Remember
that the whole earth is a sacrament-
a limitless possibility of encountering
God reaching toward us.

May 6, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Time

Time is everything. Time to grow. Time out.  Poor timing.
We spend most of our time waiting: for the children, the future,
A better year.

Time passes. And yet, we continue to wait.
We wait for the pandemic to end; for economic relief
And social justice.

The time has come to step from the shadows into the light,
To reflect the gift of the risen Christ in our own lives.

What choices shall we make?
Shall we choose love over hate?
Peace over violence?
New growth over decay?

Love is as simple as taking soup
To an ailing neighbor,
Smiling at a stranger.

Peace is an open mind, a prayer for
What is just and true.

New growth is happening all around us,
As we welcome the season of spring.

Now is the time for us to follow nature’s example, to sew new seeds
Which form new shoots. And give birth to new life .
To give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself  to us.

– Nina Bisognani
 

April 29, 2021

Image: Kathryn Yingst

The Hike

I am attempting to defy an idiom.

My current project is introducing my 13 year old schnauzer-terrier to a backpack. The kind that carries HIM, not vice versa.

I imagine the dog people are reaching for popcorn. Even the casual dog enthusiast understands that a terrier comes straight from the womb convinced of their place in the world as The.Boss.Of.Everything. Suggesting a new way of doing things to a terrier—especially an elderly sort—well, at best it may be naive. Add schnauzer to the genome, and it becomes a bit like interactions with your uncle Eugene: lots of hairy eyebrows raised in bored contempt.

The thing is, with my dog having reached a ripe old age, he isn’t able to prance through our regular adventures like he used to. Instead, there is arthritic hobbling. And for a little guy who desperately wants to be living his best life, staying home instead of going on the usual walks is a real downer. Hence the introduction of the dog backpack.

I’m putting the idea out there slowly. It’s hard for my friend not to see new modus operandi as threatening. He likes doing things the way we’ve always done them. Trust issues. We have clues that before he came to us, he had to pull through some pretty scary situations. He made it, though. Mostly.

Some fears linger. He sits like a sentinel against my calf to guard my back when I do dishes and the teenagers are making too much noise upstairs. He has completely taken out a Mighty Mite vacuum on my behalf.

My dog means well. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult for him to discern danger from A.New.Idea. I’m meeting him where he is.

So far, I’ve brought the backpack out and we sat with it while eating treats. Some of the treats were well inside the bag, and apparently worth retrieving.

The next day he ate his treats while sitting on the backpack.

We had started a new routine, and I guess he decided it wasn’t half bad because by day three my dog was nudging me to start backpack time. He even sat, zippered, inside of it.

I know what people say about an old dog learning new tricks, but I am hopeful. It might be awhile before we get to the trail, but we’re working on it. Together.

– Kathryn Yingst
  April 21, 2021

April 22, 2021

Image: Nancy Davison

Hot Date

“I gotta go,” Nancy said at the zoom coffee hour after church. “I got a hot date in an hour and a half.”

The hot date was lunch with me, at Norma’s Restaurant.

Before the pandemic Nancy and I went to Norma’s after church almost every Sunday. Norma’s is a friendly place; they know us there. 

Fifteen months ago, we would have been peeling off choir robes, chatting with friends, daring ourselves to eat muffins and cookies, then leave coffee hour by twelve, always issuing an open invitation for anyone who wanted to join us. 

Covid changed everything. Norma’s closed. Everyone stayed home, worried we would get sick. We refused invitations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It just wasn’t safe.

Then, on Advent I, I watched the first of the Pfizer vaccine being loaded onto trucks. Tears rolled down my face. We still had a way to go, but I could see the end of this long tunnel.

And then, vaccinated, it was safe to reenter the world. Still socially distanced, still wearing masks. It was winter, too cold to be safely outdoors. Who, at my age, wanted to chance it?

I chose to stay home. I was cautious. Why risk my health –and  my family’s– when we were almost to the finish line?

