the list

the list.jpg

So, it looks like I am going to have to come up with
some new excuses for procrastination.

My ‘to do’ list has been altered by the need to stay home.

And now, I am beginning to see,
That the list is not all that has been altered.
The ‘needs’ behind the list have changed, as well.
Some have changed by circumstance,
And some by a dawning realization
That they were really not so urgent to begin with.

So, rather than berate myself,
I am taking a deep breath
And making a different list.

I ask myself,
What stories do I want to be able to tell,
When this is all over?

The new list starts there.
And maybe its a ‘to be’ list
Rather than a ‘to do’ list:
To be the grace I hope to see in the world.
To hold to hope so others can hold on, as well.
To offer kindness, even from a distance.
To let myself be held in the arms of God
Even when other embraces are the virtual kind.

Even in this moment, we look for evidence of love.
That is the story we must tell,
That is the story we must echo with our actions, this day.
That is the story I hold to be most deeply true.

[photo by john.schultz per cc 2.0]

stories

imagine.jpg

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 …

cat in the hat 2 3.jpg

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.”

 10-20-95

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