Daily Grace

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“ ~ live and respond to grace in the here and now. … Listen closely. … Don’t cultivate someone else’s garden. Grow where you are planted.~” St. Francis de Sales

My inner longing to dive deeper into the mystery of be-ing draws me exponentially deeper toward the essence of be-ing. In the ebb and flow of this labyrinthine experience of living and longing, I begin to understand the mysterious, spiraling interface of my inner and outer lives. I see that I contain myself and empty myself to enter more fully into this mystery.

While I know in my heart that this is the way to inner peace, I still struggle to accept that I can grow in grace by simply be-ing present. My religious upbringing has steeped me well in notions of elaborate rituals and acts of penance as the vehicles for finding grace. Implicit in these things I am required ‘to do’ is the underlying idea that, ‘as I am’, is not enough. Thus, I hold a sense that I must work hard to achieve grace and I disdain and regret my flaws and weaknesses.

Can I just ‘be’? Can I come ‘as I am’? Can I open myself ever wider and fall ever deeper into the Source of all that is? Can I trust that presence? Can I let go more completely? Can I allow for the possibilities?

My heartful , seeker’s response is: YES

Annie Dillard wisely observed, “how we spend our days, is in fact, how we spend our lives”. At times, this pains me. Mostly, at times when I am engaged in what poet Adrienne Rich refers to as, “the kind of woman’s work that is only done to be undone”. Lately, when I catch myself slipping into a martyr’s approach to ‘enduring’ these tasks that ‘must be done’, I pause, and bring my attention to the moment where I am. In that pause, I reflect on the Buddhist notion that most of life is, ‘chopping wood and carrying water’. Then, I am better able to authentically give myself to my tasks and to see more clearly the connection between how I enter my tasks and how I enter my life. Somehow, the sacredness of my life resides deep within my attention and presence in my daily work and effort ~ tending the garden in me and around me.

There is a sacred moment that I appreciate daily. It is a place where I see the sacred through my spouse as he enters a daily task for him, and a daily gift for me – creating a morning latte. Each morning my husband rises first and makes a latte for me that is unpretentiously delivered to my bedside table. This small and beautiful daily gift is a sacred moment for me. Within this gesture from my beloved, I see the mystery and compassion of Love. I see that I am a recipient of this Love despite my flaws and faults. By some grace of Godde, my beloved has an ability to know me in both shadow and light and love me still.

Best of all, this love humbly reveals itself as it unconditionally illuminates the smallest of tasks. As I commune with this small, daily moment, I linger in the fullness of its meaning and grace; I dwell in a prayer like return to gratitude. Knowing in my heart, that the essence of this mystery expands within me through my daily tasks, my life – .

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Hold On

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As I move closer to summer’s close and autumn’s arrival, I encounter the bittersweet feelings that permeate transitions in me. My desire for belonging and my longing for the comfort of the familiar stir a kind of restlessness in me. Sure, I know that summer moves into fall and I have lived it (thanks be to God) many times. Yet, I also know that what lies ahead is unknown. I can of course buoy myself with the proof that I’ve transitioned before, and still, I must authentically enter each new transition as what it is – new and unknown – unlike what has come before by its very uniqueness.

And so, I open to receive the unknown gifts and edges of what lies ahead in my life and I hold on to the notion that I am sustained inwardly as I do. I hold on to the infilling source – Love – as my touchstone and my hope. Another way of saying this is that I have faith and hope that in my brokenness, the sacrament of Love will make me whole as it connects me to the infinite source. Rumi speaks of ‘broken open lowliness’ I look inside at the humility. That broken-open lowliness is the Reality.

The truth is that I am human, I am flawed and in both I am most deeply connected to others and our mutual existence. And so, as I live forward into the unknown, I choose Love as my path. I hold on that I may allow Love to act in me, with me and through me every day more fully. This becomes a trust and a sense of patience that things undoubtedly will unfold in ways I was not counting on and still, all will be well and I am sustained as I hold on.

The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. Bell Hooks

It Felt Love

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How did the rose

Ever open her heart 


And give to this world 


All her beauty? 


She felt the encouragement

of light against her being, 
Otherwise, 


We all remain Too 
Frightened.

Hafiz

As a Two on the Enneagram, this reflection speaks to my heart as I endeavor to grow in self-acceptance and compassion, and learn to value my own needs. This allows me to give and build authentic, strong relationships from who I am, and not from what I do – a more real loving presence. It becomes far easier to help others from a deeper place of humility and altruism.

