Meyers to top off the gas in her Lincoln Continental, pick up a brass hose nozzle and new garden gloves (three to a pack!); she was ecstatic!

In the past week I read two memoirs that may be of interest to some of you.

Apples & Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner tells the story of an estranged brother and sister that moves between Texas, New York, and Wenatchee. A beautiful story, this book not only takes a close look at family history and sibling relationships but also brings you close up to the apple industry in our own backyard.

The Film Club by David Gilmour explores the relationship that developed between himself and his teenage son. The son struggles with school and David, in a fit of compassion and frustration, offers a way out that involves dropping out of school provided that together they watch three movies a week which David (a film critic, himself “between jobs”) will select. This memoir heartbreakingly charts the uneven path of teenage life and takes a brutally honest look at the father’s own life.

I continue to plug away with The Great Transformation: the Beginning of our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong reading a section each day. Today I begin the chapter on “Suffering” that takes a look at religious thought between 600 and 530 BCE.

blessings + peace,

Laurie

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, July 28

Barb and I returned from our one week vacation on Monday, July 28. Months ago, when we initially set aside July 22-28 for vacation, we had planned to install new flooring downstairs in our home and then head off to Ellensburg for “Jazz in the Valley” with dear friends.

In preparation we picked out the “peel-and-stick” tiles we wanted that would never stain with cat throw-up. Barb ripped up the old carpet (well past its prime and mightily stained with the aforementioned substance), pulled up the tack strip, and made a dump run. We were ready.

But one afternoon, a little over a week before our project was to begin, we made a quick trip to Costco to buy a folding ladder on sale and stumbled across other kinds of flooring. More options! We listed pros and cons for each type of flooring when it hit us: there was no way we would be installing a floor during this week of vacation. Barb said, “This is a crazy idea but what if we drove down to Chico, California to visit your mom and her twin sister and then drive from there to Ellensburg.”

One more discernment chart later we knew. Gas will never get any cheaper than it is right now. We wanted to visit my mom at some point during the sabbatical time and this would be the only week of vacation that Barb could take. Plus, we like road trips. In the end, it just felt right.

And it was. Each day we gave thanks for this “best ever” vacation. In Chico we helped my mom and aunt sort through old boxes of “stuff” from a storage unit they closed out. Mom sat in her chair and I knelt on the floor near her. Box by box, one at a time over the course of three days we cleared out about eight or nine boxes. Most contained pictures and photo albums from travels around the world and Mom was ready to let them go.

We filled two large trash bags in addition to the garbage can. Then we filled my aunt’s Lincoln Continental with other boxes of usable items they had already sorted and dropped them off at the Salvation Army. In the evenings we played Chicken Foot (a dominos game) and laughed ourselves silly.

The drive to Ellensburg up through central Oregon exposed us to parts of the state we had never seen before – high desert, rolling hills, deep canyons. Friday night after an almost 11 hour drive we arrived in The Dalles where fell in love with the Columbia River Gorge.

“Jazz in the Valley” featured fabulous musicians, beautiful weather, and time with old, dear friends. On Sunday morning, as part of the jazz festival, we rocked out with The Total Experience Gospel Choir and for an hour and a half found ourselves swept up in the utter joy of singing and praise.

Each day a joy . . . each day, just right . . . as I formally begin this time of sabbatical my hope is to remember that – this day matters –don’t think too far ahead, be present now and relish what is.

blessings + peace,

Laurie

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sabbatical Reflections

As I begin this time of sabbatical I find myself reflecting on this lovely poem by Vassar Miller. It catches the sense of what Sabbath time can mean.

-Laurie

Resolve

I must go back to the small place,
to the swept place,
to the still place,
to the silence under the drip of the dew,
under the beat of the bird’s pulse,
under the whir of the gnat’s wing,
to the silence under the absence of noise,
there bathe my hands and my heart
in the hush,
there rinse my ears and my eyes,
there know Thy voice and Thy face,
until when, O my God, do I knock
with motionless knuckles
on the crystal door of the air
hung on the hinge of the wind.

by Vassar Miller

Friday, May 30, 2008

Be Blessed: Be a Blessing

Stewardship Emphasis for 2008-2009

In the end
all any of us can say
is thank you.