Friends began to say, “Chance it. Go.” And, I  did. Lunch with one of my oldest friends, dinner inside a restaurant with Jim. Hugging an old, vaccinated friend. And  lunch at Norma’s with Nancy. And today,  my equally cautious children sat outside together for a meal at York Beach Brewing. It is the first time in a year they have met for a meal in a restaurant, and only the second time they’ve all been together –at our home. 

So it wasn’t a hot date Nancy had in mind. It was a smart date. At a place where everyone knows our names, what we like in our coffee, or might choose to eat.

I suspect this is how it will be when St George’s opens. Slowly. Cautiously. Carefully. Faithfully.

Gratefully.  

– Barbara Kautz
  April 18, 2021

April 15, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

The Journey Ahead

In this ‘in-between time’ we walked with Christ and each other with self-reflection, simplicity and forgiveness, through tears, hope, joy and grace.

We experienced the festival of Palm Sunday and the emotions of Christ’s passion, until finally we celebrated an empty cross, an empty tomb, the resurrection.

Now what? 

Where does our journey take us next?

How will we continue to walk on this joyous and difficult road toward a relationship with God?

As we slowly come out of the pandemic, who else, what else will we lose before it is over?  What will the world be like when we emerge?  Will we live our lives differently because of what we went through?

As we witness or experience social injustice in our communities, our country and around the world, how will we respond?  How will we use our voices, our actions, our lives?

C.S. Lewis, the writer and lay theologian, once wrote “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The sun has risen. The Son is risen. The resurrection is a light to us.  As we continue our journeys, may we not only walk in the light as he is in the light, but also reflect that light.  May people see the risen Christ in us.

– Barbara Ryther

April 8, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Thoughts of Easter

A pure white bunny

Shiny new shoes 

Eggs in baskets, or hidden outside.

 

Worshippers filling the church

Spilling over into empty spaces.

Heady perfumes

Mixed with the scent of lilies.

 

Hearts filled with prayerful gladness

And songs of the season.

Family gatherings 

Celebrating the risen Jesus.

 

   *    *    *

This year, we are creating new Easter traditions.

 

Though the church door is locked,

We celebrate outside or online.

We share food with friends and neighbors 

While social distancing.

 

Our gatherings at home may be small,

But our church family fills our hearts to overflowing.

 

A community of believers 

Praying around a firepit

In the dark.

 

Taking communion outside

Keeping music alive

Through the virtual  choir.

A hand crafted cross at St George’s door,

Adorned with flowers we offer in celebration

On  Easter Sunday.

 

– Nina Bisognani

Easter Sunday, 2021

Images: Barbara Ryther and Nina Bisognani

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.

Mark 16:1-6

Good Friday, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

“Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.”

Mark 15:22-27

Maundy Thursday, 2021

Image: Sudie Blanchard

The Feast of the Windblown Wafers

No, it wasn’t really a feast day.
It was Lent. Mid-Lent.
It was cold—New England cold—
Brilliant sun, bitter chill and windy.
But it felt like a feast day

After a year-long fast from
Our regular Sunday gatherings,
We were meeting again
On the first day of the week
To share the Body of Christ 
With the Body of Christ!

We were all still masked, in the parking lot.
Alas, several precious featherlight wafers 
Fell victim to the wind.
But there were tears 
And there was joy
As we shared Jesus and each other.

No it wasn’t really a feast day,
But like a single yellow crocus spotted
Peeping from last year’s dead leaves,
This chilly gathering held the promise of 
More feasts, more joy to come.

– Sudie Blanchard

The Sixth Week of Lent

Image: Nina Bisognani

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland, “Wheel of Life” series, Oslo, Norway

Forgiveness

One night I believe an angel came to me.
She appeared as a blinding white light

Hovering in the corner of the room.
Just moments before, I had prayed, even begged,
For her to come.

Yet, when I sensed the nearness  of intense love
I covered my eyes and begged my angel to leave.

