General

Wake Up? Do I Have To?

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Our new rescue pup, MayBelle, is a delight and a handful. Although she’s supposedly 4 years old, she is in many ways experiencing puppyhood with us. Like a puppy, she goes from wild to zonked out. The pic here caught her sincere question: “Do I really have to wake up now?”

I wonder if that’s a question for all of us, along our way.  Do I really have to wake up now?  Can’t I sleep through this?  Sometimes in our lives, for many reasons, we may deliberately elect to keep sleeping.  Perhaps more often, we may have habits which anesthesize us:  mindless activity, lots of TV or video, looping and repetitive thought patterns, addictions of various types, aggression in word or deed, even relationships where we’ve given over our freedom and simply echo another.

Every major world religion speaks of waking up (in some form) as entry to spiritual practice and fullness, integrity of vision and action.  Most of us who name ourselves disciples don’t wake up just once.  We are going along – really committed to our journey, to deepening faith, to living what we profess – and discover, often to our chagrin, that we have stumbled upon yet another way we resist or zone out or shirk freedom or live less than we truly desire. Whether it is due to fear, pain, lukewarmness, laziness, pride, regret,or listening to voices that lie to us about who we truly are…. We are nodding off – again.

The waking up we are invited to requires our persistence, certainly, but more – a huge helping of grace accepted and leaned upon. And a looking and listening in the right direction.

If we truly want to stay awake (hmmm…didn’t Jesus advise that?), the best way is to take a shortcut.  Look to Jesus. Remember the Creator of all is in relationship with us personally.  Listen to the Spirit, Companion-Dweller, wondrously living and forming us and praying for and with us from within.  And lean on this Trinity to be our alarm clock.  Stop doing it on our own steam.  Let God be our ongoing wake up call, just by confiding always,  leaning heavily, asking for the love and help always available to all of us.

St.  Therese of Lisieux referred to Jesus as her elevator who lifted her, as she was unable. She – like many saints – rejoiced in being small.  It showed God’s tender faithfulness in reaching into their littleness. (“For God has looked with favor on his lowly servant” – Luke, Magnificat.) If we acknowledge our attachment to sleepiness, our fears, our paralysis, our littleness, God will meet us there.  In fact God already does, we just forget and need to be re-minded (metanoia – no worries, also God’s work in us). 

Do I really have to wake up now?  Absolutely not.  But if we do ask this grace to wake and stay awake – and let God’s great love (grace) help us in the middle of our patterns and experiences and thoughts that keep us captive sleepers – our perspective, words, values, decisions may change. We will find the courage directly from the source of our life and love, letting go of our inabilities and leaning in to God’s great sufficiency. Then, a prayer typed up for me by a young student decades ago will not only make sense, but have the wings to carry us.

Lord, I am at the end of all my resources. Child, you are just at the beginning of mine!

What joy and comfort! Believing and KNOWING this to be true, we can be in each moment awake, happily humble, with abundance to share.

These words will not only make sense, but circle us with truth we can live in and from:

The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw – and knew I saw – all things in God and God in all things.
– Mechtild of Magdeburg

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And yes, MayBelle loves living “awake” too!

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wonder At What Tender Flesh Receives

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Amazement should mark our every inhalation – amazement that we live,  that love and thought and breath find home in our flesh!  Amazement too that there is a distinct “I” who is the self who is invited to amazement – an “I” who is simultaneously on the journey, and who is observer, tactician, poet/philosopher, and chronicler of the way traveled.

The God-Creator of all the universe inhabits our very being.  How is it possible that someOne larger than is imaginable is integrally woven into our most intimate being’s fiber?  We should just explode, in our vulnerability!  And yet, it seems, it is vulnerability and weakness and empty openness that most draws God’s artful presence and play which shapes and shatters and sends us.

Fragile flesh is holy, the Incarnation tells us so.  I came across this translation of a piece from St. Irenaus, which prompted my musing.  I hope the poetry hints for you at some of the truth which should send all of us into wonder, and tutor our thinking, and foster wisdom.

The tender flesh itself
   will be found one day
   — quite surprisingly —
   to be capable of receiving,
and, yes,
   capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
   Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
   the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
   one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
   another the impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
   is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
   that now and ever animates
all things.  His life-giving
   agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness —
   made perfect in the flesh.

