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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, March 03, 2006

Another take on "the dust whereof we are made"

The following was sent to me recently from Michael Anne Haywood from (I believe) Winston Salem, North Carolina, USA.... thank you so much for sharing this with us!

It's Ash Wednesday, and I went to church at noon today for the Imposition of Ashes. "Remember that you are dust," the priest told each one of us, "And to dust you shall return."

"Star dust!" I thought. I had written the following in my blog about a month ago. I didn't make the connection with Ash Wednesday until today. Ash Wednesday will never be the same for me!


Scientist Carl Sagan said, "We are made of star stuff." I love that. I've loved the idea since I first heard it, some years ago.

Well, it makes sense. What else would we be made of but the basic elements that make up the universe? We are a part of creation, and actually, a pretty insignificant part. We're vastly outnumbered by the insects, outsized by many mammals, reptiles and fish, raced into the ground by so many swift creatures that we can't count them, and we can't hold a candle to the beauty of a common violet sprung up in the back yard.

It's laughable when we humans see ourselves as the "crowning glory" of creation. I wonder if it's not more likely that we were an afterthought. But there is something special about us human animals, more special than our handy opposable thumbs, more impressive than our skills with language. I think it's that we have a unique capacity for compassion. We can extend ourselves beyond self, for the good of another. We have that innate lightness of heart and soul that is an inborn gift, not dependent on one's age, abilities, wealth or status.

Most of what I read about Sagan's "star stuff" was way over my head, but I came upon a description of DNA as giving off light, and shedding more light when it was unwound.
The author describes that swirl of light as functioning as a "tuning fork" for the body, striking a species-specific frequency to which all the body's cells align.Stars are made of the basic elements, and stars give off light. If we are indeed made of star stuff, I'd like to think that the light in our DNA is starlight, that the light of the universe is within us.

May starlight shine in all of us and give us hope.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More Angels with Four Paws......

The following was sent to me from Ray and Dee Hickman. I believe Dee is the author. Thanks so much for your contribution!

Before our son was born, I was given the gift of a beautiful tri-color collie puppy. His formal name was Angus MacDuff of Rilmoor. We called him Angus, mostly, but he became "Beautiful Boy" or "An-gie" or whatever love-infused thing we thought of at the time. He generated love in all he met; he at least generated great respect from not only his physical beauty but his beauty of spirit and heart.

He "took care of us" - it was his main job in life. But when our son came along (and Angus was only 6 months old), it became his most important job to "guard his baby". He was never in the least mean - it would not have occurred to him to be so. But when visitors came, Angus would wait until they sat down and place himself ever so quietly between the visitor and the baby. Later, he gladly was hitched to the children's wagon and pulled them along the street (they were very small - he weighed 82 lbs. - no problem). He was the best baby-sitter there was and quietly followed the children around the yard as they played.

When I was recovering from surgery and not very mobile, he would place himself on the floor beside my chair and just "be there". I've never known a "friend" whose presence was so comforting and so loving and so completely devoted to his family. He could distinguish my husband's car engine 2 blocks away as he returned home in the evening and there was always great excitement. When my parents came to live near us, he took them in as part of the family and was careful to be "near but not in the way" with my Dad who could not see very well.

I remember all this as if it were yesterday - Angus has been gone from us for 25 years. I look forward to seeing him in his rightful place in God's Heaven one day - what a joyful reunion that will be! And how lucky I was to have this very special friend.


If you wouldn't mind, please send your town/state/province/country along with your contributions here to MOLC (and your church, if you so desire) in order that all the folks reading can get a graphic sense of just how far and wide the ministry of The Geranium Farm stretches. Many thanks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

'Remember that you are but dust' and Mended China

Very real, very sober thoughts on this day which carries along on the life cycle of the Church as it parallels the life cycle of the man Joshua ben David - Jesus - through learning of his truest self, teaching and healing everywhere, bending - or transforming - some customary restrictions of the Law of the Jews into a new Way. This new Law could be followed not by a select few through privilege and ancestry, but by anyone who became a disciple and followed the discipline of Jesus. That discipline entails a life dedicated to love, humility, awareness, kindness, justice, work and teaching.

Lent begins with this stark statement of fact of our mortal life. This statement is an equalizer: we can ponder the ways in which we are all alike in our coming in and going out. What we do between our coming and going will depend on dedication and some sacrifice as well as our dependence on God's grace to keep us in lively relationship with our neighbors and our God.

We are but dust..... and what wonderful dust it is - created by God, given by God, shaped by God and eventually returning wonderfully to God.

________________________ Mended China______________________:

These next thoughts were sent to Barbara by Dona Gallagher in response to yesterday's e-Mo. Thanks very much, Dona, for the contribution!