“No,” I cried out. “Go away.”
Daring not to look into eyes that could pierce my soul.

For I had sinned.

A sin that left me feeling guilty, anxious, undeserving
One that had been hiding in the cobwebs of my mind. 

At my request, my guardian angel left softly,
With a rustle of gossamer wings.
Unknown to me she passed on a heavenly gift

It was at breakfast the following morning
That I came face to face with the previous night’s encounter.

I realized that forgiving is not forgetting
The memory that had haunted me was still clear, but no longer a burden. 

Over time, I have been able to understand we, as scarred beings,
are still worthy of forgiveness. 

With God’s grace, we are able to pray with open hearts.
We can learn the art of forgiveness, of others and of ourselves.

– Nina Bisognani

The Fifth Week of Lent

Image: Barbara Ryther

Simplicity

What would it be like to simplify my spirit the way I’ve simplified my living space, my schedule, my daily routine?
If I looked behind me, would I see a trail of discarded, tattered “shoulds” and “musts?”
Piles of cast-off, frayed “could haves” and “if onlys?”
I don’t even remember where and how I accumulated them all, yet somehow there they are, clinging to me.
Have I outgrown them or did I never need them in the first place?
Would their loss make me lighter? Brighter? Softer?
Would it change the way I walk through my life?
These things that made me think I was in control of my life — they weighed me down, held me back from having the life God wants for me.

What would it be like to simplify my spirit?
What do I have to lose by trying?
A lot.
What do I have to gain by trying?
My life.

– Barbara Ryther

The Fourth Week of Lent, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Liminal Space

Now. 
No longer here…
Not yet there…
Restless.
Uncomfortable.
Not my choice!
I’m not in control!
How can I live?
Will I die?

Then I hear it. 
In the quiet, a voice.
     Let go.
     Let me.

I pause.
I breathe.
I do let go.

The panic…the fear?
Gone.

In this in-between time
All will be well.
Now.

– Sudie Blanchard

The Third Week of Lent, 2021

Sunflowers

We buried our mother on Saturday. She was 69 years old. While we knew her illness would take her early, we were not prepared for it to take her soon. That is, if there really is any way to prepare oneself for a parent’s death.

I watched my husband, brother, cousins, and nephews carry the coffin, and thought how heavy it must feel for a grandson to shoulder his nana while mourning her loss at the same time. They placed her, gently.

My godparents walked with me from the car to the gravesite. I felt like I was 8 years old. We don’t realize the pillars holding up our foundation until life starts kicking them out from under us. We didn’t hug because of the pandemic.

The priest was compassionate. I didn’t hear his words because I couldn’t focus enough to listen. But his voice was kind and his eyes were soft, and really that’s what I needed. 

My sister and I walked to the left of the coffin, where the priest had spoken. We had been here before, she and I, over the years having buried the parts of our childhood that weren’t meant to be. But on this day, the black coats were for our mother. 

Our mother. I looked at the garden roses, the sunflowers, the long trailing greens we had chosen for her and wondered, how could it be that she is here and also not here? We put people in these boxes, but people don’t fit inside of boxes. Not really.

Sister and I acknowledged our grief, offering our brokenness. We shared memories—collective and personal—and made space for mourning. We tried to convey with words things that are impossible to convey with words. 

Then, silence. 

A path had been cleared in the snow from our mother’s casket to our maternal grandparents’ gravesite, eight plots across. A groundskeeper had done this without us knowing, when he discovered that they were buried nearby. He had opened the way for us in case we needed to let words fall away with our grandparents, too. It was an extraordinary act of mercy. I wept.

I don’t yet know how to shoulder this grief. But I know that even pain—especially pain—is an opportunity for even deeper grace.

– Kathryn Yingst

Second Week of Lent, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

The Journey

This year I think I’ve given up enough
To last at least a decade’s worth of Lent.

