World Communion, October 4, 2015

3 10 2015

breaking bread

For those of us not with a congregational family for World Communion Sunday, I offer this very simple opportunity:

…gathering in simple presence

– still, quiet soul,

attuned to surrounding Spirit,

heart full.

You are here.

Here am I

enfolded into this space,

kneeling on holy ground.

                Oh, how could it be
That my God would welcome me
Into this mystery?
Say, “take this bread, take this wine”
Now the simple made divine
For any to receive

By Your mercy we come to Your table
By Your grace You are making us faithful

Lord, we remember You
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we worship You
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to Your invitation
We remember You…

(from: Remembrance, by Matt Redman)  

…in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  1 Cor 11:23-25

…and so tearing the bread

and feeling its weight in my hands

I pause.

Take and eat; take and eat: this is my body given up for you.

…and with slight tremble

I pour the wine

into simple chalice.

                 Take and drink; take and drink: this is my blood given up for you.

In simple presence, I close my eyes and simply listen to Take and Eat (Michael Joncas) 

With heart full, soul still, I simply pray:  Thank you. Thank you.

from: (under construction)



19 09 2015


Cradled in loving tenderness,

– protected, safe –

crumpled sorrow,

discarded soul

unfurling gently, nimbly,

risking trusting

warmth and security

in Creator’s hands;

risking living



This rebirth:

fanning life flame.

Embers pulse 

their rhythmic dance

to Spirit’s breath.



Beating heart.


Come to me.

All who are weary.

Life awaits.

Love lives here still.
© Carolyn Venema, Embers 2015

(photo credit Carolyn Venema)

Living Buddha, Living Christ: an exploration

2 08 2015

book cover

This book has got a hold of me right now. So many pieces resonate: it’s hard to know where to start. But surely when Thich Nhat Nanh (Thầy, or Teacher) talks about the Spirit as a living part of us – part of our breath, our breathing – those are pieces that stir something within, that ignite and fan an inner vibrancy.

First a rider: I know nothing. Only from what I read; and only from what I experience through this living entity. Likely that’s why I so appreciate when Thầy says: “It is safer to approach God through the Holy Spirit than through theology…. If we touch the Holy Spirit, we touch God, not as a concept but as a living reality… [transcending] words and concepts to be able to encounter [this] reality.” (from the introduction, xvi-xvii)

I need to learn far more. I think this site might be a good starting point. But for now, there is so much in this book about the Trinity, the Eucharist, interbeing; about lived experience and mysticism. I wonder if it is best to take a slow, thoughtful approach. Mindful of each morsel I digest. Maybe I’ll post something weekly; maybe just as the Spirit blows (John 3:8).

Curious what resonates with you? What are the fears, the curiosities?

Find your voice and sing

25 07 2015

rainbow energy

from a friend…
… for a friend


She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev. Safire Rose


…and what remains?
That is the question, my friend.
Explore that.
Be brave
– Brave
like you’ve never been brave before.
Even in the aching aloneness
which no one else can see;
and in the vacuous space
of no understanding
– that maddening quiet space
where even murmuring
has ceased –
precious preciousness
surrounds you:
silky air
and gossamer threads;
Light dancing off water
and gentle strums.
You are not mute.
You are not invisible.
You do exist.
And You are not alone.
Find your voice
and sing.

Eph 4:6
Ps 46:10

Carried by the deep

26 06 2015

10443552_898191250247861_9007841558344815515_nYou call me out upon the waters; the great unknown where feet may fail.
And there I find You in the mystery.
In oceans deep, my faith will stand. (lyrics: Oceans, by Hillsong United)

“We often move away from pain, which is helpful only before being hurt. Once in pain, it seems the only way out is through. Like someone falling off a boat, struggling to stay above water only makes things worse. We must accept we are there and settle enough so we can be carried by the deep. The willingness to do this is the genesis of faith, the giving over to currents larger than us… When we spread and go still, we are carried by the largest sea of all: the sea of grace that flows steadily beneath the turmoil of events.”  Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening


Water rises.

…becomes current
…becomes river
…becomes sea.

