My Mom turned 97 this year and her memory for daily interactions is tenuous. Sometimes when I visit, she asks me five times about something I brought. We write our comings and goings in her guest book as a memory tool. But here’s the thing: when I walk in the door her face lights up. When she speaks of my dad, her voice is full of gratitude even when it holds some grief. When she mentions my sisters or my aunt, she is quick to say how much she appreciates their care. The other day, she told me that she woke during the night and could not go back to sleep, so she decided to count her blessings. She had a long list. Her life has been lived with an emphasis on relationship. She consistently chooses the path of love. Rules are important, but love comes first. If you don’t deeply love, you don’t have the authority to impose a rule. It’s not a Pollyanna view. She has buried two husbands – one when she was 27, one last year. She always believed that it was best to face things head on and to talk about them, truthfully, quietly and with grace. Hers has been a life of determined joyful gratitude. This is not an accident. It is a practiced pattern. So well-practiced, that she doesn’t forget it.
Tag Archives: grace
the hound of heaven returns
Fear keeps me from you, my holy friend Not fear of you but fear of you seeing me, knowing me Fear of your disappointment and your deep sigh Fear of the recognition of myself within your eyes Ashamed and sad. How can I flee the love that would bring me to life? Why turn my heart from dear embrace? Like a small child, covering my eyes so you can’t see me I plug my ears and hum, forgetting that every molecule is sourced by you. Oh, hound of heaven, chase me down Until I turn at last to find you dancing in delight Until you lick my face in joy Willing, again, to humble yourself in incarnation Whatever form it takes to free my love.
“So then, lets go.” The traveler is beside me. He taps his staff upon the ground. I have my staff in my hand as well, and my pack upon my back. So we strike out together, toward the wild. He is humming to himself and I am holding my heart tightly in my hand, hoping and hoping not to fear.
We walk for quite a while. We are down the hill into the bramble. The call is before me and the traveler is striding quickly and I am doing all I can just to keep up.
At last we stop beside a small stream for a moment’s rest. The path is bathed in shade just here and we sit upon a fallen tree and rest our packs against a second log that has fallen just behind the first, forming a natural bench and a great place for rest.
After I catch my breath I turn to the traveler. I don’t quite know how to begin with all the questions that bubble in my heart. So, that is what I say, “I don’t know how to start – I have so many questions.”
“Begin with the first that rises to mind,” the traveler replies.
And I quiet myself to listen. Several questions vie within my mind, not fully formed. But I just wait until the confusion clears. At last I ask him what seems a simple start. “Where are we going?”
He smiles and nods and seems to fall into contemplation rather than to speak directly to me. “We are going to the heart of who we are; we are traveling to the unfolding of ourselves.”
I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. This is too much a mystic’s answer and I was looking for something rather more concrete. I tell him so. “I am not asking about some mystical thing, but just the destination of this simple path within the wood.”
He smiles. “It goes just where I told you . . . and it goes to Silverton.” You are always walking a double path, you know – in your heart, into your self; and in this world to some concrete destination. It’s nice to be able to go two places at once, he muses and chuckles to himself as if he had just made a joke.
I sit befuddled. I can understand the symbolism in his talk, but it seems rather frivolous today, when I really need more substance than a koan.
“The seed and the kernel, that’s what they are,” he says.
“Aren’t those pretty much the same thing?”
“Yeah. They are.” He laughs again. He is having altogether too much fun this morning and I’m not catching any of his jokes.
I kick at a small rock on the path with my foot, and when it turns over, I am surprised to see light coming from beneath it. It startles me.
I turn to the traveler and he kneels down in the path and picks up the stone, which seems really quite ordinary. But in the space where it sat, there is a tiny beam of light. He places the stone in his pocket as if it were somehow a treasure. He pats his pocket and says, “Now you don’t see that everyday, do you?”
“No,” I say “What is that light?”
“It is fire-moss,” he answers, “and it carries its own luminescence, even when apart from the sun.”
“Is that a good thing?” I ask.
“What do you think?”
“I thought we should not seek any light apart from the sun.”
“Well then, lets just cover it up,” he says and begins to push dirt into the dimple in the ground left by the stone. The light is soon extinguished.
Now I am really confused. “Why did you do that?”
“I thought you said we’re to find no light but the sun. So, I covered that which you did not want to see.”
“But is it a matter of my wants or of truth?”
