Posts Tagged With: Madeleine L’Engle

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!

Categories: General | 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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One King’s Epiphany: Final Arithmetic and Losing the Stars (Madeleine L’Engle)

Madeleine L’Engle does it again!  Read this Epiphany poem once, twice, three times:

One king’s epiphany

I shall miss the stars.

Not that I shall stop looking
as they pattern their wild will each night
across an inchoate sky, but I must see them with a different awe.
If I trace their flames’ ascending and descending –
relationships and correspondences –
then I deny what they have just revealed.
The sum of their oppositions, juxtapositions, led me to the end of all sums:
a long journey, cold, dark and uncertain,
toward the ultimate equation.
How can I understand? If I turn back from this,
compelled to seek all answers in the stars,
then this – Who – they have led me to
is not the One they said: they will have lied.

No stars are liars!
My life on their truth!
If they had lied about this
I could never trust their power again.

But I believe they showed the truth,
truth breathing,
truth Whom I have touched with my own hands,
worshipped with my gifts.
If I have bowed, made
obeisance to this final arithmetic,
I cannot ask the future from the stars without betraying
the One whom they have led me to.

It will be hard not ask, just once again,
see by mathematical forecast where he will grow,
where go, what kingdom conquer, what crown wear.
But would it not be going beyond truth
(the obscene reduction ad absurdum)
to lose my faith in truth once, and once for all
revealed in the full dayspring of the sun?

I cannot go back to night.
O Truth, O small and unexpected thing,
You have taken so much from me.
How can I bear wisdom’s pain?
But I have been shown: and I have seen.

Yes. I shall miss the stars.

     –  Madeleine L’Engle

The poem describes a mourning and a gaining, a seeing and a no-longer-looking, a finding and a losing, a Truth touched that changes one’s relationship to what has been most valued.  Following the ultimate equation leads to the One beyond the arithmetic.  The end erases the path.

I grieve with this king.  I’ve known times when what is found is wondrous, but what it means in loss intimidates. Have you?  What happens when we apply this to the simplest arithmetic of our relating to God – prayer?

I very much like the writings of Ruth Burrows, Carmelite.  Early in her Essence of Prayer she speaks of being attached to the strategies and methodologies of prayer being a bit of a trap.  I utterly agree.  We can become so focused on the how that we forget the Who.  The purpose is encounter with Love, not a completion of our favored strategies and some success to mark in our do-it-yourself I-am-not-a-prayer-for-dummies gradebook or prayer journal.  We become very attached to hows: they help us feel more in control in this relationship that is all unknowing — and some insoluble combination of mist, bright light and darkness when we try to put it in words.

Ah, but why would such little ones as we expect to word the Word in ultimate fashion?  We share sketches and glimpses, which is why this blog has been full of poetry during these days since Christmas.

When we meet the Word, the Truth – like the one king of L’Engle’s epiphany – we have come to the end of our arithmetic.  If we have been mathematician only, and lover only of the vehicle that brings us to what we seek, our loss is greater.  For me, when we meet the Word, all these images I love to play with fail.  All comes to silence, to no more equations.  We have seen.  And so, perhaps the best prayer for this one king, and for us, is the way to come to silence with Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

SAMSUNGOh, one king, we pray with you.  We miss our stars too, but meet you in the region where the One we know as Truth reigns well.  The stars never lied, no fear.  Help us to release ours as you have yours… the better to encounter, unencumbered by our strategies and lesser loves, the Word who Loves and is ever With us, Emmanuel.  

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

The Child’s First Cry Came Like a Bell: L’Engle’s Further Words on Mary

Happy New Year, readers and friends!  May 2014 bring you much joy.

It must be obvious by now that I value Madeleine L’Engle, as friend and wordsmith.

In my young adulthood, I knew she gave writers’ workshops in the summer at Wheaton College in Illinois.  I wanted “someday” to go.  I did not make the “someday”, sadly.  Still, I’ve felt – from childhood on – tutored by her characters, her art, her own journey in life and writing in many ways.  She was a purveyor of intuited truth to the child who munched happily on A Wrinkle in Time, and every subsequent novel.  (I’m thinking of rereading them all in 2014… anyone with me?   And then on to all her other books!)  A high school student gifted me with Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, which wound its way into both my masters and doctoral theses, and a theology of ministry too!  Though we never met in the flesh, I feel I’ve met L’Engle in other ways (perhaps in a kything communion, oh Wrinkle lovers?).  There are many dear writers like that for me – C.S. Lewis comes immediately to mind, with Tolkien and MacDonald, poets, and saints and mystics.  I hope that’s true for you as well.

