Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am six weeks into my sabbatical with six weeks to go. Halfway.
Still in Phoenix - coming home on Tuesday.

After six weeks, I do feel rested and I have definietly let go of responsibilities at church in my head. Life goes on without me, ministry goes on without me and I can trust in God's work always.

Sunday morning is definitely different during a Sabbatical. I got up this morning at 6:15 and walked around Susan's neighborhood. It is so different from home - the palm trees, the sky, the flowers, the heat - but it is, of course, beautiful. And it feels to good to walk - to move my body.

Then Susan and I sat drinking coffee and talking and reading the Sunday New York Times. Chuck comes in to offer to make us smoothees. It is so relaxing. Soon I will take a shower and we will go to their 11 AM services at her church - Beatitudes UCC - an open and affirming church right across the street.

Then lunch out and then? maybe a nap or a book. Or a museum. Sunday is very different on a sabbatical.

One of the understandings that I have reached during this first half of the sabbatical is that I need to have real sabbath in my life when I go back to work. Friday night both Susan and Ken were so happy because it was "the weekend." I have not experienced "the weekend" delight in 25 years - that is, the regular expectation of 2 days without work - or three night and two days without work. I have had only one day that I could count on - Monday. not even Sunday night. So, this time away and being with people who work hard too but who have the opportunity for weekly renewal has made me think long and hard about my own schedule. Something new will come of all of this, I am sure.

this past week in Phoenix I have started to have some ideas (inspirations!) about sermons ideas, themes, projects, etc. It just goes to show - that rest brings creativity and insights. All good.

So, looking forward to church today and to whatever more is ahead for us in the beauty of life in Phoenix.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Phoenix - Joan Rivers

I was so happy to get to the see the documentary - "Joan Ricers - A Piece of Work" last night.

I picked Susan up at work and we went to a little French bistro before the movie. Interestingly, in our conversation before the movie she was talking about writing and how much she enjoyed writing. Susan is now the editor of the Home and Fashiion section of the Arizona Republic and she is, I am sure, a good one. But she is in her heart a writer - that is what gives her life.

Watching Joan Rivers is seeing a 75 year old woman who knows that working is what gives her life. At the very beginning of the documentary - which is about a year in her life - she makes it clear that she does not want an empty calendar. She loves to work. And the stand up as really a form of acting in the role of "Joan Rivers" - a persona that is different from the person who is joan Rivers. The most compelling part of the movie for me was the question of passion versus compulsion. is it a passion that makes her want to work or is it a compulsion that fills the empty part of herself. And it is probably both.

All of this makes me ruminate on work and the passion that drives me to work and the lines between work and compulsion. What I know is that I have a passion to create places and times for people to experience God. I cannot control the experience - but I really love the process - of Bible Study, retreats and Sunday worship. I think about it all the time (except right now!) and love it all. This morning - Friday - I woke up and thought that usually on Friday mornings I am puzzling out the sermon organization in the early mornings before rising. That has been a pattern for years. Passion? Compulsion? Probably both.

So it seems to me we often live in this tension. It is so important to have something in our life that gives us life - writing, stand up, ministry, teaching, parenting, etc. We are blessed if we have found that passion that gives us life. At the same time - there is always the question of whether that passion has gone over into becoming a compulsion - that takes away from the rest of our life.

I feel blessed to have this time for reflection on my life and the blessings and the challenges.

It all feels good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phoenix - Heard Museum

Chuck and I have had an interesting visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
The "Heard Museum of native Cultures and Ar" was founded in 1929 by Dwight B and Maie Bartlett Heard to house their personal collection of American Indian artifacts and art. The brochure says: "The museum has earned a national and international repotation for its thorough and sensitive representation of Native cultures and heritage, ezpecially in the southwest." All true.

We learned a lot today. First of all we learned that there are so many more Indian tribes than we ever knew. As we read their stories and saw artifacts from the different tribes there were always these similarities - people who lived close to the land who were pushed off by Europeans, Spanish, Canadians. The story was all the same. farmland taken away, water re routed, their way of life gone.

We learned about Indian children being taken away (kidnapped, really) to go to boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their language or even keep their birth names. Instead they were given a new name, new clothes, and a new way of living. There were stories about tribes being sent to detention camps and just moved away from home. On a summer of memory trips - it is helpful to remember that not all of our history - either personal or national - is comfortable.

At the same time, we learned about a simpler way of life and saw the amazing beadwork, pottery, carvings that these people did. We went on a tour and learned not only about the way that some items were made - but the way they are still being used. And I found myself thinking about the whole nature of creativity and how people want to tell the story of their lives in so many ways - and often art is the most satisfying.

