A Prayer in Spring

Susan Andersson - Bird in Flowering Tree 2

Photograph by Susan Marie Andersson

By Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

“A Prayer in Spring” by Robert Frost from Collected Poems, Prose & Plays. © The Library of America, 1995.

[Editor’s note: And that’s our last post of the 2017 season!  Thank you for following Lenten Muse.]

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Heaven Is Like the Ocean

By Hannah, Age 7

[Editor’s Note: Lent has come to a close and Easter has been joyfully celebrated so it seems timely to share a couple of joy-filled postings before the Lenten Muse blog goes on hiatus.  The first of these is from a little girl at Grace Church named Hannah who handed me this inspired “essay” on the meaning of Easter.  May it, in turn, inspire you.]

Hannah Page 1Hannah Page 2

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“You Must Know Sorrow:” Two Poems for Good Friday

'Le Christ De Gala', Salvador Dali, 1978:

“Le Christ de Gala,” Salvador Dali, 1978

Gethsemane

The grass never sleeps.
Or the rose.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it even sleeps.
Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe
the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,
maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.
Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

— By Mary Oliver

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

— By Naomi Shihab Nye

 

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Turning Inward During Lent

Charles Grogg: Magnolia 3:

Photo by Charles Grogg: “Magnolia 3”

By The Reverend Canon Joan Anthony

I remember as a child, growing up in a traditional and “high church” Episcopal congregation, Lent was a time when one engaged in the spiritual discipline of abstinence and fasting.  Of course as a child I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, all I knew is we didn’t eat meat on Wednesday and Friday (fasting) and each of us gave something up for the 40 days (abstinence).

I remember trying to give up canned green peas (not my favorite) and being told that really wasn’t the point.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really embraced the practices of Lent for myself and finally came to see “the point.”  For me the point of it all is to remember that this time is a time set apart for preparation for the most holy point in the Christian year: Holy Week and Easter.

That is important to me when the world seems to be spinning faster and faster every year.  But over time I’ve modified the practices a bit.  I don’t focus so much on fasting and abstinence as I do on mindfulness.  For me as an adult the period of the 40 days is a period to try to be more mindful of what it means to me personally to call myself a Christian.  So, during the 40 days I try to slow down, and really be aware of those things outside of myself that are important to me.

Recently I came across another way of looking at the whole idea of Lenten practices.  The thought comes from Douglas Travis who is the Dean and President of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin Texas.  Dean Travis writes: “What if, rather than being a time of either self-abnegation or preparation for a future event (though both elements should remain), Lent were seen as a time of self-discovery, a period specifically devoted to discerning who we are and whose we are?”

I like these thoughts, both keeping the traditional fasting and abstinence in a way that makes sense to each of us and also expanding our horizons in the realm of self-discovery.  I especially like the idea that Lent is highly personal, a time specifically devoted to self discovery.  We can never know ourselves completely; there is always more to know, another layer to peel back.  We are created in the image of God and God is mystery.  So, we too have elements of mystery about us waiting to be unearthed if we will but take the time.

And so, Lent for me is becoming less about what I give up and more about what I discover about myself and my relationship to the world about me.  Once begun the self discovery doesn’t have to begin and end with Lent, it can be part of our spiritual life the whole year through.

The Rev Canon Joan Anthony has come out of retirement to serve as an interim Priest-in-Charge at Grace Church while the congregation searches for a long-term rector.

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We are All Guardians of Nature

Paintings by Deborah Milton

“In the name of daybreak, and the eyelids of morning
And the wayfaring moon, in the night when it departs,
I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred
But offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature,
As a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder,
And an architect of peace.”
— Diane Ackerman

Deborah Milton - Holding Bear - 2017

Holding Bear

Deborah Milton - Wolf Clan - 2017

Wolf Clan

Deborah Milton - Bee Keeper - 2017

Bee Keeper

Deborah Milton - Big Cats - 2017

Big Cats

Deborah Jane Milton, PhD, was born an artist but circumstances prevented her embodying that until 1992 when she found the courage to leave her psychotherapy practice, for which she’d trained long and hard, and to spend two months in solitude to transform her identity to that of an artist along with being a Mother, a Grandmother and a fully-fledged human being. She is devoted to Making Artful Prayers for wounded places and inspires others with her classes called: Painting Poetic Prayers for the World and Ecstatic Wisdom Postures – Good Medicine for our Time. Though raised as an Episcopalian, she left churches when she went to college and became deeply rooted to the spirit of life, the sacredness of earth, the miracle of Creator’s Creation. Imagine her surprise when she fell in love with Grace Church while her art – The Many Faces of Gaia – was hanging in the Gallery in June/July 2015. Visit more of Deborah’s work at: www.deborahmiltonartist.com.

 

 

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Slideshow: Dungeness Beach Meditation

By Katrina Diller

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God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of His power. Job 37:5

Katrina Diller has been a lifelong photographer, a passion that she traces to her father and grandfather who were also avid photographers. She is the Parish Administrator of Grace Church and lives in Indianola with her husband, four teenagers, Artemis the cat and a Golden Retriever named Shiloh. She appreciates all forms of art and one of her favorite inspirations is the natural beauty to be found in our backyard, the rugged Pacific Northwest. These photos were taken at Dungeness Beach on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. 

