Tuesday, February 9, 2016

the season of love . . . the season of lent


monday was such a beautiful day; a perfect opportunity to take a walk on west cliff ... and at david way, i was able to get this "perfect" shot . . . rock art, foliage, and a splash of water!  i found that my mind and spirit were readying themselves for the change in seasons . . . not winter to spring -- the sun is beautiful, but we need more rain --

rather, wednesday begins the season of lent -- a time of reflection and renewal of ones spiritual path; in the christian tradition, john wesley,  the founder of (united) methodism, would invite us to ask the daily question, "how is it with your soul?"  in other words, is your heart, mind and spirit in a "good and faithful/spiritual place".

this is a GREAT question in this time in our lives, when the political season is causing great stressors, and elements of racism, sexism, ageism, and all the other 'isms' are confronting us.  exorcising, eating healthily, communing with nature, finding quality rest, and meaningful employment can make all the difference to our souls -- our spirit!

this season we will focus on the concept of love; on valentine's day, our focus will be on steadfast love -- love that never fails; the rest of the season will focus on love that is compassionate, nourishing, forgiving, miraculous, and merciful.  while love may be 'a box of chocolates' for some, love's reality is a lot of hard work  -- but SO worth it in the end!

our study in this season of love will be with atul gawande's book, "being mortal".  learning to come to grips with our end-of-life, and how we wish to live out our time can be an act of love for ourselves, and a gift of love for those in whose care we place ourselves.  hospice will assist us in putting together advanced directives. 

our american culture wants us to constantly focus on beauty, and as we age, aging beauty becomes something we often wish we didn't have to look at -- hide it away (in a nursing home, for instance), or 'have some work done' -- to look younger.  yet beauty is a state of being; the body decomposes even before we die, and we are not encouraged to come to grips with this fact.  aside from the body, our minds change, our outlook changes, and our energy decreases . . . . the beauty of love is to allow ourselves to live with the changes, and to adjust to life as we are, not as we were!  spiritual love . . . .

one of the realities of west cliff this winter is that the storms have caused the walk-ways to erode.  maybe someday california really WILL fall into the pacific!  what we do now, and how we address our ever-changing lives DOES matter; trying not to think about such changes is like putting our head in the sand. 

lovingly seeing the beauty in change will help us address these matters of aging; for ourselves, and our earth.  perhaps nurturing our spirit in loving, healthy, and empowering ways will guide us on this journey of life.

the latest announcement on local news is that the cement ship, built for world war I, is nearly gone from aptos -- just a few miles from santa cruz.  when i went recently to this aptos beach, it was not the ship i took a picture of, but the ever-changing sun-set (below).  history changes, life changes, seasons change.  faith, hope and love remain -- these three things -- and the greatest of these is love
(I corinthians 13).  bring it on!  the season of love . . . the season of lent. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

the light has come . . . 12th night and epiphany in santa cruz

the writer of isaiah says, "arise . . . shine . . . your light has come!"

and so the light has come . . . . on the 12th day of christmas (yesterday), 12 drummers drumming could be heard in santa cruz at 5 in the morning by way of a thunder and lightening rain storm . . . . it was glorious!

but what is a pastor to do in order to secure my virgin health miles for the day?  i have been walking in the rain with my umbrella, but that seemed slightly foolish in a thunder storm!

then i remembered that i have been granted keys(!) -- not to the kin-dom -- but to the united methodist church of santa cruz . . . .where i can walk in the sanctuary and fellowship hall without getting wet!

so, away i went!  i turned on the tree, to celebrate 12th night (during the cold morning hours) knowing that a crew would be over to change-out the season . . . . christmas would be over in just a few hours!

