known in Absence | 180-word poem by Brian Marsh

Today it is my privilege to host Brian Marsh, pastor of our home church, Moreland Presbyterian Church. In addition to serving the flock at Moreland, Brian is a loving husband and father, musician, poet, comforter, and, in his own words, an all-round troublemaker wherever he is. 

This past Sunday Brian spoke to us via Facebook Live Stream on the topic of Known in Absence. Below is Brian’s 180-word poetic version of his message. After reading these words, I was moved to share them here.


absence, three visitors, watchful,

known in Absence
by Brian Marsh

the Visions
whether from Spirit
or screens
are nice
but the Magic
of touch
is what my Spirit
and senses
truly need
something tangible
to fill the absence
and hold me
and tell me
that everything
is gonna be
alright

three were confronted
by the Absence
and the fear
two retreated
to familiar safety
in hiding
from reality
in fear
one remained
in unfamiliar space
in openness
to Reality
in faith
and encountered Presence
revealed in absence
a resurrected
Light

a new Way
of being
and living
where giving
and forgiving
flow from Strength
emerging
from the soil
of suffering
and weakness
Wisdom surging
out of supposedly
mindless madness
faithless foolishness
(fear catalyzing
but not driving
Change)
Courage arising
from embracing
grief and sadness
not impervious
to pain
but empowered
by the same Spirit
that enabled Resurrection
enlightened recollection
of our innately
Divine interconnection
as Beloved vessels
equally valued Voices
and transformed rejection
and disconnection
into existential
Incarnational
Delight.

Amen.


#180wordprayer #Easter2020 #ResurrectionAsAGradualSunrise

Artwork: ‘The Empty Tomb’ by He Qi

Brian writes 40-word poems on his blog. If you’d like to read more of Brian’s poetry, follow this link. You can also find out a little more about who Brian Marsh is.

Featured image attribution:  Bessi from Pixabay 

Day by Day

Day by day things are changing in miniscule and massive ways it seems. Especially in this pandemic state we find ourselves living in.  It is like spring changing in small ways day by day. And then one morning the tree outside your window is a burst of color.
 
Blossoms unfurl their petals. Trees turn blossoms into fruit. Grass pushes through the earth to create a bright green lawn. Buds are everywhere. Future blossoms on camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, peonies, tulips, daffodils, and more.
 
Some of the day by day changes aren’t so lovely as these. Let’s pull out a random change—I pick grocery shopping! Right about now I hate grocery shopping. Since Bob and I fall into an “at risk” category, our state guidelines suggest we stay home. This means ordering online to pickup what we need at Fred Meyer, the local Kroger-owned store. The store seems to have its system well organized and operating efficiently. For me, it is the ordering part that’s driving me a nuts.
 
About the time I have the order ready, something else pops up that we need. I rush to the computer to add it to our list. That happens again, again, and again. Then it’s the hassle of finding an open delivery date and time. Sometimes it can take several days to get locked in. Then the day scheduled for pick up arrives. You receive a text message letting you know what they’ve substituted or didn’t have at all! But the pickup itself is always a pleasant experience otherwise.
 
How much longer do I have to do this? Will I ever grow accustomed to it? It all rests on the restrictions set by our state government as COVID-19 peaks and flattens. We understand the opening of Oregon and its businesses will go slowly based on many matrices.
 
I’ve adopted a day by day process, doing what I can in the hours I’m awake and on my feet. That includes personal matters relating to taxes, estate planning, retirement funds, and more. The “more” includes household chores and cooking rather than writing and social media. AND continuing PT exercises at home.
 
I had wanted to restart my newsletter at the end of March, but didn’t quite focus on it enough to make it happen. For me, there’s a sense of being out of mind and body some days.
 
Coping with a change in the world around us is never easy. We are not always comfortable with change, especially sudden change. Even though life will return to the way it was, or almost, it is hard to accept the now as what some call the “new normal.” This isn’t the normal I want for my life. 
 
Yet penetrating through these days is a light. If we cling to that light, a special Light, we will find our way back to some semblance of what we used to call normal. Life may or may not go back to exactly what it was. My hope is that we’ll be something better than we were before. It’s possible. 
 
Spring flowers can be constant in coloring for two or three years. The next spring they may evolve into a different color. Isn’t it possible to hope we can change for the better?
 
Lam. 3:21-23, Scripture, hope
 
 
Featured image attribution: Phyllis Nagels on Unsplash

 

Easter | A Day in the Life (Episode #2 Revised)

I couldn’t come to grips with writing a new post this week. Something or Someone advised me to step back and take a self-care breather.

So, I’ve pulled this one from the 2015 archives, brushed it up a bit, and offer it to you on this Easter weekend in 2020. The memory is one of my childhood favorites. It always comes to mind during the week before Easter.


One Easter Sunday stands out in my mind above all others. The year 1950. I was around age four. Dressing up was a highlight to most little girls, especially around Easter.

Easter meant a visit from the Easter Bunny with baskets filled with eggs and jelly beans and always a chocolate bunny. And it almost always meant new clothes. This particular Easter meant a new pair of black patent leather Mary Janes. I was proud and excited to wear them. I thought Sunday would never come.

Finally, Sunday came. Up early to check out what was left by the Easter Bunny, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, and then dress for church.

That’s when it all fell apart. I heard Mama and Daddy talking. Well, maybe arguing.

Resurrection, Easter, Mary Janes, Spring

“She cannot wear those shoes. Can’t you see it snowed last night?”

Oh, no! Mama was telling Daddy I couldn’t wear my new shoes. If I hurried, I could get dressed and have my new shoes on before they finished.