So, on this day that celebrates Mary as God-Bearer, Mother, Theotokos, solemnly – it seemed fitting to offer you this three pronged reflection on Mary from L’Engle.  The last I shared with you was Young Mary, glimpsing her just past the Annunciation.  Here Madeleine again explores the inner experience of Mary, within the context of the Incarnation-Christmas Mystery.  Appropriately, the third poem below has much to do with Joseph, who sees too little ink, methinks.

I invite you to add a comment after your reading, simply sharing a line/a phrase/a word that speaks to you from all the ones below.  We have a right to hear the Spirit speaking in the context of community, so share a whispering or breeze or gust that blows past you, in a repeated word or three or four from her text, would you?

May Mary and Joseph accompany and guide you to the places you need to be this year to better encounter the Word in flesh.

 

Three Songs Of Mary

1. O Simplicitas

An angel came to me
and I was unprepared
to be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
according to God’s Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
the birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
it was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
my cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
the town was overflowing.

God’s Word, a child so small
who still must learn to speak
lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
and moved in hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd;
a stable set apart,
the sleeping cattle lowing;
and the incarnate Word
resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
the folly of the Lord,
wiser than all men’s knowing.

 

2. O Oriens

O come, O come Emmanuel
within this fragile vessel here to dwell.
O Child conceived by heaven’s power
give me thy strength: it is the hour.SAMSUNG

O come, thou Wisdom form on high;
like any babe at life you cry;
for me, like any mother, birth
Was hard, O light of earth.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
whose birth came hastily at night,
born in a stable, in blood and pain
is this the king who comes to reign?

O come, thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
the stars will be thy diadem.
How can the infinite finite be?
Why choose, child, to be born of me?

O come, thou key of David, come,
open the door to my heart-home.
I cannot love thee as a king –
so fragile and so small a thing.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high:
I saw the signs that marked the sky.
I heard the beat of angels’ wings
I saw the shepherds and the kings.

O come, Desire of nations, be
simply a human child to me.
Let me not weep that you are born.
The night is gone. Now gleams the morn.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
God’s Son, God’s Self, with us to dwell.

3. O Sapientia

It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.

The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.

With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, thou above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.

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

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.

 

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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

Being with the Mystery in the Manger: “First Coming” by Madeleine L’Engle

SAMSUNGThese days call for ways to be with the Mystery in the manger, and you’ll find here some words and wisdom (through Epiphany, Jan. 5th, 2014).

This call to presence invites us to open our own eyes and heart to this Child and his family, to the visitors and travelers, to song and embrace, to all this season in holy night and early days, in incarnation flesh, and vulnerability holds.  It asks us to harken to this Word, this Proclamation, this Love, definitively present and spoken directly to our world, to creation, and to each of us each and all of us.

Still, these gifts offered here from others’ reflecting may help us travel the distance into our own silence to encounter.  So, shhhh… let us… See. Listen. Treasure. Ponder. Hold and be held. And then be still. And perhaps be moved to worship. To song. To poetry. To service. To sharing. I’ll meet you there.  Rejoicing!

For our initial reflection then, a poem from Madeleine L’Engle, found in A Cry Like a Bell.

First Coming 

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

– Madeleine L’Engle

Categories: Christmas, General, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Judgement – A Story Telling

This All Souls Day, I am reminded of a powerful image passed along to me, oh, about 25 years ago.  It seems appropriate to re-gift it today.

A volunteer catechist for high school youth that was working with me at a parish at the time gave me a reflection on the Last Judgement.  It didn’t have a source, but was a favorite of hers.  I was pleased to receive it, and have never forgotten it.  Over the years, I have, of course, embellished it!  And so what follows is a combination of the original, and subsequent thought and prayer.
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For this judgement after death, you crawl into God’s lap and tell him the story of your life… all of it.  This takes a LONG time.  Tears, of course, ensue… and whatever else you might imagine to be fitting for you.

Hours later, exhausted, still in those arms, God looks deeply into your eyes and asks if it might be El’s* turn.  You nod, pinned and held in El’s gaze.  God then tells you the story of your life with great love, truth, humor, compassion.  There are more tears, yes, but also laughter, deep joy, wonder, wholeness, humility, grace, healing, compassion, connection, forgiveness, celebration, communion and community, wisdom, understanding, surrender, and an intense sense of being safe and sheltered, while receiving even more energy to love, as you unite with the One whose life in love always flows outward.  Imagine it.

