“on the pulse of the morning”

Someone on Sunday asked me if we were going to have the opportunity for further conversation about Maya Angelou’s poem that we heard and saw via video on December 27 at Trinity.  https://youtu.be/xUuTig9kavA

The answer is, YES!

That morning we heard the story of the gifts that were brought by the                 folks-of-Sofia (Wisdom) from the East . . . gold and frankincense and myrrh . . .

I got imagining that a gift of our time in history might be poetry and maybe even a poem by Maya Angelou.

We watched and listened to her read “On the Pulse of the Morning” as recorded with Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in the background.  It is beautifully challenging.

Then some asked for the written words.  They are included for you below.  

This post comes with an invitation to those of you in the environs of Northport to come to the parsonage for a January Sunday Evening of Conversation at the Parsonage at 107 N Warren Street, 7:00 pm, January 10, 2016.  I encourage you to share this post with those in the area who may not receive the invitation unless they get it from you.  

Most of you who will read this post are “not in the environs of Northport.”  I invite you to participate in the conversation anyway.   Write your thoughts for me to share with the gathered community on Sunday evening at 7:00 in the “leave a reply” window at the bottom of this post.





Happy New Year


Good Morning!




On The Pulse Of Morning

by Maya Angelou


A Rock, A River, A Tree

Hosts to species long since departed,

Mark the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens

Of their sojourn here

On our planet floor,

Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom

Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,

Come, you may stand upon my

Back and face your distant destiny,

But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than

The angels, have crouched too long in

The bruising darkness,

Have lain too long

Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spelling words

Armed for slaughter.

The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,

But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,

A river sings a beautiful song,

Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,

Delicate and strangely made proud,

Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit

Have left collars of waste upon

My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,

If you will study war no more.

Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs

The Creator gave to me when I

And the tree and stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow

And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.

The river sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to

The singing river and the wise rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,

The African and Native American, the Sioux,

The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,

The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,

The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,

The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.

They hear. They all hear

The speaking of the tree.

Today, the first and last of every tree

Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.

Each of you, descendant of some passed on

Traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name,

You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,

You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,

Then forced on bloody feet,

Left me to the employment of other seekers–

Desperate for gain, starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…

You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,

Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare

Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the tree planted by the river,

Which will not be moved.

I, the rock, I the river, I the tree

I am yours–your passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need

For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,

Need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon

The day breaking for you.

Give birth again

To the dream.

Women, children, men,

Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most

Private need. Sculpt it into

The image of your most public self.

Lift up your hearts.

Each new hour holds new chances

For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever

To fear, yoked eternally

To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,

Offering you space to place new steps of change.

Here, on the pulse of this fine day

You may have the courage

To look up and out upon me,

The rock, the river, the tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day

You may have the grace to look up and out

And into your sister’s eyes,

Into your brother’s face, your country

And say simply

Very simply

With hope

Good morning.


so much kronos, such magnificent kairos

blue upon blue                              New Year's Day, 2016 -                              North Shore Road,            Northport, MI.jpg

Today, January 1, 2016, Patricia and I went skiing, cross country skiing, on a trail just north of Woolsey Airport.  If you flew into this airport you would see Mud Lake, to the north.  Mud Lake is just east of the trail we skied today.

DSC06669.jpg   Woolsey -  air traffic control - Dec 27, 2015.jpg woolsey runway.jpg

Woolsey is the Northport, MI, airport.  Here are three images of it on December 27th, as it was before the snow of December 29, the snow that allowed us to ski today.

We slipped and slided along, five days after the snowless airport pictures, on a trail that others had walked and skied.  It was icey in spots.  Even so, we enjoyed our first Northport ski outing.  It was around 33 degrees.  Not too cold.  We were pleasantly warm.

On the way home we stopped at a favorite spot on the North Shore Road.  The spot is pictured in “blue upon blue” above and “Patricia and the water” below.  The one above is looking east across Grand Traverse Bay toward Old Mission Point.   The one below is looking north toward the Bight.

While here we paused to savor the color of not yet frozen water and then to look for Petosky Stones.

When we found some we confirmed the water is chilly.

