Monday, September 29, 2014

Once again, with the archangels

Once again, Michael, Rafael, Gabriel and I gather to party. I continue amazed and grateful that my parents (unknowingly) chose to give me birth on September 29. Although Quakers (along with my parents) don’t follow the liturgical calendar, ever since I discovered that September 29 is the feast-day of the archangels, I’ve latched onto it with a fierce joy. And we do celebrate!
Yesterday in unprogrammed worship, Psalm 103 was our gathering word. The Psalmist begins and ends this ancient hymn with the words, “Praise the Lord, O my soul!” This is the person in her most intimate being gazing with love and adoration at her Creator and God. As I sat in the silence with my sisters and brothers, I did just that. I gazed and adored.
And as my meditation in the psalm continued, I saw it open up from the personal and expand to include all the heavenly host and all of God’s created universe: “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.”  And from there, in the same verse, the psalmist zooms back in to the individual person who joins the archangels and the universe to proclaim, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”
So it’s not arrogance or exaggeration to see myself celebrating this day with the archangels. It’s gospel truth. Gospel. That’s good news.
Praise the Lord and Happy Birthday to me, O my soul.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The benefits of being invisible

My meeting, North Valley Friends Church, sponsors a Wednesday community meal followed by classes for all age groups. I have joined a group entitled, “A Path Through the Later Years,” for people facing old age or those wondering how to help their parents through this time of life.
In her book, The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister identifies three distinct phases in the aging process: young old age, old age, and really old age. Hal’s parents, at 95 and 97, are really old. It amuses me to see myself as a “young old lady.”
Well—it sort of amuses me. In fact, I’m holding off on personally applying the “old lady” label. Maybe in a few years—say 10—it’ll fit better.
But I have entered the realm of the retired, and it is indeed a new phase of life. I intend to be intentional and positive about it all, part of the reason for joining this group.
The word “invisible” came up several times in last week’s session. It seems that older people frequently feel that they have become invisible to those around them. I remember my friend and former NVFC pastor Stan Thornburg talking about this experience. It expresses diminishment and isolation, a lessening of value in the social marketplace.
Actually, I’ve been an invisible person for years. I remember a small incident as a young woman. Going out the door at the end of a party, a friend looked at me and asked, “Nancy, have you been here the whole time?” (I had been.)
The larger the group, the quieter I become. That used to distress me. It doesn’t any more. Invisibility has its uses.
This relates to the assignment the group leader gave us last week. We are to reflect on our “passions,” on what gives us purpose and joy. Being a reflective, intuitive person, I’ve been thinking along these lines for a long time. I’ve already defined my vocation as “to discover and express the grace of God hidden in the ordinariness of life.” I live this out primarily through prayer, poetry and relationships with people. (It helps that they all begin with the letter “p.”)
In my reflections this week, I’ve identified the link between my vocation and invisibility. In essence, I’m called to be a spy. I love watching people and listening to them talk. I love the interweaving of voices, emotions and the spaces between them. Grace frequently surfaces in those spaces.
I’m realizing that being invisible makes me a better spy. If I grow more invisible as I age, I guess that means I’ll become more astute in my espionage. That could be dangerous—if it were not all about grace.
One more thing to be thankful for.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Deadheading the irises

They’ve bloomed for us since May,
lifting their multicolored skirts
in a welcoming dance,
flinging rainbow colors
in greeting as members
of the local family of God,
also clad in varying colors,
styles and perspectives,
made their way past the garden
and into the sanctuary.
But the season is passing,
and Anna attends to the garden,
deadheading the early blooms
that now show signs of decay.
With scissors and a flick of her wrist,
she snaps them off.
Silverado, Rare Treat, Viva la France!,
Hello Darkness, Armageddon,
Dusky Challenger and Mary Francis,
painted ladies past their prime,
they all bite the dust, as the few remaining
blossoms pretend it won’t happen to them.
And even as I thank God for Anna’s
service, tidying up the garden,
I recall that God’s ways are above ours.
I think of those among us whose
sanctification occasionally slips,
give praise for a Master Gardener
who does not deadhead the saints.