April Fool

IMG_1468“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.”

“Or welcome.”

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.

Amen.

 

(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

words

words.jpg

sometimes, words won’t do
they are just too tiny
just too constrained
inadequate

but the absence of words
can leave an awkward emptiness
a sense of isolation
separation

so let us build
a tiny bridge,
a fragile conduit
with our words

let us reach
with faltering hands
to touch the cheek of hope –
the hope that we all share

the hope that we might be
both truly ourselves
and truly one
with all that is

such is the gift of God
selfhood and community
a mystery to be honored
with our tiny, hopeful words

[photo by Jennifer Fred Merchán per cc 2.0]

risk the dance

dancing in the rainMy dear one,
Thinking about dancing is not dancing.
Those perfect spins and turns in your head
Do not even stir the dust at your feet.

It is the faltering steps, themselves,
That bring the dance to life.
It is in dancing that you learn to dance.

But I know I’ll get it wrong, 
And step on your toes, 
And bump into others. 
What then? 

Then … you keep dancing.

It is not the choreography
That delights the soul.
It’s the soul’s delight in moving together
That fills our steps with life.

I can redeem every bump and bruise
But I do need to start with something.
Until you begin to move, I dance alone.

Remember – I came teach you to dance,
To come to joy within my arms.
So, won’t you let your feet dance with me?

Let my movement take the lead.
Let me direct your feet, your heart.
Your head can follow, later.

We will already be laughing together
By the time it comes around.

[photo by Heather 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]

too patient

patient as a sunsetSometimes
I think that the Holy One
Is way too patient:

Too willing to let the world
Find its way;

Too tolerant of the anger and vitriol
That floods the hearts of those
Who cannot find the universal love
That is right there with them, ready to embrace;

Too able to bear their destructive fury,
Yes, even to the point of death
(His and theirs and those they trample).

How can such infinite patience
Really be what is right?
How can the Holy One wait on us,
All the while enduring the evil we create?

So, I am often convinced that the Holy One
Is way too patient with everyone.
(Except with me, of course,
The patience toward me is just about right.)

It is as if the end is sure,
Despite the length and terror of the trail.

It is as if the moments of love that we return along the way:
The moments we see the beauty;
The moments we use our creativity to bring joy;
Are all a part of the culminating grace
That will bring us home, at last.

It is as if the Holy One
Has enough patience
And enough love
To bring us all
Every one
Through the fray
And into the deepest heart
Of eternal love.

It is as if
No price were too high
To bring us all
Home.

 

[photo by Marlon Malabanan per cc 2.0]

God’s culture

seek first the kingdom - photo of woman looking upKingdom is a foreign term,
The metaphor of a different time.
It is so far removed from what I understand
That it no longer serves me well.

When I think of kingdom,
I think of coercion,
Abject subservience,
Ironclad hierarchy
Absolute, immutable rule.

What if there were a different kind of kingdom –
Hidden in plain sight, growing up among us,
Tiny, at first, like a mustard seed?
What if it were a land of healing and hope,
Where little children, and prostitutes, eagerly lead the way?

It would be an upside down land,
Where the last come first
And every lost thing is found.
Camels and riches would make it hard to enter in,
For what is truly yours is what you give away.

It would be like living in a foreign land.
I’d need to learn its culture,
Change my currency.
I’d need a whole new language.
But, somehow, I know I would be home.

Do you think I could find asylum, there?

[photo by Don McCullough per cc 2.0]

Beads on a string

beads on a stringI finger my thoughts, slowly, like beads on a string,
Turning them in my fingers, observing their texture and color.
One by one they pass through my grasp.
I can hardly tell why each one arises, nor how it morphs to the next.

Each seems so real and intricate as it sits between my fingers
But as I let it go, it turns to vapor and dissipates.
There really are no beads before or after the one I hold;
Not that I can see.

Could it be that the time I spend in my head – planning or trying to understand
May actually be frittering away the life you have opened for me
Opened – but it’s out of sight, so, out of mind.
How do loosen my internal focus, so I can grasp a broader view?

Let me learn not to worry about the last bead or the next –
To focus less on thoughts and more on moments
To trust the string of your love
And let the beads arise and fall in grace.

This is my prayer
Today and tomorrow
(If I can anticipate the next day’s bead upon the string)
Let me come to life, one bead at a time.

Amen.

[photo by Vicki C per cc 2.0]

messy faith

city scene

If I am honest with myself
My faith is pretty messy.

On grateful mornings my heart sings.
I am wrapped in the peaceful veil of sunrise and birdsong.
I know – I seem so sure – that I am a small part
Of an immense and holy whole.

But other mornings I crawl out of a dull and achy hole.
I look around and wonder how love could be the source
Of such a mess as this.
My eyes seem tuned to all that’s undeniably wrong.

Is it the tilt of my heart that determines what I see?
And what tilts my heart?
Is faith a decision?
And, if so, what does it stand upon?

This postmodern mind of mine
Knows that knowing is slippery.
All, all seems built upon the sand.
I need a rock to keep me from collapse.

Yet, even rocks are made of whirling atoms,
With vast emptiness between each particle.
The solid – not so solid: I am not held up by ‘stuff.’
Instead, I am held by the very force of the relationships between each and all.

Right now, that is a much of a rock as I can find.
I clamber up – and am amazed that it holds me.
It holds me … and isn’t that what relationship most desires?
To be cherished, but not crushed. It is a delicate balance.

 

[image by SJKen per cc 2.0]

Can These Bones Live?

dry bones

Ezekiel 37: 1-3

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of dry bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many in the valley; and lo, they were very, very dry.

And he said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?”

And I answered him, “No way!”

And he said to me, “Whatever you say.” And he walked away.

And I was left with the bones and my faithlessness.

Many days later, he returns to me and he asks again, “Can these bones live?”

And I answer him, “I wish they could.”

He sits down beside me and asks, quietly, “Where do you send those wishes? How do they find substance?”

I kick at the dirt and reply, “My wishes have no substance. They appear before me like a wisp of smoke and then they are whipped away by the wind. If I try to grasp them or shield them from the wind, my own movements make them dissipate. The bones are very, very dry.”

Do you know the difference between wishes and hope?”

I look at him blankly and shrug.

He waits a moment longer, and then he answers for me. “Wishes have no anchor. Hope is anchored by faith. It springs from desires that I have planted within you and rises to my listening ears. It is a call for us to work together to bring righteousness to life.”

I look up at him. “How can I work to bring righteousness? I am nothing but dry bones. There is no righteousness in me.”

“I bring the righteousness.” He smiles at me. “You bring the bones.”

I start to grin. “I can do that.”

So he asks me again, “Can these bones live?”

“Lets see.” I reply.

“Yes, lets do.”

4/7/00

[photo by kaelin per cc 2.0]