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


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,


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.


It’s been awhile

So back in 2007, I started a blog. At the time, I thought that I’d want a place to share poems, pictures, and reflections. It was near the end of my first year in seminary, and I guess I’d gotten used to doing a lot of writing and then having others read what I’d written. I guess that I also had a lot of extra time on my hands.

After a few posts, my life got busier, and this blog languished in the wastelands. However, recently I have decided to take up blogging again. Primarily as a place to reflect on parish life, however, I am fairly confident that real life will also bleed into these pages. I have added widgets so that folks can easily access me on Twitter as well as on Pinterest. The parish’s Facebook page is also clearly marked; if you want to learn more about what we are doing here at Emmanuel Church, that’s a good place to start.

I hope that this reincarnation of the site will last longer than its initial incarnation. I will try to be both faithful and interesting! Blessings to all – Joan+

Prayer for strength

In the Garden

“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful; Stay here and watch with me”

So, I stay.
The apostles must have tried –601388_robin_psycho.jpg
I know they did
For they cared about the one who prayed
With tears streaming.
I don’t really think he prayed
Out off fear of what was to come
For he knew, that he was God’s.
As we all are God’s
Yet he asked them to stay, and watch

(machine’s hum and one by one
Pilate’s soldiers in funny blue outfits
take a family to a quiet room
and agony or ecstasy happens
in that closed little space.)

My soul is exceedingly sorrowful; Stay here and watch:

So I stay and I watch
Conversations start – and end – fade away
Hallways are paced –
Their shiny floors echo
With the pacing of anxious feet
From decades passed
And reflect
The pacing yet to be

(a room of faces which would love to
relax into boredom
but can’t quite mask
the fear of “what-if” or
they sit in plastic-feeling chairs
and flip through old magazines
pretending to find them fascinating)

My soul is exceedingly sorrowful; Stay

So I stay.
I’ve learned this;
The value of staying.
It’s not much – and still
More than the apostles did
They slept.
I hold a book in my lap
(perhaps my form of sleeping)
Remember to look up to see
Eyes that don’t want to be
Filled with fear
Hands that don’t want to be empty
Hearts that long for this all to be done
The man next to me –
His wife is all he has
And he has sat in this cold place so many times
Can’t ask, wants to ask,
Wondering what to ask,
Doesn’t know who to ask

(oh God, don’t ask me)

My soul is exceedingly sorrowful:

He was used, and used up.
Jesus, I mean.
And yet, also this man next to me.
Used and used up and not even
Considering that someone would stay
So I stay.
Grateful that he doesn’t know,
That he can’t know that I’m
Praying – oh yes, praying
That all that will be asked of me is to stay

My soul is exceedingly

Exceedingly full.
Of him. Of her.
Of waiting with him and knowing
That I don’t know what I will do
If the waiting is not enough
If the word is not good
If the doctor comes
And the four walls of that little room
That scream with others’ pain
Scream with his

My soul …

In the end
It comes down to this
My soul, and his
Like it was their soul
And His
All of us waiting – and sleeping

(to be unaware, or unable, or unwilling
is to be sleeping)

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak …”

He was ready,
I am not.
I will wait – I can wait
But Holy One, please, ask no more of me now
Except this waiting, and watching
I’ll stay and hear his heart,
Hear his story
But, oh please,
I’m not ready to
Hear his screams
And if the soldiers come
With lanterns and weapons
Then it will take everything
You have given me
Not to run into the night

“Get up. My Betrayer comes.”

copyright jtestin 2007