Archive for December, 2013

Thursday Circle Focus Piece – December 5, 2013

Isaiah 42:1-12

(NRSV with vkr paraphrase)


Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen,

in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon this one,

to bring forth justice to the nations.

The one who serves will not cry or speak in a lifted voice,

or make it heard in the street;

the one who serves will not break a bruised reed,

nor quench a dimly burning wick;

the one who serves will faithfully bring forth justice.

The one who serves will not grow faint or be crushed

until justice has been established in the earth;

the coastlands wait for the teaching of this servant.


Thus says God, the Holy of Holies,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

I Am Who I Am,

I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

I am the Holy of Holies, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to little gods.


See, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Sing a new song, let praise ring from the end of the earth!

Let the sea roar and all that fills it,

the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice:

the villages of Kedar, where live the offspring of Ishmael;

the inhabitants of Sela, the neighbors of Israel.

Let all sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains.

Let them give glory to the One who loves them,

and declare praise to the coastlands, to the very edges of the sea.


Questions for reflection

1) What small thing is powerful in your experience; something that has great effect yet does not “break a bruised reed” or “quench a dimly burning wick”?











2) How do you experience a living Spirit of God, the “Holy of Holies” whose only name is “I am who I am”? What puzzlement is there in that? What freedom? What kind of power lives within such a free and open Spirit?











3) What great rejoicing “to the coastlands” have you known in your life? Are you finding that now? Missing it? What is one move you can make right now to restore or renew the greatness of life and love in your experience?




Created by Vernon K. Rempel, D.Min. 2013 vkrempel@gmail.com

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Thursday Circle Focus Piece

November 14, 2013



“Pied Beauty”

Gerard Manley Hopkins



Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.




Bible passage

Job 5:8-9

“As for me, I would seek the One who is true and loving, and to that One I would commit my cause. For the One of truth and of love does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.




Questions for reflection

1) What things are all different, “original, spare, strange” in your life?












2) When is diversity just fragmentation and when is it strong and interesting?












3) What otherness is easy for you to encounter? What otherness is usually difficult for you to encounter?












4) What would you say is “great and unsearchable” in your experience?















Created by Vernon K. Rempel, D.Min. 2013 vkrempel@gmail.com

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About this blog

I’ve decided to publish several new kinds of things on this blog.

1) my culture commentary, including comments on my shoes!

2) my meditation notes from First Mennonite Church of Denver worship services (9:30a Sundays at 430 W. 9th Ave. Denver 80204

3) The Focus Pieces that I create for our Thursday Circle contemplative practice (7p Thursdays, usually at 6358 S. Gallup Place, Littleton 80120. This practice is based on Parker Palmer’s book Hidden Wholeness and the related Courage and Renewal retreats that I’ve attended. I am ever so grateful to Colorado Courage and Renewal for this powerful work, and to the national Courage and Renewal organization – more info. at couragerenewal.org


Vern Rempel

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Thursday Circle Focus Piece – November 7, 2013




The Lake Isle of Innisfree

By William Butler Yeats


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.


I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.





Bible passage

Isaiah 30:15, 16 (vkr paraphrase)

For thus said the Holy of Holies, the Holy One of our people:

In returning and rest you shall be saved;

   in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

But you would not have it and said,

‘No! We will escape with fast technology [original: “horses”]—

   therefore you will in fact escape, if you can call it that!

   Because your distractions and distortions will also come quickly!

No. In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.








Questions for reflection

1) While composing this Focus Piece, I felt like I was squeezing it into my schedule and using technology for speed. What paradoxes of seeking quietness or even “boredom” (of the intentional, creative sort) might you experience?








2) When in your life does “peace come dropping slow” and you hear “water lapping with low sounds” (so to speak)?








3) Is our salvation in quietness or in speed? A little of both?








4) What is bringing you deep joy today?











Created by Vernon K. Rempel, D.Min. 2013 vkrempel@gmail.com

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More on shoes

More on shoes

Here you can see some of the craft of the shoes, and John Fluevog’s signature. They are fun and extraordinarily practical (this may sound like a paid promotion, but I just like the shoes, and I think good work like this should be honored)

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John Fluevog shoes

John Fluevog shoes

These are shoes created by the Canadian John Fluevog. Manufactured in Vietnam – so need to check into fair trade conditions. But amazing beautiful shoes with soles and heels that work in any condition – snow, packed snow, snow with some ice, concrete. They are amazing soles – called “Angel” soles.

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All Earth Sunday; November 22, 2013

For First Mennonite Church of Denver

©Vernon K. Rempel, 2013


Bible reading: Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.



First Fruits: 3 short reflections


1) Depth perception

Oliver Sacks, in an article entitled “Stereo Sue”

              (New Yorker June 19, 2006)

       writes about a woman who was able to see

              with depth perception for the first time

                      in mid-life.


An optometrist gave her prism therapy

       which, through a long series of interventions,

              gave her depth perception or stereo vision.


When stereo vision appeared in her life,

       she suddenly noticed curious things:


The light fixture in her kitchen, as she noted,

       “seems to occupy some space between

       myself and the ceiling” (70


In her car, the steering wheel “popped out”

       from the dash”


Most wonderfully and poetically,

       she walked into snow falling.


“I could see the space between each flake, and all the flakes together produced a beautiful three-dimensional dance.”


She went on to say “A snowfall can be quite beautiful – especially when you see it for the first time.” (73)


Oliver Sacks notes that this is the difference

between what the philosopher Bertrand Russell

calls knowledge by description vs.

knowledge by acquaintance (70)


And Sacks writes that the adult brain appears

to have the ability to recover stereo vision,

even in mid-life, if new therapies are applied.


He notes that Sue worked on her exercises diligently (69)

and so regained the ability to see snow fall in full depth.


