bubbles and beach stones

Patricia and I had the privilege, last Sunday afternoon, of wandering on the beach at Leelanau State Park Lighthouse, all the way on the northern tip of our peninsula in Lake Michigan.  We were delighted by the sun, the shimmer on the water, the magnificent grace of the swans, the history of the lighthouse and its people . . . and we got to experience bubbles & beach stones:

bubbles & beach stones.jpg

The words we’ll hear read from the Bible On November 22 at Trinity Church UCC are Matthew 6:25-33 – “consider the lilies of the field” (or, consider the bubbles of the waters of Michigan kissing her beach stones).

A favored preacher I know, Rev.Jennifer Brownell, wondered on facebook last night:  “I’m thinking about a sermon on ‘consider the lilies’ and ‘do not worry’ and wonder what the heck Jesus would say to the Syrian children.”

What does her wonder stir within you?

And we’ll hear words from the book of Joel 2:21-27.   “Worship Ways” from ucc.org for Thanksgiving Day has this to say about the context of the reading:

         The natural world is a main character and the primary focus of the book of Joel. Its prophecy is communicated through the behavior of the land, the crops, the weather, and especially the locusts! To this day, no one has found an effective way to stop a swarm of locusts, destructive insects who consume their weight in food daily, and still symbolize famine, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Like hurricanes and tornadoes, modern technology allows us to track locusts, but not stop them. A swarm of locusts like that described in the book of Joel was indeed a natural disaster that would have threatened the entire community’s food supply. Yet, Joel also offers hope for relief. Today’s lectionary reading describes an abundant harvest of the kind we celebrate at Thanksgiving, stressing that renewal is possible even after the complete devastation a locust swarm or other natural disaster brings. This same hope for restoration is echoed in Psalm 126, as are the natural metaphors in Matthew 6. The harvest is an apt metaphor for renewal and restoration in that it follows the seasonal cycles that renew God’s creation year after year, embedding hope for new growth in each of us as we watch and learn to trust that spring will follow winter. It is also appropriate in that it requires a joint effort by God and humankind. We must plant and tend a garden if we wish it to grow, but Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6 that we must also trust in God’s role in our lives as in creation. This past summer’s drought has meant a less than bountiful harvest for many farmers in our country. Anyone who drove through the Midwest in mid-summer saw miles of dry corn husks and fields already plowed under. In light of such challenges, it is difficult to have hope for improved environmental conditions and a better harvest next year. Nonetheless, hope is what will fuel us to do the necessary work to hold up our end of our collaboration with God. We do not gain by worry, but by tending to our gardens and caring for creation.

Bubble up within, Oh God.  Wash over us with Your hope for us, for the refugees, and for the earth.  May we, with tenderness and courage, compassion and celebration, tend the garden and care for creation.             Oh Yes.

What are you praying in this week of our lives?



This whole time

trinity ucc - northport, Mi - 4-15-2015

First Congregational Church of Northport was formally organized in February of 1863.  Their first church was built on this location in 1869.  The structure you see is a renovation of the original building that was built by a forebear of several current members and friends of Trinity Church of the UCC.

Northport Methodist Church was organized in 1858.

In October1965, these two congregations of


joined together as one Body of Christ and formed Trinity Church of the United Church of Christ.  We celebrated our 50th anniversary as Trinity on World Wide Communion Sunday in October, 2015.


This whole time we have been a lively, loving, serving community of faith.DSC02177

On November 15, 2015, we will gather at 11:00 am to sing and pray, to listen and learn, to give and receive, to be blessed and to be sent into the world once again to serve.  You are invited to join us.  I am delighted to say we will receive new members for the second Sunday in a row.

We’ll hear this story from:  1 Samuel 1:4-20  (Contemporary English Version)

4 Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he gave some of the meat to Peninnah and some to each of her sons and daughters. 5 But he gave Hannah even more, because he loved Hannah very much, even though the Lord had kept her from having children of her own.

6 Peninnah liked to make Hannah feel miserable about not having any children, 7 especially when the family went to the house of the Lord each year.

One day, Elkanah was there offering a sacrifice, when Hannah began crying and refused to eat. 8 So Elkanah asked, “Hannah, why are you crying? Why won’t you eat? Why do you feel so bad? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

9 When the sacrifice had been offered, and they had eaten the meal, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli was sitting in his chair near the door to the place of worship. 10 Hannah was brokenhearted and was crying as she prayed, 11 “Lord All-Powerful, I am your servant, but I am so miserable! Please let me have a son. I will give him to you for as long as he lives, and his hair will never be cut.”

