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Saturday Morning, 10 AM

Justice and Peace meet at the cafe,

Sit together,

Hands folded around steaming cups,

Heads bent over the paper.

 

They are not taking in

The news of the world

With sorrowing eyes

And the clucking of tongues.

 

They are instead planning their

Itinerary,

Plotting their map,

Looking for the places where

They might slip in.

 

Their fingers touch, release,

Touch again as they read,

Moving with the half-aware habits

That come only with long living

Alongside.

 

They have met, parted,

Met again on countless mornings

Like this one, torn and taken

By turns.

 

They put the paper aside

They brush away the crumbs

They talk quietly

They know there is work to do.

 

But they order

one more cup:

there is savoring they must do

before the saving begins.
They lean in,

Barely touching across the table

For a kiss that makes a way,

A world

 

Rev. Jan Richardson

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Fearing God and Ferrets

Sitting on the banks of the Minnehaha Creek with my feet in the water, escaping the city within the city, a flash of movement along the opposite bank caught my eye. A ferret was running along the bank, not five yards from me, and then dove into the water.

A ferret? Dow we have wild ferrets in Minnesota? Had my eyes deceived me? It must’ve been a muskrat, to have gone underwater like that. But I knew what I had seen. Its long skinny body and arching back were unmistakable. How far could ferrets swim underwater?

Suddenly, I felt a surge of fear. What if it resurfaced by my feet and bit me? Aren’t ferrets feisty and mean? Do they carry diseases? Perhaps it was someone’s escaped pet turned wild and would want to crawl on me. I waited in fearful excitement, holding my breath to see what it would do. And then there it was, springing out of the water with a mouthful of mud and weeds. Running off down the bank it dropped its treasure and began patting it with its little hands, building a nest or den. A feeling of awe overtook me. I realized I know nothing about ferrets and I was overwhelmed by its “otherness” and intrigued by its mysterious life.

Maybe this is what the Scriptures mean when they say to “Fear God.” I’ve never liked that phrase. Why should I fear someone who loves me, who created all this beauty, who has my best interest at heart?

Growing up in a shame-based family system and religion gave me my fair share of fear. I was afraid of my father, my pastor, and at some deep level that I never admitted until much later, I was also afraid of God. God, who was distant and detached, judgemental and punishing. As a youth, fearing God meant always being on my best behavior because “he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.” The consequence for naughtiness was eternal damnation. Terrifying indeed! Over time, after healing this destructive image and understanding of God, I dropped the idea altogether because it triggered old wounds.

But sitting on the banks of the Minnehaha, watching this ferret run back and forth, I felt a Holy fear. It was excitement, awe, mystery, respect, love. So too, large animals evoke these feelings in us naturally. If you’ve ever stood next to a horse, you know what I mean. They put you in your humble place, your pulse may quicken, but it’s out of the ecstatic joy and privilege of touching the beautiful other. Elephants, whales, bears, hippos, moose; they all stir in us a wild excitement. We slow down and hold our breath when they are near. What will they do next? Much of our fear is that they will run away and leave us, giving only a fleeting glimpse into their world, leaving us alone with ourselves. And so it is with God.

Animals show us that fearing God is quite natural and healthy. It is a wonder, a joy, and an overwhelming gratitude to have witnessed such untamed beauty this close up, right here in our hearts.

************************************************

And in contrast to the idea of fear, a poem about pure Love, because as a Lutheran, I can’t help but embrace paradox:

Amidst the confusion

I search for You.

Amidst death and dying and fear

I cry out to you

Amidst surprising joys

I sing to you

Amidst desert places

I drink from you.

***

Amidst the confusion

You search for me

Amidst death and dying and fear

You cry out to me

Amidst surprising joys

You sing to me

Amidst desert places

You drink from me

How can my mind fathom Your love??

Instead, I’ll let my heart smile

Knowing it is Your heart

Instead I’ll let my soul dance

Knowing it already holds the answers

Instead, I’ll let my belly laugh

Knowing it is safe

To be me.

By Chelsea Forbrook, October 2015

 

In Celebration

 

As a gift to myself for my upcoming sixtieth birthday, I signed up for a writing retreat in northern Minnesota.  I have always loved to write; in fact, I’ve lived much of my life with pencil in hand.  I’ve written journal entries, letters, papers, prayers, poems, retreats, and eulogies.  Writing has long been my way of making sense of my life, but with little formal training, I thought this might be a wonderful time to learn more.

 

Though the writing portions of this retreat were mostly helpful and engaging, what I soon learned is that God wanted to use these four threshold days before my birthday to nourish me in mind, body, and spirit, to offer me time to remember what is important and to put my precious life in perspective.

 

My room, partly underground, was like a small, pine planter box that readily became my haven.  Its simplicity, with space enough for bed, desk, chair, and sink, graciously kept my focus on rest and the germinating seeds of my writing.  I spent many hours there feeling safe and held.

 

We began and ended each day in the chapel for twenty minutes of silent meditation.  One flame on a center table served as the orienting point for those who gathered.  Each morning I opened my spirit with a resounding “Yes” to whatever the day might hold, and each evening I invited my spirit to close the day with a resounding “Thank You” for what had been.

