Category Archives: Poetry

Blame

Coffee by Unsplash, Pixabay

For the last several months, I have barely been able to get a Focused Moment written in time for the service at West Hill on Sunday. Sometimes, it’s been written late on Friday or early Saturday. But some days, I’ve penned it Sunday morning; once even on my phone on my way to the church (Scott driving!)! Seriously have to get my mojo back here!

This week, though, I triumphed and sent the Focused Moment to annie, our admin person, on Friday with enough time for her to get it printed and ready to hand out. But guess what? On Sunday, I skipped right over it, completely forgoting to read it during the service!

Which may be a good thing. I’d read the lectionary passages for the fourth Sunday of Lent, 2018, as part of my weekly preparation. Each week, I read the passages for the same week of the year in the next year’s lections so that I can create resources in advance for clergy and leaders hoping to include non-theistic elements in their services.  Reading the passages, I decided to focus on the concept of blame, a pretty straightforward Lenten message.

As I did my preparation, though, I realized I had bitten off way more than I could chew in a single Sunday. So I’m extending the “Blame” program over the next week or two, focusing this week solely on the distinction between dispute and conflict. So I can use the blame Focused Moment for next week.

Which means, for the first time E.V.E.R., you’ve got the Focused Moment a week in advance!!

So who is it?
Me?
Am I to blame?
Some oversight, neglect, turning away of my head?
Or perhaps the turning away
was of my heart?
Was it some slight I do not remember perpetrating,
its details lost in the long-forgotten debris
of distasteful memory,
sealed far away from daily discourse or rumination?

Is it them?
The expectations and demands laid upon me as a child,
sewn into the garment of “Who I would become”
even as I was first becoming?
Did they slough off their own personal demons,
transferring the weight to my fragile frame,
watching the shadows work their way
into my being,
their strengths,
their weaknesses,
their hungers?

Is it us?
Are we complicit in the weaving of today
as we were yesterday?
Can our hands move away from the shuttles
that will weave all the tomorrows yet to come?
Is there any way to step aside,
refuse to play,
leave our sorrows and, yes, too, our joys
out of what will be
so it might emerge
free,
unencumbered by who we are?
Or are we only and ever inextricably bound
to the blame
tomorrow will lay upon us
never freed from what will be?

flattened spectrum

We are well into our Inspired by Hollywood Series at West Hill. This week we looked at the intensely beautiful Moonlight, and the decidedly flattened spectrum of life its protagonist is forced to livePrevious Sundays have brought discussions of Arrival and Manchester by the Sea. One thing that is abundantly clear each and every year we look at movies nominated for Best Picture Oscars, there is never a clear winner. Each picture has strengths and nuances that bring its own unique power to bear in the heart and mind of the viewer and no picture leaves that viewer unchanged.

Clouds Forest Weird Moon Full Moon Night

As in previous years, my Focused Moments become “inspired” during the Academy award leadup. That is, they are inspired by the movie rather than a simply reflection on a theme. Moonlight, both the movie and the phenomenon, inspired this poem. None of us have grown up free of the textures of our childhoods. No child get to adulthood free to live the full spectrum of life into which they were born. Moonlight shared the implacability of circumstance on a young black child/teen/man who lives in the flattened blue hues of moonlight.

Under the circumstance of moonlight,
red disappears first.
Yellow is gone.
And green turns to shades of grey
or ripples into a black no conifer has ever been.
I know it’s green.
I know the birdhouse
swinging from its branch is red.
I know the finches gathered early at the feeder
are yellow,
dulled as they are in winter’s plumes.
As I gaze upon a changed
and blue-lit world,
I hold these truths within me.

So why is it I cannot hold to other truths
that time to time are hidden, too,
by circumstances
that cast them in this same and changing light,
flattening the spectrum
from multihued and wondrous
to a cold and hard insistent blue?
Why can I not see beauty still
in hearts grown cold,
or dreams that withered long ago?
Why am I so quick to see the depth of anger
in this circumstantial light
and not the love that spoke just yesterday
or the invitation that might take me back to wonder?
Why do I insist the moonlight prism,
that robs him and her and her and him
of the miracle of childish wonder,
of youth and hope and “wants-to-be”,
is the truth that stands before me?

We were all wonder once,
riding the chariots of our fathers’ arms by day;
braving the night,
safe ‘twixt the castles of our mothers’ breasts.
We cast the trees as our companions
and bade them witness our grandest schemes.
We yearned for affirmation.
It bent and teased our being toward its singular hue,
the kaleidoscopes that once defined us
bleeding out
‘til all is lit like moonlight,
and its cold, and hard insistent blue.

Don’t forget.
Don’t forget.

©2017 gretta vosper

Post-theistic Resources for Year A Anyone?

Interested in post-theistic resources but still using the Revised Common Lectionary?