And yet the calendar goes on.
The journey asks: who are you now?
Who are you called to be?
Facing mortality, taking time to be quiet,
Looking ahead in penitence and hope.

But giving up? Not now.
I am not giving up…
And I do not need to sacrifice to remember.

Instead, I will give, and leave the “up” behind.

I’ll give…
A loaf of homemade bread,
A second chance,
A word of encouragement,
A phone call to a lonely friend.
A bag of outgrown clothes.

I’ll give..
My time. My talents, My treasure.
Not just for now. Not just for forty days.
I hope…

– Melanie Kyer

First Week of Lent, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Wishes

If we were granted just one wish, we might choose to erase much of the past year:
The year the virus called COVID entered our lives and brought us, weeping, to our knees.

How easily it decimated the bodies of loved ones, tore families apart,
Threatened to weaken the spirit of Christ that dwells within us.

As we enter the Lenten season, we begin a new journey, from darkness to light.
A journey of self-reflection and deepening faith.

With the hope of the small bird that sings before the dawn,
We look into our hearts for the empty spaces that separate us from God.

And we begin to climb the mountain before us with new wishes.
Wise wishes born from the knowledge that God has been with us throughout this journey.

We begin to fill those empty spaces
And we give thanks.

– Nina Bisognani

February 11, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

Solitude

Solitude, when it arrives uninvited, brings with it doubt and loneliness.
It creates time to dwell on what we do not have, and what we cannot do.
It talks about our shortcomings and reminds us of our weaknesses.
It gets inside our heads and magnifies the clutter, shining a light on the dusty corners, pointing
to the tasks undone.

But solitude when it is sought out and welcomed brings peace and connection.
It shares memories of people and places we treasure.
It helps us calm our souls and energize our spirits.
It makes space for our senses to touch creation, to smell the sea air, feel the wind against our
skin, to see the patterns made by clouds.

In its embrace we hear the voice of God telling us we are always held in His hands.

– Barbara Ryther

February 4, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Sea Change

This round earth on which we live changes every day. Fall turns to winter to spring and then sometimes we discover a bit more winter before the leaves, in their gloriously new green, finally herald spring. The color of the Japanese maple across the street changes from deep pink to deep burgundy as summer progresses. Until we know we have circled back to another fall, another winter, and then, thankfully, another spring.

We are lucky because we live near the ocean, and sea changes become part of the rhythm of our lives. High tide, low tide, a beach awash in seaweed reminds us that the earth is a living thing.

This week we lived through a blizzard and its aftermath. Now we wonder how long the snow will remain.  Will it melt, or will a new storm come to bring us a fresh field upon which to make more snow angels?

After the storm, when calm has returned, the sea has a way of reminding us of what we have been through.

So it is with our lives. The pandemic will end. They always do. Will our life afterward be filled with calm? Can we pile up our disappointments, and like the snow after a storm, return to normal? 

– Barbara Kautz

January 21, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

I am grateful for every simple and necessary thing: souls with open hearts and listening
ears, both human and creature-kind. 

The achingly beautiful stories of this earth, told in a million, quiet ways: an egg,
hatched; how dusk settles like a rose; the hush of fresh snow amidst pine woods. 

I want to see it all as if for the first time. Again. 

I hope to try and hold on to this mystery in the core of my bones—this earthy and
divine river that flows through all things. But should I find myself unable to contain such
a gift, may it be—I pray—that the mystery holds me.

– Kathryn Yingst

January 14, 2021

Image: Melanie Kyer

Cooking Lessons

I love to cook and bake, especially at the holidays. I am often using tried and true recipes, or maybe no recipe at all, just improvising by how the chili tastes, or how the dough “feels.” Sometimes, though, it is a new recipe or one I don’t use very often, and I have to “trust the recipe.” 

