Monday, February 24, 2020

Bamboo Encounter-- February 22nd

This past Saturday was Bamboo Encounter day, the 4th Saturday of the month.  Five of us gathered in the bamboo for our time of silence, Scripture, sharing, and Holy Communion.  It was a beautiful clear day and the being in the space of the bamboo did not disappoint.  My spirit was refreshed from the time of worship in community in that space.

I am grateful to Joel, who led the January service so that I could attend the Resurrection weekend with the youth.  What I regret is not being there to have heard what he had to share.  I look forward to him leading another time when I can be in attendance.

Here are some pictures from yesterday's time in the bamboo, along with the worship service.

Take a moment to read over the Scriptures and the poem by Wendell Berry and reflect on them.  Picture yourself in the midst of the bamboo from the pictures.  Though it's not the same as being there because you don't feel the breeze nor can you hear the bamboo clacking against each other, you can picture the cathedral ceiling cover above you.

Bamboo Encounter is part of the Wild Church Network.  We meet at Reflection Riding, on land that is native to the Cherokee and is part of the Lookout Creek watershed.

Opening Prayer:
Lord, the air smells good today,
straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown across the garden.
free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being,
drunkenly forgetting the way back.


Scripture and readings:

Psalm 96:12
“Let all of the trees of the forest sing for joy.” (NIV)
“Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise.” (NLT—New Living Translation)

Isaiah 55:12
“For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

"Woods" by Wendell Berry
“I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
There is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.”          
     ~Wendell Berry

Communion Passage:

Matthew 26: 26-28 (MSG)
26-28 During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples:
Take, eat.          
This is my body.
Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them:
Drink this, all of you.
This is my blood,
God’s new covenant poured out for many people
    for the forgiveness of sins.

Day by Day (Godspell)
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

(from Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation by Sam Hamilton-Poore, p. 101)

May Christ open your eyes
that you may see the light of creation.
May Christ open your ears
that you may hear the song of the earth.
May Christ open your heart
that you may give and receive love.
Pictures by me:

Pictures by Joel Tippens:

May the bamboo bring you as much peace as it does me,
Rev. Deb

Spirit of Trees (a blog full of resources and writings on trees)
For the Beauty of the Earth, a Lenten Devotional, by Leah Schade

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Rest is a four-letter word

Double entendres. Language play.  I think most will understand what I mean when I say that "rest" is a four-letter word.

However, just in case, let me briefly explain that this expression in the American dialect carries a negative connotation.  The expression refers to words with four letters that are often used as curse words. Read about it here. (There are other dictionary explanations.)

So, why do I say that "rest" is a four letter word?

It is not a curse.

It is life-giving and healing.

For someone who has grown into accepting silence and solitude, this should be easy, right?!  (Easy. Another four letter word.)

Not so much.

I have forced myself to rest my voice and body since Sunday afternoon. I have worked via email, text, reading, and researching. I have barely spoken.

It is good. My voice is returning. My cough is diminishing.

I know that if I am to live, love, and lead like Jesus, then I have to make space for healing of my own body, soul, etc. I can't walk with others if I can't walk.

So, when my mind wakes me up at odd hours, I write myself minimally legiblestuck notes and return to bed.

I take all my medications, drink plenty of liquids, and rest.

Rest is healing and I am grateful for a non-busy week, though there are always things to do.

Instead of doing, I am focused on being.

May I live out what I encourage others to do in their daily lives. May I recognize the beauty of the gift of rest.

One more thing.  I walked to the mailbox and back and checked on my neighbor's crocuses to see if they had survived the rains, snow, rains.  This is what I saw. A beautiful opened crocus, open to receive whatever comes its way.

May it be so.

Rev. Deb

Sunday, February 9, 2020

A (brief) Winter Wonderland in TN

Yesterday morning I slept in because I was trying to give my body some more rest.  I stayed home from a girls' weekend getaway (of which I was only doing one night/two days) because my cough had returned with a vengeance.  I thought I was on the victory lap because I felt so much better Wednesday morning and my voice was returning stronger every day. But Wednesday hit me hard and I knew when I got up Friday morning that I needed to stay home and rest.  I've done a lot of that lately.  I've rested and worked from home.  I've not talked.  For someone who talks for their calling and who taught languages for 24 years, you can imagine how being quiet (as much as possible) these past three weeks has been different for me. :)

But, I digress.

By living into the spiritual practice of listening to my body and staying home Friday and Saturday, I woke up to a slightly covered deck outside my bedroom window and big white flakes falling from the sky. 

I guess I had missed the weather forecast somewhere. 

My husband was on his weekly Saturday ZOOM call, but I couldn't help shouting out "it's snowing" with child-like wonder and surprise. 

