Follow the Song

through the plainI wake on the plain, beside the angel. The fire has died into ash-covered embers and the night sky has begun to fade to morning. The angel is sitting, back to the fire, looking out into the plain. He is robed already and has his staff in his hand. He looks at me and smiles. We gather our supplies, cover the fire, and begin the day’s journey.

It is a pleasant walk at first. He is humming softly to himself and the air is almost sweet with the fragrance of the wet grass. My feet are damp with dew. I shift the pack upon my back, balancing it on my hips, letting the shoulder straps lie slack.

The pack creaks softly as I walk. The weight of the backpack is so much easier to carry when it fits well.

On we walk, step, step, step, forward on the faintly visible path. If the angel were not guiding me, I would not really be able to tell the path from the ruts of dried streams and the passageways of animals who cross the plain in their daily search for food. My own path is hard to discern among the others. But the angel is confident and strides forward in even, unhurried, but determined steps.

“How do you know the way'” I ask, “since all these patches of earth look the same?”

He pauses on the trail and looks down. “The ground does look the same,” he observes. “That is not where the path is marked. It is written in my heart. I follow his call and not a path. Do you not hear it?”

I strain my ears, but I am not aware of any call, of any sound to guide my steps. I shake my head, a bit chagrined. It’s obvious that I am a novice here.

“Then I will teach you to listen,” the angel replies. He begins to hum. “This melody has been sung throughout the ages in response to the majesty of God. It springs forth when his presence is seen. Its tune, its cadence, its underlying essence is the pattern for your call. Learn the song. Sing it to yourself.”

“The song is my call?” I ask. “The same song of the ages, the same call?”

“No,” the angel replies, “the song only reveals the pattern in which your call will come and acquaints you with the essence it will bring. You learn from the song to recognize your own call when it comes. The song trains your inner ear to hear the call of God.”

“When will he call?” I ask.

“He calls you now.”

I feel desperate. “But I cannot yet hear it.”

“He knows and he will call until you hear. Be patient. Trust him to teach. As long as your heart is directed toward him, you cannot fail, for he is your partner in your journey. And he never fails. He is still creating you, with your cooperation. He tunes your ears, your heart, to hear the melody, to play the melody. Then you will find your purpose, and others will use your melody to find their own.   As long as you desire to follow, he is patient to lead. You demonstrate your desire; indeed, you fulfill your desire by singing the song that tunes your ears to his call.

When you have learned to recognize it, you will hear and know.”

“Teach me the ancient song.”

“Listen.” The angel begins to hum an ancient and intricate melody, a rich history of faith played out in notes of strength and assurance upon the air. There is an essence in the song that speaks to my ears. I strain to hear and learn. The angel smiles and we begin to walk again. He is humming, and I, once in a while, can anticipate a note and join the song.

Don’t look to the earth to find your path. It is not there. It is being called forth within you by the partnership between his creative hand and your willing spirit. It fits you well. Rejoice in the process and in the promise of its completion.

1/11/95

[the photo is my own]

The short list

A list of things that will pass:

  • The soft sighs of a sleeping childpeaceful sleep
  • Spring’s cool mornings
  • Flowers that wake after a rain
  • The ache of yesterday’s exercise
  • The strength of my resolve
  • The urgent demands of this day
  • The current political mess
  • The opportunity on my doorstep
  • This, this, this, too.

A list of things that will not change:

  • God’s love in all of this

At last, I can breathe again. Nothing is too precious or too painful to be outside the realm of the embrace of love. I am grateful.

[photo is my own … already she has changed]
[Thanks to Brene Brown for her work on foreboding joy.]

dawning

seeing more

 

The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from Him. – Thomas Keating

 

As I wake to this new day,
As I yawn and rub my eyes and peer into the breaking dawn,
I begin to see the edges of things, coming clear.
And, today, there is a subtle shift in vision.
I begin to see the heart of things, as well.

Within the frame of morning,
I begin to see a shimmer of your presence.
I begin to imagine your smile upon the dawn,
Your fingers brushing the edges of the grass,
Your hope rising upon the horizon.

And it is here that I begin to know
That imagination is not mere fantasy
But the early sign of the gift of entrainment
The fruit of practice
The pattern behind the patterning.

Rote practice is not the key,
But a continual turning of the heart toward you,
The intention – not to do the work, but to be open to it –
Has begun its work in me.
And that is what dawns on me this morning.

I am so grateful.

[photo used with permission from Mike Bizeau’s beautiful blog – nature has no boss]

Unwrapping a gift

unwrapping a gift

As a child I always unwrapped my gifts slowly,
Cutting the tape with a slender knife,
Trying not to tear the paper,
Preserving the ribbon.
It was my way of making the anticipation linger.

My sisters used to laugh at me.
Now, sometimes, they join me …
Extending the moment,
Making the process a part of the gift.

This morning, I hold within my hands
A small gift, as yet not fully opened.
Indeed, as I carefully remove the wrapping,
I find another layer underneath.

I cut a piece of tape
And the paper on that corner pops free.
I turn the box and touch the knife to the edge of the tape
Another corner, freed.

The gift, I realize, is the gift of attention.
To feel the crinkle of the paper,
The release of tension as it opens up,
To see, with sweet surprise, the beauty of each layer.