For Christmas Eve, my husband’s family traditionally has French Onion soup, so since we were home this year, it fell to me.  The recipe requires caramelizing a lot of onions. I am not very patient and I wanted to move on to the next step many times before they were just the right golden brown.  But I waited. I stirred. Each time I looked they were just a bit more soft and had gained just a bit more color.  There was no specific time listed to cook– I just had to wait as long as I possibly could and trust they were caramelized enough. It might have still been a good onion soup if I had stopped earlier, but in the end, the wonderful sweetness was truly revealed by slow gentle roasting for what seemed like forever. Trust the recipe.

After Christmas we made orange marmalade for the first time. I had never made it, so I kept checking the recipe which this time happily came with more specific instructions:  cook until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees.  And yet, even though I knew exactly what to wait for, there was a long time when it felt like progress was frustratingly slow. The marmalade looked and smelled beautiful– did I really need to wait for the thermometer to tell me when to pour it into jars? Well, if I hadn’t, I might be enjoying orange sauce instead of lovely marmalade. Trust the recipe.

Much of the past few months have felt like that. We have waited for the election. We have waited for the birth of Jesus, our Christmas traditions, and the magi. We have waited for a vaccine to be developed. Sometimes it has seemed like those things would never happen. Through it all, it has seemed like stirring the onions or making marmalade:  we know we are not done stirring, but it is so hard to wait. Why can’t we just move on?  Trust the recipe.

But do we even have a recipe for these times which we have never seen before? Scientists may have developed a vaccine, but we do not know how long it will take to be administered to everyone, nor do we know how long it will take before our lives are “back to normal.”  So now what? I like to think the recipe does lie in the hands of our “Master Chef.” The problem is, on our end, it is more like the soup recipe than the marmalade one. We know the method set out for us, but we don’t know the “time” or the “temperature” when everything will be finished. We can pray to discern the will of God in our lives and to live accordingly. We can distance and wear masks.  And we can practice patience that ultimately, the soup will turn out well.

In other words:  trust the recipe. 

Melanie Kyer
January 8, 2021

January 7, 2021

                                                                                                          Image: Barbara Ryther and Nina Bisognani

Reflecting on 2020

We are leaving the old year and with it many things we are probably happy to leave behind,
but there are some things we will bring with us into the new year.

We, the writers and artists  of this reflections page, are grateful for the blessings and lessons
which have come to us in 2020, without which we would not be who we are.

For us they include:

“The opportunity to take family walks together and really pay
attention to each other and to the sights and sounds of nature…”
  -Melanie K

“A bright yellow goldfinch that brought joy to my life
by waking my interest in the dozens of birds
and other creatures in my own backyard…”
  -Nina B

“A reminder to nourish old friendships,
because they’re the roots that sustain me,
as well as new friendships,
because they’re the branches that help me grow…”  -Barbara R.

“Being able to sing choral masterworks
in an international virtual choir,
created specifically because of the pandemic,
and in doing so make lasting friendships from all over the world.”–Barbara K.

“I am grateful to have learned more about letting go.
During this pandemic, I learned how hard,
and sometimes painful, it is to let go of things,
ideas, and traditions that have both meaning and memories attached.”
  – Sudie B.

“The importance of allowing myself time to decompress—
walks along the ocean or on the trails, enjoying a snuggle with my cat,
and chatting with friends. These things have brightened my days.”
  – Kathryn Y.

What are those blessings and lessons that came to you?

December 31, 2020

Image: Nancy Davison

Guide me, Lord

When my life seems pinched and lonely, remind me to look up and out at the moon and stars.
To look down and in at flowing water and tiny blossoms in the grass.

When I struggle for control, loosen my grip and help me trust your plan in all its random glory.

When I am weary, when I am weary, give me rest and a sense of gratitude and of renewal.

– Nancy Davison

Christmas Eve, 2020

Image: Barbara Ryther

Christmas Eve Meditation

This Christmas is unlike any other, and it feels very strange. Because of a powerful microbe we can’t even see, we’ve been deprived of many of the trappings of our normal holiday celebrations. No parties, few– or limited–family gatherings, smaller piles of presents under the tree, the need to ask for help from a food pantry for the first time ever.