 

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Dribbley Castles

dribbley castles

By Robin Livingston

You don’t have to wait; I am, right now, resurrection and life…”                                                                                                                                   John 11:25 (The Message translation)

I was five or six in Southern California and sat with friends where sand and ocean met.  Rolling waves beckoned us to come out and play in the surf, but this day we were intent on a joy and surprise-filled process my Dad taught us at water’s edge.  Again and again, we scooped handfuls of watery sand, held cupped hands aloft, and let trickle through our fingers the form-shy mixture. Water would drain out and run away to the sea. Magically, handful upon handful, the runny streams of sand took clumpy “castle” form.

First motions were fast…just put down as much globbed sand as possible in a smooth, wide base.  Soon the work became more “refined.”  We turned “funnel-hands” sideways with thumb and fore finger up while pinkie curved to let the sand drooble out.  We became adept at how to release the sloppy stuff.  This wet, grainy payload was delivered with the sweep of a cosmic creator.  The mysterious physics of sand, water, drainage, and adhesion through our hands grew castles fit for miniature kings and queens.  Our focused, swirling child-sized movements interacted with the larger, partly-knowable forces, and we experienced power flow through us beyond any years or training in these eerie, captivating towers and turrets, moats and courtyards.  Ah! The satisfaction.

After a time, some small rogue wave would wash out the grainy-dribbled beauty.

This inevitable action of the Larger, the Not-to-be-contained Reality tempered our creative powers. Who could predict where a tower would find enough grip of sand-to-sand cohesion to pile up in turreted elegance? Who could prevent the devastation of whole castle sections by a rogue wave?  No one. Time and texture were free and abundant.  Triumph arose in castle splendor and trouble washed us out.

Yet we did not despair.   We’d begin again.

Today, I can still recall my huge delight in the whole interplay of possibility, participation, limits of power, and beginning again.

At the door of your heart today, where the oceanic love of God in Christ meets the sand of this fragile world, perhaps you and I can hear this urgent invitation: “Open up, dear one. Bring your aliveness and enthusiasm.  Fear not the ‘washing out.’  I love you and you don’t have to wait, I am, right now, resurrection and life.”

My Lenten prayer:  Loving One, may I live more fully each available moment NOW.

Robin Livingston is a spiritual director, Reiki master, and wedding officiant serving folks across varied faith traditions.  Her work draws on her Master of Divinity, Master of Speech Communication, and life in five regions of the US and Japan.

What’s life-giving to Robin? curiosity, humor, authenticity, ocean waves, mountain vistas, brisk walks, lively music, Mary Oliver poetry, romantic comedies and pretty much anything her eight grandkiddos say or do.  Since 2008 and in varied ways Grace Church has been part of the fabric of her life, and become a beloved community.

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Crucifixion and Lynching: A Foster Mom Confronts the Horrors of Human Cruelty

Black Crucifixion - 2017

Clementine Hunter’s Crucifixion, 1950.  Fenimore Art Museum.

By Deanna Gemmer

Gemmer Baby - 1

For seven months I was a mother to a beautiful boy with the most gorgeous curly hair and dark skin. We brought him home from the hospital on my daughter Dani’s birthday and for weeks she proudly proclaimed that she “got a brother for her birthday!” While I had parented three daughters (two biological, one foster) this was my first experience with a little boy and I polled my mom friends for advice. They all told me our bond would be different, that there was something different to a mother/son relationship. I scoffed. He was so tiny. We were his “in between” family, not his permanent one. I would love him like I loved all my children.

I should have listened to my friends. There really was something different to our bond. He was my happiest baby, with the biggest grin on the block. When daycare workers and visit supervisor would gush and coo, I would smile knowing he saved his best smiles for me. He charmed everyone he met and I was so proud to be his mom. And while I haven’t mothered him in over three years, this sweet boy still has a piece of my mother heart, and probably always will.

Gemmer Baby - 2

I think of his face as our country wakes to the issues of systemic racism. I think of his face as I hear the stories of mothers having to teach their sons to be extra careful around police officers. I think of his face when I see marchers hit the street proclaiming BLACK LIVES MATTER. I think of his face every time I encourage someone to recognize their own privilege, and to humbly share a bit of it to raise someone else up. I want this country to be a different place for all black young men but in particular I want this country to be a different place for my black boy.

Gemmer Baby - 3

But we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot to atone for. There are many things about our history as a country and as a people that we need to honestly confront. It is hard work to look upon the violence and injustice we have perpetrated.

This is the invitation of Lent—to do the hard work of repentance. To own our sins, to seek restitution, and then to live in the freedom of the cross.

The cross, the humiliating death of Jesus, the torture of the rabble-rouser. The death meant to humiliate, to teach a lesson, to put into his place a Jewish boy while warning anyone else who even dared to think about upsetting the proper order.

