a monopoly on reality?

monopoly gameI am the small tin dog in the Monopoly game, caught in the circuit of the board. Pass go, collect $200, buy a house, market and trade, weather the bad cards, revel in the good ones and then… go to jail. I sit for a moment concentrating on the board in front of me when suddenly the “jail corner” grows to envelope the whole board. There is noting there but jail.

I turn and trot on my little tin legs to the edge of the playing surface and, without warning, I jump. I tumble through the air off the edge of the board, off the edge of the table, falling into nothingness. Panic strikes my heart – maybe the game is all there is. Maybe I am wrong to believe that truth lies elsewhere.

But just as these thoughts enter my head, I am caught in a strong wind. It whips around me at first, tossing me with its turbulent edges. But when I find the middle, there is calm. I sit within the movement of its powerful direction, and because I move within it, it seems almost still, like the calm of a sailboat catching the wind and pulling forward. The waves slap and the sail billows, but the riders who follow the wind are not buffeted by its power.

The wind carries me along like this for a good distance, high above the surface of a country I cannot identify, high above the trees and cities, over wisps of cloud that sit below me as I move on the current of the higher air. Then I am deposited on a hillside. I shake my tinny legs and roll in the grass for a moment and then lie, panting with excitement, on the grassy slope.

I am met there by a child. He wears a sweater and some woolen shorts. He walks over to me and sits beside me and places his hand upon my tin body. As he does, beginning where his hand touches me, I slowly turn from tin to flesh and bones. The doggy colors of my new coat melt over me, almost anoint me as they replace the coldness of the metal that I was before. I lick his hand with a warm, wet tongue and he smiles and wipes his hand upon his shorts.

“I’m glad you came,” he says, and rises. He begins to walk toward the crest of the hill. I follow. As we reach the top, I can see, spread before me, a whole countryside of fields and forests, with a small town nestled at the edge of the woods. Scattered among the houses in the village, there are a few red plastic houses from the Monopoly set, full size but just as empty as they are in the game. They boy smiles at them when he sees where I have fixed my gaze.

“When they no longer choose to be empty, they will be transformed as well. It seems an easy choice, but it is not.”

“I know.” As I speak the words, I am no longer a dog. I am a child about the same size as the boy. He reaches out and takes my hand.

“I think we are ready to begin,” he says and he turns and walks with me on a path toward the village.

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[photo by Barbara Friedman per cc 2.0]

A blessing as you wed

happy coupleMay your days be filled with the fingerprints of love,
The quiet, almost imperceptible affirmations
That keep you steady in the midst of bustle:
The cup of coffee shared on grateful mornings,
The hug when you are weary,
The hand you reach for in the presence of beauty,
A sigh at the end of a long day,
Your heads upon a common pillow.

May these small moments coat your days
With the tangible presence of grace – of lived affection.

May the wonder of this day’s celebration,
Echo far into the future’s future
As you grow in each other’s presence,
And find your true selves, truly held,

Within your heart’s true home.

[Celebrating E&M 11 26 16]

thoughts on giving, thanks

coming into focusGiving thanks is part of a pervasive human activity: gift exchange.  …  So important is the pattern of give, receive, give back that some thinkers identify it as crucial for holding societies together. People who knit interconnections via gift exchanges create more stable communities than those whose only glue is external rules.

Ours is an age dominated by the contract not the gift.  Contracts are engaged only when specific mutual benefits can be identified.  Once the specified exchange is completed, the relationship ends.  The gift and gratitude context, by contrast, assumes asymmetry and continuation. – Raymond Boisvert

This brief reflection changed my (thanksgiving) day. That dance of grateful joy – giving, receiving, giving back – is a reflection of the Trinity that Richard Rohr is introducing to me. An understanding of ‘god’ as a solitary, all powerful, all complete, separate being is just not big enough to express the mystery of love. It takes the dance of Trinity to help me see. It takes the dance of relationship – of giving and receiving and giving again – the very heart of the Trinity – to help me understand.

[photo by Adam Baker per cc 2.0]

first step toward wisdom

step oneMy brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. – James 1:2-7

My brothers AND sisters, you say,
You of the ancient patriarchy.
Evidence of your own wisdom.

So … I ask, as you ask me to, for wisdom
But I don’t know how to do so without doubt.
Second guessing is second nature for me.

To believe enough to find joy in trial?
To let it test my mettle
And produce endurance, maturity, completion?

Your idea of ‘lacking nothing’
Seems pretty different from what I had in mind.
I’m wanting you to change the world – not me.

Yet, I am left with a decision:
Settle into discouragement, or find the joy.
Perhaps, that realization is the start of wisdom.

Perhaps the path will show the way.
Perhaps taking the first step is what faith means.
Hope takes my hand. Joy stands beside her.

We step together.

[image cropped from photo by In Transit per cc 2.0]

the Afterlings

gremlinToday is too big and I am too little. I said ‘yes’ too many times, and now I’m saying ‘Oh no!’

