Monthly Archives: April 2021

Reflection from Kimberly

We Hold Hope Close

By Theresa I. Soto

In this community, we hold hope close. We don’t
always know what comes next, but that cannot dissuade us.
We don’t always know just what to do, but that will not mean
that we are lost in the wilderness. We rely on the certainty
beneath, the foundation of our values and ethics. We
are the people who return to love like a North Star and to
the truth that we are greater together than we are alone.
Our hope does not live in some glimmer of an indistinct future.
Rather, we know the way to the world of which we dream,
and by covenant and the movement forward of one right action
and the next, we know that one day we will arrive at home.

Reflection from Joel

The Sufi poet Rumi once wrote:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I share the image of Rumi’s Guest House because if you are like me you feel lots of things throughout the day but don’t often give yourself the space and the time to really feel your feelings. We feel the discomfort – the difficult feeling and we have all kinds of ways to not welcome it. We defend against it. We resist it because often we are in places where we don’t feel the safest being present to our feelings – it can be especially hard in the middle of the work day. But the problem for me comes when I don’t give myself space at work – and then I don’t after work either.

Where do the feelings go that I have avoided? For me sometimes they build up in tension in my body, or maybe they’ll be offloaded in a situation that makes you scratch your head (why on earth did I react so much to that). It’s difficult to learn how to care well for our emotional selves, but it can make all the difference in the world for our long term health and wellbeing and our resilience through difficult seasons.

So I crowdsourced a group of friends the other day asking them, “how do you practice feeling your feelings?” And a couple of memes were sent my way that I thought were very helpful distillations of good emotional care habits and I wanted to pass them along to you as a way of inviting you to join me in practicing better care for our hearts that feel so much. And if you are able when you are feeling a thing (or at some point later when you find a moment to stop), take some time to feel your feelings and allow them to stay a while as guest. This may be on your own or – if you’re more extraverted – by calling a friend who’s earned the right to hear your story. And I pray that you can relief and feel freer and more peaceful as you do.  And have more strength for the ongoing journey.

May you be well and supported today and may the blessing of God or all that sustains you, keep you safe, grant you peace and fill you with all that you need, just for today. Amen.

Reflection from Michelle

For my mental health during my time away from work I spent most of it outside puttering around in the garden and wilderness of the surrounding land where my home is situated. My fingers are sore because I took off my gloves to feel and dig in the dirt to place fragile pansies into place. The air is easy on my lungs and I feel a bit freer than other times. Because to be honest it has felt hard to breathe with all the hatred and violence all around us… and why? My soul is sore of all the hate and violence and how others cannot breathe as easily as me.

So I invite you to do what you can to hold onto goodness and beauty. During some of my SWELL chats over the past week, the residents have used nature to cope with the isolation and changes. It is so helpful to hear how the birds and the bluff and the gardens can ground people into a sense of well-being even amidst the pandemic.

This is the picture of the tree in the little courtyard here:

Look out the windows on the first and second floors towards the kitchen and you will see the delicate blossoms in person.
Take the time to do what you can to hold onto goodness… the look and touch of your child, the beauty of the blossoming tree, the feel of the cool earth on your hands or the surprising hug of your beloved. You are worth the time and effort to open to beauty wherever you can find it.

A short thought from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
The little care that that fretted me.
I lost them yesterday
Among the fields above the sea.
Among the winds at play;
Among the lowing of the herds
The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
The humming of the bees.

The foolish fears of what may happen,
I cast them all away
Among the clover-scented grass,
Among the new-mown hay;
Among the husking of the corn
Where drowsy poppies nod,
Where ill thoughts die and good are born,
Out in the fields with God.

You are so deserving of beauty and care and love and belonging. Seek it out in yourself and in those around you. If you can’t find it then ask for help.
You are worth so much to the world and you are the only one who can give who you are. May you be wrapped in love this day.

Warmly,
Michelle

Reflection from Joel

Good morning everyone on this blustery day,

For today’s reflection I wanted to share with you a series of five photos I found on social media that spoke to me in the midst of my recent experience of continuing on through this time of pandemic. Some of you may have resonated with the word that the New York Times offered for our experience at this time: languishing. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the article. As the author puts it – “languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life thorugh a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

Here we are on a blustery day, languishing in an ongoing time of uncertainty and slow progress – we need now more than ever to attend to our weary spirits and be reminded that we already have what we need in us and around us to be well and to be resilient emotionally and mentally through this. But people like therapist Esther Perel are helpful in distilling and making accessible small actionable tasks we can put into practice to ground ourselves, care for our hearts and minds, and stay as well as we reasonably can in the midst of all of the things.