I am looking for five to ten colleagues who may wish to work with post-theistic resources over the course of Year A. I began to create these resources at the beginning of Advent in 2014 using the next year’s texts, Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary, as my starting point. My review by the United Church, however, got in the way and I never completed the year. This past Advent, beginning in 2015, I started working on Year A. Again, the realities of my review have severely compromised my output but I do have enough to offer in exchange for some feedback.

The project includes the following post-theistic resources:

  • the lectionary passages for Year A, a few of them re-visioned for contemporary audiences
  • a secular theme which grows out of the lectionary passages for the week
  • alternate quotes related to the theme, a few with quote slides prepared for them
  • alternate readings related to the theme; these include an information section for the reader
  • a Focused Moment written to reflect the theme
  • sermon notes
  • links to external resources
  • song written to traditional hymn tunes – these are fewer than those for Year C

I had intended to write liturgical elements as well despite the fact that we do not use written prayers, versicles, or many of the traditional pieces found in worship services at West Hill. I hope to add these to the resources during the year. They will include words to introduce the readings, a call for the offering, and a short piece intended for use as a benediction or sending of the people out into the world.

For each Sunday I was at West Hill during the year, there are also audio files that you can listen to in order to make better sense out of what the sermon notes. I do not write my sermons but only use the notes that you’ll find here. Because of time constraints, regretably, I have not been able to modify them for clarity after each Sunday service.

Let me know if you’re interested and how you think you’ll use the resources. I will be working on Year B throughout this year and your input as to what you need, what you like and dislike, and information on how you use the resources will be very helpful. My intention is to eventually post the resources online for a small subscription or set fee. Those of you who sign up for this year’s resources will receive them all over the course of the next three years without cost; your feedback is more than adequate compensation and is much appreciated.

Photo: Hermann, pixbay.com

Confirmation Bias

Every Sunday at West Hill, we explore something that might help us work on the relationships we have in our lives with a view to shifting them toward the good, working on them to make sure they are better, stronger, more honest, and more fulfilling. Sometimes we focus on our relationship with ourselves, sometimes on our relationships with others, and sometimes on our relationships with the world around us including Earth, and all the stuff we interact with on a daily basis. We strive toward wholeness, respect, and dignity.

photo by morguefile.com user krystia

photo by morguefile.com user krystia

Today, we’re looking at the great deluder: confirmation bias. If it seems it is getting easier and easier to find confirmation for our perspective, it’s because it is. The world offers it up to us on a platter and we dig, hungry to know we’re right.

This Focused Moment notes the struggle confirmation bias can be in our personal relationships, but it could be read to apply to almost anything.

The light is filtered,
shifting and moving,
searching out your face
through the shimmering leaves.
Now light,
now shadow,
now ripples of change,
breezy nuances travelling over you,
creating pools of the you I recognize
and the one I might not know.

I search for what I recognize,
a fleeting response,
an acknowledgement
that you are who you are …

to me.

I am disinterested
in that other you,
known and celebrated
by your many friends,
the students who adore you,
the you who,
with confidence,
changes whole worlds
inside the lives of others.
Proud of you.
Sure of you.
But that is not the you I know and love.

The light is filtered
as is my image of you,
the you I recognize,
engage, embrace, enshrine
in an ambered understanding
I cherish.
Hard to hold.
Harder still to change.

Here All Belong

It has been months since I wrote new words to a well-loved tune but yesterday morning, three hours before the service started at West Hill United, I felt inspired to do so. It is the first song I’ve been able to write since the review of my effectiveness was initiated by The United Church of Canada last May and it was a great feeling to be able to move past the block that process has been and create something new.

Music at West HillThe song I rewrote, as it turns out, isn’t that old. It became a favourite of United Church congregation’s through its publication in Voices United, a hymn book that transformed the church’s singing in the early 1990s. Prior to that, the Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada, a bright red cloth book,* annoyed congregations in both denominations for over two decades. I wouldn’t doubt that it was the publication of the red Hymn Book that ground the amalgamation conversations between the two denominations – already years old – to a chilly halt. The Hymn Book was the first collaborative undertaking between the two denominations. It brought together the accessible words of contemporary songwriters like the late Fred Kaan, beloved by United Church members but scorned by Anglicans, and the complex tunes of contemporary composers which enthralled Anglicans but were reviled by UCC members. The result horrified everyone in the pews, ironically uniting them in their shared fear that church might end up looking like the ugly paste-up the book appeared to be thereby ensuring amalgamation would never take place.

Here I Am Lord was written by Daniel Schutte in 1981 and garnered an evocative response to God’s call in the last two decades of the twentieth century. While a contemporary piece of music, it was beautifully singable with a powerful chorus that spoke commitment to all who sang it.

