Parting Words: “Wondrous Encounters”

By Deborah Milton
Deborah Milton - The Blessing - 2018

The Blessing. Painting by Deborah Milton.

[Editor’s note: Now that Lent is over and Easter Day has been celebrated (Hallelujah!), we are just about ready to let Lenten Muse go dormant. However, here’s one last sweet post for 2018 with special appreciation for Deborah, the author, and her loving spirit. And thank you, dear reader, for following Lenten Muse; we’ll see you next year!]

Richard Rohr writes this Starter Prayer in his book Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent, that reminded me of a story from my early days as a psychotherapist. The prayer is:

God of loving truth, keep me from the world of gossip and accusation. Do not let me ‘kill’ others, even in my mind or heart.

Missoula, Montana, January 1982

Obese teenage hoodlum, dressed in black, downcast eyes, acne cheeked, greasy haired, thick chain dangling from his hip pocket and a knife handle poking out from inside his jacket, this loser, tough guy dares me to open my mouth. In trouble at school, watched by the police, avoided by his sister, abandoned by his father and frightening to his Mom, I imagine his loneliness, his helplessness.

But he scares me, too. I remind myself that I’m probably quite safe here in my office with another therapist next door, but still, he scares me. His rage is barely contained. He’s twice my size and as far as he knows, I’m just another persecutor.

But for some reason, he keeps showing up in my office.

Mostly, I chatter away. Stories from my life. Of being frightened myself, of going into scary places, of feeling lost, of anger that wells up out of nowhere… I no longer know precisely what I say. But every once and awhile, he mumbles a response of sorts.

Then a moment comes when he actually looks up, looks at me and says a full sentence.

We connect and I fall in love.

What a moment that is.

I’m overcome with this unanticipated warm blanket of love. I love him beyond all reason. I’m sure my cheeks flush and my eyes glisten. I look at him with genuine warmth.

Nothing is said about what’s happening. This new love is too fragile.

But I can see he feels it, as he holds my gaze with presence.

And by this grace, everything changes.

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. See more of Deborah’s art on this blog at:  Deborah’s 2017 Lenten Muse Post , or visit her website: www.deborahmiltonartist.com .

 

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Easter Sunday: Blossom Hallelujahs

By Robin Livingston

Cherry trees come into fabulous display. The blossom “hallelujahs” at their peak are brief and drop away… to make room for an as-yet-hidden new kind of life.

Robin Livingston - Cherry Trees 1 - 2018

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” The cheers and hopes for Jesus as a certain kind of leader have to fall away also.

Robin Livingston - Cherry Trees 2 - 2018

Make room for a new kind of as-yet-hidden resurrection life.

Robin Livingston supports folks on their inner journey through her work as spiritual director, Reiki master, and wedding officiant (www.RobinMLivingston.com). At Grace Church, she especially loves opportunities to preach, serve as Grace Eucharistic Minister, and participate in Adult Faith Formation and the Music Circle. Grace Church is beloved community to her. Robin took these photos at the University of Washington Quad (Seattle) a few weeks ago.

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Good Friday: Gentle Me, Holy One

Jim Beug - Red Maple

Photograph by Jim Beug; Poem by Ted Loder

Gentle me,
Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
that is You.

Jim Beug is an urban photographer and musician living on Bainbridge Island.
Professor emeritus of computer science at Cal Poly, in retirement he spends his days reading non-fiction, playing the organ and crossing Puget Sound on the ferry to take pictures of people and places in Seattle. He is a long-time member of Grace.

The Reverend Theodore W. Loder led the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1962 to 2000 in acts of social justice through a ministry that challenged the mainstream. Reverend Loder is retired but remains a prolific author and poet.

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Encounters with the Divine

By Liz Powell

1

Communion Bread - 2018

Hands cupped like a beggar to receive

The Bread. The first time I asked to receive I was an adult.

Asking, begging, reaching my arms past my personal bubble

Making myself vulnerable.

2

Tree -2018

I was asked to read during the Annual Campaign in front of the whole congregation.  I was of course, nervous.  From where I sit in my usual quadrant, I usually look out the window at the tree which brings a variety of lines as the limbs grow and a semblance of shapes as the leaves flush out and then fly away.  This particular morning I looked up at the tree, and I saw the distinct shape of a heart created by the limbs. The Divine was signaling her support.

Now I peer frequently at the tree trying to find the heart or another shape, which hasn’t occurred. When I remember this fleeting exchange with Divine, I smile. The timing, the improbability, the support, the intimacy, the gift — this is a God I like.

3

Liz Powell - Family Photo - 2018 post

The Divine offers unconditional love, and so do dogs.

Whether I’m returning from a trip to Safeway or the Maldives,

The wagging tails and licks are equally long.

Upon waking quickly in fright from a nightmare and apparently gasping,

My dog was licking my face, confirming my yelp and my emotion.

In sadness, my dogs caress my tears.

Dogs offer silent support and listening ears without demands

Without judgment, without expectation.

When my launched kids say they miss the dogs,

I know they miss the comfort and love of home (and me).

What they don’t know, is they have experienced the Divine.

Liz Powell was intrigued by Grace’s beautiful architecture and wanted a church home, which she found in 2007. She is currently co-chair of Grace’s Outreach Ministry.

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Jesus Stills a Storm

Photograph by Anonymous, Bainbridge Island

Michael Hytopoulos - 2018

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was… 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  

Mark 4:35-41

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Come Closer

Photo shared by Susan Stevens with an excerpt from a poem by Anis Mojgani

Susie Stevens - 2018 Baby and Horse

come closer.

come into this. come closer.
you are quite the beauty. if no one has ever told you that before know that right now. you are quite the beauty. there is joy in how your mouth dances with your teeth. your smile is a sign of how sacred your life truly is. come into this. true of heart come into this. you are true of heart. come closer. come closer. know that whatever God prays to He asked it to help Him make something of worth. He woke from His dreams scraped the soil from the spaces inside Himself made you and was happy. you make the Lord happy.
come into this.
come closer.

Anis Mojgani is a two time National Poetry Slam Champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam. A TEDx Speaker, Anis has performed at numerous universities, festivals, and venues around the globe. This week he was at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art for their “Evening with Poets.”  He has been a Grace Church favorite since our former rector, Bill Harper, chose “Come Closer” as a theme one year. 

Susan Stevens teaches art at local elementary schools, for Poulsbo Parks and Recreation, and, on occasion, in the Grace Church classrooms, when she’s not creating art for herself. Her favorite mediums are oil painting and mosaics and she loves to use recycled glass and pottery. Her newest passion is writing. Susan has three children and five step-children.

About this photograph: “My oldest daughter and my two granddaughters currently live in North Carolina where my daughter has a small farm on 5 acres.  She has many animals including two horses of her own. She is also part of a “Horse Rescue” operation. She acts as a foster home to abused horses, working on their rehabilitation by establishing a human trust relationship.  The image I am sharing here was taken by my daughter. They are in the barn and my granddaughter is feeding the horses.

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Grace Notes, Age 4

Childrens-Art-stage-4

By Nancy Peregrine

What I remember first is the rough coolness as I reached down through the wet leaves for a sure handhold.  My right hand it was, grasping around a branch that just fit my four year old size.  I felt more secure then as I stepped onto a solid but sloping trunk.  How strange and wonderful to walk on a tree as it lay down instead of up.  I had tried to climb into such great maples but never could have gone so high nor played among its boughs when it was standing up.  I was a fairy in a magical world only birds and squirrels could know.

I explored a bit – finding twiggy nests, moss like lace, and ferns that cradled drops of rain from last night’s October storm.   Most interesting were the sparks dancing on the wires woven through the branches.   Probably, I thought, the tree had brought them from the sky where the winds were, but now they writhed black and ugly, like the big snakes in my cousin’s jungle book.   I didn’t like their smell.

My parents had been glad enough to see me off to Sunday School on that brightening October day dappled with iridescent puddles.  I had walked a slight mile across the Skagit River Bridge toward the white steepled church but found trees tossed everywhere.  I wished the Gillis kids who lived down the road were with me.   I knew they wouldn’t be afraid to play with the cables as they sparked and tossed with their own energy.   My mother called them tar heels, but they were such fun – playing tag, London Bridge, and hide and seek.  Their grandmother sang at the piano squeezed next to the kitchen table in their house, which was always so warm and smelled of biscuits and the laundry water boiling on the wood stove.  My favorite was the Sears catalogue in the outhouse which we didn’t have.

I knew if I stayed too long in this enchantment I would be late for church.  The music, my favorite part, would start without me.  I especially liked “Jesus Loves Me.”  I began to hurry through the canopy, humming like a monkey, trying not to slip onto the highway or tear my dress.  Ahead I heard shouting, and saw men running toward me waving their arms.  “Stop!”  They screamed.  “Stop!  Stop!”  Someone yanked me down and away from the embrace of the limbs and set me hard onto the solid pavement.

“We’ll walk you to church from here,” a big beard said.  “There’s more down wires ahead, but we’ve pulled them away so you won’t get hurt.”  Chain saws started up in the distance and so did the church piano, so I trotted hand in hand with the big plaid shirt and slid in just in time for “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  A prayer or two later, I went with the other children downstairs for crafts and story time. I was focused on coloring Jesus and his sheep when shadow flicked across the table. I looked out and saw my father’s legs run by the window toward the back door.  “How lucky, “I thought.  “He’s come to see my picture.”

His face, usually twinkling with humor, wasn’t smiling; it was wild with worry.  He snatched me up from the table – my picture and crayons falling to the floor.  My teeth pressed against the rough wool of his shoulder.   I felt his quick gasps of breath as he hugged me close.  “Let’s go,” he said.  “Why can’t I stay and finish?” I asked.  He nodded to the teacher.  Without a word we walked out of the church basement toward home.

The trees were in pieces by then and seemed more wounded than magical.  My father set me down and through the drone of chainsaws and power company trucks, and gently explained about the wires that carried electricity from Diablo Dam to Seattle.  “But,” I said, “Jesus loves me, and He held my hand through the branches and the wires so I could get to church.”

Nancy Peregrine began attending Grace about six months after moving to Hansville from Vashon Island in 2012, where she was a member of Church of the Holy Spirit. She is not only a life long Episcopalian, but a legacy one as well: she discovered that her great grandfather, Simon Peregrine, was a pillar of the community of Tenino and of the local Episcopal church there.  “So I come by it naturally,” she says. She has always loved the act of “going to church” and believes it probably started with the little Baptist Church in Marblemount which features into this story. 

 

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