Day . . .

I don’t know what Day it is in my effort to create a habit of prayer.  I have about three handwritten ones I’ve written before now and will add those to my count soon, purely for my own benefit, of course.

While ironing tonight I realized that I feel extraordinarily tired.  A full weekend to be sure, but it didn’t seem to include much time to rest in mindful, prayerful, and attentive silence.  As ever, most of my prayers occur on the go, in between activities, or mid-thought.

I cannot imagine You much appreciate the prevalence of the sayings these days, but “Really?!?” and “Seriously?!?” come to mind quite often and are said just as much.  We seem to be walking around in a state of surprise at the reality that surrounds us.  Could things really be this way?  Do others truly believe what they say?  Is this life just getting ridiculous?

I realize that it’s probably our attachment to a certain view or way of being that limits a greater understanding and results in our being “shocked.”  It usually reflects moments of condescension and/or judgment, neither of which are flattering characteristics.

I am a weak creature; I realize this.  Surely when I think I’m getting stronger, something happens to change my view.  I am not self-sufficient in any manner of speaking, and this is a harsh reality.  There are hurdles in my life, puzzles to figure out (and a box with the bigger picture would be tremendously helpful), and kids to raise in the meantime.  There are friends to love and support, family to maintain connection with, and bills that have to be paid.  Whose idea was it to add more to the mix?

God, I trust that you wouldn’t have rang unless there was a message to be left.  You call; we answer, as I understand it.  We do our best.

I pray for guidance and understanding.  I give thanks to all who enrich my life so much, creating such a sense of abundance, and to all who are so patient with me.

You’re churning the soil, it feels like, and right now I need to keep both feet on solid ground.  May the roots run deep.

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Day 6

Divine and mysterious God, I do not know your ways, nor can I comprehend your depth.  Your currents are swift and often beneath the surface.  Sometimes I do not even know where my own head is, but I trust that all will be well.  Thank you for this faith.

I lose things.  I forget things.  I do stupid things in fear or anger.  You love.

I have moments of grace, of joy, and sometimes even of sincere compassion.  You love.

No matter who we are or where we consider ourselves in relationship to You, we receive love – a love that knows no bounds, no conditions, no limitations.  As I read over my prayer list here in a moment, may I imagine a love like that for each of these persons.  Surely that kind of love has the power to heal, to forgive, to overcome, to bring peace.

It is so hot here.  I do not know how many are suffering in this heat and have no relief, but I hope they are safe and able to survive.  So many of us are blessed with air conditioning, and we selfishly complain when the thermostat pushes 80 degrees F.  Yes, I am a spoiled and whiney child at times, too.  Thank you for your Mother-love.

As our paths continue to flow in your Will, as the currents converge and diverge, seen and unseen, continue to grant us strength to persevere.  Thank you for providing me dear souls with whom to share my journey and from whom I learn so much about life, laughter, and love.  I am so blessed.

May I ever be surrounded in your Love and Grace.

Amen.

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Day 5

An evening prayer, not nearly so comprehensive as that of the Daily Office.  Thanks for Mission St. Clare for making the components of the Office so readily available.

At the close of the day, I cannot help but wonder more than a little whether or not I did all I could do this day.  Most likely, no.  So again I ask forgiveness and for strength to rest well and to do better tomorrow, if I am to be so blessed as to have another day’s chance.

I remember being so proud of memorizing the child’s prayer when I was younger.  The old picture with the glittered words was faded even then.  I don’t know if I have it stored away in my cedar chest or not.  The words, repeated often and before sleep, would draw me gently to a deep peace and an assuredly safe place, even though those very words suggested I might die in my sleep.  It’s funny, isn’t it, that I’m not so keen to teach the original verse to my children.  I haven’t exactly taught them to memorize any prayer.  I guess I hope that they will learn the prayers on their own, following the example of the rest of our church family, eager to learn the words themselves.  I know.  I’m a wishful thinker.

