Posted in Adult Enrichment

Stillness Speaks: Finding Hope for our Hearts

  • December 20, 2017

On Sunday, December 10th, people filled the parlor after worship seeking stillness – time to pause, ponder, and pray.  Through contemplative music, short readings and reflections, lighting candles of individual and collective hopes, and silent meditation, we drew closer to God and to one another.

.

• Hope opens us to the future but releases us into the present.

Advent draws our eyes toward the horizon as we watch and wait for the Christ who comes to us. In this season, we sing with Zechariah, By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us(Luke 1:78). When we are in grief, looking toward the horizon with hope and anticipation is no small feat. Instead of luring us away from the present, however, Advent invites us more deeply into it, where the kingdom of God is at work even now. This is the nature of the hope that Advent cultivates in us. Rich with memory and infused with expectation, hope calls and enables us to work here and now, in company with the Christ who is already about the work of heaven in our midst.

Jan Richardson

This Luminous Darkness:  Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas  

Advent Prayer Walks at Walden Pond

  • December 20, 2017

Tis the season for making cards, going shopping, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, mailing packages, preparing for special meals…in the midst of all of this, what a treat to take time out to be in nature, to share our hearts, and to walk in peaceful solitude listening for God’s wisdom.  Here are a few scenes from recent Prayer Walks and some reflections that were shared to bless us on our way.  We meet every Tuesday on the beach at 9:30am.  Newcomers are always welcome!

First Snow

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

~Mary Oliver~

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare you way.”  Mark 1:2

Blessing the Way

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.

Jan Richardson, Circle of Grace

 

 

Walden Wisdom

  • October 16, 2017

“The heavens are telling the glory of God;  and the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands.”

Psalm 19:1

 

Beannacht / Blessing
by John O’Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

 

 

God speaks to each of us before we are,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me. 

Nearby is the land they call life.

You will know it, when you arrive, by how real it is.

Give me your hand.

  • Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m stepping out from wooded shadows and into the bright arrival of a fresh day.  Beyond the forest, rugged trees give way to a clearing as I walk beside new possibilities.  Along the path, I gather tattered pieces from seasons past to place with care upon the mantle.  And to my surprise what I discover, resting nestled and preserved, are scattered dreams now recollected, their colors vibrantly reminding amid the slender pines.  Entwined twigs and fallen needles, I find childhood dreams that have lost their way, I uncover wild dreams yet unbroken, and dreams that used to keep me up at night, restless and alive.  Now is the time I pick them up, dust them off and let them breath into a wider opening.  Let their pulse race free with promise.  Let them blend with each morning’s faithful light.

From Susan Frybort’s Open Passages:  Doors and Windows to the Soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Prayer happens every Tuesday at Walden Pond.  Meet us at 9:30am on the beach for some centering time and conversation, followed by a meditative walk around the pond (or along the beach, for whatever distance is comfortable for you), and a closing circle to share insights, inspirations, and reflections.  Newcomers are always welcome!

Walking Prayer Resumes at Walden Pond

  • September 6, 2017

It was as if summer just would not let go.  Even though it was the day after Labor Day, by the sights and sounds at the pond, it could have been mid-July.  What a gift to reunite with fellow travelers in faith, to share what’s been on our hearts over the summer, and to walk alone (but together) in silence around the pond looking and listening for God’s voice.  The flowers, the trees, the beach goers, the water, the birds, and even a turtle…all signs of a lingering summer refreshment.   In the words of Barbara Steele…”Nothing remarkable today, except so much glory.”

EXCEPT

Gauzy sky.

Exploded cattails.

Drifting rafts of oak leaves.

The river a mirror—

only the slightest distortion–

like fine old glass,

with the back paddle ripple

of mallards along the edge.

At the trail’s end,

a heron,

poised,

a study in stillness,

dark against the sudden glare

of sun on water.

I slow and hush and witness,

caught in that suspension of time.

Nothing remarkable today,

except so much glory.

