Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Sunday afternoon walk. I listen.

Wind over my ears.

Leaves cross the pavement.

River rushes below in the gorge.

Geese fly over head, honking.

A squirrel rushes up a tree and jumps branches.

Creature moves in the brush.

The fountain at the community pool across the way is flowing water.
Leaves rustle in the trees.
Birds chirping in choir fashion.

A car whooshes by.
The tires peel off the pavement.
My footsteps crunch through the small gravel path on this bend.
An apartment's wind chime is singing.

The freeway moans in the distance.

A train alerts motorists.

Trees creek as they bend and bow.

I breathe.

Awaken my ears, O Lord, how you speak in creation. Awaken in me your voice.

What do you hear, in this moment?

What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they'd die in a minute—
Take back your Spirit and they die,
revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

Psalm 104:24 (The Message)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Last week I attended rally after rally. I witnessed intimate sharing between colleagues.

Rough and tumble facilities maintenance workers dressed up in costumes to sing a song for United Way. Second and third shift medical care workers came in on their day off to support a co-worker who read her own, personal story in the talent show. Care givers at hospice invited us (UW folks) to remain in the meeting as they held a memorial ceremony for patients who died the previous month. Even a "rock-star famous" physician leaned close to me and shared with joy how his grandchild is attending a special charter school supported by UW.

Between the risk-taking practice managers and the late-night hourly workers, I found deeply meaningful interactions with all kinds of people. I witnessed them encouraging each other, sharing communion of cake and punch, and wishing them well as they got back to work.

Showing up to these moments, I experience what it means to Live United. The work, the stories, the emotions, the courage, the vulnerability... it all endeared me to Grace that flows freely between us, as a thread connecting us all.

How are you connected in this moment?

The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That's mine; you can't have it." They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them. Acts 4:32

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ring The Bell

We have a fun ritual in our work these days. Each afternoon - or more often, when possible - we acknowledge as a team the "money" envelopes we receive.

After weeks of delivering pledge cards, showing videos, making invitations to give and participating in all kinds of rallies, we now have something to show for it all! Each account's pledge envelope inscribed by their campaign coordinator tallies up the pledge cards with payroll deduction agreements, cash, checks, and credit card numbers. All gifts matter! Even the small, $1 gifts!

We collect up our envelopes, gather as a team, and march into the lobby of our building. One of our team grabs the cowbell from the shelf in our space and with a knowing nod, runs through the hallway ringing the bell. We all shout out, "All staff to please report to the front desk! NOW! We have some celebration to do!"

Amidst bells ringing and fun music launched from someone's iPod, we dance, do the hula hoop and announce our envelope numbers. Each day we hear about how we are doing - after all, that's why we are there - to collect funds for distribution back into our community. Yippee! We are doing it!

With the sound of clanking, I reflect on the sacramental nature of our ritual. It's an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace that so many other people have given generously to help our community be stronger. We are marking, in our own way, how Spirit has moved hearts to give and inspired minds to put those gifts to work. We pray using our body in movement - "shaking our groove thang" - to show the movement of grace between and among companies.

We all show up - to that moment - inspired and remembering God's presence in our lives.

"But remember the root command: Love one another." John 15:17 (The Message)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Heart. Beat.

Does it count as aerobic exercise if my heart races over 200bpm while flying down a single-track trail over rocks and roots and leaves?

When I did this last Saturday on the Tsali Thompson Loop trail, I think that I forgot to breathe. It was mid-day, but the cool air was trapped in the canyon into which we rode. As I gripped the handlebars, my knuckles went white with fear of falling. Grrr... why is this so hard for me?

Mid-way through the ride, we began to ascend. Up and up and up. I stood on my pedals and got into 'granny gear' to grunt my way up the rocky path. Sweat poured down my back and my breathing slowed, actually, as I lightly and gracefully used the handlebars for slight balance adjustments. Ahhh.... it's a beautiful day!