My sleepy prayer this night is that you would bless the children and protect them.  Indeed give us parents strength and patience.  Maybe give the kids a dose of obedience; I do get tired of repeating myself.  That’s my weakness, though.  I’m not a perfect mother.  I get tired.

Even in our fatigue, we are able to find inspiration, to be touched by Spirit in such a way that we might be inclined to live into our fullest potential.  To do so would be to live more fully into Your image.  O God, give us strength, and may all our work be so inspired.

Always, thanks be to You as we live and rest in your Light and Love.

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Acceptance

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?  Isn’t that what we’re told?  Twelve-step programs have become mainstream, offering a wealth of information for anyone struggling with any kind of addiction.  Tried and true advice.  It can work.

What about admitting you have a gift being the first step to the rest of your life?

I’m reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit right now.  Synchronous, really, how I got it.  My husband and I went to our local bookstore to conclude our child-free days over the winter break.  One of the people I am glad to call a friendly acquaintance happened to be working there.  We got to talking.  Those of you who know me well know it doesn’t take long to get to reality, to what’s truly important when in sincere conversation with me.  We shared a bit of our lives with each other.  It was lovely.

I confessed to her that I am a writer.  I confessed that I really hadn’t read all that many books.  I confessed that my husband and I wanted to support our local bookstore more.  We spoke each other’s language.  I wasn’t burned at the stake.  In fact, as I browsed the shelves, she approached me again and put a book in my hands.  “You have to read this,” she said.  The owner of the store, working at a table behind me, assured me that is was a highly recommended book; the dance troupe last in town bought 14 copies.  This was Tharp’s book.

Within the past couple of months, I have come to the realization that if I am most honest with myself, I am happiest when writing.  At home, in the woods, at the park, in the doctor’s office — anywhere I can put pen to paper (or finers to keys) and be alone with my thoughts.  But I have more to learn.  I have discipline to cultivate.  I have unhealthy habits to overcome.

The Creative Habit comes along, and right off the bat she’s talking about the importance of routine.  She can’t make me get up at 5:30, but she states quite clearly that her morning starts out at 5:30AM.  She does it.  Others do it, and artists have for centuries.  They are extremely productive.

Almost in passing, she refers to a moment in time when she thought she could have been a painter; she has a talent for the visual arts.  She let the thought go as quickly as it came.  She’s a dancer.  She goes on to say that it’s almost better to have one clearly defined talent in your life.  It’s harder for those who can do many things well.  The discernment of your best gift is only harder the more choices you have.

Did she know I was going through this right now?  That for some time I’ve been wondering if the crafts I’ve been making were actually good for my creative process or an accomplice to my nasty habit of procrastination?

I am in process of organizing my craft supplies.  Some I need, some I don’t.  Scraps of fabric are going to my sister-in-law who makes clothes for children.  I’m keeping the bulks of fabric for skirts for myself and for the girls.  Good skirts are hard to come by and expensive should you actually find them.  Necessity and creativity are good companions.  Now I need to organize my stamps.  Which ones do I need and use?  Which stationary do I need to keep.  What will nurture my writing, encourage me to write?  It needs to be an accessory to my writing, an embellishment.

Inasmuch as I enjoy doing other things, I have to accept the fact that I’m a writer foremost.  This is the greatest part of my priesthood in this life.  I believe that through my writing, I have the potential to reach others and convey to them some of the Truths in this life.

The page is my blank canvas.  The Love of God is my muse.  With every word I bare my soul and make myself vulnerable, but I have nothing to lose.   As sure as the cold brings the beauty of snow and the grips of death, I trust that this experience of life is meant to be shared.  For some, it’s meant to be shared through dance, sculpture, painting, music, or any of the arts, but for me, I accept the fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to put into words that which is completely inexplainable.  I’ll enjoy every moment of the painful growth as I stretch my imagination and probe the depths of experience.

Whether a gift or a curse, I accept it with a smile.  May I remember this at 5:30 in the morning.