– St. Irenaus (c.125 – c.210),
adapted and translated by Scott Cairn in Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life

Categories: General, Poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Seek Out All Our Fears: Psalm 10

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Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying have long been a gift I find treasures in for reflection. Her phrasings have given me words to whisper, and pleas to cry out. They have soothed and challenged me, and taught me of the Beloved who loves us so. I have decided to include here the text of one of Nan’s psalms periodically for your slow reading and praying.   If you need an endorsement to consider these for prayer, note this recommendation from Madeleine L’Engle, another word artist, woman of faith, and sister of the journey:

“The very liveliness of the Psalms causes us to want to say them in our own language… Nan Merrill has done this marvelously, and I’m grateful for this labor of integration and love.”  

Both women have moved from this life to the next, where they see more clearly than we the truth we say and seek as we pray. I hope you too are moved as you read, and that Nan and Madeleine join our fumbling hearts and words with strength.

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Psalm 10

Why do You seem so far from me,  O Silent One?
Where do You hide when fears beset me?
I boast and strike out
against those weaker than myself,
even knowing I shall be caught in
a snare of my own making.

When I feel insecure,
I look for pleasure,
greed grips my heart and I
banish You from my life.
In my pride, I seek You not,
I come to believe, “I am the Creator
of the world.”

I even prosper at times:
Your love seems too great for me,
out of my reach;
as for my fears, I pretend they
do not exist.
I think in my heart, “I do not need
You;
adversity will come only to others.”

My eyes watch carefully for another’s weakness,
I wait in secret like a spider
in its web;
I wait that I might seize those who
are weaker than myself,
draw others into my web,
then I might use them to
feel powerful.

Like me, the fearful are crushed,
we fall by our own doubts.
Then we think in our hearts,
“I do not deserve Love:
my Beloved has forgotten me,
I am alone with my fears forever.”

Awaken, O Love! Oh You who created me,
return to my side;
forget me not in my weakness.
Why do I turn my back to You,
and say in my heart, “You will
not take notice of me?”
You do see me. Yes, You know of
my anguish and fears,
that You may take me once again
unto Yourself;
When I commit myself into your hands, you are ever my strength and comforter.

Break then the webs I have woven,
Seek out all my fears
until You find not one.
You are my Beloved for ever and ever; all that is broken within me
will be made whole.

O my Beloved, you hear my deepest
desires;
You will strengthen my heart,
You will answer my prayer;
that I might live with integrity
And become a loving presence in the world!

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Casting Down the Compass of the Wither and the Why: Living With the Spirit, Part II

wpid-2014-08-18-20.11.23.jpg.jpegThe soul that walks where the wind of the Spirit blows
turns like a wandering weather-vane toward love.
It may lament like Job or Jeremiah,
echo the wounded hart, the mateless dove;
it may rejoice in spaciousness of meadow
that emulates the freedom of the sky.
Always it walks in waylessness, unknowing;
it has cast down forever from its hand
the compass of the whither and the why.
 

I promised Jessica Powers’ poem on Living With the Spirit in three parts over a few days.  Alas!  Robin Williams’ death sent my reflections another direction — along with many more.  And there are so MANY MANY things happening throughout the world and in and around Church these days that merit so much conversation, reflection, prayer, work, silence.  Still, my path leads me back here — to the next stanza of Powers’ poem above, and a few thoughts below.  See if any of this invites your integration with what is going on in the world or your life too.

If we walk where the wind blows, we go hither and thither, without a whither or a why.  This seems inefficient, at least!

wpid-20140818_193149.jpgI am presently reading a 2014 title by Sarah Lewis which I recommend – The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.  I’m not far in, but two early images strike me, and enter into dialogue with this stanza as I muse.

One is the perspective of an archer, committed to her art.  There is built-in to the craft of pulling bows and launching arrows compensations that must be made for curvatures, and deliberately aiming off-target in order to actually find the target, let alone anything near center!  Huh?  How can this be?  The human body bends.  And eyes see from a perspective, and over a curving landscape.  If one wants to be near the mark, one must learn – counter intuitively – to ‘aim’ off the mark.

