Ice All Around

There is ice everywhere this week

enough to cancel church services

and to keep the kids at home.

Puppy owners

and workers of the world

have to get out no matter.

And so we do as we can

hoping for a safe place to walk

masks to keep our faces warm

and the virus at a distance.

In the midst of it all

the sun breaks through

as it tends to do

just as I am whining

instead of praising

God’s dear presence

in this sick and icy

and O so beautiful

world. Thanks be.

Summer Graces

This morning the boy and girl hummingbirds have been visiting the feeder. They are filling up, as they have been all summer, with sweet sustenance for the journey. First they fed themselves. Then they fed their tiny progeny. And now they are stoking up for their flight away as the daylight hours dim and fall beckons.

This week we had another set of visitors in the church garden. Grace Perkins loved all things flowering. When she was a younger woman she helped the town volunteers tend the iconic Bridge of Flowers. Grace also loved our church building, the people, and the memorial garden. A good few years before I was the church pastor, Grace decided to put some of her money toward what ended up being called The Walk of Grace; a beautiful walkway around and later through the garden that she, and we, and the hummingbirds, loved.

Grace died this year. Due to all things pandemic we were not able to participate in a celebration of her life. But this week her family came, in the heat of one of those humid late summer days. They brought a little bit of Grace and a bit of her late husband, and a bit of one of the beloved family dogs to the garden. They laid those bits of ash and bone under the holly tree – the one that this spring was filled to overflow with hungry cedar waxwings. We shared a few stories about Grace and her sisters and the family then trooped off to the Bridge of Flowers to do the same thing. Like hummingbirds coming in for a last sip, they wanted to soak up beauty and leave a bit of Grace behind.

On a very good day that is what we all do. We hover around sweetness. We tell stories. We remember and we look forward. We stop to watch and look and listen.

Breathless

The challenge of spring

is remembering to breathe

when right before our eyes

day after day

is another miracle.

The fragrance of lilacs

a hummingbird flashing

rivers cresting

sky breaking open

earth pushing up

children hidden a whole pandemic year

bursting out with laughter

we thought had been swallowed

up by pain and suffering

and now is here again

taking our breath away.

a thousand words

Some people say that a picture is worth a thousand words and that is true but a picture cannot convey the deafening sound of water roaring and racing over the dam crashing to the rocks below and speeding on down the river and how that sound brings back a memory of a grandchild standing at this same place and speaking his fear of what just might happen if he fell into over the fence and down down he went and O Lord he would not be here if that happened and thank God it did not because if that did happen there is no way that I would be standing around years after the fact and taking a picture so here I am today spewing out more words than anyone needs to hear so I can put down the Nana in me memory this picture brings forth and now I thank You for word and picture and sound and grands and finally for the quieting of my heart amen.

feeling sheepish today

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. Ezechiel 34:11-12

I have been pondering, practicing and praying on what it means for the Lord to be my shepherd and for me to be on some days a sheep, on some days the sheep dog and on a rare day a shepherd. When these questions ride with me up the hill to meet sheep in person (they/we all have our own personality) it gets a lot less romantic, which for a pastor is a really good thing. We dig our pitchforks into the manure pile and joke about standing on the pile right in the middle of paradise and the creation stories shine in a different light. We watch the farmer take time discerning what to do about this or that common or complex chore and “tis a gift to be simple” comes round right. After a tender moment of parting we drive home to the parsonage to fortify ourselves with hot coffee and prayers of gratitude for being where and when we are called to be. I don’t know much but I do know that the Lamb of God knew what he was talking about and mainly I do not. That does not stop me from gladly or with great resistance going up the road when called. Amen

in a zoom clergy meeting

Dear God thank you for the hummingbirds

And for the gift of seeing them at this time in our lives.

We know that their lives are shorter than ours –

They live, if they are lucky, as we here are lucky

Three to five years and Lo this is one of those years.

They know how to zoom and to perch

How to sip on the fly and beat off the competition

Their maximum speed while diving is 49 miles an hour

While we just sit here holding our breath watching them.

Help us O God to not only sit and watch this Glory On The Move

But to count them and each other as One

Of the Blessings of our Times.