As I began writing the piece, I was aiming for something that could welcome people in to the community, a song that would speak about who we are and encourage engagements. Here’s what happened on that quest.

Here All Belong

Truth be told, we’re not alone:
we have built ourselves a home;
built it large, and built it free –
love was our goal.
This, a home for anyone,
creed or custom, barring none.
This, a place where love can grow –
here all belong.

Refrain:
May we find here, what we’re seeking.
May we share the strength to carry on.
May the love here do the healing,
lift our hearts, and make us all as one.

Truth be told, we cannot be
whole without diversity.
many different voices raised
create the song.
Whether brown or black or white,
all together, we are light;
any-gendered, any-loved –
here all belong
Refrain

Truth be told, when gathered here,
we can all our sorrows bear,
held in hearts made strong by love;
we shall not fail.
Aged wisdom, questing youth,
all connected, seeking truth,
altogether, each inspires –
here all belong.
Refrain

© 2016 gretta vosper

*I remember purchasing a red Hymn Book for my mother when it first came out. I was disappointed that it didn’t come bound in leather like her old, well-loved hymnal which she, like so many others, carried to church with her each week.

This devastation was my home

In the last of our Inspired by Hollywood series, we’re looking this week at Spotlight, a riveting film about the unwrapping of the tightly protected scandal involving dozens of Roman Catholic priests in Boston and eventually reaching to involve priests in hundreds of cities across North America. I couldn’t move from the theatre for many minutes after the final credits scrolled, so deeply did I feel the culpability of power, the devastation that unfettered religious power can bring about.

My history knows sexual violence. Like too many women, rape is a memory I, too, endure. But, challenging and horrific as it was at the time, it was not perpetrated by someone I identified with God. It didn’t tear down my whole universe; it was only me I held to blame as victim’s often do. It wasn’t God. Multiplying the impact to the exponential value of eternity is almost more than I can even hold in my head. The understated manner in which the film unfolds, focused on the investigation of the story, casts the fullness of its reality into the fore – no faces to tie it to, no children, no priests, just the ragged truth of power and authority destroying the vulnerable as they have countless, countless times before. It was excruciating.

Here is the Focused Moment written to accompany the Perspective(s) on Spotlight. Beyond devastation, we have one another, frail and fragile though that hold might be. May we find ways to build it into something strong and beautiful. Master bedroom carpet crop

There is a place of healing
where my heart knows its strength,
firm, unending as the earth;
where hope returns to me,
constant as the circling sun;
where respite soothes my burdened shoulders,
unknotting them as softly as a breeze;
and where the scent of burning sorrows,
wafts up and wraps me,
sweet and welcome
as crackling logs on winter nights.

This,
this devastation was my home.
Its walls built for protection,
its roof, to be a shelter from the storm.
The windows clear,
were meant to be thrown open
that passing beauty might be watched beyond
or haloed here,
played out within the filtered beams of light.
The floor was built to last a thousand stories,
walking, kneeling, pacing, dancing;
the doors to frame each new arrival
with warmth and welcome,
a portal built of trust and open wide.
This,
this devastation was my home.

But now my home
stands strong and square
within the vast embrace of knowledge;
and hope resides within the faith I have in each of you –
to hold, to heal,
to witness to the pain we share,
to call each other back to love
and what our hearts know to be true.
Lonely burdens, carried far,
no longer break me;
they lie benign
in memories shared and stories told.
The scent of sorrows burning,
freed and saved me.
And we,
together we will keep this home.

Detail of a carpet from my childhood home.

Detail of a carpet from my childhood home.

The world was big

We are in the middle of our Inspired by Hollywood series. I sat down in the theatre to watch Room, alone for the first few minutes until others joined me, laughing and joking with each other and bantering with me, spilling popcorn from the overflowing bags as they found their comfortable seats and best views. An early evening showing after most theatres had finished the movie’s run, there weren’t many people in the theatre when the feature began (after twenty minutes of trailers: note to self….).

But we were a silent crowd when we left. Profoundly moved by the narrative and captivated by the acting, we quietly edged our way out, eager to readjust to the private worlds in which such terrors don’t normally surface.

Atlanta Hotel looking downI wrote my Focused Moment for the week when I got home. But I didn’t prepare for that Sunday’s Perspective(s)* until the next morning. I don’t read anything about the movies I speak about until after I have seen them so I hadn’t known that the book Room upon which the movie is based, was inspired (if you could call it that) by the true horror story of Elizabeth Fritzl who had been imprisoned by her father for twenty-four years or of the seven children she had borne while locked in the basement of the family home. Nor did I know of a Swedish man who, two weeks before I sat down to watch Room, had turned himself in after kidnapping a woman he believed would not be missed for the same purpose of keeping her imprisoned as his own sex slave when he heard that police were looking for him.

