Sunday, June 28, 2015

I ate the cake!!!

I ate the cake!

We picked up the cake for Anna's 30th birthday at the vegan bakery earlier in the day when we were walking around Portland with her sister and Ryan, Sarah's then boyfriend. I placed the cake on a small table covered with a black cloth in the corner of the party room, where plates, forks and festive napkins waited to serve their function.

Usually avoiding sweets, I decided to have a piece of the vegan cake, curious about the taste. Even Sarah asked, "Mom, are you having cake?" as she remembered my aversion to high calorie items.

"I thought I would try a piece," I replied, ready to savor an unusual morsel!

The plates were gone when I cut my piece, which landed on one of the birthday napkins I purchased for the occasion. I sliced a corner covered with half-inch icing, and popped it into my mouth --- oh my!! What an experience to enjoy a flat-tasting cake camouflaged with delicious icing. I entered the fullness of the party by partaking of cake, which Sarah recorded in a photo.

When I licked the fork wanting to get every spot of icing, I thought how much the kingdom of God is like tasting a piece of birthday cake. I realized by eating cake, I was able to participate in all aspects of the party - planning the event, greeting and meeting guests, giving presents and eating cake. When I ate the sweets with everyone else, I left nothing out of the joy of the moment.

So often I deny myself the pleasure of full participation in events, however, in that rich icing day, I learned how complete immersion added meaning and depth.

I could not help but see a parallel to taking communion as a way to fully participate in God's kingdom. Be not afraid to come to the table and partake of the holiness of life in Christ.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Summer Memory from Vincennes and Brownie Camp

When we moved to Vincennes in June, 1989, we found a large, single floor home built in 1954. This house eventually became our favorite parsonage because of the amount of storage, the two-sink, long-counter bathroom that Sarah and Anna shared, and the living room located in the back of the house.

A large, glass window spanned the length of the living room offering a view of our neighbor's pond and gazebo.

Our large backyard that I mowed each week was filled with moles that made a network of underground tunnels. Hills appearing from these tunnels made mowing a challenge. The uneven surface of the yard formed interesting topography as I pushed the mower over "hills and valleys."

One day I was getting the lawn mower from the rust-colored shed located in the side-yard. I noticed a small patch of Lilies of the Valley flowers growing next to the concrete porch. Setting aside the mower, I stooped down to get a close view of this plant. The tiny, white bell-shaped flowers were delicate and pure white. My hand behind the flower made a canvas highlighting the beauty.

In that moment I remembered a song I used to sing at the Brownie day camp I attended for a week when I was eight and nine years old.

           White coral bells upon a slender stalk.
           Lilies of the Valley deck my garden wall.
          Oh don't you wish that you could hear them ring.
          That will happen only when the fairies sing.

We sang in a round. Although I did not have a melodious voice, I do remember appreciating the mingling of words and harmony that happened.

Sometimes an object or book or smell will remind us of something pleasant from long ago. I was grateful for the memory of a song from seeing a flower growing in my yard.

Today I pray that you too may have a thought or image or from the past that makes you smile.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Bowl from Betsy and Iya - A Metaphor of Life With God - A Project for June and July

Anna is the director of marketing and media for Betsy and Iya, an independent jewelry store in Portland, Oregon. When we visit Anna, we spend time at the store, perusing the merchandise and watch the jewelry makers put together unique and classic earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces.

When we were in Portland last March to celebrate Anna's thirtieth birthday, I was captivated by a variety of colorful bowls, the owners, Betsy and Will, purchased during a recent trip to visit family in Guatemala. The tightly woven containers came in different shapes, colors and depths. I purchased two knowing I would use them for something, but in the moment I didn't know when.

I was reminded of a story I read many years ago about bowls in a book by Sue Bender, Everyday Sacred - A Woman's Journey Home. Sue tells about a monk who left his home every day holding an empty begging bowl in his hands. Whatever is placed in the bowl will be his nourishment for the day.