“Ah!” he says and shakes his head and seems once more to hold a private conversation between himself and his own thoughts. That is the extent of his reply.
“Enough of these one way jokes and musings,” I say out loud and start to go back down the road from where we came. But as I rise I know that I will not retrace my steps. I turn and shrug and kneel in the path and remove the dirt from the fire-moss. It takes a bit of effort but soon it is shining once more.
“It seems a shame to bury a wonder.” I say, almost as if it was an excuse, but he seems to need no explanation. He just smiles again to himself, and it makes me want to strike at him.
“Why so smug?” I mutter.
“Not smug,” he says, “assured. I knew you would not let the light stay covered. You wouldn’t deny what is because of a rule someone once gave. Rules are often made especially for the time of their creation, but they stay around too long, sometimes. That is when we wilt.”
“But letting go of rules, is scary.” I object. “What gives me the right to accept and reject the rules of the wider world, of life? How would I know what to keep and what to ignore? I am far too ignorant to be a rule changer.”
“Oh, that is true,” he says with deep seriousness. “You do not rule the world.”
This slight twist on my words reveals their true meaning. It is not mine to decide on what is. Or what is not. Mine is to offer an honest response.
“So, if you can’t rule the world, at least will you rule yourself?”
“Seems I should … If I could.”
“Ah,” he says and nods. “Ah. There’s the rub.”
“Yes, there’s the rub . . . So, I must trust the rule maker to make the path and trust myself to walk it? But how do I know when my mind is playing tricks or when I am following truth? How can I discern the right path from fiction or convenience or my own wrongheadedness?”
“Right path, wrong path . . . you must trust.”
“Such changeability makes trust hard.”
I am befuddled again. How do I trust, when it may be the wrong path, when I am so easily fooled? It is certainly not the path nor myself where I must place my trust. And with that realization, I find a kernel of comfort, of truth. In my mind’s eye I pick it up and turn it over and underneath the fire-moss glows brightly.
“It is ok to trust one who loves you deeply.” The traveler whispers in my ear and then is gone.
I am left on the trail, alone, holding in my heart a small stone of helpful trust; a small light both new and ancient. It glows within me. And suddenly my vision clears a bit and I can see myself, the trail, the stone, the light, all in Gods hands. And she is smiling. And so I am content.
Let me be an April fool if I am in your hands.
I am content with foolishness and mystery.
They are close cousins and my friends.
(republished as a way back in … and as a recognition that I’m still grateful to be an April fool)
4 12 15
4 1 02
Romans 7: 4-6; Genesis 3: 7&21; Romans 8: 38-39
Don’t you know, my beloved,
That you can no longer live under that law?
The way the world used to work,
Works no longer – even for you.
You have begun to see the cracks in that system.
And what you fear has begun to happen.
It cannot hold together for much longer.
The privilege that protected you –
That put you first in line,
Or led those in authority
To look the other way
When you stole what was not yours –
That privilege hangs in tatters round your frame.
And you are naked beneath it.
You cannot re-arrange it enough
To cover your shame.
Nor should you.
Give it up.
Give it to me.
Now that you realize that you are naked,
You can also see that the fig leaves
Are not working.
They will never work.
Hide from me no longer.
The ‘fall’ you fear is not a fall from me,
But from the false version of yourself
That dared to claim completeness
Apart from me,
Apart from everyone, from everything, else.
It is that very delusion of separateness,
That keeps you lonely.
That idea that you must somehow be enough
By yourself, in yourself,
That idea is what keeps you keeps you stuck
In the empty, hollow place within your soul.
You are not alone.
And there is nothing you can do to change that.
It is not your fig leaves that will keep you safe.
See, I have clothed you in my love.
It fits you like your very skin.
And nothing can separate you from that love –
Not the hate another spews at you,
Nor the despising you paint upon yourself,
Not your worry, nor your abject fear,
Not a pandemic, nor economic crash,
Neither angels nor demons,
Neither the present nor the future,
Not any power … high or low,
Nor anything else in all creation,
Can separate you from the love of God.
Nothing can separate you.
You are no longer separate.
That delusion has been shattered.
And, in its place, the very vision
Of the beloved community.
You, me, and all.
All wrapped in the love of God.
May it be so.
It is so.
This day, let me be
A vector for kindness,
A conduit of grace,
An instigator of joy.
Let me pass on
The infectious love
That flows from your heart
Into all the world.
This day, let me turn my fear
Into a grateful and gracious dance.