Chuck is here and I asked for his comment on our visit and he said - "It (the museum) was outstanding. We raped the Indians - we put people in reservations that did not deserve it." I think it raised his consciousness (?)

So, I guess you could say that this was a pretty good way for us to spend a Thursday in Phoenix (106 degrees - it was air conditioned!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We just returned from a trip to Sedona and it was memorabl.e

We got there Sunday night and on our way to Susan and Ken's timeshare stopped at the "Chapel of the Holy Cross." Several people had mentioned it to me and I really wanted to see it. I had no idea what it was - a beautiful chapel high up in the red rocks of Sedona. It was beautiful and holy. It is a Catholic place of worship and we could enter the sanctuary, sit on the pews, listen to the meditative music, light a candle and look out on the mountains and the blue Arizona sky. Words are incomplete in describing the experience of being in that space - but I can only say, it was what I needed.

I had been to Sedona before and this time I really wanted to go to some of the vortices and experience them. I did not just want a tour explaining the history and geography, but I wanted a spiritual experience. We booked a trip through a company called "Earth Wisdom" for Tuesday morning. We - was me and my friend Susan. Leaving our husbands behind for this. Our guide was a 40 year old man who has renamed himself "Gabriel Masterson." And we really enjoyed him and best of all - our tour was only Susan and me. In an open jeep with Gabriel.
We went to two vortex sites - at Cathedral Rock and Boynton canyon. When we were there, Gabriel gave us time to meditate and pray and journal while he played the flute. It was so perfect. i bought his flute music - and will use it myself in meditation. Like the trip to the chapel, it all was what I needed as I continue to experience healing and feel like God is calling me to rest in God's spirit.

At one of the restaurants where we ate one of the waiters said that Sedona itself is a vortex - meaning a place of holy energy. And maybe that is true. There is something that happens to my soul as we make the drive from Phoenix and start to see the magnificent red rocks of Sedona.

I also have read a couple of books that were really meaningful to me during this trip to Arizona. The first was "The Wonder Worker" by Susan Howatch. It is the 6th of a series of books by her writeen over about 20 years about spiritual directors in England. This book really spoke to me about spiritual direction and it was at the same time a real page turner with wonderful character development. I loved it.

And in about 24 hours I sat and read through "This is Where I Leave You" by jonathon Tropper. Susan recommended it and it is not only hard to put down but hard to stop thinking about. It is funny and smart and insightful and deeper than you first realize. The wit of the book hooks you - but it is so much more than that. I really recommend this book!

So, we ae back in Phoenix for about 5 more days of rest, reading, movies, and 500 rummy with old friends. it is good to be here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Memory Trip

This time I took a trip by myself - with no one to reminisce with - just Chuck as my #1 companion. Always ready for a road trip.

I am going backwards in my life and visiting places where I have lived. So this weekend I went to the places of my young adulthood - and visited my colleges. I went to Hanover College for three years and met Chris Connor. We married after his second and my third year of college and transferred to University of Cincinati where I received a BA in English and he earned a marketing degree.

Hanover College is, I believe, the most beautiful college campus in America. It is on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River and it is absolutely picturesque. As I walked around this weekend I had a flood of wonderful memories - of life in the dorms, fraternity and sorority dances, playing field hockey, drinking coffee with friends. More of my memories were about campus life - than studying - but that is who I was during those years. Looking back, I also realize how important it was for me to find a small place where I could fit in and feel like I belonged. My senior year of high school we moved from PA to Michigan and it was a hard time for me of feeling lonely and alienated. So, these three years at Hanover were restorative. One of the thoughts I had was of gratitude to my parents for the gift of being able to go to college at all - let alone this place.

In Cincinnati, I found myself thinking about the first years of marriage and how difficult it was to be away from the friends and support of Hanover - but also how good it was in forming that bond between a husband and wife in the beginning. Chris and I "owned" a capital dry cleaning franchise for a year as he finished up his last year of college. That building is gone now - but I could see where it was. And for me, I learned that hardship of owning your own business. That dream was one I have never had again. I remembered our struggles with his parents in asserting our identity and now at my age I am grateful for their forbearance with us - two young people who thought we knew more than we did.

These were important years in my life. This was the beginning of adulthood as "home" became a room in a dormitory rather than my parent's house. I met the man who is the father of my daughters and my husband for 15 years. He may be my "ex husband" but also my first love and it was good to honor that memory and relationship. I also made a friend - Susan - who has been a touchstone and keeper of my secrets through the many years and moves since.

