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Random acts of kindness and power

The last few weeks have brought many unsettling events with earthquakes and fires, smoke and dangerous air. When I also encountered air delays on Tuesday, with my health still affected by the difficulties breathing, I found it affected me more than normal.

Boarded a flight, was informed my connecting flight was canceled, got off the plane, tried to get on another and could not because of a software glitch, delayed luggage and a leak in my water bottle which erased part of my calendar all before noon.

So I was delighted to meet a hospitality dog dressed as a bumblebee in honor of Halloween and her companion who was a former resident of San Ramon. The fact that this pair spends time each week simply offering a site for furry pats was comforting.

And the next day, at the worship starting the Harper-Jordan symposium, when strains of joyous music and clapping began, my soul was caressed. Small items which would have been pleasant in other weeks were truly joyful in the context of this one.

This week I hope something invigorated your soul.

What are we harvesting?

Though the dry heat of the Santa Ana winds does not necessarily feel like fall, the shorter days are making us suspect it and turning our thoughts to the introspection which is part of the darker times of the year. And because this is also the season of the harvest, I find myself asking, what has been growing and what is being harvested?

Some things are easier to identify—a growing sense that our climate is shifting and that this fall season of turning leaves and carving pumpkins is also a time for the threat of wildfires, poor air and winds is one. A sense that we have a new role in the world, less of a peacekeeper and more of a rogue.

We can ask these kinds of questions in our own frames as well. What are we harvesting in terms of connections? What has been growing which is now bearing fruit? What do we wish to mask in this season of costuming and this week of Halloween? What do we turn to with wonder? What is turning and what is growing within us?

Taking the time to take a walk amid the leaves or to sip a cup of warm tea on a cooling night might prove a way to gain insight, perspective—or more questions.

The turning of the seasons invites the question:

What are we harvesting?

Friday, October 18, 2019

My father died in July 2016. In the ferment of that week, I somehow enabled a setting that captured all my voicemails as recordings. Though temporary, this took up a lot of space and so as a result, when space on my aging phone became an issue this summer*, I discovered this anomaly and had to go through and delete them. Because of the significance of that week, it felt important to listen to all of them and I did. None of the messages were particularly significant—and that was significant in its own way.

Listening to a week’s worth of the ordinary items of my days—yet removed by the span of a few years—I was able to feel the intricacy and involvement of my life in a way that I might miss at other times. The audio recordings were full of the bits and bytes of life—just small things which somehow grew in significance when removed by time and space.

Grocery lists. Calls from friends to whom I am still connected. Calls from others who have now died or who I am no longer have cause to exchange phone messages. Reminders about tasks such as doctor’s appointments or deadlines. Calls from some of the people who form the architecture of love and relationship in my life. Calls from people I can’t even remember why I know. Calls that made me grateful, anxious, joyful. These little audio snapshots were an unexpected blessing.

After listening to—and erasing—these little time-out-of-time remnants, I found that I was more attentive to all the small things which make up the fabric of our lives.

Friday, October 11, 2019

This week as we have been wrestling with power outages, high winds and the threat and uncertainties of what is now our annual wildfire season, I was so glad to be able to think back to last Sunday and the two services we held.

The first marked the historic vote that we took to become a congregation willing to say we care about climate change and doing what we can to address it. Those who attended that service and the Sunday Salon at 1 were engaged in a very spirit-filled conversation about what we can do and the ways we are drawn to do that as faith-filled people.

And the second service was held outside and included our annual blessing of the animals. We had a healthy crowd of four-legged canines (who are most inclined to such events), some stuffed friends, some photos and one hardy hamster! What was more important is that the service reminded us, as we sat in the cool beauty of our campus, of all the ways we are bound together and the ways we are connected to our earth. Climate activist and minister Jim Atvan says that all people of faith should move a few services a year outside so that we can reaffirm our deepest commitments to the earth. And we did. Perhaps next congregational year we will do so on the Sunday nearest Earth Day.

The congregation, which is always so beautiful to behold, was especially so last week. The gentle rays of the sun and the immediacy of being together created a special energy as we heard a pick-up choir sing an old folk favorite about going to the zoo. Spirits, minds, and hearts were nurtured and our connections to the natural world were affirmed.

Our campus is a sanctuary in many ways and one way is as a wildlife sanctuary. The day before the service, I saw an unusual number of squirrels, deer and yes, turkeys. One stag was lying in the shade at the very end of our property, very still and regal as if saying, “I am here to give and receive blessings as well.” That is the nature of our interdependence.

We need one another.

In recent years, I have come to equate the unexpected with the unwanted.

In recent years, I have come to equate the unexpected with the unwanted.

So many of the surprises which have greeted us in our culture and which I have experienced in my own life have not been things I would have sought out. So perhaps, I have come to be a little resistant to things which I did not expect, didn’t know what were coming, etc.

Know what I mean?

A couple of recent events have made me realize that this linkage in my mind between unexpected and unwanted might be causing me to miss some unexpected gifts….

This short story explains the flower picture. You see, every year for the decade-plus I have been in California, I have attempted to grow sunflowers. The first year I put some seeds in a pot and got a lovely, large beaming sunflower head. And then the troubles began…some years the birds ate the seedlings before they could spout. I adjusted by starting the plants inside, which kept away the birds, but then the seedlings would wither when I transplanted them. Some years the plants would grow and then a heatwave would take them right before they bloomed.

And then this summer, kinda busy and maybe a little jaded, I just tossed a bunch of seeds into the pot in the driveway. Forgot about them., A few weeks plants started to emerge and I was charmed. Sunflowers! Well, some were actually zinnias. A nice surprise. And yes, two sunflowers of the smaller variety.

So unexpected and lovely, unexpected and inspiring. May we all be open to unexpected gifts…..

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