Saturday, January 31, 2015

Honor Your Grief

These were the words that came to me this morning as I sat in my prayer room.  Honor your grief.

Yesterday I did some organizing of files - putting old sermons and church files into some kind of order in my home.  There is still too much that I cannot at this time throw away.

I realized afterwards the profound grief that my weekly preaching - in all it stress - is ver.
Maybe for now.  Maybe later I will be involved in another church.  I don't know.
What I do know is that preaching has been for me - a source of creativity and my call expressed.

Today I sit in the truth that is   a loss to stop working.  To end relationships.  To stop doing those things that gave me life.  I also know that there is the "both and" to it all.  This past month has been a time of resting and realizing that level of stress that I was carrying.  At the same time, there is grief - undeniable grief.  And to quote someone that I have frequently quoted in sermons - "Grief is the price you pay for love."  And I have surely loved the life of a pastor.

I have been watching Pema Chodren on youtube this week and she talked about dealing with unwanted feelings.  The standard response is to push them away and run away.  Instead, she teaches about exploring and opening our hearts to it. 

And surely culturally we are encouraged to "get past" our grief and move on.  I am grateful for the time to just wait and explore what God is doing with me.  As I experience the gift of grief and the awareness that God is in the midst of all of this bringing healing and growth.

So, this morning I honor the grief and get ready for a new day of life.  I have people to love and a call on my life to live out in new circumstances and a life to enjoy - in all its different aspects.

Blessing by Maxine Shonk
May you be blessed by the God of PEACE who stills the heart that quakes with fear or doubt or confusion.
May you discover your peace in the "Godseed" of your own being and in the flowering of your inner goodness.
May the warmth of your peace bring calm to those who tremble in fear and uncertainty.
May the blessing of PEACE be on you.  Amen

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Little by Little

I write this from the Carnival Breeze where I purchased one 24 hour period of internet time.  I wanted to check in with the girls and just make sure I hadn't missed anything.  So, I actually can blog about today.

It is Thursday January 22 and we have our last stop - which is San Juan, Puerto Rico.  And Susan and I spent time this morning just walking around the city.  I was hoping that I would be able to find the "Poetry Store" I had discovered on my last trip here and we did!  The last trip I bought a plaque here - which said "True Love stands with you when you need to see the rain."  And I have looked at that and loved it for years.
This time I bought a mug that says - "Little by Little"  It comes from this poem which was written by Lady Lee Andrews, the poet, artist, owner of the store.  Here is the poem

Little By Little
I'm letting go
Little by little, but I am.
It sometimes hurts,
I sometimes cry,
I sometimes erase it all
And sometimes I try
and I can't. 
But I'm letting go,
I am.
That's just the way I am.
I can't help it anymore.

My mind races
unlike the hare
who had patience 
to compete
I'm racing to defeat myself
It's torture in a shell
My heart has been to hell
I'm letting go. 
Little by little, but I am.
I learned that now I can.

Sometimes it's good.
Sometimes it's sweet.l
There are times too
That I never meet a standard.
where questions flow
And it's okay in itself
I'm taking down the shelf
Of expectations
Crowded by imitations.
I learned that now I can.
I'm letting go, little by little
But I am

This spoke to me as I try to let go into - not retirement - but trusting the next thing that God has for me.  I know that this is a time for resting and waiting and that is what is happening on this cruise - Plus fun, food, laughter, friends.  But more than that is the certainty that as I "let go" God is there with more for me, as God is there for everyone as we learn to let go.

The poet opened a second store and we found our way to that store in the rain and were blessed to meet her!  Susan bought me a book of her poetry and she signed it like this:
To you Margot
Angels make sure special people are never forgotten.
love, Lady Lee Andrews

Today has been a beautiful morning and a true blessing to my soul.  And little by little, I am learning to let go.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thoughts on Selma

Sunday afternoon I took myself to the movies to see Selma and I was so glad I did.  It is a powerful movies that spoke to me on so many levels.

