Monthly Reflection

Through the summer months, we are pleased to highlight the work of Bethany Poets, led by Bethany Colleague Kimberly Green.  Poet Dale Lombardi wrote this deeply felt poem after after watching Nostalgia for the Light, a documentary about Chile’s high Atacama Desert, those who come to study its land and sky, and those who come to search for remains of loved ones who “disappeared” under Pinochet’s dictatorship.

The Atacama Desert
(on earth as it is in the heavens)

Here in this place – the only on our planet –
nothing is lost, everything remains.
Here, the air has never known

the weight of clouds, so night stars
shine on and on,  unobscured.
And beneath those boundless glowing ghosts,

bones lie blanched of breath and blood
in their sandscape of secrets.  Skies hold stones
and sands hold bones –  graveyards, both –

nothing lost of white-hot centers.
And so, as if drawn by gravitational force,
ignited by desire for the clear,  for their dear,

they come….astronomers with their scopes
to study the sky and families with their shovels
and picks and weatherworn hands

to dig and sift,  sift and dig
through unsayable horrors and long-buried hopes
for some trace of loved ones lost:

for the sparest of bones,  the barest of bones,
for everything/anything that remains.
They crawl, they claw, they pan for their gold

as bone-dry glitters of time and tears run
through their fingers.  They spend their days
squatting close to the ground,  sifting fistfuls

of sand while the transparent sun
beats them brown, beats them down
to nothing more than breath and bone

and desert desire – dried husks of longing
that dig and sift ’til fall of night
when wind starts to whirl, joining

blankets of stars with blankets of bones,
swirling star dust and our dust
into one dazzling cemetery of light

as sand becomes sky becomes
stars become souls – galaxies ablaze
with dear ones, clear ones,

ones not forgotten.  And so enswirled
in The Great Embrace, they gather
their tools and turn homeward –

eyes burning,  cheeks stinging
with scattered bits of stolen light –
tiny bits of mothers, fathers, uncles,

fallen from the sky.

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Dear Friends–
On Sunday, June 4 at 3:00 p.m. in the Chapel of St. Anne, Bethany Poets who have been meeting and writing all year, will come together to offer a feast of fresh insights with images, silence and words.  Please join us! As we ready for summer, we offer you this poem by Georgia Gojmerac-Leiner, one of the Bethany Poets, with gratitude to her, to Kimberly Green who has nurtured this gifted offering all year, and to all the poets.

The River Kupa

As children we reveled on the shore
of Kupa, sliding off water-worn stones,
we, self-taught swimmers,
swimming as we could, from rock to rock,
daring each other to dunk.
The clean, transparent river
teemed with fish and eels in the water grass,
and always seemed benign.

But as an adult,
when I traveled with my father’s remains
back to Pravutina on the Kupa—
he would be buried on the hillside cemetery
overlooking the river—
I realized that it was our watchers,
mothers and fathers,
who let us go swimming only
when the river level was just right
and the sun had warmed the water.

When that winter I arrived at the river’s edge
the swollen Kupa threatened and scolded me
for coming so close to danger.
But in grief I felt indifferent to danger—
death has taken my grandmother, my child,
the pair of my parents
and so many other loved ones—
I feared no harder losses.

River, you with your deep, dark waters
and your heavy, hurried flow, and me
with my losses and grief, now shocked
into recognition that you could be forbidding,
we had to part our ways.
But I would return when my grief had lightened,
and you became shallow
enough for me to walk
across to the other side
on your glinting waters.
— Georgia Gojmerac-Leiner

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We are pleased to share this Easter reflection by Bethany Colleague The Rev. Alden Flanders.

I went to seminary at a time when most of us were young, right out of college or graduate school.  Whether it was the moment in history or the callow naivete of our youth I’m not sure, but we spent a lot of time agonizing over our difficulties in believing in the resurrection.  I remember a bunch of us sitting around the living room of one professor pouring out our doubts.  “Come on now, Professor, be honest, do you really think the resurrection actually happened?” He looked at us in exasperation and then grinned and said, “About 51 percent of the time.”  We were not satisfied, we didn’t understand that he was trying to get us out of the trap of literalism and to consider the deeper mystery of Easter.  This is what makes Easter a challenge, the fact that we have no way to wrap our minds around what happens when eternity breaks into our everyday lives.  Are we afraid to give ourselves to the truth that the life of God has conquered death?  Do we need to protect ourselves from the breaking in of God by arguing literalism?  On Easter we live in the center of the paradox, where eternity and our daily lives cross and where daily life is transformed.

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Entering Lent

William Bridges, a writer on Transitions, encountered the reality of his work in a deeper way as he lived through the death of his wife to whom he had been married for 37 years. In his book, The Way of Transition: Embracing life’s most difficult moments, he finds he enters again a landscape he has described often: of letting go, a neutral zone of being neither the old life or the new life, slowly an emerging new identity, new way of living.

