land of rest

Land of Rest is a blog of Peter Jenks. Poems, quotes and photos are by Peter Jenks (unless otherwise noted or I miss noting an older post's photo) and are copyrighted, you are free to use these if you acknowledge their source.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Justice of God

Throughout history there has been a deep longing for justice. The cries to heaven have been urgent and impassioned. When harm, torture, cruelty, insensitivity, violence, etc., etc., is felt then there is a longing for a right action to occur. We want the government, a higher power or something to help.
Even a small act, such as being cut off in traffic, can set us into a tailspin of wanting to make people pay attention, payback, be apologetic, or for the wrong to be seen and addressed.

The justice we want from God might not be the justice God inflicts. The karma of the living God is not a human form of vengeance but rather a leading into a more full acceptance of ourselves. 
God's justice, God's vengeance, God's wrath are all one and in all cases it is a much deeper love being expressed.

Even when I do something wrong, there is a desire to pay for the pain, or to somehow avoid the entire situation. God will always lead us to face ourselves more fully, and to see the deeper forgiveness, mercy and love waiting for us.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The unintended consequence of recorded music

While sitting in church listening to the postlude, along with the others who also were sitting quietly listening, I was struck with an awareness of how unusual it is to simply sit and listen to a postlude. Most preludes and postludes are heard as background music while people are being seated or leaving. And often people are talking while this music is being played. We have become accustomed to background music. Supermarkets have mastered the art of background music to help speed up or slow down shoppers. We have music playing on the radio while we drive, we have music playing outside stores during the holidays. Recorded music being played in the background is in more places than we are even aware of it.  Movies have also mastered the use of music in the background of events, forewarning an event, or giving a general sense of mood.
With the advent of recorded music we have lost a level of appreciation of music. It simply has become something we expect, part of our atmosphere, like the air we breathe.
But is also has had the effect of diminishing our appreciation of it. When all music was played live, we heard it less and were more prone to stop and listen and appreciate the musician who was playing the music. It was something more savored and enjoyed more consciously. We tend to inhale our fast food as fuel as well as inhaling without thought our music.
We are learning to eat more mindfully, perhaps we should also adapt such attitudes towards our music. We should appreciate music more that is local and played live.
There is much more of a relationship between a musician and audience when it is live, than when recorded.
The gift of recorded music opens us to more varieties, and possibilities of music and can help expand our understanding of music. But there is this unintended consequence that diminishes to some degree the intentional appreciation of the great importance and value music plays in our life and our role in its making.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A metaphor for today

Churches and Temples are like harbors along the coast, they are a safe place to begin and rest from the journeys of the sea, only in their case the seas of consciousness and the soul.
When any religion, church or temple starts thinking that they are the right, only or best they have only to look at the ocean to realize that they only are an opening to a much larger world. Each harbor has its place, its time, its mission to those who sail the seas. Each needs the other.
Each ship needs a flag to fly, a harbor to call home and to which it pays its taxes in order to help maintain a place for all. Though with each ship, it can sail to anywhere else on the sea, share stories and information about the various harbors and currents. By having a home we can better identify and relate to each other. To simply say I belong to the sea is to say I do not belong to any place, nor wish to support anyplace, only use and benefit from all others.
And with each ship comes a history, baggage and others who have been brought along, connected and information to influence even more people.  Sometimes disease and problems arise from a ship as with a religious community bringing harmful and controlling ideology to manipulate and dominate others.
Ultimately we all need to make our journey across the sea, some journeys are longer than others, some more dangerous, but we need the vessels to carry us along, even if it is simply rowed by ourself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the eternal earth dance

I  dance in heaven
When I wake from the dead.
I embrace the eternal
When I cease from my dying.
Today is that day,
When I have chosen to stand up
And meet my maker,
of heaven and earth.
No more waiting
For the burial of breath,
Or the miracle from away.
Deus ex machina est not coming
Down my road.
And I do not want it anymore.
Let the curtain fall,
I am going home today
To finally live my life.
I have found my woman,
I have accepted my fate,
The sun has set upon my journey,
And another day has come and gone.
It is today, that I dance, again.
And my feet are upon the eternal earth
Of love’s forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Loving God

