Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Rising

A song bird sings into my ear,
"Awake thy soul to sing"
Of morning light and ever near
A sense of wondering,
What lies ahead, what lies ahead?
My heartbeat asks again,
As day awakens me from bed
To walk out in the rain.
The mist hangs low and heavily 
Uniting sea to sky.
My heart leaps up and readily
I yearn to learn to fly.
The eastern skies illuminate
With lavenders and red
The sleepy headlands as they wait
The advent rising from the dead.

By David Robinson

Monday, November 21, 2011


Quotations from the writings of Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952:

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything (Thoughts for Our Times p. 16)."

"When I look back upon my early days I am stirred by the thought of the number of people whom I have to thank for what they gave me or for that they were to me. At the same time I am haunted by an oppressive consciousness of the little gratitude I really showed them while I was young. How many of them have said farewell to life without my having made clear to them what it meant to me to receive from them so much kindness or so much care! Many a time have I, with a feeling of shame, said quietly to myself over a grave the words which my mouth ought to have spoken to the departed, which he was still in the flesh. For all that, I think I can say with truth that I am not ungrateful, I did occasionally wake up out of that youthful thoughtlessness which accepted as a matter of course all the care and kindness that I experienced from others, and I believe I became sensitive to my duty in this matter just as early as I did to the prevalence of suffering in the world. But down to my twentieth year, and even later still, I did not exert myself sufficiently to express the gratitude which was really in my heart. I valued too low the pleasure felt at receiving real proofs of gratitude. Often, too, shyness prevented me from expressing the gratitude that I really felt. . . .  We ought all to make an effort to act on our first thoughts and let our unspoken gratitude find expression. Then there will be more sunshine in the world, and more power to work for what is good. But as concerns ourselves we must all of us take care not to adopt as part of our theory of life all people’s bitter sayings about the ingratitude of the world. A great deal of water is flowing underground which never comes up as a spring. In that thought we may find comfort. But we ourselves must try to be the water which does find its way up; we must become a spring at which men can quench their thirst for gratitude (Memoirs of Childhood and Youth, pp. 87-88)."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Live Simply that Others May Simply Live

 Questions in Mid-November:
  • How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • What was a typical pattern in your family growing up at a family meal?  
  • What has always been one of your favorite meals or a favorite recipe you love to make?
  • Have you ever grown a garden and share with your family food you've grown?
  • If you live with a family, how many family meals do you share each week currently?
    1-4             5-8                          9-12                 13-16                   17-21
Study for Mid-November:
  • Read Exodus 12:3-11. What does this passage tell us about sacred family mealtimes in the Jewish faith? What stands out for you in this passage?What is unique about Passover in a Jewish home? 
  • Read Isaiah 58:6-12. What does this passage say about how we are to share our food, our lives, our meals, our resources? How do you fast? What is the relationship between feasting and fasting in your experience? 
  • Read Luke 22:7-20. What does this passage tell us about sacred family mealtimes in the Christian faith and the roots of the Lord’s Supper in the Jewish faith? What stands out for you in this passage?
  • Read Luke 24:28-31. Describe the setting of this story. What surprises are here?
Life application for Mid-November:
  • What have been your experiences of fasting?
  • How do you know the difference between a “need” and a “want”, between what is essential and what is a luxury?
  • What world hunger groups have you supported?
  •   How are you seeking to “live simply that others may simply live”? *(phrase attributed to Ghandi and Mother Teresa among others)

Monday, November 7, 2011

To Autumn

To Autumn, a sonnet

A dying orange Maple leaf descends,
Through misty morning stillness in the trees
Into the canopy my eye ascends
Among the fiery red and yellow leaves.
To meditate upon a mystery
My anxious soul awakens to the dawn
To wrestle with death’s angel suddenly
Alive and just as quickly he is gone.
Deep within the forest stands a door
A portal to our everlasting home
To know what lies beyond and what’s in store
Follow in his steps where he did roam.
An inner voice assures me with a prod
“Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”