12-13 Hannah prayed silently to the Lord for a long time. But her lips were moving, and Eli thought she was drunk. 14 “How long are you going to stay drunk?” he asked. “Sober up!”

15-16 “Sir, please don’t think I’m no good!” Hannah answered. “I’m not drunk, and I haven’t been drinking. But I do feel miserable and terribly upset. I’ve been praying all this time, (my choice of words – “this whole time“) telling the Lord about my problems.”

17 Eli replied, “You may go home now and stop worrying. I’m sure the God of Israel will answer your prayer.”

18 “Sir, thank you for being so kind to me,” Hannah said. Then she left, and after eating something, she felt much better.  19 Elkanah and his family got up early the next morning and worshiped the Lord. Then they went back home to Ramah. Later the Lord blessed Elkanah and Hannah 20 with a son. She named him Samuel because she had asked the Lord for him.


What is it God has been aching this whole time to birth within us at Trinity Church of the United Church of Christ situated as we are just a dozen miles north of the 45th Parallel, halfway between the equator and the north pole?


As I read and reread the text, “this whole time” are the words that keep echoing and reechoing within me:

“Don’t you get it Eli . . . I am not drunk . . . no, I am bereft, I am aching in the core or my being, I am sad beyond your understanding, I am woman, I am vulnerable.


This whole time I have waned.

This whole time I have wanted.

This whole time I have wondered.


This whole time I have been an active protagonist in my own behalf . . .


This whole time I have been anxious, I have hungered, I have ached.


Ohhhhhhh God, hear my plea!”


Have you ached, like Hannah, for your life to be different?

Have you agonized for a new beginning?

Have you wanted with your whole being for there to be justice?

Have you wondered, how with your understanding of what is right, life has been neither kind nor fair?


Have you been aghast at the arrogance and stupidity of your rival?

Have you been tired of being misunderstood?

Have you ever wanted more?

Do you know the meaning of unrequited desire?


What do you dare to imagine that God is aching to birth in you, in me, in us?


May God impregnate us with . . .

Your comments, challenges, courage, compassion about this text and these words and images are, of course, welcome.

Light and Shadows

Back in early August, I had the privilege of walking the Table Rock Wilderness Trail near Mollala, Oregon, with my grandson, Moses.  On the trail I was captured by the play of light and shadow along the trail.  Among the images I photographed that day was this one of a monarch butterfly on the path among the circular shadows created by the sun shining through the trees:

light, shadow, and monarch in visual converation

In September, back in Sarastoa, a friend who was the husband of a colleague, died too young, unexpectedly, Continue reading

what prayers persist

Sarah & Jan

Sarah & Jan

In our Thursday AM study group at St. Andrew we are reading Jan Richardson’s wonderful book, In the Sanctuary of Women.

Tomorrow we at 10:00 am we will be discussing chapter one.

It is about Eve.

Jan ponders lots of questions about Eve.  Among them is one something like this:


What prayers persist beneath the layers of paint on your life?


Jan says there are blessings buried beneath the layers of who Eve has become to us.  These blessings have become nearly impossible to discern because of the layers others have added to her story over the centuries, “a patina of interpretation and the crackling of conflict, lines laid down by those who have sought to inscribe their meaning across the canvas.  They have looked into the layers and said . . . ”


What do you see within Eve’s story?

What hovers for you beneath and between the lines of the text?

What blessing in Eve’s life do you find with your own eyes?


And, now . . . among Jan’s blessings for you are these:

Throughout this day and this night, may you know the breath of God breathing in you.


May you discover that Wisdom and Courage are lovers.  Their secret is that their dwelling has no lamps.  At sunset they say a prayer that in the night their ears hands noses tongues will tell them what they need to know . . . The neighbors find them odd, but their children – Compassion, Integrity, Hope – have learned the wonder of a heart unhiding itself, coming as gift to our deepest eye.


When all about you lies in pieces, may the Holy One make of them a passage.


May the desires of your heart draw you toward creation and connection.  May you know always and always, you are not alone.   The Mother is in you.  The Father is in you.  The wind, the fire, the sea, the touch of your love, the mountain, the desert, the plateau, the city, the country, the song, the prayer, the silence, the laughter – boisterous/ebullient joy, the tears – aching/forlorn sobbing, the quiet hope of the flickering candle, the sand of the beach, the food on your table, the wine of your tasting,, the sight and sound of the sand hill crane in flight . . .may all these and more remind you . . . you are not alone!


May the Holy One, who created you from words and dust and called you good, inhabit your every hunger, dwell in each desire, and encompass you in the choosing that lies ahead.




What a transforming time has been the season of Lent and Easter for St. Andrew.  Donna Papenhausen’s art (& her words) have enabled us to see familiar texts differently.  Jim Cox’s gift of music has empowered us hear the notes of those familiar texts with fresh ears.

the porch watcher

the porch watcher

During my lenten trip to Portland, Oregon for a visit with my daughter and her family, we had dinner at the home of a family who are dear friends of theirs.  Propped on the friends’ front porch was the pottery face in the image above.  It was leaned up against the blue siding of their home.  The face intrigued me, so I took a picture.  Imagine that!

Later that night my son-in-law, Jeff, was showing me a photo which won him first place in a photography exhibit.  He showed me a few of the steps he had taken with the image to transform it from the original picture to the final framed art he submitted for the show. It is a magically whimsical view of a high flying carousel.

That got me a bit curious about the picture I had taken which was, by now, named “the porch watcher.”

So, I played with the image a wee bit.  My play was not anything as magnificent as Jeff’s, but I created three versions of the porch watcher which each elicit a different set of feelings within me.

porch watcher - sepiaesque - Version 3

porch watcher - sepiaesque - Version 2

porch watcher - more alive with reds&greens

The third one exudes radiant welcoming love.

Jeff liked it too.

Which one speaks to you?

The Thursday Study group is reading, Marcus Borg’s book, Speaking Christian.  In one chapter he says that prior to 1600 the word “believe” comes from the Old English be loef which means “to hold dear.”

I do wonder what would happen to us if we began to see differently enough to know “believe” as “belove.”

Borg says “To believe in God does not mean believing that a set of statements about God are true, but to belove God.  To believe in Jesus does not mean to believe that a set of statements about him are true, but to belove Jesus.”

Thank you Marcus.  Thank you Jeff.  Thank you porch watcher.  Thank you Jim.  Thank you Donna.

with great hope, phil garrison

four thoughts on a text

The gospel text for Sunday, March 3, 2013, the third one of Lent 2013 is:

Luke 13:1-9

New Century Version (NCV)

Change Your Hearts

13 At that time some people were there who told Jesus that Pilate[a] had killed some people from Galilee while they were worshiping. He mixed their blood with the blood of the animals they were sacrificing to God. Jesus answered, “Do you think this happened to them because they were more sinful than all others from Galilee? No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were! What about those eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were more sinful than all the others who live in Jerusalem?No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will all be destroyed too!”

The Useless Tree

Jesus told this story: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for some fruit on the tree, but he found none. So the man said to his gardener, ‘I have been looking for fruit on this tree for three years, but I never find any. Cut it down. Why should it waste the ground?’ But the servant answered, ‘Master, let the tree have one more year to produce fruit. Let me dig up the dirt around it and put on some fertilizer. If the tree produces fruit next year, good. But if not, you can cut it down.’”

#1:  from Ann S. Howard & Barbara Brown Taylor:

Jesus is inviting them, Barbara Brown Taylor suggests, into vulnerability. Writing for The Christian Century, she said, “It is not a bad thing for them to feel the full fragility of their lives. It is not a bad thing for them to count their breaths in the dark — not if it makes them turn toward the light.

“It is that turning he wants for them, which is why he tweaks their fear,” she writes. ” . . . That torn place your fear has opened up inside of you is a holy place. Look around while you are there. Pay attention to what you feel. It may hurt you to stay there and it may hurt you to see, but it is not the kind of hurt that leads to death. It is the kind that leads to life.

“Depending on what you want from God, this may not sound like good news . . . But for those of us who have discovered that we cannot make life safe nor God tame, it is gospel enough. What we can do is turn our faces to the light. That way, whatever befalls us, we will fall the right way.”

Take it from me, Jesus could be saying in this fig tree parable, we cannot make life safe nor God tame. But in the darkness is the guide to the dawn; in the emptiness is the way to fulfillment; in the losing is the gain; in the dying is new life; in the folly is the wisdom—the wisdom of the cross. So in this Lenten season, take a look at your own torn-open place, your unanswerable question, your fruitless fig tree. Sit with the paradox, hold the tension. In the dying is new life.

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