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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ex Libris. The story of journeys with grace

There is something pure and graceful about a beautiful boat in the water. With a steady wind, and sails set, it is a deep privilege to steer a hull through the waters on an appointed course. To feel ones own body  guide the body of the ship is as a dancer in control of one's move with a partner across the floor.
When a motor is shut off and the sails take over ther emerges a timeless connection with everyone who has ever set sail. Leaving the land and resting upon the breathing of the water with the holding embrace of the air sometimes squeezing tighter, one eventually has to let go.  And when I look back and see the timeless rocks upon the shore waiting, silently being with their siblings, I know that in my return my stay will only be for a season set in motion the day I was born.

Monday, June 1, 2015

thought for the day

Love is a dance whose first step is taken in the soul of one’s heart and met by the same in another; her turns are spun by looking in to each other’s eyes; her music is the ordinary moments of every day; and once begun one begins what can never be undone.
- The Rev. Peter Jenks

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Obvious revelations

I had a wonderful experience dancing with my sweetheart. Sometimes I find myself embarrassed or humbled in simple revelations. I worked hard on learning the dance moves, what to do and what comes next. Being the man, I am expected to lead, so I took special care in learning what to do next. Then as the performance arrived I began to discover that the music wasn't just background sound played to add ambiance but integral and woven into each move. It was an obvious and embarrassing Realization but important nonetheless. I felt a bit humbled that it took me so long to feel the connection between the sound and action. For my understanding and leaning had all been in my head. Love has a way of upending my understanding and moving me into uncharted, to me, territory.  I want to love with all my mind and body and strength and soul, connecting them is sometimes the difficult element.

Friday, April 17, 2015

photo thoughts

When my mother died we put together a slide show of photographs of her life.  As the slide show progressed I noticed that there were a few of her childhood, then some of her wedding, and a growing number when we children were born, and finally an array of pictures taken during the last few years. Of all eras of her life there were the most of her later years, and this was because the technology was so much easier and accessible. The entire slide show was not only one about her life, but also one that related the history of photography over the last 80 years.
When I was raising children we would take pictures and then have to wait to have them developed. Some would be out of focus, or at an awkward angle, or taken of someone’s shoes accidentally, and some would be good. With the advent of digital photography and the ability to see the image right away the entire experience has changed.  If there is an out of focus shot, we immediately can take another. We take many more pictures now because it is so easy. I cannot imagine raising children now, as one would have hundreds of pictures every day of almost every event in their lives.
When I was a child, and when I was raising children there was always a fuss made by some child whenever someone wanted to take a picture. Someone would cry, or run away, or make a face. Now with pictures being taken all the time children have this as a part of everyday experience, they may make a face, but then they want to see it. Their world is always being photographed and the understanding that cameras are all around us, in our computers and stores and on people’s phones have had, I am assuming, a profound shift in our self-awareness.
Another aspect of this world of being photographed all the time is our understanding of what we look like. During most of my life I have understood what I look like by seeing myself in a mirror. It was the mirror image that I most often thought of as my image. But now with so many photographs of ourselves we and children are seeing and understanding ourselves in the image that others are seeing us and not just the mirror image.
What this will mean for us as a culture, I have no idea. It is simply an observation for me, now. The way I write and share news of my life, or promote events in my work has changed in that I always have to consider a picture to go with my post or press release. And I can take one instantly. What I have to say is not only through words but also images. How this effects my way of thinking is interesting to me, and on one level I notice that I and others will not write as long of letters or news.  But on the other hand, I am more prone to write more often and think of sharing things in writing and with images that I never would have thought of doing before.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why do we assume we all know

When it comes to sex and prayer, there seems to be an assumption that people somehow just know what to do.  Like these actions are as basic as breathing.  But they are not, and neither is breathing. All of these things are so much more fun, meaningful and enriching when we talk, ask, learn all we can and do not assume we really know what we are doing.  It is always a good thing to be open to surprise

