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]

God is … ?

light through cloudsA friend recently asked, ‘Who – what – is God, anyway?’ The question rumbled around in my heart for days … and here is one response:

God is the life-force, the love-force, that (who) holds everything together and moves everything toward deeper and deeper relationship – relationship with God and, thus, each other.

Or, working backwards, as we often do, we seek deeper relationship with each other and, through that, a deeper relationship with God, herself. True relationship, true love, always points to and reflects God, for God is love. Thus, even feeble, faltering, messy attempts to love can be steps in the right direction.

We might as well ask, what is the universe? For, as we connect more and more of the dots, we find that they reflect a mysterious unity. This scattered, shattered beauty is being drawn together in love. It blossoms and grows where it can. It repairs and reconciles where that is needed. In the end, love triumphs by loving.

It seems so weak, sometimes, to wait on love, to yield to love, to refuse to use coercion, to leave yourself so vulnerable. In the end, it is the only thing strong enough to hold it all together. And, that is heaven: being held together in love – in God.

 

[photo by Tyler Nienhouse per cc 2.0]

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]

Strange math

two as oneGod’s math is strange:
In an intimate partnership,
The two become one:
One in love – sharing one love.

And this strange God
Is also One, in intimate partnership
Among the three
One love inviting more into that circle

Even welcoming you and me
Into that very dance
Where the one love extends ever outward
A universe bursting out in deep relationship.

How lovely
And how strange.

[photo by Aftab Uzzaman per cc 2.0]

strange universe

image of an atom

In this strange universe,
It is the valence of relationships –
The rushing of electrons round the nucleus –
That holds all things together,
Even as it keeps them from collapsing in upon each other.

In such a universe as this,
Is it any wonder that the One God is a relationship –
An ever circling dance of love –
That both holds the whole and differentiates each part?

Well, yes.
It is a wonder.

 

[image – By JC713 [MIT (http://opensource.org/licenses/mit-license.php)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

strange conversation

ballerina

Does it seem strange to you that an amoeba would try to talk to a ballerina?
Or, even more, that a ballerina would care to talk to an amoeba?

What language would they use?
What reality would frame the conversation?
What concerns, what urgencies, would energize the exchange?

So, when prayer confuses me … I probably should not find that confusion confusing.

The work of prayer is not so much what is being prayed about –
But about making the connection.
It is a wonder that a connection can be made;
A kindness that such connection is invited.

There is a transformation, bit by bit, in what I see;
In who I am;
In who we are, together.

Conversation becomes conversion … bit by bit by bit.

What grace!

[Image modified from photo by Mirjana Veljovic per cc 2.0]

learning to let go

meadow's songI sit below the tree in my meadow and look up at its deep green leaves. They are full and strong, but showing a bit of the wear from the recent winds. Then, among the branches just at the tip of one of the limbs, I see a movement. A small fairy emerges from among the green and sits upon a twig.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hello,” she answers.

I wait for something else. She sits awhile and smooths her wings and then, catching the fiber of a spider’s web, she slides down to the ground and sits upon a small stone at my feet. She sit cross-legged and alert. Listening to every sound.

“Hello,” I say again.

“Hello,” she responds, politely, and then puts her finger to her lips and motions for me to listen.

I strain my ears, but I hear no sounds beyond the common meadow sounds: the rustling leaves, the swish of the wind upon the taller grasses, the birds, the insects. The meadow is alive with sounds that I usually do not notice, but there seem to be no unusual ones here, today.

We sit and listen to together. She flies to my shoulder and speaks in a low tone into my ear. “Listen to the ordinary and find more.” She is gone.

Find more… I listen again and hear no other sounds. I strain my ears for hidden words, but none are there. Slowly, though, as I listen, I begin to note just how the sounds blend and move together. The rustling of the trees and grasses rise and fall together with the rhythm of the wind. The wind, too, brings the songs of the birds more clearly and then muffles them again. The wind is directing the sound symphony. It is not a collection of separate sounds but a concert, a musical comraderie, an interweaving of each into a whole.

This is must be the message I am to hear today – I must listen for unities, for wholes, for rich patterns blended from individual fibers. I sit and close my eyes. I feel the sway of the sound and deep from within I hear an echo of its rhythms, the pull of its movements.

I find that I am no longer just listening. I have become one with the symphony. I exist as one, but not alone. The me of my consiousness blends, but does not dissappear. It lends its tone to those around. I have become a part. I am not separate and alone; I am not independent and self-sufficient. I give and take in the symphony, not in a series of trades and bargains, but in an unbroken exchange of the essence of self, broadened and deepend by sharing.

When I try to close my hands around this concept, I loose it. I must remain open, giving and receiving, part of the flow. I cannot step outside and evaluate. I must be, instead.

I shake my head to clear my thoughts and find that I have broken the spell. “What is this?” I ask my meadow, my tree. This letting go is a fearful passage. How do I know I am not abandoning myself to some beautiful deception, some strange spell?

Yet, somehow I know that here, in my meadow, I can risk letting go. Caution is fine, but fear impedes progress. I can let go into his melody. I will not forsake what is real; nor will I be forsaken.

I let myself go into the sound and feel myself drop into its enormity like droping over the edge of a waterfall. I am surrounded and engulfed, but not distroyed. I am bigger in a way that is unfamiliar to me: not apart, a part. It does not diminish me. It enlarges me. I do not understand, but I rejoice… and wonder.

8/14/95

[photo by muffinn per cc 2.0]