*Psalm 46:10
Written by David Robinson, October 26, 2011
Dedicated to Don Robinson (9/20/1931--11/1/2011)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Contemplative Photography

3:oopm, this Saturday, Nov. 5th, in Cannon Beach, Oregon, at the Coaster Theater, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF CANNON BEACH: a nature photo slideshow and solo piano concert, created by Thomas Robinson and David Robinson. This show includes 400 Thomas Robinson nature photos from pre-dawn, sunrise, midday, afternoon, sunset, evening and night. During the photo slideshow, David will play original solo piano mediations on grand piano. 

"Prayers in silence and quiet, of course have their own validity. It is not always necessary to express our prayers out loud. The simplest prayer, perhaps, is that of quiet contemplation. We place ourselves in the presence of the divine. Some pilgrims also find photography an expression of silent contemplation. By looking through the lens and focusing upon some aspect of the landscape or the interior of a grand cathedral, a person comes to new awareness that might be missed by trying to take everything in at a glance. Using a camera, as Thomas Merton discovered on his final pilgrimage to Thailand, can be a form of prayer." ~from "Pilgrimage: Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice", by Edward C. Sellner (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2004), 145.

Photo: 7 minute exposure of star trails over Haystack Rock

Monday, October 17, 2011


 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (1)

I've been reading a book by Ian Bradley titled, Pilgrimage: a Spiritual and Cultural Journey (Oxford, England: Lion Hudson plc, 2009). Bradley is a professor of Practical Theology and Church History at the University of St Andrews, specializing in Celtic Christianity, and a leader of regular pilgrimages to such sites as St Andrews, Iona and Lindisfarne. 

Pilgrimage is still only available in hardcover, and is packed with glossy photos of pilgrimage locations across Europe, including Rome, Santiago, St Andrews, Iona, Nidaros, Assisi, Lourdes, Taize, Medugorje and others. 

Bradley offers a variety of definitions of pilgrimage, including these:
  • A departure from daily life on a journey in search of spiritual well-being. 
  • An individual summons to know God more fully, a spiritual journey to which the pilgrim joyfully responds 'yes' to God's invitation.
  • A provisional, transitory state, often taken as a metaphor for the journey of life, hastening irrevocably from the cradle to the grave. It is a reminder that all things in this world are temporary and that everything is in motion.
  • The outer physical journey mirrors the inner spiritual journey; the excitement of setting out on a new adventure is balanced by the joy of coming home. 
The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 includes chapters titled The Biblical Roots of Pilgrimage, Pilgrimage in the Early Church, Celtic Pilgrimage, The Golden Age of Pilgrimage, After the Reformation, Pilgrimage Today, and How to be a Pilgrim. Part 2 leads readers chapter by chapter into specific pilgrimage sites in Italy, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Poland, France, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, and England. Historic details are woven together with practical and personal insights into making your own pilgrimage to such a place. 

Of the sites emphasized by Bradley, I've personally enjoyed spending pilgrimage time in Rome, St Andrews, Iona, Assisi, Taize and Lindisfarne. But one need not get into an airplane and travel across the globe to go on pilgrimage. "Blessed are those whose hearts are set in pilgrimage" the Psalmist tells us. Jesus suffered for us along the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, "leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps" (2), joining Christ along the way of the cross, day by day, setting our hearts on pilgrimage. Jesus came alongside hurting people along the road to Emmaus, comforting them by opening the Scriptures to them along the way home. Later, these two, reflecting upon their encounter with pilgrim Christ recalled, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" (3)

May you know the joy of journeying with our Lord along the pilgrim way. If possible, sometime in your life, consider turning travel plans into pilgrim plans, and intentionally step out along the way with Christ as your guide, walking along the way, "in his steps".
(1) Psalm 84:5.
(2) 1 Peter 2:21.
(3) Luke 24:32.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scriptures of the Mountains