Thank you
for your
generous giving
Thank you
for your
largeness of heart
Thank you
for your
presence
Thank you
for your
love
Thank you
for your
intention
to live
a life
blessed by God
that you, too
may be
a blessing.

—Laurie Rudel

Every generous act of giving,
with every perfect gift, is from God.
– James 1:17 (NSRV)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Be Blessed: Be a Blsesing

Stewardship Emphasis for 2008-2009

I came across some guidelines that offer three steps to tithing and thought you might be interested in them as well.

It has taken me many years to come to terms with giving money away with grace. Sometimes I slip back into possessiveness.

And sometimes I remember: open hands can receive as well as give—open hands can be blessed as well as be a blessing.
—Pastor Laurie

1. Become a First Fruits Giver
Whenever you receive money, give thanks by giving something back to God. Don’t worry about how much, just this FIRST, before all of your other spending.

2. Become a Percentage Giver
No matter how large or small, decide what percent of your income you want to give to God and begin doing it.

3. Increase As You Are Able
Pray often. Talk it over with God so that God can help you decide when to take risks and when to play it safe.

For reflection -

The Power of Jesus

You rise again
between us and among us
Power of Creation
Power of Salvation
Power of our power
Length of our eyes
Soundness in our ears
Calling in our mouths
Sureness in our steps
Concentration of our mind
Largeness of our heart.



—Mary Jo Leddy
Radical Gratitude


Every generous act of giving,
with every perfect gift, is from God.
– James 1:17 (NSRV)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Be Blessed: Be a Blessing

Stewardship Emphasis for 2008-2009

I’ve been thinking about how our giving to the annual budget forms the foundation of the life of our congregation. It is easy to overlook but it is our giving to the annual budget that makes everything else possible.

Our annual budget at Queen Anne Christian Church is like a three legged stool made up of pledged and unpledged giving, fees from building use, and money from our endowment fund.

Each leg of the stool helps us support the ministry of this congregation.

At this particular time it is to our advantage to strengthen our pledged giving. Increased pledged giving will help decrease our dependence on our endowment fund and give us needed breathing room to make decisions about our future with grace.
—Pastor Laurie

For reflection:

You are
the Still Purpose.


You come down
as snowflakes onto
the tops of the mountains.
You flow through the world
as streams and then
as mighty rivers rolling
toward the great ocean
of Your Love.
You sow seeds
of Your purpose
throughout the world
in all nations and peoples
and gather them up again
in Your due season.


You are Still Purpose
We begin in Your name
and end in Your name
Amen.


—Mary Jo Leddy
Radical Gratitude


Every generous act of giving,
with every perfect gift, is from God.
– James 1:17 (NSRV)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Be Blessed: Be a Blessing

Stewardship Emphasis for 2008-2009

The word stewardship implies that we have resources to "steward." It implies that we have been given gifts to care for, to watch over, to give away.

Like many other congregations we frequently pair stewardship with our financial support for the annual budget of the church. This pairing is important but it narrows down stewardship to a relationship between us and our checking accounts!

As we begin the process of New Beginnings we would do well to reflect on the nature of all God’s gifts to us as individuals and as a community of faith.

What if in the week to come we made a list of all our blessings? What if we looked closely at the smallest things that bring joy to our lives? What if we came together and compiled our lists? Can you see it?

So many blessings stacked upon one another: would not this community truly be over-flowing with goodness and grace and gratitude? And then what?

Well, then we probably would have plenty to give away.

Once we know we are blessed then anything is possible.

For reflection:

We give You thanks
for You sustain us
with real food
and real drink.
You nourish us
with friends as real as food
with joy as clear as water
with love as good as this meal
this is enough.
We do not ask for more.
This is more than enough
reason to bless Your name
Forever.
Make us always mindful of those
who do not have enough
food and friendship
water and love and joy.
Give them enough
that they may be thankful
Amen.