Patricia - North Shore Road - New Year's Day, Northport, MI.jpg

Among the three Petosky’s of January 1, 2016 was this one:

2016 petosky stone.jpg

It is 2 1/4″ long and about an inch from top to bottom.

Petosky Stones are described on Wikipedia:

A Petoskey stone is a rock and a fossil, often pebble-shaped, that is composed of a fossilized rugose coral, Hexagonaria percarinata.[1] The stones were formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern (and some in the northeastern) portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula. In those same areas of Michigan, complete fossilized coral colony heads can be found in the source rocks for the Petoskey stones.

Petoskey stones are found in the Gravel Point Formation of the Traverse Group. They are fragments of a coral reef that was originally deposited during the Devonian period.[1] When dry, the stone resembles ordinary limestone but when wet or polished using lapidary techniques, the distinctive mottled pattern of the six-sided coral fossils emerges. It is sometimes made into decorative objects. Other forms of fossilized coral are also found in the same location.

In 1965, it was named the state stone of Michigan.

The Devonian Period was 350 million years ago.


I can’t imagine that much time, can you?

350 million years ago . . .


wow . . .


and I picked it up today, January 1, 2016.


With the ball of time dropping from one year to the next on New Year’s Eve and the passage of time that is too great for me to conceptualize, I got wondering about the two Greek words for time:

Kronos and Kairos.

Kronos is how we keep track of the passage and promise of time.  When the ball dropped in Northport and elsewhere around the globe on New Year’s Eve, we were celebrating Chronos.  Chronological time.  Linear time.  Time from then to here to then.  It is the eras that make it possible to date the Petosky Stone in the picture above as about 350 million years old.

And Kairos?

Well, that is what the Irish call a “thin place” a place or space when the human and divine are very close.  It is a time that you can’t predict or make happen or create.  It is when something memorable in your life takes place. Maybe it was the day you fell in love or the tragic day when one you loved was abruptly taken from you. Maybe it was a day when you felt “connected” to others and the cosmos as never before.  Maybe it was a day you were with someone nearing the end of life and you paused for ten or more minutes to breathe on her rhythm, to breathe at the pace at which she breathed, which opened you to her in some way you could not have done with words  Maybe it was a day you were spellbound by the colors of blue on the first of a new year beside the shore of Grand Traverse Bay.

Chronos time is often recorded in our memory on a color spectrum as  muted.  Today’s breakfast is not distinct from all the others. Kairos times are those that are recorded in primary colors.  Whenever you recall Kairos times they come back as fresh as the day you first experienced them.

Well, on day one of 2016, I got both kinds of time.  There was the chronos of this day, just another day in my life, another in the life of the world.  And there was the kairos of being with Patricia in the woods.  The kairos of holding a Petosky Stone of antiquity in my hand.  There was the kairos of “blue upon  blue” in the first picture in this post.

Chronos time makes me worry the world is coming to an end.  Kairos time allows me to see and hold the kin-dom of God in my hands and heart.  Chronos leads me to fear.  Kairos leads me to hope.

Madeleine L’Engle in her “The Genesis Trilogy” reminds me of chronos time when she writes:  “When I am most defensive about something, arguing hotly that I am right, it is time for me to step back and examine whatever it is I am trying to prove.  When I am refusing to listen to anyone else, intractably defending some position or other (like doctors refusing Semilweisse’s radical suggestion that they wash their hands before touching open wounds) then I am incapable of being a co-creator with God.  God urges us to be willing to change, to go out into the wilderness, to wrestle with angels, to take off our shoes when we step on holy ground.  And God asks us to listen.  God asks us to listen, even when what el (God) asks of us seems outrageous.

Kairos time is when we breathe in: “God’s time is always now, and in this eternal now the Redeemer lives, and we shall see her/him face to face.

My we, in 2016, be among those who open ourselves to change.

May we be those who discover awe in the wilderness.

May we wrestle with the angels of antiquity.

May we see the holy ground of “blue upon blue” and pause to listen and listen and listen.

El is hoping we will become outrageously loving.

May we so become in 2016 . . .




Matthew Fox – Thank you!

Thank you, Matthew Fox. What a ride of joy, awe, and inspiration to read your revised and updated “Confessions: The Making of a Post –Denominational Priest.” I was first introduced to you years ago by way of “Original Blessing.” Growing up in the fifties as a child of missionaries, I was steeped in original sin and a theology of atonement. “Original Blessing” was and remains transformative in my life.