A death that theologian James Cone suggests, may remind us of the lynching tree of early America. Both the cross and the lynching tree were “public spectacles,” designed for a similar purpose that administered a cruel and painful death.  “A crucified Jesus and lynched black bodies were not pretty objects to look at.” So we have sanitized the cross, turned it into beautiful images and fancy jewelry. And we don’t even know what to do with the lynching tree, so we relegate it to a bygone era and pretend it never existed.

But the reality of race relations in our country today tell us that we must confront the reality of the lynching tree. And as Christians, we may do it alongside the reality of the cross.

People who have never been lynched by another group usually find it difficult to understand why blacks want whites to remember lynching atrocities. Why bring that up? That was a long time ago! Is it not best forgotten? Absolutely not! The lynching tree is a metaphor for race in America, a symbol of America’s crucifixion of black people. It is the window that best reveals the theological meaning of the cross in this land…God took the evil of the cross and the lynching tree upon the divine self and transformed both into the triumphant beauty of the divine. *

Gemmer Baby - 4

I am a white woman with immense amounts of privilege. Yet God transformed my life because of a love a little black boy. I am learning and I am listening and I am committed to working for a different world for him and for every person of color.

May I humbly suggest during this Lent season, that you join me in not only gazing upon the Cross of Christ and pondering its meaning and mystery, but also upon the lynching tree as well. James Allen has curated a book of lynching photographs called Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America but a quick google search will leave you with several photographs to look upon as well. These are painful, heartbreaking images. Sit with them and let them teach you. Look into the faces and see the humanity. Open your heart to the pain and to the possibility of transformation.

If we have the courage to confront our past, we may just find hope for our future.

* Cone, James. Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Harvard Divinity Bulletin.

Deanna Gemmer is a writer, speaker, ministry leader, and seminary student. She is married to Darin, the director of Camp Indianola, and mother to two inquisitive and insightful daughters, as well as foster mom to several more children God allowed her family to love. She loves Jesus, camping, earl grey tea, and reality television. You can find her online at deannagemmer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Haiku

Haiku Cherry Blossom Art

By Anne Kundtz

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Japanese Exclusion Laws and because it is spring.

Perseverance, 1942

Nikki Americans —
scattered cherry blossoms in
an early spring storm

Suyematsu

Akio’s farm
perseverance grows
forgiveness and grapes

March, 1942

Kehioken ferry
carried our friends, many wept
apple blossoms rained.

South wind

Above ruffling grass
yellow finch fly in scallops,
across fallow fields.

Anne Kundtz is a poet and English teacher. She is a long-time member of Grace Church.  

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“Plum Jam With Wine” and other Glimpses of the Sacred

Poems by Michele Bombardier

Plum Jam

Plum Jam With Wine

If apples get knowledge, plums get memory,
and our tree, which I plum forgot about
dropped her scarlet globes
which I gathered, stewed, added sugar and wine
from grapes of forbearance,
juiced to forgiveness,
cooked slow then poured into jars
like the day we got the call
your father had died
and you spent that long night in his jacket,
in the garage, sawing, cutting,
making a frame for the bevel-cut mirror
from the house on South Bell Street
that he built with his own hands
adding room after room after each child;
the mirror from those years stands
now in our bedroom like the jars
in the pantry holds the seasons,
an offering distilled down to only sweetness.

Baptism

His hand a fist as he pulls the catheter
from his crotch to above his head,
an arc of movement and mustard yellow urine
dousing me, my clipboard and my intern name-tag,
his head lolls to one side, his eyes closed.
I pull up a chair, lower the bedrails.
He bats at my hand. When he finds it, he quiets,
his hand a vice on mine. We sit like this,
in his wet, a tableau, for maybe ten minutes
before I go to get the nurse.
Nevermind I dry-heaved sobbed in the bathroom.
Nevermind I called my younger brother later,
made him promise to always wear his seatbelt.
He found my hand, I tell you, he quieted,
like someone drowning finds a ring buoy,
holds tight, then swims, carried
by the current, back to shore.

Our Cleaning Lady Came Today

I was brushing my teeth while
God was scrubbing the toilet.
I was telling her about my sister,
her latest crazy, her venomous bite
shredding goodwill at the last
family event, when God pauses, says,
I have a mean sister like that,
with scrubber in the air
for emphasis. I didn’t know
you had a sister, I say, shocked,
I mean, I’ve known her family for years.
Oh, I have lots of sisters she says,
waving the scrubber. She tells me
I have to pray for my sister since
there is no talking sense to her.
I spit into the sink,
close my eyes in frustration.
But I don’t know how to pray,
I get out. This too
gets a wave from the scrubber.
Pray anyway. She will get sick
from all that hate and anger.
She already is sick,
I tell her. Pray, she says,
looking at me over her glasses,
or your heart will get sick too.
You are holding onto her
hate and anger.
Now get out of here.
I have work to do.

toilet scrub brush

Michele Bombardier is currently completing her MFA in poetry at Pacific University. Her poetry has been published in over twenty literary journals and she is working on her first book. She works as a speech language pathologist on Bainbridge and loves the mystery of connection and communication.

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