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

August 4, 2022

Image: Sudie Blanchard

Sparrow’s Hope

How does the morning
greet you?
Is it the sparrow’s hope
that calls you from slumber?

The sigh
of a contented bee
as it drapes the peony?

The indigo sky
raises its amber gaze
in welcome;
The tall oak responds
limbs outstretched
as light plays
within its hollows.

“Awake!”
croaks the pond frog
who drifts on the lily,
while beneath him
tiny fish
weave a silver dance.

The earth glistens
sings
tells the story
again.

Do you know that you, too,
are holy?

Kathryn Yingst
6/24/2022

 

July 8, 2022

This Spring, our Wednesday Book Group read Walter Brueggemann’s Praying the Psalms. Brueggemann describes the Psalms as radically vulnerable language from the experience of joy, delight, grief, anguish, fear. That language is offered to God as praise and, often, as shockingly direct petition—a demand to be heard, considered, answered. And that, at times, is where we have to risk beginning if we’re genuinely to open ourselves to God. We can do that in confidence that we’re heard, and received. Being truly heard changes us; hope can and will arise there. 

We’re now trying to walk within so many deeply interwoven crises as a people. This week, three of our writers for our Meditations blog offer poems of petition, waiting in confidence for the hope that belongs to God, and that is always God’s gift. We invite you to pray with us. 

– Fr. Ryan 

Heavy

Sometimes weight is good.
The grounding of a weighted blanket,
Quieting the scrambled anxious twitch,
Enforcing still reflection.
Or the trusting weight of a sleeping child,
Her heartbeat reminding you of love and life.
Or the dog who knows,
Just knows when his weight helps.

Yet lately I feel weight that hurts,
The pack I carry, heavier each day,
With stones engraved with grief,
They bear names known to all,
Ukraine, Uvalde, Chicago,
The names of oppressive politics,
Conflict. Racism. Division.
A broken system my small voice can’t fix.
They bear names of my friends and family,
Struggling with illness, stress, and pain.

I wake up ready to begin the day,
To put on my pack and fight,
Only to see a new stone,
When my heart and back already ache.

Too much to bear alone,
Too important to put down. 
God, thoughts and prayers will never be enough.
I pray for courage to speak truth to power,
And strength to carry every coming stone.

Melanie Kyer
July 7, 2022

Ohio

Rain drops
collect on her lashes
caught
in a summer shower
at soccer camp.
Later
laughter
ice cream with friends,
then tucked in
contentedly
tuckered out.

The day it happens
she is playing piano
until she isn’t
and instead of lessons
there are strong hands
and strange sounds.
Where did the music go?
Someone is wailing.
She covers her ears,
but it doesn’t stop.

It never stops.
That’s what she tells them
about the screaming in her head.
Her mother’s chin trembles
as the doctor writes.
Her father holds the door jamb. 
“Six weeks,” someone says.
It sounds far away
and also very, very close.

Too close.
Everything feels too close.
Like she’s being smothered
even when there’s no one there.
And it’s hard to run
when she can’t breathe
and all she wants to do
is run and run
and run
because she’s too afraid
to sit still.

“Still,” they say
“consider it an opportunity.”
She looks into eyes
that don’t see her.
A girl who wears sneakers
and likes sundaes.
A girl who tries to breathe
when the screaming won’t stop.
A girl who isn’t ready
to be a mother.

A girl. Right. In. Front. Of. Them.

ERASED.

Kathryn Yingst
July 5, 2022

 

 

The glass is not half full.

The glass is shattered into a cloud of shards shooting fire
And bloodstained ice

The tears it weeps at it falls stain the ground with fury
And a suffocating blanket of frustration

It hits the ground as a scream of fear
And a sigh of despair

And lays there empty of hope
Exhausted from the fight
Astonished that it has come to be here, to be like this.

As yet there is no will for the glass to put itself back together,
To gather its shards
To reshape itself
To fill itself again.

Perhaps that time will come.

But it does not come today.

