Day 3

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

You’ve given me to be one of those people who get headaches, and I’ve had all kinds.  Dull, ice-pick, tension, stress, heat, sinus, barometric, migraine.

You’ve also given me a gift of healing.  Now, I know how that works.  The truth is, I don’t do anything.  I just call upon you.  I tend to practice this gift with others.  I’m not very good at using it for myself.  That seems to take extra energy, extra effort.  How quickly I forget that you are ever-present and that strength through you knows no bounds.

I’m reminded of your love and compassion in the faces of those who are guests in our country this weekend, especially in the one who is our guest in our home.  Their people have known suffering I cannot imagine, and she practices and lives in her faith and beliefs in a way I can only admire.  Somehow in her journey she has found part of Your Mystery, has reached a point of not understanding, and yet the trust in You is called upon and overrides any slightest hint of doubt, if, indeed, there ever was any.   She doesn’t falter; she does blossom.

I was asked questions, too, about my beliefs.  What it boils down to is that I have more to learn about the Bible, about our history and creeds, but I have a solid grasp on the core of my faith.  I truly believe it’s the core of any faith, that God is about Love — love to God, love to self and others through, for, and as God.  This is practiced and appears as compassion, and it is Good.

Thank you for showing us the way of compassion through the great Teachers, Christ and Muhammed be praised.

Bless our home with radical hospitality.  Bless me with strength and healing.  Bless us all who strive to walk in your way, whichever path we take.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

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21 Days of Prayer

Does it still take 21 days to create a habit?  If so, I need to make one.  It almost worked from Lent a few years ago, but the only thing that remained from making prayer my Lenten practice was my prayer list.  It’s time to get serious now.  Let’s see what I can do in 21 days.  I trust you to help hold me accountable.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you; for the community I live in, for the children who love me unconditionally, for the husband who upholds me, and for the home we share.  Thank you for your Grace.

Thank you for giving me the faith to ride through all that which I don’t understand.  I don’t know why some people get sick, get diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 cancer, their life turned upside down and those they love thrown into the ensuing chaos.  I don’t understand mental illness and why it’s so hard for our society to allow these people a place.  I don’t understand why some have so much and others nearly nothing at all.

What I know of Life and Love, though, are that nothing is so sure except these.  The world around me teems with life.  In this comfortable morning hour, when the sun promises us a scorching day; the birds are busy, the butterflies about, and the children, cat, and dog waking.  Even the trees and plants seem more at ease, and we are all alive, save for the scorched plants that couldn’t survive the summer heat.  Death is as sure as life — part of the cycle.

So Love, then, is the foundation of my being, the rock of my faith.  Why does it take so long to get there?  Love sees us through the impossible, takes us through the darkness.  Even when it seems like we don’t succeed, if we have walked in the way of Love, at least no one else was harmed and Christ’s example upheld.  Thank you for giving us such an example, showing us our full potential.

Help us, O God, to walk in the way of Love.  Help me to continue to trust, even when Life doesn’t make sense.  And thank you, again, for the beautiful people you have surrounded me with to share in my journey and I in theirs.

Give me strength to delight in your will and walk in your way, to the glory of your name.

Amen

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imPerfection

We read a poem this weekend that had to be written by a kindred.  Her words spoke in my language, spoke in truth.  I cannot find her complete poem on-line, though there are partial reprints.  Elizabeth Carlson’s “Imperfections” can be found in this book, however.  I dare not repost the perfect little poem in its entirety, what with copyright laws and all.

What I can post is my own writing, though.  After listening to and with Carlson’s poem a bit, we got to go our solitary ways.  I listen well when I am writing, when I am doing nearly anything.  To listen for my own imperfections at a deeper level, I sat.  I wrote.  This is what surfaced.  (I apologize in advance that I cannot get the spacing to change, so pardon the stanza run-on! I tried.)

“imPerfection”

I can sit with the ants in the dappled light

On this, another awe-inspiring autumn morning.

What mysteries might the breeze whisper in my ear?

What chatter does that strange creature

echo from my monkey brain?

Usually I listen for the wisdom I stumble upon,

Doing the tasks that need be done.

For once, at least,

I let myself

discover

my Self.

May the pen be my trowel

And my busy-ness the weeds

I remove from the soil.

The soil is rich and fertile.

Or maybe I fold the distractions

Away

With each shirt, pants, and sock.

Some thoughts need to dry in

Their own time.

No dirty nails this time to

Show for my effort.

Digging deep.

