Morning Musings 2.26.21

Morning Musings  2.26.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 26, 2021

The morning’s first light with its welcoming beauty brought me to a standstill, leaning on a wooden fence to take in a few prayerful moments of God’s Grandeur as the sun meandered its way through the grays and blues, giving way to pinks and orange.  I watched from my leaning post, receiving a newness of Spirit holding me, the gift to be out in the early morn!

For me the language of poetry is often the language of contemplation as well as the language for contemplation.  David Whyte, a contemporary poet I often quote, once wrote that “one good word of poetry is bread for a thousand when telling of the hungers of the human heart.”  It is the noticing and telling of these heart-felt hungers where our own hearts are opened to love.  Another of my favorite poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, died earlier this week, only a month short of his 102nd birthday. I studied him in college.  I read as many Ferlinghetti poems as I did Emily Dickenson poems.  In the summer of 2018, when Lois and I attended a conference in California, we made a point of stopping at his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. It was one of those ‘otherness’ experiences we all seek to have at least a few times in our lives.  His poetry inspires me, transmitting energy, helping to form my inner soul.  Ferlinghetti was once described as, “a tonic for a world thirsting for the loving courage and energetic reverence that helps reunite and sustain the enterprise of bard-fueled citizenship.”  I love this, as I hear in this portrayal, a meditation, a subversive invitation to Spirit-filled action we are called to initiate and sustain.

I’ve included a few lines from one of my favorite poems of his, entitled “Pity the Nation.”  “Pity the nation…..whose sages are silenced…..whose bigots haunt the airwaves. Pity the nation that raises not its voice.  Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own, and no other culture but its own, and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed…..

I leaned on that wooden fence this morning, feeling the cold, seeing the snow, watching the sun, and holding a heart-felt hunger to love…..wanting never to silence the sages among us, the Spirit within us!

Lenten Gratitude: “Everything is a gift.  The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and our gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness.                 ~David Steindl-Rast

Blessings & love on your daypastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.25.21

Morning Musings  2.25.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 25, 2021

The sun burst over the horizon giving energy to this new day!  Warmer weather overnight.  Geese greeting me from overhead.  Green grass peeking through where there has been snow.  Standing water and melting snow.  I could almost be tricked into believing this is the beginning of spring.  But it is still February.  As the snow melts, the mud, stones, and dirt become visible.  I am called to greater gentleness as I walked this morning.  Observing the dirty snow along the way, snow that only a few days ago was untainted and clean, I am reminded how there are parts of my life/our lives that we choose to keep hidden, possibly areas we simply are less proud of, parts of who we are that we simply prefer not to be seen by others.

During these times when our lives get filled and overwhelmed with what seems like continual, unexpected change, how very important it is to be gentle with ourselves.  We use energy at these times simply to keep up with the thrust of our daily lives, so it often goes unnoticed how tired we become.  These are the times—when life seems to move so quickly—that it is yet more imperative to be gentle with ourselves.  That doesn’t mean we are lazy or idle.  It simply means we are honoring ourselves and caring for the gift of who we are in the midst of a difficult time.  Mostly we hardly notice this about ourselves, similar to how we barely notice the snow melting, only at the end of the day there are stones covering the smaller pile at the corner.

What I really believe is that the more I am able to treat my entire self with gentleness, the more tenderness and compassion I will call forth into my life and offer to those I come in relationship  with today.  The more I am able to pay attention to  and understand what my physical, emotional, spiritual self needs will in turn allow me to more genuinely offer such compassion with unlimited loving and healing energy.  This is how we truly care for those people, things, and creation that mean the most to us. 

I hold the poem of poet, Jahal-ud-Din Rumi close to my “alive” self on this day:  How can you ever hope to know the Beloved / Without becoming in every cell the Lover? / And when you are the Lover at last, you don’t care. / Whatever you know, or don’t – only Love is real.  

Lenten GratitudePiglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.  ~A. A. Milne

Blessings & love on your day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.23.21

Morning Musings  2.23.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 23, 2021

“God, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up.  You discern my thoughts from afar” [Ps. 139:1-2].

I received my second COVID vaccine yesterday.  When I woke up this morning I had an elevated temperature, so this was the first day in a long time that I did not begin my day by walking.  It was a morning of watching the activity around the feeders outside my window.  The activity was furious! For just one morning I wish I could understand the birds and squirrels and chipmunks from within, as they maneuver with each other for the morning feast. 

Yesterday we began a book study to discuss together and raise issues of race and justice, most importantly to recognize how each of us is complicit, and how we might work to become part of creating healthier relationships with each other.

I think it was the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who walked with Dr. Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement, taught that instead of us asking where our ever-present God is, we ought to consider that God is asking where we are.  We do live in an age when most of us have ceased to be shocked by the increasing breakdown in moral inhibitions.  God and evil have become a blurred mist, too often in our relationships with each other.  Heschel talks a lot about the silence of God, and even speaks of God being in exile, but he is no less confident to say that God continues to beckon us out of the moral silence, that God begs to enter, once again, into our spirit.  I like the idea that even when we might try to silence God from areas of our lives, that God remains, and God searches us and knows us, even and most especially when we push back against God.  Maybe it is precisely in the chaos that swirls around us at this time of prolonged pandemic, at this time when there is a lot of blurry moral vision, it is at this time where we need not ask where God is, but rather, be more attentive to hear God voice asking where we are.  God’s voice is beckoning!

Lenten Gratitude“With the morning birdsong, my heart echoes thank you.  With the rustling sounds in the kitchen, my heart echoes thank you.  With the early noises of the suburbs, my heart echoes thank you.  With the awakening words of day, I add my voice and say thank you.                               ~Diana Butler Bass

Blessings & love on your day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.22.21

Morning Musings  2.22.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 22, 2021

“There’s a Kind of a Hush all over the world….” I was humming this song by Herman’s Hermits from the 60s, as I set out this morning. It had not yet begun to snow.  The clouds were heavy and low.  I could hear the words of the song.  “So listen carefully…come closer now….you will see what I mean…it isn’t a dream… hear the whisper…”   I could feel a hushed anticipation that snow was just waiting for the signal to begin showering the earth.   What a beautiful way to enter my day:  one foot in the Universe and one foot on the earth; one eye in the heart of nature, one eye on the hearts of others; one ear listening to all the stories left in the stars in the galaxy of time; one ear listening for the sufferings being told within and around me, suffering yet to be told.  Deep listening was drawing me as the wind picked up along the path.  By the time I arrived home I was feeling the boldness of the air trying to break into that place we all hold and guard—for me the place that seeks greater kindness in our world today.

I am truly amazed every morning when I sit for breakfast and watch the birds right outside my window.  I watch them in the summer, but they are just as amazing in the winter.  They are daring with each other in getting to the food.  They sometimes swing with the wind. Others stay on the ground to discover what has fallen.   They find refuge together.  They are more together than alone; maybe an honest acceptance of each other—most of the time.  Not much different than humankind.

As gentleness comes alive in my prayer this morning, God’s life, love and compassion come forth.  As gentleness comes alive in our actions, God’s life comes into the world through us—simply and unobtrusively.  This is God’s dynamic life of action that emerges out of a deep knowing of the love of God. Faithfulness to my own prayer practices gives birth to the kingdom that is with me/each of us to give birth into life.

“There’s a Kind of a Hush all over the world” this morning.  There is a waiting, anticipating the expected to arrive.  Might it be the sound of lovers in love—with each other, with the world!

Lenten Gratitude“O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise!”  ~Psalm 95:1-2

Blessings & love on your snow-filled day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.21.21

Morning Musings  2.21.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February  21, 2021

A longer walk on this cold morning as I watched the sun break into the day, casting its bright sheen over the fields.  There was thin ice covering Rock Creek with birds chattering away in the wooded area surrounding the creek.  I found this to be a perfect morning to practice silence, entering into the stillness, walking and holding the splendid peace that surrounded me.

I’ve been thinking more about the mysteries of pain, injustice, illness and violence.  I’m still trying to integrate my desire for thankfulness and gratitude with all the indignities that work against joy, love, and peace in the world around us. I want there to be an easy gateway into maturity and deep love.  Not so!  I think of so many people who see much more tragedy daily than I see in one week.  “Gratitude,” writes theologian and justice activist Mary Jo Leddy, “does not dispel the mystery of suffering and evil in the world but may actually serve to deepen this mystery.”  So I continue to struggle to live with the mysteries of pain, injustice, illness, violence and death.  I rightly rage against these indignities, things that work against joy, love and peace.   Gratitude does not lessen nor take away these painful throbbing. Gratitude is no panacea against violence and injustice. 

Years ago I read Henri Nouwen’s book entitled, The Spiritual Work of Gratitude, where he wrote, “To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for our entire lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work.   Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say ‘thank you’ to all that has brought us to the present moment.  As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.”

For me, the most important thing I hear is Nouwen’s admonition that the work of holding these emotional opposites together “requires hard spiritual work.”  Some days I am closer to this “holding together” and other days I am really far apart.  No simple answer today . . . .

Lenten Gratitude“For all that has been—thanks.  For all that shall be–yes!”                                                                                                                        ~Dag Hammarskjold

Blessings & love on your day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.20.21

Morning Musings  2.20.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 20, 2021

The sun was vibrant in its rising this morning!  Its brightness escapaded over the snow-covered fields creating brisk shadows that waltzed beside me as I walked.  The ice crystals shimmering on the icy dance floor. What a joy to embrace the energy on this cold morning!

