Friday, December 28, 2012

Contemplating Holy Birth

From the Advent Writing Circle
Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, 12/20/12
Written by Merrill Farnsworth

Contemplating Holy Birth

I sat at the kitchen table one afternoon in late November talking to my
daughter, Evie, who was home from college for Thanksgiving break. We were
in the midst of epic side dish preparations the big feast. Evie has a deep,
poetic, saucy and compassionate nature, so I always enjoy meandering
through long conversations with her (lucky me - all three of my children
are philosophers, writers and musicians). As we sliced, diced, mixed,
mashed and stirred, I mentioned the Advent Circle I'd been invited to
facilitate and we began discussing the familiar story of Mary, Joseph and
the Holy Birth. I mentioned I was searching for new windows into old
stories. As our conversation rambled from virgins to angels and then to
cows in a manger, she said an amazing thing. She said, *What if a person
could give birth to the thing inside them that makes them feel sick or
ashamed? What if the dark things inside us could be pushed out into the
light?* *What if this is holy birth*?

At first it seemed scandalous to link the idea of shame to the story of
Holy Birth, but then it also seems scandalous to even halfway believe a
virgin was mysteriously impregnated with the son of God and that God
conceived and followed through with a plan for His perfect and beloved son
to be nailed to a cross. So I opened my mind, allowing my daughter’s idea
take root in my imagination and got lost in the bubbling up of words and

*What if I give birth to my darkness? *

*Perhaps my shadow, coming into light, will finally see Love’s true and
shining face.*

*What if I give birth to my hate?*

*Maybe my hate would be free to walk the winding labyrinth toward the sweet
Center of forgiveness.*

*What if I give birth to my despair?*

*I envision despair reaching out to take hope’s strong and reassuring hand.*

*What if I give birth to my fear?*

*Then fear could slowly open her eyes and see courage giving her an
encouraging wink.*

* *

I opened my eyes and smiled, looking across the kitchen table at my
daughter who had just gifted me with a new vision of Holy Birth while
deeply involved in her task of crowning the South Carolina Sweet Potato
Casserole with butter, brown sugar and pecans.

Monday, December 24, 2012

not enough angels too many animals

Advent 4C 12/23/12
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
The Rev. Cynthia Hizer

Not enough angels too many animals.

I have started my annual worry about the epiphany pageant.
About getting enough animals and shepherds and angels. We had been chronically short on angel costumes, so last year I ordered several more = like ten more.
Then the sign-ups came in – and no one signed up to be an angel.
Maybe a couple did = but then when they saw all the cool animal costumes they threw off their angel wings and asked to be an animal instead.

What red-blooded child would want to float on clouds all day? 
This is the complexity of the incarnation. Jesus came for us to be fully divine and fully human –
both angel and animal.

We are told that Mary, mother of Jesus was chosen because she was without sin. Immaculate – she was totally clean. Obviously an angel. And even Mary’s mother Anna was without sin. Immaculate.
An angel.

That makes us feel even worse.
Two generations of immaculatness – of sinlessness – angelness.
Juxtaposed against our – animalness.

As if being an animal – an incarnation – is somehow sinful. As if coming into the world in the normal way – the way most of us get conceived and born – is sinful. God created us to have relationships with each other – to fall in love, to enjoy our animalness.

This is far away from the Garden of Eden – with Eve eating the apple and the cursing of the serpent. It was written to set up fear of our animalness and I dare say –
our animal wisdom.

Because that kind of wisdom plants us firmly on the earth in our bodies.
It plants us in the animal body of Mary.
And makes even little children know it is more fun and just more real
to be an animal than an angel in the Epiphany pageant.

So I say,
Thank you Jesus, for Mary.

For bringing us back down to earth.
She may have been sinless, but at least she gives birth in the usual way, not out of the side of Zeus’s head, the way Athena was born.

At least she gives birth after riding on a donkey, not floating on clouds.

Thank you Jesus, for Mary.

At least she gave birth on a stable floor –
in the midst of straw and dung and darkness and all animal things – the parts of our own story that we can’t brush aside or air-brush to look as if our whole life story took place in the company of angels.

Thank you Jesus, for Mary,

for trusting in the incarnation,
for the inherent animal wisdom of our children who knowThat coming from the earth
That being a part of nature
That being incarnational is good. 
And even more than good, it’s whole. It’s the whole package of who we are.

