Monday, December 30, 2013
Does a miracle have to be big?
It was a crisp Christmas Eve,cold and blustery and all the cards had been mailed.Packages were wrapped,warm chocolate chip cookies were in bags for neighbors.We had some time before driving North to my son's house .
On alternate weeks,my husband takes communion to Catholics in the nearby hospital.Every week, he visits a 90 year old man and shops for him.Today, we decided to take communion to three people that are either home bound or in nursing homes.The first stop would be a drab rehab facility in the next town.Billie,a church friend,has been there for more than a year.A few years ago,she contracted a deadly virus and was not supposed to live.She beat the odds and survived although her motor skills were severly damaged.She must have an inner strength and a deep love for her children that no one factored into the prognosis.
Usually,when I go,she blesses me with a lovely smile and we chat,joke and eat chocolate together.At other times,it is not like that and she seems to be in pain.I have checked and they give her all the meds they can and when she is suffering,it is heart breaking.When we entered her room, I could see that it was not a good day.She kept saying,"It hurts,it hurts."I asked if she wanted to receive communion and she just seemed distant .I started to leave,when my husband took her hand and asked if she wanted communion.
He began to pray and all became quiet.We said the Our Father together and he gave her communion and read the gospel for the day.Then we prayed in silence.When we left,she was at peace.That is the only way to describe it.
As we walked down the hall,I could tell that my husband was moved.I said,"You took her pain away."He replied that it was always like that,as if another Person was in the room.
In many ways and at many times,the truth of this has come to me.This is the Body of Christ. And this is all that matters.
Monday, December 23, 2013
I have wrestled with how to tell this ,about the dream ,and finally decided to lay it out before you on this page,come what may.It happened the other night while I was staying with my daughter who had had minor surgery.Her new bed was firm but strange and as I lay there,trying to sleep , I kept saying Emmanuel over and over until I drifted off.
Like a movie,this unfolded:My husband and a friend were getting ready for church and I was way behind in getting ready so they left without me.I struggled into a dress and could find no shoes to match so I put on Nikes and off I went.As I approached the doors, a man stopped me to complain about some theological item that concerned him .I brushed him off fearing I would miss the distribution of communion,which Catholics believe is actually Christ,as do I.As I entered the church,I knew that I had missed this most blessed part of the mass.In sorrow, I sat and then a young altar boy came by and said that he would be sure that I could partake and he left.His father came to me complaining about something to do with altar boys being required to do extra work and I turned away because I just wanted Jesus.Finally the priest came and gave communion to me and a few others A lady near me was sobbing in gratitude.I was content at that moment.
This was such a profound dream for me.It affirmed what I heard once , in a chapel ,when I gazed on the host in the monstrance on the altar:"This is all that matters." Yes, not the liberal /conservative divide in the church,not the horrendous scandals,this Christ who is at the heart of all we believe ,He is all that matters.This is my focus at the end of Advent.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
It seems hard to believe that the fourth Sunday of Advent is today.The rain is pouring and it is getting dark so early but the tree lights and the vanilla candle soothes.This year,along with an artificial tree for the inside, we bought a live Carolina Sapphire Cypress and it is relishing the rain down to its potted roots.In my mind, I see it in the yard as we start a new tradition,a Christmas tree forest.
I wasn't going to send cards this year but when I found some that I already had,I let fly with Christmas wishes to near and far.And how I love to get cards.This year, friends from the Camino,dear Christians from Indiana, sent us their picture from that hike.They mentioned that it is hard to keep the Camino spirit being back in the world.
Something happened at Kohl's the other day,that I now see was Camino spirit-like.John was buying my present at the jewelry counter where a young girl was struggling to help four or five people.She whispered to me that others were supposed to be there but they called in sick and she,who felt sick herself ,came in.As we took the box from her hand,I felt compelled to hug her and wish her a Merry Christmas.The folks around ah'ed in appreciation at the gesture, as she wished me the same back.I take no credit for this,He is the weaver,I am the thread.
I know that there is an effort in this country to remove the sanctity of Christmas from this holiday but it is not possible.It is like trying to step on mercury and stamp it out.It just squirts to a new place.God lives and is real and will not be destroyed.He cannot be and his Love just flows through and around us.Solzhenitsyn saw this in the utter depravity of the Russian gulags.In his accounts of these prisons ,"The Gulag Archipelagos", he witnessed the small lights and at great risk wrote about them.If the Light can shine there,it will shine here.Keep your eyes open.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I have never seen a bluer sky or a more welcomed sun.It is still cold but somehow seeing the sunshine on the bare tree limbs heartens.It is December 17th and I hear again in the readings,"Your light will come Jerusalem;The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty."
For some reason this takes me back to 1992 when I worked for BellSouth in Jonesboro,seven minutes from my house.This was a new job and a dream come true for me after 13 years as a service representative.But it was challenging as well with 15 employees of various dispositions to tend to.Mostly woman.It was Christmas and there seem to be alot of stress in the office.Maybe it was around the time that a much loved employee was going to be let go because of terrible attendance.I cannot recall but in the midst of the tension, young ,blond and very pretty Sue popped in for a visit.She had her small radio and earphones and she told me to listen.As she left,I turn on Michael W. Smith's "All Is Well" and let it come into me."All is well, all is well, angels and men rejoice.For tonight darkness fell into the dawn of love's light."The melody is peaceful and drifts along.My jaw relaxed,my shoulders fell and I knew that all was well.And that this temporary crisis which , even now I cannot recall ,would pass.
Sue's understanding that I needed this reminder, blesses me still and has for all these years.All is well.And Michael Smith didn't dream up these words,they were given to Julian of Norwich,an anchorite of the 14th century.This was the time in Europe of the Black Death that took the lives of a third of it's population."All is well," she was told in a vision."And all manner of things shall be well."How can this be ?
Perhaps the words of the song can help,"Lift up your voice and sing"....."Christ is come....angels and men rejoice."So there it is.To Julian's understanding,God brings good out of evil even sin and even though we don't see it,our calling is to rejoice anyway.And a rejoicing heart is well.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
The Isaiah readings for today are brilliant poetry:"The desert and the parched lands shall exult:the steppe will rejoice and bloom."The steppe,that barren ,frozen, hard land of the North.I picture it and shiver.I read a book once about a young Polish girl and her family who, being deemed"capitalist pigs" by the invading Soviet Union forces in 1941, were sent to the steppe,in Siberia.These are the words that come to her as she steps from the train onto the platform :"And beyond.Beyond was eternity.Flat,desolate ,treeless world without end."
"They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song."Isaiah goes on.And here is why,"Here is your God,he comes to save you."
So we take the Word to heart and realize that we are not being told about a place but a state of being.One of gushing ,lavish joy and blooming spirits.This is what is guaranteed by our God.What must we do?This is my favorite line...."A highway will be there called the holy way,....and on it the redeemed will walk."
Being a visual person,this image has always spoken to me.I recall the day in 1971 when I became aware that there was such a road and in my mind I climbed up onto it and began my journey.And then another day when, years later ,I gave my heart to God and took his hand on the path.Surrender to the path and the Way.Perhaps this is why the Camino always called me.A path with an uncertain journey ahead.It has taken me along time to trust this journey and not know what lies ahead.No guarantees that I can see.
And so I get another visual.What does my inner landscape look like?Is it a desert of gloom and spiny plants,dried up pools,endless stretches of bitter salt flats and hopelessness.Do I know where I am going or am I stumbling between sand dunes.We actually have a choice.We have a choice.Rejoice !
