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.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I travel the back roads when I go to the monastery in Conyers for my "pruning."It is a pleasure to go in this manner;past horse paddocks, over a stream, on roads that pass azalea festooned yards.On this trip I noticed Bussell Rd. and remembered a classmate of mine,Pat Bussell.She was tall, had pretty blond hair and a lovely smile but she also was clumsy and despite her height,didn't play on the basketball team or sing in the glee club.So, I never gave her much thought.Sadly,she passed away before the high school reunion in 2011.
I don't look for signs but they come anyway.Given that my retreat seemed to be about harsh judging on my part,I needed to spend time with this.
We all judge and we must.To survive we have to make quick decisions about people and events .I recall reading about a young woman who had been assaulted in an elevator.Later,she told of the door opening, a solitary man standing there and the hair on her neck going up.Something scared her but she didn't want to hurt his feelings so she stepped in and he hurt more than her feelings.If we are walking down a dark street alone and hear laughter behind us and notice it is three young women arm in arm strolling along ,we will judge this as safer than three young men with backward ball caps.And that judgment will come quickly because we decide those things all the time.
Then there is a judging that isn't required for safety.This type is part of who I am for whatever reason.The exclusionary Pat Bussell judging that decides that this person is not like me so ................This is the decision that labels and excludes and I wonder now what have I missed with this selection process?
This area that needs pruning, being revealed to me by my merciful Lord is palatable.I took it to prayer and said:"Help."Some time later, I received an answer that I share with you should you need help:
-see that person dressed all in white.
-see the bright light shining within.
-listen to Me say:She is my beloved.
So when I am on the indoor track and the person ahead of me is hogging the whole width, has earphones on so I have to stop and tap a shoulder, my second thought is:"This is His beloved."I don't think that I have ever found something that is more true and I smile.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Outside the eating area at the monastery is a covered porch that overlooks a lush garden.Trees,evergreen and deciduous ,surround the perimeter hiding the garden within.Here and there is a bench and statuary.The peace and Presence is such that this is where I wrote and wrote , prayed and listened on my two day stay.Today,I have a longing for Who I found there.My daughter,in trying to understand this asked if it was like the missing feeling you have when you spend time with a friend,become part of their lives and then leave.Yes,exactly.I left a friend and the missing feels like longing which it is.
It is the silence that is the gift of the monastery.You are taken care of while you walk, sit, write and in this solitude your soul is wide open to what God wants you to know.This is a place of pruning.Without distraction, you will be shown the small dark spots in your soul that keep the flood of God's love from gushing out to your world.
I don't like to be pruned.I see myself as a beautiful ,green flowering lilac bush that needs nothing but rain and sun to flourish.Blissfully spreading my lovely scent throughout the world;perfect in every way.I am content in this miscalculation.But I am not that.The lover of healthy trees knows how to prune and with a gentle hand.
There is a statue ,in this haven that was the garden,It was St.Joseph.He had lilies in one hand and the Christ child in the crook of his other arm and the child was holding a globe of the earth.This was a peaceful figure ,a gentle look on Joseph's face and I sat on a bench and meditated.St.Joseph is the patron of fathers and my pruning has involved my attitude toward my deceased father.With grace,I am making progress here.But that was not all:slowly the thought came as clear as a church bell:"Carry Christ". Carry Christ.
It will take the rest of my days to understand this.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
From a side door, walking softly towards a nearby chair,I enter the abbey church.Built by Trappist monks over a half century ago; by hand and with thousands of wheelbarrows of cement in the hot Georgia sun.
Plain white walls,arches to the wooden vaulted ceiling.Handmade stained glass windows ,stripes of blue,red,pink.No pattern.And some by the altar,golden and white.The sun is shining through them now,brilliantly.
At the foot of the altar are pots of lilies and above, on a stand,a tall, stark white Paschal candle with two stripes in the middle in deep blue.Next to it ,an astonishingly deep blue orchid.I have never seen anything like it .Above all is a plain wooden cross,suspended from the high ceiling.If I came for beauty,I have found it.
For 50 years, monks have gathered in this sublime setting of white,wood and light to praise God five times a day.The praying is the structure in which they live.They chant soft psalms, a scripture is read aloud and then time is spent on the Word.The rest of the day is spent is silence.
At vespers,the Amens come slowly as if to tell us that this praying is of utmost importance and should not be rushed.I take note.
The shrouded monks chanting,participation in the Mass and silence hold them aloft in their day so that God is never far from their thoughts.This other-worldly living has an affect that is not hard to notice when I encountered one of the monks in the gift shop.He, with his child-like benevolence and gleaming eyes.He is slow and smiling at the register and no one cares.Intuitively those of us waiting think that this is how it should be and we inwardly join his pace.
I am reminded of a Franciscan monk who worked in the gift shop by a church in Assisi.I purchased a small item and he took my hands as he handed me the change.He was bent and bald in his poor brown robe,but his eyes,those eyes, so full of love, held my gaze and I knew that such extraordinary love was possible and where it came from.
This is what I sought in the silence.