Entering The Heart

This is the day which the Lord hath made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

My Father wrote these words from Psalm 118 in a card to me recently, on my birthday. The words entered my heart and carved a graceful trail made of memory, imagination, and faith. I am grateful to him for the repetition of words for which I have reverence, and also for his demonstration of a certain kind of energy.

So much enters the heart. Marks are made; scars and trails are forged. Some detours end in blind confusion. But love, when entering the heart, always finds a path that nourishes and continues.
Image and words by C. Robin Janning. All Rights Reserved.

Giving Thanks


My friend, Barbi Tinder, captures nature in the most astounding ways with her camera. She does the same with her words. Together she creates an image that perfectly captures this time of year. Late Fall is a time of mist, brilliant angled light and a Thanksgiving realization of how God provides water to quench the thirst of turkeys and deer. Through her eyes and words we can agree with her that "the outdoors is god's cathedral."

Mist and Sunbeams by Barbi Tinder
(all rights reserved)

This morning was one of those magical times. For me they are a reward for tolerating the brief daylight hours. God frosted my part of the world last night. I had a wonderful time early this very cold morning capturing snippets with my camera. Then as the sun occasionally made an appearance from behind the clouds the neighborhood turned into a crystal fairyland.

I'm sending you another photo from yesterday morning. I almost could not walk up the hill fast enough. I felt like I was chasing an illusion. I had to keep the right angle of light to get the reflection of the frost as it turned to liquid on the needles of the line trees. As I walked back down the hill the drops dripping off the trees sounded like a babbling brook in springtime. What a joy!

As one who does not adjust well to the short daylight hours, the late days of fall can get discouraging. This year the turkeys and a young deer are visiting our crabapple tree for the drops, and a morning like yesterday just nourishes the soul!

Image and words, ©2007, Barbi Tinder
Introduction by Jan Neal

We Thirst

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for the stream*
art is a glass that holds
the wine the water
that offers the hope
the taste of Spirit
the coming home

*Image By Jesse P. Mark. Original oil on canvas, 12 x 36 inches with calligraphy of the Psalm in both Hebrew and English. This image is one of eleven paintings in the series "Landscape of the Psalms" hanging in the church school rooms at Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, KY. The artist states: "Landscape of the Psalms combines American landscapes with calligraphy from the Psalms because when I hike the trails across America I am reminded of the plentiful wordpictures of the Psalms."

Words by C. Robin Janning

Serenity In The Communion Of Saints

Ah, my dear friends and fellow saints, I am, yet again, behind the seasonal power curve. However, I have had the communion of saints on my mind for days as I always do at this time of year. I am not sure of the reason, but the communion of saints is one of my favorite theological concepts. It may be due to a longing to be part of something larger than myself; it may be longing for those I love who have passed from this life; it may be a backward longing for what is to come on Earth after I am gone. It may be a manifestation of sensucht, the inexpressible longing examined by C. S. Lewis.

On page 862 of the Book of Common Prayer we are given a definition of the communion of saints:

Q. What is the communion of saints?

A. The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.

Interesting...those we love and those we hurt!

I have a vision of the communion of saints. I sit in my little stone church with fellow church members and imagine saints like Mary Magdalene, Mother Mary, Francis & Clare, and John the Baptist present in a translucent embracing mist along with my father, uncle, grandparents I knew, grandparents and great-grandparents I did not know. Similarly I envision the presence of Shelly Ross, Sarah Glenn Pitts and the Jeter Sisters (local parish saints) . I also imagine the translucent presence of people who have not yet been born but will one day take my place on the heart pine bench I now occupy and stroke the old wood and treasure the hand carved cross on the base of the bench while they feel my embrace. No one left out; no one on the outside looking in; all reconciled; the closest thing my feeble humanity can imagine to all longing fulfilled, all tears wiped from our eyes and heaven on earth. Oh how pleasant it is to imagine the gathering of those I love!

But what about those I hurt? And why not those who hurt me?

Is it possible that those I hurt are present in the communion to give me another chance to make right errors in things I have done and left undone - an opportunity for honor that I might know perfect peace and joy? Is it possible that we have individual, or relative communions and that those who hurt me without reconciliation are not part of my communion? After all the communion represents union through love, and love and pain cannot co-exist. Is that reasonable? I don't know, but I can certainly imagine how this gathering would be soiled by the dishonorable presence of someone who visited evil upon me without remorse.

The presence of those I hurt and the absence of those who hurt me in the communion remind me of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Perhaps the communion of saints is an opportunity to experience Wisdom, to right wrongs and forget that which we cannot change, and know serenity. I will have to ponder this a bit before I will comprehend the inclusion of those I hurt and the absence of those who hurt me. In the meantime I ask for your thoughts - the thoughts of my fellows in the communion. What do you make of the composition of the communion?

Image "Sanctus Circle" and words by Jan Neal. ©2007, All Rights Reserved.

And Then

flying to you
my heart
filled with love
and longing
prayers and

Image and words by C. Robin Janning. All Rights Reserved.

Sea Change

It's been a long time since I've posted here. So many things got in the way. Now I'm trying to put life to rights. I've let the waters slip over me, and I'm waiting for a sea change. Here's what Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest to coin that term:

"Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange."

More recently, we take a sea-change to mean a mystical and profound transformation. Well, this past spring I faced "full fathom five," and a sea-change has been calling to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk all alone on the beach in early morning. Just me and the sea-birds, a mug of hot coffee, and a warm, smooth rock for a seat in the brightening sun. Best coffee I'd ever tasted. I never wanted to leave. The shoreline, the horizon, the birds gathering unperturbed all around me; that was all I thought about. The only human sounds were my own slow, quiet steps on the wet sand. Nobody hurrying me. I knew it was time to surrender.

So, with the warm support of my dear friends at ECVA, I've embarked on a sabbatical. It's a voyage to a place unknown. I won't come back the same as before; facing down "full fathom five" has called for many changes in my life. I need a permanent slower pace. More quiet. Less stress. More of the right kind of listening - the unhurried kind, with no expectations, only receptivity. More of that "human touch" Bruce Springsteen wrote about.

A good friend of mine, a brilliant light in my soul, laid down one of his last drum tracks on "Human Touch." His hands on the drum set make the song both spooky and compelling. My friend has gone his full fathom five.

One thing I need to do on my sabbatical is understand how dear ones - like my friend, and others - can be here and then not here. But for the grace of God, I would not be here myself. My oldest son, Joren, saved my life. So I need to understand how it can be that I was on the border of here and gone, and then came back. And, how it can be that I gave life to someone who, many years later, literally gave life to me. It's hard to make sense of all that.

Isn't it strange how water seems so important to both healing and change? When John the Baptist immersed Jesus in the River Jordan, Jesus emerged forever changed in the eyes of the world. We are conceived, and grow, in fluid; at birth, we emerge from it - never again the same. Now I've had an extraordinary experience: I've slipped back into the water. I can't help but think of an old Talking Heads song that I always loved:

"Take me to the river, drop me in the water
Push me in the river, dip me in the water
Washing me down, washing me ..."

I need to be in the water, and I need to be healed - and then I need to emerge. And I will be forever different afterward. Water is the sign of change. A sea-change - something rich and strange. I know it is time to let the waves wash over me.

I am grateful to be able to share these thoughts, and these experiences, here at the Sketchbook. I don't know what will come of them. My hope is that they will be of some use to someone. I look forward to posting here as time progresses, and to hearing from those of you for which any of this strikes a chord.

May God bless you all, and give you gratitude for the miracle of life - so easily lost.

© 2007, Brie Dodson