BUT, the light isaiah spoke about would remain.  and so it does on this epiphany day!

epiphany was the time when the magi visited baby jesus, bringing gifts.  in orthodox tradition, this is the day when gifts are exchanged!  by this day, most trees are down, and stores are filled with valentine's candy and in some places chocolate easter eggs are already present!  the commercial christmas is SO OVER!

yet the light of epiphany is a reminder that the light shines and cannot be put out -- or even dampened by a storm!  celebrating epiphany is an "ah-ha moment" when we realize something important, invaluable, and coveted is happening!  that moment this year came to me as i was able to once again walk in my neighborhood this epiphany morning; the rain had stopped, and no more thunder and lightening for the moment.  out of the cloudy sky emerged a little thumb-nail of the new moon, and the sight of a planet flickering -- just like the lights that flickered on our tree during the christmas season. 

even though the lights were put away by a church crew of elves yesterday morning, the light still shines!  what a reminder that god-is-still-with-us indeed! 

so let it rain once again (PLEASE!) . . . the light will still shine, no matter what! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

on the fourth day of christmas . . . .

i'm not sure on which day of christmas i received this santa, but it was for sometimes during my first christmas . . . and it seems to be holding up quite well!

on this fourth day of christmas, true love gives, not a kiss, but four calling birds . . . and today in santa cruz, they would freeze!  so, perhaps, you might think of an alternative gift to share . . . .

somewhere this season, i read a comment from someone that said, 'please don't give me anything; just share peace'.  i LOVE that sentiment! 

tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of my mom's death . . . i am marking that moment by actually spending time in 'the city' (san francisco, in this case) and celebrating christmas (finally!)  i'll take in the nutcracker, and perhaps give a nod to mom's old stomping grounds at i. magnin. 

chrismas memories abound, and each year is an opportunity to make new ones.  i no longer hold 'traditions' of how christmas 'needs to be' celebrated.  rather, i am mindful of the moment, and cherish the people for whom our paths cross.  and, in case anyone is interested, i truly believe christmas letters are FAB!  i haven't written one in a while, but i love to hear the news of folks whom i have known . . . .such letters are a reminder that our 'hopes and dreams of all the years are met in thee, tonight'!

i lit the final candle of advent, the christmas candle . . . not on christmas, when i was busy celebrating with our shelter guests and a number of the congregation, but on the third day of christmas . . . three french hens were given!  i had soup and bread, and started reading elizabeth george's latest lynley mystery, a banquet of consequences.  if you do not know her as a writer, might i suggest beginning at the beginning of her lynley novels, a great deliverance.  she's quite (appropriately) addictive!

light a candle, snuggle up with whatever (or whomever), and begin the new year with a tradition of your own!  merry and happy . . . be at peace, and spread that peace to others . . . .

Monday, December 7, 2015

and chanukah/hanukkah & advent shall share the light together . . . .

on this first night of chanukah/hanukkah, the first candle is lit.  it is the second week of advent, and two candles are lit.  and so hope and peace join forces with the light, that our world may grow brighter; that we can live together in this miracle we call life.

see the glow of this light . . . as the days grow shorter and the nights become longer, we can hardly believe that in santa cruz today, it was 66 degrees!  i wore short sleeves and short pants; it felt lit early autumn this morning when i was walking.

the strangeness of our weather pattern is a reminder to me that life is just never the same.  there are so many causes for this phenomenon, and i don't want to get into a debate about the cause and effect of what we are doing to our environment.  rather, my point today is that as we live in this moment, the light is shining amidst the gloom, reminding us that life, indeed, is a sacred gift.

 and so as these two different lights shine from two different traditions, i share one of the symbols from my tradition in advent; the nativity.

i shared in a sermon/message once about leaving out one's nativity throughout the year as a reminder of our story of faith, and all that goes into the struggle and beauty of life.  this nativity was given to me as a gift, and is made of soapstone.  it is not the one i leave out each year, but i've included that one at the end of this blog.

yet this nativity reminds me that i live amid many cultures; many beliefs.  together, we live in hope for a better/kinder/more compassionate world, where gunfire does not occur every single day, and where children are cared for and people are sheltered in safety.  we live in a time of hope, where peace will find its way into our hearts and minds, and be extended by our actions into the world, where our sisters and brothers will lay down like the lion and the lamb . . . .

this ungainly tree was just a wee twig in a 2 inch pot when i rescued it on the clearance rack at safeway my first advent in santa cruz.  i have planted it in my backyard, not knowing if it would survive the california drought; but it has, and while it may look like charlie brown's christmas tree, i am thrilled to be able to look out upon it and know that there is life that comes from the struggle to survive; i am filled with hope, and empowered by such peace when i gaze upon it each day.

