Image result for free photo of earth from spaceRise up! Join earth’s liturgy–

Cosmos’ nascent verse and voice–

Heavens, waters, creatures make

Diverse harmonies: Rejoice!


Praise the God whose counterpoint,

Weaves creation’s diverse tunes

Into one eternal hymn,

Bursting fear and yawning gloom.


When we gather this new day

As Christ’s body here on earth,

We join with the universe

Which sings now in endless mirth.


May we keep this Song alive

That stars sang in dawning years.

May our lives add consonance

To the music of the spheres.

Valerie E. Hess copyright 2017

“Everybody wants to be transformed but nobody wants to change,” quipped Frederica Matthewes-Green several years ago. Another way to say this is “I want change without change.” As the leaves are beginning to shift colors here at this old house, it is interesting to reflect on what the word “change” really means. The online etymological dictionary gives us this:

change (v.)
early 13c., “to substitute one for another; to make (something) other than what it was” (transitive); from late 13c. as “to become different” (intransitive), from Old French changier “to change, alter; exchange, switch,” from Late Latin cambiare “to barter, exchange,” from Latin cambire “to exchange, barter,” of Celtic origin, from PIE root *kemb- “to bend, crook” (with a sense evolution perhaps from “to turn” to “to change,” to “to barter”); cognate with Old Irish camm “crooked, curved;” Middle Irish cimb “tribute,” cimbid “prisoner;” see cant (n.2). Meaning “to take off clothes and put on other ones” is from late 15c. Related: Changed; changing. To change (one’s) mind is from 1610s.

I find the idea of changing clothes the most useful when thinking about “change means changing.” For example, it is very uncomfortable to put my pajamas on over my clothes from the day. I must take off one to put on the other. That is not a value statement about either the pajamas or the clothes of the day. It simply means that we cannot wear both functionally or comfortably.

And so it is in life. We must leave one house, one job, one church or school to go to another one. We cannot be in two places at once. We cannot have it all. We cannot change without movement away from one thing and toward another.

There is excitement in this idea and grief as well. We can and must “make (something) other than what it was.” The beauty of living in a place with distinct seasons is that we see Nature do this on a regular basis. We transition out of summer and into fall which leads into winter which cycles back to spring which eventually becomes summer again. We can learn a lot from Nature. I am sure there are leaves that do not want to fall off their branches. I am sure the trees do not like the idea of standing naked against the winter sky. Yet, without the rhythms of growth and dormancy, trees and other plants would grow continuously to the point of being out-of-control in height and density. The goal is to embrace each season as it comes and learn the gifts of each of those seasons.Image result for free photo of a tree in four seasons

As we continue to stand in the liminal space I referred to last time, we take comfort in the cycles of Nature. Autumn has begun; the change of seasons is upon us. And that is not a bad thing.

We have been busy “re-tooling” here at this old house.  Shifts in lifestyle and work are now complete and we are in a threshold space: rejoicing in all that was and waiting expectantly for what comes next.

The fancy term for all of this is “liminal space,” that place that, if it were wide enough, you would completely stand inside a doorway. You have left one room but have not completely entered the next. Many of you know what I am talking about as you have been there or are currently there. It is exciting and terrifying, full of grief and yet full of anticipation. 

The trick in all of this is to keep living in the present, here and now, not missing the gift of “today.” It can be easy to panic, to worry about “what we will eat and what we will wear,” questioning Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about birds of the air and lillies of the field being fully provided for by a gracious Heavenly Father. For me, I find that it puts my whole “faith and trust in God” front and center: do I really believe it? Is God’s definition of “full provision” the same as mine?

This is a season of “being” and not “doing.” While there are requirements for body and soul in each day and new creative outlets to explore, it is also a time to let go of being defined by roles and titles. In fact, at this point in my life, everything that I have been doing for work for the last 30 plus years has ended. There are few externals that I can share when someone asks me, “And what do you do?” The lesson of this liminal space time is to be OK with saying “nothing” in response to that question.

Well, not exactly nothing. I am learning to be a child of God and to find my identity and sufficiency in that but that might be too complicated for some casual social settings. I think I will just say, “I am enjoying the harvest,” knowing the spring’s new planting will at some point become evident.

“Who would you be if you weren’t who you are now?”

That question and its variants has been going through my head these past several weeks. For all kinds of good reasons, everything in my BJ (before Jerusalem) work life has ended. There is nothing that I was doing to be creative or to make money that still exists today.

That is a very vulnerable place to be. It is also very exciting. It means that I have been handed a brand-new journal and have opened it to page 1, ready to write with a brand new pen. 

I bring to this new season of my life, to shift the metaphor, years of experience and history. In that sense, it is not a completely blank slate. That is only possible for a newborn. However, as I type this today, all the things that our culture values that identify a person, put them into someone else’s mental silo, are gone for me.

The test is to learn to rejoice more in “being” than in “doing.” When everything one has done is gone, then the true essence of one’s being is more likely to rise to the surface.

Sometimes, that rising is the dross that needs to be burned off. Sometimes, it is a clear diamond that was being forged under years of heavy pressure from surface forces. And sometimes, it is all still TBD (to be determined).

As I get up each day, no longer do many externals define my schedule. The time clock, the deadline, the must-check e-mails are mostly gone. Yet, I am not retired. I am simply in transition, on a threshhold, between what was and what is not yet revealed.

Exciting and terrifying. Stay tuned!

I wrote this poem last fall in the lobby of the lodge we were staying in. I have been tinkering with it and am now ready to share it with you all. I would love comments and constructive feedback, positive or negative! Thanks.


by Valerie E. Hess copyright 2017


Sitting in the lobby

With my fancy coffee and netbook,

Watching elderly tourists–

Soft bodies, canes—

Waiting to be called.

A delay is announced; the train will be late.

They settle in, getting to know fellow pilgrims better.

Comparing, contrasting lives, bragging a bit.

Like sheep,

They wait to be herded through beauty,

Eating the mouthfuls placed before them,

Sleeping where assigned.

Soon, some will do this in a care facility

But for now, their world can expand a bit more,

Like nearly worn-out elastic that still has a bit of hold in it.

New pictures to share! New stories to tell the folks back home

While they wait for the train

To glory.


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