First of all, there is the dark stain  of slavery and the racism that has been part of the fabric of our nation well after the Emancipation Proclamation.  The civil rights laws and the events of Selma happened within my lifetime.  As I look back, I realize how unconscious I was at the time of all of this  as a teenager growing up in eastern Pennsylvania.  Over  the years I continue to grow (I hope) in awareness of the long term systemic effects of racism and the reality of white privilege.  Selma was one in a series of movies that have been part of my education along the way.

But it was much for than that for me.  It was a lesson in leadership as it depicted Martin Luther King, Jr. as a flawed man who was called to be a leader in the  movement to acquire voting rights for the people. .  I appreciated his vulnerability - as he had difficult encounters with other civil rights leaders, his president and his wife.  He persevered through it all but it was not easy.

It also spoke to me about how change happens - and it requires many people who are willing to stand up for the rights of others.  And in Selma it was clear that church was an integral part of  the movement.  Martin Luther King Jr was - of course - a preacher and his eloquent sermons were important.  After the first aborted march to Selma when people were brutally beaten, he called the clergy to come and join him and they did.  From all over the country.  And so while it is easy to think of church these days as "sideline" and not "mainline", I am grateful to remember when the work of  justice was  inspired by faithful Christians willing to march and be a voice for the voiceless.  (I know that churches were divided over this at the time and that some ministers who went to Selma or became Freedom Riders also lost their jobs!)

There is one scene that stays with me from the movie.  The people are lined up on the bridge and ready to leave Selma for Montgomery, the state troopers stand before them as a seeming blockade. Suddenly, there is an opening and they allow them to proceed.  And Martin Luther King, Jr gets on his knees to pray - followed by everyone else.  When he stands, he then goes against the crowd back into Selma- it is not time to proceed.  I wondered as I saw this - did God speak to him?  Was he so connected to the source of life, that he knew that this was not the time and he would be leading his people into danger?  I don't know.

I would like to believe that he was guided by God.  I would like to believe that kind of connection is possible for all of us. . And I would like to believe that I can be guided by God to know when to go forward and when to retreat.  When to work and when to rest.  When to speak and when to be silent. When to lead and when to follow.

And so, Selma stays with me and speaks to me about the important work of justice.  May I continue to seek to be so connected to God's presence that I may hear that voice calling me to love and serve.
May it be so.  Amen.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Today is Marnie's Birthday

And she is 40!

I dimly remember her birth forty years ago.  And in that I know that she is a true middle child - born 16 months after Kacey and 2and a half years before Audrey - there is something about the in between one. 

She was always part of a tribe - one of the Connor girls with me and number 2 of 6 with her Dad.
She was the blond in the middle of the redheads, always smiling as a little and at the same time the one most prone to temper tantrums. She was - and is - a great "friend maker" - the one with best friends and the most friends and making plans for various activities and having adventures that were always fun.

Marnie is very expressive, very funny, very hard working and very efficient. She can outtext and outtype anyone!  She is an inviter, a party planner and a source of new ideas for activities for the family.  I have great memories of her pool parties, family dinners and cruising with her.

For me, she has certainly become  - "daughter-friend" - a true giving and loving gift to me.

So I celebrate her today and feel blessed and proud to be her Mom.  And hope - that even though Erik and Addie are both sick and she may not be able to celebrate as planned tonight - that she has a fun day today.

And I hope she knows that this world is a whole lot better place because she is in it - as daughter, wife, mother, aunt, sister, friend. 

So I write today to celebrate a milestone in her life.  I believe that women just start to get interesting after 40 - so watch out!  Here she comes!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Morning Prayer for a broken world

Lord I am here to be with you.
I receive your love.
I am here.

In this room
with a prayer shawl on me,
and a candle burning
and with time to be
here present

And as I sit here
there are hostages in fear in France
there are people in the hospital with cancer
there are children orphaned by ebola
there are people around the world I pain, grief, poverty, hunger, depression, suffering

And yet you call me here to that I can be filled?  to overflowing?