It makes us the complicated people we are – people who live in both worlds,
who wait for the creative spark to be born in us,
- the new life to be born in us,
- the divine to be born in us

Right where we are – right now, on the stable floor.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

As Advent Advances Dec 23 Poetry Chaz

Color Me Being* (Like a bird watching as shadows play)

call to be
to free the power of the color to give life to canvas,
and to retreat
into the silence
moving ahead brushing by the branches, catching my breath
in the cold wordless breath of winter sky
listening to the songs
singing lives in spring, summer, and fall,
bringing in the sheaves
of gold and brown and emerald shadows.
always asking for more
life to give,
calling out to live . . . while the whole world
like a mountain
in the deep lake
is waiting for us.

waiting for us to be!

And this is a day of listening to what hurts and blesses,
the banging of the sound of frustration, the slamming of some doors,
quiet opening of others, and in the midst of poems and paintings and songs,
a note gently spoken in what is left unsaid
in prayer that hangs in the evening like a bright ripe orange persimmon on a high branch
of a leafless
winter day.

And the sun sets, sun rises, on a new day,
even if we do not see it,
God gives out in joy
what lasts.

·      for Julie, Frank, and Dan- family near and far away

c. hill December 3, 2012 in Hawaii and Tennessee, when one tries being into awareness of the bigger act.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22 Advent Meditation

As Advent Advances, and the Immaculate Mary as Earth
a series of daily contemplations on birth through the eyes of earth

It is only when we are aware of the earth and of the earth as poetry that we truly live. Ages and people which sever the earth from the poetic spirit, or do not care, or stop their ears with knowledge as with dust, find their veins grown hollow and their hearts an emptiness echoing to questioning. 
For the earth is ever more than the earth, more than the upper and the lower field, the tree and the hill....It is this earth which is the true inheritance of man, his link with his  human past, the source of his religion, ritual and song, the kingdom without whose splendor he lapses from his mysterious estate.

-- Henry Beston, Herbs and the Earth

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21 Advent Meditation Winter Solstice

Advent Mediation on the Day of Solstice Return

"All living creatures and plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing could grow -- the earth would be without life. Yet the sun must have the help of the earth. If the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great that they would die, but there are clouds that bring rain, and the action of the sun and earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life.

The roots of the plants go down and the deeper they go the more moisture they find. This is according to the laws of nature and is one of the evidences of the wisdom of Wakan'tanka. Plants are sent by Wakan'tanka and come from the ground at his command, the part to be affected by the sun and rain appearing above the ground and the roots pressing downward to find the moisture which is supplied for them. Animals and plants are taught by Wakan'tanka what they are to do."

--Okute (in Densmore, Teton Sioux Music)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20 Advent Meditation

As Advent Advances, and the Immaculate Mary as Earth
a series of daily contemplations on birth through the eyes of earth

December 20, 2012

...far are we from the forests of our rest
Where the wolf nature from maternal breast
Fed us with strong brown milk
Yet still our souls keep memories of that time
In Sylvan wildernesses, our soul's prime
Of wisdom, forests that were gods' abode.

- Edith Sitwell, Elegy on Dead Fashion

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

As Advent Advances, and the Immaculate Mary as Earth
a series of daily contemplations on birth through the eyes of earth

"A newly developing plant embryo, unlike a human embryo, has no sterile womb in which to grow and so, in a sense, makes its own. As soon as germination begins, the new plant starts releasing compounds though its tiny root system to essentially make a sterile zone around the emerging rootlet. This action protects the seed from harmful organisms and makes space in the soil for its growth."   from The Lost Language of Plants  by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Gourd People in Flight

Advent 2B Dec 9, 2012
The Rev Cynthia Hizer
The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany

On the Wednesday nights during Advent, I hold a class here at Epiphany using one of our Nativities  scenes from our large collection -  along with Lectio Divina – a meditation in four movements - and we look at the scene from four different directions.

In each movement, we heard the birth narratives from Scripture, formed some prayers out of it, did a little meditating. After the first reading, we were so curious about the nativity scene we sat down on the floor right in front of it – to figure out what materials the artist was using, if there was any social or political message embedded in the materials and even more - who was in the scene, and who wasn’t – who was included in this narrative, who was not included.