He draws upon the words of the ferry boatman to Siddhartha when they meet at the river’s edge, the ferry boatman tells the hero:

“I have taken thousands of people across the river, and to all of them my river has been nothing but a hindrance on their journey.  They have traveled for money and business, to weddings, on pilgrimages; the river had been in their way and the ferry man was there to take them quickly across the obstacle.  However, among the thousands there have been a few, four or five, to whom the river was not an obstacle. They had heard its voice and listened to it, and the river has become holy to them, as it has to me.”

As we enter Lent this year, what of your life, your journey now, might become holy this Lent?  What will the river or desert, the daily silences and words of your life now speak to you?  Will you trust in the mercy of God to lead you into new life with Christ, this new life emerging slowly every day?

Thomas Merton writes:

May we all grow in grace and peace,

and not neglect the silence

that  is printed  in the center of our being.

It will not fail us.

It is more than silence.

Jesus spoke of the spring of living water, you remember.

Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, ed. Kathleen Deignan

creek in AZ_____________________________________________________________

 

We wish you a blessed Christmas as we celebrate Christ’s birth, God with us, entering fully into our human lives, our joys, sorrows, suffering and hope.

In the days leading up to Christmas, an article appeared in the Boston Globe (Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016), telling of families making their way to another place:

“By nightfall, 25 buses carrying hundreds of people had driven in a rare snow storm from eastern Aleppo to opposition-held areas in the countryside neat the city…The evacuees got off the buses wearing thick jackets and carrying sacks with belongings.  One woman dressed in a black robe and face veil carried a small child swaddled in a heavy yellow blanket.  A man held a toddler whose face was peeking out from under a blanket shielding him from falling snow.”  (The Boston Globe, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, Amid snow and misery, final evacuation of Aleppo begins, by Philip Issa and Karin Laub)

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned glorifying God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. –Luke 2:15-25

The theologian Dorothee Soelle writes:

“The frightened shepherds become God’s messengers.  They organize, make haste, find others and speak with them.  Do we not all want to become shepherds and catch sight of the angel?  …Without the perspective of the poor, we see nothing, not even an angel.  When we approach the poor, our values and goals change.  The child appears in many other children.  Mary also seeks sanctuary among us.  Because the angels sing, the shepherds rise, leave their fears behind, and set out for Bethlehem, wherever it is situated these days.”
(Dorothee Soelle, The Christmas Gospel, in a collection, Watch for the Light, Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing House)

Wherever Bethlehem is situated, let us make haste…let us too be changed by God’s deep love for us and for the whole world.

Chapel

 

 

 

 

 

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We are pleased to share Bethany Colleague and Poet Kimberly Cloutier Green’s reflections this Advent.

I woke up the Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend surprised by the awareness that this was the first Sunday of Advent – the experience of that recognition akin to making a sudden drop, as in a plane or roller coaster, felt in the stomach as a brief weightlessness… the large body and its bones falling, the viscera rising…

Disturbing first image, that. But it’s what I felt — a physical division at time’s lurch forward, or perhaps that’s the first thought I had, of division, a different thing from feeling.

When I sat with the experience for a bit, I sensed the strong pull in one part of myself to remain in the long, glorious fall we’ve had here in Maine — the warm, slow reveal of color, the tunnels of red that I have walked or driven through astonished (and the pull to remain, too, in a political era that has felt, until November, hopeful of changes that have been, in their first stages, remarkable to see). But that pull must be denied; there is no not-forward. Advent is here, now. The stories begin again.

Since that Sunday, I have stepped more fully into the story arc as into a river, feeling the directional flow: the birth and its revelations, the education, baptism, ministry, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. A re-acquaintance with the elements, like re-reading a familiar and beloved novel, each time noticing something new, something essential overlooked in previous readings. It’s true about any good story, I suppose, that it opens again and again, more deeply each time. Or perhaps it is we readers who open more deeply over time to every good story’s mystery and power.

Since that morning, I have been re-reading Joseph Brodsky’s Nativity Poems. I love them — their hardness, their unblinking, unsentimental gaze. Here are the opening lines of the one I admire most:

“Imagine striking a match that night in the cave:
use the cracks in the floor to feel the cold.
Use crockery in order to feel the hunger.
And to feel the desert – but the desert is everywhere…”

And I’ve been struck, reading this time, by the perhaps Jungian idea that each of us has within her soul (as I see it, the cave in Brodsky’s poem) all of the characters that appear in the nativity story: the newborn (aspect of what is coming to birth in us, whatever is green and full of vital, revolutionary potential), the mother (nurturer, witness), the father (wayfinder, guardian), the animals (sensation, intuition)… even the kings and wise men gathering outside (meaning-makers, story-tellers). The shepherds (sky-readers, puzzlers, innocents), and the star (William Stafford’s “thread,” the compass, divining rod). All these live — perhaps must! — in and through us, each of us embodying the story, each of us necessary to its continuing revelation.