My Perspective(s) ended up being about moral relativism and how important the work of creating communities that wrestle with serious questions about ethics, limits, and morality is as we edge our way distant from the supernatural deities that have guided our decisions in the past. Then, when all we needed to think about was what the god called God wanted, the value that most guided us was obedience. Now, in a world wrestling between religious fundamentalism and post-religious moral relativism, the value most urgent is courage. May we find ways to walk with it and make the choices future generations demand.

Here is the Focused Moment I wrote after watching Room.

It was a big world
and we consumed it with open-eyed innocence.
Laughing at wiggly worms,
playful new puppies,
and water rippling over our fingers,
we built relationships
with everything.
All we explored added up to everything
and everything fit neatly inside
all we explored.
It was reality, perfectly balanced by necessity.

Except that it wasn’t/never is/never will be real.
Once truth
– the truth, a truth, any truth –
seizes us,
delusion implodes like so many shattered mirrors
and we stumble,
disoriented by the ever bigger-ness
of what we find exposed,
what lay beyond the doors we could not see.
Everything no longer squeezes into
all we ever knew.
It, we, are come too big for perfect balances.

It is a big world.
Too big for me.
Too big for you.
Too big for even two of us.
Let’s find the others, and be free.

* Perspective(s) are what most churches call sermons. At West Hill, however, we note that all the speaker is sharing is his or her perspective. When those who hear that perspective, in turn, add their own understanding to it and share it with others – the (s) part of it – it becomes our Perspective(s). In other words, it’s never really complete without all of us.

Brooklyn

Every year at West Hill, we have an Academy Award series, Inspired by Hollywood. It’s an opportunity for us to get into the pop culture world and experience the great themes of life as they are being interpreted for a contemporary audience. In past years we’ve watched every Best Picture winner and five others in the weeks leading up to the Oscars.

This year, contrary to the norm, the list was out a week before the series began. As a result, one of the films I had thought might be nominated, was struck from the list and another switched in. Inside Out has been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and I’m excited about exploring its epic themes with the congregation.

The first film we engaged was Brooklyn, this past Sunday. Based on Colm Tóibín‘s novel and a film so gentle you don’t realize it is grappling with one of the most difficult of human challenges, Brooklyn shines not only because of the beautiful script, and the gorgeous backdrops, but also because of the incredible performances of its cast members.

We are looking at all six films this year through the theme “left behind”. Not the best-selling and rather frightening book series or their movie spin-offs exactly, but wrestling with some of the same issues and exploring not just being left behind, as in The Martian, but what is it that must be left behind when life crashes around us or our worldview is shattered, as in Spotlight

The week’s Focused Moment reflected the challenge Brooklyn makes to us. Enjoy.

The familiar warmth
wraps and seeps into me,
no space between it
and who I am,
no distinction between
the me of yesterday
and the one standing here today.
Family forms me.
Friends expect me.
My world,
filled with its casual knowns and unknowns,
places of safety
and causes for concern,
circles me through all my days,
sheltering me with all that’s familiar,
wrapping me
in its well-worn warmth.

Comfortable,
known,
predictable,
our lives unfold
day by day
and we come to know
what to expect of ourselves
and those around us
what morning’s far horizon
will spin toward us,
its features anticipated,
its familiar colours
breaking across our evening sky.

Until…

Until…

Until the world tips,
spinning on an unfamiliar axis,
and we who walked
from dawn to dusk oblivious
are caught mid-stride
and learn to dance.

Photo credit morguefile user kfjmiller

Photo credit morguefile user kfjmiller

The never-ending moment of commitment

It’s been so long since I posted something here, I almost forgot my password! When I started this blog, my commitment was to keep writing and to do it as regularly as you might possibly be interested. Over the past year, I’ve dipped way below that level of commitment. But I just read a blog article (on learning a new language, for heaven’s sake!) that reminded me of something I SAY often, but almost as often, don’t apply in my own life. Done is better than perfect. So here is this week’s focused moment. Ironically, today’s theme for my Perspective(s) at West Hill is “The Never-ending Moment of Commitment.” Maybe I’ll learn something from it!

If you were to make a commitment today that you knew would last forever, what would it be? Or could you even do it?

Detail from baptismal font, St. Luke's, Auckland

Detail from baptismal font, St. Luke’s, Auckland, NZ

I was a child
when the commitment was made
tethering me
to an ancient worldview
crafted to make sense of the life
into which I had been born.
I was only a baby, in fact.
Too young to know the difference
between this way or that
let alone right and wrong.
Too little to understand
the concept of belief,
or any kind of commitment.
Totally unaware
of the space between
myself and the world around me,
I was pledged
to an idea of love
wrapped up in a long-told tale.

But now I know
that worldviews
are vulnerable to ideas;
they can be torched in an instant
or sent spiralling out of control,
their wreckage an ideological shrapnel
that can wound as well as heal.