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There is Enough

There is enough . . . if we share.  It’s not just a lesson to the kids when they think — when they know — that they don’t have exactly what a sibling or a classmate has.  As if they didn’t have enough of their own.  There are plenty of toys.  There is plenty of food.

Unless you are deprived of something, unless others are not willing to share or have the authority or audacity to take some thing away from you, don’t you have enough?

The seemingly homeless man on the side of the road held a sign.

“I have EVERYTHING I need except money.  Do you have the COURAGE to give?”

As a matter of fact, I happen to have some dollar coins from our visit to the amusement park last week.  Let me share some of our abundance.  Let me ask him where he lives.  Let me hear that he does indeed live around here; that he thinks this is a nice place to live.  As I agree with him, I look directly into his eyes, smiling yet wondering how this could be a lovely place to live if he’s standing on the side of the off-ramp asking for money.  He did say he has everything else he needs.  Money isn’t everything.

Visiting a dying friend, before I took my leave, I said, “Love to you, my friend.”  Drugged as she was, she half-laughed.  “You said love.  How can you  . . . ”  Her voice trailed off.  I understand.  We’re not close friends.  My coming to her is largely in part of a pastoral visit, but in my visits to her, sincerity wins over any sense of obligation.  “I try to share my love with everyone,” I tell her gently.  “It’s part of our responsibility in this life to share God’s love with one another.  You are my sister.”  Eyes closed, she smiled subtly.

We do not see reality the same as one another.  Our perspectives and interpretations are different.  Ultimately, there is one Earth.  One Source.  Our time here is too precious to live in fear, in a sense of lack.

What if we believed we had everything we need.  What if we made sure that we all had everything we needed?  Sure, take care of you and yours, but where does your responsibility end?  Is there a limit to abundance?  I don’t think so.

I only hope I can live into the dream of everyone having everything they need.  Enough to live.  Enough love.  Enough is enough, gently said.

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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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American Dreams

It used to be baseball and apple pie.  Today one might say it’s an iPhone (loaded with the coolest apps) and a flat screen t.v. with take-out.  But then it really depends on which cultural clique you belong to, doesn’t it?  A hipster and a gangsta won’t have the same ideals, will they?

But there’s more at play here.

It started out as a desire for something better.  A belief that anything would be better than the current state of persecution/poverty/suppression drove people to cut their losses and begin again.  A New World meant new hope.  Leave family.  Cut your losses.  Sever your roots.  Start over.  No attachments.

But if this new life doesn’t live up to one’s expectations, then maybe there’s something else because this life is too hard.  Maybe the West with its Gold will make life better.  Risk it all.  Do it or die trying.  If it looks untouched, it’s now mine.  Let’s lay tracks.  Mark it as our own.

Miracle of all miracles, some do “make it.”  Some live into their dreams and seem to have it all, from a new life, to gold, to apple pie . . . all the way to the flat screen t.v.  Yet, how many do we know who have the appearance and stuff and have peace of mind and spirit?  Do you think it was easy for them if they do “have it all”?

What happens to a plant once you sever its roots?  What happens when you take something that wasn’t yours to take?  What happens when we live our lives without regard to the consequences seven generations from now?

I struggle now with trying to understand how to balance our consumption/desire/pride/greed/fear with balance/peace/full emptiness/love.  Our amazing capacity to be connected with everyone everywhere provides opportunities unimaginable 500 years ago — even 200 years ago.  At the same time, we have capacity to destroy unimaginable numbers — not only people but ecosystems.

At the retreat I was at this past weekend, we were blessed with the presence of Joanna Seibert and Kate Moorehead.  (I highly recommend them both!)  During one of Kate’s sessions, she asked us to think of and then sketch the plant that represented our spiritual life.  I am drawn to trees, so I drew a tree.  Not just any tree.

We have a cherry tree in our backyard that has a massive root system.  From these roots other trees grow.  One of these trees we have let grow because the larger original tree will not live forever.  I used this image.