"Japanese people greatly value their exquisite ceramic vases and do not throw them away when they are accidentally broken. Instead, they painstakingly glue together the broken pieces, filling the cracks with gold in a way that actually enhances the damage rather than hiding it. O blessedly happy are our sins by which we have become magnificently beautiful and by which we have been stunningly enhanced by God's golden love!" Edward Hays in The Lenten Pharmacy (Forest of Peace)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Saying a little prayer

It was absolutely fierce outside on Sunday. Zipping out from the service after receiving communion, Christopher Powell and I were headed to the local nursing home to bring the Eucharist to them. It was about 20F with a 25mph wind.... nose and knuckles went to glowing very quickly.

There were 18 in the recreation room when we arrived. Most sat in wheelchairs around the double-length rectangular tables. The Lord's Prayer is always in order, as is a hymn or two, the Gospel for the day and a shortened homily. Everyone happily took communion, reminding each other to hold onto the whole wheat wafer long enough to "dip" and we finished by singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". Chris treats these men and women very lovingly, with dignity - just the way I hope someone treats me should that time come.

"You sing good, honey" booms one resident, giving me a smiling seal of approval - high praise, indeed.

We say our goodbyes as one resident after another says thank you and waves; we take our leave back into the bitter elements.

I shuttle Chris back to church, head to deliver communion to a parishoner recovering from her second hip replacement. A retired nurse, being on the receiving end of attention and care does not come easy to her.... and she is learning a different kind of patience.

It was an honor to worship with all of these children of God today: in the church, in the facility, in the home. And I will remember them all again when I say my prayers tonight.........

Many thanks to Carol Reeves of Saint James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, PA who passed on the wonderful photo below!

Prayer Time

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Stress Management

The internet is a strange and mysterious plane of existance.....

How and why I get the kind of mail I do in my "Inbox" is a puzzle that seems far beyond my comprehension.

I will never know why a host of companies believe I must be bombarded with:
...... promises of Viagra at the lowest possible price......
..... or why Doctor Wannabucka from a here-to-fore nonexistant country on the African continent wants me to get a share of an inheritence which is being held in a Swiss bank account just for helping him out.....
..... or that I applied for a 5th mortgage with AAAAAA E-Z Mortgage company because of their "Low.....Low....Low" rates.

Perhaps, like me, you are also eyeball-deep in what used to be called (in snail mail terms) a CHAIN LETTER. Send this letter to 35 of your most cherished friends within 10 minutes and you will be blessed... or cursed.... or come into a fortune.

The harassment of it all. And it adds to the every-day base line level of stress.

Here is something I found - after sifting through the inbox - which is makes sense to read. I hope you enjoy it too.

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked,
"How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.
The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
He continued, "And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on.
As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden."

So, before you return home or to your friends or to your family tonight, put the burden of work - or anxiety - down. Don't pass it on to someone else; don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow if you need to."

Well, that's about where the mail stopped. As Christians, we have another outlet. We can cast our care, our burden, our anxiety and fears on Jesus.... "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will refresh you". Now, that message is something worth passing on!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Church dog stories- Contributions by two "Farmers"

Barbara passed along the following two notes for me (as resident dog maven) to share with all you church-going dog lovers out there.....

From Lib Shipley:

(Barbara,) Katharine Armentraut, deacon at St. Bartholomew's in Baltimore, told me to read Marley and Me (says it is a hilarious book about a blonde lab). The Armentrauts have a black lab I think, and our rector, Flo Ledyard, has a black and a blonde lab who come to work with her. She says she is a working mom.

Lib Shipley

.... and from Wendy Rambo Shuford of Baltimore, MD:

(Barbara, In response to you asking if we had a good dog story, here is a lovely memory).
I grew up in a modern house in the country in Pa. We had a large enclosed dog kennel with dog house at the bottom of the hill, where Solo our lovely German Shepherd went at night. He was born when I was about 8-9 one to litter, hence the name. It was a very dark walk and one night at age 17 when it was my turn to take him down to the kennel, I felt afraid. I was not raised in a Church going or religious family so it came as I surprise as I walked down that hill in the dark, to experience Jesus at my shoulder. It seemed very real. Solo was a warm friendly dog and as he got older would run away to places where there were more children. Some years later when my Dad and stepmother wanted to put him down I insisted on being the one to take him. I thought it was the right thing and felt quite brave til I handed over the leash and cried all the way down the long lane. Thank you for helping to bring up this lovely memory.


Now, if any more of you have wonderful dog (or bird or hamster......etc) stories to share, don't hesitate to send them to me at "Let everything that hath breath, Praise the Lord!"

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