I hope that encounter for all we love this day, surrounded by clouds of saints and souls, hoping and loving for and with us.  They are anxious that all those now living would share in the mission to communicate about the tenderness of God’s wondrous action in lives.  Trusting God with each chapter of our mixed up and wondrous story, mended with mercies and lavished with love, we are sent to tell others of this grounded way of living and hoping.  May we all, part of ALL souls, support and pray for each other’s journeys and lean on and in the Love that created and draws all of us, all the time.

I’ll meet you there.

*  Long ago, in reading Madeleine L’Engle’s works, I discovered that she solved the problem of an appropriate pronoun for God by using “El”.  El is short for Elohim – a Hebrew name for God, found throughout scripture.  I have claimed its use here, happily. 
Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brushstrokes of the Spirit – Day One

I find delight in the companion, tutor, gardener, whole-er, healer, pray-er, weaver, friend, playful one, formator, artist, counselor, therapist, integrator, fruit-producer, gift-giver, embrace, draw-er in to relationship with the Trinity who is the Spirit.  And her* feast of Pentecost approaches in a few days.  My delight in her and dependence on her in the work that I do (through In-Spirited!  Hmmm… wonder who its patron is!) is prompting a few reflections over the next days that I’ll call brushstrokes.

I am not an artist with paint, but I have watched others reverently or courageously or hesitantly or boldly choose color and make first strokes on blank canvas.  The first strokes are not the picture, but they are part of the beginning.  That’s all I seek to do here.  There is no capturing the Spirit – nailing wind or fire down is a ridiculous endeavor.  And yet…  she draws me, she draws us… and this feast provides an excuse to look at her directly in the midst of the Trinity’s relational dance (and perichoresis – intimate indwelling of each other) and celebrate her love-living, especially as she does it in us these days of our lives!

And so, an initial brushstroke and image for your reflection:

Many years ago, in my VERY early young adulthood, I spent four years in a religious community.  You know how memories are some combination of what actually happened, what you remember of what happened, what you have associated with it since, and subsequent learnings and integrations?  Well, I have an amusing memory from my seminary days (that’s what we called the 18 months of novitiate).  And it’s one of those combinations – but I think mostly accurate.

SAMSUNGIn the midst of what we experienced as rather intense formation processes, and what we knew to be the Spirit’s collaboration with our personal/human/spiritual growth, someone expressed well what was felt at times.  “Bird — get off my shoulder!”  It was addressed to the Holy Spirit, and was a comic way to express a very human plea: “I’m on overload.  I’m learning enough about me right now, thanks.  I can’t integrate any more.  And I don’t want more awareness of what seems to be off kilter in my ways of being.”  It might have said something too about how we understood growth, and perhaps that we had to “fix ourselves” by ourselves, but that’s another story, and one that risks an off-target compulsion that leaves little room for grace.

An on-target truth that my sisters and I were experiencing deeply and trying to name was that the Spirit is very VERY involved with us – intimately and constantly.  We just weren’t sure it was a friendly involvement – at least our image captured some of that hesitancy.

Today I am absolutely certain that the Spirit’s involvement in the work of our lives is entirely to be trusted — much more than my own perspective!  And that the Spirit’s methodologies are always good.  If we but open our eyes and ears – partially with the Spirit’s help – we will see so many ways that God is communicating specifically with us and to us, shaping and forming us inwardly and outwardly with invitations.  We will find in our daily experiences opportunities to see and to respond, to learn and to develop.  We will locate the place where the Spirit prays deeply within us, for we do not know how to pray or what to pray.  We can trust that we will experience from the Spirit strength and gentleness, firmness and tenderness; and rest knowing that we are utterly safe in her tutelage.  Jesus has sent the Spirit to us to teach and remind us, to dwell in and with us, to guide and journey with us.  We are never alone – within or without.

SAMSUNGSt. Basil of Caesarea used the image of the Spirit as ‘brooding’, as a mother bird over the eggs in her nest.  It is true that her warmth causes the eventual cracking of the eggs.  And perhaps the eggs, and the baby birds within, might prefer to remain encased and not be ‘cracked up’.  So it is with us.  But the Spirit broods over us, providing heat and safety, and makes us restless within.  Her presence cracks us open from without and within, if we allow it: and she will be there to feed us, as a mother bird remains.  She will help us encounter Christ who feeds us with his very self, and teach us to leap and fly and sing and be who we are, within the love of the Trinity in the world the Trinity loves.

