Thursday, February 23, 2012

I wish I wasn't afraid

Journal notes ....Flint River...02-23-12

I wish that I wasn't afraid of snakes.I wish that I wasn't afraid.I must admit that going to the river sometimes scares me .Today, as I approach the log/desk in my abbey,a cottonmouth left my spot and squirmed into the river.It was 73 degrees in Georgia and sunny so I knew they might be out.I wish that I wasn't afraid.

I sat for awhile enjoying the changes that have taken place.The trees across the river are all topped with red, a strong wind is creating ripples as never before.There were ten brown bumps on a log across the way;turtles basking in the sun.

The colors of this warm February day are ruby red leaves,white clouds hurrying,pale pine green,beige sailing leaves,blue sky framing.There are brown seed pods dangling from a fine round tree across the river;the stiff breeze stirs them with the sound of a clacking wind chime.I never noticed them before today.

With my mind empty of worries and open to the silence that is all there is ,I received this:"Love Me,love Me,love only Me.I am your true companion,gently guiding you to Love,eternal Love which is your all My endeavors,what do you have to fear?My hand is right here for you-hold it always.See it holding yours:this is all that matters.
Tell others: this,here, is temporary......
Holy,I am.Holy, you are.Holy ,the Earth,the journey.Live it abundantly,joyfully with love and the fruit will come.Peace in your heart.My calm and peace as a gift to you in all things."

And so I tell you of this because I am supposed to ,with love,for your peace.Yes, it is scary by the river.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ashes,ashes,we all fall down...


Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.Many Christians will go to church and hear these words,as ashes are placed on their foreheads: "Remember man, that you are dust and to dust you will return."An unwelcomed thought in 2012 America where some pay millions to be freeze dried, awaiting a miracle cure for that which caused their death.

I thought of this quoted sentiment as I watched a small grey hawk dancing on the sparrow that he grabbed from our feeder yesterday.The hawk was twice the size of a Mourning Dove and had his prey pinned to the ground.The sparrow was either being crushed or better positioned as the hawk trod on him,while looking around for danger.The sparrow had no notion that this would happen as he happily ate at the feeder.Whitney Houston didn't know that the day before the Oscars would be her last.

The message of Ash Wednesday is: Nothing is guaranteed ,and are you where you should be in relation to the Creator?If not, perhaps this might be a good time to think of turning.That is what Lent is  about.Turning from the time consuming, frantic, fruitless endeavours of our lives to the real Point of it all.Penance is the way to get there.Sorrow for sin and a desire to walk more closely with the Lord.How those words cause unease and hope at the same time.

Ashes,ashes,we all fall down .......and pick ourselves up again......this Lent.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lent,called to the desert

 Ordinary time is over, now we are presented with a different, sacred time:one of fasting, reflection and penance.This period of Lent will mirror the forty days Christ spent in the desert connecting deeply with the Father.We can do the same ,in our own location.

With eyes closed,and breath slowed,I journey inwardly to another place:

....  "the desert here is a area of deep one is there to judge or is where the first Christians went when the world was too much with them.....they packed their small sacks, said good-bye and walked out into the solitude because they only wanted God,nothing else. How can I walk  them?How can I join them.... join in their deep concentration in prayer?

....the wind whips the sand around and in my eyes, despite the scarf draped.There are no trees which makes me uneasy,they are so often my lodestar in the silence.As I walk ,I see a small hut ahead and this,my destination ,is poor and hollow.The desert around it is a moaning wasteland and here I will enter into my prayer of emptiness,Centering Prayer.What I see around me is what my mind hopes to be in prayer,hollow,unremarkable.Here in this gray ,flat land ,the Lord will spot that empty place in me and whirl 'round and pour His spirit in the fallow,abandoned cavern."

There is a  poem by T.S. Eliot called." Ash Wednesday".It will take all of Lent to poke through the roots of its wisdom but these lines speak to me now:"Teach us to care and not to care.Teach us to sit still." Lenten guides always seem to come when I need them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

always second best

In the summer of 1999, on a beautiful country road in New York,I forgave my father.I was once again  examining something he did and through grace finally saw the humor of it .With a laugh, I  dropped my resentment in the grass.