—Mary Jo Leddy
Radical Gratitude



Every generous act of giving,
with every perfect gift, is from God.
– James 1:17 (NSRV)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Seeds of Compassion

A number of us connected to Queen Anne Christian Church attended some part of the Seeds of Compassion event in April which featured, among other world religious leaders, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and Desmund Tutu.

The event was inspiring and invigorating. Here are three reflections—

blessings + peace, Laurie

Maria Drury—
Attending several session of Seeds of Compassion touched me deeply in ways I am still discovering. Our community has been deeply blessed to host such a gathering, as its effects will continue to ripple through each person and our very geography for a long time to come. As I sat in the sessions, I witnessed national and international “experts” in dialogue with wise people — in the form of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and youth who spoke wisely as they offered reflections and asked questions that many adults struggle to answer for ourselves.

I heard information and wisdom that I perhaps know already on some level, but it had renewed impact as I heard these ideas spoken with compassion in a space I had set apart from daily routine. I experienced community in the friends and family I sat with, and in the sense of a larger community brought closer together by gathering in witness to the importance of practicing compassion in its many facets — towards self, towards other, towards community, towards the world in which we live.

Just today Peter and I read a story in the sports section of the Seattle Times, in which two college baseball players carried an opponent around the bases after she injured her leg while responding to the only home run she would hit in her softball career. They ensured that team’s victory, but touched many more lives by displaying ultimate sportsmanship in such compassion. Whether or not those young women knew about the gathering in Seattle, their choice is linked in my own mind with what I witnessed at Seeds of Compassion.

I feel truly blessed by this incredible gathering.

Sarah Swanson—
I am still feeling inspired by the Seeds of Compassion and am hoping to incorporate some of what I heard to my everyday life. Laurie, after you pointed out the pennies for peace [this program supports the work of Central Asia Institute to bring school supplies to children in Afghanistan], I brought Julian, Tyler and Mia up to put some pennies in.

I was amazed how they responded with basically how come these children don’t have what they have and how can they help. I really underestimated how they would understand this concept because of their age, but what I am feeling now is that the time is now for my children to learn compassion and being socially responsible. Hearing from these great public figures that they learned compassion from their mothers was empowering—and I am ready to commit to do more.

Amy Graff—
I was struck by the first question to the panelists: When do you remember the first time you experienced compassion? Many of the answers were incredible; especially the woman who remembered that she was three when she first knew she made a difference in her family—she could make them laugh.

Another question they answered was when you have had a tragedy in your life, how did you deal with it and go on? One panelist suggested we draw on the infinite strength we have in ourselves.
The Dalai Lama explained that if there is sadness in our lives—and he took his fingers to twist a dial 180 degrees—then we need to create more happiness.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I found the news coverage of the simmering controversy about Barak Obama's pastor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to be disturbing on a number of levels.

Then I read Ruth's Good Friday Reflection. I commend it to you as her writing and thinking reflects many of my concerns.
—Laurie

Good Friday Reflection

by Ruth Fletcher
Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Montana

I am not a big fan of Jeremiah Wright. He’s loud. Shouting loud. When he spoke to us at the Ministers’ Breakfast at the General Assembly a few years back, I had to put my fingers in my ears just to make out the actual words he was saying.

And the man has no tact. I think there are times for a minister to be tactful—to use softer language for the sake of getting a better hearing when it comes to controversial subjects. But when Jeremiah Wright has a choice between being diplomatic and being strident, he seems to always opt for the most inflammatory expressions he can find.

In that way, he stands in the long tradition of the Biblical prophets who didn’t mince words when it came to naming the idolatry of pledging allegiance to that which was not God, who named the sins of the nation and spoke of God’s judgment for the prideful who had lost their ability to blush.

This last week, the media has repeatedly aired a few selected sound bytes of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons taken out of the context of a lifetime of preaching. I was exercising in the gym when one of them was played for the umpteenth time on the TV monitor above my head. The snippet was followed by an outraged commentator asking the rhetorical question, "Should children be subjected to this kind of preaching?"