as advent began, i started reading hanya yanagihara's novel,
a little life.  OMG, what a move and powerfully-disturbing book that sharing the insight of what i might call "the secret that none of us really want to know about".  while it is a novel, what i have read so far (page 561 of 720) and what i know, tells me this story is true . . . or true enough.  i commend this book to you, and will remind myself with each waking moment, that each person is of sacred worth, and that abuse of any kind SHOULD NEVER BE TOLERATED!

and so chanukah/hanukkah and advent blend with the light of possibilities; of hope, of peace, of joy, and most especially of love.  if every the world could use a strong dose of love, it is now.  may light surround you this season, and may the love in your life shine forth as we strive to make peace . . . .      

Saturday, November 14, 2015

in the midst of the paris tragedy . . . . peace

in the midst of the paris tragedy . . . . what do we find peace?

true peace comes from within; we can't expect to have someone else 'make our peace'.

even when that peace is not perfect, if we are working on safe waters in our lives, and if we are seeking to make sure that our ports are open and welcoming and safe, we are working to ensure peaceful measures.

in central california, peace is coming to us in the latest of two rain storms; the latest included thunder and lightening.  some experienced power outages -- not what one would call peaceful -- and yet, the peace of rain from a long season of drought cannot be denied!
and so this picture of raindrops reminds me that I still have a yard that has living plants -- now doing better because of the gift of rain.  that simple realization is an act of peace.  even as i know that weeds will grow because of the rain, i am at peace.

i can only imagine my life disrupted and in turmoil over terrorism!  even after 911, with new york closer than paris it does not matter!  turmoil anywhere causes us dis-ease; i have been to both of those cities . . . i know people in both of those cities . . . my heart aches.

even with the rain, and the peace i feel in the storm, i am not yet fully at peace, because our world is not yet at peace.

how can i live with this turmoil?  pray through it, i have been taught -- i teach that!  breathe in that peace; be the change you want to see!  breathe out the elements that get in the way of finding and living and offering, peace.  such peace is not easy; the really important things in life rarely are!  but that 'peace that passes understanding' is so worth the effort!

many say we do not have seasons in california, but we do!  i image peace as i walk in the morning -- this tree, full of autumn colors, was vivid after the rainstorm, in the early sunrise after my morning walk, following the end of daylight savings time.  the 'awe' of peace.

paris . . . the city of trees; the city of light.  surely a city with so much to offer should never be a target, but a destination.  surely no place with a heart for life should be a target . . . and yet our world  . . . so many people experience the loss of peace in their heart; their minds clouded by images of distress and hatred.  is their longing for peace not like my longing for peace?

how will we find peace, together, before we destroy the only living home we are likely ever to have?

i remind myself that i cannot make peace for others; i am not that powerful; but i can be the change within myself that i want to see in the world.  the color of peace would be a rainbow where there is plenty of room for all.

i was visiting with friends last week-end; finding peaceful time to relax and visit and work together to complete this cat puzzle (below).  i realize now in a different way -- even as we realized last saturday, how difficult it is to distinguish the colors, and to place the pieces in the 'right' space . . . there were times when we thought we had the 'right piece' only to discover that we were mistaken.

what is the 'right piece'?  could it be only the 'ultimate peace'?!  i believe that is true.  in an effort to make all the pieces fit, we cannot be anxious or forceful or disregard the time it takes to "make peace".  peace is on-going, and peace is an effort we cannot stop.  let peace begin . . . within the self.  may such peace expand into the world . . . this is my prayer . . . .

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

a nod to autumn . . . . with thoughts of summer past . . . .

today begins the autumn days, of dark cool mornings and warmer summer-ish days . . . a walk on west cliff to see if the whales are still close to shore; what a great few moments this afternoon THAT will be . . . .

but i still have thoughts of summer, with pictures, to blog about; would have done it yesterday, but a technical glitch got in the way.

so following Shakespeare SC or is it SC Shakespeare -- a good season of Macbeth, Much Ado, and The Liar none-the-less -- followed by Mary Poppins (with Rob and a nod to Disney's 60th year....) i traveled to lovely Ashland OR to enjoy a little Blue Moon (perhaps the BEST bed and breakfast), and some 'really good shows....'

this beautiful waterway flows through town; water!  what a treat indeed!  and spending time with friends Ken and John and Susan and Laure ... well, even the smoky skies weren't so bad . . . .

a word about the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music . . . . well worth coming to Santa Cruz to enjoy; Marin Alsop's music directorship, and the sharing of wonderful new composers and great musicians and inspiring music makes this a special treat indeed . . . . put it on your calendar for next August, and spend some time . . . . cruzin'!!!

