my cavern

cavernI stand at the mouth of a cavern – huge, dark … powerful in its presence and mystery. I want to enter, something calls me in, but I am also fearful. If I walk this path, will I soon get lost amid the stalagmites and stalactites and crevices and boulders that lurk within the shadows? Will I fall or be trapped? Will I simply wander to no avail?

Yet, there is this call, not really audible, just a tug upon my soul. I take a deep breath and step toward the dark. And in that first step, I feel my heart open just a bit – or perhaps it just softens. It is an almost imperceptible move, like the coming wakefulness of morning, arising from the deepest sleep to the next level, just below awareness.

I take another breath and resist the urge to steel myself. It is not about holding tight, but letting go. Another breath, another step, ears on alert, heart inching ahead of my frame, I move. One slow step at a time, searching … or, no, opening, I move.

This is different. I somehow know that this is not a process where I will find something, or figure it out, or come to understand. This is a process in which I will be changed, opened, melded.

It has taken these few steps for the whole sense of this call to change. I am not called to some great mission, to some accomplishment that will be a offering for you. I am called to become someone different, someone melded, molded, reconstituted into a vessel, or … not so much a container for something other than I am, but a container that is an amalgam of me and you – a container that can now hold something that could not otherwise be held.

Beheld… that word, itself, turns a corner in me. If I let myself be seen – and the darkness provides a bit of a robe for my nakedness even as I shed my successive layers of protection – if I let myself be seen, I will become more of myself. Beholding as creation.

And beholding goes both ways. As I find my way through a successive unmasking of my very self, I find my way to you, as well. You dwell in truth. An honest soul, and only an honest soul, can truly encounter you. It is a law of the spiritual realm – that truth is a prerequisite.

Yet truth alone, sterile and hard, will not suffice. Somehow, honesty must be mixed with the affirming pulse of life itself, the truth of true connection, where the coming together is full and free and beautiful. Some would call it love, but even that word seems too light a thing.

And now all my words fade to mere filaments of hope. They cannot really do justice to what is.

I stand, naked, in the dark, still shedding layers of presumption and constraint. And the darkness, itself, a deep and quiet and holy darkness, swirls around me, urging union, promising completion.

Slowly the darkness becomes light. Turns out the darkness was within me, and I have begun to shed it, ever so slowly. The light begins to smile upon me, to welcome me, to make its way into me. My growing honesty is, at last, allowing me to embrace – to be embraced by – the truth of you.

This process is not done, but it is begun. And I am glad.

My soul, a bit raw from this successive unveiling, feels closer to itself. It confirms a truth that has long dwelt with me. I have no words. Except, perhaps, ‘thank you.’

[photo by Emily Mocarski per cc 2.0]

no magic

magicThere is no magic.

There is only mystery.

Magic presumes a mastery of the mysterious, where certain incantations will constrain the outcome. But mystery will not be constrained.

That is good news, when mystery is the very heart of goodness.

I want to release myself to the embrace of mystery.  I just don’t know how. So, I keep trying magic. Until I give up my attempts at control, I keep the mystery at bay. Such is my quandary.

I’d pray about it, except that I keep turning prayer into an attempt at magic, an Aladdin’s lamp. Three wishes will be granted for the rubbing.

Just like to me mess up a blessing.

Aauugh!

Why won’t I learn? When you bargain with a loving God, you only cheat yourself.

[photo by Linus Bohman per cc 2.0]

quandaries with prayer

restless

When it comes to prayer,
I am like a fidgety child,
Too tired to go to sleep.
My urgencies unsettle my heart,
Crying out for a way out.

My focus is me,
And so my prayers become
An incessant prattle,
Begging and pleading
For what I want.

It’s not that my desires are wrong,
It’s just that they rivet my focus
And overwhelm my heart.
Ironic, because prayer, for so many,
Is a path to peace.

And yet the instructions for prayer:
Ask, seek, knock,
Seem to confirm that focus.
Perhaps, I can find a bit of wisdom, there:
The way out is through.