Along another path of rumination on the power of images: I have been thinking about the Advent calendars of my childhood and youth, the complex experience I had of them. I recall being drawn by their saturated primary colors, mostly the deep blue, the silver glitter, that facing picture of night… and of course being drawn, too, to the doors, one for each day, tiny image set in a near transparency, the little light that shone through each patch…

I also remember being aware of (even puzzling over) the flimsiness of the cardboard and tissue paper, the dissatisfaction I felt at the ink images –wheel, top, doll, tree, candle –inside the doors. How insufficient it all was. Interesting that, even so, I felt the pleasure of anticipation each time there was a new door to open, the act of opening signifying both the possibility of revelation and the passage of time, one day closer to Christmas, the calendar and its doors a structure and process for negotiating a nearly unbearable wait/weight.

There’s so much here of course… how some of the tiny paper doors would tear a bit, how we siblings would fight over who got to open the door (or who among us would sneak a peak ahead of time), how my longing for an image, any one of them —  please, please — would in the second before opening the door gather into a fierce intelligence that was, inevitably, betrayed.

And here on this very morning there is a cold and opaque sky, pools of white snow gathered around the base of each tree, and chickadees feeding at the feeder. My neighbor just now drives past and waves. All of this is framed by the kitchen window, a kind of Advent door, glimpse of the unfolding day. We think we know what we see. But this is only a tiny piece of the tumult and treasure of the larger Story, beginning again, unfolding everywhere, in and through us, each of us crucial, each of us necessary.

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September 1 through October 4, Christian communities around the world will witness to the urgency of our care for creation.

With gratitude to the Season of Creation website, resources for your participation are offered as well as the following description– http://seasonofcreation.org/

September 1 was proclaimed as a day of prayer for creation (World Day of Prayer for Creation, or Creation Day) by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I for the Orthodox in 1989, and was embraced by the other major Christian European churches in 2001 and by Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church in 2015.

And it has happened that in recent years many Christian churches have started celebrating the “Season of Creation” (also known as Creation Time) between Sept. 1 and October 4, which is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (author of the Canticle of the Creatures in the 13th century) that some Western traditions observe. 

At Bethany House of Prayer, we invite you to join with us in praying for the gift of creation, for wisdom to guide our choices in our daily living and planning, our advocacy and actions, the work of healing and justice for the earth and all its fullness.   Join us on the evening of October 4, St. Francis Day for a Contemplative Evening Gathering in our Care for Creation. 

A Call to Prayer
— U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program 

We who have lost our sense and our senses – our touch, our smell, our vision of who we are; we who frantically force and press all things, without rest for body or spirit, hurting our earth and injuring ourselves: we call a halt.
We want to rest. We need to rest and allow the earth to rest. We need to reflect and to rediscover the mystery that lives in us, that is the ground of every unique expression of life, the source of the fascination that calls all things to communion.
We declare a Sabbath, a space of quiet: for simple being and letting be; for recovering the great, forgotten truths; for learning how to live again.

U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program (Earth Prayers, ed. By E.Roberts & Elias Amidon)

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As we continue to grieve, pray, and act for a more peaceful, whole and just world in the aftermath of the massacre at Pulse in Orlando and in the aftermath of ongoing violence in our streets and world.  We share these few words of prayer and hope:

In a time of destruction, create something.
A poem.
A parade.
A community.
A school.
A vow.
A moral principle.
One peaceful moment.

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Fifth Book of Peace, 2003

Mercy

Your heart beats in my heart.
Your breath flows through me.

I breathe in the sorrow of the world.
I breathe out mercy.

I breathe in the fear of the world.
I breathe out mercy.

I breathe in the pain of the world.
I breathe out mercy.

I breathe in the rage of the world.
I breathe out mercy.

I enter the Great Wound,
and I breathe mercy.

You breathe mercy in me,
breathe deep mercy in all of us.

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Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light, www.unfoldinglight.net (adapted for responsive reading)

Also, we encourage you to read this letter from the The Rt. Rev. Alan Gates of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts:

http://www.diomass.org/diocesan-news/hard-work-be-done-letter-bishop-gates-following-orlando-shootings

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Dear Friends–On Sunday, June 5 at 3:00 p.m. in the Chapel of St. Anne, Bethany Poets who have been meeting and writing all year, will come together to offer a feast of fresh insights with images, silence and words.  Join us then and following for a reception and art exhibit with works by photographer, Gregory Wostrel and quilter and fabric artist, Georgia Wostrel.

If for some reason you miss the reading, we have chapbooks of the Bethany Poets work, email us or visit if interested.  As we ready for summer, we offer you this poem by Dale Lombardi, one of the Bethany Poets–with gratitude to her, to Kimberly Green who has nurtured this gifted offering all year and to all the poets.

Night Bouquet

Some long summer evening
as the sky begins
to melt lavender,
stay outside
awhile –

Unclench your heart
Unmask your face
Let fall your eyes
from the blind of day,
and stay …

Drift on the dusk
’til your breath moves
free and true again,
and the warp of night
enrobes you from within.