This particular nativity scene didn’t have a star hanging above the stable – it didn’t even  have a stable; it had no shelter at all, no sanctuary. It didn’t have an angel, or any animals, no kings.
It didn’t seem to come with much of a story.

Yet it came with a big story, an ancestry, a lineage.
It told us the story of a little family trudging through the sand, eyes down, focused on the child, the mother made of a nice plump gourd, her body rising out of it as if out of the lush earth. if you lift it up you can hear the seeds shake - it still has the seeds in it! It is a "real" gourd.

The father, a taller, slimmer gourd – these gourd people and their little baby who was being carried in a tiny gourd, cut in half to make a basket. The couple was leaning forward slightly, road warriors, intent on their journey, maybe fleeing from Harod. We heard about Harod today.

In our Scripture readings today, all the pieces and players are being set in place for the story of an upcoming birth. Prophets and heros throughout history have always had interesting births – sometimes checkered but always somehow important. Jacob and Joseph and Samuel and David – we know their parents, we know their birth stories, we know their lineage.The birth narrative of Moses takes up the first chapter of Exodus and half of the second. And it starts with a very full description of his lineage.

Jesus’ birth is being set up for us now. His lineage.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate of Judea arrives, along with Herod, and his brother Philip, the priests Anna and Caiaphas. And John makes his entrance again, through the lineage of his father, Zechariah, this time. This is the story that Mary and Joseph – the gourd people -- enter – people of a conquered nation, an oppressive emperor, a people disinherited, a people without a stable or a shelter or a sanctuary. This is their lineage.

Mary, in this little scene, is making space in the world for her son, who will speak out for those without a stable, a shelter, without sanctuary – the hungry and homeless, the disinterited. Mary in our little nativity scene is trudging through the sand, the baby at her side – she a subversive and now this baby too –  he will become a subversive, he who will love people with “indiscriminate inclusivitity. " He who will become for them a stable, a shelter, a sanctuary.

Yet, some weeks ago, a few Episcopal churches left the Episcopal fold, almost an entire diocese left. They said their reason for their departure was that they disagreed with the Episcopal church’s “new stance” on what they called the “false gospel of indiscrimate inclusivity.”

Meaning, that we will let anyone in.
Of course, its too late.

We have already been indiscriminately inclusive. We have been for a long time.

It’s the gourd-people fault!
We have already let in the gourd people.
And they – fleeing mother, subversive son - created a church out of it – a stable, a shelter, a sanctuary to be indiscriminately inclusive.

To be indiscrimately inclusive -- is our lineage.

It is why we feed people and uphold the dignity of all people, why we build houses for people – shelters and sanctuary. It is why we make church, why we come here, why we show up here. Because church is a sheltering presence for our journey. 
We are gourd people too.

We have some folks going to the Cathedral this afternoon to be confirmed in the Episcopal church. They are choosing to be sheltered in a church that has been called “indiscrimately inclusive,” and maybe they are choosing to join for that very reason, for this lineage. 

I think of Mary and Joseph running with the baby – with no shelter – no covering, no sanctuary, no container to hold them in their journey. Because of them we have a shelter, thankfully, here, this room, this church  –  a shelter for our journey, no matter who we are or where we are headed, 
for all of us are gourd people
 in flight.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter Light - Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage

Winter Light

The light this morning, grey-green
filtered through pine and fog,
slants across the pasture
then my room
and stops - in resting pose,
to wait out winter.

Cynthia Hizer, Dec 4, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Meditation Readings

During meals we are listening to the CD version of Clarissa Pinkola Estes' wonderful book Untie the Strong Woman.
I am now pulling out charcoal pieces that look like the Black Madonna and putting them in my garden!

Readings include: Give Us this Day, a Catholic Daily Office Reader (especially St. Barlaam and Josephat) and today St. Andrew -

Ponder this - this morning's reading:
In the Spirit of the Earth by  Calvin Luther Martin.

