Sunday, March 29, 2009

sinking into essential

Last week was an amazingly full week. It was filled with lots of intentional conversation in a variety of venues and kept me away from much writing or blogging. Yesterday was spent resting and snuggled up in my studio most of the day reading and listening to the rain fall. I have been trying to capture the essence of these days without much success. The theme of lent flows in and out of my brain. Words from blogger friends help coalesce a few thoughts. Here is a response I wrote to Christine at Abbey of the Arts:

"I feel like I am in this flow of living into and letting go. Falling in the dirt and letting that be good. Jan Richardson’s words regarding paradox and mystery resonate deeply with me…”The cure for mystery? More mystery. The cure for paradox? More paradox.” Big doses of both are being served up for my Lenten (life) experience. Lent is definitely not for sissies!!! "

And so, I sit at the end of a restful weekend attempting to go with the flow and not get too much dirt in my teeth. I find myself pondering what is essential? The past couple of days, I have captured a few thoughts on paper, listened to the rain of yesterday, walked in the sunshine of today, answered some e-mails, played around on Facebook, shared Sabbath wine with friends, listened to lots of music, napped and done a little organizing on my memoir. I also read some Thomas Merton and here is what he offers tonight:

“God cannot be found by weighing the present against the future or the past, but only by sinking into the heart of the present as it is.”

Ahhh, “sinking into the heart of the present” that seems to identify essential for me. How about you? What was essential in your weekend? What is essential in your now?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

enCouragingBliss: When We Were Six

This week’s enCouragingBliss is about when we were six. Blisschick says, “By the time I was six years old, I had already been altered by fear.” Her words make me think of a premise I have been pondering. As I listen to people’s stories both professionally and personally, the most vivid memories often come into play around age five. Personally, I have two stories around that age. One is of amazing and abounding love; the other of fear and isolation. They seem to be two sides of my coin to this very day; like this from the “Chick”, There were so many clues from the beginning about my bliss” AND “I have spent many years lost, trying to find my way back” (since those early negative messages started to cover it up.) So, the premise is this: Our bliss has been there all along. We were born with it and the rest of life is our journey to re-experience it.

When I was five, my favorite thing in the whole world was going to Kindergarten at Mrs. Peck’s. I loved the independence of walking around the half block to her house that abutted our backyard. I would skip and laugh and observe the wonder of rolly pollies on the sidewalk. I would sing to myself and dream of being a famous princess.

I shared ice cream cones with a puppy. I rode a small roller coaster without fear. I adored carrying the magic wand and gently tapping fellow travelers to help them awaken at the end of naptime.

Mrs. Peck gave the best hugs in the whole world – her ample bosom enwrapping my spunky five-year-old self. I was safe and content.

By the time I was six that safe and content child had begun to drift away. I remember one scene from first grade when I was terrified to raise my hand and ask to go to the bathroom. I stayed glued in my seat with a warm puddle silently spreading around my feet. The shame was paralyzing. By that time, my voice was silenced and I spent many many years believing the label given to me of “shy”. It was a painful place for a carefree spirit to live.

Blisschick asked if that little girl would be happy with my life now? My gut reaction was a resounding “YES!” which speaks so much of the woman I have become. It has not been an easy journey, but slowly and surely I have moved back toward that carefree spirit that loves skipping, laughing and helping others wake up from their long naps.

I believe in the power of story. I believe it helps us know our Bliss which has been there all along! So, tell me what you were like when you were about six.

stock photo

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

in times of transition...

I am facing a time of transition and it is coming fast. It is exciting and terrifying. Spaciousness abounds and yet I know that having boundaries to bump against has been essential in my growth.

“It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more exalted task: that of creating our own lives.” Thomas Merton – A Book of Hours
“(Relationship with Christ) beckons us to examine and question the structures around which we have shaped our lives – relationship, family, work, everything – so that we may discern whether they serve as containers that offer spaciousness to be who God created us to be or whether they confine and stifle us.” Jan Richardson - Garden of Hollows

Morning prayer: Oh, Lord how can I begin to doubt that you exist – are present – that you rule? (Even though those words “you rule” grate against my very soul.) Still, I know you are here. I feel your presence and guidance. Gently. Kindly. Boldly, you lead me. You allow me to lead where you want to go. Amen.

---now if I can just figure out where that is!

