the crystal globe

rose preserved in resin globe.jpg

I walk slowly into the darkened room. A small, dim glow is coming from a table in the middle of the room, barely visible from the door. The room is large and it is quiet. So very quiet. I hesitate to move and disturb the stillness, but that little light is calling to me, ‘Come, come.’

So, I step cautiously forward, trying to keep my movements from disturbing even the air around me. I make my way to the table. It is a dark, rich wood. In the middle is a small ball or globe with something inside. That is the source of the tiny light.

I put my hands on the table for balance and lean forward for a closer look. It is a globe of crystal, perfectly clear, its rounded edges almost invisible. And there within the crystal is a rose, encased, preserved … imprisoned?

That final thought catches me by surprise, but then becomes unavoidable. A rose is a living thing. It cannot stay still, even in ‘perfect’ suspension, else it dies. As beautiful as this is – this crystal globe, this perfect rose, it is, somehow wrong. It is not meant to be preserved, unchanging. It is meant for life.

I reach out a tentative finger and touch the globe. My fingerprint mars the surface, making its edges clearer, defining the surface that keeps me separate from the rose itself.

‘Look, but don’t touch,’ it seems to say. But the message of the globe and the message of the rose are different. The globe wants to keep things in their current state – clear, pure, perfect. The rose wants to grow.

It is then I see the small dark hammer that sits beside the globe, almost camouflaged against the dark grain of the table. I look around. I cannot see anyone else in the room, but it is large and dark, so I cannot tell for sure. The quiet seems to speak of absence, as well, but, again, I cannot know.

So, I do what I know I must do. I pick up the hammer and, at first tentatively, I tap the crystal globe. It makes a ringing sound, but does not break. The ringing seems to crack the stillness and quiet of the room … but the globe is unchanged. It does seem that the light has grown a bit brighter.

I take a deep breath and strike harder at the globe. It is a glancing blow that slides off the side of the globe, but the ringing that results shatters the quiet and I hear a rumble of voices around me. I begin to see movement at the sides of the room and feel a current of … anger? How dare I strike this perfect thing?

Yet the rose, still trapped within, is calling to me again. Before I can change my mind, I strike the crystal with a focused intensity and it shatters with a scream. I drop the hammer and put my hands over my ears and crumple forward against the edge of the table.

The voices from the sides of the room become figures – tall and majestic and, yes, very angry. They rush the table and surround me. One grabs me by the collar and shakes me, hard.

But the scream has subsided and in its place there is a melody – a song of joy – that has erupted from among the shards of crystal that lie upon the table. The rose is singing. Strong and free at last, it unfolds its leaves a bit and shakes its petals and sends forth a song and a fragrance that fills the room.

The shock of this change takes the figures around me by surprise. The leader drops my collar and stumbles back a few steps. Then they all turn and run, their hands over their ears. It is as if the song, for them, is as piercing as the scream had been for me.

And so I am left alone with the rose. Or so I think, at first. I am leaning over the table, looking closely at the rose when I feel a presence beside me. It is, I can tell, a holy presence. It begins to sing with the rose – a lilting harmony that twines itself with the rose’s melody and almost paints a visible image in the air. I find myself singing, as well, softly, but in harmony.

Then other voices fill the room, coming from all corners and in all languages: thin, high voices and deep, low thunders that seem to shake the room to its depths. These others … other people, yes … and mythical creatures and even vines and flowers interweave themselves around the table, arm in arm, spirit in spirit.

And the rose begins to grow. It opens its petals to a light that seems to shine on it from … from all the crowd and from a source bigger, fuller, more real, that is just beyond perception. The light comes from the rose, as well. We are all bathed in it; encompassed by it; filled with it.

Then, to my dismay, the rose, which has fully opened, begins to drop its petals. They fall upon the table. It is part of a flower’s pattern of growth to bloom and then to die. But, even as my eyes well up with tears, I see the seeds fall from its center onto a deep loam that is there at the roots of the rose. My own tears and those of others standing near provide the water for those seeds, as they begin to sprout and grow.

The beauty of the crystal globe, the quiet solemnity of the room, are far surpassed by this joyous, melodic celebration of growth and change … and life.

My heart is full.

 

[photo by Sam Villaroman per cc 2.0]

could it be

dandelionCould it be that you whisper within me
That every breath is your breath
That every hope holds seeds of your hope
That my love echoes yours
That my eyes are shaped by your beauty
That you are in me
And I am in you
More fully than I ever knew?

Could it be that you are training my eyes to see
The life that shines between all things
As they dance together in your hands?
All things, all things (yes, even that)
Are in your hands.

I see only dimly, now.
But, oh, I long for more.

[photo by Chris Luczkow per cc 2.0]

a quiet life

the shadow of a leaf

How blessed I am to live a quiet life
To feel the brush of eternity in clay
To know your smile
To seek your heart
To leave a whisper of that joy
In the ears of the world.

My call reflects both my essence and yours.
How beautiful.
How grateful.
How full of grace
That we could dance together now
And evermore.

[photo by Sam Cox per cc 2.0]

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]

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]