The second image is that of finding oneself in a place where the curvature of the earth at its horizon is obvious to the eye, and what that does to our ways of perceiving.  In Utah, over the Bonneville salt flats, Lewis notes that mountains look like they are suspended in the sky.  Their base is beyond the horizon, and so they do not ‘reach’ the ground, as the ground that is seen does not have mountain on it!  And if one then starts to walk in a line directly towards these mountains, the sense of curvature occasions the footprints in the flats to reveal that the most direct route between two points – on this earth – seems to be a curved line!  We meander naturally, with no knowledge of having done so!

So we aim “off” to find “true”, and when we walk “true” we end up walking “curved”!

So what can keep us truly true?  What do we depend on?  What can we depend on?

Jessica’s words say it simply:   “the soul…. turns like a weather-vane toward love”.

We do not understand.  We cannot understand, so very much.  Instead, this is the advice.  Celebrate that very incompleteness!  Try to be as responsive as possible to the turns that the Spirit takes and listen to and for Love, who is a Person (or – more accurately – persons), who is our intimate and friend, who is our path and our goal and companion, who also whispers how to be love too – which is our noble call.

We do not control our way.  If we follow the Spirit’s wind-breath, we will lament, be lonely, rejoice, and dance freely.  What we know most and best is that we do not know much at all.  (Ah, well Jessica Powers IS a Carmelite — friend of John of the Cross, and her words echo his of unknowing paths.)  The soul, “always it walks in waylessness, unknowing”.  This is simple fact.

When we grasp to know-Know-KNOW, we aim our arrows at the centers of targets and they fly past.  Our most authentic ‘knowing’ is a commitment not to waste time chasing knowing, but to relax into the mystery named in the last blog on this poem.  Our way-going can perhaps be best described as  a simple intention and a humble listening to wind’s (and Spirit’s) slight breaths.  It requires that we “cast down forever” from our hands “the compass of the whither and the why”.

For most of us, relinquishing our compasses and submitting to willy-nilly wandering seems nonsense.  It’s not responsible!  It’s not proactive!  It’s not adult or the best use of human potential!  It’s lazy!  It’s not self-actualizing!

OR… it is the absolute and only way to the truth that we are and the way we can go.  It is our true self, deepest identity.  And “may your inner self grow strong” (Ephesians) in just this way!

The quote under my senior picture in my high school yearbook read “A bird does not sing because she has the answer, but because she has a song”.  So, we are invited to sing… and with our distinct voice… as we wander.  This will call us, challenge us, draw us to healing, send us over edges, help us be with and lead others.

bagger vanceThis week I re-watched the 2000 film “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, which connects for me here as well.  (Hey – the Spirit uses all kinds of things, yes??)  You’ll remember the film’s setting at a golf tournament, and Bagger  Vance (Will Smith) appears as caddy (as well as a wisdom figure? divine messenger?): he helps a WWI vet (Matt Damon) to face himself, his past, his life and to choose to go forward with all he has.  The game of golf is the field of formation, and Smith’s character continually invites Damon’s to let the field tell him what to do, and to find his authentic swing in response to the field, as it brings forth an investment of who he truly is, and he is to give it all in that moment, in that one swing.  Words to us too?

The only authentic way – I’d dare to say that Powers’ instructs us to in this poem, and a way that echoes her Carmelite saint patrons – is to listen to love by living with the Spirit.  Live each moment, let the Spirit turn your soul, your weather-vane, toward that love – whatever joy or grief or dance it leads you to or through – with no compass, but with all your you.

May we each and all find our true ways of living this – in peace, and for good.

Categories: Carmelite, General, Mystery, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sanctuary, Robin Williams – Thoughts

The blog entry below is a ‘move-over’ from a Facebook status-musing this morning, with a little editing and a few adds.  I thought it worth contributing to the conversation, the meaning-making, the mourning, the hopes…

robin-williams-desktop-wallpapers-1So many things swirl around the internet and social media – and in my own thoughts, prayer, reflection – with Robin Williams’ death.  Video clips, recent or decades old interviews or parts played, the reactions of friends, fans and celebrities: tons of short and long features and reflections are available for review.  And I’ve paged and viewed a good number, stunned, along with the many others sharing the experience and coping some with the loss of such a gifted artist  in such a tragic way by doing so in common, remembering him and being inspired by his work.  His career and his way of being in the world – comedic and vulnerable, real and ragged – and his way of telling stories – these made him very accessible to many of us, as if we had a decades-long relationship with him as a brilliant-quirky-wise-sad-hysterical-laugh-out-loud relative in our extended families.

