stories

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Stories touch the truth so much more deeply and fully than facts. We think that we can grasp facts – hold them and turn them in our hands; use them as our tools.

Stories hold us. We know their touch. They resonate in our souls. But we do not control them. They are beacons and they shine forth from a source that is beyond us, though it includes us. We participate, we shape our own role to some extent, but the story is beyond the tiny corners of our possession.

[photo by Thomas Hawk per cc 2.0 on Flickr]

 

sit, sit, sit, sit …

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Hands on the keys,
Head trying to focus,
I wait.

For too many days
I’ve let my eyes be distracted
By swirling circumstance.

My head is spinning.
I am befuddled.
The world is just not right.

But angst will not fix it
And consternation leads nowhere.
I think, ‘This just can’t be!’

But it is.
It is . . .
So, where are you?

‘Well,’ I think I hear you whisper,
‘Not in the eddies of befuddlement
That cloud your brain.’

‘Not in the tiny corners
Of consternation,
Or of fear.’

‘Not in any careful arrangement
Of concepts or creeds.
All those are too small.’

‘You will not catch me here or there.
You will not catch me . . .
anywhere.’

Are you now the Cat in the Hat,
Dancing amid the chaos of toys
Sent flying by Thing One and Two?

There is some truth in that story.
Some twinkle of sense
Amid the wry phrases.

And one of those twinkles
Lodges itself in my heart.
Stories catch the truth better than concepts.

Stories are grounded in life.
Stories don’t have to tell the truth for all time.
They just have to ring true in that particular embodiment.

‘But,’ I hear myself argue from the corner,
‘Isn’t truth true for all times and all places?
Why does it take a particular embodiment to show itself?’

‘Because its just that big,’ you whisper.
‘Its just that big. Its just that expansive.
You cannot hold it all.’

‘But where it touches your life,
You can glimpse its passing.
When it nods at you, you can nod in return.’

‘The trick, of course,
Is to get out of your head,
And into your life.’

‘Live your story
And keep an eye out for me.
You can’t miss me, if you are watching.’

‘The hat gives me away every time.’

 

[image cropped from photo by Daniel X. O’Neil per cc 2.0]

God, herself

When you remember
That whatever you do to others
You do to God, herself,
You see an even deeper reality to
“MeToo.”

Refusing to listen to words of truth
Is a refusal to listen to God
And a denial of the very heart of the relationship
That holds the world together.

Nevertheless, She persisted.

[photo by John Mavroudis from the cover of Time Magazine, 10/18]
[My gratitude to joekay617 for this reminder]

The Book of Life

Book of LifeThe true book of life
Is not just a list of names
It is a wealth of stories –
Yours and mine.

And each day, we have the chance
To write another episode,
Enriching heaven’s dance,
Which has already begun.

I want to learn to dance with you
To lean my ear upon your chest
And feel the beat of life
To feel your rhythms in the very heart of me.

Even my self-conscious, awkward moves
Are not enough to stop the music.
It is all a part of the undeniable narrative of love
Danced out, within your arms.

[photo by Jo Naylor per cc 2.0]

prayerful imagination

angel

Sometimes, when words won’t do,
My imagination opens the way for prayer.
And so I pray for my friend,
That You will comfort her with your Spirit,
That You will cloak her in your grace
And bring healing.

 

 

Here is the prayer of my imagination:

I see my friend lying in her bed, with labored breathing and discomfort in her soul.  And then I see them: around the bed, a circle of angels is holding hands with one another.  They stand so close that their wings touch each other and form a wall, a curtain around the bed.

One angel begins to sing, softly. Her tones are just barely audible.  The tune, a soothing melody of hope and love, begins to flow from one angel to the other across the circle and around it until it is almost as if they have woven a canopy of song above her bed.  They continue their singing and the canopy grows more substantial, revealing intricate patterns of color and light, of texture and depth.

At a signal from one of the angels, they all soften and lower their voices and the canopy itself is lowered until it covers my friend like a blanket.  The touch of it seems to ease her breathing and soften some of the lines upon her face. She sighs in momentary respite from her pain.

