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

The Fourth Week of Advent

Image: Kathryn Yingst

The Lamb with the Missing Leg

I have always hated knickknacks. It started back when I was seven or eight, when I would visit my grandparents’ house. What is it about grandmas and knickknacks? Do their families run out of gift ideas by the golden years? Whatever the cause, my grandmother displayed her fair share of trinkets. This would have gone barely noticed by my seven year old self, except that my grandma was a firm believer that a bit of hard work built character. So, during sleepovers at Grandma & Grandpa’s house, I would watch her cook delicious dinners—carting ingredients back and forth from the pantry—and it was my job to set the table. Then, that next morning, my sweet, apple-cheeked grandma would say, “I’m going to straighten up the house a bit. Would you want to help Grandma by dusting?” (By dusting!) My seven-year-old mind was unequipped for such adult trickery, knowing that any appeal for help by a grandma should not, could not be refused. Even if she did own ten thousand knickknacks. Lemon Pledge in hand, I sulked into the living room, lifting each trinket—one by one—and wiping the carpet of dust beneath with a wadded up rag.

It should come as no surprise that I grew up to be an upstanding citizen, with all that character-building. It should also come as no surprise that I now live in a house void of knickknacks.

This is why, when my husband of thirteen years saw me unpacking an expansive nativity set last Christmas and arranging each of its members on our dining room buffet, he was sure he had mistakenly stumbled into the wrong house. Once certain that he was in fact standing in his own dining room, his astonishment turned into a trademark smirk.
“What are you doing?” he dared ask.

“I am putting up a nativity scene,” I replied, as if it weren’t an earth-shattering event.

I thought you hated knickknacks…?” He said, still smirking.

I was nabbed, breaking one of my own rules. Here I was, arranging a motley crew of faded wise men, shepherds and kneeling gift-givers around a huge wooden stable on MY buffet. It was my grandparents’ nativity set, old and worn and vaguely gaudy.

My cousin and I used to play with all the characters every Christmas Eve, fighting over who got the baby Jesus until either an adult set us straight, or one of us gave in. We sat in front of the stable, marveling at the multitude of sheep, and the fact that the set included a camel and fake snow. Then one of us noticed the broken lamb.

“Grandpa, this sheep’s broken,” we alerted him. It was always Grandpa’s job to set up the nativity scene at Christmas. We felt a duty to inform him that things were not quite right in our mini-Bethlehem.

But Grandpa already knew. “That one is missing a leg,” he told us. “I put him around the back so I can prop him up.” And he left us there to wonder why anyone on earth would keep a faulty sheep when there was an entire herd of them—the rest having all of their legs. It wrecked the perfection of the scene. Who would want to keep a broken lamb? A lamb that kept toppling over every time the table got bumped by our clumsy hands.

And yet, there it was…every Christmas of my childhood….the lamb with the missing leg, propped up near the stable. Eventually, I came to look for him. There was something about that feeble sheep that eluded me and drew me in all at the same time.

As I set up the nativity set in my own home, I find that little sheep again…kept all of these years. He is the reason that, at Christmastime, I bend my rule on knickknacks. I remember how gently my grandfather had cared for him, even when we weren’t able to be as kind. I remember how instead of being cast out, the lamb was given his own special place in the nativity. I remember how I came to know about grace, that this lamb with the missing leg was somehow perfect just the way he was.

I place him around back, propped up against the stable. And I think, how blessed is this little lamb. From where he rests, he beholds the miracle of love so closely.

Kathryn Yingst
December 10, 2005

The Third Week in Advent

Image: Barbara Ryther

Mary’s Advent

I often think of Mary,
And that very first Advent.
Did they tell her to stop and be quiet?
To enjoy the calm and the waiting?
Not to rush the birth of Christ, 
But to feel the joyful expectation of his coming?
And did she punch them as she closed her eyes,
Trying to breathe through a contraction,
Worrying if she would have a place to give birth,
While being dragged across the country for the census?
No, certainly not Mary.
Mary was a mother.
I am sure she smiled and carried on,
Fixing meals and brushing the donkey,
Finding Joseph’s misplaced sandal,
All the while taking the time to marvel at the life within her,
Rejoicing in God and her place in the world,
Tired, but thankful.

May you find some of Mary’s peace no matter what chaos is in your life this Advent.