“A bird does not sing because she has an answer, but because she has a song.”  Heard that one before?  The Spirit has a song of relationship and unending love in the mystery of the three/Trinity.  She sings in us and around us.  As we come, over and over again, to new birth with her help… we too learn to sing.  And our singing is a witness to the delight of knowing the Creator, the Son, the Spirit.  It is an invitation to others to take part in the flight, the dance, the growing, the enterprise that is God’s wonderful desire for us, the world, the cosmos – participating in a love that is extending and outreaching, in-gathering and embracing.  Let us sing with the Spirit, not chase her off our shoulders in fear!  The Spirit loves us too.  Speak with her today.

*  I’ve used the feminine pronoun for the Spirit, with no intention of limiting the Spirit to any gender.  There are no limits on God, on the Spirit.  Still, pronouns are helpful in prose, and only come in his/her/it. Given St. Basil’s image (see later in the blog) of a brooding mother bird, I have chosen to utilize “her” here.  I actually love the work of Madeleine L’Engle where she used “el”  as a created pronoun to refer to God (connecting with Elohim).   

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IF Work and Life are Art…

…very much like the art of giving something/someone birth or flesh – THEN we should expect to spend a lot of time pregnant, at the edge, on the verge, hungering for odd things, perhaps cranky, wonderfully hopeful, terrified, thrilled, tired, focused, experiencing, kicked, part of something magical and stupendous, at the service of amazement and mystery, wanting to share the wonder, needing support, surprised, glowing, crampy, bloated, a part of creation in a whole new way, expecting pain, anticipating birth, in search of experienced companions and caregivers, in touch with the small in life and the huge in existence, amazingly practical, full of vision, doubting, celebrating, dancing, crying, and plodding along day by day in anticipation, certain of life wriggling and reaching within which will one day burst forth with its own needs and gifts.

I have been reading a good bit of Madeleine L’Engle’s work (again) of late on art and creativity.  (See especially Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and a lovely collection compiled by Carole Chase titled Madeleine L’Engle: Herself.)  Madeleine eloquently tells us that if we are given a work, we are invited to be a servant of this work, humbling learning a little of what it would teach us.  The work that is our life and our lifework has gifts for us, if we would be open to being learners.

Try these examples.  If you are a teacher, your teaching teaches you.  A writer is taught by the process and characters and images, and finds herself written.  A musician is tutored by the notes and progressions and feel of music and quality of sound and tone.  A painter finds himself painted by the colors and shapes used and emerging.  A parent finds him or herself in the child and in the expression of the ongoing relationship that is mysterious.  A physical therapist is entranced by the wonder of body and movement, and the process of freeing that calls to her in others and herself.  A mathematician joys in the logic and mystery of numbers, and their description of the universe, and finds himself counted and measured.  An architect uncovers truth in the process of design and the ways things combine and create, and the ways various components support and make beautiful each other.

In spirituality studies, we say that the study of spirituality implicates the student.  Of course it does!  Are there other ways your life and your work tutor you, as they emerge?

We are all artists and creators, and we are engaged in the mundane and meaningful everyday duty and privilege of serving the life and work we have been given, that emerges through every moment of our story’s unfolding.  We often don’t know the ultimate direction or flow of our life or work but we can awake to the wonder of what’s really going on (most religions call this awareness or recollection or waking up).  We can find joy in serving the mystery of new life unfolding and can even sometimes shape to varying degrees, with due respect for the rules that govern our art, the expression and direction of this gift with our agency, our physical and mystical fingertips!

Today my musings lead me to wonder how our perspectives would change if we understood ourselves truly as artists in this way, engaged – with God – in every moment in the creative process that is the dynamism of life, giving and creating through our living and our work.

  • How would I understand when I feel blocked, stuck, unable?  What would tell me if the block is a normal response to being inbetween and something not being entirely ready yet to emerge – or if it is the result of a practice that keeps me from taking care of nurturing the life and gift I have been given?
  • What new compassion might I have on my own – and others’ – struggles in acting in new ways or taking new paths, given the complexity of the process of ‘birthing’?
  • Where would I find the best midwives for various aspects of my life and work, who would help hearten me as I go, yet keep me moving and nurturing, breathing and pushing, and leading to new births?
  • What systems and practices would I create, or reinforce, that enable me to reflect on my living, so that I don’t lose track of what my life and work would like to teach me?  (journaling? theological reflection? praxis exercises? right brain creations? lists and records?)
  • Who are my immediate ‘family’ of fellow journeyers, and how can we encourage and challenge each other as life-work artists?
  • Who is the God of the artist’s journey – of yours and my journey? Does this lead to any new or sideways glimpse of God-with-us, or reinforce other images?  What images of God are we invited to explore, or to leave behind, as we meet the living, loving, creating and creator God?
  • What are the everyday, mundane, practical, pragmatic, consistent practices that will support you and nurture the creative process?  What one thing might we add?  What one thing might we let go of?  Need more sleep?  Less rich food?  More quiet, reflection?  More time in nature?  More time with ‘midwives’?  Less cluttered space?

