Anticipatory Gratitude

thanksgiving dinner.jpg

Looking forward to giving thanks.
It is an interesting exercise.
It holds blessings
And hidden challenges.

There is a grace in preparing food
In anticipating the laughter and hugs
In remembering the favorite delicacies
And simple dishes of past years.

Making the cookies that grandma made;
Fixing the ‘right’ dressing
Or the green bean casserole
These are all are a kind of sacrament.

They honor family
And weave a tapestry of memory
And help to keep the place at the table
For those who no longer attend.

But we must remember
In the remembering
To actually be at the meal
With those who actually come.

There is no confection,
There is no perfection
(Even if perfection were possible)
That is better than presence.

So, I pray that I will remember
To attend to the family
More than the meal.
To let the mess become a miracle.

For that is the way of grace.

[photo by terren in Virginia per cc 2.0]

lost

a lost compass.jpg

Where did I put myself?
Surely, if I run around
Peeking under every thought or action
Second guessing every move,
Surely, I will uncover my true self.

But, no,
Instead, the empty box remains empty.
All the busyness is just a desperate attempt
To fill the void and distract the mind.
There is still no substance, there.

The more I fuss and fuddle
The more I do and do
The more I hide behind the masks of effort
The less my heart is sure
The less my soul is true.

So, finally, I fall exhausted in a heap.
Relieved, at least, there is a me to fall.
(At least, I think so … let me look.)
Have I managed to erase myself
Instead of just hiding my mistakes?

The perfect me is a fiction.
Even the efforts to be a better me
Fall useless to the ground.
Only this befuddled, messy me is left.
Yet, turns out, that is the me you love.

It is the real me
The one I keep losing under the mess
The one that I try to deny or fix
That is the one you hold within your heart.
And in that holding I am made whole.

Thank you.
Thank you.
If you love me
Maybe I can love me, too.
And then true transformation can begin.

[photo by Observe The Banana per cc 2.0]

too much intensity

barbed wire

Is your jaw tight?
Is your heart clinched around fear?
Is there a knot in the core of your being?

I know.
Me, too.

So, today I will set a different intention.
I will look for opportunities to smile.
I will listen for the kind laughter of friends.

I will release the world to the care of the Holy One
And step into the flow of grace.

All I have to do, is force myself to relax.
Arrrgh! …. Oh! Ahhhh!

[photo by Thomas Hawk per cc 2.0]

Halloween

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There in the midst of goblins and glitter,
There where shy eyes peek out behind scary masks,
There where audacious personas dance with secret dreams,
There you are.

On this day you pick your fantasy
Or face your fears in your own mirror.
There is more to us than school uniforms or suit coats.
Isn’t it interesting what can be revealed by a mask?

And isn’t it a wonder, a gift of grace,
That all the strange variety of life,
Can knock on our doors this night,
And we smile and give candy and well wishes.

[photo is my own]

a bit of help

a path in the woods

I sit on a fallen tree trunk, which lies across the entrance to the path into the woods which flank the meadow. The day is bright and crisp and carries the cool promise of coming fall. It is a pleasant morning. Just rousing itself in the songs of the birds and in the rustle of leaves. The day stretches itself and yawns in the early breeze.

I’d like to sit and glean the tiny bit of warmth from the sunshine of the morning but my work calls to me from inside the woods. I stretch and, reluctantly, looking back toward the meadow, I prepare to start down the path.

As I rise, it is as if the branches of each tree reach out to grab me for the task they hold. They are all competing demands for action and for attention. I am taken aback by the way the pleasant morning has now become a barrage. Instead of stepping forward, I a compelled to step back and I almost stumble as I fall back upon the log. My projects greet me like a slap in the face, though individually they are things I really want to do.

Too much, continually too much, it is a burden. It saps the energy I brought to the morning. Each time I think I have begun to get a handle on my tasks, I turn and find them grasping me instead. This is not the abundant life, this is the life of — of what? I want to say over-abundance, because it seems to fit the flow of the sentence… yet I don’t feel rich, I feel robbed – of all energy and resolve, of all hope of quality in my endeavors. Too much leaves not enough….not enough of me.

A few desperate tears catch the corner of my eye and burn my cheek. I look at my life and see myself trying to tape dried fruit on barren branches.

I need a moment’s rest, and yet, even at the start of the day, I am exhausted. When I push away the burdens, they only scream at me louder on my return. Their voices echo even in my moments of attempted rest. Yet I cannot abandon them. They are obligations that I have owned, that I have taken on with my friends, and if I put them down, I make the burdens of my friends that much greater.

The priorities that I face now, I have taken on months ago, when my calendar looked empty and the breath of their urgency seemed far away. Now they breathe down my neck and sap my strength, leaving me with discouragement as an additional load to carry through my day.

“Help me,” I whisper. “Help me carry the burden of my day. Help me move this heap of effort forward. Help me gather the sticks of a thousand chores and carry them in my two arms one more day’s journey down the path.” I ask the impossible. I might as well ask for another set of arms to do my work.

Then beside me stands a little man, a Narnian dwarf not any taller than myself, but obviously strong and wiry, with a full beard and kind eyes. He nods his head and waits. I look up, look around me, unsure of what I should do. The dwarf smiles and touches me on the shoulder. “I am here to help you,” he says. “I have come come to provide that extra set of arms you asked him for.”

“How can you help?” I ask. “What among my load can you carry? They are chores which I have taken up and which require my effort.”

“There are some burdens I am very able to help with,” he says. “You must indeed carry your daily tasks, but I will carry other burdens. I can take your fear, your discouragement, and your frantic desperation. I will bring along the liquid joy of humor to strengthen you as we walk, and I will keep you company. Draw from my strength and the strength of those around you. We will make it through today. That much we can do.”

I start to rise, but with one small gesture, he bids me wait just one more moment. “Don’t forget your manna,” he says, and pulls out of his pocket a napkin which holds two pieces of the smooth, sweet bread. He spreads it on the ground and offers a brief prayer. We each take a loaf and eat. The bread, the company and the ceremony give me strength.

As we we turn to leave, he begins to hum a brisk walking tune. It cheers us on our way as we step over the log and begin the journey of the day. The dwarf smiles at me. I smile at him and I can actually reach to respond  to the branches which dip to demand my actions.

Today. We can do today.

 

[photo by benefit of hindsight per cc 2.0]

There are no words …

quiet wordless beauty.jpg

There are times when words won’t do.
In the face of great beauty or great loss,
Words show their frailty,
Their ragged edges fraying in the wind.

We clasp our hands across our mouths
When we encounter horror.
Or wonder.
It is all too big for words; for us.

So, it should not be a surprise
When we discover
That no words can capture God.
(A turn of phrase that makes it doubly clear.)

Words are a wonderful gift,
Helping us scoop meaning from the soup of life,
But they are not enough, not enough, to hold it all.

And so, when words fail,
I hope to stop the struggle to find them,
And, instead, let myself be found,
Snuggled worldessly within your arms.

 

[photo by Wade Brooks per cc 2.0]