Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The season begins

For the past two days I have watched Reagan and Alyse play sports as their respective seasons are beginning.  They each are taking on a new experience.

Reagan is now playing volleyball and Alyse is running cross country.  And so I was inside a noisy gym on Tuesday night and outside on a green sports  field last night. Neither girl was especially thrilled that I was there and did not really give me eye contact.  I watch them in their vulnerability and their awkwardness as Reagan at times flinches when the ball comes to her and Alyse drags herself around the field almost walking at times.

And I remember playing sports myself (field hockey)  in the fall and the times when I sat on the bench and watched others play and then got in and struggled to keep up.  That is part of it.

But I also remember breathing in the air on an autumn afternoon, the fun of being part of a team, riding on the bus with my friends and playing hard.  After Alyse's race, she was out of breath and pink faced and I hope, satisfied. I remember that feeling as well.

And in retrospect I remember (not realizing it at the time, of course) that every week I was getting better: developing skills, learning unconsciously where the ball was going to be, getting stronger and faster.So I watch these girls and am so happy to see them on the  court and on the  field.  Happy to see them trying something new and challenging.

And as I write this I wonder if there is an invitation to me to take a risk to enter into my  new season.  To begin some brand new activity?
To risk looking vulnerable and awkward ?
To  trust that over time, I will get better and comfortable?

I wonder.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Famly Emergency

I am home now in front of my computer after two days of being consumed with our family emergency which centered on baby Maggie.

What happened was sudden and somewhat random.  A cut or a bug bite that got infected somehow led on Friday to a visit to the doctor and draining the site and antibiotics.  A return visit Saturday to the emergency room that ended up in a two day hospital stay and actual surgery to take care of the problem.  I hope it is taken care of - we just found out that it was MRSA and that is, of course, concerning.

For me, it meant that my life shifted suddenly to being Ogram and taking care of Addie and Reagan so that Marnie and Erik could be at the hospital the whole time.  When I was on retreat last week I had received a "Chevron Amythyst" stone from Julia which is supposed to "control temperament by imparting soothing, calming and tranquilizing influence."  And that is definitely who I seek to be in a time like this.

There is nothing scarier than seeing a one year old in a hospital bed with an IV.  And watching her parents try to maintain a calmness in the midst of their own anxieties.  We had a similar scare in the spring when Jackson had a seizure that brought all of the grandparents to children's hospital in support of Kacey and Brett. What I know for sure is that at times like this, it is so good to have a tribe of people that care and pray and stand with you.

I remember early in my ministry thinking I needed to say something in times like this.  And of course, I didn't what to say that was not a platitude or some kind of advice. The older I get, the more I realize that advice is about the last the we ever need.  What we really need is an acknowledgement of love - whether it is a text, a call, a visit, a facebook prayer - just something that says I see your need and I am "with you."

And so, I am grateful to all who love our Maggie and have prayed for her and Marnie and Erik through this time.  And I pray that I might  be aware of those who are in their own emergencies and in need  of love and attention right now so that I might be "with them" in some form or fashion.

"Melt Me, Mold Me, Fill Me, Use Me"

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Ordinary Life

I have been thinking alot of being useful. One of my favorite songs is "Spirit of the Living God"

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh on Me
Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh on Me
Melt me, mold me, fill me, USE me
Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh on Me

Yesterday I did Reiki on a man who is blind.  And I prayed fervently for healing for him as I laid hands on him.  I believe that if he received physical healing - it would be to the glory of God.  He would, without a doubt, credit God's healing power.  
And I felt this sense of oneness with all the ways that God heals - that I was part of it praying for this man, just like the doctors who operated and his family who loved him.  That we were all working together to give him hope and love and wholeness regardless of the outcome.  

One of my favorite parables has been about the sower of seeds. 