I think of Corrie Ten Boom, living in a German concentration camp with great trust.These are her words:"never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Just the other day, I read a critique of the poetess Sylvia Plath;that she spent her whole life observing so that she had something to write about.Things did not end well for this poetess and I cannot judge why.As much as I love to write, I need a reason to do it.For me,this flows from paying attention to what is at work in the spirit realm.That is where the real action is.Watch,listen and ruminate.When the dots connect,joy.
This is a life long pursuit and patience is as important as pen.It took me five years to see the Hand in the group that supported me after my sister died.It requires solitude and rummaging around in the chest of memories
that hold my life.Think of all the nuggets I could sift through if I had kept a journal all those years.
The other day we had a birthday party for my 11 year old granddaughter and next to her at the table was her friend ,Roni.She is cute and short with brown hair pulled back and she beamed as she told me that keeps a journal and loves to write.Watch for her name in the future.
I wish I had come to this writing sooner but it never crossed my mind to write and no one I knew did.It is a great gift of this age.I have to tell you that when I first started my blog,a dear friend of 60 years ,told me that I was no Hemingway.I confess ,I have never read Ernest but I surmised that not being him was not what a writer would hope to hear.He also told me to put more of myself in my stories and perhaps I have overdone that a bit.Within the last year,my friend has said that he likes my writing more and more and I am getting as good as Ernest.That will keep me going for several more decades.This friend is not given to praise or gushy sentiments so I treasure his words.Thank you,friend ,for always reading my stuff.No one knows how many times I would have stopped but for you.
Keep your eyes open as you saunter through the woods.As you walk the aisles of Aldi.Be quick to step nearer to that person that you are being nudged to speak with.Not so one will have new things to write about but because magical things can happen that need to be shared.
I love this quote and wish I could write this beautifully but here's today's Advent gift:"It is necessary to write if the days are not to slip emptily by.How else,indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment".Vita
Friday, December 13, 2013
Today is sunny and very brisk and having learned my lesson from a trip to the tundra(Washinton D.C.)last month, where I was underclothed and caught a cold,I am well wrapped.I am headed out to Chik-fil-a to meet with a group of friends.We meet to find God in our lives and have for over 25 years.At least once a month.
As I drove the five miles, the weight of this day presssed.My sister passed away five years ago today,the feast of St.Lucy, and although I am not given to maudlin anniversary weeping,this day I am thoughtful.It seems impossible that we reconciled in those final days when I thought it would never happen.It was and remains a great joy to me.We had been estranged for four years.Within weeks of that happy coming back together,we were at her funeral mass.I recall the beauty of the descending snow that quickly coated the Connecticut countryside.And the peace that I knew now eneveloped her.And the Love.
When I returned to Georgia, it was time for our group to meet and there,in the silent gathering of friends,I found the Body of Christ.One member held my hand as I described holding my sister's hand for those joyful hours in the hospital.Sisters once again.The other women shed tears of sharing in my loss.This can only be described as the kingdom of God.
We have seen each other through spouse's deaths,children's pain, health issues and today I know as I have never known before that we are never alone.When we walk with Christ, trailing along behind and next to ,is the company of saints both here and there.That includes you ,Jeannine and Mom.I feel your hugs now.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
It is mid afternoon and the sun slants to my left streaking the yard with tree trunk shade.It is Christmas coming time and the longing for it fills me.For the Good who we call God. For beauty.And the simple.
This seems to me to be a crazy time in our country where people are suing to add their "festivus" tree to traditional displays.Trees with beer cans hanging from them.Put in public places with Christmas trees and menorahs.Something about this tickles me, and saddens me at the same time.That seeing a stable with a babe could cause mental anguish enough that one would call a lawyer.Get that creche out of my sight,it offends me.There is a wave of this going on and I wonder where it will all end.Should we ban the movie,"It's A Wonderful Life" because there is an angel in it?
Again, I come back to the grey,lifeless buildings of that state that had nothing holy,the Soviet Union. The only poetry allowed was those that extolled the state.Will we change the names of San Francisco and Los Angeles?Will we stamp out our heritage along with religion?How anchorless we will be.Maybe that is the point.Because there is a point.These are not some random actions.It is a movement and it is not at all subtle.
On my wall is a picture of a church.It is a small white Methodist building that has been in the Spruceton valley in the Catskills since the 1800s.My sister is buried in a cemetery behind it.When you drive around the bend in the road, the steeple always seemed to say that all is well and you are almost home.It is unused now but cared for.Once a year, the valley folk hold a service there and we attend if we are there.We remember the people who went before who sang hymns in that church.And the recent members of the valley who died,the preacher's wife at 85 and the father of four who passed at 62.The church connects and when the autumn leaves turn, their brilliance is framed by the stark white.
The photo that I have is of the church at sunrise.The white winter sun is shining through the windows lighting the inside as if prayers were being said.This is not a building but a sign.
This is a simple church, a beautiful touchstone in the valley and I cannot picture a world without all that it says to me.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
It is brisk and windy out there in the woods and the river is up and brown/tan from the rain.The sun has been gone for days now,hiding behind the whirling clouds of winter.It could be worse.I just read that NYC had its coldest night in 18 years.
I have so enjoyed the Advent readings this year and over and over I hear:"I shall dwell on the Lord's mountain,I shall dwell in His house."Comforting words to those on the Path.To know that at the end of the journey we will rest in His dwelling.Where exactly, is the Lord's house ?We don't have to die or travel.It is here,I believe, when we are aware of His Presence.When we dwell in it forever,we will be constantly aware of that Presence.It is not a dwelling but a state of mind.
Last night, I was in the dwelling.We were at Aldi's food store after checking out.As we put our purchases in a box that we had brought,I noticed a young Dad doing the same as his son sat in the cart.The boy,around four years old, had brown hair, a blue jacket and droopy eyes,a tired boy at 8:30 P.M.I smiled at him and he stared and then he reacted with a gorgeous grin.A connection.We smiled at each other for awhile until we left the store.At the cart stand,I saw him again and this time ,no smile.Maybe it was my crazy hat.But I was still beaming from the warmth of the encounter when I told the Dad about the boy's smile.As I left, he said,"Merry Christmas."Indeed.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
The last few days,have found me digging in my closet for winter pictures to put on the walls of my prayer room.It's the least a New York gal can do who is snow deprived in the South.The last good snow that we had here in Jonesboro, was 2010 and I spent glorious moments in the woods taking pictures. And listening.
The quiet that snow brought to Long Island was what I recall.Cars coming down Webster St. were few and footfalls were muted.The white sparkling snow coated the sentinel maple trees .Fairy land for kids.
Just the other day, I heard from my old friend of 60 years ,that she was enjoying snow in Tennessee.In an instant a scene came so clear to me.Rosemary coming up the sidewalk towards my house when we were kids.We were in the middle of a windy snow storm.As she came my way,she tumbled head over heels on the slick sidewalk.The hilarity that followed I can hear now.My sister was next to me and said that she meant to fall but nothing took away the joy of that moment or this memory.
I have another snow memory,more recent.It was that 2010 storm and when the snow stopped falling,I went down to the river bank.The solitude,the quiet was so soothing.There amid the white filegreed tree limbs, and frosted water near the bank, I stood and listened.I just took in all the beauty and felt such joy.Then to my right, I saw a lone tree limb waving .There was no wind,no other branch moved and no snow was tumbling and yet this branch kept swaying back and forth and then stopped.I knew,and know ,that this was a sign from an angel that I was not alone in the woods.A few weeks later,I came across a painting in the Salvation Army store and in the trees were angels smiling.I have that picture and treasure it.