Fear and panic
…as ankle-deep
…becomes knee-deep
…becomes waist deep
and rising.

Struggling and resisting
amplifies the waves

Surrendering to the deep
as one floats

in the bobbing currents,
a gentle rhythm 
of the sea of grace.


…equals calm
…equals peace
…equals life
in the awareness 
and simple acceptance
of Presence 
of the One
who is there with you.

Be still
and know
that I Am.

(Ezekiel 47:3-5)
(Psalm 46)

Healing the wound…

21 08 2014





This graphic shoes an open hand, palm facing us, with a red heart in the middle.Flesh wounds heal; but a scar remains, reminding one of the trauma of the injury.  To run one’s finger over the scar sends sensations rippling along altered nerve endings, a kind of numbness that pierces deeply nonetheless.  The mesmerizing sensation creates new pathways, inscribing an indelible link in one’s memory to the injury.

Is it not the same for wounds of the spirit?  While the scar is not visible, that doesn’t stop one from re-examining the wound, running a discriminating finger over the textures of the remaining memory.

But the scar – those stitches that try to rebind and piece together traumatised bits – that scar is the physical reminder of more than just the injury itself.  It is also the reminder of the healing that has taken place, the beautiful undulations of the new tissue, indicative of new growth.  Moreso than with physical scars, perhaps the challenge of spiritual scars is for us not to relive an ingrained memory over and over again; but to embrace the healing, to let go of the injury, to risk moving forward.




Take me past the guarded place in you

where confusion
covers itself
in unrelenting confidence
then marches on
in lively steps

Take off the façade
let it fall away
into nowhere

Turn around and face me
I search the infinite depth
where beyond all entrenchments
I find your thirst
to be met
and understood

the sadness in your bones,
the want of your silent cries
to be heard
and be known—
abiding within those
unseen landscapes
is a world of precious

Let me touch where
the battle wounds
lie quietly healing—
Buried beneath
an armored sheath
rests a lifetime of love
and loneliness,
blame and triumph,
honor and defeat

Within this blended web
of scars and treasures,
glistening with honesty,
there you are—
I found you,
beneath the soldier’s plated heart

So loosen the knots around my own
see all its agony bared and mending
and in between each open space
we’ll breathe upon the frailty

All the wishful longings to be had
bring to me yours
as I meet you there with mine.

-Susan Frybort

 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  Mark 5:34

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4


Healing Begins, by Tenth Avenue North

This is where the healing begins,  
This is where the healing starts: 
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us, 
So please don’t fight
This coming light…