Help us O God to not overly fixate on what we are seeing

The grief the sorrow the unknown the loss the wait and see

But to take this time together to share a bit of the sweetness

That has come into our lives, even now O God

Even now.  Amen

photo-of-a-hummingbird-3882092

we talked about beauty

peanut feeder

Yesterday one of my neighbors stumbled out of her house to greet me.

Her eyes were wide and hollow with fear and lack of sleep

crying for all that has been lost and for the old dream

of thinking that she knew what is going to happen

and that all is right with the world.

We stood in my yard in our now traditional stance

of six feet apart straining to hear what one masked mouth

could possibly say to the other

and we looked at the goldfinch perched on the feeder

filling his little beak with the day’s offering.

We talked about beauty – how we need it

and how elusive it is

how the hummingbird eats

at the same table as the wasp

making room for each other

and the woodpecker makes do

with shelled and unsalted peanuts

while we cry ourselves to sleep

desperately trying to remember

what beauty felt like today.

There is no wrap up to this poem.

It is not the vaccine we are waiting for.

It is a life hoping to be remembered well.

 

water water everywhere

bird bath fountain
Dear God, how long
have you been telling us
that we need water to live?
Not just clean water dripping out of the tap.
Not just the pond and the rivers.
Not just that cup of cold water
that all us little ones thirst for
but living waters – the water that flows
in our blood stream when we let you
flow in and around and between us.
And so today we give thanks
that you keep reminding us
that without waters of all sorts
our souls will shrivel away to nothing.
Thank you for the very gift of life.
Help us to not forget to drink deeply. Amen

This space is met.

chairs

I miss you at my table
elbow to elbow
easy reach to grab the salad
bread basket passed
from hand to hand.
I miss you at my table
family and friends
neighbors striding up
looking for a place to sit
a grand baby running between us
looking for a lap and a scrap.
I miss you at my table
strangers who I want to know
whose food tastes strange
on my tongue
and whose ways are not my ways.
I miss you at my table.
I wonder about the saying
that distance creates
fondness when the heart
has run away.
I go on faith now
that this space
while not wrought on purpose
(God you would never do that!)
is met and given a place
and a time to sit.
I don’t know if it’s true
that every season has a reason
but today
I miss you at my table.
Amen

hearts ease

Things have gotten a bit wild these days in the church garden. While the gardener and her helpers are coming often (maybe to get out of the house and into the fresh air during the pandemic) the plantings are having a life of their own! First the daffodils were spreading like crazy. Now the iris are having a heyday. But what has really taken over are the little wild pansies that as kids we would call Johnny Jump Ups because they have a habit of jumping all over a garden. I love this bit of wildness in our otherwise very tidy church garden and have been delighting in seeing their beautiful faces gleaming out to me on my daily walks.

jump ups

Yesterday I learned something which made it all the more lovely. A local herbalist pulled me aside. (Yes, we were both wearing face coverings.) She mentioned how she had seen the overflow of the jump ups. She told me that back in her grandmother’s day the wild pansies were called hearts ease. She wonders if we are being gifted with what we need right now as the world’s heart is aching and breaking.

Well, that was enough to put me over in delight. Then I learned that there is another name for this plant. It is also called love-in-idleness.

Love-in-idleness! Many but certainly not all of us are stumbling around during this pandemic with more idle time. Some people are suffering with questions of purpose. What are we supposed to be doing when there is so much we cannot do? How can we “do church” when the heart of the world is aching and we cannot open our doors? What does it mean when we find ourselves drawn to sitting in the garden praying – which looks to the passerby, and feels sometimes to us, like being idle?

Could this be the time for some of us to practice love in idleness? Can we feel comfortable just calling a friend or acquaintance not for business but to offer love? Can we take the time when the doors are closed to give thanks for the grace of the garden and all the ways (idle and not) that we have to ease each other’s pain? Can a wilder garden nurture our community in new ways? What does our faith have to say about the gifts that the humbler and wilder parts of Creation bring to the world?

When love jumps at you and lodges in your heart you can do one of two things. You can weed it out and get back to business. Or you can welcome it and give thanks. Today I am doing the second option. Maybe tomorrow I will revert to the first. I hope not.