May 27, 2022
Dear Church Family and Friends,
Like you, my heart aches and I struggle in the face of the tragedies in these past few weeks. I have sat down to write several times, but found myself staring at a blank screen typing then erasing again and again. Words are hard to come by. I don’t know what can be said in this moment. The scriptures say that the Spirit intercedes with “sighs too deep for words”. Surely, that is the case in this moment and all the moments that reveal the brokenness of our world and our country.
In faith we turn to prayer, but prayer is not enough. We cannot pray and then walk away feeling as though we have done our part. Our faith is not complete without our personal commitment and action to bring about the necessary healing of a broken system that has turned away from love; that has turned its back on compassion and respect. Until we value every life, until we place others before personal gain, until we begin our actions with how it benefits others, our world will not know peace. And as far as I understand our faith, that is exactly what we must be doing. There is no other way.
Pray – yes, but not only for the families of those lives taken or the victims who will never be released from the nightmare they have witnessed or the murderers whose lives were so misguided and lost or the ongoing sufferers of oppression and war. We must pray for a change and commit to be a part of that change in all that we say and in all that we do. Prayer is not merely a reflective moment or a meditation. If prayer is meant to do anything it has always been about changing the heart and the mind of the one who prays. And may it then be so that we recognize that the power of prayer is our personal call to action today, tomorrow and until we add our voices and our bodies to the cause for peace in our world.
April 6, 2022
I imagine each of us is feeling the challenge of carrying the heavy burden of life in this moment. Some of our struggles are personal and individual. Many are the collective worries and fears that top the headlines of news stories about the horrors of war and the dire predictions of climate change. We are exhausted emotionally, physically and perhaps even spiritually with a sense of helplessness that seeps into the fissures of our foundation leaving us wondering and wandering through a landscape of uncertainty and dread. How is it that we can hold fast to hope in these times? How can we safeguard our souls, our spirits, our inner selves from becoming lost in the darkness of despair?
Grief and fear, these are realities of life. Our tendency to run from them, to try to cover them up can only temporarily pacify, if they can at all. We know that when we lift our heads once again, these realities are still before us. They haven’t gone away because we have chosen to turn our gaze toward something else. Rather, healing within comes when we dare to look at our grief and face our fear instead of spending our energy looking over our shoulders as they chase us.
There is something to be gained when we stand in the face of the negative forces of our lives. That doesn’t mean we are not afraid, that we are not angry, that don’t we feel helpless. IT IS OKAY TO FEEL ALL THESE AND MORE! But what changes is this: when we choose to face these challenges, we also discover the possibility of light in the darkness. Even when we can’t yet see it, we can imagine it and when we imagine it, we will begin to see it – light and hope. Let me share what happened to me this morning as an analogy to this, albeit a far cry from the harsh realities that we face in our daily lives.
You’ve likely heard me talk about our dog, Bentley. The night before he was unsettled and consequently, after several attempts to get him to go lie down, I gave up and dragged myself out of bed at 4 a.m. That meant that last night I was really looking forward to a much needed good night’s sleep. I didn’t get it! Throughout the night he paced back and forth into the bedroom and out again panting as he went. I got up once to let him out thinking that would be what he wanted and he’d then settle in. Such was not the case. I hauled myself out of bed a second time, now at 2 a.m. muttering words of frustration and worry not knowing what might be wrong. As I opened the door to the outside this time, I stopped in the midst of my dark mood for before me was a perfect view of the crescent moon. The sight of it made me smile, if only for a moment. He’s resting well now, but to complete the story, that trip out didn’t get him to settle down for very long either. My morning began again at 4 a.m. and while I know that later tonight I’m going to be ready to try again for a good night’s sleep, I can’t help but think about the image of light in the darkness that the crescent moon reminded me about in all aspects of life. I was too tired to bother going back inside to get my phone so I could take a picture that I then could post with this reflection, but perhaps you could imagine it and allow it to lighten up a bit of the darkness you may be feeling in this moment.