Among all swirling in my own heart and mind this morning, this comes through and holds my attention.

We all need refuge: places and people and perspectives and ways to access truth that we can run to and lean on not only in great need, but in the beauty and terror we experience in echoes in everyday. We need to know ourselves known and seen and embraced and accompanied. We need practices and pathways to help us stand in the truth that we are immensely loved and unshakeably safe, especially in storms and confusion and pain which all experience.

Robin’s death brings to mind the need we all have for sanctuary. So that is my prayer… a dwelling with this word, this reality… sanctuary.  How can we find it? Be it? Create it for each other? In our vulnerability receive it? In our grasping or addictions not withhold it from each other?

And, as I consider this, I wonder how this relates, yes, to Robin’s amazing life/gifts/pain/need/struggles and our own. But also our need for sanctuary, and our struggles to find it (sometimes, in our perception, over and against others) speaks to me of children on borders, of violence in relationships or in the Middle East and anywhere on our globe or in our homes, of people isolated due to illness or age or limitations or labels or even our/their own disastrous choices.  We are fragile and fascinating and amazing and in need.

If we come – and we do – from Trinity Love, and live too within the circle of that embrace, can we learn and taste and access and become truly sanctuary with and for each other in our world? I hope so.

I need sanctuary. Don’t you? Let us help each other find it. Let us create it with our words and glances, our sensitivities and welcomes, our policies and politics, our anthropologies and theologies and ecclesiologies, and our listening. Let us send each other ‘home’ and protect the silence around one another, as we each do the necessary work of presence and patience, nurturing what emerges and is formed in us slowly and gradually. Our souls are shy, Parker Palmer has liked to tell us.*  They need safe places to thrive, to find what is true, to seek integrity, to come to be.  Let us be harbor-sanctuary seekers and makers, releasing smaller efforts that close us and others off.  Let us cease judgments and violences, and all the ways we isolate each other and ourselves. We need conversions and transformations as individuals and as a human race…. and to accept the Grace in abundance available for our turning and learning.

It is simply true that life’s cycles and challenges are difficult. (We’ve all heard that growing old is not for wimps or sissies! ) Deaths and resurrections, both.  May we pursue working for sanctuary gently, yet boldly – and daily.

And for those in struggle, the psalm song refrain of a loved prayer echoes for me:  “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.  Be with me Lord.  Be with me.  Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.  Be with me Lord.  Be with me.”  Be with us, Lord, each and all… and remind us of your presence. Mend our freedom and our sight – from all our specific impairments – so that we may choose the good, affirm the good, learn joy, trust, and build havens and harbors, and frequently visit them for our strength and empowering.

Robin, RIP.

Friends, will you join me in prayer and reflection with the word SANCTUARY, and anything it touches, calls, incites, invites in you?

*  Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness, is elegantly expressive on this point.

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Keep the Vigil of Mystery – It Matters: Pondering with Jessica Powers

“To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener.
It is to keep the vigil of mystery,
earthless and still.
One leans to catch the stirring of the Spirit,
strange as the wind’s will.”

I am attracted, these days, to this poem by the gifted Carmelite Jessica Powers (1905-1988).   Her way with words I’ve long loved, and I’ll offer you this work in three parts over the next few days, with a few lines of wanderings/wonderings for your reflection and mine.

To live listening, to keep the vigil of mystery – these are wise invitations to the seeker. I wonder – can you and I learn to truly WAIT?  WAIT = Why Am I Talking?  Does my talking serve listening?   The freedom of the other?   The truth of a human experience or challenge?   The beyondness of an encounter with LIFE, GOD, LOVE, A HUMAN PERSON, or SELF?  Are my words echoes that come out of silence,  or noise that protects me from the rawness of experience?

Could it be that we live speaking instead of listening because we feel somehow safer or in more control when we guide the dialogues we have with others, with life’s complexities, with our own confusions or cluelessness?  What would it take to lay down the burden of managing mystery and to instead hold vigil in the darkness?

