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]

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]

unlock my soul

fistAgain I find myself wrapped tight.
Like a fist, holding only my desperation,
My heart folded in upon itself.

My soul throws up questions
Not in open curiosity, but as a defense.
Fearful of my own foolishness,
I choose to turn away, rather than toward,
And ask for assurances before I yield to trust.

Perhaps it is the sensible thing to do.
Perhaps I can blame the world’s abuses,
As my reason to curl small
Around my own emptiness.

Oh, yeah?
You say you love me …
Prove it!

And you do.

As soon as I release myself enough to notice
A sunrise
A soft breeze
A friend’s smile

You do.
You always do.

[photo by damian entwistle per cc 2.0]

In the meantime

Quote

ominous times

“Meantime … that’s when the mean men come.”
– my own definition, circa age 5

Seems we are living in the meantime.
Seems the mean men have come.
When a mother dies, trying to shield her children from gunfire,
And the children are killed, too.
It is the meantime.

When the mean men come to power
And bend that power to their own advantage
Leaving behind the families who struggle to make ends meet
And then claim they are serving the nation
It is the meantime.

When the mean men use their power
To abuse and then silence the women around them
Who take their dignity and threaten their life and livelihood, too
Sometimes taking that, as well,
It is the meantime.

When the mean men point their fingers and shout
Trying to distract us all from their abuses
Blaming anyone who looks different or seems powerless
For the outcomes their own system perpetuates
It is the meantime.

When the mean men are ready to do whatever it takes
To preserve their positions of privilege – of wealth and of power
Building walls and buying guns, hoping to keep themselves secure
Not understanding that the imbalance and separation is their greatest risk
It is the meantime.

When white men and women (like myself)
Wear privilege like underarmour
So tight that it seems to us like our ‘natural’ skin
We think it hides our flaws beneath its smooth whiteness
It is the meantime.

I am complicit in the coming of the meantime.
The mean men don’t have to be men (though they often are)
They don’t have to be white (though it makes it more likely)
We just have to be small, stingy, self-absorbed –
Another definition of mean.

Can I also be complicit in changing the times?
Oh, I do hope so.
And the first step must be outside my own walls.
It is time to leave the meantime behind
But how?

It cannot be done through power and privilege
All my usual tools do not avail
I will not figure it out on my own
My head is too small and my eyes too blind
Will you take my hand and help me not be mean?

[photo by Oiluj Samall Zeid per cc 2.0]

down is up

via dolorosaThe way down is the way up. – Richard Rohr

I don’t want to follow you on the way down.
I don’t want illness, weakness, failure, or sadness.
And I don’t think that you want me to want such things …
The goal for my soul is not mortification, any more than it is glorification.

The goal is you.

The trick seems to be that the elements of pleasure –
Fullness, satisfaction, acclaim, power, capacity –
Feel so good, that they quickly divert my desire.
‘The pursuit of happiness,’ is a siren song.
It is like sugar for my soul – empty calories that leave me wanting more.

On the other hand, loss is not a distraction for my desire.
Instead, the experience of loss drives me closer to you.
It is at those moments when my soul desperately cries out for you.
So, I must admit that there may be something to Rohr’s contention
That the way up is down.

The Via Dolorosa, the path of sorrows, is not to be sought,
But neither is it to be avoided at all costs,
Especially since even ‘all costs’ will not keep it away.
Even Jesus did not choose suffering
What he chose was to give himself to God.

[photo by Racineur per cc 2.0]