Now I know
that making sense of life
is a series of commitments,
to things that will forever change,
their contexts and realities
a fluid emergence
that must coalesce anew in every moment.

Now I know
that there is space between you and I
and that it can be filled
with anything we choose to place there
or not,
becoming the never-ending commitment
or the void of unknowing;
tethering us –
beyond time worn ideologies –
to one another –
or leaving us
alone.

Always a Way Out

Rooster Conch

Rooster Conch

Ever feel like you’re completely boxed into a situation and can’t find your way out? Life can seem like that sometimes. But the reality is that there is always a way out; it’s just that we often don’t like it. It’s messy, or ugly, or somebody, somewhere is going to get hurt and usually it’s someone you care about. Luckily, you’ve got at least three options: don’t do it; do it slowly; or do it with gusto.

As I pondered the many supposed dead ends we eventually manage our way through, my eye caught this magnificent rooster conch from my husband’s collection. As it turns out, the slug that created this jewel of a shell can only survive by dealing with the tight squeeze of its reality. If it doesn’t get out there, it dies. While it might not be literally true for us, it sure makes a good metaphor.

This week’s Focused Moment, prepared for West Hill’s weekly gathering, picks up on the theme of being ready for those tight squeeze times, no matter when they arrive, no matter what state we’re in when they do.

Imagine only one way out
and that way cramped and dimly lit,
the place beyond
a story not yet written,
its ending scraped across
as many dreams as nightmares.

Would you try to stay inside forever,
avoid the unknown,
talk yourself into believing
that here now
and everything that is
will hold you ‘til forever?

Would you draw out the inevitable,
take each moment slowly, slower yet,
suck in your breath
as much to squeeze you through the narrow portal
as in anticipation
of the que sera sera
that lies beyond?

Or would you string the way with twinkling lights,
tape crepe paper bows along the portal
their bright colours melting into everything and over all,
revel in the surfaces worn smooth
through whorls of evolution,
and turn your every effort into wonder
as you press yourself beyond what is …
to your own amazement?

Struggling in the space between good and evil.

wavy yellow lineDescriptors so often pull us in two directions, the tantalizing absolutes on either end of a continuum ever the easiest ones to capture. Whether we are describing something that exists separate and distinct from us or those more nuanced experiences we carry within ourselves and, from time to time, try to explain to others, it seems our minds more easily grasp difference than all the “nearly the sames” we live with, among, within.

On Sunday, I spoke about the creation of good and evil, how it flows from our own language, our own faulty attempts to name what we experience, see, know. In today’s world, the realities of relativism are so acute they carve us apart from one another as we watch nations, communities, families, and individuals decide that what’s good for them is what needs to happen regardless of who else it affects. We let the reality of good and evil be defined, as we must, by so many others who also have skin in the game that it sometimes seems impossible to protect ourselves. It is easy to convince ourselves that everyone out there, devoid of any supreme being keeping score, will be so involved in their own pursuit of well-being that they will stomp on ours.

It is too true that the world outside can be indifferent to our personal needs, that our neighbours might not be the kind of neighbours who will look out for you but rather those who, when you ask them to take care of the place while you’re away, will slip a few pieces of silver up their sleeves thinking you’ll never notice. It’s the kind of world portrayed in the hit series Scandal, a newer, tougher West Wing stripped of its moral fibre, a world of manipulation, power, and isolation.

Still, we try to move toward one another, regardless of the cost. It’s what we have evolved to do. And it is my fervent hope that it will take more generations than we could possibly have left to breed compassion out of us, to allow our lexicon to steer itself toward indifference, to convince us that we are better off alone than together.

May we find ways to explore what lies in the in between. After all, that’s where most of us live – in a place where good and evil aren’t so clear and we haven’t the privilege of taking the moral high ground.

Thick or thin?
Front or back?
Slow or fast?
Beginning or end?
Solid or fluid?
Dark or light?
Perspective circumscribes,
limits,
defines,
and makes its choice.
All we bring to the decision
is the prejudice
of our neural pathways.

Good or bad?
Forgive or forget?
Hurt or heal?
Build or destroy?
Shelter or expose?
Invite or ignore
Perspective circumscribes,
limits,
defines,
would make its choice.
All we bring to the decision
is the prejudice
of our neural pathways,
and our determination
to live with love.

We are not cold

a poem about tomorrow today….

photo by morguefile.com user shannontanski

photo by morguefile.com user shannontanski

This past Sunday, we explored the vantage point from which we can have an effect upon the future.

Really, there is only one vantage point.

It’s now. Not tomorrow.

Not when the future has already arrived.

Now.

With that in mind, the Focused Moment for the week began with the image of a much-beloved statue overlooking Washington, DC.