What are the treasures?

I cannot be rid of the roots from the species

Too invasive.

This is hard,

too hard.

But the longer I ignore them, the harder it gets

To let the soil be rich,

To appreciate the beauty

That is there if only

It, too, could obtain the resources

Stolen

by that which needs the

Persistent practice,

The daily tending.

It helps to name the

bermuda grasses of my being.

I cannot ignore the

Reality of money,

The need to connect with my family,

The limits of time.

I have to give up this idea of

Stagnant Perfection.

A garden is not a photograph.

It teems with

Life and Intention,

with Persistent Practice.

Blood and sweat, surely,

From the thorns and twigs of

Truth

Running

Deep.

I didn’t plant the oak tree there

Or the rose there.

Gifts of vulnerable strength and

Fragile beauty.

Timeless, both, and full of

Grace.

The mosquito offers its own poison

As it draws my blood,

Leaving the stinging itch

That will gnaw like the

Censor to challenge any

Gift I may unearth and

Lay claim to.

But it, too, will fade.

And even after my blood

Is dried and gone,

The earth remains to

Receive again

That which it gave.

Live into this cycle,

every moment.

Practice persistence with

Compassion

and

Gratitude,

whether with the harvest of the Earth

or the

Fruits of our wombs.

All is still and alive.

All is well.

This I am told.

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What’s Your Image?

I finally put my spiritual autobiography into coherent form and in six pages. To write about that which is intangible, I had to find a metaphor. I could have used a plant, like I’ve spoken of before, but I chose a different one this time. Ironically, it’s one where I might have a role in the creation. It’s a quilt, with a spiral design pieced together on the front. I’ve seen beautiful ones done before and wonder if I could muster up the perseverance to do one myself. I imagine I could . . . after I finish the Dr. Who scarf, that is.

Of course, the spiral is a familiar image in spiritual circles (pardon the pun). At the center is my soul, and radiating from that, in light and dark to create a sense of depth and dimension, is my journey in colors that reflect my perception. To represent the presence of Spirit, I envision using decorative yarn or ribbon weaving throughout, more visible in some times more than others but ever-present, even if only beneath the surface.

This exercise comes at a time when I truly have to assess my values. What do we truly need as a family? What is most important to us? What is the difference between the life we want to live and the life that we are living? I find myself at a familiar crossroad, one that seems to be coming more frequently these days, and these are questions that arise. I am being engaged in this creation here and now. It’s not just a quilt. This is my life, choosing how to participate in God’s will.

I don’t want my spiral to become stuck in one place, disconnected from the core of my being. With our home, our children, our family and friends, with strangers and the unknown, I want to be open. I want other people’s experience to enrich my own and add new colors to my life. I want to keep discovering, keep going beyond where I thought my understanding ended.

My image propels me forward and deeper, closer to what I believe is central to all. It is everything and nothing in particular. It is not easy, but the way is so simple.

What is your image? What best depicts the journey of Spirit in your life? Is it alive and vibrant, flowing? If not, why not? What would your life look like if you allowed unconditional love to move you? If you can, draw or sketch it. Label it. Name it. See how rich your life is and can be. Keep creating.

Peace be with you.

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Channeling the Flow

I love visualizing Spirit as water.  The rich symbolism never fails to make apparent a new way Spirit flows in and through my life and the world around me.  If only I am aware.

Here of late, there’s been a little too much water for my taste.  A mysterious leak somewhere resulted in an extravagant water bill, creeping up at first then holding steady at outrageous for a couple of months till we had to call in the professional.  A couple of little holes spewing out 600 gallons a day, average.  Plumbers are not cheap and for good reason, but they’re not always covered by insurance.  Our loss.

Another mysterious appearance of water damage in our master bath.  Definitely mold.  Not definitely covered by insurance.  We’ll probably fix it with some elbow grease, removal of sheetrock and some Kilz.  Hopefully the water will not reappear, and the mold, too.

Then there’s the flash flooding at the Albert Pike rec area in the southwest part of the state.   I don’t know these people any more than I knew the victims in Haiti.  For some reason, though, the cries in the night leave a vivid impression.  Maybe it’s the water.  Maybe it’s the vulnerable image of people surrounded by the sheer force of nature, not just in water but by the trees and hills.  Maybe it’s because that could have been my family out having a good time just getting away.  Maybe it’s the reality of the fact that no one deserves that, to watch a child or family member swept away.  The reality is that this happens often.  Helplessness is part of our suffering, isn’t it?