How to hold the awareness of love and hate
     abundance and scarcity
         blessing and suffering

I am a woman of hope. I read Anne Lamott this morning:
    "The thing about Easter is that Jesus comes back from the dead both resurrected and broken, with the wounds from the nails still visible."
She also wrote:"Hope is not about proving anything.  It's choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim bleak shit anyone can throw at us."

So I pray to Jesus in my helplessness  and my hope- for all who are wounded, all who are waiting for freedom, all who are broken.  Come, Lord Jesus and bring your piece, your healing and your love.  Amen

My morning blessing from Maxine Shonk

May the God of WINTER be with you walking with you as warmth and light through the iced-over parts of your life.
May you see these icy times as God's invitation to "walk on water." 
In the dark and cold winter moment of your journey, may your trust in  the hidden growth of winter be for you a source of inner strength. 
May the blessing of WINTERHOPE be with you.


Blessing the Threshold

        One of the blessings of my life is my "peer group." We 5 all graduated from the Wellstreams program in 2011 and continue to meet monthly to have a time of prayer and reflection and mutual support on this journey of going deeper with God.  They have been true spiritual  companions for me as I have over the years discerned God's leading me into this time of retirement.

    And so, yesterday as we met, they celebrated and blessed  this new time of my life. They gifted me with a prayer shawl, a "Joy candle" and coffee that is appropriately from "Grounds for Change."  And they prayed over me  Here is the prayer: "Blessing the Threshold"

Blessing the Threshold
This blessing
has been waiting for you
for a long time.
While you have been
making your way here
this blessing has been
gathering itself
making ready
biding its time
This blessing has been
polishing the door
oiling the hinges
sweeping the steps
lighting candles
in the windows.
This blessing has been
setting the table
as it hums a tune
from an old song
it knows,
something about
a spiraling road
and bread
and grace.
All this time
it has kept an eye
on the horizon.
keeping vigil,
hardly aware of how
it was leaning itself
in your direction.
And now that
you are here
this blessing
can  hardly believe
its good fortune
that you have finally arrived,
that it can drop everything
at last
to fling its arms wide
to you, crying
I have a sense of waiting this month to see what is coming next for me.  Right now, it is clearly a time of rest and refreshment.  And standing on the threshold to a new life.
I am so blessed by the various companions that God provides for me on this journey.  What a gift this group has been to me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Today is a snow day for most of the schools in Columbus and I am available to watch Reagan and Addie today.  All day.

Two weeks ago I would try to make myself available for them - maybe watching in the afternoon or bringing them to church with me. Or working something out with Chuck.  But today I am available.

This is new and I like it. The gift of FREE TIME is startlingly new.  I can breathe and plan and take my time. 
Yesterday I planned some meals and shopped slowly instead of on my way to something else. 
I went to the drug store for a friend and delivered meds and it was lovely to just do it.
I waited at a dentists office for Chuck to emerge after a long procedure.
Because I had the time - FREE time.

Now I suppose I've always had time - certainly I quote Howard Ratcliffe when a minster complained about his busy life - "who makes up your schedule?"  There is a certain amount of autonomy in ministry (except Sunday mornings and weddings and funerals!) and we can be as busy as we want.
What I am learning is that for years there has been a inner clock within me - even during what I called a "day off" or "free time" that was planning for the next responsibility.

So, today is a day of gratitude for the gift of being truly AVAILABLE and I will be playing games, doing crafts and puzzles, watching TV and interacting with these loved granddaughters because I have TIME.

Here is the Blessing that I randomly found this morning from Maxine:

May the God of NEWNESS be with you, freshening you with renewed energy and awaking you with new perspectives on old visions.
May you be free enough to let go of what is stale and used up and to embrace what is new and full of promise.
May God's grace be with you as you wrap yourself in what is right, if unfamiliar.
May you look upon your life and your ministry with the eyes of God, ever new and ever transforming.
May the God of newness be with you.