With gratitude for the little wonders of life that help us cope with the bigger challenges,
March 9, 2022
I woke up to another lavender morning. That’s what I’ve decided to call these early hours as the sun rises and paints in pastels across the sky. My photographs hardly capture the beauty, but they don’t have to as the images remain in my mind and have stirred my soul.
I need such moments in these difficult days when it seems there is not enough I can do on all fronts. I need these encounters with nature’s beauty that fill me with awe as they trace a smile across my heart. It is necessary for our mental health in these heavy times to find moments of solace in our daily lives so that we are able to cope. It helps to soothe the soul and quiet the mind when we can learn to lean into the love that strengthens our spirits and assures us of hope for better days.
My desire is that you are able to find such moments that fill you with peace in the midst of all the clamor of life, especially in these days. The practice of our faith in this season of Lent to slow down, take notice and receive with thankful hearts, is a practical journey throughout our lives as it draws us into an awareness of the spirit and the common ground that unites us all. In New England, it resonates even more with our souls as we watch with wonder the rebirth all around us in nature. May we also discover a renewed sense of gratitude and purpose as we travel this road together.
We often think of the wilderness, in whatever form, as a place of vulnerability, a space in which we find ourselves challenged, perhaps even threatened. Wilderness, like wildness, conjures up images of things out of our control. It is no wonder we fear such spaces. We like having our feet fully planted on the ground, confident in where we are and pretty sure of where we are going. And yet, it is in these undefined places, our deep inner selves exposed to uncertainty, that we most often discover a greater sense of who we are and what defines our spiritual self.
Today, Ash Wednesday, marks a journey of great meaning for our lives when we are invited to examine our personal walks in the wilderness as they snake and turn across the landscape of our souls allowing us to see more clearly the promise in a new and brilliant day.
Will you join me in that journey wherever this invitation finds you in this moment, this sacred moment? In these times when we are quite literally walking in the wilderness, the disconcerting wildness of violence and fear, of uncertainty and despair, let us walk together, side by side with compassion and love for one another, for our brothers and sisters across the globe, particularly in Ukraine, for our planet and all that makes it extraordinarily balanced and wonderful. We’ve been in this place before – wandering and wondering. Though the circumstances have been different, we a familiar with the journey. Come, let us find our way through the rough terrain of rock and river, over hills and through the valleys, walking hand in hand for though we are individual beings, our faith reminds us that to know completeness in our lives is to know our precious interconnectedness with one another that brings strength and holds hope and promise.
March 2, 2022
A few mornings ago, I captured this image of the moonrise that would soon be followed by the sun. A few minutes before I got outside to take a picture, Venus was bright in the sky above the moon, but by the time I got out it was hidden by the clouds. Later when I looked at the image I had taken, my eyes were drawn to the footsteps in the snow and caused me think about this journey of life we are each on. It is a journey that often finds us walking in the wilderness in search of wholeness, purpose, and wellbeing. The wilderness can take on different forms. When I was younger I had always associated wilderness with the forest. Yet, in the Christian story of Jesus’ time of temptation, his wilderness was the vast desert, blistering hot by day and chilling air by night, little place for cover, exposed to the harsh wildness of the place.
This morning, as the fresh snow covers the dirt and stone riddled piles of old hardened snow making everything pristine again, I’m struggling to see its beauty. I feel the weight of grief and sorrow for the many caught in the devastating invasion of Ukraine. I wrestle with the right words, if there are any, to express how distraught I feel that greed and power continue to play out in such destructive ways. It is everything that is wrong with the world and what we, as people of faith, as people of consciousness, condemn.
We believe that life is sacred and yet lives are being lost as we sit down for our breakfast and plan out our day. On the other side of the world people like you and me are gripped with pain and suffering. Recent days have started with fear and worry. Their world has been turned upside down. Their lives caught in the middle of a power grab that cares nothing for them as individuals. Nothing at all. Hearts ache with sorrow.
