The decorations are appearing at the parsonage bit by bit. There are many stories attached to many things. This tree sits at the bottom of the stairs. My grandmother made it out of chicken wire and tin cans years ago. I’m sure it was “a thing” years ago. She wasn’t a particularly crafty person but she did follow trends. I loved the rough, quirky beauty of it and one year she shipped it from Texas to me.
Every year I take it out of the huge box it lives in and put it in place. It used to sit in the corner of my living room in Andover, now it has a place in Arlington. It is a piece of history and memory. It is a reminder to find beauty where I can (no pun intended). On this Advent journey I need to find beauty and create beauty in this rough hewn world.
Where do you find beauty in this season?
Where do you create beauty of heart, soul, mind, and voice, in this season?
What will carry you through?
If you have nothing, gather back your sigh,
And with your hands held high, your heart held high,
Lift up your emptiness!
From “If You Have Nothing” by Jessica Powers
This poem was part of my morning reading today and it felt right, it felt like Advent. We are preparing to make room, to lift up our emptiness, to be filled again with promise and hope. It is difficult in these days of seemingly nonstop bad news, to feel like we have anything to offer.
We offer what we can. We offer deep sighs, and hands and hearts held high, in expectation of a better day, a better world. We work for it but we also offer our emptiness.
May God fill us with love and strength.
I was sitting in my office yesterday and a young woman appeared at the door. “I read that you collect for the food pantry, can I give this to you?” I said,” yes”. She smiled, left this green bag full of food, and went her way.
Later I got a call about one of the recovery programs and if it was still meeting. We get calls about cat adoptions and space use, sometimes even about worship times. As we end the church year this Sunday I’m thinking about how we are known. We are known by the banners outside and our signs. We are known by how we share our building and our lives.
I’m just beginning to learn how we are known in the community, for our commitment to the Housing Corporation of Arlington and the Homeless Coalition of Somerville, the Food Pantry and Arlington Eats. I’m learning how we are known in the Annual Conference for our generosity through the Lukas Fund.
I hope that we are known by all of the ways we connect to the world around us. I hope that others will want to share in something of what we do, even if it’s just dropping off a bag of food or attending a meeting.
How do you want to be known?
Yesterday, I received a call, while I was standing in line at Jo-Ann’s, from a woman who needed someone to fly down to Florida and help get her husband back home. I sent out an email and someone volunteered and others offered food and rides and anything else that was needed. This is living in community.
Last week, a young father died suddenly, his children attended VBS. A signup sheet to bring food went out and it is full until late winter. People stopped by, offered help, sat, and prayed. This is living in community.
Last Sunday, we gathered food to be handed out for Thanksgiving. The youth gathered it from the neighborhood. The congregation brought it. The children, even the littlest ones, brought it forward. The youth sorted it and got it ready to be delivered this week. This is living in community.
There are many ways to gather and support each other but I think there is something unique about a faith community, about a church. We expect to help each other. We expect to share what we have and who we are. This is living in community.
May you find ways to share your heart, your money, your life, this week.
As this light changes and the days get shorter I find myself touched by sadness. I don’t think I’m diagnosable with SAD but my mood shifts in the darkness. As we head into the holiday season I find myself missing my Dad. He died 3 years ago in December. He was my biggest supporter. This photo was from my wedding day. That was the way he looked at me then, and most of the time. And I still feel his presence surrounding me and uplifting me. I am grateful to have had him as a father and grateful for his presence in the world of faith and science.
This is a season of remembering, of giving thanks, of looking for the light within and around us. I invite you to think of those whose love surrounds you. Invite you to find the places where you have been touched by grace. I invite you to shine your light wherever you can.
As the light changes and the days get shorter, as the news bombards us with bad news, find the places where goodness can overcome evil, and hope, despair.
One more day of heartbreak with news from NYC and Texas and the continuing news from storm ravaged areas. One more day of heartbreak as people work to take away the rights of others. I would like to hide away. I would like to keep to myself and my small problems. I would like to quietly commune with God. But it is God’s world and I have a place in it and work to do.
Meister Eckhart wrote:
“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.”
So, I continue to engage in the world and in the work, especially in the midst of the tragedies that surround us. I hold onto inner solitude while I listen to the news and interact with the world.
May you find God’s peace ~
There are fires in California. People in Puerto Rico and so many other places are working on recovering from hurricanes. People are killed and friends die.
I wrote a note to my daughter-in-law who lives in Napa. She responded, “It is horrific for so many here. Many of our friends have lost everything. Prayers are what everyone needs the most.” In the midst of the destruction around us, of our environment, of our civility, I sometimes wonder about prayer. Prayer is not enough in the face of devastation. We also must act to address and fix problems. But prayer is important.
I sit in the morning in the quiet. I light a candle. I breathe in peace and love for myself. I send out peace and love into the world. I believe that it makes a difference. I believe that God is in the peace and love. I believe that God is the peace and love.
So, I sit in the morning as I start my day, holding all of the devastation and destruction, all of the pain and sorrow, and I send out prayers. Then I get up and get to work.
“There are not enough candles,” a colleague wrote. There are not enough candles for all of the people who have died from gun violence, from floods and hurricanes, from street violence and domestic violence. There are not enough candles to calm our hearts and minds in these turbulent times.
So, what do we do? We gather together. We gather to remind ourselves of those who have been lost. We gather to remind ourselves that there is good in the world. We gather to hold each other up and to find new ways to act. We gather in the gift of God’s presence.
Together we find peace and courage. Together we find hope and purpose. Together we find grace.
September 20, 2017
I sit on the screen porch listening to the rain and the wind and the traffic. I watch the branches buffeted by the storm and I think about Puerto Rico and all of the other places battered by hurricanes, affected by fires and earthquakes. I hold them in prayer.
I sit on my screen porch looking at the church building and I think about the people whose lives are buffeted and battered by life, those I know and those I don’t. I hold them in prayer.
For these moments, I feel connected to everyone, I feel a part of this small and precious world. I hold us all in prayer.
I sit on my screen porch lit by candles, surrounded by peace, and offer my little part to hold us all together.
Calvary members may remember that in June 2010 Calvary Church gave a Lucas Fund grant of $25,000 to Mathewson UMC in Providence, Rhode Island. The funds were for upgrades and repairs to their kitchen to correct deficiencies identified by the fire department. If not corrected, the city was prepared to close the kitchen and bring an end to Mathewson’s vital and much needed meal program. With our grant they were able to get their kitchen up to the current building codes and continue the meal program. We don’t always see the results of our mission giving. The link to YouTube video is a witness to our ability to help those in need and especially to Mathewson UMC for their spirited outreach and much needed mission work.