" It is not so much that something is conjured up in speech and art or artifice as it is that connections .... are made between things, or better yet, between beings.
There is a handshake.
Mythology maintains that all of creation existed first as thought, which was then uttered as speech, by which powers the primal beings took shape... Hunters think of humankind as the keepers of these formulaic stories, the narrators and symbolizers of the blueprint of creation. They believe themselves responsible for repeating these tales in order to keep them alive and further, to regenerate the system. Mankind, in fine, has the mind uniquely capable of imaging the vast yet interconnected network of creation and rendering it in language and material structure. In this sense, hunters view themselves as the historian-regenerators and artist-regenerators.
This, for them, is the great calling of our kind."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monks in retreat this week

Even in retreat, the animals need to be fed, herbs need to be harvested, soap cut, and we still need fire wood upstairs in the barn. Chaz is bringing up a load on a frosty morning. It is a challenge to be completely silent at home - not away at a retreat center or monastery but in our very own hermitage. it takes some new skills to negotiate comfortable terrain in total silence. Third day now, of 3 - 4 hours of sitting a day, deepening our interior silence.
This is our schedule: 6:30 - 7:30 a.m., 11 - 11:30 a.m., 5 -6 p.m., 8 - 9 p.m. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Preparation begins for 12-12-12 through Winter Solstice

The Procession of the Equinox
It is a glorious fall day at Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage, with red and gold leaves whispering  like rain as they dance their annual pilgrimage to the feet of the very trees from which they sprung.  Now they are a magnificent multicolored carpet  spread out before us as an invitation to contemplate the beauty of this Earth, this Life, this very time in our history which has captured our imaginations and given birth to every possible scenario. Whatever your thoughts about 2012, it is evident that a psychic event is emerging in the Collective Mind, what Teilhard De Chardin called the Noosphere. What would we have it be? Doom and Gloom? Or the coming of the Cosmic Christ (Christ Consciousness)?  Our greatest prophets and visionaries, both ancient and modern, tell us we have a choice in this. Repent, turn back, purification and preparation, the 5 wise virgins (matt 25), new wine in new skins…  
Here at Hazelbrand, we will be joining thousands of meditators around the world in a prayer for peace and unity. Beginning on 12-12-12, we will be preparing for our gathering on 12-21-12, the last Winter Solstice of a 26,000 year cycle of the Procession of the Equinox through the 12 constellations of our Milky Way Galaxy, and ending with the alignment of the Earth with the Galactic Center. It is the beginning of the Third Millenium and a New Humanity.
We will be spending the day in meditation and sacred work, making incense and prayer flags. We will raise our prayer flags upon hand hewn cedar poles and set them into place with native white quartz rocks. Just above our humble pond and the central fire circle, they will wave to the Noosphere in greeting and profound anticipation of the coming of the Bridegroom. We are ready with lamps and extra oil. The geese are coming in already to join with us. The donkeys -- Moose and San Juan, are frisky and nervous. They are new here, less than a year, but Lance, our horse, is a veteran. They will all participate with us. The trees, the Alcovy River, the birds, the Earth herself, will be connected in the Nooshere in the most powerfully focused moment in the history of this planet.   
If you are a student of a spiritual path…the Four Agreements, The Celestine Insights, the Seth Books, mystical Christianity, Buddhism, metaphysics… all traditions… and you are drawn to inquire, please feel welcome to contact us on our blog at Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage.
-          Namaste,  Margaret

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vigil of All Soul’s Choral Evensong


Vigil of All Soul’s Choral Evensong: 
On the Other Side of Language
Nov 4 2012 E. Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, Ga
The Rev. Cynthia Hizer

The First Lesson  Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Some years ago the old Indian Jusuka was dying. His family and friends came close to say good bye. Friends who had been his helpers and teachers and protectors. Friends like wind and rain, and fox.
Wind had come to Jusuka when he was a nine-year old boy, and had taught him the wisdom of weather. Fox too, had found the young boy freezing in the woods, and took him back to the fox den until he warmed up and then guided him back home.
It might seem strange to be able to communicate with such noble beings who we love but who don’t speak our language.
Remembrance, is a kind of language, like feeling; it is primal language.
In the same way, the circle of life that we honor tonight is not unbroken by death. Jusuka, and now we, are able to communicate on the other side of language.