My theology and spiritual practice nurture and support the growth of my own agency, sense of providence and connection to community. I am more aware, more open and more present; I experience joy in others’ wellbeing and happiness as separate from my giving. I open myself to carefully sympathize so that I not get caught up in emotional whirlwinds. I open to receive from others with grace and love knowing that this nurtures them as well as me.

I now learn to love myself separate from what I give to others. I adhere to a loving-kindness practice that focuses equally on myself as to others and, I realize that love is found within myself that facilitates love for others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.O.V.E.

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Let others’ vulnerability emerge

This is my personal reminder as a Spiritual Director and Chaplain about my purpose, my call to ministry as such. It is a touchstone for remembering who and what I am. It also reminds me that to offer implicit and explicit presence, I must be prepared to give up protective habits to expand my capacity to see and hear Spirit in others. I live service of the Divine by opening toward, and drawing lessons from, all that I see, hear, or experience. On occasion, I add an S making it, let others’ vulnerability emerge safely.

At its heart, this work is all about surrendering the small self and connecting to the Divine in everything and everyone. To fortify spiritual resolve and find inspiration in my work I must humbly seek to be grounded in ‘not knowing’. In the end, Spirit often works through me at those moments when I am able to just be and let go of any notion that I am doing something.

I recently offered Reiki to a patient who was actively dying. I had visited him for several months on a weekly basis. I was blessed to be present to his thoughts, his belief, his unbelief as he moved closer to dying. There was great beauty in his vulnerability and much grace in his softening as he died. And there was that moment in being with him and offering him Reiki, where I sensed his spirit’s presence to my own in a divine energy exchange. I experience this as a dance of life that is never more fully present then when life is ending. I honor his journey as incomparable to the journey of the other, and I am blessed to appreciate that the path towards the original source of light extends through every other ray that comes from it.

“She who binds to herself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But she who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

William Blake

 

CONSOLATION

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If you look up the word consolation in the dictionary you will come across a definition that most likely reads something like what follows here. Consolation -comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment; a person or thing providing comfort to a person who has suffered. Suggested synonyms are: solace, sympathy, compassion, commiseration, empathy; relief, help, support, moral support, encouragement, reassurance. Hmmm, that just about covers the myriad ways I feel as I search for Easter in me and enter Eastertide – one of my favorite times of the year.

I love that Easter – like Christmas – is a time and place in the Christ story where the presence, life, witness and wholehearted openness of the women disciples is central to what transpires. They are not the only places in the gospels where women are vital but they are the only places where the centrality of the feminine spiritual thread is undeniable, inarguable and inherent to the truth of what unfolds.

It is easy to be with all of the Mary’s at the tomb as they pour themselves out in grief weeping the kind of tears that exhaust and deplete one. And, it is glorious to imagine how it was for Mary when she hears him, recognizes him and turns from within, surrendering herself to the awesome truth and weeping anew. This crying is like spring rain – it replenishes and refills all that is. This weeping is as the birthing waters of her soul as she enters through faith and unknowing into a unitive experience of G*d. It is precisely her desolation and bereft heart that readies her for her consolation and the healing balm and wholeness that are alive in the sacrament of Love. ‘Resurrected life is transcendent life, breaking through our partial selves into a new wholeness of belonging.’ Ilia Delio

Mary’s turning from within to see and to know that Love is stronger than death is what makes her the Apostle to the Apostles. “Mary Magdalene, may we be anointed with the gift of spiritual love that is wine and fragrance, and may the name of the Savior spoken with love be a spreading perfume which draws us to the royal banquet, for the nourishment, healing, and liberation of all humanity.” 

It is so lovely, and so natural that she would be the one to illuminate this spiritual knowing that leads to nurturing the love of God within us and among us. She surrendered her broken heart allowing it to burst – and burst it did – wide open. She enters the flow of power with by giving away, by sharing, by letting go, encountering an infinity of trust and mutuality found in the love of God, the peace of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“It’s risky,” said experience.

“It’s pointless,” said reason.


“Give it a try,” said the heart.