A friend and I decided to pick back up a book that we put down for a while.  Thinking about the title, Finding Water, I said, “The last thing I want to do right now is find more water!”

So it seems to be that there’s too much water in my life right now.  I’m definitely not in the desert; I feel like I could be swept away.  The resources around me aren’t being used the most efficiently, and while there seems to be waste, there also seems to be not enough of the right things.  We’re not a family that usually has $1,000 extra laying around (though every family should be!).

I take it as a directive to find how the water flows in my life, where Spirit is moving, and how efficiently I’m channeling this flow.  There is much here, and when given obvious opportunities, I feel like I’m channeling well.  It’s the every-moment opportunities I’m likely to miss.  It’s the things that are harder to do that I feel resistant to — like putting a book together, making pottery, sewing clothes, etc.  We all have gifts that we don’t fully tap into for risk of . . . succeeding?  being held responsible?  fear of failure? (insert your own hold-up here)?

I pray that none of us get overwhelmed by an abundance of Spirit.  May we all be so blessed, and may we all be granted the wisdom of how best to participate in the creation of our world, channeling the flow so well that it appears effortless.   I won’t always understand why things happen the way they do.  I won’t always be able to get out of my selfhood.  But I trust that my faith will help keep me afloat or at least help pull me back to the surface.

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Spring Break

I knew I should have brought out my camera on Friday, capturing the images of the shining daffodils and the amazing blossoms on a neighbor’s tulip tree.  Everything, including all the people I saw, seemed to follow the sun, soaking up the warmth and energy.  That night after all the kids were in bed, I sat by the outdoor fire that had toasted hot dogs and marshmallows so dutifully, feeling the wind and watching the moon and stars slowly disappear behind the clouds.  The forecast had promised snow the next day.  Could it be?

The next morning, the cinders had been extinguished by the rain that came.  I left for my Quiet Day in the continued drizzle and slightly above freezing temperatures — only 35 degrees below yesterday’s.  On my way home, after spending my day amidst lovely souls and the glowing of Spirit made manifest, the wintry mix began, then the snow.  Big flakes for this our Spring Equinox.

But the warmth of our busy kitchen and fireplace that night prevented any chill.  Homemade manicotti and at least an attempt at a new tiramisu recipe (I called it tirami-soup and wasn’t a fan). Our tummies were full, indeed!  And then we settled in for our snow day and the beginning of the kids’ Spring Break.

This week will be full of its own challenges.  After my already askew morning routine, I get to take the kids grocery shopping.  At least three eating times a day for six that feels like 10.  I’m getting a preview for this summer.  I read something last night that rang in my ears — several something’s in fact.  Excerpts from Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Way of Knowing . . .

“We stand midway between the purely material and the purely energetic, with a full range of versatility in both.” (p. 54)

“. . . where we are is exactly where we belong and that our real purpose in the cosmos is fulfilled in the way that we move back and forth between these two planes of existence.” (p.54)

“Working within the raw materials of the physical world, we are to give ‘birthing’ and ‘body’ to the names of God so that the invisible becomes visible. We are midwives of the Spirit.” (p.55)

The book continues on, giving voice to so many of my thoughts and experiences.  Yes!  Someone else gets the same messages as me and has already traced routes through other traditions, found links and lineages.  I read on about surrender, letting go.

I rest assured that I am where I am supposed to be.  Mothers are surely a mirror through which God sees God’s self.  In other aspects, too, I have a responsibility to the energy I project, reflect, and participate in.

The sun is now melting the snow outside, leaving the ground a muddy mess, fertile, and full of possibilities.

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To Live and Love

Clarity in this life can be elusive.  That seems only natural when the air around us is filled with unseen signals sending digital and analog information, with noise from earbuds and/or automobiles, with smells of burning oil — to name a few of our distractions.  Sit with this busy, distracted image for a bit.  How do you feel?

Now go to your cabin in the woods.  Smell the mountaintop air.  Hear the wind through the trees.  Sit in the darkness lit only by the crackling fire.  Hold the warm beverage in your hands.  Welcome a friend to sit near you.  Listen to her share her soul.  Let your heart open.  Speak your own truths.  Experience laughter.  Shed tears.  Sit in silence, together.

After the Holy Listening retreat I had the honor to experience this past weekend, of one thing I am quite sure.  As a child of God, one purpose of my life here is that I am here to live in the present moment with an honest, open heart.  Above all things, I am to love.  This seems only natural when sitting by the fire in the quiet of the evening.  I can almost feel that two friends together are not alone.  Even when sitting by myself, I do not feel alone.  The presence of Spirit is strong, almost palpable.