Let the soft scent
of purple guide you,
pathless,
to that porous place —
those lush, wetted shores

where regret grows wild.
Go —
Gather up
your lonely and scared,
full in flower. Gather

your blossoming rasp
and rage, your still-fragrant
blames and complains.
Part the long blades of guilt
to find even the tiniest

pinches of sulk and moan,
hiss and sneer.
Pluck them up.
And though your eyes
are misty now, search

for sprigs of self-pity.
Collect them, too.
Leave nothing ungathered –
the twisted and the gnarly,
the moss, sedge and thorns,

knobby roots, clumps
and shoots – all.
Keep on gathering
’til your arms are laden
with that bountiful bouquet,

too large for any vase,
but the perfect gift
for yourself,
once you twine it together
with forgiveness – yes –

and new hope.
Feel your heart beat
clear, then come
to the peace
of deep purple
turned inside out

as you carry
your moonlit bounty
homeward,
vines trailing
through the velvet air

–Dale Lombardi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTER

Alleluia, Christ is Risen

Wishing you a blessed Easter

 

May the silence, and the mystery

and the power of new life

go before you, to show you the way,

shine above you to lighten our world,

lie beneath you to bear you up,

walk with you and give you companionship,

and glow within you to bring you joy. Amen

 

adapted from the Iona Abbey Worship Book

 

 

ASH WEDNESDAY and entering Lent

Experiences that at first seem small and ordinary in our daily lives, can hold within them opportunities for deeper connection, transformation, and awakening to relationships anew.

Kathleen Hirsch asks in the following piece: “Doesn’t even the smallest kindness effect a resurrection of the spirit?”

We are grateful to our colleague, Kathleen Hirsch and to CRUX online journal for letting us share this piece with you for Ash Wednesday.  We invite you into the observance of a good and Holy Lent.

Bending our days to the building of good fires

By Kathleen Hirsch
February 9, 2016

He was out there before I was on a frigid January morning, loading firewood from his barn to the back of his truck. I trotted over, guilty of having overslept. It was 7:30 and the agreed-upon-time had been an hour ago. He is a country man, a father and a teacher, and he was doing me a favor. I’d equipped a barn with a wood-burning stove, but had no clue how to make it work. He sold wood on the side, extra income for his family — beautiful cords that he split himself, and he’d offered to take part of his precious Sunday morning to stock me up.

I followed his instructions: found a plastic sled, waited for his truck to pull up with the wood. Together we slid and carried it down the frozen hill, stacked it in a spot he thought best, then went out to look at the brilliant winter sky. An hour had passed.

“What do I owe you,” I asked when we were done.

“Don’t worry about it,” he answered. “See how much you burn in the next few days and we can take it from there.”

After four tries, I got a fire going. Between stints at my work, I‘d sidle over like a new mother and peer in. Did it need another piece of wood? Should I open the vents wider, or close them down? I learned a lot about stove fires that first day. I learned that once a fire is concentrated, its capacity to create heat boosts exponentially. It took an hour to climb from 39 degrees into the mid-40s. But once there, the thermostat hurtled to 60 in under half an hour.

My grasp of physics is poor, but my experience of life is not. A small blaze, well-laid, whether in time or relationships, will come to warm many times larger a space than we imagine. By the time the sun fell below the trees and it was time to head back to the house, I found it hard to believe that all that heat would sink back to nothing, or that come morning, I would arrive to just a pile of ash.

My neighbor gave two hours of a Sunday to provide me with wood, and the wood in turn gave its capacities to warm my barn. Sacrifice in the service of transformation. In the process of this exchange, my neighbor also set down a small and gracious warmth between us, two people who didn’t, until that encounter, know much about one another. As we loaded and carried wood, I learned that he taught in a country school where more than 75 percent of the kids are on government-supported meals, and where the boys own, at best, two shirts to their names. They rotate these through the course of every school week, year in and year out, until they fall apart. I learned that he rummages through his own closet to find anything he might pass along. Behind the woodpile and the pickup truck, I discovered a man of generosity, authenticity, and inner strength.

The next morning, the stove indeed presented me with a cold pile of ash.

I returned to my city home and the start of Lent with new eyes. It is a true and good exercise on Ash Wednesday to remember our radical contingency. But with the inauguration of my wood stove, I approach this Lent seeing more clearly the way in which grace is released every time we willingly die a little, the way my neighbor did — to his Sunday morning coffee in his robe and slippers by his own fire, before everyone was off to ski lessons and church services. There is an inexorable equation to love and justice: Until we give to strangers, until we die enough to ourselves to give to strangers, we are unformed, mere children of the spiritual life.

But there was something more in his kindness. In it I read what I felt was an important key — our “renderings” are blessed when they are the gift not of duty or convention, but of our authentic selves. Coercion and gender roles too often blight the concept of sacrifice. In this, organized religion has sometimes harmed as much as it has honored. The demands we make on others by virtue of guilt, or our ability to dominate or oppress, have no place in the equation of sacrificial love. That kind of giving, often in kindness and quietly, does just the opposite of diminish us. Through it, we give off the heat and light of who we are called to be. In this kind of dying, we become.