Melanie Kyer

The Second Week of Advent

My Light in the Darkness…
Is Song

The short liturgical season of Advent is meant to be a time of reflection, of waiting, a chance for spiritual growth. Four weeks, during the shortest days of the year during which we await the birth of Jesus.
 
Unless you happen to sing in the choir. Ask any choral singer and they’ll tell you we’re already into Christmas. If our goal is to enhance the joy of the Christmas season with music, then we have to start practicing, whether it’s a familiar carol we’re leading, or an anthem we’re trying to learn—sometimes as early as October! It’s simply part of a singer’s life.
 
But what of reflection and spiritual growth? Does singing in the choir make it impossible to feel the waiting of Advent or the passion of Lent when one is practicing Easter music? Not for me. To me it becomes more than the cycle of the church year but a sort of grounding of my faith. And, perhaps, mystery. Christ was born. Christ died. Christ rose. Christ will come again.

I sing with “Choir of the Earth,” a large international virtual choir started during the worst of the Pandemic. There’s no audition, you join a course, and if you want, record your voice part. Then send it to an amazing 23 year old sound engineer in the UK who mixes the whole together in his sound studio, which happens to be one end of his bedroom!

Today, during the premier YouTube release of an amazing choral work, “Missa Buenos Aires- Missatango” a traditional Mass in Latin with a tango beat written by the Argentinian composer Martín Palmerí, I experienced a very thin space, that is a time when I am especially aware of the Divine. It happened during the Credo:
                          Credo in unum Deum… I believe in one God
                          Crucifixus..sub Pontio Pilato—Crucified under Pontius Pilate
                          Et resurexit tertia die…Resurrected on the third day

I know these words. I know their meaning. I’ve sung them thousands of times. But as I sang Missatango this afternoon, the words on my score seemed to jump off the page and into my heart.

It is for this the man called Jesus came to earth. It is for this I await Christmas. It is for this that the darkness of Advent will fall away. And there will be joy.

Barbara Kautz

First Week of Advent, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Advent Thoughts

As the holidays approach and the number of new COVID cases in Maine continues to climb at an alarming rate, I am reminded of memories of Thanksgiving past. Last

year was a time of waiting: for inoculations to be approved, for reconnection with friends and loved ones, for peace in a time of unrest, for an end to the pandemic that had uprooted our lives. Getting together meant masking and social distancing outside closed doors.

My husband and I ate Thanksgiving dinner at home by ourselves, spoke to our son in MA over the phone, and carried a pumpkin pie across town to our daughter’s porch in the pouring rain. She contributed forks, napkins, and cups of  warm tea while our group of five stood six feet apart on that cold, wet day giving thanks for the fifteen minutes we shared together.  

With God’s help we made it through that lonely time and made progress dealing with more challenges in our lives. Now, a year later, we have new fears to overcome, new mountains to climb. While we are still tending the old wounds of the past year, we realize we are not alone. As we begin the season of Advent, there is renewed hope in our hearts. We give thanks for what we have preserved and for positive changes we have made, no matter how small. We wait once more, stronger now, as we climb toward the light with God by our side every step of the way

Nina Bisognani

November 25th, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Artist’s statement: During this pandemic, I have found it especially restorative to immerse myself in nature…to rest even in the midst of the unknown, when the crises still seem to have no answers or endings. Especially then.

Sabbath

Today
when pink clouds
dress the crisp waves
of morning,
I will gaze 
upon that crowned sea
and exhale.
 
When the sandpipers
in flight
feather air and water,
fanning the shore
in the mystery of synchrony,
I will bow my head
in reverence.
 
When the tide
beats its jeweled rhythm
turning mollusks into castanets,
and smooth rocks—like a choir
echo their refrain,
I will raise my hands
in praise.
 
And when the path
rife with salt and balsam,
leads me
to sheltering eaves,
I will lay these flowering boughs
in gratitude
upon my door.
 

Katherine Yingst
November 1, 2021

November 11, 2021

Image: Melanie Kyer

Prayers from the Fog

I have always loved dreams where I could fly and frequently closed my eyes imagining what it would be like to soar over everything. I remember one time as a little girl wishing to God “Please please please, just let me fly this once!” as I ran down our steep driveway and leaped into the air, only to be pulled unforgivingly down again by gravity.  At that point I wasn’t familiar with the scripture “Thou shalt not put thy God to the test.” It was just a child’s wish. 