Even returning to the daily round, nothing changes but my own perception.  If I can cut through the chatter of our society, let alone the chatter in my own mind, the stillness, the clarity is ever-present.  My purpose hasn’t changed.  Spirit hasn’t disappeared.

I have a feeling this is something we all have in common.

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Test of Faith

magchurchcrossI went to The Magnetic Church Conference because when I first read about it in our diocesan communication, it struck me as interesting, something important.  Our priests were willing to send me, and I ended up making the solo trip, the alone time not unwelcome.

The conference is about evangelism.  I’m Episcopalian.  The two E-words usually do not go together in casual conversation, not without a shudder, anyway.  The Episcopal Church is about welcoming, but we’re not so much into going out and collecting.  Apparently, we’re not great fishers.

But this is what the conference told us.  Re-think the way we view evangelism.  It’s not some salesman on t.v. with a bad comb-over, promising everything your heart desires if only you choose to live his path . . . and send him money.  For Christianity, our evangelism is in loving one another, “inviting people along the path and sharing the feast.”  It is best exemplified in radical hospitality and compassion.  And we went on to spend many hours talking about how a church might do this.  There were many laughs at our own and at our Church’s expense.

My personal test, however, lies within the principle of “inviting” others along the path.  I have an “all paths lead to God” kind of mentality, spirituality, whatever you want to call it.  What our speaker called “ecumenical mush” with apparent distaste, I don’t so much have a problem with.  Some people need more tradition than others, more frame work to make sense of the great Mystery.  I like the traditions, the liturgy, but I don’t have to have them.  It’s like having a beautifully illustrated book.  One doesn’t have to have the pictures.  Indeed, we don’t have to have a book at all.*  The Mystery exists whether we name it or not.  But it helps us, we mere humans, to work at this Mystery, to share what we have discovered on our way.  Each of us  — whether unchurched, lay, or ordained — has insights to the Truth of the Mystery.  Our lives are enriched in the sharing of these Truths.  Of course, we are human in our own right.  We only have one perspective in any given lifetime, and our understanding is thus limited.

My test?  Keeping my focus on what I feel is True.  I have to keep in mind that my view of God through the colored glass is different from others’, whether they be across the street or on the other side of the world.  My evangelism isn’t so much limited to the Episcopal religion as it is to the experience of the Divine.  I choose the Anglican Church as home for my spirit because it feeds me deeply and encourages my walk in faith, constantly providing nourishment for my journey.  But daily life is the test.  How do I embody Christ’s love to others.  How do I embody God to others?  How do I embody Spirit to others?  Is this not the cross that Christians bear?

Our free will tells us that we choose how we live our lives.  Sometimes, though, I feel more chosen than the chooser.  Truly, I don’t have to take up the cross.  For me, though, that’s like not smiling at a stranger, not comforting the crying child, not loving those in pain.  When you have a gift, it’s best enjoyed when shared.

Perhaps one of my greatest gifts is Love, and I choose to share that with you, no matter what you call it or how you experience it.  You choose whether or not to receive, but that doesn’t change the presence of the Love that is there, patient, kind, and never-ending.

*I’m not saying we don’t have to have the Bible.  I am saying that Christ lived and practiced what we call “Christianity” without a name, without a Bible.

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Religious / Spiritual

It was my pleasure to be at a weekend women’s retreat this past weekend, to go away to a mountainside campground, share a cabin with amazing women and experience the presence of Love.  Episcopal women really do have some great times, and I think it’s made even better by the depth of conversation.  We’re really not all that much into small talk.

The term “legalistic” has come into my consciousness these past couple of months, particularly in contrast to “spiritual.”  Why is this so?  What do I have to learn from this distinction?

According to Merriam-Webster, one who is legalistic is one who adheres to moral legalism,  “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.”  Whereas, one who is spiritual is one who is relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.”  When I looked up the definition of “spirit,” I could not in good faith attribute any of them to my interpretation of Spirit.
seesaw.jpg
When I think of someone who is religious, perhaps it is because their seeming focus tends to be more heavily on the legalistic side of the see-saw.  I believe, however, that a “strict conformity” to anything has a tendency to build a box, to close some in and to keep others out.  I know few who are truly legalistic.  Most on this side are religious, manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity . . . or devoted to religious beliefs or observances.”  This person probably knows creeds and
scripture by heart, can recite what they believe at a moment’s notice,
without hesitation.  Ah, how I admire that knowledge, that assuredness.