 

Mealtimes were sacred events.  We would begin with a prayer or blessing, sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, always thanking God for our sustenance.  The host for each meal would then give a detailed description of the meal that had been carefully prepared including the intention behind the menu and the source of the various foods.  Loving attention had been paid to every detail.

 

 

I took a long four-mile walk every day either on the road past the open fields or through the woods.  Using a wonderful healing prayer I learned from Father Matt Linn, for the first mile, I would take all that was heavy in my heart and lift it up to God; for the second mile, I would open myself to all the love and light God wanted to pour into my open hands; for the third mile, I would wrap myself from head to toe in the light and love I received; and for the fourth mile, from the abundance I had been given, I would ask God to show me for this day all the ways I could share this light and love with others in my life.

 

One day as I returned from my walk and came up the long driveway to the turnaround, I was greeted by a pile of stones or a cairn, created by one of the retreatants.  Of all the writing prompts thus far, this visual evoked the most interest in me.  As I sat there for much of the afternoon, I was first reminded of how cairns were used in Biblical times as a sign or memorial of what God had done.  I was then led to see the cairn before me in a similar way, as a marker of God’s handiwork in the six decades of my life.

IMG_3784

…………………….

 

Landmark

 

I can see now

how each stone

has been carefully

lovingly placed

decade upon decade

 

First wonder, stable and round,

the delight of discovery

 

Followed by angst, edgy and lopsided,

the uncertainty of belonging

 

 

Next focus, polished and sharp,

the vitality of contribution

 

Then connection, smooth and wide,

the power of love

 

And purpose, deep and textured,

the gift of life

 

Onto change, narrow and worn,

the impact of transition

 

I pause here

to remember, to give thanks

for the years of light and shadow

that have brought me here

all necessary in their own way

to the overall creation

 

Whatever the story and shape

of this next stone

I claim my intention

to savor what has been

to celebrate what is

to embrace what will be

and to trust, to trust

this foundation upon which

I am being formed

 

 

…………………….

 

For place, for prayer, for provision, for people, for perspective,

I give thanks.  Amen.

IMG_3784

 

Reflection Questions

 

~What elements of your life does God want you to notice, to appreciate?

 

~How would you describe each of the decades of your life thus far?

 

~What about your life are you being invited to see from God’s perspective?

 

 

c Tracy Mooty, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

 

This poem  arrived a while back when I was spending time with Mary and Martha’s story about receiving Jesus as their guest.  I needed the reminder today.  I also found it in Isaiah 55: “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”  Come.  Listen.  Live.
 

Sit.
Listen.
There is a time for busy
and doing.
But now is not that time.
 
Sit.
Listen.
Can you hear what
God has to say?
Can you hear
your heart’s reply?
 
Sit.
Listen.
Learn to recognize
the voice
that whispers
the way forward.
 
Sit.
Listen.
Know the love
that guards your soul.
The deep love holding you.
 
When it is time,
get up.
Attend to the tasks
that come with living.
 
But keep listening.
Carry that whisper,
carry that love
within you
until you can sit again.
© J.L. Sanborn, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.
 
 
Hi.  I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures.  I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy.  I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter.  I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at jlsanborn.wordpress.com. 
 

 

A Baptist Discovers Lent

Growing up as a girl born Baptist, Easter was something that we celebrated with triumphant music, Easter-egg hunts, and ham. We were excited for Easter, but Easter always caught me by surprise. Maybe it snuck up on me because I never knew what day it would be falling on. I didn’t know how to look for it, except for in that brief space between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Even then, I didn’t know what to do with that space.

 

I have a feeling though, that what I have been missing out on all of these years is the invitation to participate. I don’t know that I ever participated in Easter beyond waving palm branches on Palm Sunday.   We Baptists celebrated resurrection–specifically Jesus’ earthly resurrection and our future heavenly resurrection. Celebrations are good. But we were mostly celebrating something that happened a long time ago or would happen someplace other than here.

 

I don’t remember being invited to participate in this death and resurrection here and now.

 

Is that what the season of Lent is about? An invitation to participate in death and resurrection? (This is an honest not rhetorical question. This Baptist girl is still learning about rhythms and the depth of ritual.) Isn’t that what Jesus invites us to every day?

 

To die. To Live. To let go. To wake up. To participate in the Here-and-Now Life of the Kingdom of God.

 

To empty ourselves of ourselves

so we have space to receive the

Life God longs to fill us with.

 

Death and resurrection happen. Ashes and beauty. New life. These are happening. And we are invited to participate.

 

Sometimes the things that need to die are part of what we do. A few years ago, I was an attorney with three small children and huge questions about faith and vocation. Both of my roles consumed a lot of mental and emotional energy. There was little space for anything else. I knew that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but I was afraid of letting my career go. I think God had to pry open my grasping fingers until I knew I could no longer hold onto my attorney role. It died. For now.