He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

I find myself in this parable everywhere - including as the sower.  That we are all called to sow seeds of love - prodigiously, extravagantly. That is how we are USEFUL - that we can just keep sowing the seeds without worrying about the outcome.  Just doing it.

 looked at my daily meditation from Richard Rohr and it just reinforced what I have been experiencing in my life lately. He writes about the second half of life as we move away from ambition and certitude into a "naked faith"

In the second half of the spiritual life, you are not making choices as much as you are being guided, taught, and led--which leads to "choiceless choices." These are the things you cannot not do because they are your destiny and your deepest desire. Your driving motives are no longer money, success, or the approval of others. You have found your sacred dance.
Now your only specialness is in being absolutely ordinary and even "choiceless," beyond the strong opinions, needs, preferences, and demands of the first half of life. You do not need your "visions" anymore; you are happily participating in God's vision for you. With that, the wonderful dreaming and the dreamer that we were in our early years have morphed into Someone Else's dream for us. 
So I sow seeds of love in a pretty ordinary way - by laying hands on people, praying for them, listening to them, welcoming them, loving them and trust that somehow this is being useful for doing my little part in bringing the kingdom here on earth.  
In so many ways, I have learned that I never know what was really important and what "seed" actually took root.  And I don't need to know.  I just sow seeds and trust that in my ordinary life God is using me.
May it be so.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I went to Hocking Hills Tuesday to meet with some friends who were learning reiki and to receive an Attunement from Julia who is a reiki master.

I really like that word - attunement.  The dictionary definition is: being or being in harmony, a feeling of being "at one" with another being.  And that is what has happened to me in many ways.

One step into attunement is getting away and being in nature.  And Hocking Hills is certainly a place to feel closer to God.  And then there is reiki.  We laid hands on one another and instead of being inside, we were on the front porch of a cabin.  And so the sights and sounds of creation surrounded us and helped us to feel connected.
And amazingly there was a woman from one of the two cabins nearby that walked past us and joined us in our healing work.  She herself did healing touch and reiki and felt led to be part of our afternoon of teaching, giving and receiving reiki.  The next day she came back to thank us and said she felt blessed to walk into "a magical place where people spoke her language."

And maybe part of attunement is just getting back and hearing the soul and spirit sounds of God by having time to be away, in silence, with spirit filled people and open to God.

This morning I went with Nikki and Brian to a special place here in Columbus - Inniswood Metro park and experienced that harmony and oneness in the beauty of nature.  I watched the retired men and women with their yellow "volunteer" shirts on who were digging and weeding and working in the garden and thought they are saints that enable us to find attunement with the Holy Creator

And so far and way and close to home, there is such blessing when I take the time to be with God.
Finally, as I sat with Brian looking at this Rose Garden I looked at Facebook and Audrey posted this wonderful poem by Wendell Berry. 
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
It is well, it is well with my soul.  Amen

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Psalm For Today

I sit on my porch this morning and confront my fears.
As my daughter and son in law are out of work
and my step son struggles to find his place in this world
and my husband continues to age
and I wonder about calling in retirement
And the fears, anxiety, confusion and worry bubble to the surface
I face it all, sit with it, feel it

And then stop and remember my mantra
"I am here to be with you"
May I be here
In a comfortable, sunny space
with my dog at my side
May I remember
you have rescued me in the past
you have guided by path
you have provided not only growth but miracles

May I sit and see today
Your beauty in creation - the grass, the trees, the flowers
Your presence in the sounds of the breeze and the birds
Your blessings in this moment of life

And may I trust you
and your love
and your spirit
at work

In my life
and in the life of those I love

May I be still and know
be still and see
be still and trust

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Gift of Friends

My focus has shifted quickly to preparing for a Retreat in September that I am keynoting at Camp Christian on Spiritual Friendships.  Suddenly I am on the computer looking for quotes and readings and information about friendship.  I have several books that I am also reading/perusing to help me discern what these keynotes are going to be about.

And - not surprisingly - I am calling on friends to help me.  I just wrote up some meditations and emailed them to Susan in Phoenix for help in editing.  Over the past few weeks I have called on so many others to help with workshops for this and just for guidance.  It is true that I get by "with a little help from my friends."