"flying over iceland" 3.08

Monday, March 23, 2009

pondering truth...part 2

So much of figuring things out seems to be through interpretation. Often when we use certain words, we assume people are on the same page with us – or that they are not. Or we make the mistake of thinking that someone else holds our best answers. (Assumptions can be dangerous things.) If we cling to other’s interpretations and never come to our own conclusions does that not keep us in the dark?

How do I define my truth? My bliss? Not in a self-centered me me me way, but truth as light or goodness or personal freedom, whatever you want to call it for yourself. “He/she who practices the truth, his/her deeds may be manifested as having been wrought (the work) by God.” I read this as truth made visible and shared with the world. Or as Frederick Buechner puts it, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." This manifestation comes with congruency between your core self’s truth and what comes out in action, word or deed. Even if another person does not receive or accept it, you can feel unwavering without needing to fight back or defend. Now, I believe it takes lots of work to know how to trust yourself, but once you have felt that knowing, it becomes unmistakable. It is indeed something that one must come to on their own. I can’t make anyone else come to his/her own truth (or knowing). All I can do is make an offering. We cannot make anyone truly believe something no matter how hard we try.

I believe that is why God comes in all shapes and forms. At the core we are not so very different AND we are unique. We all have glory and depravity, but mine will not look exactly like yours. One size does not fit all. A man’s may not look like a woman’s. One of the greatest gifts I have experienced in life is witnessing another’s face when they come to that place of knowing that they know their own personal truth. They find their own place that most gloriously expresses God’s love for themselves and thereby the world.

Do you think we can make others believe something - anything? We can offer information, hold up a mirror and give our opinions, but can we turn the light bulb on in someone else's mind? Can I define your truth or you mine? Thoughts? How many watts in your bulb?

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." --Buddah

photo from rodin museum, paris 3.08

Sunday, March 22, 2009

pondering truth...part 1

“But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:21 NASB

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."Dr. Howard Thurman

Oh, I have a feeling I am in way over my head on this one. My husband even headed the other way when he heard I was having a theological discussion with myself. Nevertheless here I sit in my safe little space pondering some pretty big questions. What is truth? What is authentic? What is God’s work?

I am also wondering about our human nature to go for either simplistic answers and/or responses that are so convoluted there is only argument without conversation. I continue to be profoundly affected by those who dismissively reduce Christ to the simple statement, “All you have to do is believe" and imply the rest is gravy. I do not choose to throw the Christ-child out with the bath water, however, mustn’t we look at the paradox of life? Things (e.g. life, truth, religion) are immensely simple AND oh so very complicated.

So, what does it look like to practice truth? How do you or I define “truth”? Who am I? How can I be a better person? Am I a horrible person? Pondering the existential questions of life, can they all be simply answered by turning outward and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior? It helps – at least it can – and it can cause much more guilt and shame if we feel like we're not getting it "right." Shame taken on as being evil, bad people when we don’t measure up or feel happy all of the time - when the rest is not “gravy.” Does the judge come from without or within?

Today’s reading John 3:14-21 is about the light and being willing to look into the darkness. What of those who refuse to look inside, fearing there is nothing there? It is fear that keeps us from looking. Why are we afraid to look at the core? What if nothing is there or what if it’s all darkness inside? What if we think it's all goodness and it's not? Who is the judge?

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world.” (John 3:17) We already do that for ourselves. Richard Rohr says, “Much of patriarchal Christian interpretation has been trying to avoid pain; it thought birth pangs were unnecessary. That’s why we couldn’t hear Jesus.” Sometimes we have to look inside and that can be terribly painful. It’s reminiscent of the pangs of childbirth. Is it easier for women to make the connection between life and pain? It is often easier to focus on doing and being successful (whatever that means) than looking inside ourselves. What if the real self is nasty and ugly? What if it is the depraved sinful self that fundamental Judeo-Christianity sells? Or...what if it is good beyond measure. What then? What if it's both?

John 3:21 offers, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” It all seems to be about defining what truth is. A few years ago in a workshop designed for personal healing I noticed that as I came closer and closer to remembering my own personal truth, I intuitively reached for the light. My arms raised of their own accord as in flight – a sense of being lifted from the ground – moving toward the light. It may have been a dimmed old light bulb, but even with my eyes closed I was moving and reaching toward a brilliant light. My own light shining and love flowing through me and out of me – permeating every pore, vessel, atom of my body. Filled with light. To me, this is eternal life. End without end. It is truth.

