Meditations on Psalm 23 & 1 John 1:7 – Walking in the light

Blessing the Way — Jan Richardson

With every step
you take
this blessing rises up
to meet you.

It has been waiting
long ages for you.

Look close
and you can see
the layers of it,

how it has been fashioned
by those who walked
this road before you

how it has been created
of nothing but
their determination
and their dreaming,

how it has taken
its form
from an ancient hope
that drew them forward
and made a way for them
when no way could be
seen.

Look closer
and you will see
this blessing
is not finished,

that you are part
of the path
it is preparing

that you are how
this blessing means
to be a voice
within the wilderness

and a welcome
for the way.

(Rev Gail’s note: Used as this week’s call to worship)

Meditations on Psalm 23

“… prompted by 9/11 … in the wake of the attack, everybody from my next-door neighbor to Tom Brokaw was asking me, How could God let this happen? The answer I found myself giving was that God’s promise was never that life would be fair. God’s promise was that when we have to confront the unfairness of life, we will be able to handle it because we won’t do it alone–He’ll be with us. After I’d said that a couple of times, I realized that’s the 23rd Psalm. “I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”
Sometimes people lose faith. But sometimes people lose faith in a certain childish conception of God and acquire a more mature conception of God. Paul Tillich once said, “When I was 17 I believed in God. Now that I’m 70 I still believe in God, but not the same God.” A naïve conception of God is a God who is always there to protect us. We replace it with a more realistic understanding of a God who is there to help us through the difficult times in our lives.
— Rabbi Harold Kushner, from interview on Beliefnet

As a kid, I was taught that if you opened the Bible in the middle you’d probably land on the book of Psalms. And near the middle is everyone’s favorite, the 23rd, there is this line: “You prepare a table before in the presence of my enemies.” I don’t know how many times I’ve read or recited this Psalm without pondering what that line actually means, but here is my take on it. When things are a bit tense, when life is not going at its best, when the potential for disaster is just around the corner, when your enemies are all around you – and even staring you down! – that’s when God lays out the red-checkered picnic cloth and says, “Oooo, this is a nice place. Let’s hang out here together for a while…just you and me.” ― David Brazzeal, Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul

I was silently reciting to myself the 23rd Psalm, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want …’ The man with the tinted spectacles and the man from the police department were looking at me thoughtfully. They mistook my silence as a sign of weakening. I knew I had to show courage. In fact, I felt much better for having recited the words of the psalm. I had not been so free of fear the whole evening as I was in that moment standing beside the black jeep, a symbol of repression. I lifted my head and said in a loud and firm voice, ‘I’m not guilty! I have nothing to confess.’ ― Nien Cheng, Life and Death in Shanghai

The other names sound somewhat too gloriously and majestically, and bring, as it were, an awe and fear with them, when we hear them uttered. This is the case when the Scriptures call God our Lord, King, Creator. This however, is not the case with the sweet word shepherd. It brings to the godly, when they read it or bear it, as it were a confidence, a consolation, or security like the word father. — Martin Luther, Catholic priest and reformer

It is little wonder the passage has such broad appeal. It is one of the most personal of all Scripture texts … Yet it is all about what a gracious and benevolent shepherd God is, with seemingly no expectation of our offering anything in return.
It is about pure grace.
That’s certainly a message we all need, given how impoverished and dependent we human beings are, and how we much need divine nurture and care, especially in times of loss, loneliness and distress.
But it’s not intended to give us the whole picture of our covenant with God. The other side of the story, found in multitudes of other passages, is about how God calls us and equips us to learn shepherding and nurturing ourselves, and to graciously pass on that love and care to others in need.
It’s that second calling that is so easily and so often overlooked. To a repentant Peter, Jesus’s message is that if you really love me, you will shepherd my sheep, feed my lambs, lead others to places of nourishment and growth (e.g., to “feed” them).
In other words, we are called to be both aware of our spiritual poverty, to be receivers of grace, and to be a means by which we convey grace and help to others. God’s shalom is always to be passed on … In other words, having been blessed by Psalm 23-style shepherding, we practice that same kind of shepherding toward others.  — Rev Harvey Yoder, excerpt from Mennonite blog posting.

