Posts Tagged ‘Beauty’

Beauty

August 28, 2017

Yesterday in my message I shared a bit of my experience watching the eclipse. I had a few requests to share those thoughts in the newsletter so I am including them here, with a few edits.

As I sat in my lawn chair last Monday and watched to moon blot out the sun I pondered darkness. Hundreds even thousands of years ago on a celestial event such as this, signs in the heavens, if you will, this darkness brought fear and dread. Surely the gods are angry, surely the world is coming to an end, perhaps chaos ensued, certainly there would be those capitalize on the event to instill fear and dread in others.

With all that in mind here I was sitting in a lawn chair, holding the hand of my best friend and partner, in the backyard of our son and his partner, gathered with their neighbors, who we did not know, and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands if we knew, other people across the country to gaze in wonder, and awe, and amazement at this darkness, this beauty that had once been the harbinger of doom. And in the moment of totality it was almost as if for two minutes time stood still. It wasn’t just a black spot in front of the sun, around the edges, the corona, was dancing with color. We all held our breath in awe or perhaps the best we could utter was “Wow.” Some wept, some were speechless, but we were all profoundly aware of those two minutes. Two minutes! Think about that in the grand scheme of time. We were moved by them, relished them, we will remember them always.

There is a message in that moment of time. There is a message in that drawing together of so many of us. A message that says what once brought fear and dread, if we stay in this moment, there is still beauty all around.

Right in the middle of the most difficult of times. When the world, when life and death deal us such a chaotic and difficult hands, there is still beauty to behold; the beauty of a sunrise, the beauty of a friend reaching out, the beauty of a lover and partner, the beauty of a community.

I can only speak for myself, but sometimes I think we can get so caught up in the chaos and struggle of life and work we forget to take note of the beauty around us. Take time to notice the beauty. Be the beauty. The world needs more of it.

Peace and Light …and Beauty for Our Journey.

Pastor Kent

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Tuesday Night Church with Garrison Keillor

May 26, 2017

I had the opportunity to go to church last Tuesday evening. We were ushered to our seats and after the announcements were finished the preacher finally entered on stage. The staging area, for lack of better descriptors, was simple, non-ornate, curtains hung on the three surrounding walls, with only a single four-legged stool, and a lone microphone stand and mic.

This preacher was simply dressed, dark suit, white shirt, bright red tie with socks to match. He began a kind of dance, if you will, with the audience, moving deliberately from side to side, each step and slide appeared chosen and exact, and periodically he would sit on the stool. At one point of small intermission, he came down from the stage and joined us in the center aisle. He began his sermon speaking of poetry and the longing need for the art in our culture and society.

He then did a curious thing, he sang a song, and then he invited us to join in the singing with him. There was something about this invitation, and part of it was what I brought into the space with me, the experiences and knowledge that I carried into the sanctuary that night; my readings of this persons writing regarding his own political thoughts and struggles with the current political climate, the laughter I have shared listening to his radio show, and the shared grief in knowing he had just buried his seventeen year old grandson earlier that day…which he never mentioned.

I must think it was a bit of all of that, but I was touched and struck profoundly for some reason as he coaxed us into the first song we sang, My Country Tis of Thee, I couldn’t sing it, the knot in my stomach, the lump in my throat, and the tears in my eyes would not allow me to sing. So, I stood, soaking in, reveling in whatever this moving moment was about, and listened to the voices sing of this country of mine…of ours.

We sang Home on the Range, How Great Thou Art, Only Fools Rush In, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. These are but a few of the songs we sang; hymns, non-religious songs, we heard Shakespeare and poetry written by our preacher. We heard story after story of life and death and faith. We listened to stories of first loves, of bodies pressed against unclothed body, stories of youth and struggling to understand. We heard stories of growing old and health challenges complete with anatomically correct descriptions of medical procedures and prostates. We heard poetry that spoke of bodily function and humor referring to balls of brass and lightening coming out of one’s …well, ass.

And we sang, and laughed, I don’t know about anyone else but at least one cried, and pondered, and was touched deeply, and encouraged, and challenged. I am not sure what anyone else heard that night in the Stiefel Sanctuary, but here is what I walked away with. I witnessed a quiet man with a deep, deep love of country, family, relationship, and life. I watched him weave the stories of life, faith, humor, and love into a tapestry so very real it touched my heart and soul almost from the very beginning of his speaking. And for a couple of hours, I watched this teller of stories, draw a crowd of diverse people together into one place and into one voice.