What we call wishes as a child become prayers as an adult. “Please let me get this job,” or “Please let my son have a good day at school.” I’ve heard it said that God answers all prayers– but sometimes the answer is no. I’ve had a difficult fall with a combination of family and health issues, work issues and even some recent home disasters. While I have occasionally prayed for specific things, there’s so much going on that my latest prayers have just been a simple: “Help.”  

And help has come. No, my problems have not magically been solved, but I can feel the love and support keeping me strong through these hard times. Whether it’s the deep peace that comes from lighting a candle and praying together at a Vestry meeting or a friend from work bringing over dinner and a hug. Or my son the other night when we were both crying over our flooded basement, saying “Maybe we can just lean on each other’s shoulders tonight…” I know God is working through the hands of those who love me. 

I’m not praying to fly anymore. Sometimes I’m just praying for the strength to put one foot in front of the other. But I’m glad to know that when the sand seems to shift beneath my feet and I can’t see through the fog, I know I don’t have to walk through it alone.

Melanie Kyer
November 1, 2021

October 28, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

From your friends in the Reflections Group:How are you feeling these days? A little like you are just going through the motions? Us, too. We’re all feeling a bit shell shocked lately, living within a pandemic which has gone on for so long, as well as recognizing that the past few years have been filled with crises on numerous fronts. With so much uncertainty, it can feel like we’re trying to make our way through a fog.

In our writing and art over the next few weeks, we hope to express how we’ve been affected by these extraordinary times. Many of us are feeling the inertia. We may find ourselves unmotivated or frustrated. Perhaps we feel sadness more often, or even anger.

When we recognize how we are feeling, it is validating. It helps to ground us.  And from that grounding, we can make decisions on how to best move forward. 

We invite you to share your thoughts and emotions through the Reflections offerings. Perhaps you might even have some strategies that have helped you navigate through these challenging times which might benefit others, too. 

We will be sharing meditations on this topic over the next few weeks. Writing, photography, and/or visual art may be emailed to any member of our group for inclusion in St. George’s Reflections.

With you on the journey,

Kathryn Yingst
Melanie Kyer
Barbara Ryther
Nina Bisognani
Barbara Kautz
Sudie Blanchard
Ryan Mails

September 30, 2021

Image: Barbara Kautz

On Lake Huron

I sit on the deck, basking in the late afternoon sun of a late August day, content to sit and watch the sun’s rays bounce off the lake brilliantly, as if the lake itself were the finest of cut diamonds.

My nearest neighbor is a single cormorant. A big one. Floating low in the water, so low I wonder if he might sink. Most years the cormorants, mallards, and geese on this little finger of Lake Huron are plentiful: A mother mallard with 12 ducklings trying to keep up behind her, and a mother goose with an equally large gaggle of babies. But I’ve never seen a family of baby cormorants, and this year there is only the one.

I wonder why he is alone. Is it because the other bird has wisely begun to make their way to warmer climes? It is late August, after all. Or is this his fishing spot, a secret place, known only to him? If cormorants can be regal, then he is regal, with a long neck and a bright orange beak.

I watch him dive again and again, then notice there are three other cormorants, much smaller than he, swimming in circles 30 feet to the east. He joins them, and they circle around each other, almost as if they are dancing a square dance. They take turns diving for fish. Then he returns to his spot in front of the cabin. And it dawns on me. Maybe he is a she, a mother learning to let go, allowing her babies to swim on their own.

Barbara Kautz

September 16, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

To sail!
To fly on water, skimming, soaring
Attached to the world by the barest touch
A ripple here, a wake there, then gone.

 
To sail!
To feel the wind pushing me towards something
No backward looks or hesitation
Ever forward, ever faster, ever fleeing.

 
To sail!
To be inside the sky and canopied by clouds
Colors changing with every minute
Now blue, now gold, now rose.

 
To sail!
To breathe deeply, to beat with my own pulse
Weights and worries flying off my shoulders 
Only here, only now, nothing else.

 
And then…

 
To home.
Within the sheltered embrace of the harbor
Solid ground, roots and rock support me
Safe, protected, content to be.

 
Home.  But better for having flown.

 
Barbara Ryther

September 2, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Cat Napping

While rifling through a desk drawer the other day,
I came across a favorite photo of a cat
Napping in the sun.

All stretched out as only cats can be,
Curled around the base of a pot of geraniums,
Looking blissfully content.
Her mouth closed in the shape of a smile.