Meditations on Light:

The Properties of Light Eric Gamalinda (excerpt)

… one of the elms
has changed early, burning with a light
grown accustomed to its own magnificence,

imperceptible until this moment when it becomes
more than itself, more than a ritual
of self-immolation. I think of sacrifice

as nourishment, the light feeding bark and veins
and blood and skin, the tree better off
for wanting nothing more. I used to imagine

the chakra like this—a hole in the soul
from the top of the head, where the light of knowing
can shimmer through. In the summer of 1979

I saw that light shoot from my brother’s forehead
as we sat chanting in a temple in Manila.
He didn’t see it pulsing like a bulb in a storm,

but he said he felt the warmth that wasn’t warmth
but peace. And I, who have never been
so privileged, since then have wondered

if we believed everything because not to believe
was to be unhappy. I’ve seen that light elsewhere
—on a river in Bangkok, or pixeled across

the shattered façades of Prague—but it is here
where I perceive its keenest rarity, where I know
it has passed over all the world, has given shape

to cities, cast glamour over the eyes of the skeptic,
so that it comes to me informed with the wonder
of many beings. I can’t begin to say how infinite I feel,

as though I were one of many a weightless absence
touches, and out of this a strange transformation:
the soul ringed with changes, as old as a tree,

as old as light. I am always learning the same thing:
there is no other way to live than this,
still, and grateful, and full of longing.

Let the Light Enter
— Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

“The Dying Words of Goethe”

“Light! more light! the shadows deepen,
And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open:
Light! more light! before I go.

“Softly let the balmy sunshine
Play around my dying bed,
E’er the dimly lighted valley
I with lonely feet must tread.

“Light! more light! for Death is weaving
Shadows ‘round my waning sight,
And I fain would gaze upon him
Through a stream of earthly light.”

Not for greater gifts of genius;
Not for thoughts more grandly bright,
All the dying poet whispers
Is a prayer for light, more light.

Heeds he not the gathered laurels,
Fading slowly from his sight;
All the poet’s aspirations
Centre in that prayer for light.

Gracious Saviour, when life’s day-dreams
Melt and vanish from the sight,
May our dim and longing vision
Then be blessed with light, more light.

Celebrating Eric Pendleton, Remembering Jan Tatkhin

Gathering to Honor Eric Pendleton’s Life

With the permission of John and Alice Pepper and their family, we share an update about arrangements in response to the death of Eric Pendleton. They are inviting community members to attend a celebration of Eric’s life next Sunday, July 30, 4pm at the tent at Eagle Mountain House.

The family writes, “Eric Pendleton died from a fall in his home on July 17, 2017. He leaves his parents, John and Alice Pepper, a brother, Brian Pendleton, of Seattle, WA., a sister, Sarah Isberg, of Jackson and six nephews and nieces. Eric grew up in Jackson, attended Holderness School, Burke Mountain Academy, and Univ. of Vermont. He worked on ski races at Atitash, later coached junior racers at Wildcat. He enjoyed running , biking, hiking, and golf, and in winter both alpine and nordic skiing. There will be a celebration of his life on July 30 at 4PM in the tent at Eagle Mountain House.” A more extensive account of Eric’s life will be shared at the beginning of the week.

Please continue to hold their family in your prayers.

Remembering Jan Tatkhin

Additionally, friends and members are welcome to attend a memorial service hosted at Jackson Community Church for our friend Dr. Jan Tatkhin (Jean Marie Vianney Niyonzima) on Monday, July 31, 4pm. He died of diabetic complications in early April of this year. Revs. Gail Pomeroy Doktor and Norma Brettell will officiate.

Sally Swenson composed this remembrance. “Dr. Jan Tatkhin died unexpectedly from complications with diabetes April 10, 2017. He was born in Rwanda in 1963. There he received his MD and practiced medicine for several years prior to emigrating to USA in 1993 where he earned a Masters Degree in public health and a PhD in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, he worked in Baltimore, MD.