Three quotations from John Muir (1838-1914) the great Scottish naturalist, mountaineer:
  • Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. (1)
  • The darkest scriptures of the mountains are illumined with bright passages of love that never fail to make themselves felt when one is alone. (2)
  • I met cassiope (mountain heather) growing in fringes among the battered rocks . . . . Winter and summer, you may hear her voice, the low, sweet melody of her purple bells. No evangel among all the mountain plants speaks Nature's love more plainly than cassiope. Where she dwells, the redemption of coldest solitude is complete. The very rocks and glaciers seem to feel here presence, and become imbued with her own fountain sweetness.
In these three selections of Muir's writings, he reveals a spirituality of nature in which creation becomes an evangelist, a proclaimer of the good news of God, in which creation is to be read as scripture, declaring the glory and truth of God. Nature, in her tiniest details, in her flowers, rivers, lakes, mountains and storms, as well as in her grandeur, all Nature declares the good tidings of God and illumines the nature of God, and even moreso, brings us into the very heart of God, bringing us inner peace, spiritual renewal and soul refreshment through our direct encounter with God's creation.

As Paul declares, "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made" (Romans 1:20).

1) quoted from "Southern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers", p.7.
2) quoted from John Muir's "Mountaineering Essays
3) quoted from John Muir's "Mountaineering Essays, p. 36-37. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



A new day beckons hearts awake to sing
   As jeweled dew drops freshen every blade
A flash of flicker-flight on morning wing
   Through Hemlock boughs renews the forest glade.

Eternity arises with the dawn
   In misty shrouded forests by the sea
The sword fern camouflage the sleeping fawn
  Beneath the soaring Cedar canopy.

Awake my soul, your morning anthem raise
   To join the Varied Thrush in Matin’s cry
Leap up my soul, your Recreator praise
   In silent wonder seek him eye to eye.

The darkness fades, behold the new day breaks
As all creation in Christ’s light awakes. 

~a sonnet written by David Robinson

Saturday, September 24, 2011


As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
 ~by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) an English poet, a Jesuit priest, known for his "sprung rhythm" in his poetry, with beautiful images of faith, Christ and a sense of divine wonder sprinkled throughout his writings. In 1975, a floor stone was placed in his memory in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, alongside the greatest poets of the English people. 

Monday, September 12, 2011


After hiking up into an Aspen forest earlier this month, I've been reflecting upon this tree. Aspen is the common name for a tree species that is part of the Salicaciae family of the Populus genus. The specific Aspen we walked among was the quaking Aspen, known as Populus tremuloides, for the quaking movement of the leaves in the wind. Aspen is a deciduous tree native to cooler climates of North America. We were in Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains, above 8000 feet elevation. Our friend and host told us a unique insight into the Aspen forest. They grow in "clonal colonies", all "cloned" from a single original seedling. The original mother tree sends out root suckers to grow more trees. Over time, a whole forest springs up from that original seedling, making the entire forest of Aspens one organism. 

In Utah, one singe Aspen forest known as "Pando" (Latin for "I spread") is thought to have originated from a single tree and now spreads across more than 100 acres, thus is thought to be one of  the largest living organisms in North America with nearly 50,000 trees (stems) weighing nearly 7000 tons, and thought to be at least 80,000 years old. One of the defensive designs of an Aspen forest is the interwoven root system that lies beneath the danger of forest fires. A fire may decimate an entire Aspen forest but not touch the root system which will spring forth new growth and replenish the trees lost in the fire. Aspen trees live 40-150 years above ground, and seem to me to have a keen sense of being aware and watching. The Aspen forest we hiked among seemed to be looking at us with many "eyes", with the common shape of branch scars on the trunks looking like eyes. 

An Aspen forest tells us of the glorious design of God in creation. We too, in the living Organism known as the Church, are "many parts, but one body". Paul clearly understood the Church to be a living Body: "The body is a unit, though it is made of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Cor. 12:12,27). The original Seedling*, Christ, has send forth new growth around the world, springing up new life, new growth, which are many parts, many trunks, yet one living organism, and part of the one Body which is the living Body of Christ.