I have decided this will be a two part check back in for the rest of these ponderings. In the meantime, feel free to ponder alongside. How do you define truth? Light? God's work? Authenticity? Other thoughts?

photo from musee d'orsay 3.08

Saturday, March 21, 2009

enCouragingBliss: Our Bodies as Healthy Vehicles

Last week Blisschick announced a way of being intentional about following our bliss and sharing it with others. Living an authentic life is something I encourage both in others as well as myself. So, when I saw this week’s challenge “enCouragingBliss: Our Bodies as Healthy Vehicles,” I wondered about the personal resistance I felt.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I feel a strong pull toward something or conversely a push away, it usually means there is something to be explored. This, I believe, is part of following (and/or uncovering) your bliss. As normal human beings, we usually want to avoid what feels dissonant, however, those seem to be the places that offer the most opportunity for me. Thus, I forged ahead to explore my body – head to toe – as Blisschick encouraged.

It was a very enlightening and surprising exercise for me. While I thought I would probably have the most energy around my round buttocks or my not so ample breast or even my squishy belly, it was my hands that called out for the most attention. They are my mother’s hands – old & weathered. Next, reflecting on the beautiful truth of my hands I became aware that it is through my hands that my creative and written voice is funneled. How lovely is that? Here are other words that followed upon a bit more reflection:

Odd that my hands would be the part that is so much like Mother. Perhaps I am writing for her. I am writing for us. Healing for the generations of women with no voice or voices that came from the false self – the place of inauthenticity – the voice of the outer world rather than the truth that resonates within.

Love your body. It carried you here and never left even though you abused it along the way. It gives you the conduit to share the wisdom – the love and compassion that is yours alone to share. Be grateful. Love your body.

Over the next days, weeks, months and years, I hope I will consider and remember these words. Whether you are a part of enCouragingBliss or not, I would love to hear what resonates for you when you think about encouraging your healthy body.

"hands" inspired and created by lucy 3.21.09

Thursday, March 19, 2009

more pondering...

"We are warmed by fire, not by the smoke of fire.

We are carried over the sea by a ship, not by the wake of a ship.

So, too, what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being,
not in our outward reflection in our own acts."

--Thomas Merton

Smoke or fire? Wake or ship? Focusing on the outer appearances using smoke & mirrors? Or reflecting in the invisible depths? Where do you find yourself today?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

things i'm pondering today...

"The self is a calm stable center surrounded by a continuous changing sea. Merge with yourself and be ready for any emergent sea." Coretta Scott King

Wise ones tell us to be true to ourselves. Being true to ourselves means daring to disagree with a loved one, even when we know it might cause painful tension. It means refusing to go along with the group's plans if our values are being ignored. It means standing alone, if necessary, in our family of origin if their expectations of us no longer nurture our growth. --from "A Woman's Spirit" by Karen Casey

"It is the only thing we can do...I see no alternative; each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. and remember that every atom of hatred we add to the world makes it still more inhospitable." (written by Etty Hillesum, a woman who ultimately died in Auschwitz...found in Jan Richardson's "Garden of Hollows.")

BlissChick's post, "Does enlightenment mean I'll never be pissed?"

Anger. Forgiveness. Standing up for myself. Personal Value.

I invite you to ponder along with me!

rodin's "thinker" - paris 3.08

Friday, March 13, 2009


BlissChick stopped by "Diamonds" to welcome me to her newly created “Live Your Bliss Accountability Circle.” Check out the new button and if you’re game join in the fun by writing about your own personal journey toward blissdom. This week's prompt is:

Think about, write about, Mister Linky about...when you visualize your happiest, healthiest, most rockin'est self, what do you see? Where do you see this? What are you doing? Come on! Share!

If you are saying to yourself, ‘Whew, I don’t even know where to begin’…think about these quotes from a couple of guys who help remind me of their definitions of bliss.

“It is not easy to try to say what I know I cannot say…And the simple fact that by being attentive, by learning to listen (or recovering the natural capacity to listen which cannot be learned any more than breathing), we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained: the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of Love for which there can be no explanations.” --Thomas Merton

“The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you really are happy—not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call “following you bliss.”” --Joseph Campbell

My happiest, healthiest, most rockin’ self takes time to be still and listen. I find time to breathe in the air around me; feel the sunshine on my skin and just simply be. Words cannot adequately describe this state of being, but I know when I know that I know. Ya know? ☺

I will be sharing more on this in the weeks to come. Are you ready to follow YOUR bliss? What does that look like for you?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

baby whisperer

One of the things I look forward to each month is my visit to see my chiropractor, Dr. Derek. Health benefits aside, I always enjoy meeting with the young doctor for our conversations about the little synchronicities of life. He and his staff have created a welcoming atmosphere in the top floor of an old fire station. There are hardwood floors, natural lighting, and great music.

Last week, I found myself complaining about the change in schedule. Appointment hours were being expanded, but my favorite slot had been eliminated. So, I hemmed and hawed (not so very graciously) and landed on another day and time to try.

This morning when I arrived, I heard a baby crying. I realized it was the doctor’s one year old, Mia, and I overheard him saying they were a little short-handed since his wife was at the dentist and the children were in his care. Shortly, after doing my wobble chair I walked back up to the front and saw little Mia sitting in Grace, the receptionist’s lap. Underneath the desk was Mia’s older brother Ty (3). He and I carried on a wonderful conversation about Thomas the train and friends -- both of us declaring Percy as our favorite.

Soon, Mia was beckoning for my attention. She reached her chubby little arms out, toddled over and let me scoop her up. I thought she might decide quickly that I was someone she did not know and want to go back to the familiar. Nope. We were fast friends. There were three other people ahead of me for adjustments so Mia and I strolled around the space and looked out the window at the mountains and sunshine. I quickly found myself rocking with my “mom sway” that I have not used in many moons! I felt Mia’s weight shift and asked Grace if her little eyes were still open. Nope. Sound asleep. Her body getting heavier with each breath, I sat down and held the slumbering babe.

What a gift! Just a few days ago I wrote about the joy of holding my sleeping children and then today, here I was snuggled up with a little blonde angel. I wondered if somehow the Universe was granting an unknown request submitted by me in my list of 7 favorites. Hmmm…

Too soon, the time came for my own appoint-
ment and I nestled Mia onto a mat on the floor. She, of course, woke up when she was out of my arms, but soon her mother arrived to comfort her. . . The doctor said, “Lucy’s the baby whisperer”. Mom replied with a smile , “Yes, I’ve heard.” It was a wonderful affirmation that my “good mom instincts” are still intact—something that’s easy to question when teenagers are quick to try and convince me otherwise. I like to believe small children are quite perceptive and discerning in who they choose to hang out with. Baby Whisperer…I like it.

So, all of my grousing about changing days and times, turned into this wonderful little glimpse of heaven. I really wonder why I try to control anything at all…it seems like more times than not, changes turn into something more brilliant than I ever could have imagined. Are you a grouser? Or can you let things come as they may? I seem to vacillate between the two…hopefully leaning a little more toward welcoming what comes freely.

photos from paris 3.08

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

lenten fire

Simmering around the edges, I am reminded often of the fire in my belly that wants to dominate this season of my life. Jan Richardson’s post spoke to me this morning as she wrote of the path where our humanity and the divine meet in fullness. New decisions face me daily which is very exciting…and a little scary ☺.

The image of fire burns like a slow ember at times and then it seems to burst into full flame. This happened to me this morning as I was pondering the path of which Richardson speaks. It came in the reading of one of my favorite bloggers, Barbara at Barefoot toward the Light. I hope you will check out both of these posts, but for now I share my fire with you.

There is nothing to be found,
even if I search.
There is nothing to do
to warm myself on my own.

There is nothing to do

but to burn my own body

and light the place around me.

--Jukichi Yagi (1898-1927)

So, what lights your fire? Do you consider where your path is leading? Have you claimed an intention for the year? The season? The day? Whatever it is, I hope you will feel the warmth of your own light. If that’s not possible right now, I hope you will warm yourself here. ☺

photo from paris 3.08

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

queen of the rodeo

Sitting in writing class, we are handed our evening’s exercise to write dialogue. My mind goes blank. I close my eyes and lay my head on the desk while others around me begin to frantically scribble on their notebooks or type away on computer keyboards. Seconds pass, perhaps even minutes. The only dialogue is the one running through my head that begins to question my creativity and my motives. What are you doing in this class? I think about the question and soon themes begin to run through my head: Mother. Jonathon. Spiritual Journey. Authentic voice. They weave and interconnect with each other and morph into an amazing story.