Because of that it was delightful to be among the planning group who hosted you twice (2012 & 2013) at St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Sarasota, Florida.

When Phila Hoopes emailed inviting many of us to consider posting comments about your autobiography, I was delighted to say “yes.” You are a gift!


When I finished the last page, I wrote some words. They all began with the letter “p”. I smiled at what I had written. This morning as I read through my notes I found fifty words within your book all beginning with “p.”  In a way they capture your story for me and might serve as a kind of “trailer” to the book for others:

parents, polio, paralyzed, patient, priesthood, province, Paris, people, panentheism, presence, police, politics, prayer, publish, poet, potter, painter, preacher, photographer, passion, protest, pope, provincial, pain, poetry, patience, prophet, psychologist, Paul, plane, perhaps, poured, philanthropy, preference, permission, pressing, privatizing, pragmatic, principles, pitting, phalanx, president, participant, promise, play, prepare, pace, particular, privilege, peace

I too like the letter “p.”

Your book affirms it’s your whole life that has created the poet, prophet, priest, writer, wonderer, wanderer, teacher, tiller, theologian you have become. It is difficult, therefore, to select a single section as most salient. It has taken your whole life, all of it, to sculpt you. Readers who read the entire book will more fully understand the nuances which carved you into who you are and who you would like the rest of us to become. May we be those who resonate with and act upon the T. S. Eliot words you quote: “perhaps it is not too late.”

If I had to choose a single section, it would be chapter four, “The Paris Years: A Culture of Revolution – 1967-1970,” which you conclude with these words: “My Paris days were ended; my European foray was complete. I would never be the same person again. But our culture had changed irrevocably as well. A critical understanding of culture and spirituality was coming together for me.” To experience the deepening of your spirituality within the foment of culture during these years sparked memories of the late sixties as a definitive transforming period in my own life. Thank you.

Not long after reading chapter twelve, A Postdenominational Priest Standing Outside the Rusty Gate,” Patricia and I went to see “Bridge of Spies.” More than once Abel (Mark Rylance) a Russian spy, describes Donovan (Tom Hanks) his attorney, with some Russian words. After the conclusion of the trial, Abel looks at Donovan with eyes that radiate honor and repeats the phrase. Donovan asks him what it means. Abel, with a wellspring of admiration, says,“the standing man.” Donovan demonstrated steadfastly he is a person of strength, flexibly, compassion, and tenacity who remains firm in the face of threat, heartache, and surprise.

Matthew Fox, you are a standing man. Oh yes!




“I am the wave upon Grand Traverse Bay”

Matthew Fox recently published an updated and revised version of his autobiography, “Confessions.”  I’ll be posting a brief review of the book here on December 26.

Two previous wellsofwellness posts, and this one, are invitations for you to his book.

In chapter seven, Fox quotes a seventh century Celtic poem that Patricia and I first heard from Mary Meighan http://celticjourneys.com when we were on sabbatical in Ireland:

I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,

I am the wave on the ocean,
I am the murmur of leaves rustling,

I am the rays of the sun,

I am the beam of the moon and stars,

I am the power of trees growing,

I am the bud breaking into blossom,

I am the movement of the salmon swimming,

I am the courage of the wild boar fighting,

I am the speed of the stag running,

I am the strength of the ox pulling the plough,

I am the size of the mighty oak tree,

And I am the thoughts of all people

Who praise my beauty and grace.


If you were to write a poem titled “God” with thirteen “I am” statements what would you write?


I invite your poetic responses.