Sue continues,

     It was obvious to all who knew me that I wasn't a monk, and the very idea of begging would make most of us uncomfortable. In spite of that, the image of a begging bowl reached out and grabbed my heart.

     Initially, I didn't know whether I was the monk or the bowl or the things that would fill the bowl or all three, but I trusted the words and the image completely.

Sue spends the majority of the book describing stories, experiences, and people that filled her bowl during the following months.

Looking at the two bowls from Betsy and Iya resting on my office floor, I consider how a bowl can teach three things about being present to God; open, ready to receive, waiting to receive and holding.

Here's a project for the months of June and July, during this period of time called "Ordinary" on the church year.

      1. Find a bowl. Maybe it's your favorite mixing bowl or container for cereal.
      2. Remember where you purchased the bowl and how you use it. If it was a gift recall the occasion and the giver.
      3. Bless the bowl. Hold the bowl in both hands. Ask God to keep your heart open like the bowl to receive whatever God might want to fill it with.
       4. Invite God at the beginning of the day to fill your bowl. Ask God to keep your hear open so you are aware of how God is coming to you. Whatever you feel God leading you include as content in the bowl.
       5. At the end of July, look how your bowl was filled. Examine the contents to see what came to your heart.
       6. Send me a picture of your bowl and/or the contents as well as a brief summary of your experience. With your permission I'll share a few reflections at the beginning of August.

Several years ago I filled a bowl for a month with scripture, prayers, newspaper clippings and photographs. I wrote insights and perspective I received about life from God, people, books that I wanted to remember and placed all in the bowl. If I received a letter or note during this time, that, too, found a home in the bowl. Dried peonies, my favorite spring flower, rested in the bowl its beauty amplified while I dried. Small pieces of leftover fabric from sewing projects and a church bulletin with sermon notes rested in the bowl.

Each day I had a feeling of expectation and anticipation how God would fill my bowl throughout the day. I carried the bowl just about everywhere I went. The bowl "sat" on the passenger side of the car and followed me from room to room at home. God speak anywhere and anytime and I wanted to be ready. The bowl helped me remember to keep my heart open ready to receive, fill and the contents held.

Prayer: God, fill us to overflowing with tangible expressions of your goodness, love and challenge. Guide our reflections with what you give so we can learn more about ourselves and our lives with you. Amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Walking - A Way to Reduce Stress for Me, but For the Animals........ hmmmmmmm

Today I went for a walk in the morning when the day was fresh and beginning. The streets were empty as those who had to work were gone. Even those who I occasionally see walking dogs must have been sleeping or not ready to greet the day outside.

Quiet brought clarity in the sounds of chirping birds, each cadence quickly discerned blending together like different parts of a symphony or band performing a concert of nature's music.

Noting the color of squirrels who move quickly through the trees and brush along my path, I realized how grey and white fur provides camouflage for these animals as they blend in with shades of green, brown and gray in the foliage and rocks.

I saw two geese paddling across the pond, the water still, tree reflections over the water creating an image like a mirror. One squirrel scurried across the road in front of me, a nut latched securely in his/her mouth.

Reflecting on the birds singing, the geese swimming, the squirrels hurrying among rocks and fallen leaves, reminded me how people talk about finding peace in nature.

I've heard men and women reply 'nature' when asked where they go to experience peace or have time to reflect. The rhythm of watching squirrels gather nuts in the fall, watching birds build nests in the spring, seeing rabbits in my back yard dig holes and eat flower tops is captivating - sort of like being an "intruder" to their daily life.

People say watching animals in nature or leaves falling from trees or walking in forest brings peace, but two questions arose from my walk.

As the squirrels gather food, birds build nests, geese swim, squirrels run, and birds chirp, they look peaceful, but are there stresses in their lives too? Do these creatures look peaceful in their pursuit of everyday life to human observers, while in reality, their tasks have elements of risk about which we cannot know? Are birds stressed to find food or items to build a nest in a timely manner?

A second question occurred - Would someone watch humans purchase food, prepare, organize and care for a house find relaxation and peace?