As we walked back to our car I told TruDee, “I’ve been to church tonight… it was SO REAL!” Sometimes, this story he told over almost two and half hours that night was not just his story, it was my story, it was all of our stories at some point. There was something within this tapestry of telling that spoke to every one of us in the building at some point or another. It was so very REAL.

Sometimes, while I ponder, I wish the church could be so real more often, rather than the too frequent of hiding behind self-righteousness, feigned humility and modesty, religious platitudes, judgement, and condemnation.

Sometimes, while I ponder, I wish the church would simply be about the task of loving everyone, everyone, bumps, warts, body parts, young, old, weird, strange, different, … the REAL world, imperfect as it…as we are… just trying to make it through this journey together.

Sometimes, while I ponder, I long for such a world, a world where we sit down with our elders, with our peers, with our children and children’s children, and simply tell and listen to our stories…without judgement or condemnation, without correction or critique, simple telling and hearing our authentic selves and what brought us to this moment.

I long for such a place…

Some Day… Some Day…

Until then, tell your story… find a reason to listen to someone else’s.

And know you and they are beautiful and loved.

Kent

Searching for Freedom

May 19, 2017

TruDee had told me she heard noises for several nights. Noises like the wind blowing an open door or window. When she would investigate, there was nothing to be found. One evening we were sitting in the living room and I heard it as well. My thought was it must have been a bird hit a window, it was just a short, “Thump.”

I had gone to bed early one night later and when she came to bed she said she thought something was in the basement probably in one of our window wells. She had heard the thump again and then scratching. We have had bunnies fall through the wooden slates that cover the opening to the window wells in the backyard before. I did not check it that night.

The next morning, I went downstairs to check out what kind of creature we had in the basement thumping and scratching around. The window well in the bedroom seemed to be clear as near as I could tell with the flashlight on my phone. When I checked the larger well in the family room it appeared there was nothing there either. That is, until I final saw movement, a dark gray rounded creature burrowed in the corner under some leaves and yard debris that had blown into the well. It was an armadillo. I suspect the cornered creature found itself in this predicament after being chased across the yard by our two dogs, I don’t know that for sure… but, well, it is highly likely.

After researching online and doing a Facebook Hivemind request I was still unsure what to do. Armadillos are not easily captured. To try and catch one by hand is difficult as they can jump, they have sharp teeth, a hard shell, and an attitude. All of this and the fact they can carry rabies as well as possibly Hansen’s Disease, i.e. leprosy. After learning government animal control only deals with domestic animals, I knew this was not going to be an easily resolved problem. The last thing I wanted to do was be in an eight foot deep, five by four foot hole with a jumping, armored, sharp toothed, possibly disease toting, armadillo with an attitude.

TruDee gave me the idea when she suggested a large tub with some food to coax it in and put a lid on it, it had to be hungry after being in a hole for several days. That got me to thinking, it was confined, armadillos are nocturnal, it had nothing to eat or drink for at least three or four days… surely it would be lethargic. I went home, retrieved a large plastic tub, threw in some dog food for good measure, opened the large window for access to the well, and sat the tub on end opposite our guest. I took a four-pronged rake and just nudged it gently to see how it would react. It stood up and turned aroDillound in the corner and just looked at me. I reached beyond it with the prongs of the rake and pulled it just a few inches toward the tub to see what it would do. Nothing…just sat there and looked at me. So, I placed the prongs of the rake firmly against its side and gave it a quick more forceful jerk and pull… it basically rolled right into the tub, I sat the tub up, snapped the lid on, taped it shut, loaded it in the car and drove our guest armadillo several miles south of town and set it free. The armadillo, I imagined, and I were very pleased with the outcome.

Sometimes I tell stories because they have taught me a deeply profound lesson about life and faith. Sometimes I tell stories because they are simply good stories and they make me smile and feed my soul.

This story I think was as much just about the story as it was anything else. And at the same time, it might have something to say to me, to those for whom it resonates, there are times in our lives we might find ourselves trapped, unable to see our way to freedom, and sometime through no fault of our own, it can just happen. It can be lonely in those places, dark, body and soul sucking places and spaces that drain us and leave us huddled in a corner wondering what more could possibly go wrong.

And then something happens, someone happens along the way to coax us out of our corner with a little nudge, and little shove, a little nourishment, and a reminder that this hole we have found ourselves in is not where we belong. It is the truth of who we are that sets us free. Free to be our authentic self, just as we are, unconfined and unrestricted by society or even the church, but rather acknowledged for the wondrous creature we are, remembering whose we are as children of the Divine with a crucial and irreplaceable place in this community, in this world, in this humankind.

May the walls and holes you encounter be few. May there always be a little nourishment for your body and soul. May you always have community close by who are willing to risk themselves to help set you free. May there always be community nearby willing to give you a little nudge or even a firm shove to remind you to be who you are.

