I want to sing like the birds sing,
not worrying who listens or what they think.
This week a group of Christian educators/faith-formers have joined one another in the mountains of North Carolina for a conference filled with inspiration and resources. Everyone has brought something to enrich the experience. With music, art and reflection we have learned new skills and shared our own insights.
Through the patient guidance of a gifted and faith-filled artist, Roger Hutchinson, I told a story today with finger paint and a white canvas. As we began, I turned with a smile and said – ‘really Roger, finger paint – for someone with little use of their fingers!’ In the midst of this ironic fact, I knew I was game, always have been, and so the painting began.
Limitations are often self-designed. Be it self-conscious or fearful, many opportunities are refused with statements such as ‘I can’t do that’. Yes, it takes courage but as time moves on the need for courage often changes into a healthy dose of curiosity.
We form in faith with one another. Through trust and the stir of God’s spirit, a vision can be born and nurtured into life. I am grateful for those willing to be companions in this journey of faith.
It is a noisy world. We are continually dodging words thrown around without care–all is analyzed. With little regard for their effect, opinions fly.
Is there a place where people live free of criticism and praise? Can this way of living be our own way to live? It may feel like swimming up-stream but it can be done – better yet, it must be done. Other ways of living are being sought out in this culture saturated with cynicism and judgement. We do not have to go far to see a different way – a way free from judgement. Examples are found throughout creation and are discovered as close as birds sitting in the branches of a tree.
May we be encouraged by these examples and welcome the reminder of our connection to one another, not by word but by spirit.
(a note of thanks to my wise and grace-filled mother, Nancy, who shared this poem by Hafiz.)
I will never forget you. You are painted into the canvas of my life, in the deepest and truest of colors, by the master hand of the great Artist who first brought us together. You are within my soul. You are light and life, vision and meaning, hope and the dreams from which all hope is crafted. I will never forget you. What you gave I cannot repay, but I can always honor. Who you are, I cannot replace, but I can forever cherish. And one day in time to come, where love finds an eternal home, I will call you again by name, and see you as you see me now. (Bishop S. Charleston)
Throughout this week we have taken time to honor and remember the men and women who have bravely served our country, defending and protecting in situations unimaginable. While flags fly high and the air fills with music of national pride, people have paused to remember.
Memories most often rise as stories. At this time I live in a retirement community the youngest resident by at least twenty years. This week, stories have been told by women and men who served in conflicts as long ago as WWI. It is humbling to listen as memories are shared with pride and sadness. While stories are repeated – as if to get each detail in perfect place – I know mot to interrupt the telling of these memories. With respect and sincere compassion, I have sat to hear about battles, losses and rescues from people now small in stature and frail by age. Something important happens as these stories are shared. I have watched youth and energy rise, transforming the storyteller. Time suspends and memories are brought alive in the telling. Some memories cannot be told in story either because they are bound by vow or too painful to make real once again in words. In those moments honor is given in silent presence.
This world spins at a pace too fast for memories and stories. We are a better people to set aside time to collectively listen and remember. By doing this we experience renewal of youth and strength.
May we find ways to slow down and listen. The stories told reveal a something unknown in each of us – calling us to learn from our history and give thanks for sacrifice given to protect us and save others from harms way.
Dear Saint Joan: I humbly ask you to help me to live as God wants me to. I would be happy if I had only a fraction of the love and kindness you had for your enemies as well as your friends. But most of all, I implore you to help me to obtain from God a spark of your great and endless love and faith so that I may truly love, serve and obey Him with my whole heart as you did to the very end of your holy life. May you always protect me and help me to stay pure in mind, body and spirit forever and ever. Amen.
(Composed by Virginia Lindsley, when she was in the 7th grade.)
To begin and end this month (like bookends) two women were remembered and celebrated throughout most of the Christian tradition, Julian of Norwich and Joan of Arc. Both lived their lives with conviction and strength having encountered God at young ages. Neither would live in comfort or safety but both lived knowing they had responded to God’s revelation and direction.
In the Book of Acts we read:’Your young men and women will prophesy, your old men will have visions and sons will dream dreams.’ Julian of Norwich and Joan of Arc experienced holy vision and stepped out to proclaim God’s word through prayer and action.
May we pay close attention for the time of dreams and visions is near, once again.