When I was a teenager growing up in an affluent suburb outside Minneapolis, I felt it was not cool to be from this place when I visited the city or other towns. There was a sense of entitlement that people felt went with living in this town and I did not want to be one of “those” entitled people. I wanted to fit in with the immediate crowd around me.
I have witnessed various relationships fall apart because one of the people found themselves wanting to please others in situations outside their relationship, and ultimately loose both relationships.
Being comfortable with who one is, where one comes from, with whom one is in relationship is a gift one gives to others. It opens up an honest beginning to first impressions, which is important. Being comfortable with oneself is not always easy, though. I have been working hard at accepting what my voice sounds like in recordings, and my image in photography. Over a number of years of deliberate effort I have come to a place of moderate comfort with my voice and looks.
Even more crucial and vulnerable is our comfort with that which is deeper and more intimate to our being, that being our faith. There is an aversion to not wanting to be seen as a radical or extremist, or perhaps an escape into such a role so as to avoid a more extended relationship. Simply stating that one is a Christian can lead being stereotyped by others. Revealing one’s hope in Jesus, or that one will pray for someone opens up a deep vulnerability. It is also a great gift. Most people want to know what motivates others. Simply stating that I will pray for someone is almost always appreciated. It is a sign that we care. But letting someone else know that this relationship with God is important also means that they will remember this when we do not feel very holy or are not living up to the higher standards others may feel goes with such belief. Being vague leaves us more wiggle room in our infidelities, it also endangers our intimacies. Loving God means loving God. In the same way as wanting the world to know about one’s romantic joy; so, too, is it important to come to the place of openness and comfort with our deepest and most defining love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness Psalm 29:2

I remember as a child, I would put up a fight in order not to go to church - or to swim lessons, or piano lessons or almost anything that would cause me to leave my preferred state of adolescent atrophy. I would try to hide my Brussels Sprouts in order to avoid having to eat them, along with a number of other foods that I have since come to savor greatly. My long suffering mother had to endure all the whining and delay tactics that I used to avoid the things I did not like, nor want to do. Many times I have found excuses to avoid doing exercises, yet when I do go out for a walk, or take time to stretch and exercise, I always feel better.  I now love to swim, I grieve that I did not continue with my piano lessons, and I am deeply thankful for my mother’s persistent efforts to introduce me to new foods.
Exhortations to pray, to be still with God and to have time to read the Bible sometimes has had the same effect. Initially there is a reticence and an avoidance, something in us tells me it will be tedious. But we find that once we take the time to be still, to pray and to read the scripture, we are always touched by a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation of life. When we take time to finish all our requests to God and then simply listen, watch, and breath with God, we are able to let go of much of the stress that haunts us and the wounds and emotions that keep us on edge.  After such time we find that we are open to new ways of thinking and a greater compassion for those with differing experiences and ideas. 
Worship is not simply a public activity we participate in on Sunday mornings. Worship is a gateway for our healing and for our ability to be more creative in our lives. The daily engagement in worship opens us to face things and activities that are often fearful to us. For most of my life I have always had a deep fear of singing out loud. It is in the daily praise and adoration of God that I am able to let go and sing as I walk down the street and even down the aisle in church.  It is from moments of worship that when strangers come my way I am not timid and shy but, rather, open and expectant to see what the glory of God is bringing into my life by their presence.
I have found through the act of worshipping God the treasures of being able to move on, grow up and discover how brilliant these limited days are in our life.  I look forward to church and the gathering together of my family of faith, and know the immense gift and importance it is for me. The more fully we worship God and the more often we worship God, the freer we are to sing out, the bolder we are to put a swing in our dance, to be still and listen, to let go and forgive and to dive fully into to actions of love. Worship is not just a weekly event, it is daily; encompassing all the movements of our body, the depths of our emotions, the contours of our thoughts and the full commitment of our habits.