You Are Beautiful! You Are Enough! You Are Not Alone!

Peace and Light for Your Journey!

Pastor Kent.

Of Empaths and Collateral Beauty

December 31, 2016

I want to talk about the movie Collateral Beauty, but I want to start with another piece of recent pondering in order to lead into the movie.

If I recall it was just about a year ago now a friend asked me the question while we were on retreat, “Are you an empath?” I do not remember the exact context of the conversation at the time, but I remember having to ask what that referred to as I had never heard the term before, other than assuming it had something to do with empathy. She explained that empaths have a sense about them and can take on others pain, joy, struggle, and emotions and/or are especially sensitive to positive or negative energy in a room.

I came home after the retreat and looked up empath and read numerous articles, blogs, and journals about those who identify themselves as such. The articles spanned a wide array of theories and abilities, some for my more practical and skeptical self, seemed a little bizarre, but many of the articles I resonated with deeply in my being and experience. Here is one of the articles I found helpful in my readings, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201602/10-traits-empathic-people found in Psychology Today.

Some days I can feel like the whole weight of the world is on my shoulders and I have a difficult time shaking the funk so to speak. When I walk in a hospital room when a family is struggling with difficult news and making difficult decisions I can often feel an almost physical heaviness, a tangible distress in my body. Even in other places, the office, a social gathering, dinner with friends, or when it is just TrweepingbuddhauDee and I, there is an energy, presence, whatever one may call it, that is often palpable. I believe this is one reason I found such connection with the image of the Weeping Buddha from the first time I saw it and read the legend behind the figure. Here is a link to the legend of the Weeping Buddha, if you are interested, https://www.buddhagroove.com/what-does-the-weeping-buddha-signify/.

Now to the movie, if you are reading this and wondering, “What the heck?” hang with me I’ll make the connection shortly. TruDee and I went to see the movie Collateral Beauty last night. The movie, in every review I have read has been panned, by some critics as the worst movie of 2016. Now, I know I am not a professional critic and evidently do not look for the same things as those who make a living watching movies, but I found the movie moving, meaningful, and deep.

One critic said the movie failed at answering the question of “What is collateral beauty.” I would agree, the movie is not clear on exactly what it is or what it means. Being the pondering kind of person I am, such a critique does not disturb me. I have no problem with stories, movies, and books that leave me hanging trying to wrestle out the meaning for myself. Heck, I have at the foundation of my vocation a book I have spent fifty seven years wrestling out the meaning in the bible!

I am not going to give any spoilers in this writing but I want to make a brief connection between my pondering of one who has identified with the empaths of the world and what came to me in the movie Collateral Beauty. I have been on a soul and self-searching journey this past year. With the help of a counselor, and a long distance friend, I have resolved some pieces of my journey I did not realize needed resolved. One major difference for me is the Christmas season, every Christmas Season I always have a day, I even named it, my Melancholy Day. I never know when it is going to hit me, but in the midst of the celebrations I have a day when grief overwhelms me and I find it difficult to function. This year, it never came, or at least not at this writing now six days post-Christmas. I believe that while I still have those moments of deep connection of struggle and joy, the day never came because of an intentional attempt to move my focus.

What I found in the movie, was depth and peace. No it did not answer the question of collateral beauty other than to suggest it had to do with connection. I found the movie beautiful, difficult, emotional, and fodder for much contemplation. What I came away with was this, and I think it is very timely at least for me, in this world, in our country, in our state, in our churches, there is so much pain, fear, hate, discrimination, uncertainty, and incivility we have a choice. While these things cause me, and so many others, concern, anger, and fear, in the midst of so much Collateral Damage, I have to choose not to miss the Collateral Beauty. The movie did not answer the question because this beauty will be different for all of us, we will find it in different ways, in different places, in different people, but I must be intentional about seeking it out and allow it to feed and nurture my passion and work in the world, otherwise, like Howard in the movie, the damage of negativity, suffering, grief, hate, and xenophobia will consume me and drive me deep into that ever darkening spiral of hopeless despair, especially for one who connects as an empath in the world. I highly recommend this movie, take some tissues with you.

So, as I close this writing, let me say on this last day of 2016, look for, seek out, be unrelenting in your search for beauty on your path, in your world, in each and every one you encounter, it may be what ultimately saves our world, saves ourselves.

If I were to make a New Year’s Resolution, though it is not what I am calling this, it would  be to continue my journey, as best I can, from moment to moment, seeking out undauntedly the beauty of everything, everything. I know 2016 has been a difficult year, but in the coming year, embrace beauty my friends, you are enough, you are beautiful, you are not alone, I love you… and together … may we make 2017 beautiful and filled with grace, justice, compassion, and love.