They continue their melody and the blanket enfolds her more closely and then begins to melt into her very frame.  Its melody makes its way into her flesh, into her weary body and brings hope and peace. They sing until all of the blanket has dissolved in this way; all of its healing strength is now within her.

Then a single angel smiles at the others in thanks and they leave. All but that one angel. She takes her position at the head of the bed, watching my friend, holding her steady. She will remain.

Amen

[photo by Bernard Healy per cc 2.0]

The Gray Wolf and the Wind

gray wolf advancing“I COMMAND YOUR DAY,” he growls, that gray wolf of late assignments and neglected duties. “I will eat your life, will consume your energy, will wear you out for no gain.” He relishes his role. “I don’t even care if you succeed in your tasks. It’s your soul, your spirit I am after. I can throw you crumbs of accomplishment and you will eat them eagerly and still you will starve.”

I am beaten. I slump against a fallen log and sit with hollow resignation, waiting for his teeth to tear my heart. I can fight no longer. I have nothing left to throw up in my defense. He circles the tree, my form, with gritty pleasure. He licks his chops and chomps his teeth in anticipation.   I wait.

My heart faintly whispers a plea, helpless and with no faith to send it upward, it hangs upon my lips and drops to the ground. I am defeated.

“But I am not.” An angel has seated herself beside me on the fallen log. She removes her cloak and wraps it round my shoulders. It is warm and smells of adventure. It wraps my soul. Then she stands and plants her staff in the ground. She draws a circle in the dirt, surrounding me, surrounding the log, surrounding herself.   “This place is claimed as holy,” she proclaims.

The wolf is pacing now, angry, suspicious and with glaring eye. He charges at the circle, but at the last moment diverts his steps. He growls and throws his anger at the circle, at the two of us within it. He rails against the barrier and gnashes his teeth. “Why do come you to rescue this pitiful soul?” he demands of the angel. “Why waste your effort on one who has nothing to give, not even a whimper of resistance. This one is of no value to you. Leave her and let me finish my feast, it is no loss to you.”

“If she is insignificant, why do you want her so?” The angel asks.

“I gain pleasure in defeat… she is giving me what I desire.” The wolf replies.

“You want to extend your kingdom beyond its current boundaries, but she belongs to another kingdom, exists within another’s realm. You cannot claim her soul. You see, it is you that have been defeated already. Eating at her only feeds your fantasy that you can regain what you have already lost.”   The angel is calm and measured in her reply, but it is clear that she is on her guard. Confrontation with a wolf is not to be taken lightly.

“Fool, fool!” The wolf shrieks and paces. “You think your words can put me off, you think that you have strength against me when it is obvious that I have the power of this world. You cannot resist me.”

He cannot contain himself in his anger. But instead of charging the circle, as it seemed to me that he would do, he turns and charges off into the woods.

When we are alone, the angel turns to me and helps me to my feet. Her cloak is still wrapped around my shoulders. She grasps my shoulders in her hands and gazes into my eyes. “Do not give in to despair. The great wolf’s only power is deceit. Do not give in.” Her voice both pleads and commands. “Take this cloak, this staff and claim your ground as holy. Do not let him enter.”

As the angel turns to go, she slips a leather belt from her waist and hands me a pouch that was hanging from it. “Do not forget to eat.” She says, quietly. “Feed your soul on truth, on the words of hope, on relationship.” Then she is gone.

I sit upon the log, wrap the cloak around me and open the pouch. I eat the manna with a grateful heart. Around my heart I draw a circle with the staff. “I claim this as holy ground,” I whisper and hold the staff tightly in my hands.

My heart whispers a prayer of its own, “Save me from the wolf’s breath.”

The wind answers. “I will save.”

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[image cropped from photo by Kurt Bauschardt per cc 2.0]

a different view

overwhelmedI am feeling overwhelmed and lost in the stacks of things to do. My day is pressing down upon me and in response I am deeply tired. I cannot find the energy to dig myself out of this hole, so that I can even begin my day.