This is,after all ,the season of angels.They came before to tell us that something grand was to happen and I believe they still are here trying to get our attention.Just try to ask your angel her/his name and see what happens.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The car slowly backs out of the driveway.Her silver hair is tucked behind her ears.She is slumped foward,back arched from age.The time of dread has come.Her neighbors have all gone now,no one to wave to as she leaves for the last time.
The gentle river sighs a good-bye,the turkeys turn their heads in question,the pines whisper her name,she who loved them so well.New people will till her rose and daylily garden and prune back the Carolina Jasmine that cascades over the grey, battered looking fence.The spot where the boys,sons and grandsons, used to play football will eventually be planted in trees,their voices long gone.
There is the place in the yard where she sat and played with the 14 surprise Christmas puppies.Whining and tumbling.A home was found for each one,those small happy little balls of fur.The room in front is where she watched the towers fall after her son called to tell her to put the T.V.on.The same room and T.V that saw the Iron Bowl fought and incredibly won by Auburn in 2013 ,so many years ago.Such happiness!
She has mentally prepared for this day for years and is determined to make it easy on the driver.She has never seen where she is going but they promised a room on the ground floor with trees out the window.She has always known that she is much too attached to the things of nature but she knows that she must have trees.On her lap is the builders drawing of the house she has loved,her pictures ,prayer book and Bible.In the box she holds are autumn leaves,pine cones,sweet gum pods,all picked by her son for a Thanksgiving arrangement.A small pillow that has Welcome Winter stitched on it and her compostella from Spain and another time.A coffee mug with two dogs that look like hers.She hopes she has not forgotten something that she will mourn over.A drawing of birds that her son did is in her bag.
She will not look back but forward to all that the new place will hold.
Monday, December 2, 2013
It was an overcast early summer day when my husband and our four children divided up between two canoes and started down the Etowa river in Georgia.Our youngest son was three and the others 8,10 and 12.Although we had life jackets on, I was feeling some trepidation.My husband and I were in the old green canoe with our youngest.
As we went down the rapids, we noticed a fork in the river. One branch of the river kept going and the other went through an old tunnel.My husband said that it was safe to choose that route if ,when looking through ,we saw light at the other end.If not,there was blockage of trees or something else and we might not get out.We saw light in the distance and off we went.In a quick minute ,I became terrified.If my son fell out,I would not be able to see him in the dark rushing water.We banged against the tunnel walls,slimy and wet and the canoe turn completely around in the rapids.The journey seemed to take forever.I kept watching the entrance as it got nearer and nearer and finally with tears streaming,we hit sunlight.Safe.From a scary, empty place to safety.
In Advent, we celebrate the journey from darkness to light.Two things come to mind.When I first came to be a Christian believer, in California in 1971.Filled with excitement, I thought,"Yes, I can see."What a difference.
The second remembrance happened when going through a very dark time in my life.A darkness that had me feeling as if an ant's belly was a higher thing than my self-worth.I went to counselling with a young priest and poured my soul onto the green carpet.He was our parish priest and a friend of the family.With his goatee,sparkling brown eyes and wicked sense of humor,many laughs have been shared.But in counselling, he was serious,supportive,a rock of sound judgment.After each session,I felt stronger.Once, after meeting, he motioned for me to come to his room and he asked advice about the kind of curtains he should buy.Big deal you say?
Let me tell you something:that few minutes was like a pump filling the flat tire of my self.He thought I was worthy enough,valuable enough to be asked my opinion.He never knew what that meant.A light shone in my darkness and it grew and grew.A coming.Advent.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
For those one of you that read my blog religiously,you know that this is my favorite season.I cannot say why,perhaps it has to do with simplicity.The woods I look out at have lost most of their color and the branches are bare awaiting the white sun that will glance off their greyness in a few hours.The leaves that are left are beige on the beeches and hardly noticed. These are the weeks before Christmas that the Church designates as Advent.A coming.
For me ,I belive that these four weeks are set aside to remind us of the seriousness of what happened on Christmas: we need to be focused on this-the miracle of incarnation.The candles on the Advent wreath are purple and pink not gold,red and green.And the Bible readings for this season are always about light shining in the darkness.And so I must be awake and aware and look for that light and be that light.
But first in my meditation,I think of darkness.With sadness, I see in my mind a shopper taking a stun gun to the store on Black Friday to ward off anyone else taking what they want.I hear the muffled scream of the employee on the Long Island Wal-Mart floor who is being trampled to death on the same day by shoppers.The baby in the stable weeps.Remember that old fashioned exhortation,"Love your neighbor as yourself?"
This is what the world looked like before the Coming that we wait for.But the Coming is an historical one and a personal one and we are in control of whether we let it happen.Let that baby in.The Christ."The people that walk in darkness"the prophet said.We are those people and the darkness is thick and frightening.
I saw that light in a story posted on Facebook on Thanksgiving about a woman in Chicago who years ago served coffee and donuts to commuters and a universe full of love with it.When this simple woman died those she had shone on wept openly.The world needs this so much.Do we have the time?
When young ,I worked in W.T.Grant's on Long Island.When I read this story about another young salesclerk it touched me with recognition.In another store on Christmas Eve, a young girl was watching the clock for closing time.Fifteen minutes before the door was to be locked, a disheveled lady walked in with a big list and hope in her eyes.The young girl pondered finding a way to slip out and let someone else help,she so wanted to go home, but something pushed her to walk up and offer.Years later, she would recall that those moments helping a stranger sing still in her heart.Christmas.Light.
Some may say I'm a dreamer and that life isn't like that.I am beyond grateful to say that I don't believe that.That anyone even with a stun gun can be transformed.That's is what incarnation is all about.So, today starts Advent and I am going to be on the look-out for the light that the darkness of even these times cannot overcome.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Today, the blessings are so near.They come from the hand of two people who have stories to tell.They appeared on Facebook yesterday and created a warmth that is with me still.I will tell you about the first one now.
When my kids were in middle school they ran with other kids,The Tara Turtles, they were called.Younger neighbor kids ran with them and a brother and sister stood out because they were so cute,dark hair, dark eyelashes and eyes and always smiling.Time passed ,my kids went off to college and we lost touch with the other "turtles." We did hear through the runner grapevine about the younger of the two siblings:that he had been living foolishly as young men do, but had paid a huge price and was now incarcerated. Years passed , prayers were said for him and his family and then his loving sister announced on Facebook that he was coming home.From that time until now, the molding hands of the Lover of us all has had a grip on this young man's heart.
I want to share what he wrote today about Thanksgiving:
-I am grateful that I did not wake up in a cold cell with loneliness surrounding me.
-I have been blessed today with a sober mind and a choice to remain that way.
A cold cell.I thought of the many prison cells that have kept me enclosed,locked out.Fear of failure,worry about the future.We can be hemmed in and stifled by past grievances,bitter thoughts.Addictions to food,drink,the Internet can narrow our lives to a pinpoint.Everything ,our lives, can depend on our focus.It can make or break a life.
This is the last of his list:"I am grateful for the Blood of the Cross.If it weren't for this,I would not know how to be thankful."