Sobbing as a form of Sabbath

In the midst of a conversation I was struck by the idea that sobbing is a form of Sabbath. When we are finally able to release the pent up emotion and sorrow in the form of tears we are able to enter a unique dimension of Sabbath rest.
Oftentimes, I will keep myself from being sick, there is too much to do, too many events where I am required to help make things happen, too many people who need my help.  Then when I have a time off I find myself able to be sick.  There are times when I cannot laugh or cough because it is in a public place and an event where it would disturb others. The more I try not to laugh or cough the more I need to do such.  Only by excusing myself and letting it all happen that I can return and enjoy the event. So, too, perhaps is a good sob.  Like a Sabbath time away from the events of our life, we are able to let it out, to let things be felt, to let our own soul be expressed for a bit.  And in so doing we are better able to return to our lives refreshed and able to be present and enjoy the sacred moment of today.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sometimes Opposing Sides are the Same Side

Over the years I have heard the debates between evolution and creation, basically between science and religion. It is easy to get caught up in the established thoughts and well defined sides, feeling exasperated at one side because of what they said, something that seems completely incomprehensible. Lawsuits and court cases have flourished. Communities and schools have fought and struggled over these issues. And it has finally struck me that the whole thing is completely misguided.
Good religion and good science are in fact probably the same thing. It is bad science against bad religion that makes everyone crazy and misrepresents both faith communities and science institutions. Just like bad politics tends to generally mess up the entire government. It is easy to listen to what is being debated, to try and hear both sides of an issue, and then assume that these are the only sides of the issue. The idea that there may be completely different ways of viewing something are not always evident, and it sometimes takes great courage to profess it. The young boy who cried out that the emperor had no clothes was either very courageous or simply naïve and ignorant to the danger of such a proclamation.
Both good science and good religion are able to accept that the initial thoughts and ideas might not always prove true, that we can always learn more. There is a sense of awe and wonder at the unending possibilities before us, the vast unknown of existence to which we face. Both good science and good religion appreciates the opinions and ideas of people who differ and who offer new insights. Both good religion and good science seeks to meet new challenges and new people, new dimensions of thoughts that show the vast interconnectedness of all things. Both good science and good religion are done, not for power, money, fame, nor personal glory – but for the simple pleasure of discovery and understanding. There is also a certain degree of humility that becomes essential to one in the path to good religion and good science. Rarely are preconceived ideas and long held assumptions barriers to growth when good science or religion are practiced. In fact new possibilities instill a sense of added excitement.
There are debates and controversies that give meaning to people, that fill us with rage, that separate us from each other and serve to define sides in society. The role of the scientist and religious pilgrim should not be to fuel the existing fires that destroy any potential of new growth, but to clear out the chaff of diversionary desires for power and to let in a growth of truth and seed of mercy. We are living in an age that revels in the controversies for their own sake and for the sense of purpose we gain from engaging in the fray of futile battles. We are also living in an age of new vistas of consciousness and opportunity.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


There are times when I will be sitting in a meeting and listening to people go on about how it used to be, or how things worked in the past and this should be how we do things again and I will be frustrated knowing we cannot go back. But then I do the same thing in my life, holding on to old wounds and hurts, clinging to ideas that served me well previously.
I read a quote this morning which said that crisis comes when we are called to go further than our creeds that we have accepted.
Jesus is calls, I believe, to a new song. Do I have the time, and openness to learn it.
Sometimes there seems to be a waiting time that comes knowing that it will be different. In this waiting time it is easy to once again look back, when in fact it is the time to savor what we have had, but to let go to enter upon a new shore. From time to time we need to get rid of our worn out clothes and buy something new. At some time the item of clothing that I do not want to get rid of was new also.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Challenge of Thinking Differently