IF WORK and LIFE are ART….     how do you finish the sentence?  What question for the rest of us would you raise?

Categories: Art in Life and Work, Coaching, Spiritual Direction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Afraid of Freedom? Or Truth?

We are funny creatures.  We long for so much.  We are afraid of so much.  And sometimes they are the same things.

“We’re afraid of that truth which Jesus promised would make us free.”  These words echo from the pen of a favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle.  As I muse over this, I wonder if we fear freedom or truth…?  Perhaps both.

Is the truth we are afraid of the real truth?  Ephesians invites us to “put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth”  (Eph. 4).   

What is this moment’s truth for me?  That I am tired?  Joyful?  Frail?  Celebrating?  Ashamed?  Safe?  Successful?  Failing?  Well?  Ill?  Grace-filled?  In sync?  Out of whack?  In panic?  At peace?  What is yesterday’s truth?  My failures and limitations and sins?  My gifts given, burdens carried, service offered in joy?  My achievements?  My prayer?  My creativity?  My doldrums?  Truth so explored may be just a matter of emphasis.  Which memory or moment’s reality do I claim or focus on as that which is true?  To dwell on one or the other only is not the whole, and we are all and each such complex mixes.  

L’Engle says,  “The basic truth for me, the freeing truth, is God’s love, God’s total unequivocal love.”   

We find truth speakers in scripture in the prophets.  The salary they received for sharing truth was being stoned or discredited, ignored or deemed crazy, classified as beyond the pale or as demanding too much, or a long stay in the nearest cistern. 

Jesus comes and is not only a truth speaker, but we say he is the truth.  As his coming among us is the expression of how deeply the Divine/the Creator/God/The Holy Presence wants to be with us and wants us to see how we are loved…. he is indeed truth.  With this amazing Truth, why would we hold to what confines us in smaller prisons?

Perhaps it is the freedom that this truth offers us that scares us.  How would we measure, understand, control or deal with a life that is not bounded by scarcity or small framings?  It doesn’t matter that the world of comparison making is not the world of the Spirit (as John Shea so well points out in his writings), we get and keep a hold on things by keeping them in our constructs/boxes/perceptions. 

It is God’s joy to blow up our small grasp of certainties, so that we can encounter the real and wild God of creation and grace.  Without our familiar slaveries to what we grasp and hold on to, we find ourselves humbled.  But it is this very humility – this nakedness, if you will – that saints like Francis of Assisi found to be the source of true joy.  To be stripped of what we know or thought we knew makes us absolutely dependant, which we were anyway, truth be told!  And then, and only then, can we grow into the freedom that is the amazing wonder of who we are really in this holiness of truth, and what difference we are and can make in the world!

Perhaps you’ve seen the quote below often attributed to Nelson Mandela.  He actually used the words of Marianne Williamson in an address, and many have thought they were his:

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It’s the being liberated that we seem to object to.  We each have strong blocks, found in our patterns of making sense of and managing life.  When we would encounter the unequivocal love of God, we may find ourselves without the reins any longer, or the hold on the bars to our own prisons.  Our prisons served a purpose in our past perhaps, but God’s love invites something new.  And freedom is the way of being of the one about whom it is written:  “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.”  (2 Cor. 3: 17)

I know the shapes and forms of some of my own fears and resistances to the truth of love.  Today I wish you knowledge enough of yours.  But, for us all, this knowledge is not to be dwelt on.  There is somewhere much more exciting to go!  And it is an adventure, a drawing, a creating, a life!

The place to find a way to freedom and truth – past fear – is in the encounter with Jesus.  Sit with him – sit before him.  Look into his eyes through whatever means is your path of contemplation and action.  With him as our friend, our brother, our spiritual director, our physician, our therapist, our intimate partner – in that encounter is the possibility to no longer worry about the ramifications of truth or our agoraphobia before freedom.  We can learn what Barbara Fiand has termed “releasement”.  All we need is to be with.  God will bring us into light and truth and freedom that we may better shine and share glory.  We need not worry about our responsibility to recreate our own lives singlehandedly, as the new creation is God’s new creation.  We are “God’s work of art” after all, not our own. 

Strive only to be, and to be with.  And watch as much more unravels and unfolds that we might ask for or imagine.   And pray for all of us who are also so engaged in this process of growing and believing, being freed and coming to truth, encounter and fear, hesitancy and hope.

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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