Barbara Steele/Bethany Poets

 

Walking Prayer happens every Tuesday.  Meet us at 9:30am on the beach for some centering time and conversation, followed by a meditative walk around the pond (or along the beach, for whatever distance is comfortable for you), and a closing circle to share insights, inspirations, and reflections.

 

Walking Prayers at Walden Pond: Our Graced Oasis

  • June 19, 2017

Last week marked our final Walking Prayer gathering at Walden Pond … for now anyway.  What a blessing it has been to observe the seasonal changes throughout the year – both in nature and in our lives.   We have drawn closer to our own hearts, to God, and to one another, as we’ve carried one another’s burdens and shared in each other’s joys.

They say that beauty comes from a spirit that has weathered many hardships in life and somehow continues with resilience.  Grace can be found in a soul who ages softly, even amid the tempest.  I think the loveliest by far is the one whose gentle heart bears a hundred scars from caring, yet still finds a way to pick up the lamp, one more time, to light the way for love.”    

                                                                         – from Open Passages by Susan Frybort

 

 

 

 

 

 

We most recently watched spring finally arrive at the pond, to be followed quickly by signs of summer.  All along, this place has become a “graced oasis” for us – to borrow a term from Miriam Therese Winter who writes:

“Drink, drink deep, let it all sink in to the well of your remembering and the spell of your imagining, against the day after day after day, devoid of time to sit and pray, when your heart is up against the wall, your thirsting spirit will recall what a blessing so much time and space is, and return you to this graced oasis.”

“Courage at the Crossroads” – WCUC Women’s Retreat at the Sea

  • May 9, 2017

… Seeking Light and Hope to Guide our Way

“Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”    – Leonard Cohen

We enjoyed a weekend together on Cape Cod that was blessed with sharing, praying, reflecting, singing, laughing, playing, enjoying nature (rain and shine!), creating, exercising, eating, and dwelling in the presence of God’s amazing grace!



Hope      

Hope is all about the future

It is a turning away from the past,

the jagged memories, the fearful thoughts that circle in

a tightening spiral.

Hope is a choice, an opening to the

possibility of change.

It widens the view and restores the heart

Beating, like the wings of a flying bird,

on its way somewhere.

Just as I am and you are.

                                              Susan Coppock

 

Inspired by a line in Carrie Newcomer’s song A Light in the Window…”I’m throwing seeds on a winter snow…”

Unfinished Song

I’m casting good bread upon the water I’m shoveling earth from off the ground I’m hanging my coat from the lowest hook I’m saving the best for first.

I’m throwing a long glance over my shoulder

I’m listening to what the little bird said
I’m hesitating before I’m lost
I’m walking a mile in my shoes.

I’m laughing with the doves of mourning I’m taking that leap of standing still
I’m planting feet firmly in the clouds
I’m forgetting who I thought I was.

Shelli Jankowski-Smith May 6, 2017

 

Walden Is Waking Up

  • April 26, 2017

Prayer walkers at Walden are beginning to notice signs of spring.  Rising water, greener trees, louder birds, and more people enjoying the pond have blessed us in recent days.  As winter has turned to spring, we welcome new beginnings and pray together for release from the the burdens that bind us.  In the words of Jan Richardson…

A Lazarus Blessing

The secret of this blessing is that it is written on the back of what binds you.
To read this blessing, you must take hold of the end of what confines you,
must begin to tug at the edge of what wraps you round.
It may take long and long for its length to fall away,
for the words of this blessing to unwind in folds about your feet.
By then you will no longer need them.
By then this blessing will have pressed itself into your waking flesh,
will have passed into your bones,
will have traveled every vein 
until it comes to rest inside the chambers of your heart
that beats to the rhythm of benediction and the cadence of release.

 

As we live in the now and hope for what is to come, we are ever mindful of the challenges that life can bring.  Many of our reflection conversations have offered opportunities for the prayer walkers to share joys and concerns and to ask for help in holding what is hardest.  This hymn, sung at Special Music Sunday at WCUC, hit home for me – a sure reminder of the importance of companionship and the power of the Spirit moving among us.