If I were to write one, it might be something like this:



I am the wind that breathes upon the cherry trees, apple and apricot too,

I am the wave of the lake on Grand Traverse Bay,

I am the murmur of a river’s rapids,

I am the warmth of the sun on sand dunes,

I am the moon and stars on the waters of life,

I am the power of cedars in the forest,

I am the trillium and marsh marigold of spring,

I am the soaring of an eagle,

I am the courage of CIW,*

I am the speed of a woman** running to qualify  for the olympic trials,

I am the strength of a mother’s love,

I am the size of the statue of liberty,

I am the thoughts of Laura, Joe, Julia, Rick, Linda,  Jim, Janet, Danielle, Martha, Marlyn, Patricia, Bill, Kathy, Rene, Lois, Gloria, Bernie, Ann, Kent, Will, Phil, Bernice, Jay, Judy,  Henrietta, Faye, Sean, Jennifer, Katie, Mark, Peter, Noah, John, Jacob, Andy, Barb, Bette,  Jean, Terry, Elijah, Sawyer, Jackson, Hazel, Sage, Indigo, Moses, Phoebe, Eli, Owen, Ben, Al, Ed, Margaret, Sandy,Olivia, Virginia, Tom, Bob, Annette,Joyce, Elaine, Nancy, Gary, Deanne, Ed, Kathleen,  Greg, Joyce, and . . . well now . . . all who praise God’s beauty and grace.

*Coalition of Immokalee Workers:  http://www.ciw-online.org/

**run strong run long, Katie Mcgee.


I do look forward to your poems of praise.






An Opening Prayer: Matthew Fox honoring Reb. Zalmon


Hundreds gathered in a theater in Boulder, Colorado, on August 17, 2014, on what would have been Reb. Zalman’s ninetieth birthday, to pay him respect and gratitude. Matthew Fox was invited to offer the opening prayer at his service.  You may find the prayer in Matt’s newly updated and revised autobiography, “Confessions” page 445:

Ancient One of Ancient Days, we ask you to respect our feeble attempt to name you: Grandfather, Grandmother, Father of all our ancestors—Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Esther, and more, Father-Mother of the Fireball and supernovas, the sun and moon and earth, and all its peoples and all its religions, and all its forests and waters and winged ones and finned ones and four- legged ones, you who are known by multiple names the world over: Brahmin and Buddha and Goddess, Yahweh and Allah, Abba, Christ, Wakan-Tanka, Tagashila, and more. You are beyond all names and with no name, “super-essential darkness.” You are the being within being; the light within light; the beauty within beauty; justice within justice; compassion within compassion; life within life; wisdom within wisdom; silence within silence. Hear our prayer:

We thank you for the life and Spirit of our brother Reb. Zalman.
We thank you for his smile and the eager heart it bespeaks.
We thank you for his deep and broad knowledge and even more, his great wisdom.
We thank you for his laughter and wit and unstoppable holy and fierce imagination.
We thank you for his intuition and his courage in looking into the future in birthing a movement of Jewish Renewal.

We thank you for the many men and women he inspired, instructed, mentored, and ordained and set loose into this world that needs so much Tikkun and repair.

We thank you that Reb. Zalman practiced the teaching of Reb. Heschel that “praise precedes faith” and that he was always rst and foremost a man of praise.

We thank you for his sageing and his wise aging and teaching thereon.

We thank you for all his teachers and mentors, and a special shout out to Dr. Howard Thurman, who was one of Reb. Zalman’s special mentors.

We thank you for Reb. Zalman’s love of ritual, of praise, of poetry, of song and dance and desire to make traditions alive again.

We thank you for his pioneer e orts to be open to other faith traditions, his teaching that “each magisterium as revealed to each faith community is needed to heal the planet. Ecumenism has to embrace indigenous and natural peoples and as such our bodies and all our relations.”

We thank you for his imperfections and clay feet which make him so like the rest of us.

We thank you that near the end of his very full life he said he felt “very privileged” to have lived it.

We thank you that we are privileged too that he lived so fully and generously.

We pray that each one here and each one touched by his life and teachings and setting in motion of the Jewish Renewal movement may also be able to pronounce, at the close of our days, the same words, “It has been a privilege.” May we all live life as if it were a deep privilege, which it is, a 13.8 billion year gift that we dare not squander or take for granted.

May our gratitude and honoring of Reb. Zalman not be expressed by put- ting him on a pedestal but rather by acts of mitzvah, our very deeds of justice, healing, compassion, and celebration.

And may we all commit and recommit to honoring the earth and all its inhabitants and its beautiful diversities of race and religions and cultures out of justice and compassion so that all may live life to the full, lives of sharing and celebration, praise and thanksgiving.

