The middle school Sunday school class decided to fold cranes for Heidi, and many others joined in over the months, folding and praying.
The first Sunday in Lent, I preached on being Broken, Blessed and Beloved. One image from the sermon was that of the sea turtle. At a difficult time in my life, I heard a message from God that yes, the way was not easy, but it served a purpose, just as some kinds of sea turtles need to make the difficult journey across the beach from nest to the ocean in order to be properly oriented to reach the deep sea feeding grounds, and if female, to return years later to the same beach and lay eggs.
I wore a sea turtle pendant that Sunday, and sent it home with Heidi, who was entering the hospital for an experimental treatment that week. This spring I commissioned this little turtle from Wilma Harder, of silver and sweetwater agate.
This icon of Christ hangs on the wall of the chapel at the Hermitage Retreat Center. It caught my eye when I attended a Taize evening prayer service there back in March. This was just after our co-pastor Heidi had been in the hospital for a week, receiving a new cancer treatment. It was not successful and she was suddenly looking much more frail and exhausted than she had before.
In the songs and silence of the Taize service, the awareness of Heidi's illness, the impact on her family, and on our congregation hit me at a new, grief-filled depth. I found comfort in prayers at the foot of the cross, and in gazing on this icon across the room. I hadn't looked closely at it yet, and it was only afterwards that I saw with delight that it is Christ as Light Giver.
Light continued to weave itself through the Opening to Grace retreat last weekend. I told something of the first session yesterday. Saturday was another rich day, with four people having focus sessions. There were many tears and much laughter, struggle, and light, as well as some time to wander in the woods and meadows, enjoying discoveries like this monarch caterpillar feasting on milkweed.
On Sunday morning, I experienced another grace-filled moment of light and shadow. At the end of our last session, we were all standing in a loose circle outside, surrounding the woman who had been working and two people who supported her on either side, and we began singing Prayer of Peace by David Haas.
Each verse follows the same pattern, only the subject changing -- first peace, then love, light, and Christ.
Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet.
Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace.
Like several others there, I know hand motions to this song, and we began doing them. As we sang the verse "Light before us....let all around us be light," I noticed my shadow. The sun was behind me, and my shadow was at my feet, spread before me. There was some space between me and the people to either side, so it was quite distinct and I found myself watching it as we sang and moved, feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.
With the last verse, I stood with my arms wide spread and slightly lifted, turning in a circle as we sang "Let all around us be Christ," ending with my shadow like a chalice shape before me. And I glimpsed an awareness that yes, somehow in Christ both shadow and light are held. Tears and laughter, sorrow and joy, all intermingled.
And I remembered the last time I had sung this song was the Sunday before, at the end of our Pentecost service. During our second hour, we had a recognition of Heidi's pastoral work in our midst and we closed with the dance group leading us in this prayer of peace, another day when tears and laughter, joy and sorrow danced together, held together in the Body of Christ.
( I'd love to include a clip of our dance group, with their colorful scarves, but don't have it in a form to post. There is a youtube clip of another liturgical dance group, with their version of the same song here -- Prayer of Peace starts at 4:47.)
Most days this week I made my way over to the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary campus for the Theological Lectureship presentations by Marlene Kropf and Daniel Schipani.They talked of the practical theology work of spiritual formation and transformation, particularly as lived out in the ministries of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling.
It was a rich time with much to reflect on, including these painted silk banners hanging in the chapel. They are the work of Michelle Hofer, artist-in-residence at Hutterthal Mennonite Church in Freeman, South Dakota, based on the Orthodox icon by Andrei Rublev of the three angels visiting Abraham at the oaks of Mamre, generally interpreted as a presentation of the Trinity.
This photo doesn't do justice to the way the silk shimmered in the light, a wonderful sight. There were wondrous things going on outside as well, like these blossoms, or a dogwood tree that was luminescent in the sunlight.
This afternoon my spiritual direction peer group met at Pathways Retreat Center, combining retreat time with our monthly meeting. We spent time with the theme of fire, beginning with lectio divina on Moses and the burning bush. Janie read the passage from The Message, and the phrase that stood out for me was "blazing out."
I think I normally picture the burning bush as a compact, rather cozy little fire. This time I pictured pointy flames blazing out, which reminded me of the icon above, of Mary and the burning bush.
Later I had time for a meditative walk in the woods and found the bushes full of green blazes, appropriately for St Patrick's Day (and not a snake in sight). Our temperatures have been running about 35 degrees above normal this week, and the plants think it's spring.
I like the way walking with my camera in hand slows me down, as I take time to look more closely and to notice things I would normally rush past. I've heard of someone else who accomplishes the same thing by going for walks with a magnifying glass. I like the close up feature of my camera -- especially with these tiny plants in the moss. I included my finger in one to give a better sense of the size.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"