Ashland's Shakespearian Festival began a 10 year run of all of Shakespeare . . . Much Ado About Nothing with Beatrice and Benedick going from cutting to loving was delightful; Pericles, like Job, who loses everything and regains it in the end was powerful; Antony and Cleopatra proved that self-serving lust for power hurts more than oneself in the end!
Stan Lai's Secret Love In Peace Blossom Land is a tribute to how to work together to find the depth of human understanding.  Lynn Nottage's Sweat reminds us what happens when a contemporary factory town shuts down.  Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night is the discovery of finding forgiveness in an imperfect family, and how to live through it!                                                                                                                                                                                   
Quiara Alegria Hudes' The Happiest Song Plays Last concludes a trilogy with the effects of 2012's immigration protests in Arizona, and the struggle for democracy in Tahrir Square, while watching through the eyes of organizers in the barrios of Philadelphia.
Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo is a reminder, in melodrama form, of how one can overcome adversity and discover love once again.

completing my Ashland trip with an AIDS benefit is a reminder that there is still more to do ... more research, more education, more caring.  dis-ease cannot be ignored . . . .

it took me three summers to get to the begonia festival, but i made it to the sand-castle making contest on perhaps one of the hottest Saturdays on record!  this unique sand-castle was very fun to watch being made . . . . very wet sand dropped through the closed hand ... like squishing your feet through wet sand!

 then a walk on the wharf with Palm Springs friends Rod and JR . . . . what a delight to play tour guide, and get a chance to see things i haven't yet seen in the community.

this was an absolutely perfect day, with lunch as well (joined by Rob).

this is the west coast at its best!  a beautiful day, suffers out on the water, boats bobbing about, people enjoying the company of others . . . .

it is also a reminder that we are very much a tourist destination, and with tourism comes traffic, which seems to only be getting worse.

with all the complaining we locals do about the traffic, we actually get to live here, and call this little piece of paradise . . . . home!

 here is a view of those very colorful beach rentals at the Capitola Beach.  they remind me a lot of the 'painted ladies' in San Francisco . . . . those Victorian Homes that face the park where that 1970's sit-com took place.

i do believe this is the first real summer where i've taken advantage of enjoying the location where i also work.  so often i experience the summer through others -- people sharing their experiences and the "oh, did you see ..." and the "we went to ..."  and of course the "you'll not want to miss ...".  so, i took time to see to go and tried not to miss .... and worked at the same time!

this is the view from the other wharf (in Santa Cruz) where the wharf run/walk is done at the beginning of summer --- always on a sunday, so i cannot go. 

this evening shot captures the beach/boardwalk in its nightly glow ... imagine the screams from the thrill seekers as they enjoy the big dipper and other rides, following the eating of 'all things sweetly fried'.

perhaps a little known fact, but there is a local menu that can be requested at the wharf restaurants -- such a deal, i tell ya!

and what would the summer be without a trip to San Francisco, by way of highway 1 .... more often than not, San Francisco is not the place to be on Labor Day, but what a treat to play tour guide once again on my day off?!  this is the view of the old Sutro Baths next to the Cliff House, facing the Pacific.

the day included a trip to the castro, of course, and a tour through golden gate park by way of the great highway, and then over the hills from the castro to fisherman's wharf and a sea-food dinner and a view of the cable car followed by a trip down 'the crookedest street in the world'.
 of course, one can't forget a trip over the golden gate bridge; honestly, it didn't seem like that many cars . . . . alas, a trip to a couple of places in SOHO, and a leisurely trip back home.  oh, i nearly forgot ... there isn't, perhaps (save for the de young) a better view of the city than from diamond heights .... one of the 'must not be missed' places to put on your one-day trip into the city.