When he later discovered the Mt. Washington Valley, he immediately fell in love with the area and soon made it his home. While in the valley, he participated in local running races and enjoyed the White Mountain Miler fun runs whenever he could. Learning to ski was a challenge (having never seen snow before he came) but as with so many other new activities – he tackled it with gusto and enjoyed the challenge. He was active in the arts, and a frequent attendee of concerts by the Mt. Top Community Orchestra and Mountain Aire Strings. He loved playing his guitar and singing folk songs with his friends. He enjoyed coaching, substitute teaching, and a variety of other jobs in which he gave back to the valley.

He frequently attended both the Jackson Community Church and the Bartlett Congregational Church, where he met many friends. At the time of his death he was living in an international boarding house in North Conway where he befriended foreign students, and helped them adjust to the new environment here.

He leaves behind several brothers and sisters, some of whom are still in Rwanda while others are in Canada, England, Belgium, and other countries.”

Meditations on Kingdom of God: pearls, yeast, abundant nets, hidden treasure

Small and precious things found in sacred stories,
with the power to grow exponentially:
yeast, fish, pearls, seeds, and other treasures in the kingdom of God.

Meditations on Kingdom of God

God is the Possessor of the Kingdom: whoever lays his head before Him, to him he gives a hundred kingdoms without the terrestrial world; but the inward savour of a single prostration before God will be more sweet to you than a hundred empires: then you will cry in humble entreaty, “I desire not kingdoms: commit unto me the kingdom of that prostration.— Rumi

You’re just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You’ve got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It’s all down to you, mate. — John Lennon

Meditations on Pearls

After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. — Federico Fellini

Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. — Shakespeare

At the edge of madness you howl diamonds and pearls. — Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

Meditations on Fish

The act of fishing – for fish, dreams or whatever magic is available – is enough. ― Fennel Hudson, Traditional Angling – Fennel’s Journal – No. 6

Teach all men to fish, but first teach all men to be fair. Take less, give more. Give more of yourself, take less from the world. Nobody owes you anything, you owe the world everything. ― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun

The trout is still with me, as are my memories. The future is somewhere between these two forces, but it lives in mystery. The river records to trail behind or before me, and covers everything as it flows. This mountain and this river are old … ― Daniel J. Rice, The Unpeopled Season

“He can’t have gone,” he said “Christ know he can’t have gone. He’s making a turn. Maybe he has been hooked before and he remembers something of it.” Then he felt the gentle touch on the line and he was happy.”
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Meditations on Yeast

All men cannot go to college, but some men must; every isolated group or nation must have its yeast, must have, for the talented few, centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living as to have no aims higher than their bellies and no God greater than Gold. — W.E. B. DuBois

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas. — Henry Ford

You can’t just leave out one part; the bread won’t rise if the yeast isn’t there. — Holly Near

I Ask My Grandmother If We Can Make Lahmajoun
— Gregory Djanikian

Sure, she says, why not,
we buy the ground lamb from the market
we buy parsley, fresh tomatoes, garlic
we cut, press, dice, mix

make the yeasty dough
the night before, kneading it
until our knuckles feel the hardness
of river beds or rocks in the desert

we tell Tante Lola to come
with her rolling pins we tell
Zaven and Maroush, Hagop and Arpiné
to bring their baking sheets

we sprinkle the flour on the kitchen table
and it is snowing on Ararat
we sprinkle the flour and the memory
of winter is in our eyes

we roll the dough out
into small circles
pale moons over
every empty village

Kevork is standing on a chair
and singing
O my Armenian girl
my spirit longs to be nearer

Nevrig is warming the oven
and a dry desert breeze
is skimming over the rooftops
toward the sea

we are spreading the lahma
on the ajoun with our fingers
whispering into it the histories
of those who have none

we are baking them
under the heat of the sun
the dough crispening
so thin and delicate

you would swear
it is valuable parchment
we are taking out
and rolling up in our hands

and eating and tasting again
everything that has already
been written
into the body.

Meditations on Parables and Everyday Stories: Mustard Seeds & Weeds

In Case of Complete Reversal  — Kay Ryan
Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal:
a tiny but powerful
kit for adapting it
to the unimaginable.
If we could crack the
fineness of the shell
we’d see the
bundled minuses
stacked as in a safe,
ready for use
if things don’t
go well.

