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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

This month's Word from our Pastor

Pastor Audrey Ward 

Please paste the above link into the navigation bar of your computer to read Pastor Audrey Ward's recent column--'Growing up together' in the Star.



3 April 2014

There’s a lot of talk about the God-word.  People like to proclaim their disbelief.  Then you have uber-atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens and the ever-present Oxford don Richard Dawkins.  I’ve just read his—Dawkins—latest book, An Appetite for Wonder and genuinely appreciate his approach to life.  The child that he was became devastated, severely disappointed in the lack of results in his wish-filled prayers that simply didn’t work. 

A master’s degree in divinity doesn’t make me an expert either.  Often, I confess, that in ‘explaining’ the divine, I can fail every time: there’s no fact-checking mystery.

But a woman poet, Cynthia Rylant, with illustrations by Marla Frazee, has written what I consider a most inspiring book in which she depicts God in both male and female imagery:  The front flap of the book has this to say:

          “It’s hard to be God
          You have to, well,
be GOD.

          But you also have to be God.

         Which means you have quite 
         a perspective on things--
         a perspective that no one else has.

         No one.”

In this little book, titled God Got a Dog [Beach Lane Books], various identities are as vivid and piquant as Frazee’s sketches.  When God goes to beauty school, for example, He went there to learn how to give a good perm but “He got into nails, of course, because he’d always loved hands—hands were some of the best things he’d ever done…”

Every poem is a favorite for me, but here’s one that’s particularly arresting in terms of mystery, speaking of divinity:  God found God.  The accompanying sketch is of a woman on her way home from the market with her shopping cart of groceries:

                   God found God

          It was the weirdest thing
          God got all religious
          on Herself
          She was looking for
          something to do
          so She went into this
         church in Boston.
         One of those churches
         from the 1800s that
         likes to consider
         itself old.
         (This always gives
         God a good laugh.)
         And She was all by Herself
         and it was quiet
         like you wouldn’t believe,
         and up to the sky
         went these beautiful rafters,
         and all around Her
        were these beautiful stained glass windows
        and everybody was praying.
        All the people in the pictures,
         all the statues,
        all the angels in the room,
        were praying.
        God knew better than to look
        at any of the crosses.
         She was still trying to figure
         that all out.
         But She knew that She
         had actually found a Holy Place.
         So She dropped a coin in the
         Building Fund box, before She went away.

I’d like to send this book to Dawkins:  He’d probably just rustle up a system for a scientific experiment like the one he did for flies, to show, well, to um…I’m not sure.

See you in church.  Be sure to come by at 6 pm on Thursday 17th of April for an hour of storytelling with bread and juice of the vine—several kinds, your choice—communing with each other around the table.  Something sacred will happen like it always does when we tell our stories.


as ever, with love,







March 27, 2013


Only that day dawns to which we are awake.

                                          Henry David Thoreau 


Living now, matters.  Every day when we are fortunate enough to rise, we can be a pleasure in our own life as well as in the life of another by a word of kindness, a shared memory, a smile.  That’s what I mean by living, now.

     Sometimes, traumatic pain interrupts this present moment, but we needn’t allow it to derail us entirely.  To find a few seconds for music or beauty; a blossom, or noticing a child at play, can even alleviate the suffering.

     Allow pleasure to return as soon as possible.  Welcome resurrection and perhaps in the welcoming, itself, we will awaken to possibility.  We’ll be able to recognize the last darkness before the dawn....


                                      So while I think of it,
                                      let me paint a thank-you note on my palm
                                      for this God, this laughter of the morning,
                                      lest it go unspoken.

                                      The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
                                      dies young.

                                                                   Anne Sexton
                                                                       Welcome Morning


See you in church
with love,


Pastor Audrey Ward







Don't you just love it when the truth pops out of your own surprised mouth?  I wonder if that's like the blues singer - Keb Mo - promises, that it's "jus God tryin ta git your attention."

Anna Quindlan writes a moment like this into her latest memoir, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake."  After her country house was barely missed by a tornado, her college-aged daughter called to say she had been frantic regarding her mother's safety, worried her mother would die young.  And Anna quickly responded, "Oh honey, I'm too old to die young, now!"
Aha. There it is. And what an interesting marker for our years:  too old to die young.  Which means, of course, still here, alive in the world for whatever will come.

May Sarton, the poet, speaks of "the inexhaustible flame" that kept her mother alive until she died.  Going on, in the poem "August Third"  (Printed in full below) to say, "if you taught me one thing, it was never to fail life."  And I pass this on to all of us as our calling, every day.

See you in church,


         August Third

These days
Lifting myself up
Like a heavy weight,
Old camel getting to her knees,
I think of my mother
And the inexhaustible flame
That kept her alive
Until she died.

She knew all about fatigue
And how one pushes it aside
For staking up the lilies
Early in the morning,
The way one pushes it aside
For a friend in need,
For a hungry cat.

Mother, be with me.
Today on your birthday
I am older than you were
When you died
Thirty-five years ago.
Thinking of you
The old camel gets to her knees,
Stands up,
Moves forward slowly
Into the new day.

If you taught me one thing
It was never to fail life.




Here is prose poem about joy and plenty from Mary Oliver in her most recent book “Swan,” seems like one Virginia might write. It’s the one she expresses through her 90 + years of life all the time.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be.  We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

 ~ St Helena United Methodist Church
St Helena, California, USA