Monday, January 5, 2015

1 - 5 - 15: Your Next Chapter Begins

This is what is engraved on the journal that Nicole bought me as a retirement gift.  And that is exactly how it feels today.  The next chapter begins.

Sunday the 28th of December was my last Sunday preaching, last week I slowly did the sorting out and emptying my office and last night was the party.  It was overwhelming and really wonderful.  This morning I read a a quote from Anne Lamott: "We're not what we do, but what we receive."
And I felt like I received a whole lot of love.

I was particularly touched by Judy Conibear's remembering my interview with the Bowling Green Church when I said something to the effect of "Everyone needs to know they are loved.  Everyone needs to be listened to."  I certainly did not remember that but continue to know that is true.

This morning I feel like I am basking in the miracle of God. In the midst of the mess that is me, the self doubt and anxieties, it is clear that God's love and grace have often prevailed in my life in the church.

And so as I begin this new chapter I start with my mantra - "I am here to be with you" and add to it  - "I am here to receive and to give."

My Blessing for Today
May the God of CELEBRATION stay with you as you discover the joy in your life.
May you be free to dance and play in the presence of the God who celebrates you.
May you celebrate the gifts of those around you and find joy in each one you meet.
May the God of CELEBRATION bless you.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Morning Thoughts - January 2

My God, My Lord, Dear Jesus, Loving Spirit, Source of all life, Divine Lover

I come to be connected and reconnected.
I come to find an anchor.

What I feel right now is that I am floating - at sea - asea

And the question of the day - what do I do?  what do I do with myself?
Followed by who am I?  Who am I now?

And I want some discipline, some role, some rule, some thing
Every day I, write, walk?  Every day I will  .......what?
Maybe it is this - Every day I will write Morning Pages so I can get it out
   get out the questions, the confusion, the grief, the relief, the emptiness, the fullness of this time.

What I know right now is that every day I have to do something because I am afraid of
         sloth - ennui - meaninglessness - purposelessness - floating away
   I am afraid that who I really am will be revealed - the lazy, shallow, extremely self centered person I am

And that is true - and also I am smart, hard working, faithful, caring

So the answer for this moment and this beginning time
the answer has to be connection to you, God
the one who gives me purpose and wholeness? 
not sure - how about the one who gives me grace and life
and new life

I am here to be with you
I will wait in this time
I will wait for healing and refreshment
I will wait for you.

Blessing from Maxine Shonk:

May the God of CONTEMPLATION bless you calling you into the still point of Divine Presence.
Out of the silent center of your being may you bring serenity and peace to every circumstance and each person.
May you CONTEMPLATION bear fruit in the word syou speak and the work that you do.
May the God CONTEMPLATION  bless you.  Amen

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year - A New Life

This is a day of new beginnings as we start a new year.  It is the beginning for me of a life of retirement - whatever the heck that means.

I started today reflecting on new year's resolutions and knew that I was tired of the same old, same old.....which is often about diet and exercise for me.

And I felt like the message for this year - is "You need to do those things that give you life."  And then there is the discernment - what are they?  what really does give me life?

I wrote in my journal - the top7 things that give me life:

1. being with people I love
2. learning something new
3. bringing order to chaos
4. creating something new
5. body movement
6. nature
7. art - music, books, movies, etc

I also wrote - being present in the moment - which can be any of these things. 

And so, the year begins in wonder and hope with the "resolution" to do those things that give me life.

I sat in my prayer room and randomly opened the book "Blessing Upon Blessing" and received this blessing for the beginning of this year.

May the RENEWING God be with you, recreating, enlivening, filling you with God's own life.
As you claim this life, cherish it and allow it to grow,
and celebrate it with "thank you" forever etched upon your heart.
With love may you call others to be renewed and refreshed. 
May the blessing of the RENEWING God be upon you.

Happy New Year