I see it all clearly.The cold dark cell ,the dank misery of being caught and alone.Then,a golden key is offered .It is in the outstretched palm of my little friend who is now 6'4".Who runs still ,with a glory in his soul.This is what salvation looks like.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
It is very quiet in this early morning hour.The only sound is the heat coming on sporadically.The squirrels are chasing each other over the last of the corn my husband put out.It is still, so few leaves are falling .My husband is giving communion to Catholics at the hospital.I love this peace and solitude.This is the space where thoughts come together for one who loves to write.
When I was far away from the church and living in California in the 70s,I came across a book called "The Quantity of a Hazelnut" and thought it's title quite odd.I have no doubt at all that this book of essays was gently laid in my path as I wandered further and further from God.As I read it, I remember distinctly what I thought:"This is an intelligent woman who is also a believer."My heart stirred ever so slightly and my slow journey back home began.I still have that book ,the cover damaged from my constant retreating back to its wisdom.
The title refers to a vision given to Julian of Norwich, a mystic, centuries ago.In her vision she sees a small, tiny thing in the palm of her hand and it is no bigger than a hazelnut.It seems so small that it will fall and disappear but she is reassured with this answer:"This is all that is made and it lasts and ever shall last because God loves it ,and so hath all-thing its being through the love of God."
The author,Fae Malania, was an assistant to the editor of Mademoiselle and I regret that I never found a way to tell her how her book was used to reorient my soul towards the things that last.
The curious thing is that this all started when I bought a small book of meditations for a friend's birthday.Some of "The Quantity...." essays were in it and that's how I came to find the writer and her book.The friend and I lost touch, as people do, but in talking to her recently she brought up the small book and said she still keeps it on the table by her bed.
I recently bought a new copy of this book for a gift and came across a quote that speaks to me with such force.It is a quote from Fae:"Leo(her husband)always said that I was most alive when I was writing".Yes.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The woods are muted yellow and dark brown now,a different place and changing still.This cold of mine lingers and has kept me inside.Having a third window in my prayer room lets me see what I cannot walk in and brings in light that cheers me as I blow my red nose for the billionth time.
I finally cleared my desk when we came back from Spain and the only item here is a framed picture of a statue of the Sacred Heart taken in a grave yard by a friend.He is an artist in many modes and he sent it to me after I closed a letter telling him that I was praying for him after cancer surgery and suggesting that he cling to the Sacred Heart.I had never said that to anyone before and it seemed right.He has refused chemotherapy with a strength that most don't have and treats his body with great respect.He inspires me and so far is healthy on his terms.
The Christ in the picture on my desk has closed eyes and the great heart is outside His body, framed by a star burst representing divine light.Devotion to Christ in this form has its roots in the apparitions of St.Margaret Mary,a French nun,which occured from 1673 through 1675.
I can recall many occasions when I have taken that image of Christ into my heart in prayer and felt His presence.So, the picture is there and I gaze often and try to imagine the great love that we cannot see or touch but that has been promised to us through Scripture and the mystics who attest to it.He promised never to leave us orphaned or alone and that He will be with us 'til the end of time.I believe this.
Many years ago ,I went through a horrible,hurtful time and, before it happened, heard words in my heart that prepared me for it.They could only have come from the One who sees all things,past,present and future.It was a tiny light in the darkness.A person who I love dearly is going through a time like this and my prayer today is that he steps into the flamimg heart whose warmth we will never understand,here.
One need not believe me to do this.It would be a leap of imagination but what other things have we tried that have brought us nothing ?
"It is too good to be true,that's how we know it's Him."Fr.Patrick Dooling
Sunday, November 17, 2013
It seems hard to believe that almost a month has passed since my blog was visited with a story.I think that perhaps politics has edged out any creative fire that may have burned after the Camino.And now I have a cold.
I usually don't muse about politics on this blog but something has been roiling and I must let it out.There is a breeze blowing in this country, a movement,under the radar, to remove all religion from the public arena.A group in the North is suing to keep school children from trying to help a Christian group gather toys for poor kids at Christmas.There are "secular" churches springing up that have me wondering.A woman who attended a service there explained that she loved the music and the preaching in the Church and wanted the same thing each Sunday but without the God part.
This has me scratching my head and I think of Steve Martin's bluegrass song,"Atheists Don't Have Songs."
Church is about praise and thanksgiving so who do you praise?The words preached are about guidance but if not from God, then who?The first time I heard Handel's "Messiah",I thought my heart with burst with joy.I try to envision a world with no sacred music,no chant and I ponder how those musical expressions inspire. And then there is the Body of Christ.
I have no problem with a secular church but why must the religious presence that we have be pushed out and marginalized?That which has brought so much to so many.Why not, as the bumper sticker says,"coexist."There is something else going on here.
All of this came to mind after a trip to D.C. to see my cousin,a retired priest.Before leaving I saw some pictures on T.V. of housing that was built in the former Soviet Union.Those grey,utilitarian blocks of apartments and government buildings.So drab and uniniviting,with no spirit.We have all seen these and the only color in the secular Soviet country seemed to be the onion shaped domes of the Orthodox churches.
In the villa of the retirement house is a small chapel.It is white with blonde oak pews and a few lush plants by the altar.There are flickering candles and a shiny communion cup near a tattered Bible.The cross above the altar is multi-colored with small pictures of Mary and St.John to the side.Spare and beautiful.Most of what I know of beauty comes from the sights,scents and sounds of church.Holy Thursday: whitelilies and altar clothes.Canaries in white cages, incense, chant.I once had a nun tell me that singing Gregorian chant was the closest we would get to heaven.I experienced what she said while in choir in grammar school.Stained glass windows created by believers a thousand years ago made my jaw drop in Spain.Beauty.
I try to envision a secular church and how the decorations would look.Perhaps scenes from nature which would surely be beautiful.But when I saw the Grand Canyon ,my first thought was "thank you".I think that one of the saddest things about a secular world would be that instinct, thwarted.I don't think that one need be a believer to be a good person but I do wonder about beauty.
Anyway, I am grateful for the beauty in my life:lilacs,turkeys,babies toes,great art, music, smooth pages in a journal, books.Words like celestial,
symphony,chapels,silence,prayer,giving,tenderness,forgiveness.And I take comfort in the words of the Russian master writer,Dostoyevsky,"Beauty will save the world."
Friday, October 18, 2013
I didn't know Jackie well in high school.On our first day at Sacred Heart Academy,we were divided into four classes alphabetically by last name.She was in the first group and I was in the third,the Ls through Rs.Oddly,the friends we made that year seem to be the ones that stuck.In my Senior Year ,my mother took a few friends up to the Catskills for the week of Easter break.It was April and we climbed Hunter mountain in the snow.These pals last names were: Landi,Lally,Moody and Rice.I remember something about Jackie though with great fondness .She always had a gorgeous smile for me and an open ,friendly face.
I am so glad that I took the time to go to my 50th reunion a few years back.I sat next to Jackie and we were girls again.There is something special about the people we knew when we were young and carefree.Those days of uniforms, heavy book loads and the world laid out before us.We were idealistic to the max ,worked hard and got a terrific education that I only now appreciate.The school is still there.My grammar school is not.The back entrance to Sacred Heart is no longer a cement slab but a garden and the young ladies who ushered us around that reunion day were poised and lovely.
Scared Heart for me was a refuge from the chaos of my home life.The girls were mostly kind and the laughs were loud and frequent.I recall how clean the school was and the how the candles flickered in the hallways by saint's statues.Starting the day with prayer now strikes me as a great gift.As I type, I think that the Sacred Heart is supposed to be just that:a place of comfort and respite.I didn't think of it in those spiritual terms then,it was just the name of the school.
Jackie and I spent some time the other day talking about our lives and the mysteries that have given us pause.She told me of the time a few years back, when a health issue haunted her and she cried at night in her bed.Then,Oh Lord, then ,she felt a hand on her shoulder telling her all will be well.Peace came and the tears turned to joy.All was well.She doesn't know who or what it was but she was sure it was from the other side because there was no one in the house who could have done it.I told her I understood because early in my marriage,I had a miscarriage and as they wheeled me on a gurney to surgery,I was terrified.In silence, I asked that a hand hold mine and I felt it.And was comforted.
Connecting in this deep way was an unexpected gift and knowing how successful Jackie has been in her professional and personal life gives me joy. I see your face as I type Jackie ,that smile and I am grateful.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Camino is like a parent who watches you and offers suggestions for your becoming.The hardest lesson was the first....you are limited.I am limited.I was a wimp in the face of physical hardship.And in the discipline of humility ,I must appreciate the strength of others who are suffering things that I cannot imagine.A friend from long ago who has no choice,she must undergo chemotherapy and radiation to stay on this earth with her family.What will come is uncertain but she fights.She cannot slow down or get off the trail for two days.Lord,be kind.
Reach out as I am led.No matter my personal preference.I should know this as a Christian but sometimes I pretend not to hear the voice or acknowledge where it comes from.Finally,I did listen and laid my hands on the hurt leg of a stranger and prayed.My husband said," I'd rather you don't do that" and I said,"I know what you mean."But in the silence of the parenting Camino,I did what it asked.I need to keep doing this.Fatigue is not an excuse.We have so little time here.
I received a note from my German friend who lives in Florida.As if the Camino had been talking to her about me,she wrote about a statue of Christ that was in her town during WW2.When the bombs fell, the arms were knocked off.The townsfolk were very upset.After the war, the priest and the people gathered in prayer and decided to leave the statue as it was, a reminder that we are His hands.Lord,help me remember.
As a counterpoint to this,enjoy life.Resist doing compulsive tasks that take you from the joy.Does it have to be done now?I tried this on Sunday when my son and his family came to visit.My granddaughter led me into the spare room and just talked and talked.Delightful.I let it happen until she was finished and these minutes with her are precious to me.The dishes could wait.Who demands that they be done before sunset?
Break out and buy something that isn't you.I have to think about this...a pink boa ?
Ask questions.Amazing what you can find out.Today at Bible Study,I asked a very nice,spiritual lady if she managed to stay out of trouble over the summer.We laughed and had a good chat.Some of these changes came after I left Spain and there may be more and I hope to be open to them.St.James,pray for us.
The crows gather in the trees around the yard.The sounds,their calls ,are multiple and eerie but seem to be necessary before they land in the corn on the lawn.
The hawk swoops in, chases a squirrel to the trees,making no effort to grab.The others scatter, then soon are back.
The dark coated deer come in a group of five;the young stag, alone.
The river flows unseen beyond the trees.Silence rules the woods.Leaves are just starting to abandon their green for something new.This is the time when relationships end.Summer loves dissolve.Dark comes earlier.
On the rose bush, a group of yellow,so bright buds.Leaves on the lawn.Wood bench with pale yellow leaves of the proud ginkgo just behind.
When I was young,the last mild day of Fall was taken abruptly away for months by a raging rain."This is it,"I thought.Leaves gone,cutting winds on their way.I need to pay more attention to this Fall that is going on around me.I should attend to it.I once took a counselling course and we were shown how to attend to a person who we were meeting with.Lean forward,make eye contact, cup your ear if you have to.I need to be doing this to the spectacle that is out beyond my window.
"We do not need more knowledge but more wisdom.Wisdom comes from our own attention." Buddha
So this is my prayer today,that I attend to the universe and especially those in it who cross my path.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
On September 24,we left Sarria to walk the 100 km necessary for our Compostella,our certificate of completion.After some time, we spotted a small stone church to our left.In the yard garden were two kittens ,brown,black and white,wrapped around each other asleep and in the church was peace.We had our passports stamped and continue our walk.
This is the forgotten part of Spain,ancient,almost abandoned towns,cows and sheep in the fields,small town squares with ancient crosses in the center that brought to mind the old hymn,"Lord,You are the Center of my Life."
It was while passing through one of these villages that I noticed a pilgrim up ahead taking a picture.His focus was an elderly woman in blue and grey peasant clothes, kneeling in her muddy garden, hacking at the stems of cabbage.He took his shot and passed on.John and I slowed and watched her as she headed for the crude wire gate that she had to open to get her heavy wheelbarrow onto the dirt road.We looked at each other, and with back pack still on,he went to her.He lifted the wire fence and ,against her protestations, took the wheelbarrow and up the road they went.She was Hermione by name and he was Juan to her.If the color of grace is gold ,that surely explains the sparkling lane they walked on.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Early in our Camino walk , we found ourselves at a hostel table with several pilgrims from around the globe.As we passed bread and filled wine glasses, I asked the young good looking Dane next to me what he did back home.His answer surprised as he works for the Red Cross interviewing and placing Afhgan refugees.I asked how he does this as I would expect the language would be a barrier.He said that he does the best he can but that the work is very draining.The people he helps have nothing and have nowhere to go and such deprivation overwhelms him.He came on the Camino to clear his mind.I asked if he was a saint.The work he does ,it seems to me ,is God's work.He laughed and shook his head.A young West Coast walker who sat across from me asked with curiosity:"Why would anyone want to be a saint ?"It's a good path,like the one we are on,I replied."And I think that this is so.
Pope Francis was quoted recently about listening to God in the quiet of your heart and responding .I think he must have seen me on the train platform when we were leaving Sahagun.As we approached some benches at the station with an hour until train time,I heard this loud Irish voice pontificating from the other end.He was an older pilgrim with a white beard and ruddy face talking to another hiker and either he was deaf or he thought she was.John and I had planned an hour off our feet reading and were annoyed by the voice booming in our ears.A few minutes later, another group joined the small throng and the Irishman must have known them because he scurried over,sat down and left the first pilgrim alone.Now, there were groups of two or more and her, alone on the platform.I thought,she speaks English ,I should go talk to her but the book I was reading was so enjoyable as I sat in the warm sun.A few minutes later, someone else went to talk to her and I was glad.
But as I walked many steps the next day,clarity came.This is not how saints are made.
Was I listening?What opportunity did I miss,what call?Unbelievably,I saw her again,this bedraggled woman who looked more homeless than hiker,she who was not clad in Columbia wear,leaving the Leon station.She had a new friend and she was glowing .Her Camino was blessing her.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
At Mass today, we sang a Spanish hymn that I had never heard before.We have a seminarian with a wonderful voice who is helping with music for the summer and he belted this one out.And the words....
"The body and the blood;we become what we receive."
This line struck me and I thought about the expression, 'we are what we eat.'If that is true, then we also become what we allow to enter our minds and souls.
My family recently had a spirited discussion about religion and things spiritual.After I shared a God moment with the group, one member said that nothing like that has ever happened to him."I've been there,"I thought, "when the spiritual world seems non-existent." In my view, this is the land where I am not praying or reading any inspiring books.Just me, my mind and the "real' world.In this place, my mind is taken afield with thoughts of money,worries,and what the senses put before me.