“Honey, the snow isn’t that deep.” Hurray for Daddy! But Mama was having none of it.

Finally, Daddy saved the day. He told Mama if she felt it was too messy to wear the new shoes, he would carry me from the house to the car, from the car to the church, and reverse his plan when it was time to come home.

I’ll never forget wearing those shiny new shoes. But above all, I’ll never forget how loved I felt when Daddy reached down with his long arms, picked me up, and carried me to the car and into church that morning. I like to think it was Daddy’s way of showing me the unconditional love of God.

Easter, Resurrection, He is Risen
Via Ann Voskamp

Featured Image Attribution: Selling of my photos with StockAgencies is not permitted from Pixabay 

Joy in the Time of COVID-19

I did not intend to use the COVID-19 label in my post title, because you have heard enough about the virus without my adding it to headlines. Yet this was the catchiest title I could come up with today. 

One item Bob and I have on our daily calendar is our time for morning devotional and prayers. In recent days, we’ve been following Henri Nouwen. The daily meditation is waiting in our inbox before we get up and out of bed. It’s been a good day starter for us.

Yesterday’s meditation seemed chosen specifically for this time of crisis for all of us. As we read it, I thought of all the things that are happening around us. What could we possibly find joy in right now? My recovery, the birth of our new great-granddaughter Aurora, a friend who suffered a traumatic skiing accident a week ago and is recovering, and the joy of being together in this time of stress and tension. It made us more aware of what joy really is. I thought perhaps it might help someone else if I shared it here:

Be Surprised by Joy

 
Learn the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. As we grow old . . . there is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road. . . . But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.

 

For more information on Henri Nouwen, his writings and work, click here.

Featured image attribution: nicko mcluff from Pixabay

Miracles Happen

Watching for signs of spring can reveal miracles happening around us. The helleborus shown above is a miracle. The plant lives through the coldest and darkest nights of winter. Survives the winter rains and often hail and freezing rain. And still near Christmas you’ll find buds forming. Now, as we are in the middle of February, they are blooming. Our plants are full of blossoms! These plants and their blooms represent a miracle in my mind.

They could have succumbed to the harsh winter weather. The cold east wind bringing a tinge of iciness with it. At some elevations, these plants might have received a covering of snow. Yet, they bloom away. Miraculous in their survival.
 
On December 31st, I met with my pain management physician. He advised I had reached the end of free hemp and would need to buy it on my own. My first order of three 30 mL bottles (a mere 30-day supply) cost me approximately $200. 
 
My husband pointed out the hemp didn’t appear to diminish my pain level. A grocery shopping trip would find me lasting between 15 and 20 minutes on my feet. Then I had to give up and sit it out until Bob finished on his own. I couldn’t stand long enough to make a meal. I’d pull up my mother-in-law’s kitchen stool to the counter after 15 minutes or so. So many things I haven’t been able to do, and most of it because of pain from a bone harvest in 2001 during my first fusion.
 
After some discussion and prayer, Bob and I decided I should stop taking the hemp. After all, at that price, why should we buy it if it wasn’t working? So I did. Early in February, I took my last dose of hemp. It was an emotional decision because the hemp seemed to help at first. But, increasing doses didn’t seem to increase the hemp’s effectiveness against pain.
 
I confess if I leave home I do take a small dose of a prescription pain reliever as a precaution. After spending a couple of hours visiting friends in their home last week, we stopped at the grocery. I actually made it through the store without stopping to sit at all!!!
 
Yes, I can say I am pain-free now. Since the late 1990s, I have struggled with some kind of back pain. Most have increased in intensity over time. Between spinal fusions, I would have relief and often for long periods of time. Yet, the pain was never totally gone. 
 
Please don’t ask me what caused this tremendous turnaround. Neither Bob nor I can answer that question. We accept it as a miracle. The Bible tells us that miracles are born of prayer and faith:
 
Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

(Mark 5:34, The Message)

 
Your comments and thoughts are welcome. If you have stories of miracles, I would love to hear them. If you have stories of those who haven’t received a miracle and you wonder why, feel free to share those as well. Sharing stories is important in building community as well as spreading God’s love.

 

Featured image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Musical Sunday

First things first on Sundays. Once awake and with my feet under me, I prepare breakfast. It’s simple and quick. I have other tasks to do before leaving for church.
 
This Sunday is special as it’s musical from beginning to end.
 
At church, we expect the sounds of our Children’s Choir. Hearing these young voices is always a joy-filled experience. Children present the fresh and unadulterated faith we all should carry in our hearts.
 
Under the direction of a talented young man, the children sing a new arrangement of Down by the RiversideOur choristers range in age from kindergarten through grade school. Their abilities follow the same range. Their performance gets rousing affirmation with applause.
 
From here, we dash for a cup of coffee and some fellowship with friends and new faces. We can only stay a short while as we have other places to be. 
 
Early afternoon and after a bite of lunch, we head out to attend a concert by the Bach Cantata Choir. This organization is made up of some very talented vocalists and musicians. The choir’s goal is to sing all Bach’s cantatas in 30 years. I have no idea where they are in accomplishing this.
 
Yesterday’s concert was billed as “Super Bach Sunday.” The group’s director offers this concert as a substitute for an annual football game on TV. We were blessed with some awe-inspiring and spiritual cantatas by Bach. Pieces by siblings, Felix and Fanny Mendelsohn, and Handel finished the program. We left feeling overwhelmed in a joyous way. We commented to the director that yesterday was a WOW! performance.
 
It was a beautiful blessing, both morning and afternoon. The feeling will carry us through this week.
Image attribution: Moreland Presbyterian Church