     For over thirty years I have tried to find my place in the Episcopal Church. So often, though, I have been looking in the wrong places.  I have tried repeatedly to fit in and to contribute and be a part of the larger church, the diocese or groups beyond just the parish level. And yet it always seems to end up in disappointment.  If I run for an office, everyone else will be elected but me, it seems. If I volunteer for a committee, others are chosen. I oftentimes understand the reasons, and I would probably choose others as well. In any committee or search process there is a desire for diversity. I just happen to not be on any edge or represent any unique group. So I keep trying, and finding myself frustrated. On the other hand, life in the local setting in the parish or town I have found exceedingly great pleasure, relationships, and meaning. But part of me keeps thinking that what I need is to be found on a bigger stage.
     It is a challenge to shift my way of thinking. It is not easy to accept that which is closest to me, beneath my feet and beside me. Somehow I feel that there needs to be something else or some outside connection. This way of thinking is hard to break. Trying hard to break it, to change and to be different does not always work. Trying not to look at something only makes me more aware of what it is I am not looking at or avoiding. The challenge for me is to be surprised and focus on the simple and phenomenally brilliant treasure around me. It is why I love to read and write Haiku, because it focuses on the deep and present moment in front of us, something so simple and also so eternal.
Change does not seem to come to me by trying to change, but by finding something more interesting to draw my attention and energy towards. And it always seems to be present in some corner of my day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Little Leavening of Advice

Any writer worth her or his salt knows the great value of an editor, people who are able to speak a word of correction, or show us  how we could say something better. In all things we benefit from people who speak honestly to us. People who are able to tell us when we have food in our teeth or a tag is sticking out of our clothes, people who are able to show us where we are being hard headed, or gently nudge us away from stupid mistakes are priceless friends.

But the words of correction, the amount of advice, and the helpful truth we hear is very much like spice or leavening; a little is very effective and too much is overwhelming. In making chocolate chip cookies it is important to put in some baking soda or powder, but only a teaspoon or so.  If one were to put in as much baking soda as flour it would be inedible. The cookie proportions are about right, we need much, much more affirmations, support, and words of gratitude than advice. Even simple words of wonder and surprise at the world about us is beneficial. Along with positive comments about life is the need for words of forgiveness and expressions of being sorry.  I equate these with the chocolate chips in the cookies. When people are able to tell me they are sorry for things they have done, or for what has happened then I hear them much clearer when they have something challenging to say to me as well.

There is much beauty in our world.  We are constantly being blessed in ways we could never number. We have far more time to sing than we actually take.  It is important to make the world a better place by helping others, but until we are able to appreciate the world first it is hard to improve on it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Teach me some melodious sonnet

The act of singing out loud is an action dedicated to opening one's heart and soul to healing power.
From time to time I try to memorize a hymn or song. And in practicing the song, while walking home, or through the house or in the yard, I find that it lifts my soul and fortifies my faith. 
There is a power that we lose when we simply forfeit our music to electronic devices and no longer depend upon our own actions and voice to make the sounds. 
My song for this week:
Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace! Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! Oh, fix me on it, mount of God’s unchanging love.
Here I find my greatest treasure; hither, by thy help, I’ve come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee: prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Receiving Help

I find it hard to receive help from others. It is so wonderful and needed, yet, somehow I cannot imagine why they would want to do such for me.  It is important to remember that people care, and that receiving help is an important part of any relationship.

Elias, Charlie and Roland, thank you for your phenomenal help moving on Saturday!

Friday, July 12, 2013

losing a few trees

We had some trees taken down.  Here are some before and after pics.
It is always interesting to me to feel the loss or absence of the life that filled a certain space with the presence of a tree.

Their still and constant presence is so often taken for granted, and yet they define so much of our world. When gone, they leave a hole, open space, and more light. Birds and squirrels grieve more than we do, as they are most directly effected. Yet we, too, are effected, perhaps in more subtle ways but still our world changes with the loss of any limb or entirety of a tree.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

being sent forth

Jesus said, "See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves."  So often we in the church go out as wolves in the midst of lambs. 

I do not see the calling to go out as one to infuse a particular theological acceptance in others, as much as a calling to simply share how the love of Jesus has healed, forgiven and continues to transform our lives.  And is so doing, allowing God to touch as God pleases those with whom we live, even perhaps touching us again.

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