At times this may indeed feel raw, vulnerable,  intimate – and remind us once again of what we do not understand.  Without a GPS to tell us exactly where we are, a Google or Bing access to explain the unknown, and an app to help us navigate with ease… will we be okay?

At this time of year,  I liken it to the reaction we might have as we step onto an empty beach or look up at night – away from city lights – at vast darkness or uncountable stars.   Does sheer space in those contexts scare us,  make us feel small?   Do we feel inconsequential before multi-billion grains of sands or a night sky-view that hints at a cosmos we cannot begin to see or imagine from where we stand?  And in our more daily moments?   Do large joys or sorrows overwhelm us?  Does not-knowing disturb us, and send us into calculating or strategic plans that remake the real contours of complexities into manageable microbits?

SAMSUNGspitzer-saggitarius-glorius-blue-space-800

Powers’ words invite us to listen to the Spirit – to recognize all moments as opportunities to stand small and naked and clueless before mystery – and to learn trust.  Those moments at the beach or beneath the night sky bring me peace, in the midst of wonder – and likely bring that to many of us.  Our intuitive selves know that these experiences are safe and whole-ing.  They can quiet us, even help us to relax by evening us out, reminding us of the large, of the gift we have in living in it without grasping, and refresh us with joy in our being part – a precious part – of something very VERY large. (Think universe, cosmos, creation, and the Creator bigger-than-this-infinity LARGE!)

This awareness can become a lifestyle – and one more relaxing and whole than endeavoring to protect ourselves from life’s big  questions or managing mystery.  We can find joy in being little, known, poor, unknowing.  But this indeed is not an easy journey for we who express our discomfort with this reality, our alienation from this truest identity, in manifold ways.  We circle.  We project.  We protect.  We narrate.  We analyze.  We fear pain.  We have known hurt.  But being bigger than we are and trying to microwave meaning and skip over transcendence with reality-for-dummies strategies simply does not work.  We can be taught, and allow ourselves to be drawn out and allured into deserts and spaces where we can learn trust and heal from our own first person singular ways of doing frenzy.  We can allow ourselves to rage or weep, laugh or dance, and ask for whatever we need for the next steps into living mystery and listening to life and living with the Spirit.  And we can support each other on this journey as true community and pilgrims in process.

With time, and Grace’s enduring work in and with us, we may find that Living Loved and finding our refuge and home and mission from there may prove to be our truest experience of Mystery, as we – and all – are wrapped within the Trinity’s love.  And our vigils with these truths will guide us to reengage in living with integrity,  and provide us a way to reboot when we stray back to lesser living and efforts to manipulate or be our own source, wisdom, control.  They may also help us as individuals, and as a human race, to make better decisions towards peace and stewardship and solidarity and creativity.  And is that not a need for our very survival at this point?

So,  let’s listen to the Spirit today some… do our part to be faithful to the journey.  It matters if we do.  It matters that we do.

“By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, 
in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

Categories: General, Mystery, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Are We Not Alive With Joy?

I’m finishing these days Madeleine L’Engle’s Bright Evening Star: Mystery of Incarnation.  Yes, I KNOW we’re out of the Christmas season and into Ordinary Time.  Ah…. but of course the Incarnation makes Ordinary Time utterly Extraordinary!

These few paragraphs went past my eyes today, and I really wanted you to see them.  May they feed your amazement and bring you joy!

spitzer-saggitarius-glorius-blue-space-800“Jesus is the Son of the One who created the stars in their courses, and yet, as Christ, he was Creator of the stars and without him was not anything made that was made.  

We will never understand with our finite minds that, yes! he shouted the magnificence of the universe into being, and yet, as Jesus, he left this fiery home and came to our little blue planet as an ordinary mortal.

Everything is more than it seems, and we get occasional glimpses, revelations, but when we try to analyze and explain them we lose them.  

Angels were his chariots, and he rode upon the wings of the cherubim, and he is further away from us than galaxies billions of light years away, and he is as close to us as the beating of our own hearts.

He is with us because of a love beyond our comprehension, and it is only through our own love that we are able to know him at all.  And it isn’t even our own love; it is Jesus’ love, expressed through us.

So what has happened to us?

Why are we not alive with joy?”

