Friday, March 30, 2012


One of my favorite prayer cards says, "Joy is an infallible sign of the presence of God."

And yet it gets little attention.

St Margaret's Convent, Roxbury MA

I just read the most wonderful article about a Yale Divinity School professor, Mary Clark Moschella, who noticed that her students were just getting more and more depressed as she covered difficult situation after difficult situation in her pastoral care course.  "Isms" abound, of course, and must be faced; if we are to minister within reality, we can't avoid them, nor should we.  But this professor realized that joy is an integral part of pastoral ministry. If people focus only on the grim, on taking care of the griefs of their congregations, they will miss the moments of grace and joy in those lives, the ones that should be nurtured and celebrated. 

I daresay that is true for all of us, not just those in ministry: it's true as we walk alongside each other, and it's true in our own lives.  Joy and grace are things to which one must be attentive.  It's like a bird in a tree nearby - a flash of color, a song, a wing toward the sky - so easy to miss, and yet such a gift when we have the eyes to see.

It reminds me of an RS Thomas poem I love. 

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

(Collected Poems, 1945–1990 (London: Dent, 1993), 302.

I wonder what joy lies right in front of me that I don't see because I am preoccupied with something else? 

Joy isn't happiness. It has nothing to do with life being easy.  It is not related to success or failure. God doesn't wait to show up until circumstances are good - or until we are good, for that matter. As this professor puts it, “God is revealed in joy and beauty and wonder that sometimes emerge right in the middle of suffering and struggle.”  That is grace.

Here is more from the article, including her definition of joy.

From the writings of theologian Jürgen Moltmann she concluded that laughter, joy and play should be regarded as key elements in human liberation, so that “we are opened to more creative and life-giving responses to the needs that call out to us.”

“Creating space for joy is not a secondary matter or a frill, but a central pastoral practice, right at the heart of faithful and committed ministries, and right at the tender heart of God,” she wrote in her Luce address on the subject.

“As I understand it, joy comes down to this: to being awake and deeply alive, aware of the love and grace of God, and of the gift of life, both in and around us. Joy in pastoral ministry is the same thing, but magnified by the blessing of a high and holy calling that challenges one to step outside of one’s self into relationships of care and communion. The themes and practices that I have found that characterize joy in the settings I have studied include presence, attentiveness, gratitude, release, hope, creativity, liberation, and love.”

Presence, attentiveness, gratitude, release, hope, creativity, liberation, and love.

Now there are some things to cultivate.  Perhaps we could make it an Eastertide practice to do so.

If you would like to read more, you may do so here:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

my rock and my refuge

looking across to the mountain range north of Port-au-Prince

 I love you, O Lord my strength,
O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.

My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
you are worthy of praise.
Te amo, oh Señor, fortaleza mía,
oh Señor, castillo mío, mi risco y mi abrigo.

Dios mío, roca mía en quien confiaré,
mi escudo, el cuerno de mi salvación y mi alto refugio,
eres digno de ser alabado
Je t’aime, Seigneur, ma force:
Seigneur, mon roc, ma forteresse,
Dieu mon libérateur, le rocher qui m’abrite,
Mon bouclier, mon fort, mon arme de victoire!
Louange a Dieu!
 Ala renmen mwen renmen ou, Seyè! Se ou menm ki tout fòs mwen.

Se ou menm ki twou wòch kote m' kache a. Se ou menm ki sèvi m' ranpa.
Se ou menm ki delivre m'.
Ou se Bondye mwen, se ou menm ki pwoteje m'.
Se nan ou mwen mete tout konfyans mwen. Se ou ki tout defans mwen.
Se fòs ou k'ap sove m'. Se anba zèl ou mwen jwenn kote pou m' kache.

...Lwanj pou Seyè a!

Psalm 18:1-2
(or 3 or 4 depending on the translation)
English, Spanish and French translations from the Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, March 25, 2012

a prayer tonight

The storm is brewing.
Oh Seigneur, pitié pour Haïti.
 Oh Seigneur, pitié pour Haïti.
Have mercy on Haiti, Lord.

The storm was brewing earlier today; it has boiled over.
Have mercy on all those who live in the easily flooded zones of the city,
On those without adequate shelter,
On all those who travel in it.

Have mercy on that motorcyclist, Lord,
The one whose motorcycle we saw under a bus.

Have mercy on the child I saw
With arms far too tiny for her size
And other things amiss as well.
Misery looks different in a rural area,
And when people are hungry,
The results are etched onto bodies – the young and the old alike.

Have mercy on your four-legged creatures, too, Lord.
I saw too many today who also need more to eat.

I read Lamentations this afternoon.
There is a reason I have seen taptaps citing
Chapter and verse, lament in short form
For later reference.
We might forget which chapter and verse
The taptap held up for our prayer, but
We will not forget to lament.

Have mercy, Lord.
Have mercy on Haiti.

oil and water

It’s pouring down rain tonight and, as expected, the power went out. For the second time this evening, actually. So I lit my kerosene lamp and settled down, only to see it begin to splutter out. I peered at it. No more kerosene.

“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning” began running through my head as I gave up on uploading a few photos. Time for a shower and bed, I thought. It’s been a good day, but a long one, as we went to the Parish of the Annunciation in Darbonne for their patronal festival. (More on that later, I hope.)

So off I went to the bathroom, candle in glass jar in hand, lit the little kerosene lamp in there, turned on the mini solar-powered lantern (I’m abounding in options, as you see – it’s just that the kerosene lamp is the best of them), and got into the shower.

And waited for the water to arrive. It usually takes a minute since I keep the water pressure extremely low. So I waited. And eventually it occurred to me that there just wasn’t any – that water sound was entirely the rain. Rather than deal with buckets, I decided the shower could wait till mid-morning after water is pumped up there again. There are advantages to a day off.

Did I mention it was pouring down rain? Perhaps I should just go run around outside in it for a while.

Finally got to bed. Blew out my candle and settled down. It finally occurred to me that I needed to turn off the light switch in case the power came back on during the night. As I was reaching for it, it came back on. Let there be light.

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Keep me burning till the break of day.

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna,
Sing hosanna to the King of kings.
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna,
Sing hosanna to the King.

Give me water in my bath, make me clean.
Give me water in my bath, I pray.
Give me water in my bath, make me clean.
Through your grace make me clean today.

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna,
Sing hosanna to the King of kings.
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna,
Sing hosanna to the King.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

food police

Via Facebook (thank you JAC!), an article in the category of "You have got to be kidding me!"

No kugel for you! - NY Post

Food Police? Mayor Bloomberg Bans Food Donations to Homeless Shelters | AlterNet

which led me to a fuller article entitled "No Kugel for you!":

From the second article:

So much for serving the homeless.

The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.

For over a decade, Glenn Richter and his wife, Lenore, have led a team of food-delivery volunteers from Ohab Zedek, the Upper West Side Orthodox congregation.

They’ve brought freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood. (Disclosure: I know the food is so tasty because I’ve eaten it — I’m an OZ member.) The practice of donating such surplus food to homeless shelters is common among houses of worship in the city.

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.

The city also cites food-safety issues with donations, but it’s clear that the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.

Read more:

OK, I understand the desire for healthy food - if I were homeless, I'd certainly prefer something nutritious - but when no food is the other choice... Is being hungry or dumpster-diving or eating vending machine junk because you have nowhere to cook better?  And I understand wanting to make sure that people aren't getting food poisoning (not that they mentioned this, but it probably plays into it) - but the alternative dumpster-diving option is a sure way to get sick at some point. 

When I think of the people I've seen lined up for soup kitchens and food pantries - and I mean in Massachusetts, not in Haiti - I wonder just how far the food insecurity has to go before someone realizes that throwing out perfectly good food is a bad idea and that sharing is a good one.  Yes, that's simplistic - but really, when people are hungry and there isn't enough to go around - and I doubt the administration has enough money to feed all those people the decent food they envision instead - making decisions like this is a bad idea.

And if they do have the money, just think of all the other things they could add to the programs.


Pass the kugel, please.  (Just don't tell if I share.)

Monday, March 19, 2012



I wish I could paint.  Really paint well. The woman with the blue scarf in the photo above (from one of the photos in the previous entry) is really striking and deserves a portrait.  If I knew how to paint with oils like Sr. Marjorie Raphael, I would paint her, along with this scene.  Who knows, perhaps someday I will.

May God bless her, whoever she is.  God knows.

for sale

colorful clothing to brighten the day

CAKES made to order

no need for a shopping cart, I guess - that's talent!

The Natcom blue certainly sets off their stock.

I don't know whether this reminds me more of a dog obstacle course,
 Spaghetti-O's (don't ask me why), or modern art.

Lots of these for sale, very colorful -
but these are the first soccer, flag, and Obama kites I've seen!
Or imagined, for that matter.
fruit and lottery tickets

lots of beautifully worked wooden furniture for sale
on the streets of P-au-P

the blues

sandals for sale
one-stop shopping

colorful shopping, multiple possibilities

thanking Haiti

I was looking through the newspaper from earlier this past week, and I discovered the most wonderful and unexpected thing:  a full page ad thanking Haiti for solidarity and support following the tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011. 