The Afterlings – the menacing creatures that wear guilt and stress like fancy clothes and prance around my present tasks – those gremlins undermine my every effort and then fall to the floor in gales of cynical laughter.

I hate their presence and I despise myself for their creation. They circle me, taunting, laughing, threatening doom. Then they gleefully poke each other and egg each other on. I cover my head with my arms and cower in my corner, deep within my pit of desperation.

Suddenly their yammering is hushed. They look up to see the approach of a misty form, clothed in light. The earth vibrates with its coming. They scatter, racing with each other to fight their way into the deepest corners, pulling their comrades out of their way, stomping on each other in their stampede for the darkness. They retreat into the hidden edges of this pit, with only their eyes catching a reflection of the light and revealing their presence under the rocks and within the crevices of the walls.

light-comesThe misty form has approached us on the ground above, scattering rays of brightness and droplets of reflected sunlight into this hole. A misty hand reaches down and scoops me up out of the hole and places me beside the well of joy.

The whole congregation of angels who come to the well in worship each day, the whole group is covered with this shimmering mist and they begin to chant, slowly, steadily, with words that tingle with the energy that lies within them, impatient for release. “He comes, he comes,” they chant. “He comes.”

I am more than a little scared by their chanting, by the power that pulses in its cadence. Before long, the whole meadow is filled with a blinding, brilliant light. I cannot even close my eyes to mask the brilliance, for it shines as brightly within my eyelids as it does within the meadow. It permeates every living form, every leaf and blade. We are all filled, filled with light.

Though I can see nothing, I can hear. The crowd is singing an ecstatic chorus, almost beyond words themselves. The well has overflowed its brim and is sending a torrent of water out at my feet, tumbling over them, almost massaging them with its power. I reach and touch the water and then touch my eyes. The water strengthens my eyes so that I can see within the brilliance.

I see the whole congregation on its feet, full of awe, hands up lifted, seeking to bring light into themselves. Indeed, the light is everywhere. There is an overwhelming oneness in the congregation, in the meadow. All are light together, although, with my strengthened eyes, I can also see each separate form and hear each separate voice of praise.

All the screeching noises of my Afterlings have been hushed by the magnificence and power of this scene.   But, quietly, in the still-dark chambers of my heart I can still see them – the Afterlings – as they scuttle and vie for the opportunity to mock me again.

Why do I let the Afterlings cross the realm of meditation into my daily heart, the heart that faces the drudgery of my day?   (See? I use an Afterling term for my duties. Yet, the angels of light do not disdain the simple tasks that I have let the Afterlings claim as drudgery.)

What a battle rages in the crevices of my being! The light and the dark are at war. The power of the light stands against the overriding fear and mockery of the dark. Indeed, it is fear that rivets my attention on the dark – fear that my failures will sneak up behind me and devour my soul.

I fear that I have no power that is it’s equal. It taunts me with that message every moment. But it is not my own power that I must seek. Instead, I must learn to see the light. I must refocus my gaze from the Afterlings to the angels. Each proclaim a potential truth. I must choose which will be true in me.

“I choose light.” At first it is a whisper, but in hearing my own words I am strengthened and I say it louder. “I choose light.” It rises in my throat and becomes a shout. “I choose light!” The congregation is again on its feet. The Afterlings scatter and run. “I choose light.” It is a plea and a promise, made with my own lips. “I choose light.”

“And I choose you, too.” The light answers. The voice is deep, and full and resonating with love and power. “I choose you.”

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[first image filtered from photo by dun_deagh per cc 2.0; second is a photo by Fabio Rava per cc 2.0; third is a photo by Martin LaBar per cc 2.0]

truth’s salve

Leonard Cohen

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.  – Anthem: Leonard Cohen

Truth for my soul:
There is no perfect offering
In my hands,
Or in yours.

May the crack in my soul, in my nation,
Give room for light
That we may come like refugees
Into your love.

Thank you, Mr. Cohen.

[photo by gaët  per cc 2.0]

finding my way

beach at sunsetI sit beside Cecil on the beach.
We are sad, so we lean into each other
Finding the comfort of presence.

He understands, much better than I,
How to travel these emotional paths;
How to walk them to their destination;
How to feel them through.

I want to avoid them,
Deny their wrenching angst.
I want to ask for the magic wand
Of a fanciful god, to wave them away.

He holds to a deeper, wordless faith,
A steadier faithfulness:
One anchored in an unshakable trust
That the goodness of God remains true.

I look to circumstance for hope.
He looks to relationship.
I want a cure; he seeks healing.
I long for a fix; he knows where his heart is fixed.

It is fixed on love,
Which can cast out the fear.
I lean hard into his bulk
Hoping to absorb his steady faith.

He reaches his arm around me
He pulls me close and kisses the top of my head
Somehow I know that Cecil is channeling a deeper love
And that it will hold me till I heal, till I am changed.

Somehow I know I will be held
Through this storm, and the others that will come,
Until the arch of justice is bent into a circle
And we all are called to dance within it.

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[photo by Glenn Perrigo per cc 2.0]