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Of Bees, Honeyed Feet and Incarnation: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Of all that God has shown meTarrito
I can speak just the smallest word,
Not more than a honey bee
Takes on her foot
From an overspilling jar.

– Mechthild of Magdeburg

— so beautiful, yes?  take it in!  it seems to me these days that any words that we can say about what is essential are really quite small —

We are poor and little, weak and clueless.  Love and truth, life and death, sickness and health, growth and decline, sadness and joy, conflict and peace, violence and tenderness – even what is happening in our own minds and hearts; so little about these things comes into sharp focus for us.  We have no answers, small understanding, and come to wisdom slowly.  Can we smile at this?

Of course, we are wondrous.  I haven’t forgotten.  But we (and certainly I) don’t dwell with the wondrous enough.  We are distracted by what we do not know, ways we have not done or been something we intuit is extremely important (though our words fail here too), or who we have not yet, or may not ever, become.  We seek answers.  We remember suffering and ask questions.  We seek identity and home.

We do not know.  We experience longing, and sometimes deep pain.  We are not — something — our hearts tell us.  (Thank God that “God is greater than our hearts”!  1 John 3:20).  Yet perhaps our smallness and the way we experience life within our very limitation is wonder too.  (I know – it doesn’t feel wondrous sometimes! But don’t the words sound as if there’s something to them?  Hmm…)

Mechthild’s bee reminds us of who we are.  It’s beautiful really.  This small honey bee’s foot finds sweet stickiness in an overflowing abundance.  We buzz about a world of overflowing honey jars.  We might stop here.  Our view, she seems to say, is so small – our capacity infinitesimal.  But listen to Mechthild’s premise and find new hope in knowing that you and I are amazing.

Of all that God has shown me…  We are ones who wake into life learning that we are constantly addressed and “shown things” by the Creator of all that is!  This is the One who somehow is and was before all things (duh… grasp that one with your brain!), who brought all into being and intends our freedom and ability to learn and love.  We wake up already deeply in a relationship that is our truest home; a relationship we did not initiate, could not earn, and are invited to remain in always and forever.  Does that not make us amazing? We fascinate the Creator of the smallest quarks and the largest galaxies, who delights in showing us things and being with us!  Augustine spoke of humans as having capax dei… a capacity for God.  We are made that way – hard wired.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to really believe that we have the capacity to delight God by simply receiving what God would show us, what God would give.

And God shows us much, each day, each moment.

If we cultivate (through REPEATED practice!) that Advent wakefulness December reminded us of as a way of living, we might find a million’s million grams of ‘honey’ in which our feet are stuck, and through which God speaks to us.  Will we learn to listen to the Creator’s love-talk?

As I write, these “small” things surround me, and I believe “show” me something:  music’s beauty, the skill and passion of the harpist, the oft-forgotten wonder of my ears and the way they take in sound like fingers take in texture or my palate takes in flavor, the wonder of how hands and thumbs and muscles and holding work (as my left thumb and wrist speak to me in ache from a fall), the way vegetables actually feel good as you eat them, the warmth of heart brought by a quick gaze at a sleeping crazy-beloved dog, the essence of connection and longing for presence found in family members’ smiles and eyes on pictures on the wall, the flickering self-giving light of a candle, the hand stitched gift that says ‘I know and love you’, the diversity of place and people I’ve visited in playful koala and moose images, the delight in coffee’s smell and taste, the wonder of recorded words in books and the people whose stories and gifts gave them birth.  These are just a few of the wonders within 6 feet of where I sit.  Even within that range I cannot adequately capture all of what God shows me! Take a few moments.  What’s around you?  If you listen, is God showing you some small thing through the honey on your foot in this moment?  We stand sticky in wonders and mystery all the time!

I have wondered why I/why we then spend so much energy anxious or upset about what we cannot understand or do not know.  Why are we surprised when we are just bee-size?  Why does it pain us so not to find answers, wrap up what we consider essential questions, or to simply walk our days in unknowing, with a bit of ongoing stumbling more characteristic than steady gait when we walk around the larger questions? I do not mean we are not explorers of lands and seas, of space, of body and spirit, of all that our curiosity draws us to learn of, or that human or creation’s need draws us to discover.  I do not argue with our unfolding knowledge, with study, with the sketches we make of what is important that become science texts or symphonies, masterpieces or family traditions.