This comes to mind because I meet with a lovely woman every three months to provide spiritual direction.We help each other to find where God is leading us.She struggles with issues of inferiority and when she describes the negative,wounding tape that plays in her mind,I remember.

In high school ,I played basketball for my school.I loved the game.So, my father set up a hoop on the back of my house.Many stars have been born from that type of set-up ,shooting and shooting til they could do it in their sleep.I was not one of them.My hoop was attached to the back wall of our house of red brick.So,you say ? Well, the bricks were uneven,fat,lopsided,impossible.How could you hit off that with any success ?Then, the dribbling area was grass and SLOPING,not flat.Are you with me?

So, as a player,I was fast but NEVER got the ball in the basket.I was the second best player,or third or fourth best (no wonder we lost often)with no hope of ever being the best.The best had a father who coached her and had a great place to practise.I also was a runner-up for  a Regents Scholarship.This meant nothing to me since I was just a runner-up.Unworthy.Hair too stringy,too skinny,big teeth,on and on the review went and I always came up short in my mind.Another author has described the negative tape as the critic.

 I have no idea when the tape stopped playing for me but it has. I think it has alot to do with my focus.As I have become more dedicated to prayer, my mind seems to have better things to do then excoriate.The positiveness of being with the Creator leaves less room for unimportant things like how I measure up to others.Once in a while a stray thought like"nobody likes you", comes careening in ,and it is as if my mind has stepped from one plane to another without my permission.It actually feels like a dart.I no longer invite the dart to sit awhile so it leaves and I wonder.

This joyous reading from today's Liturgy of the Hours speaks of this better place to me:

 "They that are planted in the house of the Lord,they will flourish in the courts of our God.Still bearing fruit when they are old.Still full of sap,still green,to proclaim that the Lord is just ;in Him,my rock, there is no wrong."Ps 92:14-16

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

do I pass the test?

There is a new show on this season called "The River".A group of ten people are travelling on the Amazon River in a rickety old boat, looking for the father and husband of two of the characters.It's  pretty scary and I am glad that I have someone to watch it with.

Last night on The River,the crew were sleeping in tents in the jungle and felt they were being watched.One of the travelers knew that they were in the territory of the Morcego,who watch all who enter and see if they pass the test.It seems their test is about how selfish you are.The crew awakened to varying degrees of blindness and stumbled back to the safety of the boat.The creepy mushroom colored,short,blind Morcegos followed.The travelers locked themselves in cabins and finally, when it looked like they will be attacked,one of the characters unlocked his door,lurched out into the passageway and yelled for the Morcego to take him and leave the others alone.At this, the creepy aliens leave the ship.He passed the test.

I thought of this because of something that happened when we went to a Thai restaurant for St.Valentine's dinner.As we ate, I observed a party of five ,deeper in the restaurant.The older greyhaired woman in the group had her back to the door and the younger man and two other women faced towards our table.We were nearly finished our meal when the door to my left opened and in walked a blonde girl aged 4 with a bouquet of yellow roses.Behind her, a girl of about five with a simliar bouquet and then finally their black haired young mother.They quietly walked towards the older woman and tapped her shoulder gently.When she turned around,she gasped ,jumped up and hugged the three in tears.Not a dry eye at my table either.

I went over later to the table to congratulate the grey haired ,smiling lady and she said that her granddaughter had driven from Michigan, with her great granddaughters,to surprise her on Valentine's Day.I had to hurriedly leave the table before breaking down in front of strangers.Michigan granddaughter,St.Valentine and the Morcegos would be proud..

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My friend and I went running

Yesterday, with lung searing cold weather oustide,I laced up my New Balance and took off down the road.I hadn't gone very far when I felt a friend  by my side.Her beautiful face filled my thoughts and I dedicated my run to her.