So here are her “5 Small Interventions for Psychological Well-Being”

Reflection from Michelle

Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash

Folks-
I invite you today to pay attention to your hands. They are marvelous instruments. Can you imagine a life without them? I’ve missed holding hands with residents, something I did all the time while visiting. I just ordered a native American flute that I am very excited about learning and getting my hands in shape for playing. We communicate through our hands.
Today, appreciate your hands.

Here is a Hand blessing for you to use:
Blessed be the work of your hands, O Holy One.
Blessed be these hands that have touched life.
Blessed be these hands that have nurtured creativity.
Blessed be these hands that have held pain.
Blessed be these hands that have embraced with passion.
Blessed be these hands that have tended gardens.
Blessed be these hands that have clenched in anger.
Blessed be these hands that have planted new seeds.
Blessed be these hands that have harvested ripe fields.
Blessed be these hands that have cleaned, washed, mopped, scrubbed.
Blessed be these hands that have become knotty with age.
Blessed be these hands that are wrinkled and scarred from doing justice.
Blessed be these hands that have reached out and been received.
Blessed be these hands that hold promise of the future.
Blessed be the works of your hands, O Holy One.

You may know of a resident who might need this blessing. Feel free to share it.

May you know the power of love most often resonating through the works of our hands. May you be touched with love and care today.

– Rev. Michelle DeCoste

Reflection from Kimberly

With Earth Day upon us I offer you this blessing. We have only one planet to rest our heads, it is in our best interest to seek the wisdom in our DNA from the earth. In this way we can fulfill our propose and live in harmony with creation.

The Blessing of Earthiness: Next Step ~by Neil Douglas-Klotz ~

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight:
subsistence for the call of
growing life.

Give us the food we need to grow
through each new day,
through each illumination of life’s needs.

Let the measure of our need be earthiness:
give all things simple, verdant,
passionate.

Produce in us, for us, the possible:
each only-human step toward home
lit up.

Help us fulfill what lies within
the circle of our lives: each day we ask
no more, no less.

Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath
supporting all.

Generate through us the bread of life:
we hold only what is asked to feed
the next mouth.

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.

Rev. Kimberly Wootan

Reflection from Joel

Yesterday brought some resolution to one of the more painful national heartbreaks of this past year. My heart ached as I read this morning the story of how “outside the Cup Foods convenience store where George Floyd was killed last May, a woman nearly collapsed in tears upon hearing the guilty verdicts against Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Mr. Floyd. ‘We matter,’ she said, straightening up. ‘We matter.’”

Deep in my heart I believe that there is so much more good in us than we can imagine – and yet there are seasons and events that deeply challenge that faith. Over the past year I have wrestled along with residents and staff in this community through several conversations around why something like Floyd’s murder could happen – what it means and how we can do better. They’ve been such meaningful conversations – looking into the pain of our nation, the pain in our hearts, and finding beneath it all a goodness, a sincere yearning for healing that leads us to a deeper and fuller conversation. As James Baldwin once put it, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” This morning on my drive to daycare drop-off Fred Rogers sang, “When your heart has room for everybody, then your heart is filled with love.”

I’m still unpacking a lot of feelings from this past year, not least the ones around this one event. And as I do I am led forward by the hope that is in me – that in our darkness a light shines, one that nothing can extinguish.

As Dr. King famously said, paraphrasing the words of the nineteenth century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker: the arc of the moral universe is long but bends towards justice. The idea of justice has a deep and rich meaning and I want to leave you with this helpful reflection I read this morning from Rev. Traci Blackmon, pastor in Florissant, Missouri and Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries for the United Church Christ:

She writes:

My understanding of justice is rooted in Hebrew scripture. The Hebrew word: tsedek translates as justice. It also translates as righteousness. True justice is the restoration of right relationship between God and humanity and right relationship among humanity.
What we call justice in our judicial system is really measured vengeance. Even if every person who has ever committed murder were executed on death row, right relationship would not be restored. But vengeance would be achieved.
Courts cannot legislate justice. Courts can influence behavior. Courts should ensure there are consequences for harmful behavior. This serves as an invitation to repentance for the offender and a caution to others who might think to do the same.
That’s not justice. But it is necessary.
Justice occurs when hearts are changed.
Courts don’t deal with hearts. Verdicts don’t deal with heart. Courts deal with behavior.
Is justice possible? Yes it is. But only through submission to radical love.
It happens. I’ve seen it for myself.