SAMSUNGBut we are those who often experience life as ones who see “tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity”.*  We can only speak just the smallest word, Mechthild tells us, of what we are shown, even of what we experience.  Is that awful?  We seem to think so.  Difficult, yes, of course; especially when we speak of loss or death or isolation or violence or other hard things.  But our analyzing endlessly or “parking in the circle” of difficult or the excruciatingly painful will not create an okay-ness if we put in enough time or effort!  Instead, we run the risk of forgetting to notice the other honey – the amazing and wondrous. And we will forget the merits of our littleness.

You and I must learn to live and thrive in a place of acceptance and celebration of the limits and wonders of being human.

Okay.  What do we know?  Not much.  What can we hold onto in awareness? Only the smallest fraction, like Mechthild’s bee’s honeyed foot. What if the Incarnation speaks to how to be with this?  It does!  Do we not believe Jesus shows us how to live human life as it can be lived?

At Christmas, we remember that we are not only people addressed by God everyday and over history, shown all kinds of wonders.  Mechthild is correct that we are only able to say the smallest word about life, but God’s Word came to us – containing every word and hope.  And the Creator of All chose to enter the very reality of unknowing and foggy perceiving we resist – this soil and sod that is the stuff of being human. And by so joining it, graced it fully.  Into the middle of the not knowing, this fog of understanding where clarity is an exception in our experience: THIS is the very reality that God chose to enter.  The One who is somehow Three, who existed before the cosmos and creation, chose to fully enter the flesh-ly story of a people and a world in one corner of one planet in one womb as one child with one human lifetime.  No wonder we speak of the Word leaping down from the heavens! What a leap!  God entering such limits!  Unbelievable!

Or is it?  Doesn’t such entering in tell us something about who God has always been, well before that holy night we sing about on Christmas Eve?  We miss the fact that Incarnation says something about power. Power is not control.  It is not insight.  It is not understanding and identifying and categorizing and figuring all out. Real power – true power – is love.  It is Love which leaps and enters and is WITH.  (It’s Trinity too – for that’s the leaping love of the Three which makes them One in ongoing self-giving.)  The One Who Loves Us All is this very Love, in kind and content. This is the most amazing power you and I can ever encounter.  In a way, it’s a no-brainer.  The Christmas Story in Luke is all about persons who don’t have all (or much) in their control.  The scene looks out of whack;  a babe in an animal’s feed trough, a woman who said yes to an angel when ‘how’ was never answered, a man who welcomed a pregnant bride into his life and heart with little sensical explanation.  Control and understanding are not the point, no matter that we might want to make it so sometimes.  Relationship and being with and delight and being who we are in this love — every day and moment — that’s the point.

God leaps in love.  God is a leap in love.  This is what we mean when some say “God is mission”.  God must go out in love.  And so must we. It’s who God is, not what God does.  It’s who we are, not what we do.

The most powerful achievements in our lives have little do with understanding all the turns and wherefores in our own or others’ journeys, or even affecting them.  Our power lies in awareness and acceptance of the love story we are created a part of, and a Love embracing us and sending us leaping out to love.  As Pope Francis has often repeated this season, that reaching out should particularly be to the poor.  God came to us, poor small honeybees so loved by God and able to give God delight.  And our poverty is what God can fill.  We who would join the Incarnation mystery by bringing Christ to birth in our world and lives must also go where love goes… it leaps to those with greatest emptiness and need.  We are those who have received.  We are those who must also leap.

So, let’s worry less about getting answers to all life’s questions.  Let’s live in the relationship where God shows us many things.  Let us embrace our capax dei, the gift that is our capacity for God, hard-wired in by the Creator.  Let’s value one another – especially those in need or pain – with the same leaping love God models for us in Jesus’ coming.  Let us give up trying to understand the Incarnation, and live its mystery by embodying an embrace of humanness that the Creator chose to show us in Christ.  Let us glance at the babe, and learn from the young family how to survive and thrive in unknowing, in following, in faithfulness.