Somewhere out in the cold expanses of my northern winter, loons and herons are battened down waiting out the cold. Behind the bright blue canopy, the stars are racing toward their own version of ash. Nothing we are watching, rejoicing, or agonizing over — whole villages without food or water for going on a year because of warring bands of angry men; helpless children brought into the world and subjected to disintegrating parents, cold cereal for supper if they are lucky, beatings, starvation, and rape before social service agencies bat an eye, politicians shading the truth or bellowing obscenely polarizing rhetoric — none of this will remain. Even the temple, we are taught, will be destroyed.

But what of goodness itself? Does goodness leave a residue, a kind of body double, to the conditions that it has left gladdened, blessed, and warmed a bit by its light? Doesn’t even the smallest kindness effect a resurrection of the spirit? When I peered into the stove at the morning’s mound of ash, I saw the shadow forms of the logs that had burned there. I was, and am, still warmed by the gift of my neighbor. Without him, none of it would have happened. In the same way, I am warmed by those who have touched my life with love, each in their singular magnificence. Just like the Apostles saw Jesus — everywhere, it seemed — for a time.

http://www.cruxnow.com/faith/2016/02/09/bending-our-days-to-the-building-of-good-fires/

 

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Blessings to you this Christmas and this Epiphany , may the light that has come into the world, transform our lives and world, to reveal Christ’s peace and joy in all of creation.

In the midst
of the shouting
and squalor
an exquisite lotus
silently unfolds
petal by
intricate petal.
Attend to it.
This remarkable world
is on fire.

–Bonnie Thurston, Practicing Silence, New and Selected Verses

God of good news,
today you begin again to reshape our lives and communities.
You do not start from the outside, but from within.
You begin in the hidden place.
Behind the inn. Before the marriage. At the wrong time.
You invite a handful of guests into your company.
Shepherds. Local children perhaps. Maybe some animals.
You join the community of the invisible ones.
The homeless and hopeless. Refugees, fleeing a tyrant king.
Later, you find fisherfolk. And a tax collector. More children.
The small. The unimportant. The forgotten. The frightened.
These are the people you choose,
as little by little you start sharing
the secrets of a kingdom that will change the whole world.
From within. From the hidden place.

God of good news:
as we celebrate worldwide the tidings of your birth,
as we set the heavens echoing with angel songs,
as we contemplate a new year and pray for peace on earth. . .
remind us of the hidden places, of the forgotten people,
of the starting-points and the time it takes,
of the pace of the slowest and the dreams of the children
and the human scale and the soul of our towns
and the freedom to create secret dens.
Remind us that the great joy promised to the whole people
starts with those who need it most, in places where they hide.
Remind us, with all our seasonal cheer and tinsel,
that some people are left out in the cold;
that it is there, with them, that you are being born into the world again;
that it is there, through them, that you will change the world.

God of good news,
help us to find you again
in the hidden place.
Amen.

From Advent Readings from Iona, Brian Woodcock and Jan Sutch Pickard (Wild Goose Publications, 2000).

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We celebrate All Saints Day–acknowledging, giving thanks for generous lives of courage and compassion who inspire us and keep us keeping on.

For all the saints
who went before us
who have spoken to our hearts
and touched us with your fire.
we praise you, O God.

For all the saints
who live beside us
whose weaknesses and strengths
are woven with our own,
we praise you, O God.

For all the saints
who live beyond us
who challenge us
to change the world with them,
we praise you, O God.

–Janet Morley, England
Bread of Tomorrow, Prayers for the Church Year, ed. Janet Morley

 

 

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We pray for the people of Nepal, the surrounding areas affected by the earthquake, relief workers, families there and here as they await news, mourn, and care for all. As we live and pray our interconnected lives, we offer you these resources for more information and if you wish to offer donations in the relief efforts underway.

From Episcopal Relief and Development A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on the morning of April 25, causing severe damage and loss of life across the small nation. We will help meet urgent needs such as food, clean water and shelter, as well as support for assessment and search and rescue teams in the initial phase of the disaster, through the ACT Alliance in Nepal and with our own partners in surrounding areas including northern India and southwest China. Following the initial relief phase, this fund will continue to support longer-term recovery efforts with local partners. To donate to Episcopal Relief and Development: https://www.episcopalrelief.org/NepalRelief

From Gravity, A Center for Contemplative Activism, another on the ground resource for responding to this crisis is a partner organization they commend: https://donate.charitywater.org/donate/nepal PRAYER For Prayers after a Natural Disaster, Lifting Women’s Voices: Prayers to Change the World (Morehouse 2009), Prayer by Wende Wheeler Almighty and merciful God, your people are suffering in the wake of this natural disaster. As we struggle to imagine its scope and comprehend the pain and loss, so that we may be your agents in relief we lift our voices to you in prayer: For all those who have lost their lives, that you have received them into your arms of mercy and love For all those who grieve, having lost children, parent, family, friends, neighbors, and community, and for all those who are still searching, that they may sense the solace of your presence; For all those who are sick, injured or suffering, and for those have lost their homes and belongings, that they may find healing and the strength to continue, and the: resources rebuild their lives; For all those who go to provide food, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and other aid, serving as your hands to comfort, heal and help, that they may be strengthened to do difficult work in devastating conditions; For all those around the globe who look on in shock and anguish, that you may fill our hearts with compassion for those in need, showing us how you wish us to pray and reach out in the face of such suffering, and not turn from its enormity; For all of your people, that such events on this earth should not shake our faith. Help us to recognize that our suffering is your suffering, and that your love can be found even in the darkest places. Allow us to see how all of humanity is bound inextricably together, even as we seek your truth in different languages, faiths, cultures, and traditions. Help us to accept the healing and strength you offer, and to remember that ultimately the pain and cares of this world will yield to the peace of everlasting life in you. We offer these prayers in the name of our Loving God. Amen — From Lifting Women’s Voices: Prayers to Change the World (Morehouse 2009), Prayers by Wende Wheeler