I was reminded that long summer days,
Days for cat napping
Are passing us by
Much more quickly than I realized.

During these long, lazy days, I have been
Spending too much time inside
Working at the computer,

Doing indoor chores,
Watching summer happen outside
Through my office window.

Perhaps you are doing the same.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves
That the next few weeks are times for rejoicing
In the life that is teeming around us
Outside.

Let us breathe this season in,
The full throat and belly of it.
Let us feel it in our bones.
And thank God for warm sunny days.

Nina Bisognani

August 19, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

Memento Mori

Memento Mori is latin for “reminder of death.”
As a student in school, that was just a quaint academic exercise:
Dancing skeletons on medieval etchings,
Melting clocks in Dali paintings. Flies on bowls of fruit.
All to show mortality.

But now, I see mementos every day.
The wayward strands of silver hair that show up overnight,
That single bright red leaf when summer’s still in swing.
Or somehow seeing mold on berries just bought yesterday.

We could react with horror at these signs of passing time.
Rush out and buy some hair dye or wool sweaters and warm boots.
Forgetting all the very present joy.

Or…let that silver just remind us of our grandma’s hair.
Pick up that leaf and marvel at the colors God creates.
Keep the box of berries, and just toss that one with fuzz,
Before it has the chance to bring the others down.
Sit for a bowl of summer sweetness while you can.

Then when silver hair takes over and the trees are red and gold,
A different kind of beauty will await.

Melanie Kyer
August 5, 2021

August 5, 2021

Image: Kathryn Yingst

Let’s sit down, you and I, and talk.

Here, under the wheeling gulls

Overlooking the sea, teeming with life

Beneath the expansive summer sky

Trivia doesn’t matter.

Let’s go deeper.

 

What has changed in us over this months?

What have we learned?

How might the months of suffering 

Observed and experienced

Have made us different—

Transformed us?

How do we want our lives to be going forward?

 

Before the world grabs our attention again

And tries to catch us in its frantic whirl

Let’s resist.

Let’s sit down, you and I and talk.

 

Sudie Blanchard

July 22, 2021

The Painting

Remember
when the hours of summer
ran together like colors—
endless blue, grass green, dandelion—
and feeling
the breath of every wild
and beautiful thing
brush against our skin,
a visible and invisible gold?

Do you remember
being sweetly devoured
by mystery?

The fluttering of a butterfly 
in cupped hands.
The bend of a tree
calling to be reached.
The happy slumber
of a garden cat in July.

The days were steeped
in marigolds and honeybees
and the bright drip
of popsicle juice 
running down our arms.

Remember blowing bubbles,
the pink violet orbs
suspended
like our urge to burst them:
only for a moment?

After dinner
we caught fireflies
then watched them float—
our tiny lanterns
to the sky.

Do you remember
the lush silence of stars?

May it ever consume us,
this mystery,
the sheer astonishment
of being beautifully,
miraculously
ALIVE.

Kathryn Yingst
July 19, 2021

July 8, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Millions of years ago God gave us colorful, scented flowers. 
Bees, the vegetarian descendants of predatory wasps, appeared 
shortly afterward. Up to 85% of food crops for humans and 
numerous crops that feed cattle and other animals depend on bees. 
Bees are our great pollinators.

There are references to the behavior of bees in the Bible.
Bees represent industriousness, strength, and wisdom.
Honey reflects Jesus Christ’s sweet and gentle nature.
Justice and the cross are likened to the sharp sting of the
bee, which causes pain like “fire among thorns.”

As highly organized protectors of the hive and their Queen,
bees remind us to be loyal to one Ruler, to One God.
Although all bees have a particular role in their community,
scouts will die stinging intruders who pose danger to the
Queen. Drones will die to mate with the Queen, sustaining 
the life of the hive. So, too, must we protect our spiritual selves
by devoting our lives and sacrifice to the will of God and the
universe He has created to sustain us. 

It has been suggested that when you see a bee visiting a flower,
you are witnessing a love affair that began over one million years ago.

Poet Kahil Gibran once wrote:

    “ To the bee, a flower is the fountain of life,
      and to the flower the bee is a messenger of love.”

Although bees are increasingly losing their habitats to urbanization,
farming , pesticides and climate change, we can help care for our earthly 
garden by planting flowers that attract them and ultimately feed them. 
Short-tongued bees like bowl shapes and daisy-type flowers. Long-tongued bees,
like the garden bumblebee, prefer more pendulous flowers, such as foxglove.

