Posted in Prayers and Reflections

“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

 

The Gift of Courage by Jane Fleming

Some people say I have an unusually peaceful aura about me. I don’t know if that’s always true but I think I’ve always had a gift of courage. I believe I’ve had it so that I could deal with the challenges I’ve had to face in life.

Like my mother said earlier, I have Prader Willi Syndrome. Prader Willi is a genetic condition with a few different symptoms. But the main thing about Prader Willi is that you’re born without the signal that tells you when you’re full. So people with Prader Willi always feel hungry.

You might think Prader Willi is the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my life. But it’s not. Getting diagnosed with Prader Willi made my mom and me really happy! I wouldn’t say knowing made my life any simpler. But it explained a lot—like why I have small hands and feet and why I was always really good at puzzles. For the first time, there was a reason why aspects of my life seemed different. And it was a huge relief to know I wasn’t the only person who had gone through some of my issues. But Prader Willi has not been my biggest challenge in life. Growing up without my dad, moving a lot when I was a kid, and having a hard time in school were a lot tougher. That’s when I needed my courage.

I’ve always been drawn to people and places where the Love is big and easy to feel. The dance studio where I dance several times a week is like that. It’s a place where everyone is glad to see each other and where we’re free to be ourselves. It’s like there’s a Love in that place that’s bigger than all of us. But we are all a part of it if in our own ways. All I have to do is walk in the building and I feel it. West Concord Union Church and Sunday Fellowship are like that for me too. So are certain people. And so is Nature. They’re the places I know where I can always go to recharge my batteries and fill up on Love.

My best friend Madeleine was one of those people too. She drove a taxi service I used a lot and I would be with her most Sundays. Being with Madeleine always made me feel such love. But along the way, I found out she had ALS. It was very hard for me to admit she was going to die. But when I saw her getting the signs of ALS so rapidly, I had to face it. And that was a much bigger challenge than finding out I had Prader Willi.

My mom and my friends often say I’ve taught them a lot about how to “live in the now”. I guess that’s true because I don’t hold on to my problems. I know how to look for the people and the places where the Love is big and easy to feel. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Broken and Open by Pat Fleming

Little did I know, the day Jane was born, that this tiny little girl would forever change me and challenge who I was day after day. She still challenges me even now. But on the day she was born, she demolished my girlish fantasies of who I would be as a mother and deliver dreams to our lives we didn’t know we had.

When she was born, Jane had no reflexes at all, including sucking. When the doctors sent us home, saying she was fine, she still could not suck. They told me I must get 3 ounces of formula into her every 4 hours whether she wanted it or not. If she fell asleep I was to wake her up by flicking the bottom of her feet. For many weeks it would take me at least 10 hours day to do this and sometimes 20– flicking the bottom of her feet – working her mouth- to get this formula she did not seem to want, into her. I would cry. I would weep. “I cannot do this,” I wailed. Or I would pray, “Help me help me! I promise I’ll be good.”

Sometime during those weeping weeks and childish praying—-something within me said, “Stop it. Get the job done!” And I did. I did it silently, quietly. I learned to listen to Jane. I watched her carefully and kept a diary – how long did she sleep, how long it took to feed her, what did she pay attention when awake. I let the doctors tell me she was fine. I stopped arguing with them and they stopped telling my husband–Jane’s father—I was neurotic. We were an Air Force family. My husband was a pilot and gone most of the time. He and I acted like everything was ok—though I knew my child was different from others. I kept working, reading and watching. Was Jane meeting the normal developmental benchmarks? No, she wasn’t. So I studied other children and asked myself, “How is she the same and how is she different?” I was developing the Benedictine practice of work as prayer.

Jane did develop, a little slower than other babies, but she was growing faster than I was. I was wound too tightly to grow feely. I was still concerned with being nice and polite, always having a smile on my face, not getting too emotional and never challenging anything or anyone. When Jane was three, we had another baby girl. Shortly thereafter, Alan was assigned to a Special Ops unit in SE Asia. He left when Jane was barely 4 and Ann not yet a year old. And then he was killed in action, in Laos, when Nixon said we were not in Laos. Alan was killed on his first flight in-country.

At my husband’s funeral, with full military honors, a 21-gun salute, honor guard and planes flying in formation overhead, I fearfully wondered to myself, “What am I going to do?” And once again something inside me said, “You are going to give your daughters the life you and Alan promised you would give them. Get to work.” And I did. In the 4 years since Jane had been born, I had quietly and carefully developed my intuition. I began to let myself feel. I learned that I was a small, suppressed and broken person who simply was not up to the job life had given me. But I took it on anyway. I went back to college. I got a BA, an MA and PhD. I went to therapy and took apart the emotional box I was in.

