|Stories Waiting to be Heard|
|05/26/2021 Kathleen MacInnis Kichline|
|It was just three Sundays after our return to "live" church that a parishioner came up to me who regularly reads my newsletters. She had been widowed about 2 years ago and wanted to tell me of an experience she'd just had. She was out walking when a neighbor greeted her and they spoke of Spring blooming all around. He said, "you have to see the dogwood tree we have out back!" He motioned her to come and as she passed him, he gently laid his hand on her back to escort her around the house. She said it sent a surge of energy and warmth through her whole body to her toes, fingertips, and top of her head. She fought back the tears as she realized that this was the first time in 13 months of Covid isolation that she'd experienced human touch. As she told me the story, tears once again formed above the mask she wore. |
I felt the tug of sympathy in my own heart. I'd been so busy with my own isolation, I did not fully realize how much harder this had been for her and others who lived alone. For me, those 13 months were shared with my husband, so I'd at least experienced the touch which she missed. Not only had I failed to recognize the cost of her isolation, I had failed to appreciate what I had. There were times when I'd begrudged all the togetherness we'd shared this year--times, even, when I'd been envious of those who did not have to "put up with" enforced companionship. Remorse flooded me. I wasn't sure to whom I needed to apologize--to her, to my hubby, to all my single friends, or, maybe, to God. I only knew I'd gone off the rails a bit and needed a dramatic attitude adjustment.
As I sat in the pew later, looking around, I pondered all the stories behind all the people seated around me. No doubt, we are still internalizing the experience of this Covid year. While it is something we have experienced together, I suspect each person's takeaway will be unique. I suspect the insights will continue to reveal themselves and that they will frequently come in unexpected ways, through remembered vignettes, in moments that capture the meaning for us.
These remembrances take on life, meaning, and permanence when they are shared and received. There are stories all around us waiting to be told, needing to be heard. In our haste to return to "normal," let us not forget to ponder what has happened and to listen to one another. Our way ahead may depend on the wisdom we gather from what has been. My great hope is not that we go back to things as they were, but that we are changed by what we have experienced--changed for good.
This past Sunday was Pentecost. Did you notice the opening line, "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place"? As a child I wondered why they were all together to celebrate Pentecost when it hadn't even happened yet. I'm not sure adults know the answer to that today.
Jesus followers, as good Jews, were together for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost or Shavout. Fifty days after the Passover, Jews celebrate this holyday that commemorates the giving of the TORAH to Moses at Sinai. It is one of the three major pilgrimage festivals that require male Jews to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the holy temple.
This simple reference in Acts, reminds us of the many ways in which our Christian faith is tied to its Jewish origins. Our own faith is vastly enriched by learning more about these connections. To that end, may I introduce you to the ministry of Teresa Pirola? Teresa is an incredibly credentialed guide and teacher in Jewish Christian studies. She writes from Australia and I have included a sample to the right for you to experience. I recommend you click "More" to read the full article and include the music link she has provided. You may also want to check out her website.
A Beautiful Blessing
Sitting in church, Kathy gives the homilist the full impact of her gaze. Her look is direct, her eyes alert, her smile warm; at the very least, she presents a thoughtful, responsive facial expression.
You might think Kathy is a friend of the homilist, or is enthralled by what she is hearing. In fact, she is warm and responsive towards every homilist and speaker, of whatever age, gender, spirituality, culture, and regardless of talent. Being experienced in public speaking herself, she understands how difficult it is to stand before a group, the courage it takes to present a point of view, the energy it takes to prepare and deliver a talk. So she uses her facial expression to communicate support, encouragement, solidarity, compassion. She ‘lifts up her face’ as an everyday gift of love.
Who else do we know who ‘lifts up their face’? How about God! At least that’s how Scripture describes the divine love. Recall how the Psalms describe God’s face as ‘turning’ and ‘shining.’ Recall how Moses' face shown after encountering the Lord's glory with unprecedented directness. Then there is that beautiful passage in the Book of Numbers known as ‘Aaron’s Blessing’ - or the 'Aaronic Benediction', deeply embedded in Jewish spiritual life:
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
May the Lord shine his face upon you and favour you!
May the Lord lift up his face toward you and grant you shalom!
Number 6:24-26 (see translation by Everett Fox)
Click here to enjoy a musical rendition of these verses
, in English and in Hebrew.
Lovely luminous imagery fills this blessing, along with poetic rhythm and a sense of comfort. The Lord draws near, with face lifted towards us in a gaze of pleasure and affection. Indeed, the text could read: ‘May the Lord smile on you.’
Note the pairs of divine actions: bless and keep, shine and favour, lift up and grant peace? Why might these actions be paired as they are? Jewish storytelling traditions (midrash) suggest that one action is consequential to the other. Thus, if you receive a blessing (gift), then it needs to be kept (protected) or it may be lost or stolen from us.
Then again, the three verses are sometimes interpreted as having an ascending order: a blessing of material goods (food, shelter), followed by a blessing of spiritual qualities, and finally the promise of shalom as the combination of the first two, i.e., peace in its fullest sense. The midrash highlights this climax through a series of statements about the greatness of peace and how fitting it is as the ‘seal’ to the blessings: e.g.:
Assisi Follow-up: More Good News
is the online journal born of the Assisi Colloquy that could not convene due to Covid-19. The website for that is now up and running and can be accessed here: MAGDALA
. There is much more still to be added--including the first journal edition in November. That edition on the Holy Spirit will include my article on Teresa of Avila and Her Poetry. I'll let you know once that appears. Meanwhile, MAGDALA has provided a link to my website--nice. The journal comes out of Italy and will be offered in three languages: English, Italian and French. Guess we've now gone international!
A more apt name might be "spiritual companioning.” I often think of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus when doing Spiritual Direction. On life's road, Christ draws alongside, unseen but ever present, though we are often only partially aware. Spiritual Direction is intentional attentiveness to that Presence in the company of an other who walks that same journey. To read more about this gentle disciple, go to the Spiritual Direction
page on this website.
Spiritual Direction with Kathleen is also available via phone/Skype or in person at either of two locations: Lynnwood, WA (occasionally) and Bella Vista, AR (regularly). For more information on Spiritual Direction please contact Kathleen!
Sisters in Scripture offers a variety of studies available for purchase from this site.
Each study seeks to prayerfully engage the scriptures to arrive at meaning for today and in our everyday lives. To do so, we enter the story through the lens of various biblical characters using both biblical scholarship and our own creative imagination.
Each chapter includes Background, Prayer, Reflection Questions, and a Closer Look at the Text. To see the full line of studies, go to the Bible Studies
page or the Purchase Books
page on this site.
What is Sisters in Scripture?
Sisters in Scripture began as a bible study for women and while it still is that today, the ministry has grown into much more. Bible Studies were followed by workshops and presentations which evolved into a full line of retreat offerings—some as short as a partial day, others over several days, on a rich variety of topics.
Retreats and Presentations
As with the interactive focus in my studies, the retreats are also designed to help participants enter into and experience the theme through a variety of modalities: prayer, silence, presentation, discussion, music, art, poetry, etc.
In addition to leading retreats, for the past four years, I have been co-teaching a course on Spiritual Retreats in the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, a sacred task that allows retreat ministry to expand through the future ministries of those I teach.
Upcoming 2021 Retreats
Once Upon a Time In a Town Called Nazareth
An Advent retreat with Betsey Beckman, Using scripture, art, music, dance, poetry and our creative imagination we go back to a time and place and a young Jewish girl named Mary.
Witness On The Way
A Lent retreat and interactive Stations of the Cross, again presented with Betsey Beckman. Together we created stories around each of the 14 stations, stories that centered on the lives and witness of those who were there.
Encounters with the Risen Lord
Let us go back to those first days after He rose. What was it like to encounter the Risen Lord? Using the various post-resurrection appearances, we will break open these scripture stories with creative imagination, song, prayer, and faith-sharing--closing with a unique Stations of the Resurrection.
To View Photos of a previous Retreat, Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth, click on the link.
A partial list of retreat offerings would include:
- Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth,
- The Women Who Follow Jesus
- Four Women Doctors of the Church
- Giving Voice to Our Hearts
- Women of the Early Church
- Two Theresa's
- The Devotional Life of Biblical Women
- At the Foot of the Cross
- Rachel and Leah: At Odds with Ourselves
- God's Gift of Abundant Time (also a book!)
- Mary Magdalene: Fact and Fiction - What Would Snopes Say?
- Teresa of Avila: Her Poetry as Window Into Her Life
- Hildegard of Bingen: A "Contemporary" Contemplative
- Prisca: Paul's Right-Hand-Woman
- Miriam of Exodus: the Girl Who Watched by the Nile
- Grandparents of Jesus (also a book!)
- The First Supper
- Witnesses on the Way: an Interactive Stations of the Cross
- Encounters with the Risen Lord
- Grandmother God: Loving as God Loves (also a book!)
- An Evening with Esther
- Wisdom from Tobit
Comments from Retreat Participants
Thank you so much for the Saturday session. It was informative and also fun! I liked the way you involved all of us. I am always impressed by your knowledge and the obvious love you have for teaching. - LF, Arkansas
I really appreciate your gentle welcoming presence. I benefit not just from the content of your sessions, but from the gems you drop along the way. - MW, Washington
I think the audience participation was the best I have seen. I also think that your detailed knowledge of the multiple subjects was truly impressive. – KB, Connecticut
I feel it is such a privilege to read the materials and then hear your lectures and to be with such equally interested and interesting women. What a great experience it has been for me. Thanks for being the wonderful scholar and teacher you are. – PH, Minnesota
This is one of the best things that I have done for myself in months. I thoroughly enjoyed the time. It was well spent. I was very satisfied with the content and would be very interested in more courses like this. - KW, Washington
A comment from Julie Joslund, Pastor:
Kathleen and Betsey’s Advent Retreat Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth is fabulous! The story and the inspiration of young Mary becoming the mother of our Lord - with all the incumbent questions, joys and fears - comes to life with the images, colors, words, songs and dances from long ago Nazareth…. right up to today. Participants are involved and included in the retreat experience. It is hands on and fulfilling. Everyone goes away with a full heart, ready to engage the season of Advent and the coming once again of Christ into our days.