Welcome to God’s realm.
Green leaves spend their whole lives
Nurturing the tree they call home
And sending vital oxygen into the world.
In the fall, when they retire,
They turn their souls to beauty –
Revealing gifts of color that had been hidden
Under the hard-working chlorophyl.
There is beauty in the bud.
There is beauty in the green.
There is beauty in the orange and yellow that follows.
I am rejoicing in each new turn of beauty,
In the leaves, in my friends, in myself.
[photo is my own]
Could it be that you whisper within me
That every breath is your breath
That every hope holds seeds of your hope
That my love echoes yours
That my eyes are shaped by your beauty
That you are in me
And I am in you
More fully than I ever knew?
Could it be that you are training my eyes to see
The life that shines between all things
As they dance together in your hands?
All things, all things (yes, even that)
Are in your hands.
I see only dimly, now.
But, oh, I long for more.
I find myself in a yellow aspen grove,
Engulfed within joyful cascades of clapping leaves,
They brush my ears with sweet delight
And fill my eyes with beauty
It is a pure, deep gift of grace.
How can my heart but leap with hope?
I find the secret wonder of praise,
Released within my soul.
Somehow, I always thought that praise
Was a duly grateful, ‘thank you.’
But it is so much more.
It is a slide into pure joy,
It is a sudden recognition
Of your overwhelming goodness
Swallowing up the daily sorrow
And muddy deceits of satan’s whispers.
All that is wrong in the world
Is swallowed up in one sweet glimpse of you;
Of your power and holiness and —
Oh my, of your unbelievable love.
You direct that love outward
In a vast, creative embrace of all that is.
It shows itself in the trill of the bird.
It springs forth in song in these aspen leaves.
And, sweet wonder, you direct that love to me.
Praise sweeps humility off its feet,
As that great love enfolds me,
My small heart beating in time with yours.
Praise to you, Oh Holy One,
The pure delight of all the skies,
The maker of each atom and each star,
The lover of life, the author of hope.
You dance with all of creation,
Having made her for yourself.
Praise to you for such a dance.
And for my place within it.
Praise for what is
For what is promised.
Praise to you for solid hope.
The recreation has begun.
I 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.
A good day
Is one in which you dance the dance you were born to,
And hear your own heart cheerfully applaud
Even as the world sighs with deep gratitude
And the Holy One nods and winks in your direction.
It is a gift to give your gift.
[Kudos to On Being’s newsletter – The Pause – for the reminder about what makes a good day.]
To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or say as well in another; and the more languages you speak, the more nuanced your understanding of life becomes. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi- lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence. – Rabbi Rami Shapiro
And so, the tower of Babel is redeemed
When we build the conversation, together,
After, first, listening to the silence of true presence.
Somehow my heart knows the language
My tongue is loosed to sing
Before my mind can catch the melody.
Somehow, sometimes, if my mind will follow, rather than lead
I can wake to the deep reality
That is always, always, holding my true self.
And then the cascading voices,
The orchestra of life,
Is deep, and rich, and full.
All nature sings …
And we, as a part of the singing universe,
Find our tiny selves expanded within the One.
There are no words
And yet, I cannot keep quiet,
Not when that deep quiet within me stirs to life.
It is there
Deep, deep within the forest
Deep, deep inside my soul,
Deep within the smiles and words of friendship
Deep in certain books or poems
It is there.
Some call it life force, or beauty.
Some call it prahna or pneuma or ruach.
Whatever it is, I find it undeniable.
It is, for me, the deepest reality, and best hope.
I think I’ll call it love.
[photo is my own]
There is an image,
An exchange I witnessed,
That has been percolating
In my memory for years.
You’ve probably seen it, too:
A young mother
With her infant bouncing on her lap.
They are enthralled with one another.
What flows between them,
Almost visible as their eyes connect,
Palpable in the air between them,
Is the exchange of life-giving love.
The infant is held by something
So much stronger than her hands.
The mother is upheld
With something just as strong.
Their gifts to one another
Are so tangible
Yet each is filled,
Full of a love that will not be contained.
A rush of life between them.
This is love incarnate.
Love enfleshed; love fulfilled.
This is how life is passed on.
Birth is just the beginning.
Perhaps this shows me why
The Christ came to us.
To look us in the eye
And give us life.
God breathed upon the clay.
Christ looked on us with love.
The Spirit, now within us,
Empowers life’s eternal flow.
It is like breath:
Receiving in; giving out.
Each delightful exchange
Brings life anew.