In my picture  I had a “God” tree with many roots.  Like the cherry tree, a smaller tree grew from one of the roots.  This smaller tree is me.  I have my own roots now and put forth my own branches, but there is a source from which I’ve come.  Even if that source isn’t always visible or tangible, it’s alive within me.  My roots are the gifts I receive from the source and that which feed me.  My branches are the gifts I share by being myself; the fruits I bear are the gifts I give outwardly to others.

What would it be like if the American Dreams became dreams of wholeness?  What if they weren’t based upon escape from reality, indulgence in richness, attaining that which only a few will attain?

Every one of us has a source.  Every one of us has gifts, whether they are from our innocence or our wounds or both.  But we have to care for ourselves and for those around us.  Love your neighbor as yourself. What more do we need to do?  We need to choose.  We need to choose to share that last crumb of apple pie with someone else.  We need to let the visiting team’s fan have the seat beside us.  We need to care for our land, keeping in mind of the consequences generations from now, like the back of the Seventh Generation label says (and I read when doing the dishes).

Fortunately, our roots with God are not solely tangible, and though we might cut them to seek a better way (because, of course, we know what we need/want most), the Love of God remains intact.  We are entitled.  We are entitled to Love, end therein lies a richness everyone can attain.

My American Dream?   Love and Peace.  Now, I have a capitalistic wish-list that I think would be good for my family and me and that I could probably compare to yours.  I’ll trust, though, that I have what I need to do the best I can to manifest love and peace here and now.  Thanks be to God!

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To Connect

At once I feel liberated when learning how simple something is.  Oh, you can make laundry detergent by mixing three ingredients?  Make it smell good by putting in some essential oil?  You can make bread with simple ingredients?  You can manifest peace in the world by connecting with one another?

What?

In one of those moments of clarity, it all makes sense.  Our greed, rage, mistrust — ultimately fear — all rest in the fact that we do not recognize each other.  We do not see one another, truly.  We have lost our connection with humanity, our connection as a collective whole.  For some it gets lost immediately; there is no sense of family or home.  For some it exists strongly to include their nation or even their religion but goes no further.

Our readings at church on Sunday included Jesus’ commandment to love one another.  So simple.  Our priest went on to say that this doesn’t mean we have to love-love others like we love our spouse/children/mother/father/friends.  I wish I could find a reference, but I’ll take her at her word when she said that one of the best translations for what Jesus said when he said “love” was “to connect.”  Connect with your self.  Connect with your neighbor.  Connect with the stranger on the street.  Connect with your enemy.  “It’s not all warm and fuzzy,” she said.  We just have to connect with them.

I see this as not only connecting with them as fellow humans, but there is something electric in the connection that ties us to the Divine.  For me to truly connect with you, I have to let that God-spark in me recognize the God-spark in you.  No matter what choices you’ve made in this life, or me, either, I cannot change that we are of the same Holy stuff, and that connection carries us beyond any rational comprehension on my part.

I believe our connections are nurtured by the beauty of nature, by kindness, by good will.  I cannot help but wonder if our connections are dimmed by the magnitude of currents surrounding us these days by technology.  In some ways they tie us together (I’m getting to share with you on my blog), but in so many others, they alienate us from one another (how many hours do you spend alone at the t.v./computer?).

I took a mental health day and went hiking with friends and my youngest on Tuesday.  On the soft, worn path, between a bluff and a boulder, below a spring-green canopy, I was fed, fueled for a moment in what is good and true.  No words were spoken.  Just a connection made.

Contrast that with last night’s Cinco de Mayo night out at a local dive.  So many people coming together to “celebrate” by getting inebriated and singing karaoke.  Were these people connecting?  Or were they moreso trying to fill the void they feel by lack of genuine connection?  Is it easier to commiserate in idle play/nonsense than to face our realities as they are?

Jesus didn’t say we had to approve of each other’s choices.  We just have to connect to one another enough to see each other — all of us — for what we truly are — holy.

So simple.

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