I look to the first wrapping, now at my feet.
It still holds the creases of the box,
Curled up, as it is, into a shape
That echoes its earlier embrace.

It is not the box, but it hints of its presence.
Just as the practices of my faith
Hold and convey a form that is very like the gift inside
They help me see its shape.

I am grateful for the wrapping
And the treasure, deep inside,
Not yet fully revealed,
But happily anticipated.

[image modified from photo by mob mob per cc 2.0]

tangle of anger

GRRRR!GRRR! I am so angry at myself, at the system, at the continuing unfairness of work to reward, at my own inability to control my emotions about this. I need a gift of grace. ‘Seek first the kingdom,’ you say. I must not have been seeking the kingdom very well, because “all these things” seem to be going to someone else.

I know, I have no room to gripe.  I know I have been deeply blessed. What right do I have to be mad? Still, I must admit that I am mad. I have poured myself out on an altar whose god does not care.

The greater irony – that false god did not make me do it. Once I gave him the minimum, he stopped even looking. So, the waste I have made of myself is all my fault. Now, I can’t seem to gather myself back together enough to find what matters.

This world’s prince doesn’t care about fair. In fact, unfair suits his purposes much better. Fairness will never be achieved through his means. And from God, the true God, I do not want fairness. I want mercy. I want grace.

So, why can’t I shake loose from this burden of anger? I reach inside myself an try to pull it from my heart, but it is wrapped too tightly. I fear I will pull my heart out, as well, if I tug hard enough to dislodge it.

It is not just clinging to me, it is consuming me; feeding on my heart, crowding out all else from my mind and my spirit. It is a cancer which must be removed, even at the cost of my heart. So, I do pull it out, and, along with it, the unconsumed fragments of my heart, bleeding in its claws. I throw it from me as far as I can manage and then I slump to the ground in a heap. I am hollow inside. All my energy, all my effort drains out onto the ground in a puddle of red.

Then, the Holy One is beside me. She gathers me up in her arms, wraps me in a cloth and carries me to the well. She washes me, wraps me again in a clean towel and sets me on the ground before her.

“This is not a battle lost, she says. This is a fruitless battle ended.”

“Listen to my voice. I have a better struggle for you to enter in. Not a battle, but a dedication of effort to something better than the tasks that others have selected for you.  Do not despair the efforts you have made, but do not trust them for the building of your life. Your life lies not in them, it lies in who I have called you to be.”

“And do not look for confirmation in comparison with others. Their path is different from your own. When you measure yourself, your success, by other’s standards, you are not measuring yourself at all. Such measures will never satisfy.”

With this, from another small towel, she unwraps a new heart. It is not like my old heart. Instead, it is a piece of her own heart that she gives to me.

“Listen. I have placed myself within you. Listen. You will begin to hear, to know, and then to follow.”

She turns to go. Then, almost as an afterthought she says, “Don’t worry about letting go of your anger. Let go, instead of your misguided heart. The anger clings so tightly to that, that when you remove it, the anger will be removed as well.” She smiles. “Listen for my heartbeat, deep within.” Then she is gone.

3 29 95

[image cropped from photo by Shawn per cc 2.0]

a Narnian encounter (4)

giant's hand[This is a continuing meditation. Part 1 is here; part 2 is here; part 3 is here]

I sit on the beach quite a while, absorbing the wordless lessons of the waves, watching the small shells wash in and out with the receding water. After a bit, the giant comes to join me. He sits down with a harrumph and digs his toes into the sand. He reaches out beside himself, smoothing the sand as if it were a blanket. He digs out a shell and turns it over in his fingers, admiring its beauty.

At last I turn to him. “I never asked your name,” I say with some hesitance, realizing that I have been happy to use him as a messenger and even as transportation, but I have not even stopped to reach to relationship. How often do I do that? How often do I place importance on utility over relationship? I turn my head to hide my embarrassment.

“They call me Cecil, they do,” he answers me.

I turn to him. “That’s very like my name,” I reply. He nods and smiles. He knows this. He seems to know my name without even asking. “Tell me about yourself.” I venture.

“I’m big,” he says, as if that is a revelation. “I’m not so good with words, but I know deep things. I feel them in my heart before they come into my head. The thinking part is harder for me than the knowing part.”

“We make a good pair, we do.” I say this almost before I think it and he smiles.

“We do,” he says. “Always, we have.”

With that reply, I find within myself a resonance. It is as if, for just a moment, I, like the giant feel it in my heart before it comes into my head. I give him a sideways glance and see that his smile has turned into a wide grin. He reaches out his hand on the sand beside me and drums his fingers. He is inviting me to play some kind of game with him that I do not know.

I put my hand on his and drum my fingers. I feel his movement beneath mine and feel its echo, its resonance, its strength as it is transferred into me. Again the knowing comes before the thinking. Cecil is not just a companion. Cecil is part of who I am – the part of me that touches deep.

The voices on the wind give conformation. Somehow I trust their truth.

This is me. This is the meeting.

[kudos to Jonathan Haidt with his metaphor of the rider and the elephant …]
[photo by Benzene Aseel per cc 2.0]