On Mustard Seeds & Weeds

So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself. — Florence Nightingale

This is a book about Heaven. I know it now. It floats among us like a cloud and is the realest thing we know and the least to be captured, the least to be possessed by anybody for himself. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which you cannot see among the crumbs of earth where it lies. It is like the reflection of the trees on the water. — Wendell Berry

I have a mustard seed; and I am not afraid to use it. — Pope Benedict XVI

A man of words and not of deeds, Is like a garden full of weeds. ― Benjamin Franklin

No faith is required to do the possible; actually only a morsel of this atom-powered stuff is needed to do the impossible, for a piece as large as a mustard seed will do more than we have ever dreamed of. — Leonard Ravenhill

The strongest and most mysterious weeds often have things to teach us. ― F.T. McKinstry

But what attracted me to weeds was not their beauty, but their resilience. I mean, despite being so widely despised, so unloved, killed with every chance we get, they are so pervasive, so seemingly invincible. ― Carol Vorvain

Man gains wider dominion by his intellect than by his right arm. The mustard-seed of thought is a pregnant treasury of vast results. Like the germ in the Egyptian tombs its vitality never perishes; and its fruit will spring up after it has been buried for long ages. — Edwin Hubbel Chapin

They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour’s work as for a day’s. They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of a newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart. They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the lamb… — Frederick Buechner

backyard songDiane Seuss

Since it’s just me here I’ve
found the back and stayed
there most of the time, in
rain and snow and the
no-moon nights, dodging the front
I used to put up like a yard
gussied and groomed, all
edged and flower-lined, my
bottled life.
Uncorked, I had a thought: I
want the want
I dreamed of wanting once, a
quarter cup of sneak-peek
at what prowls in the back, at
what sings in the
wet rag space behind the garage, back

where the rabbits nest, where
I smell something soupish, sour and dank and it’s
filled with weeds like rough
cat tongues and
the wind is unfostered, untended,
now that it’s just me here and
I am so hungry
for the song that grows tall like a weed
grows, and grows.

When I was a
little girl
my ma said a woman gets
tired and sick
of the front yard, of
kissing the backside of a
rose.

Meditations on themes from the Parable of the Sower & the Seed

Reflections on hard earth and fertile ground: sowing seeds, putting down roots, growing shoots … putting parables to work in current times.

The Sower by VanGogh

A Short Story of FallingAlice Oswald
It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

On Parables & Seeds

Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal, and yet if a melody has not reached its end, it has not reached its goal. A parable. — Frederick Nietzsche

To paraphrase Muggeridge: Everything is a parable that God is speaking to us, the art of life is to get the message. ― Chester Elijah Branch

Each day of my life I am sowing seeds that one day I will harvest. — Gautama Buddha

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. — Robert Louis Stevenson

A lower power cannot compass the full understanding of a higher. But to limit one’s belief to the bounds of one’s own small powers, would be to tie oneself down to the foot of a tree, and deny the existence of its upper branches. ― Mrs. Alfred Gatty, ie, Margaret Scott

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. — Norman Vincent Peale

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me. — William Shakespeare

Being an American is a state of mind, and to be in a family is to feel the power of belonging, the power of your roots. Family is a tree, the strength of a tree, the roots, the leaves, the past, the present, the future, the fruits, the seeds. — Esai Morales

He [Jesus] speaks in parables, and though we have approached these parables reverentially all these many years and have heard them expounded as grave and reverent vehicles of holy truth, I suspect that many if not all of them were originally not grave at all but were antic, comic, often more than just a little shocking. ― Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

Throughout the parables the paradoxical teachings continue: Give to receive. Die to live. Lose to win. ― Amos Smith, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots

Maybe that’s why Jesus was so fond of parables: Nothing describes the indescribable like a good yarn. ― Cathleen Falsani, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace

A journey or pilgrimage also follows the parabolic curve of an arch: it swings out from a known point and returns symmetrically to a point on the same line or plane, but farther along. For this reason, ancient philosophers chose the arch as a symbol for the process of interpretation. That is why teaching stories, such as those of Jesus or Buddha, are known as parables. ― John Tallmadge, The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City

A ParableArthur Conan Doyle
The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
And warmly debated the matter;
The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
And the Heretics said from the platter.
They argued it long and they argued it strong,
And I hear they are arguing now;
But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,
Not one of them thought of a cow.