 

 

Lincoln’s statue,
oversees but a sliver of the world.
Sitting stiffly,
feet straight out,
back stiff as a board,
arms extended, resting just so.
Unblinking,
its cold and marble eyes
remain unmoved.
They make no assessment,
breed no response,
staring at a world
they were not carved to see.

We are not cold.
Our hearts still beat within
and days and days have yet to pass
before our eyes close fast upon this changing world
leaving it to all its morrows.

May we refuse the safe repose
and open wide our hearts
to feel the day as it is felt
by one in need,
another lost in sorrow,
or one grown hard for want of love.
And as we live into that space,
into that ache,
may we see the world
before us,
the world we can see.
The world we can change.

Meditation

I spent the better part of today working on Sunday’s service. After sending all the elements off to our amazing administrator, annie, I turned to the excel sheet, upon which I have listed all my favourite old hymns, looking for one that might be right for my mood.

Brighton with Claudia

Brighton with Claudia

I landed on “Evening“, alternatively known as “Merrial”, a tune written by Joseph Barnby expressly for the hymn “Now the Day is Over“. The words to the hymn were written for the children of the parish of Horbury Bridge by Sabine Baring-Gould when he was curate there. See more about the etymology of the hymn and tune here. (Note: I have no idea how the name “Evening” came to be attached to the tune.)

In my daily meditation time, I often use the brief positivity resonance meditations created by social psychologist Barbara Frederickson to accompany her book, PositivityI enjoy them, can fit their length easily into the first few minutes of my day before I’m even aware of my desire for coffee, and have just agreed with our Elements Committee to insert them as a regular part of Sunday morning at West Hill.

Frederickson’s meditations are built around four facets of ancient loving-kindness meditation, the roots of which are Buddhist: May I feel safe; may I feel happy; may I feel healthy; and may I live with ease. With the tune “Merrial”, or “Evening”, in my heart, these words became Meditation Song.

Meditation Song

In this passing moment,
be, my heart, at rest
that I might consider
love’s undaunted quest.

Might I sense around me
naught to cause me harm;
love, my true foundation,
‘neath me, sure and firm.

Might my days be joy-filled,
and my evenings sweet,
every ending, happy,
every day, complete.

Might I lean more surely
in t’wards what is good,
caring for my body,
as I know I should.

And as each day opens,
bridging all that’s been,
might I stand within it,
peaceful and serene.

Then, as evening’s mantle
billows o’er the land,
might I rest rememb’ring
all love can withstand.

 © 2015 gretta vosper

 *Note: I also wrote an adaptation for group singing that used the first person plural, “In this passing moment, be, our hearts, at rest”, etc.

pentecost – or something like it

photo by morguefile.com user SDRandCo

photo by morguefile.com user SDRandCo

Sometimes, people who are evangelical, express their sadness that we who have left literal beliefs behind or who never had them, do not experience the dramatic movement of what they would call the Holy Spirit, or the presence of the Lord. Especially the way that Spirit or Lord moves in large gatherings of Christians all believing and singing and sharing at the same time. The story of hemera, the fiftieth day after Easter, which is known as Pentecost, speaks of the coming of the spirit in tongues of flame and a driving wind and settling upon the gathered people It has much to do with the roots of the experience.

I never had an experience of the Lord or the Holy Spirit in the dramatic ways that are described. I come from a liberal Christian home; we were cerebral, not emotional. But I know power. I know the feeling of it. And I experience it – sometimes on a huge scale, and sometimes when it comes to me through a single email, its sender far, far away. That power is the power of the human heart* to express commitment, love, engagement, kindness, concern, empathy, humility, wonder. There is no lack of it in this place beyond the emotional space of conservative belief and fundamentalist interpretation. In fact, I think there’s more.

It was the craziest feeling.
Like,
one minute we’re just a bunch of people
pushing and shoving to get through the gate
and the next,
we’re this giant, breathing, moving body of oneness,
singing and holding our phones up,
light shining out,
not just from our phones,
but from our eyes.
If I believed in mass hypnosis,
I would have said it had happened –
right there,
right then.
But I don’t,
and it hadn’t.

It was bigger than that.
It was knowing that there is nothing bigger than us.
Knowing that together,
we are bigger than the wind.
Knowing that without one another
we are too small for anything.
Knowing that the most important thing
we could ever do
was turn to the person beside us
and start a conversation.
It was the biggest feeling I’ve ever had
the greatest commitment I could ever make,
the most extraordinary realization
I’ve ever witnessed.
And it was the most ordinary thing
we could ever, ever do.

So, hello.
Tell me about yourself.

