Saturday, December 31, 2011

The sanctuary

It could be said that God's foot is so vast
that this entire earth is but a
field on His toe,

and all the forests in this world
came from the same root of just
a single hair
of His.

What then is not a sanctuary?
Where then can I not kneel
and pray at a shrine
made holy by His

St.Catherine of Siena

Friday, December 30, 2011


Let this blow through your heart:

"Do not seek perfection in a changing world.Instead,perfect your love."Buddha

And how can I do this?Right now,I would love a cup of lemon grass green tea.Perhaps my husband would like one,so I will ask,and serve it with a gentle pat on the hand.
A small thing but I need to look out for opportunities in 2012...another resolution.

I have aleardy started one of my pledges;I prayed outside at the picnic table near the twelve puppie's pen and the crows noticed me in a loud fashion.The pups,strays, born under our shed, are like children outside ,tumbling,grunting,falling and tousling each other.A month ago, we didn't know they existed and now we are their feeding fools,three times a day.I guess that's a kind of love....

Spirit,help me to be a deep,cool,green and blue bottomless pool of love.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

a new year coming

I will try to remember to pick up my begging bowl each day and hold it out.Casting an eagle eye on all that happens,I will notice and record in my journal.If hard rain falls into my wooden bowl,I will not pour it out or throw it to the winds.I will feel the rain and let it lead me by the hand to wisdom and trust.I will thank God for it and it will not take me months to do this.

I will read more scripture each day and let it churn inside me and speak to me on that day even though I have read it before.The Word is alive and changes in It's
message as I change.

I will sit outside in the sun even when it is cold as the birds are always there and isn't it sad that their chorus should play to an empty theater.And a walk to the river at least once a week to just to watch the meandering brown water.

I will be more attentive to friendships.On every page of my journal, I will name a friend and write why I am grateful for what they bring to my life.Focusing on the important things.A friend of 35 years just called to invite us for dinner on January 1st.They will be praised on that first page of the 2012 journal.

This is a good start...will you tell me your resolutions?....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

the center

Today, two different voices gave me permission to keep writing about the Christmas season.The first friend lives on the beautiful Hudson River.I can see her at her writing table with the cold,crisp New York air blowing outside,her shining hair piled atop her beautiful face.She writes:"The holy season is never over." Perfect words.

My other friend is an old neighbor,the old Georgia Boy, who survived a near death experience on the operating table and whose words give me joy:"Every day is my Christmas."Amen and alleluia!!!

So with that,I want to share what has come to me through a Christmas card.I do love Christmas cards,especially ones with snow and angels.But there was one this year that pulled me in.It is a Madonna and child.The Mother is young and I am struck by the look on her face.Her eyes are closed as are the babe's.The total peace and contentment of these figures calm me.Some of her dark blue robe covers her child's bare back.This is a picture of completeness.Nothing else is needed by the two figures.They are wrapped in each other in a circle of peace.

For many of us, Christmas is not a time of peace.Obligations pull at our tattered psyches from all directions as we try to make Christmas perfect for others, as if that was in our power.This year,many family changes added to the chaos.

However,by grace,I found an island of sanity that was a great gift.Twice a day, I went into my P.C. room and shut the door.A candle was lit on the rough, ten dollar table that I bought in Woodstock.The tall, brown haired,red robed, wooden praying girl stood above the light.A small Saint Nicholas, Russian looking,multi-colored and carved from wood ,stood near.My red/green stone from the holy island of Iona rested in the front and in the back,a Christmas card with the four Narnia children around the lamppost,the woods thick with snow.Here I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and rested in twenty minutes of Centering Prayer.

In my own soul's way,I held the Christ, not on my lap but in my very center,the place that Thomas Merton describes as being able to be touched only by God.In those moments,I was an enclosed complete circle.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

just grace

There is a very touching scene in the novel based on fact,Brideshead Revisited.The aristocratic patriarch of an English Catholic family has come home to Brideshead to die.He has been living with a mistress in Italy,absent and estranged from his wife,four grown children and the faith.His devout daughters and son call a priest, over the objections of the book's hero,Charles Rider,atheist,who is the lover of the oldest daughter.

The priest came to anoint the sick man and as they all gathered around the bed,with the cynical Charles glowering in the background,the old man with eyes closed slowly crossed himself with the priest.What this means to his daughters is immeasurable.Charles is befuddled,but in time, that simple action,finally understood,changes Charles forever.The book and the 70s mini-series, have touched me deeply.