I come to my meadow discouraged. Too much to do, to late to even hope to do it well. Now, all I seem to have left is the fear of total embarrassment to keep me going. The best I can do is barely enough. I wander down the hill, scrubbing my toes in the short grass, which is dried and brown. My sweater is drawn up around my shoulders, more to find comfort in its bulk than as a reaction to the cool of the day.

I find a smooth, round stone by the edge of the stream and sit down, dropping my head into my hands. I sigh deeply and shake my head. I’d like to curl up in a fetal position and sleep away the day, the chores, the responsibilities before me. But I cannot. They will not go away.

Slowly the sound of the brook fights its way into my consciousness and the crisp brown reality of the winter grass shows itself to me in intricate patterns at my feet. There are things beyond me in this world, though I don’t always raise my eyes to see, so self-absorbed am I.

So I settle in upon that rock and try to broaden my vision of the meadow, try to move my focus beyond my self pity. As I do so, tiny signs of life become evident. A field mouse runs across the path and finds a discarded shaft of grain to carry home. A tiny grass flower has forgotten its seasons and struggles to grow in a sunny spot beside the stream. Small signs of life. I am grateful for these signs of hope, yet my heart has not been lifted from its sigh.

I sit a while longer and an angel appears beside me to guide me to the well. The angel is a child, younger, more timid, than the angels I have encountered before. Even his robe does not fit right. It’s sleeves dangle over his fingers and the shoulders droop.   He pulls up the robe to keep from tripping over it on the way back to the well and scruffy tennis shoes can be seen beneath its hem.

No so intimidated by this angel, I reach and take his hand We walk together to the well. As we approach, I can see that Jesus is seated on the side of the well. He is facing off to one side and is ministering to the crowd which surrounds him. There is a whole variety of life before him and around the well.   Older men and younger travelers, men and women, who have stopped to renew themselves for their journey. Families sit together at the well, children leaning on their parent’s arms, swinging their feet absently to pass the time.

My escort stops a good distance from the well and takes off the robe. Its reminds me of a child from a nativity play, taking off his father’s bathrobe. The boy is wearing a wrinkled tee-shirt and jeans. He smiles at me and goes off to find his seat in the crowd. I pick up the robe and put it on, tying the sash around my waist. It doesn’t fit me very well either.

I walk toward the well and take a seat on a stone bench at the edge of the circle. Jesus continues to talk to the crowd, to touch the heads of small children as they wander up to the well and play in the open space at his feet.

His words do not sound urgent or hurried, but they are captivating. It is as if he speaks and the reality of this world becomes just a bit clearer. His words are not begging words of should and ought and urgent supplication, but being words of the reality which we seldom see. He reveals the parts of heaven which brush into our days and which we can take hold of and weave into the picture of who we are. He speaks his own spirit into our hearts and we feel an echo there, an answer which whispers a fervent “yes” to what he says we can be.

I am fed slowly by the words, each a drop of strength in the reservoir which was so empty. They fall onto my ears, into my soul.

Then he rises to go and looks around for his outer robe. It’s not on the well beside him, where he had placed it. The child who guided me here sneaks a look at me and wrinkles up his face in a silly grin, shrugging his shoulders. The robe I wrapped around me belongs to the Lord. Quickly I take it off and fold it over my arm. Tentatively, I make my way to the well and offer it to Jesus. He chuckles and takes the robe from my hands. Then he swings the robe up, as if to place it around his shoulders, but instead it envelopes the whole crowd. His robe wraps us all in warmth and hugs us in a collective union to himself.

Wrapped in his love, I think I can find the strength to enter my day. I do not feel triumphant, not even sure that I can accomplish what I have placed before myself to do. But I know that his word is slowly feeding my soul and bringing pieces of a different reality into my world of desires and fears.  So I am grateful, almost content, as I return to my office and my tasks.

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[image modified from photo by amenclinicsphotos ac per cc 2.0]