*Isaiah 11:1 describes Christ as "A Seedling that comes up from the stump of Jesse, from Jesse's roots, a Branch will bear fruit."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Two Ravens Flying Southward

Two Ravens Flying Southward 
~ a sonnet ~

Two ravens flying southward over Vail,
Caught our eye and ears as they passed by,
Conversing on the wing as if to say,
"How regrettable to walk and never fly."

Katanoesate! Jesus declares,
To study with intent to understand!
Our corvid masters of the azure airs
Unveiling secrets to the mind of Man.

Earthbound without machines, we long to soar,
Beyond the petty pavement 'neath our feet,
Into the mystery of raven lore,
Hidden deep within mountain retreat.

Remove the weights of ignorance and dross,
Reveal the Way, the Truth, Thy Holy Cross.*
*These two ravens were spotted flying above the ridge near the Eagle's Nest, above Vail, Colorado, flying towards the Mountain of the Holy Cross on Sept. 5, 2011. This sonnet written by David Robinson on Sept. 5, 2011. .

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Heavens Declare

Ever since the Hubble Space Telescope was put into place in the Earth's orbit in 1990, humans have drawn closer into the splendor and marvel of the universe. Click here for Hubble Space Telescope photo gallery. Most of us can only name a few constellations and take very little time each day to pay attention to the wonders above our head in the sky, whether a sunrise, a cloud formation, a masterpiece artwork painting at sunset, or swimming in the Milky Way of stars. The ancient Psalmist told us 3000 years ago truths we all know within our inner spirit when we look with our bare eyes into the star strewn night sky:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them. 
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. 
~Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
This week, go out at night with a blanket. Lie down in a field or grassy area and simply stare into the night sky. If you have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, look through the glass and let your mind spin with the vast glory of the heavens above. Even in places where city lights block most of the heavenly glory, a few stars still insist on shining their light, traveling across the vast reaches of space, into our eyes to fill our minds and hearts with the wonder and delight of God's wordless glory being proclaimed by the work of his hands. 

Photo Credit: "Gas Pillars in the Eagle Nebula (M16): Pillars of Creation in a Star-Forming Region", from Hubble Site

Monday, August 15, 2011

Watching and Waiting

On Monday mornings, I typically begin the day with a time of prayer in the Glenstal Book of Prayer. This morning, this time was spent outside, on our deck overlooking the forest. I had a cup of freshly brewed coffee in hand. Here is a selection from this morning prayer service. 

in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Morning Invocation of the Light:
Glory be to God who has shown us the light! 
Lead me from darkness to light,
Lead me from sadness to joy,
Lead me from death to immortality.
Glory be to God who has shown us the light!

Psalm 5:1-3
To my words give ear, O Lord,
give heed to my groaning.
Attend to the sound of my cries,
my King and my God.
It is you whom I invoke, O Lord,
in the morning you hear me;
in the morning I offer you my prayer,
watching and waiting. 

While praying this prayer, I enjoyed watching the Chickadees fly among the Elderberries, over to our bird feeder, collecting their morning meal. Their merry and modest presence in our yard was a delight to my soul. Over a morning cup of coffee, with God's Word open in our laps, soaking in God's creation, there is deep soul renewal that comes from watching and waiting. 

These two spiritual habits, active-spiritual watching and waiting do not come naturally to us or easily in a hurried, distracted culture. We are quick to distraction, getting up to answer the next text, respond to the next cell phone ringtone, or change the channel to seek the next best television show. Sitting still even for a few minutes in the morning, attentively "watching and waiting" is a holy and soul refreshing gift you can give to yourself. What are we watching? We watch with the eyes of the heart, looking to Jesus, "the author and perfecter of our faith". For whom are we waiting? We wait in hope for the Lord, as Psalm 27 reminds us:

I am confident of this: 
I will see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.