I watched the snow pile up throughout the morning, taking pictures of the deck, the trees, my Hebrew alphabet coffee mug, our "love and acceptance practiced here" sign, the tables, and Cliff.  I took LOTS of Cliff pictures.  It turns out that Cliff loves the snow and would sit in it, looking up at the flakes as they fell onto his nose.

I took time to listen to the silence.  You know, that silent hush of falling snow.  It is a beautiful silence that fills the atmosphere, only to be broken by the sound of children laughing and four-wheelers buzzing around.

I didn't spend too much time outside.  I mainly watched the winter wonderland from inside. 

Yet there was something about the outward setting of peace that allowed me to have inner peace.  Much like the sacraments of baptism and communion are outward symbols to remind us of the inward grace that Creator God has provided, the ever falling snow became a sacramental blanket, a symbol, of outward peace for me.

Though I didn't get to really "play" in the snow, I quickly "smooshed" together something that really cannot be considered a snowman and I made a quick snow angle with Cliff's help that he was kind enough to guard for a little while.  There wasn't anyone at whom I could throw snowballs (Riley was off at a meeting and I didn't think that would be fair to Cliff). 

The small amount of play was sufficient.  What I needed more was the peace from the surroundings as the snow continued to fall.

And just as quickly as the snow fell and piled up high, it was gone.  But not the peace.  The peace remains.

Even though I don't have time like I would like to write because I'm focused on reading, studying, and writing for weekly sermons, I know there is a time for everything, just like the gentle and steady fall of the snow.

I really missed getting to hang out with the ones I was supposed to be with on Friday and Saturday, but I am grateful for the time of rest for my body, as well as the gift of snow.

Living into spiritual practices isn't always easy.  Listening to my body, saying "yes" to stopping, rather than pushing myself too hard meant giving up something I wanted and needed.  Yet, I gained some things, some perspective too.

Am I 100% recovered now?  No.  I am still taking time to not talk, to rest my body.  This not talking thing is actually growing on me.  I imagine it is growing on others too. :)

Though the snow came and went, I have the memories and photographs to bring back the sounds of silence, the peace, the joy, the fun.

If you were somewhere in the south on Saturday, you may have experienced the brief winter wonderland too.  What did it do for you?  What were the gifts from the snowfall for you?

I know that those who live in other locations don't quite "get" the magic of a random snowfall like we experienced on Saturday, but here in the south we call out years, such as the blizzard of 1993.  I lived on Long Island for three years and we had a couple of doozies there too. 

Snow will always be one of those things that pulls out the kid in me (it doesn't take much).

My one regret is that my sledding budding wasn't here.  We had a blast a couple of years back on the hill  outside our neighborhood.  There's a video on my Facebook page as proof. :)

Enjoy these pictures of my backyard, Cliff, and deck.

May the journey continue to be adventurous!

Much peace!

Rev. Deb

Resources on the Spiritual Practice of listening to your body:

Honoring the Body as a Spiritual Discipline by Ruth Haley Barton (podcast)
Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit by Whitney Simpson (book)
Your Body is Talking. Are You Listening? by Julie Peters (article)

My snow pictures: 


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Reviewing 2019

Pentecost 2019, me and the retired guy :)
New Year's Eve is a time that allows us to think back over the past year and look forward to the new one.  As I reflect back on 2019, there were lots of celebrations and transitions, new beginnings and adventures.

In the beginning of 2019 I launched the FB page for Bamboo Encounter, preparing for the first service to be held in May.  Bamboo Encounter meets the 4th Saturday of every month and has been a great addition to 2019.

I went to Blue Ridge in February for a girls weekend, though for me it was a one-nighter.  I did my first hike since my hip replacement the previous June and that was a big accomplishment for me.

For Ash Wednesday, I participated with a colleague in doing Ashes to Go / Cenizas para el camino at a local market in Spanish.  That was neat to be able to do.

In March, Riley and I went on our first cruise and celebrated 15 years together.  The cruise was with a childhood friend and her husband, who were celebrating 30 years.  The cruise and the trips were a fun adventure.  We visited Hell in Grand Cayman, a highlight for this pastor. :)

In May, our son Charlie graduated from high school, having earned the John Philip Sousa award in band.  Graduation was a special time marked with family.

During the summer we went to Sinsinawa, Wisconsin for a Wild Church Network retreat/conference.  It was the first of its kind.  It was wonderful for me to meet others connected to the Wild Church Network and to catch up with 2 folks I knew from FUMSDRL/HOF (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders/Hearts on Fire).

At Annual Conference in June, I was officially appointed to my 2nd appointment, St. Elmo UMC, which I began officially on July 7th, having done a soft start a little earlier to get my feet wet.

I participated in the Honeybee Metric Ride again this past year as a honeybee at a rest stop.  It was my 3rd year to be a honeybee.  I enjoy getting to cheer on the riders.

