The Heart of the Empty Tomb

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The heart of the empty tomb is an open circle; entered and exited by him transforming it into a living, moving, spiraling circle. A spiraling circle whose movement is guided forth in, through, and with Love. This sacred process is the ‘revolutionary truth’ of the empty tomb; this divine spiral is ‘a turning around’, ‘a turning from’, ‘a turning toward ‘and ‘a turning on’ – a revolutionary truth revolving in creation through the savior who loves life.

And so this truth – this restoration of creation through incarnation – becomes the fullness of the creator’s intentional closeness to all creation. At the heart of the empty tomb is Love – the eternal heart of the Creator the unending gift of Christ.

The same Love present in my be-ing’s innermost True Self yearning to flow forth. As I accept that life is lived at its fullest and most compassionate, giving itself for the sake of others, I offer my authentic presence to the spiraling circle of the whole (unitive)human story. “This gift, this mercy has been lavished upon us as a result of God in this world and in the world to come.” Thomas Merton

May I learn to know more closely in my heart my divine purpose in life and live this Eastertide more deeply united to love’s authentic presence.

“The great fifty days of Pentecost are an invitation to explore more deeply “the weather of the heart,” to awaken our memory of G*d’s presence and power in our lives, to look more closely at all the rich and varied textures of creation.” Nathan Mitchell

 

The Intimacy of a Death

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I recently trained to serve as a hospice volunteer. I felt drawn to the idea that nobody should be alone in life’s demise and even more there is something profoundly spiritual in death that beckons witnessing. And so it is that I experienced the death of my first hospice patient recently. Nothing could prepare my heart for all that would touch it, speak to it, move it and expand it.

My time with my hospice patient lasted about ten weeks. She was quite old and had been in care for years. She shared a room with three other people. From the moment I met her, took in her circumstance and began my companioning of her, my heart recognized her resilient spirit. Her diminishments – mental capacity and hearing – made typical paths of communication challenging and midway through our time together she declined further rendering our only way to communicate to touch.

In that moment, she became my teacher. I entered into be-ing with her in ways that we are mostly oblivious of in life. I would take her hand, massage cream into it and speak with her about how I imagined her life through her beautiful hands. I would also smooth cream on her face and soothe her brow. When she tried to speak, I would reassure her and calm her with touch letting her know I was right there with her. She shared her anxiety with her eyes so I would gaze into her eyes and hold her there. Nothing could prepare my heart for this intimacy between two women who had been strangers in all ways but our hearts.

Touch became our companioning vehicle in the sacred space of death’s vigil, the unspoken language of touch that she helped me learn was love at work between us, through us and among us. This was truly self-emptying love and its intensity expands the waiting heart in ways that escape words.

The first shall be last… thee who want to lead must serve…” Now I see how she who was last in this world, became first and I learned how to lead by serving – by be-ing present and open to the encounter. In her strained moments as she faded, I soothed her brow, spoke soft words of encouragement and mirrored mutual spirit – hers and mine. Love’s powerful presence offered safety and dignity as together we ‘bore the eternal mystery’.  And G*d grew with us, in us and through us. Somehow, I believe that the intimacy of presence made it possible for her to let go, to change – to re-mem-ber. As I left her and kissed her goodbye I said: “Remember that you are love and now you are returning to love.”

The world sees hospice as demanding, depleting work. But I know that the intimacy of connection that she allowed me expanded my heart’s capacity for compassion and unity. I know that her gifts to me outweigh my humble gifts of time visiting her.

 

The Mystery and Mercy of Love

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In stillness nailed. To hold all time, all change, all circumstance in and to Love’s embrace Anonymous Anglican Nun

Good Friday is the day I learn again that my truest self is connected to all selves in, with and through love. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all the worst brokenness of this moment and heart to heart with all the best of humanity – wholeness. It all depends on which spirit I feed … which spirit I choose to live into…. And so it is that I am with him, through, in and with the other always. Today I am invited to re-mem-ber this truth. To hold love’s post to verily ‘be with Yeshua’. I am humbled by the mystery and mercy of love in me, through me and with me.

Imagine a circle traced on the ground, and in its center a tree sprouting with a shoot grafted into its side. The tree finds its nourishment in the soil within the expanse of the circle, but uprooted from the soil it would be fruitless. So think of the soul as a tree made for love and living only by love. The circle in which this tree’s root, the soul’s love, must grow is true knowledge of herself, knowledge that is joined to me, who like the circle have neither beginning nor end. You can go round and round within this circle, finding neither end nor beginning, yet never leaving the circle. So the tree of charity is nurtured in humility and branches out in true discernment. To me this tree yields the fragrance of glory and praise to my name, and so it does what I created it for and comes at last to its goal, to me, everlasting life. —St. Catherine of Siena

In the silence of my heart I give thanks for the gift of this day and pray for the life of the world…

You of the ages to whom the hours are nothing and everything: grant that I may know every moment as a sacred guest to be welcomed, to be savored, to be sent with a blessing. Show me the way of love. Teach me to remember the other. And reassure me that it is when I give myself away in love that I truly find myself. Show me the way of love, my source, my returning, my real home. Bless the path I journey on – lead me ever onward.

Place me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal on your arm. Strong as Death is love; intense as Sheol is its ardor. Its shafts are shafts of fire, flames of Yaweh. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away.                                                           Song of Solomon 8:6-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Community of Women

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Holy week is a time when I return to my deep desire to honor the women disciples; a humble group of women who donated their time, service, compassion and means to a way of be-ing that took root in their hearts and minds. Most people don’t really think of this community of women as a significant piece of the Easter story. Like so many women, they gave what they had and accepted community in return for it and held it in their hearts and hands where it lingers as a blessing for all of us, still.

I want to acknowledge a lasting emblem of one such woman’s love and spirit in my local community – a needlework shop owner who initiated a knitter’s circle after receiving a prayer shawl. The comfort, joy and love the shawl brought to her inspired her to lend her own talents to co-creating prayer shawls with others in her community. And so she drew others to work with her in starting a prayer shawl ministry and when she became ill, they began knitting at her home. They became witnesses of her awesome dignity in facing her illness. And when she succumbed – resting under her prayer shawl – the women in her small circle were inspired to continue gathering and knitting in honor of all they had shared through and with her.

In listening to the knitters in this group it is abundantly clear that these knitting fingers are deftly sowing powerful seeds of love. Seeds nurtured from the inspiration of their founder’s spirit, and grown by sharing in each other’s joys, trials, tribulations, celebrations and losses. Each stitch is woven through with the laughter and tears of these steadfast companions. They bonded together co-creating a spiritual fabric that has spread its threads as seed in their community, and far beyond. Their hands have worked together to untie the spirit of the strong woman and to make light work of creating spiritual shawls that others might wrap around themselves to mind them on their way. These women’s hands hold love as a heartbeat of living spirit and caring community.

This women’s prayer circle plants itself in a needy world. This spirit so alive in this community of women was also present on the road to Calvary when Veronica compassionately offered a suffering stranger water and wiped his face. This circle harkens back to a circle of women disciples who stood firmly at the foot of a cross, banded together in love, through love and with love – the heartbeat of its presence.

Let us give thanks to G*d for the gift of all of these women – for hands – here and there- made in the image of G*d who formed them as the heart’s instruments. May they open all of our minds and hearts with gratitude for their presence then and now…. and encourage us to use our hands and hearts to serve and bless the world.

 

 

Fasting

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I recently listened to several committed and regular church attenders discussing what a drain fasting in Lent is and comparing what they were ‘giving up’ this lent. The sacrificed items seemed to be mostly food or alcohol. Nobody mentioned giving up any forms of behavior that might be problematic or ways of being that might derail their deepest spiritual aims. As I listened to my companions, I inwardly wondered if en lieu of these mundane sacrifices we should be reflecting on giving up those things in our lives that impede us from making the world a better place through our presence. I pondered how much movement in our closeness to G*d or others we achieve by giving up cheese or chocolate.

Now, let me say that I am sure – or rather have no desire to dismiss –that the self-denial of my acquaintances does in some fashion help them focus on the meaning of Lent. Fasting is indeed a spiritual exercise. Lent as it is observed is the desert time of self-denial. For Yeshua, after whom we model our Lenten fasting, desert time and fasting pertained to restraining his human internal need for survival (material security), need for esteem (be recognized/adored) and power (be worshiped). He fasts through restraining his potential and encounters a deeper – divine – impulse to love. This potential for self-emptying love seems to be nurtured by an authentic fasting from ‘worldly distractions’. And, the result seems to be a deeper connection to the source of all being that profoundly sustains.

I imagine that each of us has a unique internal desert to attend to and unique seeds that yearn to be lovingly sown. Perhaps fasting from the ‘ego self-image’ and its relationship to reality as scarcity could create space to learn to see and love grace in oneself, and then start to see it better in others and all creation: reality as abundance.

The deeper I move – the more I see how little I understand – the humbler my expectations – the simpler my way of being. The world around me is full of distractions and attractions and the desire to belong can entice. Fasting from the world’s reality becomes a means to awaken to a deeper internal reality that is richly abundant.

Athena, Liam, Reiki and me

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For nearly four years I have been caring for my grandson’s dog – a German shepherd named Athena. I took her in when having her became untenable for his family. I took her in out of care and concern but mostly out of love for my grandson and a heart desire to sustain and grow his relationship with his dog. Over the time she has been with me, he regularly visits her and plays with her.

Athena is dying. She is twelve and half years old and along with just being a geriatric large dog, she has breast cancer. We hope that the geriatric piece determines her life’s end before cancer does. We are all grappling with this but most especially, Liam.

The other day, Liam spent a day of his school vacation with me and opted to give Athena a Reiki treatment with me. I became trained in Reiki a year ago and have taken to giving Athena a treatment now and again to comfort her.

Liam and I kneeled before Athena and together recited the Reiki prayer: Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings
Just for today I will not worry
Just for today I will not be angry
Just for today I will do my work honestly
Just for today I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing. Then we used my moonstone dowser to assess Athena. Liam was fascinated by the revelations of the dowser. Next, we started at her head and together we rested our hands upon her, slowly travelling her body. As we approached her lump I could see Liam did not want to touch it so I silently placed my hands around it. Athena was still and rested as we worked. The image of Liam’s hands together with mine on Athena is beyond words and one I will treasure for a long time. After we swept Athena with our hands passing over her from head to tail, we dowsed again and Liam was delighted to see that our loving touch had helped her in some small way.

Liam went on to ask me if I could do Reiki on him … and so I did. Again, he was fascinated and intrigued by it all as he was reiked too. The image of my own hands over my grandson is another image and memory I treasure. It carries within it my own appreciation of what is at work with me, in me and through me – and Liam and Athena.

Finally, Liam seeking to know even more joined me in listening to the Reiki prayer recited in Japanese online. We listened to it a few times sitting closely together in my chair and a half. This is as close to a cuddle as it gets with a nine year old.

I don’t know how much longer Athena will be with us. I don’t know how our time together on that February afternoon deepens Liam’s spirit but I do know that it does. I know that just for that time together we lived the mystery of life sacramentally and that we were not alone in that. I know that Liam and Athena were my teachers as I opened myself more fully to both of them. And I know that when Athena passes Liam will hold the memory of his kinesthetic spiritual encounter in his heart. I know that all of this will buoy him as he suffers through losing her. And I suspect that this will lead Liam forward when he is ready to explore the mystery of life more deeply.

Attend

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Attend is the fourth, final gesture in the body prayer of Julian of Norwich. You move your hands from your heart outward, away from your person in a reaching posture. You stand with your hands outstretched, ready to be responsive. In this closing gesture you wordlessly, kinesthetically, attend to what you are called to – ‘actions that G*d invites you to from this stance of openness’. It is in this posture that you welcome and experience your body’s deeper openness. In this gesture you also sense Presence in a way that is less mediated by your mind. As a daily practice, the physical habit of praying this way moves you out of the mind as your primary conscious filter and you reconnect with your being’s inherent oneness with G*d in all things.

As you end your body prayer you enter your day ready to attend and live life as you experience it in your prayer. Sometimes, it is difficult and challenging, sometimes it is easy and pleasant. Sometimes it is just what you want to do and other times it is not what you want to do. Somehow, the habit of this prayer sustains you and allows you to feel inwardly one with G*d even when the worldly events around you do not. Eventually, over time, you encounter this connection in and through your daily tasks in “habitual recollection,” what Saint Paul calls “prayer without ceasing.”

Julian of Norwich sees this process as a ‘Divine Paradox’. The willingness to dwell in seeking and waiting, leads to a faithful trust. Not a trust in the coming of a resolution to the paradox, but a trust that G*d is present within it. She calls this the ‘Beatific Vision; seek intentionally; wait steadfastly; trust mightily.’

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” -Romans 8