Let me learn that your touch
Is the touch that heals.
When my soul begins to itch with impatience,
Let me feel the movement of your grace
And join a flow that can unite us all
Even at a distance.
There is a quantum entanglement
That runs throughout the universe
And you … and I … are caught, as one,
In that choreography of deepest love.
[image by Nick Spratt per cc 2.0]
the space between the words (3)
Sometimes, in reading other’s words, a phrase rings so very true that it expands my soul and feeds my journey. For me, these are among the ‘thin places’ that the Celts acknowledged – places where the space between the mundane and the holy is whisper thin.
I hope they will brush your soul with grace, and, perhaps, stir us all to action, as well.
Here’s an addition to this collection, added 1/31/20:
“It is a lie—any talk of God
that does not
– Meister Eckhart [translated by Daniel Ladinsky in Love Poems from God. Image from photo by Marta Nogueira, per cc 2.0
“I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.” – MLK, [quoted in The Pause newsletter 1 19 20 by OnBeing. photo by Paulo O per cc 2.0]
“Let beauty be beauty, don’t worship it. Let your family be your family, don’t expect everything from them. Let work be work, don’t let it define you. Let our nation be our nation, not something to kill for.
Let life be what it is: a beautiful gift full of trouble, days of joy and contradiction, expiring in our hands. Life isn’t everything. We shouldn’t try to wring eternity from existence.” – Matt Fitzgerald [as posted here]
“Art, like prayer, is a hand outstretched in the darkness, seeking for some touch of grace which will transform it into a hand that bestows gifts,” Franz Kafka – [as quoted here by Maria Popova – photo by per cc 2.0]
Tears were not weakness when falling from her eyes, they were what courage looks like when it takes a minute to breathe.” [Hannah Bonner-photo and quote used with permission]
“One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.” – Frederick Buechner; photo by Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
“Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.” – Richard Rohr – [Image cropped from photo by Festival of Faiths per cc 2.0]
[From time to time I will add to this collection, placing the new phrase at the top of the list.] [photo at the top of the post by Pearl Pirie per cc 2.0]
Imagine, for a moment, if you will,
That your hands are dusted with grace;
So that everything you touch today
Receives a secret blessing.
Imagine the delicate shawl you spread
Across the shoulders of a friend
When you embrace in greeting.
Secretly, you fortify them for their day.
Imagine, when you gently touch the face
Of the child that comes to you for comfort,
That the care you show is a deeper balm
Than the band-aid you place upon her knee.
Imagine that the flowers in your garden
Receive an extra dose of light
Because you touch them
And admire their delicate beauty.
Imagine, when you touch a doorknob,
That a dusting of grace remains,
So that all who enter or exit there,
Find grace upon their hands, as well.
Imagine that you are given,
Just for this one day,
The chance to grace each encounter,
Bringing just a bit more life to life.
Imagine that this might just be true.
Smile at the grace you are given.
Smile at the blessing you can pass along.
Smile at the gritty, ubiquitous tenacity of grace.
[image modified from photo posted to Flickr by Matt Anderson per cc 2.0]
what I am not
I am not Carrie Newcomer
I am not Rumi or Hafiz
I am not a brilliant prophet or great philanthropist
I am not even a good little girl
At least, not any more,
Not even on the surface.
So, what am I?
I am yours.
(and here a wry smile crosses my face)
I guess you are stuck with that …
But you are not stuck
And neither am I.
(and here a sweet chuckle rumbles your chest)
We are not stuck.
Deep within your embrace, there is movement.
Here, after your kiss
Exploded in the big bang;
Here, after your brooding spirit
Formed this blue marble in your hand;
Here, after my daddy’s eye’s twinkled
And my mom sighed;
Here you are: calling, calling me to be in you.
Not just me, of course,
You call us all.
Rock and tree
Sky and sea,
Even dark matter thrums in response.
And, somehow I know, we are coming.
We are all coming,
In the end, love will win.
Love will melt the stubborn resistance
Of me, me, me.
Melt it into the quiet insistence
Of we, we, we.
The call … is irresistible.
[photo by Irish Typepad per cc 2.0]
where hope begins
oh my holy one
your whisper softly brushes
the surface of my soul
your deep compassion
calls up the love within me
your gracious smile
plays across my heart
and spills out of my eyes
you within me
that is where hope begins.
[photo by Andi Erdner per cc 2.0]