I went to the Wild Goose Festival for the first time during the summer and gave out hugs as part of the Mama Bear Den and Free Mom Hugs.  I attended some sessions and met lots of great people.  I got fairy hair from "Spark the Fairy" booth on the last day, July 14 and I still have a few pieces of fairy hair left over.  That has been a super conversation starter as folks wonder what the blue things are in my hair. :)

I attended ELMC 2019, a Hispanic training offered by the Episcopal Church at Sewanee in August.  It was a great CEU opportunity, as well as getting to meet like-minded folks who were part of the program.  A highlight was visited El Refugio at Stewart Detention center.  I chose El Refugio as my birthday fund raiser and was able to raise over $500 for them, thanks to friends and church folks.

Charlie began his freshman year at Watkins College in August, right before I headed to Sewanee.  With Charlie at college, we were now empty-nesters, though we still had Cliff.

Charlie had a super first semester at school and I made it through my first semester with him away. :)  A highlight was the Friday we took Cliff to Nashville to visit Charlie and we went to a great dog park.

2019 brought other transitions for me.  I had thought that transitioning from 3 churches and 3 communities to 1 church and 1 community would allow me to slow down a little.  I was wrong.  I haven't slowed down.  I've been pretty busy.  But it has been a good busy.  I'm still getting to know people and the community in which I serve.  I have a long way to go, but having listening sessions early on in the appointment helped. 

I used to post my sermons weekly in my first appointment, but I haven't had as much writing space, though I do post the audio weekly.  I haven't had much time for writing, period.  It takes time and energy and much of my time for writing has been sermon writing. 

Getting outdoors and into creation gives me life.  We learned of a new labyrinth that is part of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy.  That was a neat find.

Being at St. Elmo UMC these past 6 months has been life-giving.  A few of the activities that have been meaningful to me are: getting to participate in a Blessing of the Animals, giving out hugs at the Pride Festival, hosting a UMCNext conversation space at church, serving a Thanksgiving meal and giving out clothes, participating in the Cantata as the narrator, and experiencing my first Christmas Eve Candlelight service.

In the fall I applied to a spiritual direction program and was accepted.  That begins in the fall of 2020. 

As I reflect, I know I am leaving some things out (there were LOTS of things that happened this past year, like getting to visit my cousins Frank and Jonathan in Blue Ridge one day in the Spring, meeting Steve Austin and his family in Birmingham and then them coming here to Chattanooga, ETC.) 

Riley's first full year of retirement went by quickly.  Who knew that life outside of work would be so busy?!?!

I am grateful for all the connections and support, near and far, that have been part of my 2019.  From church folks, family, friends, book club, colleagues, fellow Mama Bears, etc.  THANK YOU for being part of my 2019.

I look forward to new adventures in 2020 in life and ministry.  I know there are more changes and transitions ahead.  I don't know what all the adventures or changes will be, but I hope to continue to "roll with it" as I've learned on Sunday mornings. 

My summer word was "wild" because of Wild Church Network and Wild Goose.  Things have been wild in some ways, but a very good wild.

I haven't picked a word for 2020 nor do I have any set goals yet. 

My plan is to live in the present, to walk with folks, to live, love, and lead like Jesus.

Peace on the adventures of 2020,


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Bamboo Encounter-- December 28th

Today was the 8th meeting and the final meeting of 2019 of Bamboo Encounter, an outdoor worship service that is part of the Wild Church Network.  We had 11 people in the bamboo today, 3 of those were from out of town (2 from CA and 1 from KY-- all 3 with local ties).  Some of the regular folks were out of town and/or unable to attend.  For a Saturday during the holidays, it was a good-sized group of folks to hang out with in the bamboo.  The weather was warm for December.  No rain, though there were some clouds.  The sun did come out at some point.  There was a breeze today, so we were able to listen to the leaves blow and hear the bamboo clack a little.

The sharing time is always encouraging as different people share what's on their hearts and minds, reflecting on the readings or sharing what came to mind during the silence.  That always adds to our time.

Every Saturday, a quote is shared on the Bamboo Encounter FaceBook page.  Today's quote was by Katrina Mayer: "Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time."

That is how I feel about the time in the bamboo each month.  It is never wasted time for me as I enter into the bamboo.  I come out of my time in the bamboo more relaxed and more at peace than I went in.  Always.  I know that part of it is the physiological aspect of being covered by the trees.  Another part is the making time to slow down, to breathe, to be silent, to listen.

Below is the service for today, along with an additional reading from Ram Dass that came up during our sharing time after the silent reflection time.

Opening prayer (unison):

Let there be
respect for the earth
peace for its people
love in our lives
delight in the good
forgiveness for past wrongs
and from now on a new start.

(“The Millennium Resolution”, Churches Together in England, Earth Gospel, page 123)


Psalm 104:3-4
“You ride on the wings of the wind, You make the winds your messengers.”

Quote by Thomas Merton:
“Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all.”

Reading:  Mary Oliver “When I Am Among the Trees” [Thirst, page 4)

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
     but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

Communion passage: Matthew 26: 26-28 (MSG)

26-28 During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples:
Take, eat.          
This is my body.
Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them:
Drink this, all of you.
This is my blood,
God’s new covenant poured out for many people
    for the forgiveness of sins.
Ram Dass quote (shared here because it came up during the sharing time after the silent reflection and someone looked it up to share with us):

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”

Song:                                  Joy to the World (on this 4th day of Christmas)
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Blessing: from Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation by Sam Hamilton-Poore, p. 92)
                                                                                                                     Based on Hosea 14:7

May you rest beneath God’s shade,
flourish like a garden,
blossom like a vine;
and your soul become as fragrant
as the finest wine.

Additional pictures taken by me and by Joel Tippens (his have credit).

May you enjoy the pictures of the bamboo and the readings from our time outdoors.

Join us on the 4th Saturday of the month, starting in January!


Photo by Joel Tippens

Photo by Joel Tippens

Photo by Joel Tippens

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Advent 4 2019 photos and reflections

Advent 4.  It began with the 4th Sunday and the candle of love (for most churches, though some have different themes).  The words for this last week are: love, anticipation, renew, birth.

The sermon for Advent 4 came from Romans 1:1-7, "Dearly Loved by God".

As I reflect back on the entire Advent season in this final week of Advent, it has been a very active Advent season emotionally and otherwise.  There has been quite a bit of change in my life, personally and professionally.  I continue to learn how to hold space for myself and others, to make time to be still, to wait, to listen.  I knew December would be difficult this year with life changes and it being the first Advent/Christmas in a new appointment.  I wasn't sure if or how I might make it through. I am humbled by the support and love from the flock, from family, friends, colleagues, etc.  It is a beautiful thing to watch the Holy Spirit move and work.  And that is humbling.  I have enjoyed contemplating on the word of the day again this year, as a way to slow down, as a spiritual practice, as a way to listen.

Here are the words for each day, with the reflective questions, along with my photos and reflections.

Today's word is #love. On this 4th Sunday of Advent, we focus on love. As you reflect on this word, what comes to mind? How have you expressed love this Advent season? How has love been expressed to you? #love #adventphoto #advent2019 #saintelmoumc

 Today's Advent word is #love. On this 4th Sunday in Advent, these visual expressions of love help remind me to live love. The ornament from Lenox is one I got several years ago. The plaques with the different love phrases adorned a table this past week for a Christmas banquet. The love décor is displayed in a home that offers love. My heart is full as I have received much love today. May love be my guiding true north, regardless of risk or irrationality (per quote in Almost Christmas). Shalom. #love #adventphoto #advent2019 #saintelmoumc

Today's word is #anticipation. The Advent season is one of waiting. How are you living into the anticipation of the coming of the Christ child? When you reflect on today's word, what comes to mind? #anticipation #adventphoto #saintelmoumc

Today's word is #anticipation. The first leg of the flight home lands shortly. I made Charlie's chex mix (no nuts) first, so I don't contaminate the pan. I have been anticipating this homecoming all week. I am looking forward to family being home, to getting together with the rest of family locally, from CA, and in Dalton. Anticipation is making me wait. #anticipation #adventphoto #advent2019 #saintelmoumc

Today's word is #renew. What would you like to renew this Advent season as it nears the end and the Christmas season is upon us? Or, has anything been renewed in you this Advent season? What comes to mind when you reflect on this word? #renew #adventphoto #saintelmoumc

Today's word is #renew. The Bamboo Encounter began services last May, but I began working on the structure in January and other things sooner. Outdoor worship renews me. This is today's post from Bamboo Encounter as we prepare to finish out 2019 on Saturday.

Today, on this Christmas Eve, I share this blessing: "Rooted and grounded in the Creator's love, entwined in Christ's own life, may you hear the song of the Spirit today in trees and grass, in forest and field, and in the tender stretching of your own heart."
~Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel, 150

I look forward to hearing the song of the Spirit in the bamboo at Bamboo Encounter this Saturday for our last meeting of 2019.

Today's word is #birth. Has there been anything birthed in you this Advent season? Have any ideas or new spiritual practices come to life during this time of waiting and reflection? What comes to mind when you reflect on this word? #birth #adventphoto #saintelmoumc

Today's word is #birth. Whether it is life or art or an idea that is birthed, that birth comes after a lengthy time of preparation. Though birth is a beginning, there are many other firsts along the way. This Advent season I am beginning to see the birth of the balloon that flew higher that day upon letting go. #birth #adventphoto #advent2019 #saintelmoumc

Merry Christmas from all of us!

May there be peace, hope, joy, and love and lots of adventure in your journey!