And so now, we may say, with prayer.

       We may have lost the “stereo sight” of prayer.

              Or we may never have had it.


But we have wonderful plastic brains

       that are far more capable of re-wiring

              all our lives long, than once was thought


So we can recover the depth perception of prayer,

              even after long disuse, even if we’ve never really

                      found it before.


And how amazing when the world “pops out”

       at us and the dimensions that we now see

              are the dimensions of love.


To what may it be compared?

It is like the time in the movie Moonrise Kingdom

when the music goes from tinny mono

on the little record player


to full Dolby stereo as the girl looks out the window

and apparently into her future.


It is like Peyton threading one through

the jungle of arms of defenders

and into the hands of Wes or Julian or Demarius.


It is like when you bring the idea to the board

or to the supervisor or the colleague or the investor

and they are willing to give it a try!


It is like the hug of appreciation from a friend

or the sustaining hug of a beloved one.


That is the feeling of the deepening of perception

       a greater and more thorough investigation into reality.


But beyond saying what good prayer is like,

       I would like to say what it is.


Good prayer is searching one’s way

       into the fabric of things,

              to research the connectivity of life.


It is to remember the love of those near at hand

       And God’s love for all those, however far or different.


It is to affirm that I wish you life and freedom and dignity,

       however much we disagree or have fallen out

              or find ourselves across some divide.


It is holding the longing for healing,

       the longing for reconciliation,

              the longing for hope and recognition,

                      and courage and strength

                             to represent that which is very good.


Prayer is working our way into our experience

       and discovering the faith affirmation

              that what’s there, and always there

                      is love.


And it is more; it is more

       that is beyond words.





2) It’s okay…

The miracle of prayer is that it is

       depth perception, not depth wishing


Contrary to what one might think,

       or might learn from popular religious culture

              prayer is not about magical thinking

                      or wishful thinking


Rather it is about seeing things as they truly are.

       Seeing things as they truly are.


Faith in the Spirit of Jesus Christ

       affirms that the way things are is love

              Love is woven into the outer and inner fabrics

                      into the conflicts and suffering

                             and satisfaction and joy of life.


Today we celebrate one of the specific

       and particular expressions of love:

              To put it Biblically in very general paraphrase:

giving even as we have received.

              (I Peter 2, II Peter 1, Colossians 2; I Corinthians 2)


Today we celebrate with money

       perhaps the greatest taboo and secret

              and power in our society


We call it First Fruits, with the thought that

       we will think first of the community of faith

              because the Holy Spirit has thought first of us.


We have already been given the joy of the Spirit

       in our hearts, the love that transforms.

              It comes to us before we deserve it

                      and before we can earn it.


And because we are people of flesh and blood,

       who eat and live in houses and drive cars,

              all blessing and love is at least partly

                      a matter of resource,

                             partly a matter of the great taboo: money.


Love courses through our veins in the Holy Spirit

       Money also is woven into our hearts

              the need for it, the longing for it, the addiction to it,

                      the immense joy of sharing it,

                             the dignity of having enough

                                    the justice of all having enough


In Isaiah 58, the voice of our loving God says

       Is this not the fast, the worship that I choose,

              to offer food to the hungry

                      and to satisfy those who suffer


the text continues: then your light shall shine forth

       it is not a matter of merely passing unsatisfactory days.

              if we choose God’s fast, we come together to pray

                      and we find ourselves addressing need


and the our light breaks forth.

       It’s not, and then nothing,

then you’ve done what you should


No, then your light will break forth,

       and your bones will be strong

              you will successfully repair the streets and cities


and you will delight in God

       in whom love flows onto all the surfaces of the earth

              like a mighty river


and on the banks of that river grow mighty trees,

       along Speer Boulevard, and I-25,

              and even troubled I-225 that is always jammed


and also the road to the sea from Phnom Penh

       and also the trans-Siberian highway

              and the road from Jerusalem to Ramallah to Tel Aviv


and from the heart of Somalia to the heart of Nebraska

       yes, even that road, for all people are God’s beloved

              and for God’s beloved there are always roads

                      of opportunity and hope and healing


Then you will delight in God

       and so we share our great taboo – money

              in this place where we pray


So that our prayers will flow into the hearts of lives of many

       and this community will be strong and blessed

              and will be a blessing on the face of the earth.


Prayer is about depth perception, not depth wishing.

       It is perception of what is real and true.

              So our love is expressed in the most taboo

                     and practical of ways – giving money.


And in sharing, light breaks forth

       Peace on earth; good will to all.





3) Ease into the conversation

One last short word.

       Find the hymn We gather together blue hymnal 17

              We will sing it presently.


David Whyte has the beloved poem

       Everything is waiting for you


It is about investing in things that matter

       letting good connections form

              not standing on the outside


but finding healing from shame and hurt

       and neglect and above all loneliness

              May none here be lonely

                      for we are people of God’s love


Everything is waiting for you by David Whyte

 (After Derek Mahon)


Your great mistake is to act the drama

as if you were alone.  As if life

were a progressive and cunning crime

with no witness to the tiny hidden

transgressions.  To feel abandoned is to deny

the intimacy of your surroundings.  Surely,

even you, at times, have felt the grand array;

the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding

out your solo voice.  You must note

the way the soap dish enables you,

or the window latch grants you freedom.

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten you and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.


Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into

the conversation.  The kettle is singing

even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots

have left their arrogant aloofness and

seen the good in you at last.  All the birds

and creatures of the world are unutterably

themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.



Let us put down the weight of our aloneness

and ease into the conversation.


With our prayers, with our love, with our money

       let us turn our hearts to the one Great Love

              the One who loves us so very much. Ease into that conversation.


Sing We gather together blue hymnal 17

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