Perhaps it is worth remembering that Mary and Joseph were also in a strange place, and that the events of their son’s birth were extraordinarily unusual. A stable, really? Angel choirs? And filthy, smelly men, men who lived on the edge of society, tending sheep being the first people to welcome the newborn into this world?  Unusual indeed. It came at a time and place—ancient Judea—where people desperately needed hope. How impossible it must have seemed, even as he grew to adulthood in modest surroundings that this baby was destined to be that source of that hope.

It is not that difficult to connect today’s events with those of the first Christmas. A year ago none of us expected to find ourselves unable to celebrate Christmas as we have done in the past. We are in a strange place too.

Hoping to return to the ways we are happiest celebrating Christmas we have little choice but to put this year’s celebrations aside. We must do so to survive this pandemic so we, and those we love, will still be here to celebrate a Christmas with all the people we hold dear, and in all the ways we’ve become accustomed to.

 So let us celebrate Christmas as best we can—and do so however small, however different it may be. Sing carols with the virtual choir at one of our YouTube services, find your own candle to light when we sing “Silent Night.”  Go big and find the YouTube celebration from our National Cathedral. Or do both! 

If ever there was  a year for “Christ to be kept in Christmas,” this is it: It is still the birthday of our king. Let’s celebrate it as best we can. God came down on Christmas. God is with us. Joy to the world. The Lord IS come.

– Barbara Kautz

December 17th, 2020

Image: Nina Bisognani

Advent Meditations

As we enter the season of Advent, we begin to experience some of the darkest
times of the year. The sun sets earlier and rises later than we might like.

Diminished are the fall’s last rays of healing warmth. We begin to feel the chill of winter approaching.

Many of us try to avoid the longer nights by putting candles in windows and decorating trees with sparkling lights. Light brings us comfort, and joy over what lies ahead. 

But the skies have grown darker and we fear what we cannot see.
Creaking floorboards late at night in a lonely house.
Strange shadows on the walls.
The sound of coyotes howling at the moon.

Fears of people unlike us, of personal failures, of  hunger, sickness and death. 

We tend to store our inner fears in the outer darkness. Such fears are passed along through generations. Imagine the whole world suffering from a collective fear of the unknown. How thoroughly have these fears altered our lives since ancient times. 

 Though we often think of darkness in a negative way, darkness and light are both a part of God’s plan. In Genesis, darkness precedes the light. As we journey through these dark days, heading toward the light of  Jesus’ birth,  we enter a restful time of quiet anticipation.

This is the time of Advent. A time of HOPE.
We can see the stars in the heavens in all their glory.
The brightest of those stars led the way to the birthplace of Baby Jesus. 

Stay awake, says a small voice inside us, lest you miss the greatest light in this season when it arrives. His spirit may enter our hearts as an owl whose soul comes out at night with wings beating softly; the light of the world and our salvation.

– Nina Bisognani

December 10, 2020

Image: Barbara Ryther

Advent 2020 – A dialog

It’s dark, Lord, and I cannot see the road ahead.
It’s Advent, too, Lord—You know it’s my favorite season.
But this one is so different.
How I long for the traditions that have always marked this time for me—
     Stirring the pudding…rehearsals…baking…
          decorating…finding the right gift…
               Lessons and Carols…time with family and friends…hugs…
                    And so much more….
This new place without the old comforts feels so foreign.
How can Christmas come in a world so strange?
     A world of masks…a world of warnings…a world of rising deaths?

O my child, yes. This Advent is different.
The traditions that marked this season for you are on hold—
     for a while, anyway…
Let go of them.
Prepare for something new.
I am calling you to go deeper with me–
     Deeper into my Word–
          Deeper into my world.
The path ahead seems strange and dark, but I am with you.
Trust me.
Stay awake.
     Pay attention.
          Look for the Light.

– Sudie Blanchard