the cave

entrance to a caveI find I am still standing at the mouth of the cave. I tell myself I will go in; I will explore its depths. But then I see a shiny stone or a bit of grass or a tiny flower and I let myself be distracted. And here I am, still dawdling at the entrance.

Then the sky darkens and it begins to rain – a blowing rain that drives me into the cave. I step, at last, within the shadows and shake my arms and brush the wet from my hair. And sigh. With one last glance to the world outside, I turn to face the cavern that opens behind me.

I reach out my left hand to touch the cold stone wall beside me and use its surface as a guide to move a bit deeper into the cave. I move slowly, giving my eyes time to adjust; giving my heart a moment to still its racing.

I feel sure that there is something within the cave that waits for me – but I am not so sure I really want to find it. I am old enough to know that any encounter changes me. I have floundered enough to know that I am not always up to the adventure.

Yet, here I am. My hand plays along the wall. I press my lips into a hard, tight line and take the next step, mumbling a bit of a prayer within my heart.

‘Help me, help me,’ I mutter. It’s about the best I can do, these days, when it comes to prayer. I hope it is enough.

So, having braced my heart a bit, I move on. As I go deeper into the cave, I imagine that I will lose the ability to see. But my eyes do adjust and I find a small luminescence – some tiny bits of a lichen that seem to hold a light of their own, dotted along the path before me. They lead me deeper and deeper in.

I can barely see the step before me, but when I take it, the next one becomes clear. One step at a time; one small breath of hope; one by one, I move along.

After a bit, I begin to wonder, am I actually going somewhere? Is it somewhere I should go – or am I just walking in circles or wandering into trouble? What made me think the venture into this cave was right?

Ah, my mind is so very good at second-guessing. It’s almost as good as finding distractions to keep me from moving forward.

Trust is harder. But somehow I begin to realize that that it’s not the path that I must trust. It’s not even the sense of call or the tiny lights along the way.

It is the promise of companionship. I am not alone in this cave; nor was I alone at its mouth. Life is always in motion. There is no standing still.

But there is a difference between moving forward and just moving. And ‘forward’ is always toward deeper relationship.

When my desire is toward you, and I take a step (could it be any step, in any direction?) you are there. It is the direction of my heart, rather than the direction of my feet, that marks my progress.

I think I can see you smile. I reach out my right hand for yours and feel its warmth. I drop my other hand from the wall of the cave and trust your warmth to lead me. We walk the path of tiny lights together.

As we round a corner, we come into a space where the cave opens up from above in a cascade of light. I step into that flood of light. I have to close my eyes against its brilliance, but I lift my face and let it bathe me. I let it fall around my form. We both smile. We are both grateful for this small moment of connection.

I am at home. It is, as it has always been, within your embrace. You are my home, my path, my destination.

Thank you.

Amen.

[image modified from photo by Elroy Serrao per cc 2.0]

multilingual mystery

Persian alphabet blocks

To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of  human origin; each language reflects and shapes the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or say as well in another; and the more languages you speak, the more nuanced your understanding of life becomes. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi- lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence. – Rabbi Rami Shapiro

And so, the tower of Babel is redeemed
When we build the conversation, together,
After, first, listening to the silence of true presence.

Somehow my heart knows the language
My tongue is loosed to sing
Before my mind can catch the melody.

Somehow, sometimes, if my mind will follow, rather than lead
I can wake to the deep reality
That is always, always, holding my true self.

And then the cascading voices,
The orchestra of life,
Is deep, and rich, and full.

All nature sings …
And we, as a part of the singing universe,
Find our tiny selves expanded within the One.

There are no words
And yet, I cannot keep quiet,
Not when that deep quiet within me stirs to life.

 

[photo by Dr. Bashi™ per cc 2.0]
[Again, I am grateful to Richard Rohr, for opening up my morning.]

 

the moonbeam’s box

holding a moonbeam
At the end of the day (or the beginning)
The heart of my faith rests in my heart.
It’s not the creeds or doctrines.
It’s not the smells and bells.
It is the hope (and sometimes realization)
Of the touch of the Holy on my soul.

That hope and promise of relationship,
My hope – our hope together –
Is what has held me firm,
Even as I question and struggle
With the forms and frames that have been dictated to me.
The path is not the destination.

“Spirituality is the moonbeam.
Religion is the box we try to catch it in.”
We need the box,
Else the real is too elusive for beginners.
And we are all beginners, to the end.
But the box is not a substitute for what gives life.

A God who loves me:
That is the source and joy of life.
An invitation to reciprocate that love,
(For love is full only when it is freely returned)
That is the mystery.
That holy circle of grace is all in all.

[The quotation about the moonbeam is from DR. KWEETHAI NEILL, PHD]
[Thanks to Timothy Luke Johnson for the insight that it is the experience of God, not correct doctrine, that is the abiding power of Christianity.]
[photo by Judy van der Velden per cc 2.0]

Lullaby realization on Mother’s Day

singing a lullabyMy mother’s lullaby was a version of an old Welsh song. I remember it like this:

Sleep my child, and peace attend thee,
All through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night.
While the weary hours are creeping,
Angel guards their watch are keeping,
While my little one is sleeping,
All through the night.

As a child I focused on the ‘angel guards.’ It took me a long time to realize that the words she was singing most fervently were those in the refrain: “all through the night!”

Here’s to Mom and to moms everywhere
Who sing comfort, even when they are exhausted
And who embody those angel guards.

[photo by Carol Von Canon per cc 2.0]