So tonight, we set out pictures and light candles and sing songs and invoke the mystical journey of our lives.
On this night we pause from our grief over the natural rhythm of things, we pause to remember, to unbind our minds
This All Soul’s remembrance,  – Sanhain it is called in the Celtic language, or Halloween.
This holiday is found in so many places that it cannot be ignored, it cannot be reasoned away. We can dress up in costumes and go to parties, we can make light of it with goblins and witches, but beneath that veneer our true work, waits.
In this metanoia, this remembering, we return to a scene of life with our beloved, and stop there, and relive it.
Enter into it and allow time to stop. The moment becomes eternal. We start with our grief, and the silent space there where we stop holds the seeds of our healing.
I had one of these moments this weekend, remembering my grandmother, Anna, who gardened barefoot, and planted peanuts in northern Indiana. I didn’t really appreciate this until I moved to the South.
I remember her rough garden hands, her old Indian hands, and her focus on the soil, and her focus on me. And me covered with mud, like her. Mud to mud, earth to earth, dust to dust, we were. This mud we shared, was a communication, a language on the other side of language. And I knew that she lived.
 Our reading from John tells us this clarity is for those who see and hear and believe – and they will pass from death to life. Right now, the veil between this world and the next is thin, so we have a particular clarity.  It is a veil removed, a gossamer sheet of silk or maybe a rough piece of linen that that covered all the nations all the worlds all the peoples and tonight,
it opens for us.
and yet, while the veil the sheet the cloth that is lifted, covers all the people all the nations, it is on this mountain that the lord stands with us in this moment. This mountain, this ICU unit this hospice room where death seemed so real. It is on our very own mountain that God brings this clarity of life.
Tonight, our candle lighting and music help open the portal, lift the veil to hear this voice and see  things larger than hearing and seeing -
What do we find in this opening tonight?
We find our Beloveds – doing fine.
Eating a feast and drinking well-aged wine and rich food filled with marrow. We see them not in sadness, or loneliness or coldness of winter, but luxuriating in the warmth and glow of the resurrected light  - with that warmth spreading and enveloping them in the clarity of this night.

And on this mountain we see our own tears being wiped away by this Lord who has spoken across time and space, in a different kind of language.

We see this Light enveloping us also. As we enjoy the rich fare and remember the mud the love the connection. In this remembering, the shroud, the veil, the sheet that was cast over all the peoples, over all the nations, is destroyed.
It is destroyed by the power to remember.[i]
Because our love is stronger than death.
On the other side of language, like Jusuka speaking to fox and wind speaking to him, anyone who remembers will swallow up death forever.


[i] Inspiration derived from the creative work of Elizabeth Cunningham in her song “Resurrection” in her rendering Passion of Mary Magdalen;

Thursday, November 1, 2012

first fire

We are ready for winter - good fire and plenty of tea and cups - and M just brought up the first of the frankincense soap!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm
Song of Songs 8:6

As we honor the triduum of All Hollow's Eve, All Saints and All Souls. this song from Elizabeth Cunningham, one of my favorite authors and songwriters (you can buy the music below):

13. Resurrection Song
from The Passion of Mary Magdalen

Set me like a seal on your heart,
like a seal on your arm.
For love is strong as death,
passion as relentless as Sheol.
The flash of love is a flash of fire
a flame of Yahweh himself.
Love no flood can quench
no torrents drown.

For the river that flows from my heart is a flame
that will carry me over the seas
and I will unbind you from the tree
from the tamarisk tree and the oak
yes I will unbind you from the tree
the bare tree and the leafless one.

For love is as strong as death
passion relentless as Sheol.

No flood can quench my love
For I am the queen of all rivers
who makes the waters rise and recede
and I will seek you among the reeds
I will find you forever.

For mine is the power to remember
and I will re-member you.

I will kiss you with the kisses of my mouth
I will fill you with the breath of life.

Set me as a seal on your heart
like a seal on your arm
For love is as strong as death
passion as relentless as Sheol.
The flash of love is the flash of your fire
and you shall rise with the sun.

From Elizabeth Cunningham:
CD Baby Resurrection Song from The Passion of Mary Magdalen

Friday, October 19, 2012

Traveling toward Sanhein

we start the first of the Sanhein fires tonight at Hazelbrand with our guest, Barbara from the Sanctuary of 7Seven Good Days.

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes  you
into a world you were never in.

new strangers on other paths await.
new places that have never seen  you
will startle a little at your entry.
old places that new you well
will pretend nothing
changed since your last visit.

when you travel, you find yourself
alone in a different way,
more attentive now
to the self you bring along,
your more subtle eye watching
you abroad; and how what meets you
touches that part of the heart
that lies low at home....

poem by John O'Donohue

Monday, September 3, 2012

in from a lovely garden day, harvested Tulsi, Holy Basil, and sipping hot tea. i should feel radiant, balanced, virtue and joy soon. 