"YES!" I answered aloud, much to the surprise of the people on the exercise machines on either side of me.

If we want our young people to grow up and confess that Jesus is Lord, then somewhere along the way they will need to hear the voice of a preacher who will warn them to beware of the gods of materialism, violence and greed that will compete for their loyalty. They will need to hear sermons that will inform them that being a Christian is not just about the power of positive thinking but about confessing complicity with sinful systems of oppression such as racism that still plague our country.

As members of God’s beloved community, they will need to learn that they have a responsibility, not just to themselves, but to the "least of these" who go without health care and food and shelter in this wealthy nation. They will need to be taught how to discern the voice of falsehood from the voice of truth, the voice of fear-mongering from the voice of wisdom, the voice of sensation from the voice of fact.

The scriptures we have heard on this Good Friday remind us that following Jesus is not always easy—discipleship often puts us at odds with popular opinion, principalities and powers. May we have the courage to continue walking the path that leads to new life.

Have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Manudy Thursday Reflection

Matthew 26:17-23

one of you will betray me . . .

In The American Heritage Dictionary
on the opposite page you can find
a picture of a "bevel gear"
and a map of Bhutan

on the same page there is a photo
of Mary McLeod Bethune
who lived from 1875 to 1955—
an African-American educator
who sought improved race relations

There is no picture, no map, no photo
for the word betrayal—just a definition:
to give aid or information to an enemy
to commit treason against
to deliver into the hands of an enemy
in violation of a trust or allegiance

to be false or disloyal to
to divulge in a breach of confidence
to make known unintentionally
to reveal against ones’ desire or will
to lead astray, deceive

in other words:
rat on, stab in the back,
let the cat out of the bag,
blab, blurt, let slip, bamboozle,
pull the wool over one’s eyes,
abandon, forsake, leave behind,
walk out on . . .

As readers of The Gospel of Matthew
we already know that Jesus will be betrayed
and that the disciples remain clueless
so when Jesus drops the bombshell word betrayal
everyone scatters for cover
talking over each other to gain assurance
from him that they are not the one

It’s a peculiar scene:
we might assume that the disciples
know their own hearts
that after all this time with Jesus
they are rooted in his teachings
that they possess an inner compass
orienting them
toward the work of God in the world
but that is not the case

On this night self-doubt and anxiety
shoot around the table
and ricochet off Jesus
who remains cool as a cucumber
centered in his purpose

The Sufi poet Hafiz writing in the 1300’s puts it this way:
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Until we all
Die!

So what is love in the face of betrayal?
What is Jesus like as he sits at table full of knowing?

Anthony DeMello tells us that in India
the poets and mystics say that
a holy person is like a rose.
have you ever heard a rose say,
I’m going to give my fragrance only to good people
and deny it to evil people?
No it is the very nature of the rose to spread fragrance.

or, a holy person is like a lamp lit in a dark room.
can a lamp say that it is going to shed light only on good people
and keep from shining on bad people?

or, a holy person is like a tree
giving shade to both good people and bad people.
the tree gives its shade even to the person cutting it down.
and if it is aromatic, it will leave its smell after being cut.

so perhaps around this table of betrayal
after the bomb has been dropped
after the denials die down
there exists a strange kind of calm
and other words begin sing in their minds:
God makes the rain to fall on the good and the evil
the sun shines on the just and the unjust

the days ahead will take their toll
all disciples will betray him
but in the air there lingers
the earthiness of bread
the sweetness of wine
and a scent called love
given freely to each of us
purifying basest intentions
releasing us from our worst actions
and placing us here and now
ready to begin again

- Laurie Rudel

Hafiz peom translation by Daniel Ladinsky
Anthony DeMello, Walking on Water, The Crossroad Publishing Company, NY, 1998, p. 64-65.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Your word is a lamp for me steps, for the path just ahead of me.
- Psalm 119:105

Our congregation’s Lenten Meditations consist of a small envelope containing forty different words: patience, direction, openness, healing . . . The instructions are simple: draw a word each and live with it, do with it what engages you.