 

Space opened up. Space in my heart. Space to quiet my mind. Space to listen. New life emerged from my soul. Words started working their way into my heart and mind and out onto paper. I started to see and hear poetry. This had never happened to me before. Or if it had, I was too distracted to notice it.

 

Maybe it’s foolish to trade a lawyer job for poetry and words, but I don’t want to trade back. Once I felt deadish inside. I felt like I was playing an ill-fitting role. Now I feel Real. Alive. Connected to the Source of Life. Ashes and beauty are happening in me.

 

“New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.” –Richard Rohr, Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent.

 

This Lenten season, I am asking what else needs to go? What needs to die to make space for New Life? What is taking up unnecessary room, preventing my heart from opening fully? Some of these things are buried so deep, I can’t just drop them. But I can name them, release my grip, and trust that the Creator and Sustainer of Life will do the rest: prying these old, false things loose to make space for the new life he calls forth.

 

The resulting emptiness is sacred.

 

Maybe that is why Jesus called it “blessed.”

 

* * *

Sacred Empty

 

With empty hands
and an empty heart
I lay myself at your feet,
an exhausted, empty heap.
Empty of words.
Empty of plans.
Empty of Amazing
or Courage or
Daring Doing.
And instead of
“You should”s
And instead of
“Why aren’t you”s
You place your hand
gently on my head
and whisper
Deep into my heart:
“Blessed.”
Blessed in my sacred empty,
I rest.

 

 

 

© J.L. Sanborn, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

Hi. I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures. I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy. I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter. I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at jlsanborn.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

My Two Versions of a Beatitude

Janet O. Hagberg

Beatitude Poem: French Pantoum form

Stanza 1:

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

 

Stanza 2:

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

For your life will be transformed

 

Stanza 3:

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

c Janet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

My Original Beatitude

Blessed are you who created me along with every leaf and bird and animal and snowflake; and now watch over us all

Blessed are you who know me inside and out and shower me with your love

Blessed are you who weep when I weep and laugh when I laugh

Blessed are you who make plans for my growth in ways too deep for words

Blessed are you who pick me up when I fall and hold me until the fear transforms me

Blessed are you who choose to use all of my weaknesses and imperfections to display your glory and power

Blessed are you who bring forth joy and gladness out of my pain when I attend to it with courage

Blessed are you who make your home in me

Blessed are you

c Janet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

Reflections on these beatitudes

Which lines resonate most with you?

How does God most bless your life?

How do you bless God’s life in you?

What is your gratitude beatitude?

 

Reflections on this poem

How do you show trust in God?
How does God show his miracles to you?
Do you still have a trust or doubt issue?

How can you let in God’s love, and be in God’s arms?

Today I share with you a refreshing prayer that I just received from Alice Loddigs in her little book of prayers called Insaneprayers. She has a blog, insaneprayers.blogspot.com Thanks Alice for this helpful prayer.

 

hello God. it’s me. alice

remember me?

of course you do

 

you must be wondering the same thing

as i’ve been pretty quiet for some time

but i do remember you too

 

i’m hearing that you like to hear from me

i’m thinking you like boldness in your friends

i’m really trying to learn to be more vocal

 

i’m seeing you at work in my life

and in my head

and in my heart

and frankly it scares me  just a bit

 

do i have any audacious temerity?

 

i believe in you

why is it SO hard

to believe that YOU

have faith in ME?

 

i believe

dear God, help my unbelief

 

Reflections on this prayer

What is the bold prayer you would like to pray to God?

What holds you back?

What do you think about God’s faith in you?

What scares you about God at work in your life?

God’s Furnace

Your command erupts from the fire

like molten steel surging from a foundry furnace:

 

“Step into the flames.

I will set your heart on fire.”

 

As I take the first step, the inferno begins

to dissolve the armor around my heart

 

like lead transforming into gold

in the alchemist’s furnace.

 

A poem from David Weiss’s new book, A Heart on Fire: Poems from the Flames

Reflections on this poem:

What is God asking of you?

Are you taking the first step?

What’s happening as you do, or don’t?

 

Fire

what makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

 

So building fires

require attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

 

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to piles on logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and the absence of the fuel

together, that makes fire possible.

 

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire

grows

simply because the space it there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

 

Judy Brown, on the Inward/Outward blog of Church

of the Savior, Washington DC

 

Reflections on this poem:

Do you have space between things in your life?
How are you packed too tight?

How do you allow for things to grow themselves?

How do you allow for God in building your inner fire?

Psalm 21 (excerpts)

Forever I will put my trust in You;

and as I abandon myself to you in love,

I am assured of peace.

You root out my fears; standing

firm beside me as I face

the shadows within.

Like a blazing sun your light shines.

My fears flee from your sight;

your fire consumes them.

Generations to come will sing

to your glory

In gratitude and joy for your

saving power.

For You put fears to flight,

that love and justice might reign.

All praise be yours, O Wondrous One!

Forever will I sing and  honor

your saving grace.

Translation by Nan Merrill

Reflections on this Psalm:

How have you abandoned yourself to God?

What shadows has God helped you to face?

How has God consumed your fears?

What are you most grateful for?

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