old age

DSC06453 - Version 2

I had a delightful conversation with Julia Brabenec, from Northport, yesterday.  She is a member of Trinity.  We had tea, fresh bread, and poetry.  Julia read me a number of her poems, including this one.  She gave me her permission to post it here for you to read:

Old Age

How does it happen? We are walking
down the road of life, singing gayly,
thinking it a lark, playing by the rules
(and sometimes not,) tending our affairs
quite unaware of much that walks behind
us in the dark. Then suddenly it’s there!
A stealthy hand has placed an unseen mark
upon your back that only others see.
Nothing much has changed inside
yet others view you in a different light.
Their voices show concern,
gently condescending – subtle
message in a glance, an arm held out
to help a faltering step, perceived
by chance within the viewer’s eyes –
their courtesy unasked for but
accepted somewhat graciously.
   It’s strange how all our many years
unfold, slowly bringing visual change
leading to this sudden category: OLD.
   Yet truth be told, although we’re
somewhat rearranged, the center
of our being carries in its core
the essence of the youth that we retain
from all the years we lived before —
the whole of our experience.
   It may be difficult to entertain the thought
that we are really not what we appear to be –
obtuse old bodies, unneeded by society.
No one can see what’s lying deep
beneath the wrinkled skin that sags
from years of use; the hallowed space
we keep within us, holding carefully
to treasured chapters of Our Life’s Mystery.

Thanks for treasuring the chapters of Your Life’s Mystery, Julia.

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.

November in Northport, MI, 2015

sand awash in the color of day's end - Cathead Beach - 11-06-2015 - Leelanau State Park

Patricia and I are now in Northport, Mi.

This image is from a sunset on Lake Michigan as observed on November 6, 2015.

We will be updating new information on our blog weekly from our new location.

Phil is now serving as pastor at Trinity Church of the UCC in Northport . . . and Patricia is finding her way in this new location.

Each week, there will be a post about what is happening at Trinity in the week to come.

This week, six people will join the church.

We will learn from Ruth 3:1-5 & 4:13-17 and Mark 12:36-44.

The sermon is about “giving all we are.”  It is based on the texts and the book, “The Paradox of Generosity”

We’ll be seeking to welcome new members,

give thanks for the generosity of these and many other folks who made lots of peanut brittle the last three days at Trinity:








Dick and Jean


Jim – our magnificent organizer






Dick and Patricia




Sharon and Dorothy


Florence, Jean, and Rene

Martha & Janet at the end of day three peanut brittling at Trinity Church of the UCC - 12

Janet and Martha

Sharon, Dick & Jean - cleaning up at the end of day three of peanut brittling at Trinity Church of the UCC - 12

Sharon, Dick, and Jean


we will praise God for this magnificent beauty:


the trail to CatheadDSC06163

a swan on the Grand Traverse Bay, November 6, 2015


Sunset at Cathead

You are invited on Sunday morning at 11:00 – 103 North Warren St. in Northport.

There were Ruth and Naomi,

and there was a woman who gave all she had . . .

and then. . .

there was you and me. . .

we’re getting older . . .

what are we gonna do/be?

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 “Light and Shadows”

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.

Continue reading “four thoughts on a text”

We see the moon, and the moon sees us . . .

Remember that childhood story/poem?

Tonight the moon rose full in Sarasota.  I remembered.

Beautiful moon tonight
Beautiful moon tonight

And, I read tomorrow’s meditation from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening:

Continue reading “We see the moon, and the moon sees us . . .”

The Lord’s Prayer translated from Aramaic

This past week, Donna Papenhausen introduced me to Neil Douglas-Klotz’s translation of the  Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic.

I appreciated it.  Maybe you will too.  We will pray it tomorrow at St. Andrew:


Lords Prayer

Translation by Neil Douglas-Klotz in Prayers of the Cosmos

O Birther! Father- Mother of the Cosmos

Focus your light within us – make it useful.

Create your reign of unity now-

through our fiery hearts and willing hands

Help us love beyond our ideals

and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.

Animate the earth within us: we then

feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.

Untangle the knots within

so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to each other.

Don’t let surface things delude us,

But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.

Out of you, the astonishing fire,

Returning light and sound to the cosmos.


sunset at the Siesta beach labyrinth on February 19
sunset at the Siesta beach labyrinth on February 19