We commend the memory of this man of wisdom, this son of God, this lover of diversity, to your wise care. May his spirit inspire and challenge us for years and eras to come.

This is what the Huffington Post published about Reb. Zalmon on July 6, 2014:


2014-07-03-Reb_Zalman_Y_Goldfarb.jpgRabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a spiritual innovator who developed a new trend in Judaism over the last half-century, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014, at around 8:40AM in his home. He was 89. He will be buried at the Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado.

Schachter-Shalomi, better known as ‘Reb Zalman’ (a less formal title he preferred), was often a controversial figure in his lifetime, beloved of many and reviled by others. Those who loved him saw him as the visionary father of the Jewish Renewal movement, as a spiritual revolutionary who infused religion and inter-faith relations with a new vitality and contemplative depth. Those who opposed his innovative approach to Jewish spiritual practice felt he had betrayed the traditional values of Orthodox Judaism. Though this opposition diminished in his later years as former opponents came to appreciate his spiritual integrity and the need for new perspectives. But whether embraced or shunned, his impact upon Judaism and modern spirituality is undeniable.



Matthew’s prayer invites us to ask:

What are your names for God?

How do you bless the life of another?

What have you become because of another’s beauty?

How have you given gratitude today?

Does this prayer matter to you?



(Today is the first day of a new format for the blog.  Let me know how it works for you.  What is good?  What frustrates you?  What inspires you?)





What voyager saw

Twice, before I left St. Andrew United Church of Christ to move to Northport Michigan and begin my work at Trinity Church of the United Church of Christ, renowned theologian and author, Matthew Fox, visited.  He talked with more than 200 people both times we gathered to learn from him.  Members of Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community http://www.marymotherofjesus.org (MMOJ), St. Andrew UCC  http://www.uccstandrew.org, and a much broader community of the faithful attended.

Matthew was electric in his energy.  He said those of us in Sarasota County and beyond “needed to move from thinking of ourselves as retired and begin to conceive of ourselves as re-fired and re-wired.”  The world needs your wisdom, your enthusiasm, your faith, your prayer, your song, your art, your march, your eyes and hands of compassion, your mentoring said Matthew.  Here he is deep in conversation with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of MMOJ on February 22, 2014:  http://www.bridgetmarys.blogspot.com


Matthew just this month published a new and updated version of his autobiography, “Confessions.”

Along with many, many others, I have been invited to write a review of this new update of his autobiography:  http://matthewfox.org/books/book-reviews-new/confessions-revised-updated/personal-reflections-on-confessions-the-blog-tour/                      on our blog sites.  My review will appear here at:  www.wellsofwellness.org on the day after Christmas.                                                                                                I encourage you to watch for it.


Between now and then, I am going to post three or four times with words directly from Matthew’s book.  Today I post the final paragraph from his book:

“For over forty years humankind has been living with the photographic icon of Mother Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts, and it has assisted us to see ourselves as one special planet. But as of 2014 a new photograph which I predict will become and must become even more iconic has been gifted us by the Voyager 1 spacecraft —that picture taken from the edge of our solar system as the spacecraft was exiting it in July 2012 and looking back on its journey. In it earth is just a dot set among many other dots in the distance that scientists had to point out with an arrow. “Earth as dot” reminds us how seemingly insignificant we are; how unique we may be in the universe; and how precious all the beauty and diversity and marvels of our modest planet boasting life and oceans, forests and creatures of myriad kinds really is. Such an icon might help put our species into context again so we get over our reptilian-brain aggression in favor of sustainability and the ways of compassion. Are we up to the task? Can we let go as a species? Time will tell and time is running out. But of this I am sure: Creation spirituality is part of that project.”


What are your thoughts about “earth as a dot” and us smaller still?


Thank you Matthew Fox for your joy, your passion for justice, your speaking the truth, your transformation of our understanding of who we are before God . . .

We are, indeed, among God’s “Original Blessing”!

May it be that we become those who are up to the task of “sustainability and the ways of compassion!”


“Christmas Sticks” of Florida and Michigan

Back in the early days of our love, Patricia and I used to roam the forest roads of the Nicolet National Forest in Vilas County of Wisconsin and look for a small, scrawny pine growing in the ditches, by the side of the road, to bring home for our Christmas tree.  We always found one and loved it’s small ordinariness.