Am I mad? Crazy? Self-absorbed to even consider writing this stuff? What if people read it and hate it? What if they don’t read it at all? Would that be worse?

Wait! my inner voice slows down the stampede of negative thoughts. Who are you writing for? What do you want? What do you need from this?

I need to tell the story – even if I don’t know what “the story” is. It’s writing itself by pouring out in splashes and spills – dribbling out through a sentence or two – a word of dialogue here or there.

Just keep writing, the muse says.

The bold inner critic pipes up: Who the heck do you think you are? No one wants to read your words. Heck, you can’t even string a reasonable sentence together.

Other voices chime in while the dust and chaos of the stampede builds. You gotta get it right. Be sure to cross all your t’s and dot your i’s. Punctuation counts. Be sure it’s all true. You don’t want to make anything up do you? People might find out you’re a fraud and a liar just like James Frey.

“But, but, but”, the stuttering child says. “I’m a good writer. Mrs. Craig said so.”

Yea, but that was in the fourth grade. You’re 52 years old now, more than ½ way toward the grave. Give it up, old girl.

It feels like the whole negative committee of my mind has circled up and threatens to push me over the precipice into the gulch of unfulfilled dreams. Give up. Give up. Give up. Give up.

I put my hands over my ears, squeeze my eyes tightly shut and begin to breathe deeply until a new voice enters the midst. “Thank you all for coming,” a calm woman sitting tall in the saddle appears, “but we won’t be needing your input today.”

I like this woman. She’s like Lucy all grown up. She is strong and kind. Her voice is like velvet and her words drift over the raucous committee like a gentle mist covering the valley of a fairy tale. The naysayers begin to lay down one by one. Sarcasm gives one last ditch effort before tumbling out of my mind, So you think you can do this thing, huh? Yea, right, she says weakly.

And then the velvet-voiced woman is joined by another and another and another as they all chime in with cheering and encouraging voices.

“Just keep writing! You are the Queen of this rodeo!!!”

collage by Kathy Otero - a gift from my husband

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Creative Blogger Award

Christine at Abbey of the Arts was kind enough to present me with this blogging award. I was humbled and honored to not only receive the award, but to read her gracious comments about moi. So, it is with great pleasure that I participate in this fun little meme.

My instructions are to list 7 things that I love and then pass the award on to 7 people…tagging them and letting them know they won! You can copy the picture of the award and put it on your sidebar.

7 Things I love:

1. The smell of fresh rosemary on my hands. I am totally incapable of passing a rosemary bush without running my fingers along the leaves. The thought of that luxurious scent lingering on my hands throughout the day is impossible to resist! Can one be addicted to such a thing?

2. Watching my children sleep is one of my great joys in the world. When they were young, I adored holding them in my arms and feeling the weight of their sleepy surrender. Since they have now either met or surpassed me in size, I must settle for sitting by their bedside and watching the rise and fall of their breath.

3. Laughter – gut-wrenching, belly-shaking laughter. The kind of laughter that is contagious – like a wave gathering power from the bottom of the ocean floor, it tickles and teases and laps at the shore until finally the giggles swell and build until they peak like a 200-foot Tsunami and wash over everything & everyone in sight.

4. Being in the presence of another person when they have a light bulb moment - especially one that brings them a little closer to their own authentic self and thus closer to God. It is like the ringing of a bell in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an angel has received their wings - or learned to fly a little more freely.

5. Paris. Need I say more? It was one year ago this week I said farewell to the City of Lights. So, here is a “subset” of 7 things I love about Paris. 1) Coming out of the Metro to the site of Notre Dame 2) café au lait and fresh croissant at Jean Millet 3) The Eiffel tower dancing in the dark next to lit up carrousels 4) L’aubergine et fromage patisserie eaten by the Seine 5) lyrical language 6) walking, walking, walking 7) the presence of God in the cathedrals and galleries.

6. My life. I actually sit around sometimes and giggle at the delight of my life. The friends that surround me. Family who puts up with my eccentricities, experiments and tempestuous times ☺. My continued awakening to God, art, myself and the world. (Methinks those things are not mutually exclusive.) The gift of awakening each day to wonders that I cannot begin to create before they happen.