SAMSUNGI am better able to walk in this mystery as I listen to the smallest words of others about this journey we are all on.  Mechthild, Madeleine, Maura, Jessica — these poets help me listen and learn.  They hearten me, as they learn and share what God has shown them.  I hope they invite you to attention to what God shows you too this day.  Whatever that may be, it is good.  Trust that, with me.  Don’t worry that you don’t get the whole honey-pot…. or a few of them.  Enjoy, with God, the bit of honey on your foot this day.  And I will too, with you!  BbbbuuuuuuZZZZZzzzzzzzzz!

* The source of this image is Annie Dillard in The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (see ABOUT THE BLOG). There she describes the experience of being human very much like the experience of walking in the fog. We see “tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity”.

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This is the Irrational Season: Mary’s Story

Sitting before the Child in the Manger, and the infinite made tenderly accessible to us, let us glance up at the young mother whose body held more than the universe itself can hold. (Clare of Assisi gave us that lovely image in her letters to Agnes of Prague).  In the midst of spinning stars on a planet small, in a stable smaller still, a woman young in years, yet full of grace and wonderings, looks at her baby boy with love.  Jesus would reach and feed, grow and play, learn and pray, love and work, cry and laugh  – all within the secure boundaries of her loving gaze.  What is Mary’s story?  For story – we remember – holds truth.  

Young Mary of Nazareth’s Story is marked with angels, journeys, questions, magnificats, leaping babes, kin conversation, serving, sorrows, Spirit, stars and ponderings. From angel annunciation, her life has been like the pause before the GPS speaks after a radical turn, “RECALCULATING”.  She’s gone another way, by intuition and by Yes, a way without her knowing and understanding, a way ungraspable and unexplainable (except by angel dreams, it seems, or so faithful loving Joseph found).  

And in this newly twisting tale, her Story and very being – heart and soul and flesh – will give birth to THE Story, the Word expressed in flesh and told in our world and time.  There will be no recalculated voice to explain the ways the Story will unfold in time.  This Story, this Word, invites and calls for faithfulness only. There is no reasoning, GPS security or googlemaps with landmarks.  Only love.  And Love.  For “it is not a matter of reason, it is a matter of love”.*  

So today I offer Madeleine L’Engle to you once more, for I find her word-entries into Incarnation mystery such apt companions for reflection.  I hope you do too.  These two poems take us months back from the Manger Mystery, to the Annunciation change in path.  Find Luke 1, and these, as food on this Feast of the Holy Family.

 

SAMSUNG

After Annunciation

This is the irrational season,
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason,
there’d have been no room for the child.

Young Mary

I know not all of that which I contain.
I’m small; I’m young; I fear the pain.
All is surprise: I am to be a mother.
That Holy Thing within me and no other
is Heaven’s King whose lovely Love will reign.
My pain, his gaining my eternal gain
my fragile body holds Creation’s Light;
its smallness shelters God’s unbounded might.
The angel came and gave, did not explain.
I know not all of that which I contain.

* This quote of reason and of love is from the play “A Man for all Seasons” by Robert Bolt

 

Categories: Christmas, General, Mary of Nazareth, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where is He hid? – Jessica Powers and “The Hidden Christ”

The call to presence these days invites us to open our own eyes and heart to the Infant Jesus in tender flesh, to Mary and Joseph, to animals and feedbox, visitors and travelers, vulnerability and poverty and great joy. The Child reaches out for care and love, and as we draw near perhaps we can see his newborn glance take us in.  And so, as we reflect these days to Epiphany (January 5th), these reflections from others continue to be offered to feed our encounter and our silence.  

Carmelite Jessica Powers (Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD) is well known for her well crafted words in poetry. Follow her seeking. Where are you to seek?

empty cave by jerusalem

The Hidden Christ

I went into the Christmas cave;
there was no Child upon the straw.
The ox and ass were all I saw.

I sought His stable where He gave
His goodness in the guise of bread.
Emptiness came to me instead.

Filled with my Father’s words, I cried
“Where have You hid Yourself?” and all
the living answered to my call.

I found Him (and the world is wide)
dear in His warm ubiquity.
Where heart beat, there was Christ for me.

I went back to the Christmas cave,
glad with the gain of everywhere.
And lo! the blessed Child was there.

Then at His feasting board He gave
embrace. He multiplied His good
and fed in me the multitude.

Categories: Christmas, General, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments