The Small Pleasures of Life


Grateful for their tour / of the pharmacy, / the first-grade class / has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped / to the window-glass, / faces wide to the street,
round and available, / with parallel lines for hair.
I like this one best: Brian, / whose attenuated name / fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible / legs descending from the ball / of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same / central sphere. He breathes here,
on his page. It isn’t craft / that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines, / in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks / seem to thrill with life, / possess a portion
of the nervous energy / in their maker’s hand?
That big curve of a smile / reaches nearly to the rim / of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream, / brown spheres teetering / on their cone,
a soda fountain gift / half the length of him / —as if it were the flag
of his own country held high / by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support / for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty: / he shows us pleasure / and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious. / He’s frail beside his relentless standard.
—“Brian Age Seven” by Mark Doty

Maybe it’s because I live with my own seven-year-old, first-grade artist who exudes the same such, delicious passion for life. Maybe it’s because my Dad owns a pharmacy with a soda fountain and, in the same such spirit, generously gives time, attention, and love to the kids of my hometown. Maybe it’s because we are entering into a season when we culturally set aside time for thanksgiving and gratitude. Maybe all of these reasons—and others—contribute to why I love this poem. And I do love it so! It feels me with such joy! It reminds me that the beauty and simplicity and delight of our world are abundantly present in the small pleasures of life. 
 
What fills you with delight these days? What fills you with hope? Even with the compounding pressures, conflicts, and concerns of our daily lives, where do you look to find joy? To feel gratitude? To experience life’s deliciousness and pleasure? If you were to take out some crayons and draw a picture of beauty, what colors and images would fill your page? As for me, I have my crayons in front of me, and I am drawing a picture of our World Communion celebration a few weeks ago—our table filled with a rainbow of breads and fruits and vegetables; our congregation standing in a circle holding hands; and our kids serving us communion with such reverence, pride, and joy. I can hardly think of anything more beautiful.

See you in church,
Christy

Come With All You Are


A man filled with the gladness of living
Put his keys on the table, / Put flowers in a copper bowl there.
He put his eggs and milk on the table. / He put there the light that came in through the window,
Sounds of a bicycle, sound of a spinning wheel. / The softness of bread and weather he put there.
On the table the man put / Things that happened in his mind.
What he wanted to do in life, / He put that there.
Those he loved, those he didn't love, / The man put them on the table too.
Three times three make nine: / The man put nine on the table.
He was next to the window next to the sky; / He reached out and placed on the table endlessness.
So many days he had wanted to drink a beer! / He put on the table the pouring of that beer.
He placed there his sleep and his wakefulness; / His hunger and his fullness he placed there.
Now that's what I call a table!
It didn't complain at all about the load. / It wobbled once or twice, then stood firm.
The man kept piling things on.
—“Table” by Edip Cansever 

As we enter into the season of fall, I invite you to bring all that you are. We human beings are complex creatures—full of longings, hopes, disappointments, shortcomings, recoveries, courage, vision, heartaches, kindnesses, and commitments. All of it is welcome—no, I would say—all of it is essential in the life of our community of faith. We need you, and we need each other!

Just as the man “filled with the gladness of living” in the poem above piles things on the Table, you are invited to do the same. Bring the common and ordinary—the stuff of your everyday life—the keys, the groceries, the flowers. But don’t stop there. Bring the extraordinary light capable of shining a way forward for you. Bring the softness of bread and weather that remind you to soften your gaze and the overly critical voice in your head. Bring your deepest desires, your hunger, and your fullness. But also make room for the lessons you need to learn. This Table reminds us that we are all human—across cultures, across differences, across geography, across time. We all have gifts, and we all have deficiencies.

So, come with all you are! The Table is set. Its capacity is endless. It may wobble a little, but it won’t complain. And it will stand firm. Accepting you. Loving you. Longing for you. You can lay your cards face up on this Table. You won’t be rejected or turned away. You are welcome here.

See you in church,
Christy

 

Labyrinth Walking: Integrative Journeys for Renewal


If you could see / the journey whole / you might never / undertake it; / might never dare
the first step / that propels you / from the place / you have known /toward the place
you know not.
Call it / one of the mercies / of the road: / that we see it / only by stages
as it opens / before us, / as it comes into / our keeping / step by / single step.
There is nothing / for it / but to go / and by our going / take the vows / the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to / the next step; / to rely on more / than the map; / to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream; / to follow the star / that only you / will recognize;
to keep an open eye / for the wonders that / attend the path; / to press on / beyond distractions / beyond fatigue / beyond what would / tempt you / from the way.
There are vows / that only you / will know; / the secret promises / for your particular path/and the new ones / you will need to make / when the road / is revealed / by turns
you could not / have foreseen.
Keep them, break them, / make them again: / each promise becomes / part of the path; / each choice creates / the road / that will take you/to the place / where at last / you will kneel
to offer the gift / most needed - / the gift that only you / can give - / before turning to go / home by / another way.
“For Those Who Have Far to Travel” by Jan Richardson



I have served in ordained ministry for over 19 years, and for the past 14+ years, I have balanced a combination of pastoral ministry and seminary teaching. I am a pastor, seminary professor, licensed massage therapist, mother to a seven-year-old, partner to another ordained minister who serves a separate congregation, poet, and theological writer; and I am thoroughly committed to each of these roles. Yet, I have never had a sabbatical set aside for rest, renewal, reflection, and writing. My body is tired yet needs physical activity, and I long for concentrated time to write and refresh my imagination. As I move deeper into my career of integrating pastoral ministry and theological education, I recognize more clearly that this kind of renewal time is essential to remain focused, creative, healthy, and centered. This was the rationale I presented in April as part of our application for a Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant.

When I opened the envelope and saw that we had been awarded the grant, I was shocked and overwhelmed and bewildered. Was this real? I struggled to believe it. Yet earlier in that same afternoon, I had met with someone and told him to accept the kindness and gifts he had been given—even though he was struggling with self-doubt and did not believe he deserved such goodness. I assured him he did deserve such goodness. But now, it was my turn. . . .

Sometimes, we struggle to receive gifts of affirmation and love. Even when we desperately need them. And that is the challenge I am confronting right now. It is a beautiful and blessed challenge.

The theme of our Lilly proposal, “Labyrinth Walking: Integrative Journeys for Renewal,” represents my active, mindful, and intentional pursuit of professional integration and personal renewal. I hope that it will help me—and help me help others—navigate both interior and exterior challenges and to garner inner resources that will enable social action. I long for greater integration—in myself and in our faith community—between presence and courage, head and heart, reason and faith, experience and intellect, prayer and social action. And I believe labyrinth walking can teach us ways to balance personal devotion with concern for all God’s children and God’s world. This is my hope, anyway. And I am grateful to be with you on this journey.

See you in church,
Christy