Okay. There are forty words. Since Lent began on Ash Wednesday, February 6, I have drawn nine words. Five of them are the same word: love.

I’ve been thinking about this, praying about this and the word that keeps coming to mind and my heart is curiosity; that in some profound and powerful way love and curiosity are linked.

Imagine for a moment that you are entering a new situation, you are not sure what is expected and you don’t know anyone. In these kinds of settings I often find that my first reaction is one of narrowed vision - of being physically unable to take in information that surrounds me.

Usually this occurs when I have some fear of the future. When I can relax into the situation and engage my curiosity, I find that colors pop out, more detail can be observed, and that a sense of friendliness takes over.

Curiosity can be inner directed and other directed: humm . . . I wonder why I needed to eat absolutely everything on my plate and eat dessert when I was full after eating the dinner salad; or, I wonder about the person sitting next to me – what makes their heart sing with delight, what do they love more than anything else . . .

When I can relax (another word here could be trust) and engage my curious self, life becomes full of light and small details shine with unexpected grace. Really, this is how I want to live each day – curious about what will unfold; aware of the undercurrents of the Holy Spirit; noticing the presence of Christ; following the leading of God.

May you be blessed with a curious day!

Prayer
God, open my heart to trust each step.
Let me not jump ahead of myself or of your leading.
Fill me with wonder, curiosity, and love.
Amen.

- Laurie Rudel

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday, February 6

Thomas Powers tells this story: The composer Stravinsky had written a new piece with a difficult violin passage.

After it have been in rehearsal for several weeks, the solo violinist came to Stravinsky and said he was sorry, he had tried his best, the passage was too difficult and no violinist could play it. Stravinsky said, "I understand that. What I am after is the sound of someone trying to play it."

While this conversation took place between an musician and a composer it could have taken place between God and a disciple.


Disciple: I’m sorry but the part you have given me to play in life is much too difficult. I’m doing my best and it isn’t good enough.

God: I understand that. What I am after is the sound of someone trying to live the life I’ve given them.

What I know about living the spiritual life is this: we do our best. We stumble. We try again. We fail. Our best seems insufficient. We stop.

We may turn to God and ask that another life be given to us, or more commonly, we sink deeply into the couch and with remote in hand search the channels for someone else’s life that we imagine we will like much better than our own.

Of course this makes us lethargic and maybe even cranky—after all, how can it be that with hundreds of channels there still is nothing on TV that fills our souls, nothing that tells me who I am?

Lent is the time of year that asks particular, focused questions: Will you come and follow me to the very end? What is the sound of your heart beating at one with the heart of God? When as a community our hearts beat together as one heart what does God intend for us to do?
Again and again, we may say it is too difficult. We cannot live this life of full-hearted love: it is impossible. I am not Jesus!


And God says: "That is precisely the point! You are not Jesus, you are _______ (fill in your name): a child of mine in whom I long to dwell. So show me the sound of you trying to live the life I’ve given you."

Lent. There is a wildness hidden in here that whistles through our hearts and calls us by our true name: Love incarnate. Listen. Listen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meditation for January 29

In my meditations over the past few months I have leaned heavily on two thoughts. The first is: Don’t fret. Be peace.

The second one is: there is nothing that needs to be changed. It is this one that really caught me up short: there is nothing that needs to be changed.

Like a blow to the gut this simple phrase gets at my tendency to fix, to meddle, to want something other than what I have in this moment in time.

I found myself repeating it throughout the day. As I laid these words out in my heart over and over I could feel a sense of calmness, an inkling of the words of Julian of Norwich:
and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

As I look around our community of faith I confess that at times I get very caught up in wanting things to be different: more people in worship, more shared leadership, more time for pastoral care, more hours in the day to do difficult reading and thinking. And yet moment by moment this is true: there is nothing that needs to be changed.

What this meditation is allowing me to do is to dwell with a sense of quietness—the noise in my head decreases significantly when I remember this truth, and trust—God is in this moment, the next one, the next . . .

blessings + peace, Laurie