* “human heart” is used metaphorically – let’s be clear; the experiences we are speaking about, no matter what we call it, are much more likely neurological

we the only authors

Royal Botanical Garden sunflower

Royal Botanical Garden sunflower

Too often, as I begin the process of creating for a Sunday service, my mind and heart slip off the disciplined road defined by the theme chosen for that week and into the areas in which I am most comfortable – the consideration of time, of words, of meaning, of our relationships. It seems there simply aren’t enough words or images to exhaust the breadth and depth of these favoured concepts. So I invite you, once again, to allow these simple words,  strung together in this likely not very unique way, to settle upon your hearts that these concepts might, once again, invade your seeing.

The binding of our hearts to one another,
in the moment of the binding,
feels as beautiful
as fields of sunflowers
following the glory of their golden god,
enormous waves pledging themselves
to the hard and rocky coast,
and the twilit earth,
quiet, peaceful,
awaiting the night’s unfolding
of its billion billion stars.
We love to love one another
and we build our lives
upon the tethers
that stretch and pull between us,
their resilience a constant reminder
of the nascent beauty
through which they came into being,
the whole, a limitless web
mapping our way to one another,
challenging us to live
as though bound for better or for worse
and remembering
we are the only authors
of our fates.

before words settled between us

Amanda crop

A quiet moment with my granddaughter, Amanda.

Do you sometimes wonder
what you thought
before you had words
to think it with?
If, perhaps, you were a poet, then,
linking images, one to the other,
beauty, inexpressible, cascading
through the wonder of your forming mind?
Or what it was
what drove you –
well, drove almost all of us –
beyond the exquisiteness
of what we’d had
before words settled between us
and became the lingua franca
of human interaction?

Why must we insist on being separate?
Why do you think?
Is it not because we grew up?
Became educated?
Learned to walk in worlds of words
and so circumscribed our futures?
Or maybe just because
that’s the way it always is
and trying to connect is, well,
just so much work?

In our most intimate moments
we catch a glimpse of what we were;
rare, dangerous,
coated with a film of never-go-back
it awaits us,
and we,
should we ever steal sufficient courage
to touch and know it fully,
must risk all.
Absolutely.
All.

there isn’t a moment goes by

This coming Sunday falls on International Woman’s Day. The week has been filled with stories on the challenging realities women face – the New York Times front page article, “A Thin Line of Defense Against Honor Killing,” on the work of Women for Afghan Women, an organization that rescues girls and women from the horrific and ongoing tragedy of honor killings; the announcement that Tennessee will become the first State (how’s that for prophesying an increasingly troubling future for women?) to criminalize women for their pregnancy outcomes if they consume substances that harm their babies (see this Salon article); the documentary film The Hunting Ground has young women on campuses reeling at the sight of frat boys chanting, “‘No’ means ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ means ‘anal'”; and twelve of the thirteen men suspended from Dalhousie University’s Dentistry School were reinstated a mere three months after posting violent threats against female classmates on Facebook (the thirteenth student refused to acknowledge his unprofessionalism and was not reinstated).

We’re holding a Women Rock service as we have in previous years but this year, we’re actually going to be listening to women rock stars and the messages they have shared and struggled with in their careers. I’m hoping it will be an opportunity for complexity and complicity to be recognized and addressed. So here is my Focused Moment for International Women’s Day. I’m thinking at this point that it might actually become a longer, more dramatic piece and I’ll post that if it does. Hear in it what you will, take from it what you need, hold of it what you can and honour those whose lives bear witness to realities you may never know.

Photo by morguefile.com user Comeilmare.

Photo by morguefile.com user Comeilmare.