 

Desolation

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Holy Saturday is a time of vigil, a time of waiting and a time of deep mourning. In my heart, I accompany the women at the foot of the cross, and Mary Magdalene and he others bereft at the grave. Bereft and desolate, unable to leave the place where Yeshua is laid, unable to let go of the absence of his presence. This human anguish, grief and mystery of unknowing are at the heart of embodied spirituality as we live into the unbearable loss of what was. It is physical encounter with the truly dark and desolate side of being fully alive. In this place between knowing and not knowing, belief and unbelief our souls are tilled for divine renewal.

“And yet, when the holy affirming of redemptive love meets the holy denying of human hatred and fear in the reconciling ground of Jesus’ surrendered heart—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)— there is, indeed a new arising. It begins right there at the foot of the cross, heralded by a new quality of presence already caught by the centurion in his hushed exclamation, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). In the moment of Jesus’ death, the innermost essence of divine love was released into the planet as a palpable force that continues to make its energetic presence directly known. That is the imaginal resurrection, the real and ongoing source of Christianity’s redemptive power.” Bourgeault

It is in this place that we begin to see the meaning of life and see anew that it is in giving life away that we receive it. “The grain of wheat falls to the ground and dying lives onward. “ So the women who wait at the grave feed and nourish my life with their real, incarnate lives of presence, generosity, forgiveness, strength, courage, guidance, and love. Their loving example challenges me and holds me accountable. Likewise, they encourage me by showing me more than what I could see for myself. They call out of me the very best of who I might become. They point me to beauty, both within myself and in others. They enlarge my spiritual life. They are the faithful witnesses of the dark and desolate unknown where the seeds of renewal are sown.

And so I wait in my inner desolate place and ponder how I might – metaphorically speaking -lay down my life. “This laying down might in special circumstances mean dying for others. But it means first of all making our own lives – our sorrows and joys, our despair and hope, our loneliness and experience of intimacy – available to others as sources of new life. One of the greatest gifts we can give others is ourselves. Do not be afraid, I know what you are living and I am living it with you. You are not alone. Thus we become Christ-like shepherds.” Nouwen

Mary Magdalene my wise, loyal and faithful guide, lead me to ever stronger growth
, inner freedom and Love.
 Help me renew my life’s purpose
 of be-ing faithful.
 Accept my openness and my
 trust. Lead me on paths
 that help me grow in heartfulness.
 Companion me in being an incarnation of love. May I do all in the circle of your wisdom 
and learn from your dance of loving presence and compassion
 in every corner of this universe. May I alight today with warmth and possibility. Thank you for being with me in this desolate place.

 

Infinite, Immanent, Intimate

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The G*d of my understanding is a relational G*d which means that all of my relationships in my studies and work in the world are revelatory. In others I encounter the infinite, immanent and intimate presence of the Divine.

I begin with immanence in relationship that to me suggests the omnipresence of divinity reflected in all of creation, and a hospice patient ill with MS teaches me this. He is a divine illumination for me as he regularly takes ‘risks to become’ – in small – yet immense ways -his fully human self as he slowly dies. His willingness to speak increasingly of his diminishment with me and to share his feelings is a sacred trust that I heart-fully honor. Watching the patience with which he accepts this illness that claims him from within is beautifully juxtaposed with the outward expression of his soulful sense of Love in him, through him and with him. I see so clearly how powerless I am to do other than companion him. I understand that seeing him as he is makes all the difference. I hold carefully and attentively the preciousness of presence in our encounters. I give witness to his suffering which becomes implicit to transcending suffering – for him this is the belief that Love is stronger than Death held where he is in this space between his belief and his unbelief.

Intimacy in relationship suggests to me the spirit of G*d in the moments of my life – a sense of the liminal – this is my grandson.  He and I are able to share our Monday’s together and I experience him emotionally and kinesthetically as – Sacrementum Mundi – G*d’s grace as the action of G*d’s self-communication. Our time together in taking walks, eating, or holding each other in an embrace feel like the embodiment of the transforming grace of G*d. I know without being told that I am as near to touching the divine mystery as I may come. We hold each other as the fruit of divine promise – in which G*d’s vision for creation is restored. This relationship opens my ability to ‘think with my heart’.

In all of the relationships I experience, I expand my awareness of Divine Presence and Grace in others. I perceive that my ability to give and receive in reciprocal relationships of human and divine love reflect a capacity for constant revelation and transformation. And it is in this that I see dimly the infinite nature of Divine Love as the source of insight and knowing in my relationships extending to me a deep and meaningful mirroring or ‘ seeing’ through encounters with others.

For now I see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  Corinthians 13:12