Last year 40% of honeybee colonies in the United States died.  Now we have
an opportunity to give back to these amazing little creatures who have given us so
much for so long.

Nina Bisognani

A Prayer for Beehives, adapted from the Orthodox Great Book of Needs

O Almighty God: You hold all creation in the palm of your hands; You possess the heavens, the earth and all that is them; You compassionately grant to all created things what is beneficial for them. We pray to You, O all-good One: As in ancient times You granted the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, and as you were well-pleased to nourish Your baptizer John in the wilderness with wild honey, so now by Your good pleasure and caring for our sustenance, bless these beehives in their apiary, greatly increase the number of bees in them, preserve them by Your grace, and fill us rich with honey. Let none of these beehives which You have fashioned be deprived of bees, but let them always be filled with honeycombs of honey. And according to Your great benefits and invincible might, let them be shown undefeated by evils and unshaken by curses. Rather, fenced round about by Your all-powerful might and defended by your host, let them always remain unharmed and in Your grasp, O Christ. For Yours it is to be merciful and to save us, O Christ our God, and to You do we send up glory, honor and worship, together with Your Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.

June 24, 2021

Image: Melanie Kyer
“Fairy Houses, Mackworth Island, ME”

Fairy Houses

Have you ever built a fairy house?
Collecting shells, bark, leaves, pine cones.
Nothing fancy, just what is to hand.
Do not compare your offering with others,
Just use what you have–
As welcome and inviting as you can.
Then leave it behind
With faith it will be found.

But you will never know.
Do fairies drink their tea at that small table
And take rest on the soft leaves?
And if they don’t,
If winds blow down your handiwork, 
It matters that you took
A moment to be quiet in the woods:
To weave spells of faith that can’t be blown away,
To kneel before creation as a child.

We never know our impact in the end.
We do our best with what we can, where we are.
And hope we’ve been a blessing on the way.

Melanie Kyer
June 19, 2021

June 10, 2021

Blessed by the Messiah

Memorial Day is far more than the celebration of the coming of summer, but also one filled with sadness for families who have lost sons or daughters in war.

As I have gotten older, I have become much more aware of that sadness. I felt especially sad this Memorial Day, and the cold, gloomy weather certainly didn’t help. The one shining event of the day was to be the premiere release of the Self Isolation Choir’s remastered, extraordinarily beautiful rendition of all of Handel’s Messiah, sung by approximately 1400 voices accompanied by a baroque orchestra—all recorded and remastered in isolation.

Our founder and director were justifiable excited by this new version. Every word and every note sung, every instrument of the accompaniment was clear. Excited to have been able to record all but 4 choruses I listened with pride. We were that good. My mood began to lighten. I figured I would rediscover some joy by the time we reached the Hallelujah Chorus.

I didn’t need to wait that long. Messiah is divided into three parts: the nativity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus. Part II begins with the hauntingly beautiful Behold the Lamb of God and ends with the Hallelujah Chorus. Midway through Part II the tone changes from despair to hope. Hope leading to shouts of hallelujah or alleluia. One of those lesser known transition choruses is: Let all the angels of God worship him.

While listening to this chorus, and looking out at the trees surrounding our back porch I unexpectedly found myself in a thin space. A place where I am very much aware of the Divine and know that God knows me. And then these words came to me, filling my heart with gladness:

May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Barbara Kautz
June 7, 2021

If you would like to listen to the Messiah recording Barbara describes here, it can be found by following this link (the concert begins at 40 seconds).

June 4, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Spring has come. A chorus of birdsongs begins my day.
Yes, there is still pain and suffering. There always will be.
But the healing touch of nature brings hope and joy to my heart.

I see birds sharing food at our feeders, and I am reminded of an ancient
image of the resurrection that shows a bird breathing life into Christ.

While I sit outside in the warm fresh air of a June evening,
I am drawn into everything that surrounds me: the sound
of the ocean in the distance, the soothing feel of a warm breeze on my arms,
the sight of flowers blooming in the garden, the scent of new
mown grass.

The sky above is an endless dome of blue. The peace of it all.
This must be a bit of Heaven.

– Nina Bisognani 
 

May 27, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

Repotting

An hour spent at the plant nursery is a better hour than most!  So many plants, each one an old friend or a new possibility. 