Parable of the HostagesLouise Glück
The Greeks are sitting on the beach
wondering what to do when the war ends. No one
wants to go home, back
to that bony island; everyone wants a little more
of what there is in Troy, more
life on the edge, that sense of every day as being
packed with surprises. But how to explain this
to the ones at home to whom
fighting a war is a plausible
excuse for absence, whereas
exploring one’s capacity for diversion
is not. Well, this can be faced
later; these
are men of action, ready to leave
insight to the women and children.
Thinking things over in the hot sun, pleased
by a new strength in their forearms, which seem
more golden than they did at home, some
begin to miss their families a little,
to miss their wives, to want to see
if the war has aged them. And a few grow
slightly uneasy: what if war
is just a male version of dressing up,
a game devised to avoid
profound spiritual questions? Ah,
but it wasn’t only the war. The world had begun
calling them, an opera beginning with the war’s
loud chords and ending with the floating aria of the sirens.
There on the beach, discussing the various
timetables for getting home, no one believed
it could take ten years to get back to Ithaca;
no one foresaw that decade of insoluble dilemmas—oh unanswerable
affliction of the human heart: how to divide
the world’s beauty into acceptable
and unacceptable loves! On the shores of Troy,
how could the Greeks know
they were hostages already: who once
delays the journey is
already enthralled; how could they know
that of their small number
some would be held forever by the dreams of pleasure,
some by sleep, some by music?

Meditations on Carrying Burdens and Putting Them Down

BurdenJudith McCombs
I am carrying
the bowl where she fed, bitter
herbs, salt, honey, the taste
of her life. I am carrying
the cloth where she lay, her
dark hair veining the white,
imprint & pain washed
away, the binding, the seams
folded shut.
I am carrying
what is left, her voice
in my ears, questions
not asked, her eyes at the end
jelling over & before that her dark
dreaming smile, her long
arms reaching for babies, her scarred
knees that I envied. Ashes &
shards after fire.
Wind
lifts in the bowl of the desert, takes
what is left. Moth
wings of ash flecking
the cold, shards
scattered on sand, filling
the tracks of the living
& dead, it is ended.
O mothers
who thicken the earth, be fed
& not angry, be shelttered, be
safe where you wait & do not
come back to the remnants
you left, do not
come back with your love.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Martin Luther King Jr

He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden. — Plato

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else. — Charles Dickens

The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; he will reveal himself as the greatest marvel of nature. — Maria Montessori

The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction. — Allen Ginsberg

Humanity has the stars in its future and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. — Isaac Asimov

Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden. — Cory Ten Boom

No one knows the weight of another’s burden. — George Herbert

Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone. His own burden in his own way. — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible. — Maya Angelou

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. — John F Kennedy


That Big, Old Rock. Excerpt from recap of Anne Lamott lecture by Barbara Falconer Newhall

That Big, Old Rock. … we think we have this big old rock to lug around. We wake up in the morning, and there it is lying next to us in bed. We stumble into the kitchen for a morning espresso, the rock goes with us. We go to work, it’s on our desk. We go to bed, and there it is again lying between us and that other person. Or between us and the dog, depending.

What’s the rock? All that stuff we think we gotta do. The things we should have done. And, crap, the things we never should have done in the first place. It’s the mighty to-do list of things it’s up to us, and us alone, to fix.

There’s a lot to love about getting older, Anne told her audience … We care about less than we used to, she said. [At an earlier age] you think you have to keep a bunch of things up in the air at one time. You have to squeeze in one more task before you get home – fill the gas tank or stop off at the convenience store. … you still want people see how good you are. You put off going to the optometrist because you’re pretty sure he’ll find out your eyes have gotten worse, in which case he’ll think less of you.

… One day it dawns on you that you might not have fifty more years to live. For all you know, you have just one more day. …

“Stop the train. Drop the rock,” Anne advised. And remember, “Where your feet are is sacred space.”