Here is to Beauty and Hope –

Kent

An Open Letter to Granddaughter Nora on the Occasion of Her Birth

May 27, 2016

Dear Nora,

Good morning! As I shared with your cousin Kadee, I wanted to write a letter to you as well on the occasion of your birth and entry into our family. Today you are four days old, and in the grand scheme of things it has been a pretty normal, whatever normal is, four days. Although, you have already been through a tornado warning even before you left the hospital! Welcome to Tornado Alley! I am so glad you are safe this morning.

As I sit in our living room with a cup of coffee and the sun streaming through the kitchen windows I want to share some pondering with you as I think about this journey on which you have now begun. There are a lot of things I wish were different in the world today, things I wish we had taken care of before you arrived.

First let me share with you the state of our world on this fourth day of your journey. I want to apologize, as your Poppie, for the state of said world. It is and would have always been my hope and dream that you would have been born into a world free of war, bigotry, hatred, discrimination, disease, racism, sexism, fear, and exclusion. Alas, we have muddled that up pretty well over the centuries and we still have a long way to go.

I apologize for our countries and leaders who still believe somehow war and conflict are answers to our world disagreements. I am sorry we still send men and women into wars where they lose limb and life because of our inability to sit down at a table and discuss civilly and respectfully what it would take to have world peace.

I apologize for our lack of foresight as we still have not learned to care for our earth and God’s good green creation, not taking into account those like you who will have to come after us and clean up our mess.

I apologize for our fear of the other and for governments and even religion, who still try to make laws to discriminate against those they see as different.  Not only the world, but our country, our state, even in the church we have found ways to do harm to others simply because of who they are, what they believe, and who they love.

I apologize for our country and world where you are born with an extra challenge just because you are a female; born into a country and a world who does not believe you should be paid equally to males for the same work, not based on your ability but simply because of your gender. I apologize we still make laws that limit your choices regarding career, health care, and reproductive care; some implied and some blatant.

I apologize for our bent toward violence, especially in our country, where gun violence is the highest of all the major countries, and we are want to pass sensible laws to perhaps make you a little safer.

I apologize for a culture that, at this point, will not always take you seriously, believe you; a culture that will critique what you wear, how you look, and what you should be doing simply because you are a woman.

I hope, by the time you are old enough to understand these things, you will look at me and say, “Poppie, really? The world was really like that when I was born? I’m glad it is not now.” I hope this with all I am!

Nora, with all this being said, it might seem the world is a scary place, and I will not lie, it can be. But I also want to say, the world is a wondrously magnificent place! Filled with wonder and mystery, beauty and grace, spectacular sights, sounds, and smells and touch. The world is an incredible gift filled with art, music, whimsy, and magic.

I want to reassure you there are people in the world who are tirelessly working to change all of these scary things. There are people in the world and in the church who are ardent in the fight for justice for all, welcome, inclusion, and love. And because of the beauty of these people, I am again and again filled with hope that one day, peace and love will win.

This is the world I know you have been born into as well, because I know your mom and dad, and they will teach you and love you and show you all that is good in this world! They will raise you to be a strong and independent woman, though you have already expressed that to a degree just in your coming, a little stubborn you were. And you will be encouraged to be whatever, whoever, and wherever you will dream to be. I know your family both on your daddy’s side and you mommy’s side, families filled with love and care and support. And I know your Grammy and your Poppie, and we will do everything we can to show you how wondrously beautiful you are as is the world of which you are apart.

One more thing, and this is really important, I want you to know, your Dad and Mom will tell you this for themselves I am sure as well, but I want to say it from Poppie and Grammy. We love you. We will always love you. There is no place you can be, no situation in which you find yourself, no choice you could ever make, that will change that. We will ALWAYS love you, period! Period! And there is nothing you can do about it.

I am anxiously awaiting this coming Sunday afternoon when I can hold you in my arms again, kiss your face, and sing and whisper I love you in your ears. I also want to say that I am going to share this letter on my blog as well. Because it gives me an opportunity to brag about our newest perfect granddaughter, but also because not only do I hope all these things for you, but I pray and work every day that all of us, the church, our society and culture universally will one day embrace such a world where justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream, a world where love and justice for all is the rule rather than the exception, a world where all means all. May it be so. May it be soon.

Nora, welcome to our crazy Little family. We are so fortunate to have you with us. May you always know God loves you, we love you, and you are never alone. Ever!

 

My Love Always,

Poppie