When I think of someone who is spiritual, I think of my experience with them, how freely the energy, the Spirit, flows between them and me.  Their very life seems to be caught up in Spirit, ever-present in all they do.  But there can be haze; it is ever-changing.  As with Merriam-Webster, the person experiencing Spirit has a hard time describing what exactly It is but knows without a doubt what the response is to it, whether it be laughter or tears, joy or uncertainty.  Indeed, it compels us forward in all we do.

Of course, I tend to find myself more spiritually inclined.  My see-saw has plunked to the ground on the spiritual side and sits there, perhaps at times stuck in the mud.  Would it be ideal to get a good balance going, to hover in the air as the scales are balanced, enjoying it as if laughing with a friend, knowing that there’s really nothing to do on the stuck see-saw except someone get off, hopefully gently?  Is it better to go back and forth, appreciating the other’s strength and weight, watching closely to technique lest you miss something that might enrich your own experience?

As with everything, we have to be aware.  We have to be open to each other.  We have to learn and grow.  At our core, we are all spiritual beings.  Sometimes we need beliefs to help explain ourselves, but all the time, we need to live with and through the Spirit, the Love. 

Skip the small talk.

(photo by *Claudine from everystockphoto.com)

 

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For the Expressive Soul

In the women’s spirituality group I help facilitate, we’re doing what I guess you could call a series on spiritual tools for the journey.  These are a few things that, along the way, I have found to be beneficial to me for hearing the inner longings of my soul.

  • Journaling  Of course, I am a writer by nature, so this one comes easily to me.  But I don’t take this journaling gig lightly.  I have a dream journal, which is written in first before those slippery
    dreams from the subconscious slip away again.  I always date the dreams
    and try to mark when it’s a full moon (because the dreams are usually
    particularly vivid and significant then for me).  After documenting the dreams, I pull out the Gratitude Journal (idea from Sarah ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance).  I list at least five things for which I’m grateful, and these range from people to things to ideas to states of being.  Lastly, there’s the “morning pages” (term coined by Julia Cameron in her Artist’s Way books) where I vent/muse/list/write for a while.  The goal is three pages, but sometimes three short paragraphs is all I have time for.  Some days the whole process takes about 15 minutes.  I’ve been known to take two hours.
  • Collage  This is another process inspired by Cameron’s Artist’s Way.  My partner in spiritual direction and I use this tool frequently to either find where we are in the present stage in our lives or to help visualize what it is we want or need.  Collages can be done given a prompt, given a time frame or given nothing but freedom of expression.  Most recently, I collaged a manila folder, and it will store items in it particular to this phase of my life.
  • Movement  When our mind and spirit are expressed through the movement of our body, when the energy is released, I anticipate great things happening.  This is an area that I hope to explore more in the future.  I hope to learn t’ai chi.  I have another woman leading this session this week, and I can’t wait to see what we do, how it feels.  Honoring my body, caring for it well, is something I have to work on, but if our body is not well, we are not available to others, let alone to ourselves.  Maintaining a balance and allowing the energy to flow freely improves our overall well-being.
  • Meditation  I was first introduced to sitting meditation (zazen) through a Buddhism class in college.  For this, I am ever grateful.  I went back many times to the Monday night “Journey into Silence.”  I met wonderful people there, though the truth is we didn’t talk all that much.  25 minutes of sitting, 10 minutes walking, 15 minutes of sitting was the schedule, if I recall correctly.  Truly, there are many forms of meditation, and I won’t list technique here.  The point is silence.  Prayerful listening.  Stillness.  Quiet mind.  As busy people, sometimes we don’t have hours to sit in prayer to receive guidance, to experience the presence of God, but we can bring a mindfulness into our present task.  We can do things with a full-bodied awareness that embodies stillness and with prayerful listening be able to hear the still, small voice of Spirit or to experience the joy and gladness of doing the right thing at the right time.

These are just a few of the tools that I use, some more regularly than others, of course.  I encourage you to find what you use to express yourself creatively, what helps you hear the inner voice, what helps guide and assure you in your journey, and make it a regular practice.  You are only too busy if it is not a priority.

If finding what you are supposed to be doing is a priority to you or if you want clarity on anything, you have to be still and honest with yourself long enough to glimpse the truth of the matter.  This isn’t easy, but the rewards are great. 

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