I reflect on how different I feel when I am descending (frightened, self-absorbed, trying to "do it all" myself, focused on *steering* the bike over gnarly objects) from ascending (strong, self-assured, looking out at the scenery, challenged, accepting the bumps along the way by bending my knees). I wonder if this is about "being in control" and my discomfort when I am "not," duh. It is just too obvious about how the more frightened I become, the more dangerous I make my situation.

I have a hunch this mirrors my current "not in control" constellation of unknowns in my life - my discernment path, my temporary job, my short term internship at a parish, my unfinished board certification chaplaincy paperwork. I am emotionally much better when I reframe it all - towards the inner strength to continue: the challenge of climbing up, the sense of call that I feel no matter what the Bishop or COM might discern, how I believe that my short 11 weeks at United Way will make a difference in agency funding, how deeply I love the internship parish and know that they will be there when my assignment is completed.

In this moment, my. heart. beats. In showing up to this moment, I choose to see the dark aspects and in this moment, to ride like the wind. Thank you for joining me on this pathway.

Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. Psalm 44:18

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Castles These Days

Trim Castle in County Meath, Ireland (near Boyne) is one of the largest castles in Ireland. It is known for the part it played the film Braveheart, and this one struck me as a "classic" castle with most of the "I learned about that in 5th grade" components.

It was built by a wealthy noble person, has a ringwork of outbuildings to protect the inner sanctum, has an external ditch (moat) surrounding it (filled with sewage), is located near a popular river, and has several inner rooms that lead to more inner rooms...

Living there must have really been an adventure.

One of my "new" accounts is not unlike this castle. I'm sure that the building was built by one of the wealthy noble people, the doctor. It consists of a ringwork of outbuildings that protect the doctors offices. There is a parking lot surrounding it and an external margin of nasty prickly bushes that prevent anyone from getting actually near the bricks (or the windows). It's accessible from a nearby boulevard but is not on that street - only a side road nearby.

The main building itself seems to be in the shape of two snakes on a stick (the medical symbol) and has many corners, as if it has been built upon and added-to across the ages. There are rectangular waiting rooms, a reception, long hallways and many defenses before one can get inside to begin to have a conversation. Once inside, the rooms are solid, sound-proofed with tiny windows to keep other patients from peeking in and keep privacy violations out.

I am just amused at while we are so post-modern in our society and have the very best health care, there is much brick and mortar that remains medieval. It's a human system, built for protection, privacy, care and compassion.

As I look at the similarities between modern-day doctor's offices and medieval castle fortresses, I reflect on how I have put up boundaries around my soul. I have a complete ringwork of outer selves that protect me from being authentically me. I know that sometimes information seems to take a long time to get down my heart/mind hallways - which means that I am slow to react. Once there, I wonder if I really "hear" or is my inner ear sound-proofed to what is really being said?

Today I pray for openness. I pray to let down my guard, just a little, and be authentically me. I pray that I might "hear" what others are "saying" when they are not speaking to me. I pray for presence of mind to listen to God's silent whispers, to bring healing and hope.

What is your inner castle like, in this moment?

You brought me out into an open place; you rescued me because you delighted in me. Psalm 18:20

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who You Calling A Liar?

Thanks to Sojourners, I am taking the

Truth and Civility Election Watch Pledge

Won't You, too?

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

For the duration of the election season, I hereby pledge to uphold the highest standards of truth and civility in word, thought and deed.

On my honor, I will:

1. Just say no to crazy email forwards, and to any other noxious electronic communication that comes my way.

2. Communicate in a spirit of truth, humility, love, and patience with all people I come in contact with, despite our political disagreements or family relationship. (That goes for Uncle Frank. Especially Uncle Frank.)

3. Question any and all statements that sound mean, vindictive, or absurd; that provide no source or context; or that are politically motivated. (So, pretty much everything I hear on cable TV news.)

4. Share and enjoy stories of folks who are living out an attitude of truth and civility.
(Making sure each story meets both requirements: Nice people telling lies don't count.)

5. As a witness for God, encourage and spread a message of hope and reconciliation to a world that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. (You know, like Jesus taught.)