There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t get born
into a world of privilege and luxury,
wrapped in cashmere and lace,
rocked in a satin cradle.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t get born
into poverty,
spilled from a starving womb barely adequate to its task.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t hold her offspring
wondering how such beauty could come to be.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t mourn her absent child
taken by a system convinced it could care better than she.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t worry how she’s going to make it through the day.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t give up something for somebody else,
convinced her need can wait,
her hunger go unfed.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t begin the long, hard walk for water,
swinging her two or three year old
along on her hip as she goes.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t hide her children away in the forest
praying their safety for just one night more.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t rise in the night
and gaze down upon her sleeping child,
convinced she’s the luckiest woman in the world.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
who lies rigid in the night,
literally steeling herself against the intrustion,
her body taken because somebody can.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t scream loud and long, but only inside,
her silence her complicity,
her acceptance her guilt.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t rise in the morning
and do what needs to be done,
bruises and all.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t fight for her life after rape,
brutalized by her attacker
and the system that protects him.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t walk the floor of her home,
back and forth, back and forth,
anxious for the lives of her children, her family.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t hold a tiny still body
and weep.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
hides who she loves
to save who she loves.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t risk it all for love.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t pay for the crimes of a man she loved.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t lose a little piece of her heart
as she watches her children grow hard against the world,
raised in dust and poverty,
on dreams that fade with every morn.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
isn’t bustin’ proud of her grown child’s grace,
success, choices, refusals.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
is lured into an infatuation
with skin-deep beauty
sold by industries of lies.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t stand in front of a mirror
and feel the criticisms
of a thousand passing glances.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
that doesn’t feel she’s not enough.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
that wouldn’t give her eye teeth
for a little bit comfortable –
one, pants that fit without lycra,
another, a winter coat that might keep her warm.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t spend a kid’s college tuition
on handbags and high heels.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t smash into a glass ceiling,
never break it
but bleed anyway.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t lie and tell someone
she fell down the stairs.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t hand another woman
the address of a place that’s safe,
where she can go if she needs help.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t scream herself hoarse
at a system that keeps her down, down, down.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t close her eyes
on a life filled with joy and sorrow,
weakness and strength,
leaving only her legacy to rise in the morning.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t take a long, hard look at her life
and begin to think,
to think for herself.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t sort through her thoughts
and begin to put two and two together.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t rub those two plus two thoughts together
and come up with a view of the world
that she’d never even considered before.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t realize she has a choice
and that whether she takes it or not,
she’ll have made her choice.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t get up
and walk out of her life,
out of what has been –
out of the stories she’s told herself,
out of the truths she thought were hers,
out of the lies we’ve lined up for generations.
There isn’t a moment goes by
that some woman somewhere
doesn’t step into a new moment,
a new reality come wrapped in fear,
and know the exhilaration of her own self.
And there isn’t a moment goes by
that some man somewhere
doesn’t see himself reflected
in that woman’s eye
and wonder.

mystery lies between us

concrete heart

Inspired by the movie The Theory of Everything and the contemplation of how language – verbal and non-verbal – shares who we are with one another.

I am so very grateful
for every single moment,
both those mundane –
lost in
obligatory salutations,
endless meetings,
idle chatter  –
and those sacred –
found in
the laughter of cherished friends,
the lake’s reflection of twilight’s single star,
truths reclaimed as our bodies intertwine –
I am grateful for every single moment
when my thoughts are only mine,
when no other can hear
what I think,
how I feel,
the insubstantial things I name as real.
Still,
the words you speak,
that share your thoughts with me
and set mine upon whole new journeys –
oh! how I treasure each of them!
And those you use –
expressways deep into your feelings –
how could I have wrapped my heart
around you without them?

We share this world,
you and I,
and know that mystery lies between us.
Only what passes between us,
shared with beauty, goodness, truth,
can lead us forward
clasp our hands together,
and build our fragmentary worlds
into one.

accompanied eyes

panorama Oshawa beach 900px

Oshawa Beach with friends. Photo creditss: Deb Ellis

 

“Know thyself” didn’t seem
as though it would be that hard.
After all, I am who I am
and surely, if anyone knows who I am,
I know who I am.
But accompanied on this journey,
I came to realize
that I know little of who I am.
Looking within,
all I see
is distorted by the same imperfect lenses
with which I view the world,
the same neurological synapses
filling in the blanks,
jumping to conclusions
based on interpretations
stored long ago,
fooling me into believing
that what I see is what is true.
Accompanied,
I saw more than I thought I needed to,
more than I believed was within
and so, too,
more than I believed was out there
influencing,
forming
who I am.
May we ever see through accompanied eyes
and add to our circumscribed view
the imperfect perceptions of those around us
that, together,
we might walk the path toward truth,
flawed and fragmented
as it may ever be.

Inspired by the movie Birdman, 2015.

you beyond you

The Focused Moment at West Hill United takes responsibility for tuning those gathered into the more inspirational elements of the service, formerly what would have been called the Word in this now doctrinally-free congregation. It has evolved loosely and over time from the collection of the Call to Worship, Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance, and the small prayer often shared before the reading of the Word, the hearing for which all had gathered. Not all are included on any given Sunday as the themes explored vary widely and challenge us to lean in toward any one or more of these modes of speaking in church as it would be explored in a manner more relevant to our contemporary worldview.

This Focused Moment was inspired by and prepared for the service in which we were engaging the concepts and ideas in the Academy Award nominee, Boyhood.

hand

The sum total
of everything you have ever seen,
everything you’ve ever touched,
considered,
understood or misinterpreted,
everything you’ve loved
or lost, or found again,
the stuff you wish had never been,
every word you heard –
remembered or forgotten –
every compromise made,
opportunity ignored,
trust warranted or ground to dust,
every possibility unfurled,
door closed or window opened,
every anxious moment,
every consequence endured,
every everything you’ve ever been,
lies written
on the underside of here and now.

Can you, who reaches out to own it,
break with what has been
and chart your course?
Or is it fore-ordained
by what has been?

Let the moment seize you.
Follow where it leads;
for we can only write the future
on lives embedded in our past,
tied to truths we must outgrow
Let the moment seize you
and trace its way
to wonder,
beyond yesterday,
beyond you.