Forgive and Forget

15 08 2014
This photograph looks up above the tree tops into the evening sky. The clouds are kissed pink by the sunset.
Be still, my soul:
thy God doth undertake
to guide the future,
as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence
let nothing shake; 
all now mysterious
shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul:
the waves and winds still know 
His voice Who ruled them
while He dwelt below
(from: posted Aug 16, 2013)
 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you….
The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 
(NIV) Galatians 5:7-9
Press on to take hold of that for which He called you.
Forget what is behind; instead, strain for what lies ahead, for that is the goal to which He calls you.
(Paraphrase) Philippians 3:12-13
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(NIV) Colossians 3:12-14
          There’s something I’m learning:  in the call to forgive and forget, forgiveness can be the easier part. Each of us is human after all. When we learn to accept that we share all-too-human traits – envy, insecurity, rage, sorrow, loneliness, egoism, hedonism, fear – we can start to see beyond the words and actions of ourselves and others and begin to commiserate, empathize, connect through the layers, and feel compassion. Once in this space, we can let it all simply ‘be’.  Forgiveness is no longer the issue:  there’s nothing to forgive if the words and actions have simply blown through.
          It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. But there is peace here: peace that comes when there is no longer injury, but simple recognition and acceptance of this part of being human. Like the leaves and branches that react and respond to the airs surrounding them, we too will sway, ripple and reverberate in the gentle breezes, and smash furiously with the stormy winds. We may emerge tattered, with visible scars of the tempests engulfing us, but largely, we remain connected to the whole. The purpose. The goal. We need to see that integral strength – that inner character – that makes this recovery possible. That’s when we can gather strength to once again appreciate the gentle breezes that far outweigh the tempests.  That’s when we can‘press on’, straining for what lies ahead – a little tender from the experience of it all – but what better fertile soil for the tender growth of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience?
          So then, if forgiveness is the easier part, it’s forgetting that can be so hard – and toxic. Until wstop replaying that incessant feedback loop – whether it be positive or negative – we will never learn from our experiences and grow. I think that’s the challenge of living in the moment.  Simply letting it ‘be’, if we cannot let it ‘go.’  And learning to live through the lens of love, acceptance, unity…. with those in our midst who make it difficult, and those who partner with us in soldiering on. What this looks like is different for every person; bu“… Christian principles must in some way be translated into human life and that it is in the sphere of the material, in state and society, that responsible love has to be manifested.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from The Cost of Discipleship, p30).  When we can forgive others, when we can simply ‘be’ and accept, and when we can learn to love, to be gentle, humble, compassionate and patient, then we can be at peace, and be open to the part we are being asked to play. I love how Bonhoeffer refines this:
It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments which are only good to be thrown away, and others which are important for centuries to come because their fulfillment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment… we shall not have to bewail our fragmentary life, but on the contrary, rejoice in it. (The Cost of Discipleship, p33).
          To me, this encapsulates the forgive-and-forget journey: there are fragments in our life that will simply be thrown away. So then all the more reason to simply let them be; let them move through you as you simply move beyond them. But there will also be moments – telling moments – when our life will reflect a greater purpose of a divine nature. To me, this is the call to be gentle, humble, kind, compassionate, patient, and above all else, to love – others and yourself.  And in this way, I believe we will be open to ‘those fragments of necessity’ that will be ‘important for centuries to come’ because of the lasting impact they will have – on ourselves, and on others.  And ‘if our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment,’ how can we not then rejoice, and be at peace?  Blessings to you, to me, in our respective journeys ahead.
 Words I Would Say, by Sidewalk Prophets
Be strong in the Lord and never give up hope.
You’re gonna do great things I already know:
God’s got his hand on you so don’t live life in fear.
Forgive and forget, but don’t forget why you’re here.
Take your time and pray.
Thank God for each day.
His love will find a way.
These are the words I would say.

Back Pew Ministry

16 03 2014

onward & upward

This photograph is taken from the back pew and shows the back of a woman's head, a woman who is also sitting in the back.  In the foreground is the blurred scene of a service in progress.

She slipped into the back pew when the service had already started.  I’m sure she didn’t want anyone to notice; but I couldn’t help but be drawn to her.  And as the first hymn started, I slid into the pew next to her and quietly offered her a smile. My back pew ministry had begun.

Scriptural Context:   (you can click on the links to read the full passages)

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in…

View original post 269 more words

Say Something…. Ash Wednesday

5 03 2014

This graphic shows a young woman's face.  She has her eyes closed.  On her forehead, a pastor is smearing ashes on her forehead in the shape of a cross.As we enter into the season of Lent, the lyrics of the song “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera hit home:

… And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

And I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

Say something...

Say Something.  In the quiet moments when we do indeed manage to still all the voices, turn off all the distractions, and try to be, simply, in the moment – in those moments that can take such real effort and discipline – we yearn to hear something; we strain to hear something.  But sometimes, the only reward is the sound of your own pulse.  In that disturbing silence, we can experience disorientation in that void. Or we can try to carry that silence forward with us – anticipating profound truths in the days to follow.

Say Something.

Part of the Lenten Journey is the anticipation of what’s to come.  Like the sand-blasting, heat-searing, scouring and refining experience of a 40 day survival in the desert, the period of Lent exposes us to the conditions whereby we, too, can experience faith-testing refinements towards purification.  Ash Wednesday is the perfect start to that.  Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.  A poignant reminder of our mortality, our humanness, our brokenness.

And the perfect back-drop to the whirlwind of emotions and startling truths that are to come in the Easter Season.  The season of true joy.