In Sarasota, we wandered quite often to Phillippi Estate Park.  After moving to Cass street we found a cut branch there, waiting-to-become-mulch-and-wanting-to-be-our-christmas-stick.  For eight of our nine years on Cass street this “christmas-stick-about-to-become-Phillippi-Estate-Park-mulch” stood in front of our house.  It was lit all twelve months of the year, inviting guests to our home, and passersby to smile at the  whimsical joy of a stick-tree-lit-every-night-all-year-long.

One time we were going to take it down.  A neighbor I had never met was going by and said, “Oh, please leave it up . . . I count on seeing it whenever I go by . . . It raises my spirits. . .  Please, leave it up!”

We did . . . Here is how it looked in 2014:

The christmas stick - 2416 Cass St, Sarasota, 2014.jpg

When we had a moving sale in early August of this year, en route to Northport – Becky, from across the street in Sarasota, bought the tree . . . Maybe she has it lit in front of her house this season,  who knows.

So . . . on a whimsey, Patricia and I wandered in Leelanau State Park today to find a “Christmas Stick” for our home in Northport.

We found three . . . and chose this one . . . it is the most whimsical of all.

whimsical stick tree - ala' Northport.jpg

Not to worry . . . if you are out of the area for the winter, it may just be that you will see the lights of this “stick” on the porch next to Trinity Church in July of 2016 and beyond.

lights of Christmas - 107 N Warren - December 11, 2015.jpg


Pure whimsey.

It brings Patricia and me great pleasure to have our version of a Charlie Brown tree as part of our lives.

We sent some wreaths from Bells of Christmas (they have been being made right here in Northport by the Bells family since 1926) like the one you see on our door in the picture above to family and extended family.

Then today, after we found our newest “Christmas Stick” on the Cathead Trail of Leelanau State Park, we stopped at Bells of Christmas and bought this tree for inside our home from Jim Bell.  It is beautiful, indeed!

Our inside tree - thank you Jim and Doreen Bell - Bells of Christmas, Northport, MI.jpg

Ornaments yet to be hung . . . but the lights are fun.

Maya Angelou’s poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” has been on my mind (you may get to see and hear her read it (via youtube) on the Sunday after Christmas at Trinity.

I hope many of you will be present.

The gifts of Sofia, the Wise Ones, donchano . . .

She speaks of “A Rock, A River, and A Tree” . . .

To/of the tree she says:

The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers–
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.

May all who pass by 107 N Warren know:

Each of you, descendant of some passed on Traveller, has been paid for.

Come here to me. 

Root yourself beside me.

Oh yes!


Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes,
Into your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Namaste to all of you.

May you know how beloved you are!

Come to Trinity Church of the UCC in Northport, Michigan, on Sunday, December 13, 2015 to learn from a Roman Soldier (thank you Bob W), an inn-keeper (thank you Jan H), and a shepherd (thank you Joe T).  These are among the stories of those who people the birth of Christ in Chapters 1&2 of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament of the Bible.  Our reading for Sunday morning will be from Luke 2:1-7.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are invited to join us.


You are invited!

an invitation to prayer

Patricia went for a run this morning and got these two great pictures of Grand Traverse Bay – the one with the magnificent watery pathway of light – and the other, a closeup of the water and the sand that she said looked to her like watery petosky stones.



While she was doing that, I was putting together this liturgy for a time of prayer and conversation tonight at 6:00 pm in response to the massacre in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday.

Prayers and Conversation

Early this morning I sent out an email to members and friends of Trinity Church UCC and a few others.  It included this invitation to prayer:

Dear ones of Trinity and beyond,

I invite you to a time of prayer and conversation tonight, December 4, in the Trinity sanctuary – 6:00-6:30 pm.

A 6:00, we will be called to prayer by 14 chimes of our bell, one for each of those who were murdered in San Bernardino on December 2.

We will be in prayer and conversation together with a liturgy from “A Wee Worship Book.”

Together we will read the names of those who lost their lives to gunfire, pray for those who have been forever changed because of the loss of a loved one, remember that God aches with us for peace and ask for strength to make the killings cease.

Come. Let us be in prayer together. Please do invite neighbors and friends to join you.

I have listed this time of prayer as an action of Trinity’s participation in National Gun Violence Prevention Weekend.

Phil Garrison


It is our task to be a blessing

Helena's rainbow over Trinity.jpg

Three days ago, on the 25th of November, Helena posted this picture of a rainbow over Trinity on her facebook page.

Ten days ago the Education and Outreach Ministry talked about the tragedy of terrorism in Paris and we talked about the Belko Peace Lecture for 2016.  Sarah spoke of a David Brooks editorial where he mentioned Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ newest book, “Not in God’s Name:  Confronting Religious Violence.”  Nancy and I each ordered the book.  Rabbi Sacks proclaims, “Abraham (Gen 18:25) sought to be true to his faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.  That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of the Abrahamic faith.  It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief.  It is our task to be a blessing to the world.

And the day before that, Jan Richardson, announced the availability of her newest book, “Circle of Grace:  A Book of Blessings for the Seasons.”  I ordered it.

Shimmering died flowers by the roadside at the 45th parallel - November 28, 2015.jpg

Based on the text from Luke that we’ll hear about tomorrow at Trinity:  “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth,” (Luke 1:40) Jan wrote this blessing:




You hardly knew

how hungry you were

to be gathered in,

to receive the welcome,

that invited you to enter

entirely –

nothing of you

found foreign or strange,

nothing of your life

that you were asked

to leave behind

or to carry in silence

or in shame.


Tentative steps

became settling in,

leaning into the blessing

that enfolded you,

taking your place

in the circle

that stunned you

with its unimagined grace.


You begin to breathe again,

to move without fear,

to speak with abandon

the words you carried

in your bones.

that echoed in your being.


You learned to sing.


But the deal with this blessing

is that it will not leave you alone,

will not let you linger

in safety,

in stasis.


The time will come

when this blessing

will ask you to leave,

not because it has tired of you

but because it desires for you

to become the sanctuary

that you have found –

to speak your word

into the world,

to tell what you have heard

with your own ears,

seen with your own eyes,

known in your own heart:


that you are beloved,

precious child of God,

beautiful to behold,*

and you are welcome

and more than welcome



*Thanks to the Rev. Janet Wolf and the congregation of Hobson United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, for the story in which these words – “beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold” – were offered to help transform the life of a member of their community.  The story appears in “The Upper Room Disciplines 1999 (Nashville:  The Upper Room).”

Our task is to be a blessing, a beloved blessing, to the world! 

Tomorrow, we begin Advent.

Trinity Church of the UCC sign - Nov 28, 2015.jpg

It is my hope we will be a beloved blessing during these four+ weeks of lighting candles, singing songs, hearing scripture, and experiencing stories.  Each week we will have the opportunity to sing and sing as we savor something of those who people the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood as found in chapters 1 & 2 of Matthew and Luke.

What is the meaning of these stories for us?

Tomorrow we will hear from Gabriel, Mary, and Elizabeth.  (Thank you Jim, Terry, and Ann.)

On December 6 we will hear from Zechariah and Joseph.

On December 15 we will hear from a soldier, a villager, and a shepherd.

On December 22 we will hear from Simeon, Anna, and from Mary and Joseph together.

On Christmas Eve at 7:00 we will light the Christ Candle, worship with a traditional service of lessons and carols, and then light our own candles from the light of the Christ Candle as we sing Silent Night and head out into the world to be that light for those most in need.

On December 29 we will hear from the Magi.

Chapters 1&2 in Matthew and Luke, say Borg and Crossan in their book “The First Christmas.” are “parabolic overtures” for each of these two very different Gospels.  Their stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus are neither fact nor fable.  They are parable.  And, they are preview, an opening summary statement about each of their full Gospels.  These beginning chapters of Matthew and Luke tell stories that “speak to our lives as individuals.  They are about light in our darkness, the fulfillment of our deepest yearnings, and the birth of Christ within us.  They are about us – our hopes and fears.  And they are about a different kind of world.  God’s dream for us is not simply peace of mind, but peace on earth.

Advent 2015 has been set for me with rainbows and books, people and stories, scripture and carol, God’s promises and passion.

Tomorrow we begin the journey.

What will be born in us?

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?