I recently read a book that expresses this another way.The author,Melvin Morse, writes that ..."when we use our right temporal lobe,we directly perceive a reality unfiltered by input from the five senses.The input from those perceptions fuel intuition...."He claims that this part of the brain is "Where God Lives", which is the title of his book.To him, we have a choice to use that part of the brain that ,when exercised, changes how we view the world ,visible and invisible.
This is the part of the brain that felt and perceived my deceased dog Cooper, laying beside me on a gurney as I awaited a colonoscopy.And noticed a posting on Facebook ,a picture that appeared that day of the same dog ,put there by someone who had taken it five years early,and concluded that there is a Power at work beyond my seeing.
I love this encouragement from Mr. Morse...."Connecting with the Universe is my personal challenge.I do not want to wait until I die to hear God's voice."Amen.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
This summer, my husband and I spent alot of time trudging up mountains and hiking along wooded paths,getting ready for our pilgrimage in September.None of it was easy but I took heart when I saw some others on the path.A man whose stroke has caused him to drag his left foot pitifully behind him when he walks and a woman hiking with a cane.In my view they are special, strong and determined older folks.They inspired me.
And then there was this:we hiked at North Lake in the Catskills with my oldest son and his family.It's a short hike but very steep but the view of the Hudson River Valley and the river itself way in the distance is breath-taking.On the way up to the top, the kids spied a black bear but I didn't see it.They were pretty excited,me,not so much.
On the way down, I looked ahead and saw my son stopped on the trail.He called back that the huge beast was coming up the hill to the trail and would be between us very soon.I felt this might be dangerous, so I blew my very shrill trail whistle and heard the sound of something huge crashing through the woods to my left.I saw the bear's back side which was the size of a small truck and I was terrified.Happily, he was going away from us.
When I turned around there was my son coming up the trail towards.Seeing him was such a relief; my husband and I were not alone with the bear.He later told us that he planned to run at the bear and hit him with his shoulder.I am beyond glad that this didn't have to happen.
When my dear son was two years old, he used to ride his Big Wheel down our drive way into the garage.Over and over, he would crash down at a fast pace with a smile the size of Texas on his face.When he went skiing as a teenager,word came back that he had raced down the course with no poles and that same smile.Twice in the intervening years, I have found myself in a sad situation,once at Edisto and another at St.Augustine. To hear this son's voice saying that he's coming to get me, always made me breathe easier.
The silver haired woman is being wheeled back to her room in 2005,
after minor heart surgery.She is frrightened.At the foot of her bed is a tall,good-looking young man with tears in his eyes and flowers in his hand."Hi Mom," he says,"are you O.K.?"He is her son,her hero.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
The room is full of tired students,this being the next to the last class of the day.The windows of the room face the street and more than one girl is thinking,soon we will be finished with this mystery that is geometry.
The teacher is Sister Mary Ulick and she is a plain ,no nonsense woman ,clad all in black.I don't recall a joke or light remark passing her lips.This was serious work getting a gaggle of girls interested in and understanding rhombuses.She was an enigma to us because she was all work.
And yet,on the first day of Spring, something remarkable happened in that class.We would drag in as always and when we settled down, she would fling open the three big windows and say in her simple way;"Look girls, look at the glory of God."She would point to the new buds on the maples that lined Cathedral Avenue.Gesture with her hand to the blazing pink and red azaleas across the street, and breath in deeply of the new warm air.We were mesmerized .Our eyes followed hers and we drank it in,this long awaited Spring.The next day, we were back to isosceles triangles.She did this every year.
What I now think she was saying was:"Girls,like you, I want to take off this uniform and run madly around in the grass singing Cohen's "Hallelujah".Let's do this now.I'll meet you out there and we will shout for joy and singing like birds".I think I can see her more clearly now.I picturre her at a desk in the convent writing poems in the evening light.Hidden behind the walls, what beauty did she put on paper that has never been seen ?Who among us did she inspire to be poets by her rapture on that spring day when the windows were flung open and the air was sweet?
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
If I hold out my hand , what will be placed there?
In the garden, so lush from a bounteous spring of rains, the bright white of two Easter lilies just blooming.They were both from church Easter throw aways and as they bloom I think of their bulbs,grateful to have found a spot of dark dirt and sun.
Many years ago when we first moved in,I saw a rock down by the river and wanted to bring it up and put it out front by the pines.My son, who wants nothing changed in his woods sanctuary was against it but I won.Years have passed, ivy and pine straw covered the rock and I forgot about it.Now, however, I have a tiny Zen garden in the back with a small red rose,a new slip of a lilac and an oriental garden lamp.As balance nestled in the pine straw,the rock glitters in the sunlight.Perfect place to start the day,gazing on this simple place of memories.
As I read on the porch, turkeys appear as if conjured.There are two young males with a tie of feathers down their chests that are called beards.There is another group of larger males and a smaller female and then a solitary young female.They are all getting comfortable here hardly fleeing when I put out the corn.A solitary brown doe may stop by and they quickly charge her and usher her back into the woods.She must know they are dangerous with the spikes on the back of their skinny legs.Last year ,we had a baby turkeys,or poult,all beige fluff but not this year.I have a friend who lives now in Montana whose grandparents fed turkeys in Georgia years ago.If they didn't get the corn out fast enough, the birds would peck at the door and wake them up.I am not ready for that.
The crows,blackness itself,arrive and out of the six regulars,one holds his leg up and hops,injured.I feel sad until I recall that crows are known to help each other especially the aged ones.I have not seen this yet,but I am hopeful.
The waning sun shines through the woods and captures the fox and as if lit from within he is copper glory; then he's gone.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
For some reason,dawn found me this morning on the porch doing my morning prayer.It was still grey,not even squirrels were at the feeder.The only sound was the early rising wren, whose shrill call pierced the air and made me smile. There is something so blessed about this time of day.I felt alone in the world and it felt good.
This was a perfect place to read a book of meditations by Carlo Carretto, a Catholic lay person who ,at God's call ,left Italy and went out to the desert to live and serve the poor in the waste land of North Africa.Something he wrote stayed with me and I offer it to you:
"Is there any creature which does not speak to us of him?Which is not his photograph and symbol?Which is not an invitation from him?"
Pondering this can change a life.
We have three turkey neighbors that come every day to eat under the feeder.One is a huge Tom ,the other a smaller male and a female.When she is around,he struts and all his plumage is shooting out included that amazing brown fan of a tail.He doesn't eat, he just struts and I know he is letting her and the world know that he is protecting her.It is so obvious. God doesn't strut but I feel His protection.When I asked him why I am not an alcoholic like so many in my gene pool,his answer:"You have been protected" and I know this to be true.I feel it.
The wrens who seem to enjoy living here are known for putting their nests in the strangest places.They always seem to be nesting,feeding young ,just busy little creatures.Caring ,feeding, nurturing and calling.Doing creation's work.
I recall seeing a snow covered limb moving one glorious February day in Georgia and knowing it was an angel telling me that she was with me in my enjoyment.Nothing else was moving in the stillness of the white woodland.
There is a dear church friend who is suffering from the effects of meningitis and is in a hospice.Are her eyes when I visit her not God's invitation?I now think of them this way.
You may say that this is all a stretch.Fair assessment.But I proffer this:what would a life or even a moment spent looking for the hand of God be like? Would it feel like wonder?
Saturday, June 1, 2013
"Balance is the perfect state of still water.Let that be our model.It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface".Confucius
I used to have a tape that played in my head and I can still remember the lashing sound as I beat myself with words."Failure,never good enough,not pretty,not likable.what am I here for?"In my travels,I have learned that I am not alone in this grey land of negative thinking.Did my childhood predispose me to blue days of self-flagellation?One day, I realized that ,without my effort, the recording had stopped.