Barbara Ryther

June 9, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

Dax

A new baby recently joined our extended family. In the eyes of his parents, he is perfect. But in the eyes of the world, he is not. Dax has Down Syndrome. He is adorably cute. Like his mother he has reddish blonde hair and blue eyes. Like most Down Syndrome babies, he smiles a lot, with his tongue just protruding between his lips.

Dax’s parents are in their mid-30s, that age when the risk of having a baby born with a genetic accident increases. They knew about the risk, decided to take it, and when they learned they were one of 350 couples in their age group to be having a baby with Down Syndrome they chose to keep the pregnancy. Not because of religious beliefs, but because that was the decision they had made long before Dax was conceived.

 I am in awe of them. They are smart, articulate, loving people. They are aware of a future that will be different from that of other parents. They chose that future anyway. I, who have been, and will always be a pro-choice advocate, admire them. I think they are brave.

That Dax’s parents chose life gives me hope. Hope in a world where there is war on three continents, where despots try to force their will on others, where we have forgotten what it means to love one another. In a country where guns outnumber people, where it will soon be easier to buy a gun than terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason, that Dax’s parents chose him gives me hope. 

Dax is an old French name that means water. Water means life. His middle name is Christopher, for a grandfather who died far too young, four years before Dax was born. I need not describe the origin of Dax’s middle name.

I stopped watching the news before the mass murder in Uvalde. My breaking point was those ordinary people in Buffalo doing their Saturday grocery shopping, gunned down because they were black. When I was 22, I worked in a neurosurgical ICU in Vietnam.  I know what weapons of war can do to the human body.  It doesn’t surprise me that some of Uvalde’s parents had to identify their children’s remains by the clothes they were wearing.

 In the face of such horror, I try to remember Dax because he and his parents, his grandmothers and grandfather, and his aunts and uncles give me hope. Among them are an exercise specialist, a reading specialist and a special ed teacher. He could not be in better hands. No matter what the future holds for Dax and his parents, one thing he will have in abundance is love.

And in this world, it means a lot.

Barbara Kautz
June 9, 2022

 

May 26, 2022

N.R. Davison, Child’s Play, ca. 2014, linocut.

De Capo Ad Nauseum
Poem on the Texas Shooting

A month ago, I wrote a poem.
Sorting out my grief
Violence and killings weighing heavy
In a world with too little light.
 
I processed unbelief:
So many gone so fast.
A world where 15 minutes of fame
Sometimes comes after your last breath.
 
And then my life went on.
The usual work, family and stress.
No time for writing poems,
Just a few odd prayers for peace.
 
So I sit down to write:
A writer has to– it has been too long.
I pause for inspiration, scan the news and then stop short.
No need to write,  I said it all last month.
 
Just hit repeat: how many copies shall I print?
 
Melanie Kyer
November, 2017
 
Author’s note: This poem was written in November, 2017, just after the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. One month earlier, we mourned the shooting in Las Vegas. 

 

May 13, 2022

My Grandmother’s Table

The occasions
were silky and ribboned
like gifts—
platters and people
draping the dining room
in holiday flourish—
the silver
of my nostalgia.

But the texture
of my childhood
emerged from the grain
of four simple chairs
around Mama’s kitchen table.
It was there I was nourished;
it was there I was fed.

When you grow up Italian,
love is measured in meatballs.

Love was the baked eggplant
stretched to share,
enough
even after guests stopped by,
sitting on the piano bench
folding their legs like sheet music
in order to fit.
We always left full.

It was like the story of loaves and fishes.
Which makes me wonder
if that miracle was really about the food.

I know now that it was. And also, it wasn’t.

Because at Mama’s table, love was the pot of jambot
but it was also the play grimaces
my grandfather made to me
while eating his least favorite dish.
Nourishment came from being together
at one table
fed by ladles of belonging.
I’m pretty sure that’s where all miracles begin.

I wish I could tell my grandparents
what sitting at their table meant to me.
That I never take for granted
what it means to feel welcome.
How they showed me
there is always room, and there is always enough.
That I am grateful, every day
for the meatballs.

Kathyn Yingst

 

April 29, 2022

Images: Melanie Kyer

Easter….Unfinished. 