7. Blog Comments. I know this may sound cliché or like a commercial, but I seriously and honestly love when people share their presence with me here. It is like smelling fresh rosemary, breathing together, sharing a giggle, witnessing a light bulb moment and strolling through the streets of Paris hand in hand.

Your presence truly adds to my life! That said, I am opting to not tag seven players but hope at least seven of you will choose to leave me a little comment here or let me know that you have chosen to play along with the meme. Also, if you feel so inclined, please give yourself the Kreativ Blogger know you deserve it!!

Bon jour!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

all are welcome at the table...sort of

Sitting in the lovely chapel listening to the priest read scripture about all being welcome at the table of God, I felt warm and at home. My eyes followed along with the bulletin to this place:

"Everyone is invited to come forward today. If you are in a communion of faith practice with the Catholic Church, come forward in the usual way to receive the Sacred Bread. If you are a guest, you bless this assembly with your presence. We wish to bless you in return. When you come to the minister, place your hand over your heart to indicate that you wish a blessing." (emphasis my own)

A blessing, but no elements. My heart and thoughts stopped to consider those words. The table is open to everyone and for everyone except when it's not. I was reminded of a child looking through a bakery window at warm fresh bread and delectable pastries– an urchin child hungering for sustenance who will be offered a kind pat on the head rather than a belly-filling meal.

Fortunately, I am not an urchin child. I am a child of God (just like you), well-loved who knows that Mother (or Father) God has fed me well and received me as whole. She will wipe the hunger away and I am no less special because the priest would not put the wafer on my tongue or the wine to my lips. Experiencing my inner smile, I laugh at the silliness of humans thinking they can control where or how God gets doled out. Hmmmm...

A few more thoughts about 'helping out God' can be found at Dreams and Visions.

Lastly, I realize that many of my readers come from a Catholic tradition. Please understand it is not my intent to malign any tradition, but rather to consider the impact of exclusionary rites. I hope all might ponder this alongside me. The service was quite lovely and the presence of God was palpable. I was indeed blessed - elements or not. And, this vision of standing outside the bakery did leave me feeling set aside and not so very welcome.

I wonder where in my life I leave others standing outside the bakery window. Again, I invite you to ponder this alongside me.

teddy bear table taken in Paris 3.08

Friday, March 06, 2009

the bare essentials

Prompted by yesterday's post at Abbey of the Arts I found myself pondering these words: what does it look like to strip down and surrender the unessential? What is essential? A modicum of food – water to keep me hydrated – clothing to cover my back – certainly not the closet full of items that threatens to explode into my bedroom – shoes strewn around the perimeter. I sit amid pillows, books, candles, computer, and music.

What do I really need? What is essential? The answer comes and it is this: Space and time with God. For me that includes a pen and paper to capture my thoughts. What if I let go of even that desire (to capture my thoughts)? Do I not always have them with me?

What is essential in this life? I keep thinking of the tools – the things – that help me find – meet – uncover my listening ears to experience God. I think of a monk’s quarters. Simple and sparse. A robe; sandals; a notebook and pen. Perhaps a candle to light the dark. The barest of meals served on a single tin tray and cup. If the monk is really lucky, there will be a window that overlooks the garden. With that window, the abundance expands exponentially with a view into the outside world. Yes. God is within and God is in nature - in the eyes of others - in the touch of communion.

What is essential? Must we swallow the elements of communion to be blessed or can we know deep in our being that they are but a symbol and we know what they represent.

Again, what is essential? The question frightens me a little and reminds me of my early days with my not-quite-yet husband when I feared he would announce we were chucking all of our belongings and moving to the mission field. I did not want to let go of my life. I still don’t want to let go of my things, but I feel like I could. I seem to know a bit more of what would be essential for me. I return to the thoughts of a modicum of food and water – some clothing to cover my body – pen and paper – and if I’m really lucky, a window to the outside world. (Even that assumes I have a roof over my head, and, yes, the roof is indeed a luxury.)

So, how will I hold this stripped down image as I go through these days of Lent? What is essential?

Thanks, Christine for the prompt!

photos from Paris 3.08

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

glimpses of the eternal

I just had one of those profound experiences that leaves me...well...a little shaken or possibly a little more awakened. Angels? God? What is this power that surrounds us in the world? Do our ancestors and those that have “crossed over” come back to visit? To remind us? Yesterday was the anniversary of my co-worker Allyson’s death. She would have been thirty-five years old on Friday. Yesterday as I was standing in the lobby of the school reading the memorial plaque for Allyson, I turned my head and saw her walking toward me. It really took me off guard for a moment until I realized it was another young woman who attends the school. I have seen her before and each time I was shaken as I thought it was Allyson. Is it coincidence that I saw her at that exact moment yesterday?