A golden smiling grace came to me yesterday while doing spiritual direction.Perhaps I have been looking at this phenomena in a wrong way.Could it be that this self punishment is just that?Sub-consciously do we know that we are not in accord with Divine will and so to balance the invisible scales, we punish ourselves with our thoughts or self-destructive actions?We know that we are not measuring up and deserve some punishment but there is no one to give it because the world thinks we are just fine.
Charlie Sheen comes to mind.I think he might be in better place now but his outrageous acting out when he has the world in his palm is to me a cry for help."I have it all;two women at my beck and call and all the drugs there are and I am so angry.Why?"Does anyone see balance in his life?
I cannot put a finger on the day that my tape stopped playing but maybe it was the day I knelt interiorly and gave the Lord my heart and ask him to lead me .
Could our souls be so sensitive to our inner workings that they automatically work to bring a healthy balance to us?I think this maybe so.Whatever happened, I am grateful beyond words to have left the land of constant beating.
If I ever find myself there again, I will pray for wisdom to know what to do to return to the land of balance and still waters.I love this encouragement from Albert Einstein:"The most important endeavour is striving for morality in our actions.Our inner balance and even our existence depend on it.Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
On my desk is a picture of a dark haired, trim looking ,almost smiling young man with a red military coat.Braids,a white belt and epaulets adorn his shoulders.On the last day of his life, he walked down a street in London thinking of the groceries he would pick up to take home when his tour at the Army barracks was over.He is a handsome young man whose face shows no scars from his time at war in Afghanistan.He is home in England now so a slight smile greets the photographer;he is safe.
Moments later, a woman on a bus that is turning a corner, sees this man,.Lee Rigby, lying in a heap on the street.In the background are huddled strangers horrified at what they saw and now see.She gets off the bus and goes to him,he who has been slaughtered in seconds by a man with a meat cleaver.Another woman kneels by him,holding his hand as the blood pours from him and the huddled men stare. She took his pulse as a bloody handed man approached her and demanded she leave. She talked to him to calm him and stayed with the man on the ground so he would not die alone.Her name is Ingrid,this mother of two.She described why she got off the bus in this way:"I live my life as a Christian.I believe in thinking about others and loving thy neighbor.We all have a duty to look after each other." This scene,these women and their courage defies logic .It was a timeless moment.
I thought of Ingrid today when I read a wonderful quote from St.John of the Cross:...."in a situation where there is no love,you put in love and then love will be there."
Friday, May 24, 2013
This day is indescribable.Bluest of sky.Cool bluster that is moving the woods tableau constantly.The sunlight through the new tree growth is magically, undulating green.
A few minutes ago, a murder of crows started their shrieking to the right of the porch.They were furious;a minute later, a small reddish fox with a thin spare tail ,an impossible fluff at the end,crossed right in front of where I sat.The crows above followed him through the yard and then dismissed him as he left.
The turkeys have become close neighbors and a young grey deer had the nerve to enter from the woods to where they eat their corn.They chased her unceremoniously back to the woods.We are content here,my neighbors and I near the silent flowing river that enchants us all.
The movie "Green Mansions" comes to mind,seen when I was a young teenager.The mystery of the jungle;I even remember the girls name who lived in the trees-Rima.Anthony Perkins was her love interest and she,played, by Audrey Hepburn, was an innocent pure sprite of a girl.I recall wanting to be her in her jungle solitude surrounded by green life.I think that I am as close to Rima now as I ever was.Every window frames a swaying tree.The porch where I pray is part of the forest,so much so that a fox casually passes.
The day twenty one years ago when we came to look at this house ,to see if we wanted to buy it, I sat on the slab that is now the back porch.All I did was drink in the trees,their mystery, and when it was time to go, my spirits plummeted.There will be another day in the future when these green mansions will no longer be mine.The Native Americans know that no one owns the land,they borrow it and I have.I try to picture that day, not often but once in a while.This is why I have taken so many pictures of the river.I will hold them in my hands at another place and the Rima spirit in me will return to this holy ground.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The concept of God is beyond what we are capable of describing.Energy,force,wind,love,none of these words tell even the slightest bit of what the Creator is and yet we try.
I have written often of the God sized hole in my center that called for me to do something about my non-existent spiritual life but now I see things differently.This is how I see the soul. As part of our humanity we have been made with a small fluffy ,smoke like piece of God.This vibrant life speck in us is meant to be reconnected to what it came from and left when we travelled to earth to be enfleshed. It is bigger in merit than any other part of our physical body and strains to be back connected to the Whole Mass that is God.It belongs connected and when it is, we become more like the Mass.Like a child that seeks with its small hands the face of its Mother and sighs with contentment when he reaches it.
We all have this tension, this straining even when we don't recognize what it is.it.So, we live and learn,seeking for that elusive something that will bring contentment and purpose to our lives.But what we seek is not here or there.As U-2 sang:"And I still haven't found what I am looking for."And the words discomfort us.As the psalmist said:"Like a deer yearns for flowing streams, so I long for you ,my God."
We will never find that stream here but searching is the key and we have many white slashes(trail markers) to help us.The Word, saints,writers,dreams and the whispers of the Whole Mass .We,these searching wisps of God stuff have been flung onto this blue Orb to find our way back to his heart carrying on our shoulders those who have been put in our paths.That is the grand adventure that we should whole-heartedly and with dance, grab with both hands:we should sing into existence a path for all the other wisps.
We have had a long rainy Spring and only now is my screened in porch inviting. My lush irises are purple and proud lit from behind by the morning sun.At their feet are small bright red lilies blooming early with their spring cousins,the irises.The roses,stunning coral, deep red,innocent pink,and white are cascading over the garden rocks and the white daisies that I carried on my wedding day, add whimsy and memories to my garden.
The grey wooden garden fence holds red honeysuckle which lures a family of hummingbirds.Strong shoots of day lilies lift buds of many colors.I go out each morning to see what the light has brought.
In this Eden, I say my morning prayers.At church the other day, I spoke to a man who has struggled mightily with alcohol addiction.He used to live under a bridge near our church.Somehow, he found his way to us and now he has an apartment and is leading a healthier life.He told me that if he misses his morning prayers, his day feels empty.Yes.
Yesterday, the morning reading leaped off the page.I read :"May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,and may charity be the root and foundation of your life."Eph 3:17.
An image came to my mind that looks like this:there is a gentle looking figure at a door .He stands with an open shining face,a lantern in his hand, waiting for me to open the door and to acknowledge his presence. His knock is soft, one must really listen to hear it. Many years ago, I heard that knock, opened the door and invited him in.Without proof, I said::"I believe."
Without that, Christ would be an historical figure to me ,one I could admire and hope to emulate but who would always reamin outside.Not dwelling in my heart, he could not do his work of making love my foundation as it is his.
So ,what is my root,my first thought, my default mode? I want to tell you what I think Christ does with our puny humanness.I was at Goodwill the other day, searching ,always searching for the perfect book.The checkout girl had a scowl on her unattractive face, her hair in dirty strings and I made no attempt to engage her.As I walked to the car,she came running out with the purse that I had left in the cart.I thanked her profusely and told her that she was the best.Her smile was beautiful.Since then, when I see her,I tell her she's my best friend and then I just relish that smile.You see, that smile was there all along but I almost missed it.