My Lenten discipline of gratitude was simmering as I walked this morning.  Too often I do feel as if in this time of pandemic we are being held hostage by dissatisfaction, a sense of powerlessness that comes from thinking we will never have what we deserve or want.  Much has been written over the years about gratitude, most especially when society is held captive to the logic that even individual gratitude makes little difference to the larger society.

I’m thinking about the young Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He has written about “cheap grace,” but I wonder if, in fact, we might think in terms of “cheap gratitude.” I wonder how, as we believe all good things come from God, if too often, gratitude becomes a privatized, soothing, a personal comfort, while social discontent and anger continue to fester in public life.  Bonhoeffer wrote that “…in normal life one is not at all aware that we always receive infinitely more than we give, and that gratitude is what enriches life.”  How does personal gratitude influence society norms? – this confluence is my Lenten discipline! 

I continue to wonder if “cheap [personal] gratitude” is our subtle movement into a secular gospel, that if we say “thank you,” often enough we believe we will be healthy and wealthy.  I wonder if we get stuck in thinking that gratitude is meant only to unlock a deeper inner peace and sense of well-being.  For me, gratitude cannot simply be privatized nor an obligation (some of what I wrote about yesterday).  Here is the clearest way to name my inner struggle:  “I am grateful each morning for the sunrise, the beauty around me, and so many other things/people— BUT—how can this personal gratitude make a difference beyond this limited sphere of my morning walk?”  I will continue to journey within and share my inner struggles during this Lenten time.

Lenten GratitudeWaking up this morning, I see the blue sky; I join my hands in thanks for the many wonders of life; for having twenty-four brand new hours.  The sun is rising on the forest and so is my awareness~Thich Nhat Hanh

Blessings & love on your day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.19.21

Morning Musings  2.19.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 19, 2021

The snow was icy underfoot.  The air was still.  The morning was stark.  February morn.  There were remnants of the light snow and sleet as I walked.  My cap was wet when I returned.  The icicles on the trees were without their sparkle absent a bright morning sun—still beautiful.

A few years ago when I led a three-evening class on the Daily Examen, a quintessential prayer of reflection and self-examination coming from the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I recalled to those present how a review of the day’s activities to notice the presence of God, always begins with gratitude.  Gratitude is the most important response when reviewing the gifts a person receives in the course of a day.  At the end of a day, even a day cluttered with stress and conflict, my nightly prayer is to remember the day with a deep sense of gratitude.  It was Maya Angelou who reminds us to “let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.  And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Prayers of gratitude welling up from genuine faith bring each day to a restful conclusion.

I grew up with a mother who sat us down as kids after every birthday; she brought out a small box of “thank-you” cards and made us write notes to aunts and uncles for the gifts we had received.  For me, the notes became shorter and shorter the more there was to write, but I have never forgotten the “good manners” of thanking people.  Diana Butler Bass recalls her Thanksgiving meal ritual of everyone around the table saying something they are thankful for before the meal could begin.  We often did that at our house—still do once in awhile—but Bass remarks how too often this holiday ritual felt more like a turkey hostage situation than a spiritual exercise of grace.  That description fits what most kids feel at that moment, and I was always most thankful when it was over and we could dig into the turkey and filling!  But now, as I look back with the purview of age, I recognize the goodness and gift in such rituals.  This Lent I will strengthen my resolve for gratitude.

Lenten GratitudeFor the freshness of this new day, thanks be to you, O God. / For morning’s gift of clarity, its light like the first day’s dawn, thanks be to you. / In this newborn light, let us see afresh. / In this gateway onto what has never been before, let our soul breathe hope for the earth, for the creatures, for the human family. / Let our soul breathe hope.  ~John Philip Newell

Blessings & love this winter day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.18.21

Morning Musings  2.18.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 18, 2021

My first step was into the wind as I entered the morning!  The blowing snow caught me by surprise against my face.  I welcomed the shock and amazement of the moment!  This was another one of those startling walks as confetti-like speckles parachuted from the close sky.  Oh, the inner child-like wonder!  The memory from a much younger time of tightening the door and settling the cloth snake against the breeze from the door’s bottom, making sure the storm was firmly shut out.  Loving to sit at the window, watching as various textures and outlines in flower beds all became one.  As I returned this morning, I found the birds hard at work looking for food. I sat at the window and watched with intrigue for them to discover the newly-filled feeder.  I noticed the texture of the snowflakes change—from petite to prolific.  I felt the revenance of this day unfolding.  I do not see in winter a devastating darkness, but instead, I discover a time when I can wrap myself in the security of my home, a moment in time when I can stave off vulnerability, even if only for a short time—or maybe a time to see my own vulnerabilities with greater self-accepting understanding.  The entirety of this day bring this poem:   Everything Is Waiting For You

Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone.  / As if life were a progressive and cunning crime . . . / To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings. / Surely, even you, at times, have felt the grand array; / the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding out your solo voice . . . / Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.  / Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation. / The kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink. . .  / All the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.  ~ David Whyte

During this season of Lent, as I choose to practice intentional gratitude, I will conclude each Morning Musings with a prayer/blessing that reflects such intention.  Today I share my most favorite e.e.cummings poem, used at my ordination liturgy, having become my personal daily prayer.

I thank You God for most this amazing day:  for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.

Blessings & love on your winter day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.17.21

Morning Musings  2.17.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 17, 2021

It was an Ash Wednesday kind of morning.  I actually was able to see a sunrise today, something not possible for the past several days because of the morning clouds.  But today, the sun broke through the splotches of deep, dark clouds.  They were in thin lines, most with uneven crevices. These clouds were so real a reminder of the ashes many religious traditions mark us with on this first day of the Lenten season.  Because of Covid-19 precautions, this tradition is being altered in various ways on this day, but for me, this morning, the sky was marked with the sign of ashes. I loved the reminder that our earth is dust; and at the same time holds the light of life!  It was a beautiful reminder to embrace as I walked and watched!  I pulled it close to me!

The Desert Fathers and Mothers were early Christian monks and hermits who lived austere lives of prayer and devotion in the desert.  There is a story about one of them who was asked what the monks did all day.  He replied, “We fall down and get up; we fall down and get up; we fall down and get up.”

As we begin this season of Lent, perhaps this is what I need to hear most from deep within me.  We all are only human.  We all have our vulnerabilities.  We don’t need to save ourselves.  We can let go on that!  That is God’s work!  We fall down, and we get up again—multiple times.

I think of Lent as a winding pilgrimage with God into a deeper humanity, helping us fully to live into who we are and what God continues to create us to be.  We are simply human.  God doesn’t want us to be anything more or anything less.  A human Lent is a holy Lent.  God loves us exactly as we are.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”  ~Psalm 51:10

We only know our deepest humanity in the light of God’s love.  I thought of this in the early morning, as I noticed the dark splotches of clouds, highlighted by the rising light!  It was an Ash Wednesday kind of morning!  Even in our pandemic distancing, I choose to walk this day and this season close with others!

Blessings & love on your day,  pastor mike

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Morning Musings 2.16.21

Morning Musings   2.16.21

[During this time of uncertainty and insecurity due to Covid-19, we all are longing to be grounded at the very center of our being.  One way Pastor Mike attempts to experience such rootedness is by sitting with his journal, usually in the early moments of each day.   In this blog Pastor Mike shares an early morning journal entry, a way of holding and anticipating the light of God’s love washing over our waking hours.]

February 16, 2021

We didn’t get the overnight ice storm that was predicted.  The snow was soft to the warmth of its melting. The ground was wet and I felt it welcoming to my presence.  This welcoming feeling came from a place within me where one expectation, which carries with it a risk to disruption, is not realized.  What I found instead was calm acceptance of a settled down morning.  I walked peacefully, not needing to be as vigilant of where I was stepping.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day season of Lent.  It is considered a penitential time, a time when we often commit ourselves to “doing” something or “giving up” something—some food, some drink, some habit, etc., we wish to eliminate from our lives during this time before Easter.  All of this is done with good intentions of the heart, hoping to change a part of our lives that may distort our focus on the deeper Presence of God in our lives. 

Spiritual writers remind us over and over again that real spiritual growth is initiated within a person; it happens from the inside out.  Faithfulness to prayer, more than how the prayer looks from the outside, is what lessens the obstacles and the resistances to the divine life within a person.  A seed is planted that helps one’s practice to unfold.  We are reminded time and again that piling information upon a person often causes confusion, rather than initiating a deeper prayer life. To begin where a person already is, to pray as a person already is praying—that is the point of beginning.

So as I was walking this morning I was thinking about Lent, and how different it will look (as has all things this past year), but also, how this time is a true invitation that comes to us this year, slightly unimpeded because of limiting restrictions surrounding us, which may actually become opportunities for greater freedom.

The word “Lent” means “Spring” and its draw is to breathe new life in the midst of snow and ice, and changing social conditions.  It is a gift given, waiting to be received.

Blessing:  That you will be wise to the longings that come to visit you.  That you will see their true faces and know their true names.  That you will be graceful with yourself.  That you will welcome the gifts.  Amen.

Blessings & love on your day,  pastor mike

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