The_Resurrection

We remember that he shows us his hands and his side. We remember that he knows the places we are and is with us. And that love is stronger than death.

            The Resurrection by Janet McKenzie www.janetmckenzie.com

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In these weeks of Easter, we journey into stories and moments of astonishment and experiences that call for a different kind of recognition of the Risen Christ.  We are grateful to The Rev. Nancy Gossling, for her presence and companionship with us at Bethany and for sharing her own journey toward Easter and a time of amazement.

Easter Fool at Folly Beach

I had a different kind of Lent this year. Truth be told, I didn’t do squat, or so it seemed to me. I didn’t give up anything. I didn’t take on anything. I did not give up my self-condemnation, nor guilt, nor doubts. Give up FaceBook? Are you kidding me? That’s community! Give up sweets, or salts, or meat, or spirits? That’s real life to be enjoyed! All I could do was show up at SSJE and Bethany House for prayer; and the cold harsh winter in Boston was enough Lenten discipline for me.

In the recovery world of spirituality, there is an acronym HALT, which means to say that when you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired, it’s time to HALT. It’s time to reconnect with God and/or your Higher Power for help. During this particular Lent, I was hungry; and so Jesus fed me with bread and wine, with chocolate and chips, and with meat and potatoes. I was angry and God acknowledged the injustice and pain, and wiped away my tears. I was lonely, and so my FaceBook friends, SSJE, and Bethany House gave me companionship. Finally, I was tired: tired of too many words and the same old actions or inactions.

My husband Paul suggested we go to the beach in South Carolina for Holy Week and Easter. At first I was horrified by that thought, and yet I agreed to go. What else was I to do? I had an undisciplined and unholy Lent; and now I would miss the footwashing of Maundy Thursday, the crucifixion of Good Friday, and Easter. Game on!

In South Carolina, it all felt odd to me. I felt like a heathen. I washed my feet in the salt waters of the Atlantic; I sacrificed nothing on Good Friday except some time reading Joan Chittister’s “Way of the Cross.” Drinking coffee from a mug that reads “Expect a Miracle”, I gazed down from the window of my hotel room upon an ecumenical Easter morning service on the beach. I wasn’t feeling the joy; and I wasn’t seeing the Resurrection. And then Easter happened.

The Risen Christ was with me in South Carolina. I can’t explain it; I just know it. Christ was risen. As surely as the sun came up over the ocean, as surely as the waters ebbed and flowed with the moon, I knew Christ had risen.

Later in the day, on that Easter morning, Christ was with me at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston. He was with me in my kayak on Easter Monday. In an estuary in Folly Beach, I witnessed a pod of dolphins unexpectedly breaking the surface of the water. A pod, no less! A holy trinity of three, leaping in a dance of love, witnessing to the joy of recreation! Christ was with me on the beach. Finally, at our last supper in Folly Beach, Christ was with me in the crab cakes, crab legs, and fried green tomatoes!

I have no illusions of castles in the sand, pink clouds in the sky, or feelings of joy that will never disappear. I just know that today, one step at a time, one day at a time, I will never walk alone on the Way to wherever. I know that Grace happens, unexpectedly, wherever you are, and whatever you do. And today, I also feel the joy.

–The Rev. Nancy Gossling

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The unfolding journey of Lent: Long past the midpoint of Lent, we hear the invitation to develop, unfold and become again, or perhaps for the first time, who we are meant to be. In this moment, the invitation is fermenting in the very soil, and behind melting grey snowbanks the shoots of a crocus poke up in the shelter of a wall. There is such wild hope in this growth: a rooting into the soil of this Lent, a being born into something different, better, more whole. But of course all this comes not without anguish and difficulty, as all “borning” must be. We die to what has become stale, leached out and no longer nurturing and allow ourselves to open to a deeper understanding of what seems so familiar. May we be nourished again by the deep mysteries of the coming days.

–Flora Pirquet

With gratitude to Flora Pirquet for her insights and companionship as we continue our journey in Lent. Read below for her earlier offering.

Early Lent: Here we are again in March, which can often mean a morass of slush and eventually mud and new grass, but which this year has meant snow unending, covering all in crusty layers upon layers. How can we let this outer monochrome, this seemingly frozen wasteland inspire us to dig deeply into the sleeping earth that lies beneath? What are the hidden places in us that have become frozen, encrusted, hidden or neglected? Can we begin to dig a little and expose them to light and air? Can we hear the Lenten invitation to clearing and cleaning the sources of hope and growth, but also to let lie fallow those areas that are not ours to tackle; those parts of ourselves that wait for warmth and grace that will come when it comes, in its own time; in God’s time.