Today, my husband and I delivered Communion to a woman who has been away from the church for over thirty years.She was unable to take the host but her family did as they gathered around her bed.We all had tears because their Mother is close to death.Yesterday,however, when our pastor visited, she was alert and as he anointed her,her tears flowed and she blessed herself.Home with God in her heart.Amazing grace,how sweet the sound.....

Friday, December 16, 2011

christmas memories

It was the last day of school before a long,luscious winter break.The chorus that I was part of assembled in the gym.We were up on a wooden slatted stage facing the gym floor.One by one, the classes in my grammar school came in, each in orderly single file, to the stage where our pastor was giving out holy cards and boxes of hard candy as small gifts.

I thought of this when I heard Dolly Parton singing,"A Hard Candy Christmas." Those candies,multi-colored ,were really hard to eat.Some had gooey centers,others tasted like sickeningly sweet root beer.But nothing could dampen my spirit.We were singing Christmas Carol after wonderful Carol.Toward the end of the singing,I turned and looked out the long glass windows.I beheld the most wonderful sight for a 12 year old. Huge,wet snow falling at a deliriously fast rate and soon we would go home to frolic.Pure joy in my heart.

Later,in 1961, when I was a senior in High School,our glee club went to Mercy Hospital in Rockville Center to sing Carols for the staff and patients.We assembled in the Lobby near the decorated tree and sang our hearts out.In the Lobby , the hospital was raffling off a Nativity set and for twenty-five cents a chance, I scrounged up fifty cents and bought two.As I fill out the stub and placed mine in the full box,I knew that the set was mine.I knew it.

Two nights later, a call brought me back to the hopsital to pick up the set.I felt so blessed that night,for the set and the mystery of the knowing.

Thirty years later,it happened again.As I was going out of my driveway one morning in Georgia, my next door neighbor came over quickly and asked if I was going to church.I said that I was and she, with tears, asked for prayers for another neighbor who was delivering her third child that day.She and her husband had lost a two year old girl to heart problems and this new baby, a son ,was in distress.As I drove, I prayed and then as if a soft hand had been placed on my shoulder,comforting, I knew that all would be well with little Scooter.He is now a grown, hard working man with three children and indeed , all is well with him.

I am in awe of Christmas and Mystery.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I need a little color

The winter sky is grey and sullen; the tree trunks are a perfect match.I love the symmetry of tree branches against the sky.A web of lacy figures.But this gloom makes me want to stuff my small backpack and head further South,like to the Tropics.

My pack will be heavy with T.S. Eliot's poems,Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome"and pistachios.Dark chocolate,the scriptures and my grey journal that has a plastic pocket in the front for flowers and ferns.I will walk there unafraid and talk to strangers that I meet.The cold will be a memory.

In 1891, Gauguin left Europe disgusted with his penury and the general failure of any interest in his art.He found his home in the islands and his painting took on a whole life of its own.And grand it is.

What must it be like to turn your back on everything that is familiar and lead your own life.Take what you know about painting and strike out on a new course.Who has that kind of courage?There is a price to pay.Gauguin was a few months away from going to jail,and suffered from syphilis and alcoholism when he died at 52 of dissipation.Maybe, I'll just enlarge his painting and sit with it for awhile.Join me?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

the white winter sun

Winter has never asked me if I like these shorter days.When the sun goes behind the bare, grey hardwood trees to the west, in late afternoon,it seems to fall off a cliff.It disappears much too early in the day.Then,deep cold darkness.

The lunar eclipse last night seems a metaphor for how people are feeling these days.Evictions,foreclosures,lost jobs and broken hearts.The light is gone,hidden from sight.

I thought of this when a dear friend posted yesterday on Facebook:"Where is the Christmas spirit and don't tell me egg nog,people." I chuckled but have been unable to stop thinking of her question.As usual, she has inspired my thoughts and then I recalled something that happened yesterday.

My husband and I went to Goodwill looking for games to play with the grandchildren who are coming for a few days.On a shelf loaded with Christmas decorations, was a tall wooden figure with long brown hair and a red monkish outfit.Her hands were clasped in front of her in prayer,her eyes were closed.She had many chips out of her paint but I liked that and her price, a dollar and forty two cents.I put her back and kept searching for toys.After finding several, I went back to find my praying girl.There she was on the shelf in front of a shopper, a middle aged dark haired woman,who fingered something else.I excused myself and reached over and grabbed the figure.I am a very competitive person and one should be wary of getting between me and what I want.She turned and in a pleasant voice said,"I was going to look at that."Surprising myself completely, I handed it to her and said,"Here,it yours." She looked it over, handed it back and said,"You can have it."I was so happy.I told her she was sweet, thanked her and said that my girl would remind me to pray.We smiled and parted.No pepper spray or hair pulling in the aisle,just two people saying, you can have it.Christmas spirit?