She and her husband  are younger than my husband and I and he knows them better ,having gone on mission trips with them to Africa and Central America ,but they are dear to both of us.When Mike and my husband returned from Ghana,a few years back, Danise was embarking on a journey that no one could have envisioned.She had been having back pain and went to check it out .After a battery of tests, the results were overwhelming.As she sat with Mike and absorbed this blow, she thought: "I can deal with this if I can run."In a soft voice she asked the doctor about this and since her condition involved the spine, he said no..Her last run had been her very last.I can't imagine what all this felt like to her.

We had dinner a few months ago , her spirit is undimmed and her husband is devoting every second to her health.They were remarkable in their determination to live and fight and they have.It was an honor to be with them.Last week, they were at Duke getting treatment for liver involvement and her first act was to have her beautiful ,long dark hair trimmed and donated to others who have none.As a caring nurse, this is so Danise,serving others.The pictures on Facebook show her smiling,with her locks in her hand.

I like to think that runners are special people.To choose this lonely ,hard endeavour sets us aside in my view.
On every run, my body begs for me to stop and to say 'no" requires some inner strength.My sons have had ice cubes thrown in their face,small batteries heaved at them and I have been flipped off more times then I can tell by the great unwashed.My favorite happening is the car that comes up beside you after you have moved over and blasts the horn that causes the heart to leap out of the chest.A close second is the driver that refuses to give an inch and dares you to stay where you are.And yes, we keep going ,undaunted and in the knowledge that we are doing something hard and very satisfying.

As I observe Danise's grace and incredible spirit in this time of trial, I like to think that it is her faith,the love of Mike and her running heart that are seeing her through.Who knows what graces are coming to her and others in this testing time?As I jogged, these wonderful words,this magnificent promise ,came to mind:

"Do you not know or have you not heard?The Lord is the eternal God,creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting:for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,and youths stagger and fall,They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar with eagle's wings ;
They will run and not grow weary,walk and not grow faint."Isaiah 40:28-31  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

expressing God

Journal Notes the river

..drifting grey bark,sun streams,white clouds in the water.Nothing to disturb,you've left it behind you.Here,the log,water and stillness.

This gift to you ,freely given.It can be found anywhere you turn your mind to Me.I am peace ,richness,growth.I hold all about you in my creative hand and share it with your pen,paper,camera.It all goes through the filter of your soul, out into the world for My glory.

The crow and mistletoe serve a purpose-to enliven and bless the planet that you have been give.The crows caw and fly past the tree with the mistletoe and they fly purposefully. 

Come often to your sanctuary.

The white sun moves towards the trees on the other side of the river and the breeze gets cooler and rustles the beech leaves.They,my companions and the wren. I work my way home and remember something that Emmet Fox wrote: "Man's destiny is to express God in all sorts of glorious ways. To express means to press outward,or bring into sight.Every feature of your life is really a manifestation or expression of something in your soul."

Friday, February 3, 2012

a simple gift

It's the simple gifts that I must be on the look-out for.Keeping to my resolution, and despite the fact that my most faithful reader will not comment,I strode down to the floodplain again for a look around. It  was overcast and not much bird activity but there is color here and someone should witness it.

As I strolled around ,poking leaves,I came across a large, dirty green bottle.We have had alot of rain and who knows what creek that feeds into the river had this floating in it.I tapped it, sure that it was plastic but quelle surprise,it was heavy pale, green glass.Well now,how would that look all cleaned up with a sprig of something rooting in it?So now it is in my kitchen window,looking so lovely; don't be jealous.

In looking for color I found the pale green buds on a holly,the deep red of a seed pod on the forest floor and my green bottle.Seek and you shall find and in this pursuit, my mind clears.

In 1968,the monk Thomas Merton wrote:.."as I walked on the brow of the hill at sunrise saying the Little Hours...the crows listened without protest ...we are part of a menage, a liturgy, a fellowship of sorts."
How lovely and apt.

There are many troubling family issues swirling around in my brain right now and there are only two places where I can move over,or step into, a different place of mystery and truth;prayer and my woods walks.They are really the same.