–Flora Pirquet There is wisdom in us to speak and open a path for others, and so we invited Flora Pirquet who is among us in our Contemplative Prayer Gatherings to offer a Lenten Reflection. We are grateful for her stirrings and invitations to us this Lent to dig deeper, to seek the hidden places of life and light and to wait upon grace. May you trust your wisdom too and see what it yields.

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Toward Epiphany–signs and wonders In these days there are stories of things hidden and revealed of Shepherds and Wise Men and the flight into Egypt. Of journeys taken, guided by stars, directives of rulers and of dreams followed, bearing the holy family to safety, out of harms reach for a time. We hear of temples and teachings and wisdom long sought, of going home by a different way. As we continue our venture or set out anew in our journey of life with God, perhaps there will be directives within and without for us to let go of too.  Perhaps stars and signs will appear, guiding us to encounter the holy beyond what we knew to imagine.  There between worlds, the familiar and the astounding, we may find our hearts opening to God hidden and revealed in all sorts of places even here in the midst of all that fills our world.  The incarnate word now. As we near the Epiphany, and the journey of the Magi, what will we see?  Will being led by a deeper yearning mean letting go of things that brought us here even those things that give us our identity, our familiar place.  They will serve as guides only so far. Is that not why you and I have come here even to this page, because you too know there is something more calling you. God, holy, mercy, justice, love, truth, Christ, all the biddings of your soul that you knew however slightly you desired and would change the world. Let us pray for one another on this journey of mystery and love that we are being given this day, here and now. Prince of Peace we pray be among us, in all the places in our lives and world where your love is needed.
–Julia Slayton

ADVENT
–Keep awake Keep awake, be alert and ready is the call to prayer and action in this season of Advent.  The bidding is especially vital at this moment in our lives and communities as we seek, act, pray for justice and healing for all in our daily lives and common life. Into this time, we offer you prayers from various sources and a reflection by a member of our board, Rev. Dr. Deborah Jackson to whom we are so grateful.  Together, let us keep each other awake and see one another through the one who comes, strengthening, healing, bringing us into the glory that is intended for all lives and creation.

God of peace, let us your people know, that at the heart of turbulence there is an inner calm that comes from faith in you. Keep us from being content with things as they are, that from this central peace there may come a creative compassion, a thirst for justice, and a willingness to give of ourselves in the spirit of Christ. Amen. Collect for Prayers of the People, A New Zealand Prayer Book

My Feelings in Reflection Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson

How should I feel in response to the recent Grand Jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men? There is concern on a number of levels. As a citizen, I feel concerned. My concern comes as a result of a misadministration of justice, for we should expect that our justice system is blind and impartial; just and fair. The recent events, which demonstrate partiality and injustice, cause concern. As a person of faith, I feel disheartened. I believe that we are all created in the image of God. Moreover, the Bible tells me that God is not a respecter of persons, meaning that all are precious in God’s sight. Thus, when I see disregard for black lives, particularly black men, who have been choked, kicked, and executed by police, I cannot help but be dismayed. But most upsetting of all, as a mother, I feel worried. My son is a 5’ 3”, 11 year old, black male, weighing about 105 pounds soaking wet. He is a miracle; not just because of my bias. He was born to a woman supposedly unable to conceive. He was saved from spontaneous abortion at 20 weeks. He was born four weeks premature. But he is happy, optimistic, positive, and full of the joy of the Lord. I would like him to remain that way. But because of the world in which we live, the conversations that I have had to have with my child taint that possibility. My husband and I have had to explain to our child why security guards follow us through stores believing that we are about to steal. We’ve had to deal with people who have wanted to “high five” our child as though that is “our” standard way of greeting. We’ve have had to remind our child not to allow other children to touch his hair when picked out in a giant afro. We have had to “have the talk” with our son about walking through stores with his hands in full view; and how he should conduct himself if ever in a situation with police. These are not fun conversations. All to commonly, these are conversations that people of color have with their children, and especially their sons. Truly all lives matter. Therefore as citizens, as people of faith, and as parents we should care and be moved to act against the injustice that requires a different standard of being for some. In response, I feel that we have an obligation. We can encourage better relations between communities and law enforcement. We can enlist our communities to be actively involved. We can work with government for law enforcement reforms. While we recognize the progress, we can acknowledge the problems and help to find long term solutions. And we can pray: God grant us your grace that we use our voices and influence for the good.

Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson is Executive Director of the American Baptist Ministers Council and a member of Bethany House of Prayer Board.