I think we all have a sense of what the Christmas spirit is.They can spelled it Xmas, say Happy Holiday, name it winter break and a holiday tree but that will never stamp out the Christmas spirit.It's like stepping on mercury,it squirts out from under your shoe.If they remove the nativity scene from the courthouse lawn,a silver haired ,blue eyed man in a nursing home will be bending over a desk to make one from glue and toothpicks.

We need Christmas in these dark winter days.We need the More.We have a More sized hole in our center that will entertain nothing but mystery and miracles.It,this center, longs for those things and nothing else will do.And the shining star,quaking shepherds,travelling wise men,singing angels and the holy Babe fit nicely in this spot and bring us joy even if our minds don't accept this, too good to be true, story.

So, Kris, once again ,thank you for your question.I will be on the look out for the Christmas spirit.In the meantime will you sing with me:

"......a thrill of hope,the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices.Oh,night Divine ,oh night when Christ was born, oh night,oh Holy Night,when Christ was born"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Say it for me,Rilke.

I have been feeding a black and white medium size female dog that has been wandering around our subdivision, looking so lost. She will not come near so I can't bring her in to meet her and tell her that I have named her Molly.

The county truck was around a few days ago but they missed her.Yesterday, I watched her eat from the the family room door and she held my eyes for a minute .Beautiful you are ,Molly with your liquid brown eyes.And so fearful.

There are also some stray cats, beautiful ones, roaming around.As I get older, I find myself connecting with dogs,cats,birds,turkeys in an almost mystical way.Perhaps when you try to open your heart to God, other creatures come sneaking in. When I read on the internet about animal abuse I am so saddened.How can a person swing a kitty around and fling it when the one I know sleeps by me as I watch T.V.?.

All of this animal love reminded me of time spent in Paris at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.We went in the Spring of 2005 and I had no expectations for this most famous of landmarks.When we walked in,the typical Japanese tourists were there, a crowd of them,taking mountains of pictures.Should they be called a snapping of Japanese? They were quiet but hustling around in the gloomy air along with a horde of others. Off to the side was a small area of wooden chairs reserved for those who came to pray.I silently walked in, knelt down and closed my eyes.I was mostly alone.Then I looked up to see what the chairs were facing.The rose window.Magnificent.Holy.And,in what is now a tourist destination,I felt Presence and peace.Rilke has said it better:

The Rose Window

"Inside,the lazy padding of soft feet
creates a silence,almost stupefies;
then all at once one of the drowsing cats
awakes-and pounces;its enormous eye

seizes the drifting image of that quiet,
which for a little while swims around,
before the golden whirlpool sucks at it
and drags it down to oblivion:

just as this eye apparently asleep
gapes open,strikes,and drags its capture deep
into the thunder of its own red blood-

so the rose window in that holy time
within the great cathedral's scented gloom
captured a heart and dragged it up to God." Ranier Maria Rilke

Friday, December 2, 2011

the wheelbarrow

When I was a child, every Holy Thursday my family would go from church to church to visit the wonderfully decorated altars.There was one church on the South Shore of Long island that was so special.Not only was it festooned everywhere you looked with white and yellow flowers, but there were white cages with bright yellow singing canaries.I can still hear their songs.What a wonderful feast for the ears and eyes,especially to a young child.Then, the next day, the altars were stripped totally bare,statues and the cross covered in purple and the bells silenced, for this was sad Good Friday.

For the last several months, I have been pushing a grey,rusted out Good Friday wheelbarrow everywhere I go.Assorted rocks clang and tumble around and they are so heavy.The handles have given me callouses.Often, I stop, take a few out,rearrange the rest and put the others back.It is still heavy.If only I could find the right thing to say to this pile of rocks;the right arrangement,all will be well.

Going out with this load became too much and so I stayed home and worried.And stared at the wheelbarrow.My prayers have been desperate and whiny.Fix this,this way,I demanded or begged.I hate this,this is not how I saw it.Take this wheelbarrow with it's painful load and give me a break.

Finally,finally, a light came on and with grace I have been able to say,"Thank you for this disgusting, dirty load.I praise you for it.It is certainly not what I envisioned but in your hands it will become a floating, shining barge loaded with flowers,red and orange hibiscus,roses,and parrots, lightly drifting down the Ganges in all its glory."

Scripture says that this is what we are to do and then peace will come.I can't say that I have been dancing but I have felt more calm ,more sure that all shall be well,in time.