If we were to assign characteristics to the season, Shrove Tuesday would be the portly, over-indulging, hedonistic, self-consumed egoist.  Ash Wednesday would be the repentant, supplicating, confounded soul who’s feeling lost.  Both would serve as character foils to Jesus the Christ, who emerges on the other side of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday the victorious Redeemer and relationship-cementer for us all.  It’s the Lenten journey that takes us through this myriad of roles.  In each of them, we easily recognize ourselves.  The challenge of the season is to also recognize ourselves in this God-turned-human, Jesus Christ.  If you’re like me, your journey is just starting; and just when you think you’re starting to understand, you feel infinitely smaller and like you know even less than when you started.  It’s the juxtaposition of these rich moments and the starkness of the deep silences that fit somehow with the journey of faith called Lent.

Say Something.

So the silence – the desperation even of that silence – is perhaps that disturbing, unsettling state we need; that we invite, even, on Ash Wednesday:  both to remove the distractions and constant hum of our lives that can cancel out all other authentic connections; but also to make us keenly aware of the need to listen – listen acutely – for what’s to come.

Say Something.  We are here.  And we are trying to listen.

Don’t Try so Hard, by Amy Grant

Don’t try so hard
God gives you grace and you can’t earn it
Don’t think that you’re not worth it
Because you are
He gave you His love and He’s not leaving
Gave you His Son so you’d believe it
You’re lovely even with your scars
Don’t try so hard

Back to You, by MercyMe

When I trip, I fall and slow down to a crawl
And feel like I’ve got nothing left to lose
I may slip, slide, and watch our worlds collide
But I will hit the ground running back to you…

What kind of love would say
I love you anyway
Oh, time and time again…

Essential Truths

23 02 2014

The word LOVE is in the middle of this photograph, surrounded by negative emotion words.  THe caption at the bottom instructs to focus on the solution - Love itself.

Loss.  Loneliness.  Emptiness.  Fear.  Uncertainty.  Self-doubt.  Questioning.  Lack of security.  Being disconnected.  Yearning.  Anger. Deprivation.  Neglect.  Aching soul.  Heavy heart.  Aimlessness.  Apathy.  Hopelessness.  Getting stuck.  Blurred vision.  Trying to figure it all out and one’s place in it.  Purpose?  Fairness?  The relentless Why’s without answers.   The mocking silence.  How to get past and how to move forward…

Raise your hand if any of these describe you or someone you love.  I don’t know about you, but to me it seems we are surrounded by a whole lot of uncertainty right now, for a whole lot of reasons.  Many people – many close friends – are suffering right now.  From the devastating pain of loss, or from the equally debilitating fear of loss, to the slap-in-the-face incredulity of it happening at all, to the anger and heavy heart that inevitably accompany it.  When situations are so rife with emotion – and negative emotion at that – it can be so hard to surface, to wade through, to survive in the tumult.  Wave after wave threatens to knock us over, and change of circumstances, like shifting sands, makes it all the more difficult to stand our ground.

… and yet one equally relentless little word stands firm.  One little word that, if accepted and experienced to its fullest and deepest extent, contains the radical potential to change it all.  One little word that packs a wallop – a gentle, humble, simple word that permeates and spreads its warmth, and can seep into the cracks and fissures of negativity and begin to crack the impermeable brick wall it creates. Incredible, awesome its power.


Love = Action word.  Noun.  Proper Noun.

In fact, Love is often the reason why we feel all the other emotions to begin with.  Because we have Loved, deeply, we especially feel the ache and anger and emptiness when loss –  or threat of loss – occurs.  If we have never experienced Love, we yearn for connection, or get stuck in self-doubt, or worse still, accept apathy so we don’t have to feel at all.  Love is essentially at the heart of all this.

And there is no greater Love than the Love that comes from the Original Source.  Love with a capital ‘L’.  Love that the Creator designed for us,  to call us to return to His loving embrace.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  1Cor 13:4-7

Negative emotions are so real, so powerful.  Loss is debilitating.  All I am saying, is give Love a chance.  Give it a chance.  Dare to accept it, and let it start its healing purpose.

%d bloggers like this: