Wednesday, December 23, 2009
My attempt of keeping a meditative approach to Advent has been a bit distracted. Mary and Derek's tragedy has appropriately become my focus the last several days. No regrets. My heart and mind cannot be two places at once.
This morning I decided to try to recapture my expectation. I went to youtube and watched several Advent videos and listened to some music. I feel I am waiting for the dawn again. I'm not expecting anything magical. I'm just wanting to feel the presence of peace.
The next three days hold family gatherings of celebration. Part of my plan of Christmas meditation is to see deeply each person in my family. Who have they become? How do they reflect what Christ has been in my life? I wait with joyful anticipation of these times together. Just being with each other. Christ will be in the middle of everything, it is just so.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Last night laying in bed I started a new book by Robert Benson titled "That We May Perfectly Love Thee". In reading about preparing my heart for Eucharist I began to connect it to Advent. This Saturday night as a few of us gather together in the home of a friend to celebrate the 3rd week of Advent, I will come with an empty heart. Does that sound bad? It's not.
Only if I come to the table empty can I be filled. If through Advent I am still waiting for the mystery to come I must be empty. I want my heart to be filled by Christ. It may not be what I am expecting. It may not be what I think it should be. It may not fill the particular void I want filled. But, I give my empty heart to Christ to fill it any way he wishes.
You have to work at being empty. It's too easy to be "full". Full of knowledge, full of certainty, full of work, full of time, full of success, full of failure. All kinds of things rush in to fill our hearts. As I write this I picture my heart with a plug at the bottom like old-time bathtubs. I think I should pull this plug quite often and empty out what is there so Christ can fill it again.
Even as I write this I feel the anticipation rising for Saturday night. And I will consider what I receive filling every part of my heart. Then, next week, I can pull the plug again and come to the Advent table with the same anticipation and expectation.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I think for the first time in my life I get Advent. Being raised Protestant I actually knew nothing about it (probably not even that there was Advent) until mid-life. And then it was that there was this thing called Advent that Catholics did.
Several years ago I became more aware of it but I still didn't get it. Why would you not sing Christmas carols? Why would you act like Jesus hadn't come when he had?
But this season there is something stirring inside me. I don't know if it is a mental adjustment or a true spiritual awareness. I can feel the anticipation. In my depths I am longing for his coming. I don't mean the "2nd" coming. I mean a coming into my life, my world, my friends, my heart. It is hard to articulate. I have this expectation that he will be brand new to me. That for me he will be born again into my reality.
Wouldn't it be amazing if this happened every year at this time? How exciting that my knowledge and experience of him be new every year. What joy might come of this waiting? As I write this, right here, right now I find myself on the verge of tears. It is as though one I love has been away. It is as though I have received a letter from him that he will be returning in just 4 more weeks.
I can't wait!
The Advent reading for next Sunday is already at work in me:
"as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
My valleys are being filled, my mountains are being made low, the crooked is being made straight and the roughness is being smoothed.
I'm sorry but this is WAY COOL!
Blessings to you during this Advent season.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Here is something I can't seem to get past this morning:
Jeremiah 29:13 If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. NLT
What does this mean? How does this fit with those who are not "Christian" as we define it? How gracious is God? How wide and deep and high and long is God's love? Would God allow people to be deceived when they are earnest in their search?
I can't seem to let go of this. Once again I am at a place where I find myself arguing with myself. Once again I have lots of questions. I remember in the not too distant past when I had the answer to all these types of questions. It was certainly easier. The problem is that my heart seems bigger now that I have more questions than answers.
I have a feeling this question is not going to leave me alone.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
When I became aware of this event I knew I wanted the experience.
Living in Seattle has definitely exposed me more to the homeless and in visiting Fresno made me more aware of the obviously growing problem there.
At the day of caring I was at a station where we washed feet and gave them new socks. There were over 70 services available: Veterans Services, DSHS, eye exams and glasses, flu shots, checks to get a Washington State IDs, pregnancy tests, new shoes and more. We sat waiting and the doors opened. Men and women came pouring in. What was interesting was that they headed for one particular area. I had to know what drew them so. The big draw was sleeping bags and backpacks; their home furnishings and necessities.
It was obvious these men and women weren't quite sure what we were there to do so I walked out to the middle of the main aisle and began to invite them to have their feet washed and receive new socks. Here was my 2nd lesson of the day. It was very humbling and embarrassing for them to bare their feet to anyone.
After about 45 minutes they began to come and sit. Every person I served apologized for their feet as they removed their shoes and socks. It was hard for them to do. They can keep the visible part of themselves clean and somewhat groomed; but their feet are usually hidden and so are not a priority. I would just chuckle and tell them there are very few pretty feet out there.
The first man was Mark. He was pretty quiet. I asked him how long he had been homeless. He said just the last couple of years. He said he has always worked....until now. What was most remarkable about this man? About 2 hours later he came back looking for me. He told me thank you and that having his feet soaked, washed, massaged and clothed with new socks was the best part of his day at this event. It was hugely humbling to know you had been a part of that experience.
A 23 year old young man told me he was originally from Senegal. He first lived in Atlanta but heard Seattle was a good place to live. He told me how blessed he was. Then he leaned over and showed me his head. He had been beat with a baseball bat while living on the streets. He had a scar that started at his hairline and went to the crown of his head and then over to his ear. He went on to say how dangerous it is. Lifting his shirt he showed me scars where he had been stabbed several times. Again he said he was blessed. He shouldn't be alive. Picking up and opening his backpack he showed me several bottles of prescription medications. Because of his head injury he now has about 6 grand mal seizures a day.
Next came Mohammed. He was the first who seemed a bit hard. He was probably the most apologetic for the condition of his feet. But as I massaged his feet and calves with lotion he started to smile. He wanted to know why in the world I would do this. He has served several terms in prision.
Sydney was 53 years old. When I asked him about his homeless history he said it was Hurricane Katrina that started his journey. Being left with no home and no job he started journeying form one city to another to find his place. He had one felony that he confessed was committed during a 6 month stint of drinking himself out of control. He has now been dry for 2 years. He is hoping to start city college this month. I just let him talk for about 20 minutes. I realized these people have no one who will just sit and listen. While I was washing his feet he suddenly turned to check on his 2 new back packs. In realizing how his action must look he explained that on the street and in shelters you always have to guard your things. His has been stolen twice. He told me how to keep money safe and how to sleep with your backpacks safe.
One man considered himself an expert on carcinogens. He certainly had a vocabulary beyond mine. Warned me of things I shouldn't eat or natural foods to help fight the effects of those foods.
I heard a young man next to me say he was from Fresno. So I said I was also. I asked him why he moved here. He said he is married and has 6 kids. In Fresno, the best job he could get was at MacDonalds and he didn't make enough money to take care of his family. He had heard things were much better in Seattle so he moved his family here. He also said that nothing like this event and the services offered are available in Fresno.
The one woman I served was pregnant. This was not her first.
My day was a very humbling one. Seeing how exposed these men and women felt in baring their feet. Watching them relax and say "ahhhh" as they were able to just sit and soak their feet in warm water. Seeing these brothers and sisters as just that. They were kind, thankful, just trying to make their lives better in some way.
Another lesson in guarding myself from judgement. The homeless are not scary, evil, less than human. They are us.
This is true - it was a blessing to serve these people.
My challenge? Could it be possible to be part of organizing something like this in Fresno when we get there? Is that some idealist thought or could it be a reality?
Advice to others? If you want to give to those on the corners, at the intersections.....sleeping bags and backpacks.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
"Tauler found a barefoot ragamuffin in rags, wounded and caked in blood. Tauler greeted the man
cordially: 'Good morning, dear brother. May God give you a good day and grant you a happy life.'
'Sir,' replied the ragamuffin, 'I do not remember ever having had a bad day.'
Stunned, Tauler asked him how that was possible, since sadness and grief are part of the human condition.
The beggar explained, 'You wished me a good day, and I replied that I cannot recall ever having spent a bad day. You see, whether my stomach is full or I am famished with hunger, I praise God equally; when I am rebuffed and despised, I still thank God. My trust in God's providence and his plan for my life is absolute, so there is no such thing as a bad day.'
He continued, 'Sir, you also wished me a happy life. I must insist that I am always happy for it would be untruthful to state otherwise. My experience of God has taught me that whatever He does must of necessity be good. Thus, everything that I receive from his loving hand or whatever He permits me to receive from the hands of others - be it prosperity or adversity, sweet or bitter - I accept with joy and see it as a sign of his favor. For many, many years now, my first resolution each morning is to attach myself to nothing but the will of God alone. I have learned that the will of God is the love of God. And by the outpouring of His grace, I have so merged my will with His that whatever He wills, I will too. Therefore, I have always been happy.'"
This story humbles me. Is it really possible to live like this? If so, it is only through a contemplative, mindful way of life. Manning goes on to define "ruthless" trust: trust without self-pity; because self-pity is the arch- enemy of trust. He also admits that self-pity is a normal part of human experience but there is a way to handle it without it destroying trust.
How would my physical and emotional being change if I lived like this? How would those I encounter be changed if I lived like this? One word comes to mind when I try to describe life lived with ruthless trust - serenity.
My hope is that my desire for this is at least the beginning of living like this. It will be a moment by moment way of living. I will have to remind myself many times throughout the day. But, I think Christ would smile.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Manning relates being mindful with listening to the music all around us every moment. Everything we hear is music, even the silence. Or maybe I should say every noise is music because many times I don't hear it because I don't listen for it.
All of this is another way to say don't worry about tomorrow. Live in today. I become so focused on what WILL happen or who I WILL be instead of embracing what is happening NOW and who I am NOW.
(digression - now don't interpret what I am about to say as being stupid)
The past doesn't really matter. The future doesn't really matter. For all I know there may be no future for me. All the time I allow myself to worry either about the actual tomorrow or next year or 5 years is such a killer. No, I mean a killer. It kills my joy. It kills what is happening now. It kills the wonder of the moment. It kills the blessing of the now. It kills part of me. It kills the music.
We have decided to rent the house. The decision process of the last few days has been hard. One minute I'm so happy that we will be moving forward. The next I am so scared. No jobs. No income. No equity to cushion the decision. But I am trying to listen to the music of today. I can't be paralyzed by not knowing if the renters will be good renters; will something happen to the house because of the crazy wet weather up here (which is always a part of life in the Pacific Northwest); will we able to sell next year or the next?
The music today is playing a song with lyrics that say: take a walk, a slow walk with Ollie, rejoice that you will soon be moving, enjoy the food you have for today, sit by the window that looks into the trees and just be.
I'm going to work on this today. Just today. Tomorrow I'll listen for the music again.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Today's thoughts are a mixed bag.
First, last evening I was able to just hang out with old and new friends. What a great time. After a lonely 5 year journey it was good to have my belief in community reaffirmed. To any of you that may read this, I hope you felt loved and appreciated also.
Next...the continued reading of "Ruthless Trust". More musing for the next couple of days in contemplation:
(to my artist friends)
"And what of the human heart's capacity to understand God? Here we need the help of passionate visionaries such as Dostoevsky. Sacred scripture is too important to be left exclusively to biblical scholars. Theology is too vital to be consigned solely to the province of theologians. To explore the depths of the God who invites our trust, we need the artists and mystics. "
"I pray that I may be quit of God, that I may find God." Meister Eckhart
And just to remind myself....The Beyond in our midst
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I like to collect names for God besides the ones we so easily use. I have a good list going. Here is one I just added today:
THE BEYOND IN OUR MIDST
I've changed my reading list. I just can't read anymore right now that has to do with theology outside of how it can affect me. I don't know if anyone will understand this. I have returned to an author who has so many times before spoken to deep places in me...Brennan Manning. I have just started "Ruthless Trust". When I saw this book sitting on the bookshelf I thought, "This is what I need right now, in this moment".
Here are just a couple of things that I will contemplate for the next several days:
"If God stopped thinking of me, he would cease to exist." Angelus Silesius-15th century
"The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future." Manning
Friday, August 14, 2009
So I'm telling of my hope. Last Monday I felt I had kind of hit bottom. Too much doubt. Not knowing how to climb out of this funk. Spending way too much time and energy and spirit on why things aren't the way I want. But, not knowing how to climb out.
I hadn't really journalized for a while so I thought maybe something would be drawn out of me onto the pages that could assist me. You should see what happened. I took my black acrylic crayon and (almost using it all) made a complete black page. That was how I was feeling. Then I took an instrument and drew 3 very, very fine lines of the absence of black. Those represented the light I felt was in my life at the time. (ok I hate always making parenthetical comments but...I know my life is good, my physicality, but my spirit, my hope, my desires were pretty black). Then I just began to write. I must admit I wasn't very kind to God. It was more than a large page of unkindness. I just kept hoping God could take it. And somewhere in the back of my mind or the depth of my spirit I was hoping the Great Mystery wouldn't "smite me dead". Lots of tears but no real enlightenment.
But....(don't you just love that word sometimes) the next morning something had happened. No the house didn't sell. No I didn't win the lottery. It was just "something". The blackness, the void had somehow moved way toward the back. I love when God does this. Do I still fight? Yes. Do I still have moments of wishing for something different? Yes. But the overwhelming, all consuming, paralyzing blackness has dissipated. It's like one of those mornings on the Central California Coast when the fog is so thick and then little by little you can actually see the sphere of sun. It isn't bringing warmth yet. There are no shadows produced yet. But.....
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
But my biggest problem with prayer has been wondering if God even cares. Does what happens in my individual life really matter in the huge plan for the universe? There is a bigger plan than me. BUT....I can't live that way. I have to believe that I do matter to God; even the small decisions of my life. St. Julian helps me remember this. For me God MUST be concerned, involved, actively loving or God is cruel.
God would be cruel if he/she just made us and left us here to fend for ourselves. Life is truly beautiful and wonderful; but it also full of trauma, tragedy and pain. If God is not here for us then there is no Mysterious Lover.
As my head keeps filling with all this information about spirituality I MUST continue to rest in love and wisdom which is outside of myself. Otherwise.......
Friday, July 17, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
- those things that point to God
- those things that are searching, reaching for God
God is wisdom, beauty, happiness, fulfillment, peace, love....and everything we do is an insatiable longing for those things.
I encourage everyone to watch this film and watch with an awareness. It is hugely obvious and I believe I will be viewing the world through these eyes from this point on.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Now, in case anyone is worried about me...don't be. I really am ok. Just so frustrated at being on hold. Brad and I were at a grad party for him and other masters students Saturday night. Talking to people about what we are looking forward to was so energizing. It makes me laugh, smile, cry, all in the anticipation of the next phase. But then I come home and sit.
So, what am I doing to try to occupy the "neutral zone"? I am pushing in again to knowing God in different ways. My goal is to spend more time just with this mysterious one who totally perplexes me.
And, since this post is about honesty for me I feel a bit of guilt. No, not a bit; a lot. I feel bad that Brad goes to work everyday and my work is figuring out how to fill my day and have a good attitude about it. This needs major adjustment but that one I'm not sure how to do.
(and yes, that is the end of the post)
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I bought this at a library book store not really knowing what it would be like.
It has been one of those books that change your life. From this
author I have become aware of how much I have rejected being feminine. Women will relate to this: don't show emotion, it makes you look weak; not embracing the whole "girlfriend" thing. I don't know it's hard to put into words for me.
I wish I could have do overs - for my whole life. I wish I could raise my daughters all over (and my son but for different reasons).
Being feminine is such a mysterious thing. No wonder so many men don't "get" us. But it is the mysterious aspect that makes us so like God.
I have this great desire to lead retreats for women about being feminine; about truly loving who we are; about being spiritual.
I always take a while choosing a picture from flickr to use in each blog. It probably takes me more time to choose the picture than to write the blog. It has to speak to me. It has to be what I am trying to say. If you want a treat go to flickr and just search "women". It was so hard to choose. These women are gorgeous. I wanted to be Indian, I wanted to be Asian, I wanted to be African. I felt boring after looking at these photos.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I didn't get much sleep last night. Concern, no flat out worry, for someone I love. This morning, feeling like I can only waste the day not knowing what to do, I decided to read several emails from a source I subscribe to. I collect them in a file and then read several at a time and then save them for the future.
In one from last month I came across an instruction on meditation.
This passage is from Theresa of Avila:
"Let nothing upset you
Let nothing frighten you
Everything is changing
God alone is changeless"
Spirituality is not just thinking about God or trying to get closer to God. Spirituality is how you live your life. My whole life I have heard the question, "Why do bad things happen to us? I try to follow God. It doesn't seem fair or right." I am coming to understand (or at least try) that my spirituality has to do with how I live through those kinds of things. Do I fight against them? Do I get overcome by them? Do I try to smile and act like they don't impact me? The answer I want is that I just walk with them. I sorrow over the things that hurt me or the people I love. I see the pain in the things that just don't seem fair. But, I accept that this is life. Being spiritual is not escaping the everday-ness. It is immersing myself in it. Doesn't mean I don't pray for relief, answers, healing, blessing; but my spirituality is not founded in how that turns out. Can I walk with the Divine through all of this? Can I be on a journey with mystery and observe all that is around me and not give up; not wonder if the One has forsaken me or stopped loving me? This is hard. It was easier when my faith said, "just pray and everything will be better". There is no guarantee in that. My faith and spirituality is looking deeper inside me. Being ok with me. Knowing I am not alone. It is times like this when I need an experiential knowledge of the blending of God's transcendence and immanence. I can't live without both those images.
I will continue to meditate on this passage all day. I hope it goes so deep in me that when I lay my head down at night it oozes out.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
I stop reading this morning to attempt to answer this question. I truly believe the things I want are not a trying to get God’s approval or love. But what is it?
I want to be a person who people are drawn to. Oh, it’s not a popularity thing. I want to be a place; a place where others find themselves. A place that provides freedom to discover and enjoy who they are.
A couple of years ago my spiritual director gave me a piece called “Hollowing”. This was in response to my struggle of describing how I was feeling. I told her I felt empty; not in the sense of hopelessness, but something intentional. Here is a portion of that piece:
Some of you I will hollow out.
I will make you a cave.
I will carve you so deep the stars will shine in your darkness.
You will be a bowl.
You will be the cup in the rock collecting rain.
I will hollow you with knives.
I will not do this to make you clean.
I will not do this to make you pure.
You are clean already.
You are pure already.
I will do this because the world needs the hollowness of you.
I will do this for the space that you will be.
I will do this because you must be large.
People will find their way through you.
People will eat from you and their hunger will not weaken them unto death.
To catch the sacred rain.
At the moment of reading this I knew that is what I wanted to be. I knew this had been written for me.
This morning I asked myself once more what I wanted and why. Why? For some reason I must make sure inside that I am not wanting this for my own fulfillment although I would be so pleased to be this.
This begs the next question….what if no one wants this? What if the thing that I believe is one of my own deepest desires; the desire for community, isn’t desired by another? What if this yearning is mine alone? Community just seems so important to me right now. This is not some kind of possessive dependence on another but a healthy interdependence. It could be what becomes our saving grace for the future.
So, do I have an answer to my own question? No, but faith says The Holy One has put this desire in me and I now walk in it.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I have loved getting connected via FB. It has brought many, many people back into my life. There is something restorative about renewing these relationships (cyber though they be). As a reflection of what I have been reading this morning, this is where I have come. Woundedness, given and received, seems to come from the child within us. Our "little-oneness" is easily hurt and that same one can easily hurt, sometimes in an effort to self-protect. In reconnecting with people from my past it is as though I (and I think some of them by their own admission) have been able to recognize the child that was. I can now dismiss the past as acts of a child.
Now, the truth is, I will always have that "little-oneness" as a part of me. My hope is I can recognize it quicker and give it a good talking to before it acts. But, it won't always work. It is part of me and I think part of you.
Somewhere inside me these songs of forgiveness and/or re-established love come bubbling up. I love it. I feel fresh. I feel clean. I feel renewed.
What do you think? Am I way off here? Is this just me (which I'm ok with)?
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I've done so many things wrong (something inside me wants to scream, "but I've done so many things right!" -pretend I didn't say that).
We are all the same. We try to live the best lives we can. We strive to know who this God is and what she wants and how we can be. We are all the same.
That is the base of our love for one another. Not pointing out how we are different, not pointing out how we are trying differently. But, that we are trying.
Loving one another is like a magnet that pulls us together. Hmmm, interesting that it is opposite poles of the magnet that does the pulling. We must encourage each person we know to continue their reaching for God. It may look different to us. It may even make us uncomfortable. But if they are reaching for this One, love says, "Keep going". Words of critisim and judgement toward a person is like screaming at them, "You'll never get there!"
How about instead we help create a wide space for our friends to explore and discover. Oh, I know some who read this will immediately say I'm allowing for people to believe anything. No, I'm not allowing anything. I'm trying to say there has been too much pain and seperation caused by saying, "you're wrong, you can't do that".
Love does not repel. Love pulls in. Love attracks. Love draws close.
(Sometimes I get so frustrated with my inability to articulate what is in my heart. I end this because all I have right now are tears)
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
One of the most impacting readings I have done from the Rules of St. Benedict is about the porter. He is the one who opens the door to anyone who comes to the monastery. He is to either say, "Thanks be to God" or "Your blessing, please" to each person who enters. There is never to be an inconvenient time to visit the monastery. This has shaped so much of my reflection for many months.
A week or so ago I began reading The Wounded Healer by Nouwen. The theme has come face to face with me again. Let me quote:
"Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. ....Like the Semetic nomads we live in a desert with many lonely travelers, who are looking for a moment of peace, for a fresh drink and for a sign of encouragement so that they can continue their mysterious search for freedom." Oh God. This is not just so many people out there. This is me.
"God make me be what I wish I were, what I hope to be" This is what I hope to be. I think more than anything else. This is loving my neighbor as myself. I find myself out of words.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
We say, "God is this, therefore God cannot be that".
"God is not that, therefore God must be this". What if:
God is this,
God cannot be described. God refuses to be limited. My image of God will never be complete.
Sweet, frightening mystery.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This is where I am feeling my biggest challenge. I want to be like this but I have this deep realization that I can't. Ok, I can, but how?
"One simple but effective way to develop compassion is to intend it each day - to think of it and reflect on its nature as part of you, part of all of us. Our compassion is a fruit of our spiritual lives; it actually arises spontaneously when formed by intention in our spiritual practice. Love and compassion are always the goods of the spiritual journey, and they are guided by divine wisdom, which then shapes compassion in the concrete situations of our existence. Compassion, love, mercy, and kindness are the attributes of our true and common nature when we become freed from social conditioning and the indifference that often accompanies ignorance. The mystical life awakens knowledge of our genunine nature; it is a path to who we really are." (this last line is what frightens me...what is my genunine nature?)