Affirmed and signed by,
Vicki Hesse

Friday, October 8, 2010

Timed Release

"She just had her first birthday. Look at how pretty she is! That's her older brother..."

One of my colleagues was showing me pictures of her children. Beautiful faces, awash in flushed cheeks and joy and smiles. Mom described for me how blessed she felt that her little Miss J lived. She was the miracle baby, she said.


Mom tells me about her baby girl: Born a year ago at 28 weeks. She was just over one pound at birth weight. She shares her story: Miss J was in the NICU for two months. Her experience of the dark, whispery ambiance punctuated by sudden beeping of vital sign alarms filled her soul with fear. Her comfort was her parental companions and the continued hope that Miss J would survive all this. Her darkest day was when Miss J had a "brady event" - when her breathing and heart stop - common for preemies. This usually means simply an extra dose of caffeine for the little one.

The NICU is a strange, sacred place. I've spent many dark-ish days there, written about one such interaction here and used more than one interaction in my case-studies and supervision sessions. It's impossible to be in that environment and not have it effect me at the cellular level.

Which is why, when my colleague shared her joy of Miss J's first birthday, I felt a redemption. I sensed a familiarity with her story. Then I realized it was the anniversary of my first preemie death-experience in the NICU. It was one year ago that a precious little 28-week old little Mr. M went into arrest. The evening moved in slow motion as I companioned little Mr. M's mom through his death, a ritual washing and blessing, and unspeakable intimate moments that will remain in my soul for ever.

In my conversation with my colleague today, I felt a timed-release breath of gratitude for Mr. M, for that moment one year ago, and a sense of perspective.

Sacred moments, indeed - the very edge of life and death on one thread.

How are you experiencing time-release sacredness in this moment?

...Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2:34-35

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roots and Rocks

Hiking in the fall reveals elements of earth.

Roots, to hold onto and to pull yourself up. Or to steady yourself in case of slippery foundations. Rocks, to climb over and to push upon. Or to steady yourself as a hand-hold when going vertical.

They work together, these roots and rocks, to make my hike possible. They challenge me, too, in their slippery and unpredictable ways.

I am reminded of how God's presence can seem like a root - something that grows into the foundation of my being, yet can provide a good hold for pulling me forward. Sometimes God is like that. God's presence can seem like a rock - something that feels so solid, captures the warmth of the sun around it, and holds my weight when I jump down. Sometimes God is like that, too.

When I pull with my arms and push with my legs, I am grateful for feeling my body work. God's in those muscles, that breath, that drop of sweat, that sense of being alive.

Thank you, God, for the earth and all that is in it. And for being present with me in the experience.

What roots and rocks are in your life, in this moment?

And Isaiah's word: There's the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope! Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! Romans 15:17 (The Message)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

View Inside

My deskmate follows the Buddhist tradition in her spiritual practice. I guess that makes her a Buddhist?

I'm not sure about the vocabulary, so I looked it up: What Makes You a Buddhist?

It’s not the clothes you wear, the ceremonies you perform, or the meditation you do, says Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. It’s not what you eat, how much you drink, or who you have sex with. It’s whether you agree with the four fundamental discoveries the Buddha made under the Bodhi tree, and if you do, you can call yourself a Buddhist.

We have wonderful conversations about our faith practices. I am inspired by her unconditional positive regard for life, for me, for our situation, for others. I am inspired by her capacity to let everything become her teacher, through the healing power of mindfulness.

The other day, she explained to me how she went for a "sitting" at a nearby meditation center. As she was preparing to enter the sanctuary, she remarked to the meditation guide about the beautiful view out over the blue-ish, smokey-ish mountains. The guide's response was equal expression of awe. The she turned, and said something like, "wouldn't it be nice to see that when we look inside!"

When my deskmate shared that thought with me, I reflected on what a paradox that is. And how grateful that I can learn from her a liberating notion - to look inside at the inner view. I have been thinking about that ever since - is that what God sees when God looks inside?

What is your inside view, in this moment?

When experience is viewed in a certain way, it presents nothing but doorways into the soul. Jon Kabat-Zinn