The first thing I grow in a new garden is questions….Where will the sun shine?  Where will the squirrels dig?  Where will the cats prowl?  Will the plants I chose get along together or will some thrive and some struggle?  Which will try to take over the container, and which will be crowded out by its neighbors?

Even rejuvenating an old garden with new additions has questions and possibilities.  The moments before transferring them to their containers, everything is still What Might Be, unshadowed by What Could Have Been.

I remember reading that when you’re repotting, it’s important to gently disturb the roots of a rootbound plant before you place it in its new, larger pot, or it doesn’t realize that it’s in the new pot at all and the roots just continue to grow inward, blind to the potential of the new soil around it. Instead of growing and thriving it continues to be stunted.

It’s time to head to the plant nursery, to find new plants and add them to my garden, after gently disturbing the roots.  

Perhaps my own roots need gentle disturbing?  Will it help my spiritual growth?

– Barbara Ryther
 

May 20, 2021

Image: Ryan Mails

Spirit’s Comin’

On Sunday, May 16th, the St. George’s choir sang together in person for the first time in over 14 months. Since we are all now fully vaccinated, we were able to not only sing in the same room (Thank you, CDC!) but also give REAL hugs! Most of us have been singing “together” virtually through zoom rehearsals through the past year, and likely you have heard the fruits of our labor (and Ivan’s technological wizardry), but if you have ever been part of a singing group, you know nothing beats the spirit which fills the room when you are singing in person with others.

Multiply that by ten for singing with others when you have not been allowed to do so for a year.

Multiply by another ten for singing with close friends with whom you have shared births, deaths, moving of house and many other life changes remotely over the past year.

Multiply that by a hundred when the music you are singing is in preparation for Pentecost, the celebration of the holy spirit entering our hearts and sparking the birth of the church.

As I stood under the solid wood beams of my dear church, feeling a warm breeze through the stained glass windows, listening to the sparkling resonance of our beautiful grand piano and singing “There’s a spirit coming from the heavens,” words from the anthem “Spirit’s Comin” (Frombach/Raney) which we will record for Pentecost Sunday, it truly did “shine on every face.”  

Our last song of the rehearsal was the Russian Orthodox piece “”Blagoslovi, dushe moya, Gospoda” — “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (composed by MIkhail Ippolitiv-Ivanov, 1859-1935).  A few members of the church reopening team came in while we were rehearsing, and they must have felt like those observing on Pentecost hearing us sing in Russian! Though it was an unfamiliar tongue to all of us, I am quite sure the spirit of the text still came through as the notes rose to heaven:

   “Bless the Lord, O my soul.  Blessed art Thou, O Lord.
    Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.
    Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
    Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,
    who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with
    loving kindness and tender mercies.”  

There will be lots of new and meaningful “firsts” for us in the coming weeks. I pray you can take the time to give thanks for these blessings and bask in the spirit which comes with them.

– Melanie Kyer
 

May 13, 2021

Image: Sudie Blanchard

The poem below was written for a poetry workshop here at RiverWoods in Durham. It speaks of the shedding I did last fall, when Peter and I said goodbye to our home in York. I hesitated to share it here, because it is so much about my own experience. But now I am wondering…maybe you, dear reader, have been shedding too. What might you have let go of in the last year? Where might new life be calling you? What, as a church, have we shed in the last 13 months, and how might that draw us, as a congregation, into new life with the risen Christ?

Shedding

When a lobster sheds,
Its hard shell cracks and falls away to the sea floor.
Then, the lobster,
Soft and vulnerable,
Hides and waits
For its new shell to harden
And a new life to begin.

Last fall, like the lobster, I shed too.
Not a shell, but stuff.

First, the family treasures left for auction:
My grandmother’s dressing table…
     Her snuff-box collection
          My other grandmother’s sterling tea set
               The big oil painting with the gilt frame–and more…
I cried when this first lot left.
It was the hardest.

Then came the great give away….
The “good” china and crystal,
     Kitchen stuff,
          Our big four-poster bed,
               The dining room set,
                    Pictures and books,
                         Rugs–and more…
Family, friends, ReStore and Savers got the loot.

By the end,
All that was left was an empty house.

I walk into the future,
Soft and vulnerable.
Carrying just enough.
Enough to begin this new life.

– Sudie Blanchard, April 19, 2021
 

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