I had a similar occurrence happen to me on Monday in nearly the same place when a woman I have never seen before walked by and caught my eye. It jolted me because I felt that I knew her. Then when I looked again - and she continued to hold my gaze - I realized she looked very similar to my friend, Dawn who died of cancer a couple of years ago…So, back to this morning’s moment. I had just finished doing some morning readings and was copying off a document I did not want to forget. My Bible tipped open and there was the bulletin from Dawn’s memorial service. There were those eyes looking into mine that I had looked into on Monday. Inside the bulletin I noticed the exact date of her death, March 2, Monday’s date.

The enormity and the mystery of these two events brings tears to my eyes. They remind me of how little I (we) know about the mystery of the universe. I am humbled and awed by this being/energy/person I call God. He is not tangible and of course He is. I cannot see Her face and yet I see it every day. I cannot feel those arms around me and yet they are here now. The mystery is astonishing. My journey has only begun and yet I feel like it has already lasted an eternity.

If I were to go looking for Allyson or Dawn today, I probably would not find them. Is that how it is with God? My prayer is that during this season of Lent (this season of life) I will at least make room and be open to the possibility that God will show up. The truth is that it usually happens in the most unexpected of places like standing in the lobby of a busy school or shuffling around in the papers on my bed. May I be open to the mystery today – and tomorrow – and always. May you too.

I am curious, of course…have you had similar experiences of the eternal? Where do you see the face of God? How and when do you feel the arms around you?

photos taken @ musee d'orsay 3.08

Sunday, March 01, 2009

ashes and smudges

This morning my husband and I entered a church together for the second time in one week – not something we have done in nearly two years. Interfaith Community Church is simple and beautiful, reminiscent of a building you would see in a country pastoral setting rather than tucked amidst homes in an urban neighborhood. We could see the classic white steeple from a few blocks away. The sanctuary is two pews wide and about 12 rows deep. It is sparse with hard old pews and no flashy carpeting or stained glass windows. The thematic colors this morning were silvery sage with lilac ribbons wrapped around dried floral arrangements.

The room smelled of incense although for a moment upon entering, I asked my husband if it didn’t smell like marijuana ☺. A man of possibly 70 or 80 years of age handed us a bulletin and greeted us as we entered. I counted 12 people in total including the morning’s speakers. The room was to fill up to at least double that by the time the service began. Gong music played from a small stereo and candles were lit by the aging man and his spouse.

No one rushed over to greet us although several did nod their heads toward us in welcome. We were told more than once that every Sunday is unique and has its own theme. The service today was led by a woman who is a teacher of metaphysics and a Reiki master. She is very near my age and spent several years working in New Zealand and Australia while studying both Eastern and Western paths.

Her “sermon” began with the congregation performing the act of smudging to bring us into awareness of the room. We were asked during the process to consider where our minds were. Did we have judgments? Are we present in the room? Are we wondering what will come next? My mind went to my first “smudging” when we attended a parent workshop in Mexico. My thoughts mainly wondered what my husband was thinking about this church I had suggested. It was far from the traditional background with which we are more familiar.

Next we participated in a drumming exercise. I love drumming and while I brought my own drum, I chose to leave it in the car since I had no idea what to expect in this service. Hubby opted out of the drumming. He later explained that he wanted to just listen today. And so the morning went. It was filled with activities such as breath work (something I practice in yoga) and meditations, which I have done both on my own and in various workshops. All of the practices were activities in which I have found solace and clarity yet I have not necessarily placed them in the context of “church.” Hmmm…

This experience will take a little processing for me. Something seems to be stirring in me that begs for more community. I have become more and more comfortable with following the lead of my heart and coming to find that it usually trails to a pathway to God. In fact, most pathways lead to God when I listen closely. On Wednesday I received the mark of the ashes at a reasonably conservative church. God was there. Today, I received the smudge of the sage and cedar and listened to the rhythm of the drums. God was there. Like I said in my earlier writing, God just seems to keep getting bigger. This is already proving to be quite an interesting season of Lent and we're only five days in. Hmmmm...