May we keep learning and keeping living our lives following the call of radical love – in our everyday interactions with residents, with our families, friends, and neighbors, with one another, and especially with ourselves. May you all be well and supported today and may the blessing of God or all that sustains you, keep you safe, grant you peace and fill you with all that you need, just for today. Amen

Reflection from Kimberly

As the days warm up and the trees bloom this poem speaks deeply to feelings that can come up as we venture out into the woods. But whether you love trees in the words, your yard or the city. There is a majesty to trees we can feel if we pause, take a breath and look.

LOST

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

By David Wagoner

Reflection from Joel

Fred Rogers pauses during a May 27, 1993 taping of his show ” Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Lately my four year old son’s been requesting to watch Mister Rogers Neighborhood and as I’ve been spending more time in the neighborhood of make believe with him, I’ve also been listening again to Fred’s subtle and profound wisdom of being human.

We listen to a recent “best of” compilation of Mister Rogers’ songs in the car and several of them have been named my son’s “favorite song.”

He’ll learn them so quickly and I will have to ask his help me when I try to remember the words. One of his favorites is the song “Be Brave, Be Strong” – which is a wonderful stirring march of a song – which concludes with Rogers’ spoken words:

“There are all kinds of brave strong people in this world.
Did you know that you can be brave and strong and still cry sometimes?
Oh sure – even when you’re missing someone.
Real brave and strong people are able to cry when things are hard.
But the one thing they don’t do is give up.
They don’t give up because they know that there’s so much that’s good in the world.
They keep trying and learning and looking and listening.”

Rogers has a way of reminding us to not be afraid of that most human part of ourselves – our emotions.
And for every grown-up listening in he gives such an important reminder that our bodies and our emotions are such an important part of who we are and caring for them is vital to our human flourishing – our health, our wellbeing – and those we care for.

I found on the shelf this morning my colleague Kimberly’s copy of the 2005 “Life’s Journey’s According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way” – a book of quotes from Fred Rogers for young and old on this journey we call being human.

And in it I found this quote that really hits the mark for me about caring for our emotional selves.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.”

As we continue to care for ourselves and companion with one another along this journey of life, may we be brave and strong enough to name our feelings and share them with people we can trust to hear us and love us “exactly the way we are.” And then we’ll be reminded again of the good in us and around us that is the reason we continue not to give up.

Be brave and be strong today – brave and strong enough to cry if you need to, to lean on a trusting friend when you need to.

And know that we’re here too to be that caring presence for you.

Warmly,

Joel

Reflection from Michelle

Below is a quote from Richard Rohr, a popular theologian from his book “The Universal Christ”

“The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. It is to mirror things correctly, deeply, and fully until all things know who they are. A mirror by its nature reflects impartially, equally, effortlessly, spontaneously, and endlessly. It does not produce the image, nor does it filter the image according to its perceptions or preferences. Authentic mirroring can only call forth what is already there.”

The idea of authentic mirroring struck me this morning. What if we could be mirrors for one another’s goodness first and see the rougher parts of each other second? What if our day was first and foremost looking for the goodness and holiness of one another?

I think it would help me to make less judgment about others. It would help me slow down and see more deeply into the people I am working with. It would help me to revel in the goodness that is all around us.

Work is hard. People work is hard. We cannot do it alone, it takes a team. A team that authentically mirrors the best of the other back to themselves lifts up the whole team.

I’m going to search this week for the goodness in you. Can you do that for me and one another? Perhaps even for that person who bugs you all shift? Slow down, be curious, and leave judgment behind. Let us be authentic mirrors for each other reflecting back the best of what we see.  I believe each one of us is trying to bloom….

May you find a sense of goodness in yourself today. Let yourself blossom into the you the world needs.

Warmly,

Michelle