I have found - in retirement - that I am busier than I ever imagined that I would be just keeping up with various people from my life as well as family. What is clear to me - especially as I am doing this reading and reflecting on friendship - is that it is our friends who can really support us in the hardest times and lighten our way - not just with guidance but humor. 

Here is a meditation on friendship I found that I really like:

Meditation on Spiritual Friendship
We are not meant to be solitary figures
Walking a lonely path toward heaven.
We are meant for God and for each other.
We are one body with many parts,
sharing our gifts and growing in faith.
Today we pray for the grace
To recognize the friends in our midst,
to open our eyes, our hearts, our minds
to the possibility of what God has planned.
We long for a community of friends
to journey with us, and we know now
that through trust and abandonment,
we will be given exactly what we need.
— Mary DeTurris Poust, “Walking Together”

Monday, August 10, 2015

Back to Normal?

I am finally back home in my basement on my computer writing my blog.  It has been a long time.
And maybe I am getting "back to normal" which is, of course, a "new normal."

First of all, part of my not writing was because I was away at Camp Christian as faculty and director of Advance Conference.  And that was a "new normal."  Advance Conference is designed for 19-29 year olds and they have their own leadership of three "officers" who ask different people to come and be "faculty" for the week.  I have been faculty on and off here for over 15 years.  And the last few years I have served as "co-director" with my dear friend Allen Harris.  Allen has left our region to be the regional minister in the Capitol area so, for this year, it was me alone.  That was different.  We also had a new staff member, Steve, instead of LaTaunya and that was different.  And of course, every year there are different officer to interact with and that is different.

I am a great preacher on change and openness to changed, but like everyone else I really like the comfort of things staying the same.  It was a great week but my responsibilities felt different and I think I came home more tired.  Which is surprising since I did not come home to preach.  But that is how it was.

And I came home to this new family of three - me and Chuck and his son Brian.  We have had to work out how to do the sleeping arrangements here and have finally landed on what I think will work.  But all of it has necessitated the moving of stuff - in and out of the basement and the bedrooms.  At one point my computer had moved into my bedroom and now it is back in the basement and that at least, feels familiar.  The rest of it we are living into. 

Yesterday - the day after camp ended - I drove to Toledo to preach at my friend Mary's church as her mother was dying.  That was a different experience for he - the congregation is hungarian UCC and part of worship was saying the Lord's prayer in Hungarian. (I did not participate in that!) They have communion 7 times a year and wouldn't you know it was yesterday and their communion form is VERY different from the way we Disciples do it.  So, I gamely stepped in for Mary and hopefully did not mess it up too much.

The sermon I preached is about the calling of the disciples and the reality that something happened in the three years that they "apprenticed" with Jesus - they changed from Fishers of Fish to "Fishers of Humanity."  What I lift up in that phrase "I will make you fishers of men" is the words "I will make" because a core belief I have is that following Jesus means that we are allowing him to "make" us something new.  Change us.

And what I believe in my heart of hearts is that  there is a relationship between the internal  changes within us over time and our willingness to live into - (that is, not resist) the external changes of circumstances in our lives - whether it is new leadership in a church, the death of a mother or a new member of our family moving in.  God is doing something with each of us as we trust in his work.

This morning I turned for wisdom to dear Richard Rohr and his daily meditation and found myself reading about Teihard De Chardin.  I ended my sermon yesterday with the reading that I live by: It starts like this

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

We are passing through stages of instability right now - but I find comfort in today's meditation where Richard Rohr writes:  "Try, with God's help to perceive the connection - even physical and natural - which binds your labor with the building of the kingdom of heaven; try to realize that heaven itself smiles upon you and through your works, draws you to itself." 

And so, now I am back at it on this blog ruminating and reflecting on the mystery of it alland trusting in the presence of God who brings light into darkness and always his love into every moment of my life.