Friday, March 20, 2015

the eyes have it

Once, while waiting at a red light, I noticed a good friend in the car next to mine, just a few feet away. I waved but he never looked my way. I started to make faces and gestures to get his attention but he just kept looking forward and then went his way. I was struck on how two people could be so close to each other and yet so     unaware. When I lived in a third floor apartment I enjoyed looking out the window. Occasionally I would shout a “hello” to someone I knew on the street, but almost always they would look left and right, but never up.         
I often wonder what I am missing around me, what are the amazing blessings and wondrous mysteries right before or around me that I act oblivious toward.  I also wonder sometimes what events happened just moments before I arrived somewhere or after I left a place, or pass a place. Might a very slow driver that might annoy me actually save me from an accident and I will never know how close I might have came to catastrophe.
Holy week is a deeply profound time we pass each year, sometimes we are aware of it, sometimes it just occurs. Yet in this period of time, I have discovered, God hides a myriad of blessings, mysteries, epiphanies, and deep truths to be discovered. Perhaps they are always there, but we are especially encouraged to look, be still, gaze in new directions, listen to different voices, and pray more mindfully during holy week and with such action we are able to discover these wonders.
It is the week in which we remember the journey of Jesus into Jerusalem, at the time when he was hailed as a messiah, and then betrayed and killed.  It was a journey he knew he had to make. From the time of his transfiguration on the mountain, when he met with Moses and Elijah, he began heading on this journey towards Jerusalem and his death.  He saw something larger, something more important to him than simply his safety, well-being, or reputation. The driving force for him was deeper than the fear of dying. It was profound enough for him to remain silent, even when people were lying about him and falsely accusing him. I can only imagine being in such a situation and how I would want to correct any false accusation. But Jesus was looking beyond, was aware in a most profound way of the present moment of his mortality, but also of a larger reality before, around and within himself.  Even as he was dying and faced with the utter desolation of being alone and abandoned his focus was able to be present and engaged enough to continue, and in doing so opened a door that he knew was before him, that we could only imagine.  He was able to open and enter onto a path not yet taken, yet by going through he would be able to somehow be connected in a deep love with me and you thousands of years later. Somehow he saw and knew that in the present and in the very human existence was something much larger.

And the door is all around us, sometimes wide open just inches away.   There is a love in light more intricate than our eyes can process, more nuanced than our minds can perceive, broader in wave length than our ears can fully hear, and more encompassing than the great cosmos beyond our understanding.  And yet in the holy stillness of prayer, as simple as a child’s gaze, it can be touched and known.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

preparing to reflect upon a life

My mother's funeral is coming up and my brother and I are scheduled to say a few words. In preparation for this I have found myself greatly moved. The mere act of summing up or putting together words that will somehow reflect the light of someone's life is daunting to say the least, let alone someone who has defined and made possible my own life.
I find that words do not even come close to being able to convey the thoughts, feelings, understandings and expressions I feel and the depth of her love. Simply waking this morning on a cold snowy day with the one I love, covered and kept warm by the quilt she so lovingly made is an amazing legacy of love she has left me. The sweaters and the worry that she has covered me with and the avalanche of memories that seem to bury me again and again these days is hard to shovel into any form of meaning, let alone allow me to dig a path out in order to look at her life from any perspective.
The power of love is beyond my comprehension. The breadth of love and connection is something I can touch and hold onto with items valued only by me because of the effects upon my life. The nuances of love create shadows and traces that give my life depth. Anything I imagine I could say always leaves more to be said, I suppose that is what we do as we carry on with the love that has been given us.