Tulsi, or "the incomparable one", is thought to embody a powerful purifying radiance that refines body, mind and spirit. It brilliantly boosts immunity, generates wellness and can be used as a preventative to maintain a resilient body. Used as an herbal tea it is an adaptogen, a master balancer of physical systems, improving resistance to daily stress. In Ayurvedic terms, holy basil is considered a sattvic plant which (increases prana), maintains harmonious balance within the body and thereby produces virtue and joy in humans. 

taken from
Labor Day 2012
In a cloud of fog hovering over Hazelbrand, this morning we are harvesting elephant garlic, mint, daikon radishes, collards, pears and our first-ever Brussels sprouts. Planted and nourished in the way Masanobu Fukuoka's "do-nothing farming."

I dedicate this Labor Day harvest to my mentor, Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution.
   "I was aiming at a pleasant, natural way of farming which results in making the work easier instead of harder...  ....To be here, caring for a small field, in full possession of the freedom and plentitude of each day, every day - this must have been the original way of agriculture."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Homily: Community Practicing Peace

Proper 16B aug 30 2012                                                                          1
The Rev Cynthia Hizer
Episcopal Church of the  Epiphany, Atlanta, GA

Kings 8:1,6,10-11, 22-30, 41-43
Ps 84
Ephesians 610-20
John 6:56-69
In the name of the One Holy and Living God.

What if we came into church each Sunday like this:
First, we take off our shoes at the door and place them on a rack.

Then we walk in the door and bow to the sanctuary candle, or the altar, or both.
Then we walk to our pew, turn around and bow to the pew. Then we stand and wait till everyone else gets in the room,

then we turn toward the center aisle and each side of the church bows to the other side. we bow to each other.
And then we sit down.

This is what happens in a Buddhist meditation hall. They take off shoes, come in the door, bow to the Buddha,
their teacher who teaches them how to bring peace, to end suffering in the world.

Then they bow to their meditation cushion, the place where they hear the teachings, the place of their journey, and then they bow to the community, the place where they practice the teachings of their beloved teacher.

So we can do this too. Bowing means reverencing, or revering, or honoring.
We already bow to our great and beloved teacher, Jesus, who teaches us how to end suffering, how to live in compassion and peace and hope.
We already bow to the cross and the gospel book as they process into the church.  Then we could also bow to our pew, the place where we will listen and learn and pray,
and then we could bow to each other – our fellow pilgrims with whom we will practice the teachings we have just heard.
We already pass the peace of Christ – what if when we do that, we remember we are also practicing peace with each other.

The importance of this place –  this community, this altar, this sanctuary light, this pew, this room, the importance of this dwelling place –
is infused throughout our readings today.

King Solomon stands before the altar of the Lord and spreads out his hands to the dwelling place.
Our psalmist longs for the courts of the Lord, as a place of home, nest for the sparrow, a place of springs of water. The courts of the Lord –  all of this -  is a landing pad for pilgrims on a spiritual journey.

That is why we are here isn’t it?
For a spiritual journey? To learn how to pray, to learn who to pray to. To learn how to be a good person, for our children to grow up to be good people, to have a moral compass, to respect the dignity of all people, which we say in our Baptismal Covenant,

to get peace in our lives and peace in the world, to end the suffering and violence and cruelty. To find unity and meaning with all that is.

We come here to learn something different than what we learn outside of here. To learn the skillful means to practice peace when we do leave here, this place of springs of water, this nest for the sparrow, these courts of the Lord.

Paul is writing a letter to the Ephesians – a Gentile mission church he established on his way back to Jerusalem after a long mission trip. After Pentecost the new Christian church spread rapidly throughout Gentile territory, mostly thanks to Paul. He stayed in Ephesus for three years, and later wrote this letter to them, or one of his followers might have written it.

It is a letter of encouragement.

How to act, how to live in the family, in marriage, and in worship. It is a letter of totality – surrounding, immersing us in what he calls the whole armor of Christ.
What we might call attuning ourselves to the teacher, the teachings, the community - the courts of the Lord.
So to be surrounded, immersed, attuned, we bow and reverence the Christ, the candle, the altar.
We bow to our journey, our pew, the place of hearing the teachings that matter so much to the world. We bow to each other for support, for remembrance, and we make ourselves ready to proclaim, as Paul says in his letter, to proclaim the gospel of peace.