Alot has changed in the 40 years since I was a student and a young wife. There are new buildings on campus, there are places that have been razed and of course, that first marriage - though a good one for a long time - is over.

But looking back is so helpful - to see the many blessings of my life and the ways in which grace has been at work.

I look forward to the final memory trip - to West Chester Pa with my brothers as we go all the way back to our childhood together.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Living in the Now

Is difficult with my granddaughters.

Alyse and Reagan spent the night last night and soon we will be playing upwards in the dining room together.

I look at them - the daughters of my daughters Kacey and Marnie - and am often in a state of wonderment. They are 7 years old, soon to be in 2nd grade and long legged gap toothed beauties.

I peek at them when they are playing outside. They talk and talk and talk about a life that they will not share with me. Alyse starts to climb a tree, they both discover blackberries and they touch each other with the familiarity of the friends/ cousins that they are.

We played "Rummi cub" last night and I remembered playing that game with their mothers and Audrey 25 years ago. I look at them and remember the toddlers they were with such a delight in each other and so much laughter about God knows what. I see on their beautiful faces flashes of the luminous women they will become as well as the attitudes of adolescents that come and go. And when they went to sleep last night they needed still their horsy and blanky. Who are these little girls?

And who am I as their Ogram? A woman who is blessed beyond all deserving and living in the past and the future and sometimes the now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Let me, Let Me Love You

This is a song that I wrote on my silent retreat. It was in response to hearing God say to me - Let me love you. What I experienced was God as a lover - who longs to love us and have us know that love. So, this song is God speaking to me.

Let Me, Let Me Love You

Let me, let me love you and
fill your soul with beauty
open up your eyes and see me all around you.

Let me, let me love you and
fill your heart with mercy
open up your ears and heart the angels sing

"You are my Beloved
and I need to show you
that there is a way for
you to walk more free

You are my Beloved
and i want to give you
everything you need for
days of joy and peace"

Let me, let me love you
linger now and listen
wait and trust the treasures
that I have for you

Let me let me love you and
fill your life with goodness
open up your hands and take my gift of grace
open up your heart and take my gift of me.

Silent Retreat

I returned yesterday from a 6 day silent retreat at a Franciscan retreat center in Tiffin, Ohio. It was a wonderful week for me and offered a time and a place for soul renewal.

I had never done a directed silent retreat before - I had done 3 days of silence in a hermitage twice - but this was very different. First of all, I was part of a group of retreatants who spent the week together mostly in silence. And that was a great blessing to me. Most of the people I did not know - they were Roman Catholic sisters - but I was familiar with one woman from Columbus who I really like and will continue to connect with after this. Everyone except she and I were Catholic.

The retreat was led by two nuns - one was sister Breta, my former spiritual director from Fremont and a protestant laywoman.

We began the week in worship on Sunday night in which we shared our desire for the week. Mine was for soul restoration. We each had our own room with a bed, a desk, a comfortable chair, dresser and sink. It was quiet and private and perfect.

Every morning began with the convent bells ringning at 6 AM and then we had optional contemplative prayer at 7 AM. I participated in that 4 out of 5 mornings. We had breakfast at 7 AM, lunch at noon and dinner at 5. There were two rooms available - one if we wanted to talk and the other was for eating in silence with music in the background. I ate 2 out of three meals in silence. Always breakfast.

I met with my spiritual director, Nancy, every morning at 9 AM for an hour of either direction or reiki. I received reiki twice that week.

The rest of the time I "spent with God." - which means prayer, walking in the beautiful grounds, sitting in contemplation, reading scripture, reading devotional books, writing, It is hard to describe a week like this. It is definitely a time of slowing down and resting. I took naps every day - which is something I never ever do in my "regular life."

What happened to me over the course of the week is that I confronted my grief about the loss of my sister last year in a very real way. I also was able to recognize and pray about (confess) my work compulsions and other compulsions that have driven me so much. All of this was possible because of the setting and the time. The most important revelation for me was being able to hear the "voice" - the voice of the holy saying some very important words to me. Among them were the words - "let me love you." So often, our faith is about us loving God but our love is always responsive to God's love for us. And so, there was this peace and clarity as the voice said - "let me love you - let me show you how much I love you." And God did.

I wrote a song about it which I will share in my next post.

My desire is that the peace that I feel right now will continue as I continue the practices that were so helpful - silence, walking, writing, reading.

God is good All the time