Keep us from being content with things as they are, that from this central peace there may come a creative compassion, a thirst for justice, and a willingness to give of ourselves in the spirit of Christ. Amen. (excerpt from A New Zealand Prayer Book)   Christ of the cosmos, living Word, come to heal and save… Incognito, in our streets, beneath the concrete, between the cracks, behind the curtains, within the dreams, in aging memories, in childhood wonder, in secret ponds, in broken hearts, in Bethlehem stable, still small voice, Word of God, amongst us. ~Advent Readings from Iona

Previous Reflections
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We were and we continue to be blessed by the life and friendship of  The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE.  Monk, bishop, friend.  We give thanks for his gracious life, courageous witness, delightful laugh, and deep ways of knowing both God and all of us. He lived the invitation of Jesus “I have called you friends”  more than most–he loved us, challenged us, comforted us, saw beyond us.  Tom had about him an urgency to use the gifts he had in the time he had–he did that in beauty, faithfulness and as a self offering of love.

Thank you God for tendering him to us and to the whole world for a time, a saintly friend who shared your love abundantly.  In your light we see light, may Tom know ever more fully your light, love and glory.

In so many times and ways he offered his wisdom as seeds to our conversion and life in God.  Here are some of his words from Ways to Pray: Sermons, No. 4, published by Cowley Publications in 1984 and edited by M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE: Excerpt from a sermon, “Asking the Question” given by M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE in Ways to Pray, Sermons No.4

“And all the while the living Word, Jesus, is hammering away at our fear. ‘Ask and it will be given you. ‘Ask me whatever you wish.” ‘Whatever you ask in my name I will do.’ Why is Jesus so insistent? Why does he, in spite of our fears, keep insisting that we continue to ask him?

Because this is the way he forms us. Because it is only through our questions and his responses that we can begin to find out what Jesus has in mind for us. It’s only through hammering it out with him we can find clarity, vision, find out who he is for us and who we are for him. Only through our questioning him can Jesus tell us who he is and what he is like. The formation of our Christian vocation as religious, as ordained people, as lay people, how we live and how we die, what we do and who we are, takes place in the context of this questioning. It is the way we are finally given our vocations. And once we have been given our true vocations there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to be afraid of in life.

You know, too, that when we do ask, when we summon all our courage and put the question to Jesus, his answer always comes in the company of his loving, tender, gentle word.

‘My yoke is easy,’ he says, ‘my burden is light.’ ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’

‘So it is with you: you are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you.’

‘Not one of you will be lost.’”

—M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE  

Excerpt from  “Waiting and Weakness”

“If God’s going to come through anywhere and manifest God’s power, if God runs true to form, it will be at the weakest places in the world, our personal weakest spots, and the place where God is weakest, where God is most likely to be defeated.

So the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ provides us with a clue of where God might break through in our lives, where we might experience God’s power to lead us. A few were there waiting, receptive to that blinding event of the Incarnation when it came. They knew where to go and they in turn give us a clue. Where God and the world are weakest.

…That means our prayer, our attentiveness to God ought to be focused mostly on that spot where we are most vulnerable. And that part that is as unique as you are. It will have everything to do with who you are, how old you are, who has or hasn’t loved you, where you grew up; these million variables that are you…..

And this tells us, too, something about where we should be witnessing for Jesus in the world; at the thinnest, weakest spots, waiting for the breakthrough of God.

…In this sense weakness is sacramental, for it brings the Lord to us, like eucharistic bread and wine, like water in baptism. The possibility of conversion is infinite for us as we wait there, ready and poised to accept and cradle within us the deep knowledge that we are being led by the Lord.”

–M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE (from a sermon entitled on Waiting and Weakness, Ways to Pray, Sermon No. 4 Cowley Publications, 1984)     _________________________________________________________________________i_____________________________________________________________________________

Meditation Archive

Pentacost 2014 Easter 2014 Station Seven – Lament of exiles and refuges

Lenten Reflection
Epiphany Offering
A Harvest Meditation
Love’s Harvest in Poem and Song
As we move into summer days
In the Garden of Blessing Journey in Lent
Entering Lent
In the spaces between
Excerpt for Advent from Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas’ book, Joy of Heaven to Earth, Come Down
Excerpt from David Rynick’s book, This Truth Never Fails: A Zen Memoir in Four Seasons.
Excerpt from Janet Morley’s collection of prayers, Bread of Tomorrow: Prayers for the Church Year
Lenten Reflection
Epiphany Meditation
Advent Meditation
October Meditation
September Meditation
Summer Reflection 2011
Reflection by Susan Bates, Spring 2010
Easter 2009 Reflection by the Rev. Susan Richmond
Earth Day 2009 Reflection
Pentecost Reflection by Mary Meader
May 2009  Meditation by the Rev. Tansy Chapman
Easter Meditation offered by Karen Montagno
Lenten meditation by David Urion, MD
January Monthly Reflection by Kimberly Green
Sermons given in St Anne’s Chapel in 2010:
On Forgiveness, given by The Rev. Eleanor Panasevich at Feb. 17 Contemplative Eucharist
On Healing & Compassion,  given by The Rev. Susan Richmond at March 17 Contemplative Eucharist
Easter Sermon, given by The Rev. Dr. Charles Hefling on Easter Sunday 2010
Sermon given by Mary Meader to the Bethany House Board of Directors on 17 May