Saturday, May 31, 2014

Canadian geese and Alzheimers art: grace sightings

An Oregon spring abounds in grace. I will only mention a few recent sightings.
--Canadian geese on the lake: Early one morning at Tilikum, I walked to the lake and enjoyed the company of a family of Canadian geese. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. Mist rose off the water as the sun joined us.
--Reading the river: My experience as Listener at the Leadership Institute for Group Discernment surprised and delighted me. During our four days together I heard God’s voice as currents flowing together in a river. One the last day, reading the river back to the group was my joyful “responsibility.”
Oregon wild flowers: We spent a day at Oregon Gardens and were surprised again at the vitality and variety. What a gift.
Saturday morning cinnamon rolls at the Newberg Bakery: Making new habits is fun. We walk through the quiet streets, bring along a poetry book and read to each other over our second cup of coffee.
Alzheimers art and grandma: The Oregon branch of the Alzheimers Association has been using art therapy among those suffering with Alzheimers disease, and they sponsor an annual art contest and auction. Hal’s mom, 94 years old, participated this year and had her watercolor of Mount Hood accepted for display and the auction. Some of us accompanied her to the exhibition in the Portland Art Museum this week, where her painting was displayed along with that of the other 80 winners. Grandma doesn’t remember painting the picture, but she accepted that it was hers and seemed to enjoy all the attention. In fact she smiled more than is common these days, and that was the best part of the evening. We discovered that a chain of care-homes for the elderly had pre-purchased her painting for $400.00 and will hang it in their corporate offices. Of course, that’s neither here nor there to Grandma. But the whole experience was a grace-filled affirmation to all of us that she is still a person of great worth and creativity.
Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sex, lies and Quakers

Let me apologize right up front if you read this and feel defrauded. But I have been very curious as to how much a title affects the number of readers who visit my blog.
So this is an experiment.
It’s also the end of this particular blog.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On being a lower-case "l" listener

Tomorrow I launch out in a new adventure. I get to be the “Listener” at the Leadership Institute for Group Discernment, held at Camp Tilikum outside of Newberg. For four days and nights, 27 Christians from around the country will gather to listen to each other and God, and try to come closer to an understanding of what it means to be the people of a God who walks with us and talks with us.
Early this year, the director of the Institute invited me to be the Listener for this particular gathering. This was my first encounter with that term, and I noted that the “L” was upper-case. Not listener, but Listener. The director, also my friend, Jan, described the role in her invitation: “This person immerses himself/herself in all of the conference--and then presents on Thursday morning as a summation of our time together.  We expect the Listener to bring forth themes that seem to be important, to add or highlight things that the Spirit has been working in the Listener, to weave together the textures of the gathering, etc.”
After my initial delight at being invited, the doubts began rolling in. Was this really something I could do? Since this is a common pattern upon receiving an invitation—enthusiasm followed by fear—I knew that I should sit with the possibility, talk it over with Hal, pray and wait for the Spirit’s nudge. Hal pointed out that the fact that I regularly wait for the Spirit’s nudge, and usually recognize it when it comes, indicated I might be able to fulfill the role. So I accepted the invitation, partly because I want to be the kind of person who can listen like that and who can lead other people in community listening. But I suspect that I’m still at the stage of being a lower-case listener, rather than a Listener. There’s lots of room for growth.
And growth is one thing I pray for in this conference—for me and for all of us as a gathered community.
I’m very aware that listening for God’s voice in a group of human beings is not easy or automatic. I’m recognizing the context of my real life that I will be bringing with me to the conference. Currently I’m in the middle of several community discernment processes, one of which is difficult but going well, and one of which can only be described as an agonizing struggle. At the heart of both processes is the desire to discern what God is saying.
One of the riskiest aspects of this assignment is that I make a presentation to the group on the last morning of the conference, and I have a whole hour in which to do it. But I can’t prepare. My slate is blank, which is way beyond what I’m comfortable with. (Don’t criticize that last sentence, please. I strongly affirm that you can so end a sentence with a preposition! But that’s another subject.)
Actually, my slate is not blank. And I am preparing. The very life situations I bring with me are an important part of the slate. Writing this blog is preparation, as is the prayer that precedes it. And for some reason, I’m not afraid. I’m looking forward to what God will say, through us and to us. I sense the Spirit faithfully making me into a listener.
Maybe someday I’ll even be an upper-case Listener. Maybe I won’t. It’s not mine to worry about.
(Did you catch that other frisky preposition that I just ended another sentence with?)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The impatient child...comes home

A few days ago, little Natalie Lucia was born. In a sense this child belongs to the whole congregation of North Valley Friends. We have been cheering her on for several years, inviting her to come home. We have struggled alongside her parents, Rob and Kim Felton, in their battle with infertility, and we rejoiced three years ago in the adoption of Madeleine who came into their arms from birth. Some of us wondered if that was the end of the matter.
But God had a surprise in store, and he allowed Kim to live her dream of going through pregnancy. This was after the second adoption fund-raising activities, the months of waiting for something (someone) to turn up, and several last-minute disappointments. Then one Sunday early this year our pastor announced from the pulpit that Rob and Kim had experienced a “little bump” in their adoption plans. She then projected the scan on the screen, and it slowly dawned that the “bump” was a baby. Growing inside of Kim.
It’s been fun to watch Kim beginning to “show,” to share in the amazement and excitement.
So it was with alarm that we received the news on Easter weekend that Kim had gone into premature labor, almost too early for the baby to survive. That was three weeks ago. Three weeks of living in the neonatal intensive care unit, on-and-off IVs, constant monitoring, praying for time. Again, this has touched our whole congregation.
But she’s here, seven weeks early, but healthy. She even seems plump in her photo. She’ll stay in the hospital until sometime in June, but she appears to be thriving. Those few weeks apparently were vital.
Here’s a prayer/poem I wrote three weeks ago (one that was answered).

To the Impatient Child
(a poem that is really a prayer)
 Little one,
your time will come,
but not today.
Soon, you will come out
of hiding and greet
the world with a yell,
but not just yet.
Soon, you will meet
her face-to-face,
the one you only feel
now, blood-to-blood,
swimming in liquid love,
moving with her
in a dim warm space.
Soon, you will meet
him, feel his heart
beat as he holds you
to his chest, pats
your back, hums,
but not now.
It’s coming soon,
believe me--
real air on your face,
light, colors, music
and a whole open place
of people who will receive
you with so much love
you’ll need time
to take it all in.
And time is what
we’re asking for now.
So rest easy, settle back,
let yourself grow.
A world of wonders approaches.
But not today.

Friday, May 2, 2014

North Valley discusses human sexuality

After the prerequisite silence
we move forward, “carefully
and without inappropriate pressure.”
We seek a sense of the meeting
on matters of sensuality,
worshiping as we walk
through a mindfield of words.
Pacifists on tiptoe, we wonder
whether bonding comes before
procreation as the meaning
of marriage, decide it does.
Consensus on which distortions
to include eludes us. Should
we even mention distortions?
We try to map out “the journey
toward healing,” define sexual
wholeness without the naming
of parts or positions.
After an hour-and-a-half we
have no unified statement but
we’re all still friends. Maybe
that’s enough. Maybe it’s not.
Who says Quakers don’t
speak in tongues?