Thanks from Japan to Haiti
Le Nouvelliste
March 12-13, 2012
How many people thank Haiti?  How many people even realize that Haiti is a giving place, too?  I guarantee you, for example, that the United Thank Offering annual in-gathering, a much bigger deal here than it is many places, is taken quite seriously.    

Here is a rough translation of the first bit:

It has been a year since the great earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 which struck the Pacific coast of Tohuko. On this occasion, I would like once more to present my most sincere condolences to the families of the victims.

Following the disaster, there were many in Haiti who gave us their support: the government, NGO’s, businesses, local groups, academic and religious institutions, including citizens of all generations. It was very moving to see the great number of charitable events organized by different associations. These witnesses of solidarity truly warmed our hearts, and for that I wish to express my most sincere thanks.

 It is signed by the Japanese ambassador to Haiti.   He gets points in my book.    

Saturday, March 17, 2012


It’s raining again.

This is the fourth evening in a row.

It’s lovely for me: I haven’t slept so well in ages. Even when it’s a thunderstorm, I find it restful. And it smells so good.

The water table needs it, too. I gather we haven’t had enough water at all lately, and certainly this winter the piped in water has been given rather more sparsely than one might hope. (Though we are already very fortunate just to have it.)

The plants are happy to be watered and clean.

However, not everyone has reason to be happy about this.

"Les pluies ont causé des dégâts à Juvénat, notamment à l'impasse Loé"
(Photo- Francis Concite) Le Nouvelliste 3.15.12

Here is a link to a story about the current conditions in Port-au-Prince. I recommend it for those of you who read French:

An excerpt:

Port-au-Prince vulnérable à la moindre goutte de pluie

Les pluies torrentielles qui se sont abattues mercredi soir sur Port-au-Prince ont provoqué des inondations dans plusieurs zones de la capitale. Des résidents de Canapé-Vert et de Juvénat ont vécu une nuit noire et risquent d'en vivre encore beaucoup plus si le nécessaire n'est pas fait. Les constructions anarchiques, le désordre dans les bassins versants, les canaux obstrués...sont les principales causes de ces inondations qui inquiètent avec la saison pluvieuse.

Haïti: Port-au-Prince s'est réveillée couverte de boue et de détritus jeudi. Des rues étaient encore encombrées de déchets durant toute la journée après avoir été transformées en torrents quelques heures plus tôt. Jusque dans l'après-midi, des résidents de Canapé-Vert et de Juvénat - pour ne citer que ceux-là - n'ont pas réussi à évacuer les eaux qui inondent leurs maisons. Au pied du morne de Canapé-Vert, en face du commissariat de ce quartier, des familles ont la vie dure. Elles ont fais les frais d'un ravin dont l'embouchure est obstruée depuis plusieurs jours.

Pensive, Chiran Samson s'inquiète beaucoup d'une probable nouvelle nuit de pluie. Les eaux sont montées à plus de 60 cm à l'intérieur de sa résidence. Alors qu'elle passait la nuit à évacuer les eaux de sa maisonnette, elle n'a cependant pas réussi à protéger le matériel scolaire de sa fille Barbara qui est en huitième année fondamentale au lycée Marie-Jeanne. « Tous ses livres ont été emportés par les eaux alors qu'elle est en période d'examens », s'est désolée la dame d'une trentaine d'années, debout devant ses effets couverts de boue.

Outre les livres, des appareils électroniques, des matelas, des meubles, entre autres, ont été également emportés. « Nous ne savons pas ce que nous ferons ce soir si la pluie continue à tomber », s'est inquiétée Chiran Samson.
 *  *  *  *  * 

Because of the rains, the water rushes down ravines and drainage ditches which are often blocked by debris.  Several neighborhoods have had not only streets but also homes flooded.  The article above includes the story of one woman whose home has flooded to a level of 60cm.  Her daughter's schoolbooks were washed away - during exam period, too.  The water also carried off, among other things, mattresses, furniture, and electronics.  All this despite the fact that she spent the night bailing instead of taking off to higher ground, hoping that insurance would cover it all.  Here, for many, starting over really means starting from scratch. 

I wonder how she and her daughter are tonight. 

The rain is quieting down, and internet access has returned.  Let's hope that means something good for all those with inadequate shelter tonight. 

Please pray for all those affected. Pray also for city planners and those responsible for keeping the drainage ditches clear.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

new teaching hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti

From the Partners in Health website (link on side bar):

In the town of Mirebalais, just 30 miles north of Port-au-Prince, construction is nearly complete at the site of a flagship teaching hospital that will change the face of public health care in Haiti.

Before January 12, 2010, Partners In Health and our sister organization Zanmi Lasante had been planning to build a new community hospital in Mirebalais. Then the earthquake struck, leaving most of the health facilities in and around Port-au-Prince in ruins. Responding to an urgent appeal from the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), we quickly scaled up our plans.

When it opens its doors in 2012, the 180,000-square foot, 320-bed hospital will offer a level of care never before available at a public facility in Haiti. And at a time when Haiti desperately needs skilled professionals, Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital will provide high-quality education for the next generation of Haitian nurses, medical students, and resident physicians.

The hospital construction includes significant investment in green technology. The facility will use 400kW of high efficiency photovoltaic roof-mounted solar collectors provide it's electrical power. This will eliminate or significantly offset usage during the day. The massive solar array will be one of, if not the, largest in Haiti, and may even allow the hospital to return extra capacity back to the power grid.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rare reprieve for Haiti's disabled slated to end - Haiti -

"Let's build a Haiti
accessible for everyone:
handicapped or not!"
I've been encouraged since the earthquake at the progress being made towards accessibility in Haiti.  Finally, I thought.  It's been a long time since Sr. Joan started, St. Vincent's, the first school for the disabled.  It's still going strong following the earthquake despite the loss of all but the boys' dorm building (if I understand correctly).  I was there in November for the Journee Internationale des Personnes Handicapees; it was a wonderful celebration.  In fact, I took quite a few notes and intended to write a blog post about it.  The best laid plans...

bulletin for the celebration at St. Vincent's

However, I've just read an article that makes me very sad:

Rare reprieve for Haiti's disabled slated to end - Haiti -

Here is an excerpt:

Life has never been easy for the disabled in one of the world's poorest countries. The blind and deaf and amputated often shoulder a social stigma, their disabilities dismissed as the product of a hex, and few have access to physical therapy or social services. Haiti's disabled make up the poorest part of its population.

Inside the settlement's enclosing chain-linked fence, the residents say they no longer endure the long stares for losing their vision, hearing or a limb.

Claudius Joseph, a blind 25-year-old student, says his teachers believe he can't learn because he can't see. Children, he says, are afraid to touch him.

"I feel normal here because there are other people who are handicapped just like me," Joseph said one evening as his cane tapped the gravel in front of him.

The camp, near Port-au-Prince's international airport, is called "La Piste" because of an abandoned military airstrip across the street. It was set up by the International Federation for the Red Cross, which built 368 shelters for the hearing and speech impaired and others with disabilities. The first families moved in Jan. 7, 2011, days before the anniversary of the earthquake, and each received $150 to help settle in.

Its current residents are a mix of people disabled by traumas or infections caused by the quake and those whose conditions preceded it.

The Red Cross says it signed an agreement with the previous administration of President Rene Preval to use the land until January 2013. Officials with President Michel Martelly's government say they want the land back and the residents need to leave.

"The land is not theirs and the owner wants it back," said Gerald Oriol Jr., Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities. He declined to say who owned the land and referred questions to a foreign charity worker helping the deaf residents. "Within six to nine months they should move out."

Read more here:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

prayer after the tornadoes

not the headline I wanted to see today
 Twister-hit areas told to expect snow

Snow is the last thing they need - not only those who lost homes, but all those without power and heat. 

I'd like to offer a prayer for them all, and I ask you to pray with me as well.

Gracious God,
When storms rage
And the falsely calm dawn only brings to light destruction,
Be the One who surrounds us with peace and comfort.
Hold in your loving embrace
All who have lost their homes, their property, or their loved ones,
All who live with the memory of terror,
All who now grieve.
Strengthen them all for the days ahead,
Provide the resources and the wisdom they need to recover,
Protect them from further harm,
And give them the sure knowledge of your presence with and around them

A Video Of Jesus In The Wilderness

"I took these incredible illustrations by a British illustrator named Simon Smith and put them to an Explosions In The Sky song."

Thank you, Sr. Diana, for pointing me to this.

two blogs for Lent

I'd like to point you all to a very good Lenten blog.  The meditations are reflective and worth the time to read. According to its description, "Beauty from Chaos offers words, images and quotations to help us through the wilderness in Lent. The contributors are drawn mostly from among the clergy and laity of the Scottish Episcopal Church, with a few friends from further afield."

Here is another, of quite a different ilk, enjoyable in its own way.  Lent Madness matches up saints in a playoff series, and you get to vote!  Once only per pair, please.   I know Forward Day by Day very well, but I had no idea Forward Movement had such a sense of humor. (-:

Of course, I have left the texts of the link above in purple this time. It seemed only fitting.

Friday, March 2, 2012

pink as minus green?

There is no pink? What do we tell all those flamingos?

cut iron pink flamingos for sale
Avenue John Brown, Port-au-Prince
Mulling over pink as minus green is giving me 1980's flashbacks.