What if we loved this work, this practice, these skillful means, so much, that we were compelled to take off our shoes at the door? to be in a state of vulnerability rather than a state of readiness to run? To be vulnerable, to put on this armor that Paul speaks of: belt, breastplate, sword, shield, helmet – and radically bow to the practice of peace.

It is so radical, it doesn’t seem natural. It seems man is wired to react, retaliate, defend. Yes, in the ancient part of our brain, the reptilian brain it is called, where duality and separateness reign.
But Jesus operated out of the front of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, I think that is what the scientists call it. It is the place of higher thinking, complex thinking, the place of unity and compassion and love.
It is so radical we need a place to practice before we go out of this place and proclaim the gospel of peace.

So this letter today is a letter of encouragement to you.

A letter of how we make ourselves ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
By being vulnerable.
By bowing to each other – those who will help us in this difficult journey. And bowing to the teacher, to the altar, to the sacrament of bread and wine that are life, and hope that we might be able to make the whole world
a place of springs of water,
a nest for the sparrow,
the inner sanctuary
and the courts of the Lord.    Amen

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August 29

Pears are falling off the tree, time to can and store for winter! Comfrey ready to dig, strawberries to weed, collards, carrots, peas and rye grass to plant (and Johnson Grass to dig out). Painting meditation room, we are calling it our Beauty Room because it is so beautiful. Come sit with us! Come gather pears and can and store for winter! Come plant! Come sit by a morning fire in the late summer garden and enjoy the low bank of fog that covers the farm in early morning. The Hermitage is glorious now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

for deposits,
the thrown away,
refuse gathered in pots and buckets and pastures of manure shaped into a pod
opening wide
for mature audiences only,
this fermenting organic mess
of soiled fruit,vegetable parts, and naked waste
roots into our earth
and from out of its soaking stench
and starchy entrails, egg shell fragments and intwined wormy inner weaving
life smokes and pleasantly
rises green and soon flowers in the thicket.

c. hill from the ground zero of forest hermitage recreation. 2012. 08.09 Thursday night

Friday, August 3, 2012

Introduction to Buddhist Meditation

One of our favorite teachers, Shirley Banks, will be holding a study and practice course at her home in Decatur on the Five Precepts (Non-harm, Right Speech, Not Taking, Ethical Sexual Expression, and Keeping the Mind Clear). Here are the specifics. 

Meditation is a key skill for spiritual, psychological, physical health.  In this short course, we will explore a few meditative techniques as taught in Western Theravada Buddhist meditation centers.  Classes include background information, instruction, practice, and reflection.  We will sample meditative forms of sitting, lovingkindness, mindfulness, walking, standing, and lying down.  To maximize benefit from the class, participants are asked to read a book before the first class meeting, read chapters from a second book before the second and third class meetings, practice between classes, and attend all three sessions.

                                 The link to Shirley's blog is - where you can sign up.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Blues
still open my eyes slowly
forest monastery
shadows lift high lighted wings
Forest Hermitage (natural psalter)*

though long grown a haiku blisters up,
it's a sudden thing,
like a fresh surprising rain drop in clear air against forehead
looking up at a perfect hit;
white like blue sky coming down from green heaven, like pieces of paper glide
gently crossing space folded

no rock unturned, no tree left stands alone.

wings skidding
landing in the dark, side by side
stirring yellow sunburst dust
fall felt in the red like blood on rosary beads.

we are monastery
we are forest
we are prayer
we are wings brightly
filling darkness with songs of light.

so as not to be forgetful of how the sacred heart bleeds, and bleeds, and bleeds,
the one for the many,
the many for the one,
we make our beds without a sound and then we stay awake watchful, mindful,
we are monastery
we are forest
we are prayer.

-chaz hill 2012. 30 july 
*You make me sing like a natural psalter.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Forest Tradition Hermitage at Hazelbrand

Late summer at Hazelbrand - back from travels to Upaya Zen Center, Navajoland, Puerto Rico, Haiti. Now simmering in mist in the southern forests of the Piedmont. Late morning white light- the Dawn Holy One - is  growing into mid-day gold. The trees in the forests surrounding us sending a still-cooling breeze toward the barn.