Ukraine has been on my mind all through Lent this year, so I decided to bake a traditional Ukrainian “paska” bread for Easter. As I kneaded the dough and shaped the braids and cross for the top, I prayed for peace. I brushed it with egg wash and put it in the oven Easter morning. When I pulled it out, it looked beautiful. I posted photos and got lots of “likes.”

But that shiny surface hid an embarrassing secret, the fear of anyone who’s watched “The Great British Baking Show”:  a lump inside the very center was raw. I’d never baked such a large loaf before, and since it had chilled in the fridge overnight, it needed longer to bake than I’d given it. Explanations aside, the fact was: the loaf looked lovely outside and was imperfect inside.

Isn’t that true for so many of us? We can show up for Easter in brand new dresses, post perfect photos of our families, but under the surface things may not be what they seem. 

A friend used to have a little wall hanging in her house that read “Be Patient: God isn’t finished with me yet,” and it occurs to me that even Jesus said something like that after the resurrection when Mary saw Jesus and ran to him, amazed:

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

There’s a reason Eastertide lasts 50 days: the joy of Jesus’ resurrection is just the beginning:  we still have a lot of Easter work in front of us. We may look shiny and impressive on the outside, but inside…well, we might just have a doughy middle. (And so might those people you see in their flashy Instagram photos). Be patient and keep working this Eastertide. God isn’t finished with any of us, yet.

Melanie Kyer

 

April 14, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

Life, death.  Hope, grief.

This year the Reflections group struggled with how to deal with Lent, trying to decide whether it was more important to acknowledge and give space to people’s fears and uncertainties over an ongoing pandemic and a new and terrifying war or to offer hope and a ray of light.

It turns out we can do both, and we should do both.

Life, death.  Hope, grief.

It’s not really a choice.  Life, death, hope and grief are always part of our lives in this world and it does our experience a disservice to try and separate or artificially confine them.

We mark Lent on our calendars, starting with Ash Wednesday and counting 40 days. We confine Christ’s passion to a week – or avoid thinking about it at all so we can put on new clothes and celebrate Easter Sunday surrounded by flowers and music. And yet the Lenten invitation to contemplate and join Christ’s journey is always open to us, and even if we lose focus throughout the year, we pick up that road at different times in our lives.  When we look unflinchingly at Christ’s humanity, suffering and sacrifice for us we begin to truly grasp Easter.

As we approach Holy Week and Easter it’s important to remember that unlike those first followers of Jesus, we have never known the crucifixion without the resurrection.  The two are bound together for us, even sharing the same sentence of the Nicene Creed.  “…he suffered death and was buried, and rose again…”   Death, grief, life and hope, separated by no more than a comma.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

Death and life. Grief and hope.

Barbara Ryther 

 

March 31, 2022

Image: Nina Bisognani

Let there be Dragons

When I was a child, Lent was a time of discipline.
I usually gave up one of my favorite things- chocolate.
I thought a lot about not being the perfect Christian.
The consequences could be dreadful.
I feared I would go to Hell if I sinned
Or spend endless time in Purgatory
Surrounded by evil creatures I called dragons.

The dragons were more powerful at night
Sometimes I felt them peering at me from
The edge of the woods around dusk.
Thoughts I was able to control during the day
Crept into my mind as darkness fell.
There was anxiety and the uncertainty of not knowing
Where life would lead me next.

Now, over half a century later, dragons are still at work.
Life is still beyond our control. Evil still exists.
Shattered families, bombed out buildings and mass burial
sites along the sides of roads are branded in our brains.
This year I choose not to give up something I wish for.
Instead, my heart tells me to give to others what they need
to survive and regain hope. My gift of choice is prayer.

For those who are hungry, I pray for a plentiful supply of food.
For those who are suffering grief from tragedy and loss, I pray for peace.
For those who are so weary they can barely make it through the day,
I pray for rest. I pray for God’s grace and for our comfort in knowing he is always with us.

Let there be dragons. Together, we will overcome.

Nina Bisognani

 

March 18

Image: Frank DeSarro

Burnt on my Soul

I am twelve and a night owl.
My sisters are asleep, my father is at work.
I hear the murmur of voices below and know my mother is watching TV.
I creep downstairs.
“Go back to bed Barbara. This is not something you should watch.”
She sees my face, and, knowing I am endlessly curious, invites me to join her.
On the screen are piles of dead bodies.
“What is it?” I ask.
“A concentration camp called Auschwitz.”
I don’t understand, but the image is burnt onto my soul.
 
I am 15, standing in the basement of our old farmhouse.
The walls are thick stones, and there is a coal cellar.
It is so dark and dank it scares me.
But now I stand in the coal cellar with a different kind of fear.
On the news Khrushchev and Kennedy are playing a game of chicken I don’t understand. 
“Can we turn the coal cellar into a bomb shelter?” I ask.
“If they drop bombs on Pittsburgh you don’t want to survive.” 
My dad’s harsh words are burnt onto my soul.
 
I am 22, a nurse in Vietnam. 
I am straddling the body of a soldier younger than I, 
Trying to find a femoral artery so I can draw blood to measure its oxygen content. 
He doesn’t respond. He will probably die. 
The memory is burnt onto my soul.
 
Now I am 75. A news-junky. 
I flip from channel to channel. 
The pictures are all the same. 
Of burning buildings, of terrified people, searching for safety.  
One more reminder of war burning onto my soul.


Barbara Kautz
March 6, 2022

March 4, 2022

Prayer for Ukraine

You gather the children

taking bits of food
and blankets,
having to choose within minutes
what you will carry
and by default
all that you will lose.
For some
no exodus will come.

Kyrie eleison.

You stand
armed with plowshares
with grit
facing the metal legion
that looms.
The growling tanks
meet the blue flame
of your resolve.
Your courage
will not be extinguished.

Ukrayina, Ukrayina
we cry out your name
in hope, in solidarity.
You remind us
what brotherhood is.

That what is holy
what is beautiful
will yet rise,
even if it requires
rolling a stone
from the tomb.

Kathryn Yingst
03.02.2022

February 18, 2022

Image: Melanie Kyer

Putting the broken back together: Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

Our picture of what Christmas would be like this year was broken when our son tested positive for Covid-19 and we had to stay home. We are blessed that it was a mild case, and despite the disappointment of a different kind of holiday, we have enjoyed the simple refreshment of being together with no obligations. I pulled out a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in many years– a “broken picture” of a different kind. I used to love doing them as a child with my family in the cool basement when the summers got too hot to work in the garden. Later on I saw them as a waste of time– what did you have to show for it in the end? I always had more important things to do! But now a few weeks later, when snow days are called and I look out at our long winter, I pause in the stillness and realize there is real peace in putting something broken back together. There is an inordinate sense of accomplishment in finally finding a piece that fits–in having control even if it’s just over a small bit of cardboard. Here are a few other lessons I have learned from the jigsaw puzzle…

1)  Start with the frame. You may have no idea what is going to fill it, but it helps to hold things together.

2)  Some people working on the puzzle will line everything up by shape, and some will just randomly scan pieces to find one that works. Either way, the puzzle will eventually get done.

3)  Sometimes you have to step away from things for a while – and when you come back with a new perspective, you wonder why you had so much trouble making things fit.

4a)  When you’re looking for that one elusive piece, you may try a piece over and over again, thinking it will work. If it is the wrong piece it is never going to fit.

4b)  Sometimes the perfect piece is the one you never thought was going to work.

5) Every piece is different: they’re all different colors and shapes, some have a fat foot, some have two heads…but if you’re missing any one of them, the whole picture will be incomplete.

Melanie Kyer

February 4, 2022

Image: Barbara Ryther

The first time I saw this little cairn on one of my walks I was surprised that such a random and precarious collection of rocks could stay safely perched on a sloping boulder, and yet week after week it was still there. As my surprise changed to amazement I decided to take a closer look, and discovered that what had seemed to be random and precarious was in fact a carefully placed arrangement of rocks of different shapes and compositions piled on each other in a deliberate way so that each one provided the correct amount of support and counterbalance to the others.  It was in fact a community…one body made up of different but essential parts.  The unique shapes and angles of each individual rock were not a danger, but an assurance of stability and strength.  Every time I see it now I think of a community built on a rock, reaching to heaven.

– Barbara Ryther

 

January 20, 2022

Image: Nina Bisognani

Scents and Memories 

With the holidays a recent memory,
the scent of cookies baking in the kitchen
still lingers in my mind.
But there are other scents that remain
with me as well. 

One of the most memorable of these is the scent of
Old Spice, my father’s shaving lotion.

I always associated that strong, clean scent
with my dad as he shaved each morning
before leaving the house for work.

On Father’s Day, I often gave him 
Old Spice products as gifts.  Many years later
when Dad moved to a nursing home,
I made sure he brought his Old Spice. 

Toward the end of his life Dad sometimes slept for long periods of time.
Would he ever awaken? I often wondered.

Then the night came when he lost consciousness entirely.
His nurse called me early on Valentine’s Day of 2011.
 “Come quickly,” she told me.

Though I arrived at the nursing home minutes later 
to hold his hand, he was already beyond my earthly reach.
 
The person I knew and loved had left on a new journey.
He was still warm. His beautiful blue eyes were closed. And he smelled wonderful.
One of the nurses had splashed him with Old Spice aftershave 
the night before he died.

I kissed him on the forehead and prayed that he was at peace, trying not to cry.
Deep in my heart, I knew God would take care of him.

That morning I brought Dad’s small bottle of Old Spice home with me
and tucked it away safely in my medicine cabinet.
Eleven years later I still open the bottle on occasion to smell the memory
of his presence.

Nina Bisognani

January 6, 2022

Image: Ryan Mails

All Will Be Well

For reasons I did not fully understand I’d been in a bad mood most of December. Yes, I’d been busy. Yes, I’d been stressed. But the busy-ness and stress were of my own creation, and normally I thrive on “Christmas Stress.” But not this year, and I couldn’t understand why. Except for the lack of Christmas cookies, which none of us needed anyway, and a handful of notes to write to old friends I was ready for Christmas. And for those notes I still had plenty of time. There are 12 Days of Christmas after all.
 
While making dessert on Christmas Eve I decided to listen to some Christmas music on YouTube, blue toothed to my hearing aids. I scrolled through my playlist and hit what I thought read “Mix, Christmas Music.” Only it didn’t. It read “Mix, Christian Music.” And when I examined it later I read the tiny print: “put together from things you’ve listened to, or things like it.”
 
The first song was John William’s beautiful “Hymn to the Fallen,” the theme to “Saving Private Ryan.” Not exactly cheerful Christmas music, but I was slowly adding eggs to melted chocolate. I continued listening.
 
The second piece was “Here I am Lord.” Oh Lord, no. The favorite hymn of my baby sister who died from a rare cancer in 1993. I started to sob. I finished making the dessert and looked at the playlist. Up next: “I Will Lift Mine Eyes,” from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” as sung by Choir of the Earth. My Choir. Good. I could listen to that. I happen to know that two of the singers are Sudie Blanchard and myself. With the dessert baking I turned off the music.
 
At 5:30 sharp St George’s first service began. I’d already been emotional during choir rehearsal, greeting fellow singers I hadn’t seen in weeks. Then the service began. The choir did not process but stood in the front of the church watching Henry carry the cross, Sudie the Gospel Book, then Aaron and Ryan in their white robes embroidered with the most gorgeous fabric ever. When you sing in the choir you are part of the pageantry, and don’t get to see it. Watching them process was a treat for the eyes.
 
And the ears. The string quartet and Ivan played my favorite Christmas Hymn, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I didn’t need to look at the hymnal. I know the words and the alto line by heart. I could not have read either anyway. Tears filled my eyes.
 
That’s when I heard the voice. Not my voice. But definitely a voice: ALL WILL BE WELL. What? I heard it again. Where did it come from? From God? From deep inside me? And did it matter. I chose to believe.
 
ALL WILL BE WELL.

Barbara Kautz
Dec 26, 2021

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