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Garden Glory

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One of the best things about living in Rhode Island is that we have some glorious summer days. This is one of them. Blue sky, lower temps and humidity, slight breeze. On these kinds of days, I’m grateful that I can open my office window and door, and listen to bird song as I work. And I’m even more grateful that part of my work involves praying and study, and that work can be done in the midst of our meditation garden.

The picture above is taken in the Welcome Garden portion, and it’s what one sees when driving up the property to the parking lot. The vibrant colors draw you in, and once you step into the space, the sights and scents can transport you to a peaceful place. I love pausing in my reading to look around, to notice the different textures, to enjoy the antics of one of the 973,000 chipmunks that live on (or under) the grounds. It is a way for me to feed both my mind and my soul.

I hope that you have a beautiful space that you can use in this same way. If not, feel free to come up and enjoy ours. There are plenty of quiet spaces to share!

Perceptions

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Abbey – and Skipper – taking a stroller break on a hot and humid day.

Yesterday was my Sabbath, and though it was quite humid, we took Skipper and Abbey for a walk. Skipper and Abbey are both 4 year-old Norfolk Terriers. Abbey has some kind of physical challenge, she hops rather than runs, and cannot walk for long periods without needing to be carried. So we have invested in a “doggie stroller” for her.

It is interesting to watch the reactions to folks as we stroll by. While many just nodded, smiled, or stopped to pet the dogs, there were others who saw the stroller and rolled their eyes at each other. ¬†And it got me wondering why we human beings feel so comfortable judging one another? We judge people on their clothing choices, their political views, their gender, their sexuality, their color, their size, their culture, their breakfast choices … I could go on. So even if Abbey was in a stroller purely because we thought she was cute (she is) or if we thought she was a human baby (we do not), why would that be a reason to treat us dismissively?

I wonder what this world would be like if we allowed ourselves to be intrigued by people rather than dismissing them. I wonder what we would be like if we enjoyed and celebrated our differences rather than being threatened by them.

Anyway, if you see us out walking, feel free to stop and talk to Abbey. She’ll be the one in the stroller.

Lost Art

IMG_0483I think I must really be getting old, because I am starting to wax nostalgic about practices that are no longer an integral part of society. Just this morning, I was remembering that it used to be that one did not make phone calls before 9:00 am or after 8:00 pm unless it was an emergency, or between family members or good friends. Another relic of the past? Manners. What some now derogatorily call “political correctness” we used to call “being polite.” I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more politeness these days – in our interactions, on our screens. When did it become commonplace for folks to shout over each other and call it news commentary? See … I am getting old.

This is in my head because it is Thursday – a day that is usually devoted to writing. Each week we send out an e-mailed newsletter. It takes awhile to get it all written and sent, but it’s a great way to keep in touch with members and visitors alike. Once that “E-pistle” is finished, I try to write at least 5 handwritten notes to folks. These can be for various reasons – a thank you, a check-in, a congratulations … there is not enough time to do as many of these as I would like, but I have pledged to at least do a few each week. The sound of a pen scratching along a piece of good stationary, thinking about what I write (since there’s no easy way to delete) … all of these become a way to enact with my body the hopes and prayers for them that I hold in my heart.

Today, may you find a way to bring some civility back into this crazy world of ours, and may someone do the same for you.

At the Feeder

There are two bird feeders just outside of my office window. I work hard to keep them both filled so that I can enjoy the beauty of the feathered ones who come to feast. Even though I use no-mess seed, there is still enough dropped on the ground to feed the chipmunks who come to scavenge below it. Sometimes, the feeders are filled with birds; 4 or 6 eating together, and others waiting for their turn on top of the pole. Some share space more willingly than others – blue jays and cardinals in particular seem to prefer solitary dining. There are also long stretches of the day when the feeders remain empty. The food is still there, just as nourishing, but no one comes to feast.

Today, I was reminded that prayer is rather like my feeder. Some folks take the nourishment that prayer brings only when gathered with others – at prescribed times and in prescribed places. Others only want to pray alone so that they don’t have to deal with the noise and mess that company might bring. And I have to wonder, how often does the nourishment of prayer lie empty; just waiting for someone to fly in and be fed?

So maybe today, choose the nourishment that prayer is always offering at an odd time, in an odd place. The feeders are full. Come and be fed.feeders

I’m m-e-l-t-i-n-g

The video above is run-off from snow melt on a Maine mountain. Anyone who knows me knows that cool temperatures are my friend. When I’m hot, I’m cranky. So these unexpected 90+ days in Rhode Island have me cowering in my air-conditioned office, drinking ice water, and waiting eagerly for the promised cool down.

It striking to remember the privilege that I have of working indoors, in a climate-controlled space, and that I can choose to go out in the heat — or not. Particularly today as I got into my car after a lunch meeting, noticed that the outside thermostat registered 109 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and flipped on the a/c. Driving home, I passed police and firefighters in full uniform working on a wreck, construction folks digging, a couple of people on a roof, and groups of people out on their porches trying to catch a stray breeze. So I pray for all those who have no escape from the relentless heat until Mother Nature intervenes. I pray with gratitude for fans and a/c, for cold fresh water, and for the means to buy ice cream. And most of all, I am supremely grateful to live in Rhode Island where, at least at this point, this kind of heat is rare. So all you sun-worshipers out there, enjoy today. Because tomorrow we’ll be back in the 70’s where we belong.

Saturday Sermonating

My preference is to spend Saturday morning and early afternoon writing the sermon that’s been percolating all week. Since Easter Sunday, I have had something scheduled for every Saturday, but today I was unable to attend the scheduled

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Our “intention garden” – one of my sermonating spots

ordination, so I had the time to reflect and write. The prevailing wisdom is that each moment of a sermon requires an hour of preparation. Though I still take even longer than that, my mentors assure me that someday, I will take far less time than that for the weekly sermon.

I have to confess, that thought makes me sad. I love the rhythm of sermon preparation, and the longer I spend, the richer the text becomes. I hope that I never lose the passion for preaching, and I hope that I am always blessed to be in a place that values sermonating and understands the need to give the preacher time to pray, prepare, and write.

What are you passionate about in your life? Or what used to be your passion that you might want to reclaim? I pray that God will bless you with the time and energy to re-discover something that brings you joy.

Morning Prayer

I am not one of those who wakes up full of energy ready for intelligent conversation and ready to spring into action. No, at the beginning of the day, I am more like Flash than I am like Judy Hopps. (And if you don’t get that reference, I suggest that you watch the movie “Zootopia.” It’s wonderful)

That being said, when done correctly, mornings can be holy time. It is my own practice to start the day with at least 30 minutes of silent prayer. Because of where I get to live,

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Morning prayer corner in Somesville, Maine

mornings are filled with bird song and the occasional sound of a child’s laughter. My room, while lovely, is not cluttered with a lot of things; the simplicity of it invites reflection. In the morning, I spent quiet time with God. Remembering those who have asked for my prayers, remembering the ways that I failed yesterday, and layering my soul with the assurance of a new day lived in hope. This practice grounds me, and allows me to move into my day with grace. I can feel the difference on those days when I have to jump right into work mode.

At night, I am filled with energy, purpose, imagination, and ideas. But the mornings? They belong to my God and they feed my soul. I pray that each one of you has a practice that does the same for you.