Friday, February 20, 2015

the art of prayer

Recently I was asked for a good book on prayer. Many began to race through my head, from the Episcopal denominational book by Margaret Gunthner to the centering prayer work of Richard Rohr, to various devotional works, to classics to Richard Foster’s great piece, Prayer, finding the heart’s true home.  But in reflecting on these works, and thinking that Richard Foster’s would probably be the best as a response to this particular request, I was left with the lack that many of these works have. There is not much said in these works about the importance of creativity in the journey of prayer.  My litmus for a healthy prayer and spiritual life is threefold; one, an engaged and active energy with scripture, two, a deep sense of humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves, and to understand the humor of God, and three, the frequency and depth of one’s singing. If we can sing we can pray. And this for me travels deeper into the larger realm of creativity. I paint because I pray. My portraits are all forms of prayer, a hybrid of icon and portraiture. Each one is more prayer than painting. I have one portrait that I have been working on for more than 10 years, and it is all because my prayers are not letting go, I keep returning and need to keep my prayers for this woman and her child ever before me, and her mother as well. It is all the expression of my prayer.

The activity of prayer is not only our thoughts, nor just our breathing, nor just our actions towards others, but our entire engaged life. It is in our cooking and eating, in our lovemaking and in our play, in our meetings and in all we create. Prayer is the dynamic relationship we have with our pets and with our gardens and with our automobiles and bicycles and with our bodies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the honor of blessing

As a preacher, I spend a great deal of time crafting words and finding ways to express thoughts about issues that transcend and somehow give meaning to our lives. And, yet, there are times when I am so deeply humbled that I find that words cannot express the thoughts and experiences that I face. As a pastor I have the great honor and privilege to be with people during extreme times of loss, pain, suffering and challenge. Simply being present with others is for me one of the most rewarding experiences I have in the role of priest; for it is in these moments that I unfold what I can only express as deep love and compassion for those with whom I sit and pray.
I have sat with many people as they faced death, and also with families who have lost loved ones. In each case I learn more about the mysteries of this life and see the harsh reality that the deeper we love, the deeper the hurt and loss when we lose someone we love. I also know that no matter how long the illness and how well we prepare for someone’s death, it is always difficult when the time comes. So recently, with all my knowledge and experience, I was faced with the death of my mother. And all the truths I knew were there for me to experience first-hand for myself. What was renewing and overwhelming for me was the deep care and gentle gestures offered by those with whom I have sat. People who I know have faced deep wounds and loss, and know the valley of the shadow well. The honor of companionship is something that I cannot express, I come up with words like thankful and overwhelmed, but there is so much more to the experience.
In this time of loss I have been humbled to see how I sometimes hold onto simplistic notions and expressions; sometimes I am moved by what could be seen as sentimental theology, and superstitious thinking. It does not surprise me, because I and so many of us have superstitious or simplistic beliefs when it comes to sporting events – like how I find myself leaving the room when my team is winning, because that will help them continue to win. But the journey of faith is the common life in which we find ourselves  with each other as we face our mortal journeys. The experience of religion is not the understanding or formulated thoughts with which we agree or not, but the wrestle and the engagement with each other in our struggles which sometimes leads to common understandings or even the transforming of older understandings. There is an old hymn that begins, “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!.I have always held onto the presence of God in a very quiet way as I have faced trying times, more so than I hold onto my ideas of faith. And I have experienced that somehow my suffering is felt by God, and it is most often through sharing our experiences with each other,  seeing the loss in someone else and coming to the place where I can share my own pain.
I try to write what it is I have come to see and feel, and it ends up like trying to write music to a symphony with simply crayons and markers. The formulas of faith, the definitions and expressions always come after the experience; and like retelling a dream, they continually change in the retelling to the point that perhaps the descriptions begin to make their own story apart from the original dream.  There is a place of love; and it is in the eyes and hands that reach out to us and to whom we reach towards.  This place and time of holy engagement is not found in what might be considered or wished for blessings but in the blessings of what might be in fact what we wish our blessing would help us from having to face. The simplicities and intricacies of understandings are helpful, but what matters more, I am finding, is the presence of life with life, pain with pain, grief with grief, laughter with laughter, and in these moments are mysteries beyond anything I can express. It is in this place that I am so deeply honored, and so deeply alive.  

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