I was finally growing, first into the mother Jane needed, the kind who didn’t tolerate doctors or teachers who focused on what she couldn’t do. I looked for warriors. I interviewed doctors, teachers, speech therapists, physical therapists, orthodontists, nannies, neighbors. Even my own friends were scrutinized. I researched towns, communities, neighborhoods where Jane would not only be safe but also supported and included. I, like all parents, wanted people who were committed to who my daughter could become. I could see this was also going to cost a lot of money so I better get a good job. And I did. The University of New Hampshire offered me a faculty position and that’s how we got to the east coast.

The broken woman I had been, was becoming more open, less encumbered by the restraints and limits I had learned in the past. I was opened past many of the attitudes of the day. Did you know that Reagan signed a law in 1980 that made it illegal to neglect a compromised baby? But until the 1980’s it was legal to let a baby die!

Jane kept growing differently than others. She didn’t speak until she was almost 6 years old. Two weeks later, we discovered she had taught herself to read. She was also becoming very interested in food. She was a collector of it. It was an adventure cleaning her room: “What snack would be in the sock drawer? How old was the pizza in the underwear drawer? Where did she get the jelly beans in her boots?” She made it through the many hazards of grade school and high school and into her adult life still a mystery to all of us around her

Jane was 38 years old when she was finally diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome. Prader-Willi is a non-inherited genetic error which displays hundreds of physical and neurological characteristics. But the single most challenging and disruptive symptom to daily life is the ever-present desire for more food. Jane’s body, every neurological mechanism, every cell, tells her every moment of her life that she must have more food – much like a starving person. Their early deaths are often the result of this never-ending demand for food from a body that will gain weight on 800 to 900 calories a day (which is comparable to the 800 calories diet of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during WWII).

There is no cure for Prader-Willi, only a protocol, for managing the lethal choices the person is compelled to make. The protocol is 100% supervision and 100% control of available food. Just to let you know, we do not maintain this protocol of complete supervision and control. By the time, Jane was diagnosed she was a very independent person and she was not about to let that be taken from her. Somehow, somewhere, she has learned to stop eating when her body is saying more but is always in a dangerous conflict with her body’s desires. Jane is one of the few people with PWS that has survived into her 50’s. (I should note that this community has an abundance of Prader-Willi People. You have two, Jane and Dennis. This is a great number for such a rare syndrome). Now we can find doctors who have at least heard of Prader-Willi but very few have met such a person.

As for me, I’m still growing and battling my way toward a life that is both broken and open. At times, I still fight with that superficial girl who is concerned with superficial things. Jane and I were once in a battle over something, I don’t remember what, when Jane said to me, “You are interested in looking good and I am the child that doesn’t look good.” She was right! It was true in that moment. I was angry that she didn’t look good and it might tarnish me. Since then I promise myself repeatedly and regularly to let go of such mundane, shallow concerns. And I still don’t like being the food sheriff.

I have also learned that our story is not unlike the story of this church-maybe a few more challenges or pitfalls. Maybe our story is on steroids – you know what I’m talking about. But I know it wasn’t always easy for this church to include people of all abilities. And yet, you found a way and it has broken you open in some wonderful ways. I thank you for this, for your openness, for your insistence on inviting everyone to this church. I am grateful Jane is here in your company.

In my experience, Broken and Open are like sisters who squabble in a shared room, brothers who compete at everything or parents, who feel the responsibility the and sorrow of bringing their children into this flawed world. Jane’s birth did not break me. Jane’s birth and life revealed that I was already broken. What I know now is that love can overcome any amount of brokenness. Maybe you too you have loved someone whose spirit insisted that you open yourself to something you didn’t think you could. Jane’s spirit insisted, still insists that I open myself to the mystery of her and of her life. Someplace in this journey Jane and I have been on, I have found a deep and abiding gratitude for our whole demanding glorious life. Today, the prayer I repeat over and over quietly is still simple – it is “Thank you.”

 

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.

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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

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Monday Meditation: Prayer Walks at Walden Pond

  • September 27, 2016

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We are walking in the light of God.  Come join us on Mondays @ 9:30am for some contemplative exercise as we walk together in silence, soak in the sights and sounds of nature, and listen for the voice of the Spirit.  Contact joycedegreeff@gmail.com for more information.

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This week, we concluded our time together with a poem by Carrie Newcomer:

Blessing

May you wake with a sense of play,
An exultation of the possible.
May you rest without guilt,
Satisfied at the end of a day well done.
May all of the rough edges be smoothed,
If to smooth is to heal,
And the edges be left rough,
When the unpolished is more true
And infinitely more interesting.
May you wear your years like a well-tailored coat
Or a brave sassy scarf.
May every year yet to come
Be one more bright button
Sewn on a hat you wear at a tilt.
May the friendships you’ve sown
Grow tall as summer corn.
And the things you’ve left behind,
Rest quietly in the unchangeable past.
May you embrace this day,
Not just as any old day,
But as this day.
Your day.
Held in trust
By you,
In a singular place,
Called now.

Cindy’s Farewell Blog

  • August 25, 2016

Picture1My dear friends of West Concord Union Church, what a delight this summer has been as I have served as your summer sabbatical interim pastor.  The time has simply flown by.  I find it hard to believe that this is my last weekly blog post.

The welcome garden has been a beautiful setting for worship.  I enjoyed telling you biblical stories as we gathered for worship outdoors on the labyrinth.  Music has been a great gift to me in the hands of Jim Barkovic.  Judy Rosenbaum has provided steady grounding in all things administrative and answered my every question.  Bob Hawk’s caring custodial work kept my office cool and the Sanctuary breezy during funerals.  Barbara Steele has provided welcome at every turn and would tell you that leadership here is a joy because so many of you pitch in.  Amy Lee has offered me guidance in providing pastoral care to our members.  Jessica Torgerson helped publicize my storytelling presentations.

This Sunday’s scripture will be Proverbs 8:22-31, a lovely poetic text about wisdom.  As students and teachers get ready to return to school, I will offer you stories of “Knowledge and Wisdom.”  The wisdom we learn in church enriches the knowledge we learn in classrooms and schools.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my biblical storytelling ministry with you during this brief season.  I wish you well as you gear up for another exciting program year at WCUC.  I offer you my heartfelt prayers and thanks for being so faithful as the body of Christ.

Rev. Cindy Maybeck

Preparation for Healing Communion

  • August 17, 2016

_DSC0806There are many stories about healing in the scriptures.  Jesus and the apostles often healed people of physical and emotional ailments.  And when Jesus healed, there was an undergirding of economic justice and social transformation.  Such stories are not quaint incidents; there is power in Jesus’ name (to quote the old hymn).

People are burdened with physical disease, mental health struggles, and emotional pain.  Our Christian faith eases all this suffering and strengthens our spirits with a shifting of perspective.  Depression adds to physical pain.  In contrast, the hope available in our faith lessens physical pain.

Some choose not to believe in God because of unanswered prayer or a failure to heal.  However, the healing God offers is sometimes but not always a physical cure.  I have seen God heal a soul by receiving it through death into eternal grace.  There will be an ultimate healing of the individual and indeed of the whole world; Jesus referred to this ideal as the Kingdom of God.

This Sunday, August 21st, you will hear biblical and narrative stories about healing.  And together, we will participate in the sacrament of communion.  An action of worship and praise which promises healing of individuals and of the world.  Come be a part of the joy and love of God’s healing and amazing grace.

Rev. Cindy Maybeck

Eyes to See

  • August 2, 2016

born_blind_04What will it take for white folks to see the privilege we carry due to the history of racism in our culture?  I have a particularly Christian angle to this question.  It seems to me that the task is spiritual rather than political.  When Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus not only is he given the physical gift of sight, he receives spiritual vision clear enough to choose to follow Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.

Those of us who are white need to clear our vision to see how we benefit from white privilege.  We must learn African-American history to begin to see the systemic racism our generation has inherited.  Our church library has many books for you to borrow including Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, in which she argues that the African-American migration in the 20th century was motivated by racial violence, not simple economics.  Listen to voices from other cultures – films, television, magazines.  Challenge white friends who use the excuse that their school or community or church is predominantly white so they can not engage in the work of anti-racism.  Encourage them to make the effort to foster friendships across racial and cultural divides.

In worship at Tri-Con on August 14th, you will hear my personal story of learning to see racism more clearly.  Christianity teaches us the gifts of humility, forgiveness, listening, grace and unconditional love.  As we draw near to Christ, our hearts open to others with justice and love.  In him, we have all we need to make changes as we dismantle institutional racism.

Rev. Cindy Maybeck

Conversations across a painful divide

  • July 28, 2016

urlI love to tell the story.  When I tell a story, often those listening think of a story of their own to tell.  Jesus knew this.  He told stories as a way of opening conversation, of giving people a new perspective, and to make people smile.  In the early church, the apostles told stories about seeing the resurrected Christ, studying the scriptures with him, eating with him, loving him.  They were not proselytizing about an idea, but sharing their experience of love with Christ.

Today’s world is so polarized, especially in the areas of politics and religion.  It is hard to find people willing to listen to those with whom they disagree.  When we hear a politician who drives us crazy, we simply hit the mute button.  When we witness a church excluding people, we express outrage as we stomp away.  Most of us spend more time articulating our thoughtful and righteous opinions than we do listening to those with whom we disagree.

The world is in desperate need of people who can listen to and love those with whom they vehemently disagree.  It’s an impossible practice without paying steady attention to our prayer life.  It is God who gives me both the grace and the protection to share coffee and conversation with a Christian friend who believes that homosexuality is a sin.  During such a conversation, we both surrender our judgement, and we listen to stories and seek the presence of Christ.

The next time you come across someone with whom you disagree, in the area of religion or politics, ask them to tell you more, and really listen to their perspective.  Then share your own story: gently, humbly, meekly, generously.  You would be amazed at the amount of common ground in the abyss between those liberal and conservative poles.  And if we can begin to perceive common ground, there may be more space for peace and diversity.

Rev. Cindy Maybeck