We Yearn, O Christ, for Wholeness (To the Tune of O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
We yearn, O Christ, for wholeness and for your healing touch;
Too long have we felt helpless; our burdens seemed too much.
Forgetting all pretenses, we make our pleadings heard,
in hope and expectation, await your gracious word.
We long to have companions who travel by our side,
strong friends to call and answer with whom we are allied;
As we lift up each other when struggles lay us low,
community develops; our faith and caring grow.
We need your living presence, O Christ of Galilee,
a presence that revives us and sets our spirits free.
No longer are we fearful, your love pervades each place.
Empower us with courage to claim your healing grace.

Winter Walks at Walden

  • February 7, 2017
From Winter’s End  by Richard Wilbur: 
“Now winter downs the dying of the year;
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin  
And still allows some stirring down within.”
Witnessing the wonders of God’s creation at Walden Pond and listening for the Spirit in the wind, in the silence, and in the words of fellow travelers continues to bless WCUC Walkers.  The wisdom from someone as old as Thoreau and as young as Tucker, one walker’s 8 year old grandson, (and from all of us in between!), has touched our hearts and minds in ways that are quite refreshing and inspiring!
Newcomers are always welcome!  Join us on Mondays @ 9:30am.
Wisdom from Tucker’s speech:
 Stand Strong for Peace and Love
“Hatred is a weapon that some people use but there are strategies we can try to help spread love and kindness.  I want world leaders to remember the destruction of racism, exclusion, and violence and dedicate their goals to stopping such harmful actions.  Maybe they can learn from us how to treat each other.  

A mean word may not feel as bad in the moment as a punch, but a cruel word can get stuck in your heart and make you feel sad.  A harmful word is a kick ready to go into action from the inside. Kindness can be a blanket of comfort.  Love is a powerful thing.  When people love one another mean words are put into cages.  Harmful words can be like germs.  But kind words are always the medicine. 

I am trying to spread peace and love.  Please join me.”

Wisdom from Henry David Thoreau:
“In 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved to a cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, MA to learn to live more ‘deliberately’ – away from the crush of random chatter.  But the cabin furniture he chose to secure that ambition suggests to simple ‘retreat’.  He said that in his cabin there were ‘three chairs – one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society’.”    from Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
 
Going to Walden  by Mary Oliver
It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!
Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe.  But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit.  It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.

Advent Blessings at Walden

  • December 19, 2016

Cold and crisp air….warm sun’s glow….crunchy snow beneath our feet….and the sight of “swans a-swimming”.   These are a few of the advent blessings we experienced this morning on our prayer walk at Walden Pond.  We’ll meet again in the new year on Monday, January 2nd at 9:30am.  Newcomers are always welcome!

The Risk of Birth, An Advent Poem by Madeleine L’Engle (1973)

 This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.img_7976 img_7980 img_7972 img_7983 img_7982

Advent Light Comes to Walden Pond

  • November 29, 2016

The Spirit is alive and well during our Monday morning prayer walks at scenic Walden Pond.  As the season turns from fall to winter, we’ve noticed the changing leaves, the cooling temperatures, and increased wind, and at times, the frozen path.  And yet, the Light remains.  And with it, our hope for more love, peace, and joy in this world grows with each step we take.  The power of God in nature, in friendship, and in prayer walking continues to bless us beyond measure.

img_7886img_7915

 

img_1869

How the Light Coimg_7888mes

I cannot tell you how the light comes.

What I know is that it is more ancient than imagining.

That it travels across an astounding expanse to reach us.

That it loves searching out

what is hidden,

what is lost,

what is forgotten

or in peril or in pain.img_8677

That it has a fondness for the body,

for finding its way toward flesh,

for tracing the edges of form,

for shining forth through the eye,

the hand,

the heart.

I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does.

That it will.

That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you,

though it may seem long ages in comingimg_7920

or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.

And so may we this day turn ourselves toward it.

 

May we lift our faces to let it find us.

May we bend our bodies to follow the arc it makes.

May we open and open more and open still

to the blessed light that comes.

—Jan Richardson

from Circle of Grace

img_7919