If nothing else, believing that love transcends all time and space, may we send our loving and caring thoughts in the direction of all who are caught in this horrible mess. May we unite our energy in the prayer-filled power of love that they may feel and know our care and compassion. It may seem a hopeless effort on our part, yet we have seen time and again the power of love that brings hope, healing and peace. Sitting clear on the other side of the planet, it is the very least we can do.
In heartfelt compassion,
This morning I caught another beautiful image on my greenhouse window!
I had gone out, in spite of the bitter cold, to watch the full moon set behind the trees while the sun was coming up in the east. I can never resist those moments. I have to say I hardly noticed the cold as my senses all seemed tuned into the wonder and beauty in the stillness.
While I took in the awakening of the morning, I ventured up to one of our greenhouses to see what the frost had formed overnight. I have loads of images in my photo file of nature’s etchings on the windows, but none like what I captured today. The pinks and lavenders of the sunrise as a backdrop to the delicate ice drawing were a breath-taking discovery and one that touched upon a sense of gratitude.
Everyday and everywhere there are moments of nature’s unlimited beauty unfolding around us – gifts for us to notice and give thanks for. Slowing down throughout our busy lives, even for brief moments, will reward us with a sense of peace that goes a long way in bringing a healthy balance to our lives.
I invite you to take time to notice the magnificent beauty nature is revealing to you. You won’t regret it.
February 2, 2022
This morning began as usual until I spotted what I am certain was an owl fly past my window! It happened in a moment so I could not catch the details, but its stockier build is clear in my mind distinguishing it from a hawk. I raced to the window to see if I could catch a better glimpse, but in a heartbeat, much to my disappointment, it was gone.
In the past I would have said that it was ironic that the scene outside my window unfolded right after I was reflecting on my Sunday message entitled Wonder Happens. It definitely seemed quite coincidental, but I’ve begun to realize more and more that when we learn to open ourselves up to the fullness of life, we begin to take notice of all the wonders that pop up throughout the day, every day. They are not just things we witness in nature, but in other moments too. Like picking up a reading that just so happens to be exactly what you needed to read in that moment. Or you hear from someone whose words touch a place of healing in your being.
Wonder happens all the time. That is an outlook I hold on to, especially when the way in life presents challenges and what seem to be obstacles in the way of progress. It is what keeps me hopeful and helps me to see positive signs of change. May this be true for each of us as we remain under the cloud of uncertainty when it comes to returning to something that resembles “normal”. As Amanda Gorman said in her New Year poem a month ago, may we not be looking to return to normal, but rather to what is next. “Next” is filled with possibilities. “Next” is filled wonder.
Blessings on this adventure,
January 26, 2022
As I write this we are in the midst of a cold spell here in Maine with below zero temperatures at night leaving beautiful feathered frost formations on our greenhouse windows again this year. For many of us the deep freeze and lingering virus restrictions have either worn us out or found us teetering of the edge of exhaustion. Being upbeat and forward thinking often feels like a push against the odds these days. The church doors closed again at the end of December and the council decision to reevaluate later in February for a hopeful re-gathering in March tangles before us. Many we personally know have had surgery dates postponed and trips delayed. Just when we start thinking that we can return to something similar to what we had known before the virus, we come to the realization that we are not there yet.
Not yet. We’d prefer that brief phrase wasn’t in our vocabulary holding a promise that in time we will return to a sense of normalcy, just – not yet. It is grim news for sure. Two years into this pandemic and we yearn for time together – physically together, not in little squares on the computer, though we are grateful for technology. Even now we plan for events down the road when the weather warms wanting to believe that we can finally be community again – sharing a meal together, worshipping beside one another, laughing and celebrating our renewed freedom. Just the thought of it stirs my heart with joy even though “not yet” lingers.
As frustrated as we may be, and we all share that on some level, the getting-back-together time will come and we will celebrate like never before! In the meantime, let us continue to hold one another close in our thoughts and hearts. The love that unites us a community is just as real in our physical absence. Our faith reminds us that love transcends all time and space. May you know that truth, especially in the more challenging moments of these trying days.
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13
In Christian love,