broadway san jose opened its season at the center for the performing arts building -- designed by frank lloyd wright, no less! -- with the great production of The Lion King.  great music, awesome costumes, and a wonderful dinner (thanks brian!)  what a summer!!!

and now, with a nod to autumn today, summertime has come and gone; California is still dry, the fires continue, and the traffic has come back with the opening of the school terms.  what wonderful memories, times for renewal, and visions of a very productive fall . . . my hope, as i secure a new top for my convertible, is that there will be rain!  so far, the forecast is sunny and bright . . . today is the first day . . . . make the most of all your days!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

a series on holy conferencing . . . . practice active listening and more fun!

my focus in worship this summer has been on helping us to be better listeners, and less bombastic reactors . . . .

i'm hopeful that the practice of these precepts can be useful to EVERYONE in ANY context.

the key ingredient is coming to a place of active listening, and realizing that getting to know the person and building up a relationship is MORE IMPORTANT THAN GETTING INFORMATION!

like this picture from the santa cruz county building looking toward the ocean, it is dense with foliage . . . even during this time of drought.  yet, the denseness reminds us that there is much to see and explore; it is not just a bunch of trees and bushes; this is a complex encounter with the divine.  conversing is complex . . . .

each encounter we have with someone is also an encounter with the divine.  many faith traditions hold this truth; from a christian perspective, the saying goes, "the jesus in me meets the jesus in you.

sometimes we forget the perspective of being in holy conferencing.  we forget the benefit of a conversation is not to 'win or lose' but to deepen our understanding . . . .

this picture is taken from the same set of windows on the 5th floor of the santa cruz county building.  by moving a few feet, the perspective from the set of windows is vastly different.  so like listening in a conversation; be open; be moved from a rigid understanding . . . . 

so it is when we are in conversation, or as john wesley called it, 'holy conferencing'; by careful listening and sharing ideas, we can communicate in positive ways; we can come to understand one another in deeper and more meaningful ways. . . .

it is vitally important that we improve our listening skills.  what i especially like about this picture is the bit of fog that 'clouds the issue' so to speak; coming to a deeper understanding (dare i say 'praying about it') allows the fog to clear and the picture become focused.  While the fog adds beauty to the picture -- in a conversation, 'fog' can be discomforting . . . .

here is a summer view of santa cruz, looking at the boardwalk .... even in a drought, this is just cool!

these are the precepts which are helpful in communicating with one another.  and like learning any new way of communicating, each of us will need to practice to help make our communication pattern comfortable.

every person is a child of god ... this is the basic belief.

listen before speaking ... really listen; resist planning a retort.

strive to understand from another's point of view ... empathy.

speak about issues; do not defame people ... need i say more?

strive to reflect accurately the views of others ... 'i heard you say . . . .'

disagree without being disagreeable ... agree to disagree.

pray before you make decisions and allow prayer to interrupt your busy lives ... pray always.

one of the unplanned results of this summer's sermon series on holy conferencing was an opportunity to have a baby shower at the parsonage ... some 40 people gathered to celebrate the birth-to-be of victor in october!

on the hottest day of the year, we jammed into my un-air- conditioned home, and enjoyed conversation, the opening of baby gifts, food and beverages ... imagine a punch bowl filled with the image of a baby bathtub full of toys!  (fear not!  a little ginger ale, lime sherbet, and some blue food coloring, and you have a witty (and delicious) baby visual!

fun ... enjoyable conversations, a relaxed atmosphere, the guessing of how many jelly beans there were in a bottle, and the sharing of faithful wisdom wishes to the soon to be born victor!  how much fun is that?!

delightful listening, and energizing fun!

and then an evening walk on west cliff that brought some fog, and the refreshing crashing of waves, and some people floating up 'air candle kites' (they might also be known as floating luminaries, but you get the picture ... as it was explained to me, the candles allow the 'kite' to be illumined, and float up until the candle goes out.  as they rose, an "awe" floated out of me -- a prayer for victor, and a prayer that we can all practice empowering one another in ways of mutually agreeable communicating. 

and now i am off for a trip to ashland; shakespeare awaitith..... be blessed!