I have a long way to go for my foundation to be what it should be but slowly, the work gets done.
How would you describe your foundation ?
".....To Him whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine-to him be glory..."Eph 3.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
It's a blustery, cold day in Georgia.Weather perfect for a funeral which we attended this morning.This was a Mass for a church friend who we have known for over thirty years.He had battled cancer for years ,miraculously surviving pancreatic cancer, only to see it return five years later in another form.It was a sad but hopeful ceremony as Christian funerals are.My thoughts went back to another time and another death.
It was a bright April day in 1965 and as I was driving past the college I attended ,on my way to student teach,when something strange happened.It was a warm spring day and I had my car windows down when the strong scent of Canoe, an after-shave lotion, filled the car.This happened a few months after the end of a tumultous reIationship.Once a month however, my former boyfriend would come by and we'd go out for the evening.There was a connection.It was his aftershave that I smelled.The scent seemed so strong that I looked around the area I was driving past to see if anyone had just walked by.No one.Later that day,a mutual friend came to my door to tell me that my beautiful Irish former boyfriend had died the previous evening in an auto accident on Sunrise Highway. He was 21.
So many memories of the wake and funeral.One thing stood out.In the thank you note sent by the family for my presence throughout that hard April week, my boyfriend's sister wrote this."We would not call him back if we could.He is where we all long to be."What faith, which I did not then have.
Soon after the burial,I was to write a paper for a Sociology class about the customs of a tribe we were studying.I focused on funerals and how this tribe(which I cannot recall) honored their dead by stabbing themselves,shrieking for days and various despairing rituals.I compared this to the dignity and hope of those who believe in Christ as evidenced by the Sullivan family.I knew that I was being extraordinarily subjective but I wanted to honor what I saw in some way.It was not a scientific paper but the professor must have sensed my deep feeling about what I wrote and gave me an A.
And so I observed again the sadness,the loss ,the family holding each other together but also the
surety in their eyes of this:"This world is the land of the dying;the next is the land of living".Tryon Edwards
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
For Easter,I gave my sweet blond granddaughter who is ten,a copy of a painting by Sisley.It is a winter scene and in it a woman is walking down a snowy lane in a city in France.I asked her to look at the painting and give me some adjectives that came to her mind.She said:snowy and peaceful.I liked those.Then I asked her to use the blank pages behind the picture to write a story about what comes to her from the picture and share those the next time we get together.Later that week ,I found out that she has been selected for an advanced reading program at her school and it all seemed to fit.
I can't wait to see what she has written.
Years ago,I wrote a story about this painting and now that alley belongs to me in a way that I cannot describe.The woman in the alley became me and so much of what I believe and cherish came through her onto the page. It is like a path that I jog on.I ,in some way, have bought that holy ground with my effort.
When you put pen to paper and just write,you are sending a feather drifting down into your soul .As it comes back up on its shiny golden string it brings with it, scenes,words,memories,all the essence of you.Henri Nouwen says,"One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures for us as well as for others to see.".
As I type,I think of a Christmas several years ago.McKenna,she of the reading skills, was at that time ,five years old and had a different career in mind.She came over to me and whispered that she wanted to show me something and went into her room.A few minutes later,she emerged in full ballerina costume with pink shoes, pale pink tights and a sweet fluffy tutu.We all clapped and she came and sat on my lap ,put her arms around me and fell asleep.My heart was full.
We have talked, she and I ,about how girls should have adventures ,as we walked through the cold winter fields near her house.That conversation meant something to her as she mentions it once in awhile.Now, she wants to be a mermaid and I would love to look into her mind and see what that means to her.What dream awakened the desire to swim underwater and have a beautiful shiny green fin instead of legs?I hope no one makes fun of this. Dream, sweet child of my heart.The world awaits your shining.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
In a discussion that I had with my grown children a few weeks ago, someone brought up how people always thank God when good things happen but do they also blame Him when bad things occur?I really liked that question because I have observed folks who give God credit for fortune but become quiet when there is misfortune.Did He cause both?Does He dwell somewhere and throw down money and leukemia in equal measure and who gets what and how does the Deity decide?
Thank God for Scripture.It says that we are to give thanks in ALL things.Not just the ones we label as GOOD but ALL THINGS.I cannot pretend that this is easy or my first thought when things gnarl up.
I have a good friend in Georgia whose son is in jail.I wonder how she can thank God for this.But then I consider another friend whose daughter came out of jail and is now a glowing ,walking servant of Christ who will bring many to faith.Another godchild,47 years old, just had a massive stroke that nearly took his life and after this wake-up call, he has returned to the faith he was baptised in.These are things to praise and give thanks for.Our sight and understanding is so limited.
I guess it requires practise,this thanking and trust.I do not see a Being throwing down sickness and pain but One who always stands by to help us through.And in this thankful mood I will mention some things that fill my heart and not all are "GOOD:"
-for the mapping of the human genome which I hardly understand but which will enable medicine to treat many horrific genetic flaws.
-for the fireman who was in the right spot and knew exactly what to do when he saw a horribly injured seven year old girl in Boston.
-for the female dancer,so in love with life and injured in Boston who plans to dance again.What grit.
-for my dysfunctional, sad childhood that taught me so many things.That one can chose their own path not the one that "is written" by others.And that God can make a lotus out of anyone who asks.
-for plantar fasciitis that hurts like crazy and said:"don't take your body for granted,you're not 19."Thanks,plantar!!!
-for Pat Bussell who used to laugh with all her limbs from her 6 foot height.I now appreciate your joy.
-for friends that come in and out of my life,the ones that encourage and read this blog.The people who know just the right thing to say.
-for the Bishop in Belgium, who when attacked for telling the truth,sat in prayer as water and spit was hurled his way by half naked women,.He never moved,just his lips.This is the peace that surpasses the world's understanding.
-for Spring, which in its colors of pink,yellow,and white and its abundance of green and scent,always brings me back to Long Island where ,if it was alive ,it was blooming.
-the last scene in the movie "The Mission" where the young, good priest played by Jeremy Irons holds the monstrance containing the Host aloft as he walks towards those who will slay him.He is saying in his heart..."see this,this is what matters." Christ . And it is so.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
The other day,without warning ,I was looking at a picture on the internet of a man who was injured at the Boston Marathon.
He had been standing with the crowd, he looked into the eyes of a terrorist ,saw him put the backpack down and a few minutes later, had no flesh anywhere on his lower left leg.All that you could see in the picture taken immediately after the bomb blast was bone and no foot.He has since had both legs removed from the knee down.
On a bright spring day, with the beloved muddy Charles River flowing, and some slight green in the trees, the distance runners of Boston had only one worry;would they finish ?The patient bystanders had only one thought, will I see my family member as they go by? I have stood along a race route looking for a family member and it is exciting and the most wholesome of ways to spend a morning.You see the health,the courage of the runners,their fitness ,and being there feels like an honor.
I cannot imagine the pain of this bystander as he struggles to face life without wholeness.What he will go through in the next few months,I will not try to imagine.I haven't the courage.
"This is My beloved."
In another hospital is a nineteen year old who, by all accounts, tried to shoot himself and is in critical condition with a long stretch of treatment ahead of him ,if he survives.He will probably never speak as it seems the bullet took his vocal chords.He is nineteen.His future will include prison for the rest of his life.I cannot imagine how he will feel when he wakes up from the drugs that course through his body.
"This is My beloved."
To understand that both are His beloveds brings me great peace.