I must bring myself to prayer
And all my baggage comes with me.
Until I speak my troubles,
I can think of nothing else.
And, besides, a friend will listen to prattle.

And so I come with all my messy pleas,
And sit down beside you,
And pour them out.
And you, my Holy Friend,
You listen.

That is a start.

[photo by Joe Benjamin per cc 2.0]

prayer’s quandary

prayerHow is it that I imagine
(Though it seems I often do)
That I could ever out-love God?

Somehow I think that I must remind God
To pay attention to those I love
And respond in the ways I would direct.

I hang on to those urgent, begging prayers
As if they are lifelines
As if their path is the only one worth walking.

And in that clinging urgency, I lose the opportunity
To join the deeper, fuller love that God
Is always, already, pouring forth.

When will I learn that true prayer
Is the place where I find God’s love welling up within me
And where I send it forth into the world?

Prayer stitches my soul into the fabric of life as it is
Adding one more fiber to the tapestry of love that God is weaving
And learning to rejoice as it unfolds.

[photo by Via Tsuji per cc 2.0]

Prayerful encounter

coals

Come.
Please.
Come.

Please do.
I wait for you.

Is it true?
Are you hoping that I come?
Can the turning of this one small heart toward you
Make any difference at all?

It can.
Let me show you how.
Come.

So, I do.
Best I can
I turn my heart toward you.
I sit in the anteroom of your great court
With anxious anticipation, hoping to be called.
So many others sit with me in this dark and quiet place
Their petitions in their hands, twisting them, folding and unfolding
Frantic hopes scrawled on scraps of paper
Or carefully worded bargains, expecting a price for any favor.

And then, in a far, dark corner I catch a glimpse of you.
This is no anteroom – this is the room, itself
The very place of encounter
But these scraps of paper are our barrier – the veil between.

There is a small brazier in the middle of the room.
Ash-dusted coals glow faintly in its metal frame.
I walk to it and push my own papers through the grate.
I cry as I let them go – they carry my desperation and desire.
When they catch flame, it is my heart that burns.

Yet when my focus is on them, I see you only dimly.
When I have let them go, I find myself within your arms.
You rock me slowly, crooning in my ear.
And, when I have, at last, relaxed a bit
You hand me a small package, wrapped in fragile whiteness.
Within it beats my heart, purified and tempered by the fire.
It glows in response to your touch.
It beats more slowly, more firmly,
Anchored in you.

It is not that my petitions are devalued.
Instead, they have been transferred from my hands to your heart.
You know them deeply; hold them close.
They find their true expression in your warm embrace.

Somehow, for just a moment, I know
That they are more deeply felt
More deeply honored in your hands
Than they would ever be in mine.

Your response is not simply an answer,
But a fulfillment
Not held at arms length, but drawn deeply in.
All is exactly as it should be, where it must be –
Held in an irrevocable, irrepressible love.

May it be so.
May I know the whisper of that truth.
May those I hold in prayer
Know it, too.
Deeply, fully, truly know.

Amen.

[photo by Matthew Peoples per cc 2.0]

 

Irrigating Prayer

cracked earth
Prayer irrigates the earth and heart
– St. Francis / Love Poems from God – Daniel Ladinski

 

How does prayer water my soul?
How can it soften the cracks that have yawned so wide?
How can it fill those holes in me that echo with despair?

What part of the whole am I?
What is diminished when I turn away?
What holes do I leave in that leaving?

When will I learn to listen to your voice?
When will I open to your presence?
When will you come?

Where is the quiet space that lets life blossom?
Where are the thin places in my life, in my soul,
Where I can find you, if I’ll seek, knock, ask?

Why does my prayer sound echoes in my soul?
Why can I not connect to your grace and fullness?

Why won’t you answer me, this morning?

Does prayer answer my questions, or, in acknowledging them,
Do I open myself to the rain of your grace?
Can you sneak up behind me and catch me with a hug?

I so need your embrace, and with my prayer, this morning,
I embrace my need as the very opening that makes the space for you;
The crack in my soul where you can enter.

Will you enter?

[photo by Anjan Chatterjee per cc 2.0]