Daily Grace

Standard

“ ~ 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 – .

The Purpose Of My Prayer

Standard
We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of the Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of G*d’s compassionate love for others. Clare of Assisi
In my work as a chaplain and spiritual companion, I often gather myself in a small prayer as I prepare to visit with someone. At these times, my prayer is typically the same, I pray for the eyes with which to see who is before me, the ears with which to listen to who is speaking to me, and the openness of heart to offer my full and loving presence to her/him in our moment together. In a way, my prayer is often a heartfelt request for ‘right presence’ in be-ing with another. Clare of Assisi lived this way and engaged with St. Francis, the women who joined her, and the world of her day in this way. Following her heart’s prayer, she founded the first order of women who lived by their own rule – the Franciscan rule. And, in that way Clare quietly, steadfastly and strongly followed Love and through Love breathed witness and presence into the Franciscan ideal, infusing it with a life and vitality that is integral to its animus, even today. Her purpose and her prayer united her in her life story – her life became a gospel narrative.
In chaplaincy, we speak of human beings as books we are to read– as our curriculum; each person we encounter holds a piece – their unique piece – of a larger spiritual landscape. There is a reverence in this – a sacred quality to meeting others in this way- that generates holiness as moments become sacraments, and our encounters become sacramental.
So, the purpose of my prayer is to open my heart and soul to the work of the Spirit and allow Spirit to lead me from my knees or my contemplative pillow, into the world where I attend to others. My prayer becomes my life as I recognize more deeply what I truly need from prayer en lieu of bringing what I truly want to prayer. In essence, I surrender my ego and open myself to a vast landscape of authentic belonging.
As I begin each day, I light a candle offering my gratitude and the gifts of the day to the Spirit of Infinity, Immanence, and Intimacy – the love that creates, liberates and makes whole. It is my heart’s deepest desire that these are made real through the communion and mutuality offered and received in my experience with others. May the fullness of life in me here and now draw me forward to live anew and offer this divine presence each day ~ May it be so!

 

The Beauty Of Sacred Dancers

Standard

Last weekend, my husband and I attended a sacred dance gathering with a small group of people and a celebrated Celtic teacher of sacred dance. I have had the opportunity through my spiritual direction training to practice sacred dance in different sized groups.  For my husband, this was a first experience. If I am honest, it was challenging for me to surrender to the movement of the dance when I first tried it. Now, I am able to freely give myself to the rhythm of the dance and connect with the kinship present in moving in this sacred way with others.

For my husband, this first experience was most positive and his reluctance melted away with each new dance. I am greatly admiring of his willingness to risk as a participant in the gathering. There were, of course, a handful of other men participating too. Nonetheless, my husband opened himself in a new way and it was lovely to behold.

As we reflected on our mutual experience, we recognized an almost primordial sense of kinship present in the dance that was at once healing and energizing. It was a real gift to engage in what felt like a celebration of belonging. And now, we are not just husband and wife – we are two dancers –  and as we dance we become the beauty of the sacred dance

What follows is a wonderful reflection on the ever present  invitation to enter life as a sacred dancer – to join the sacred dance.

Prelude to The Dance   by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

What if it truly doesn’t matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?
 How would this change what you choose to do with your life?
What if you could be more present and openhearted with each person you met if you were working as a cashier in a corner store, or as a parking lot attendant, than you could if you were doing a job you think is more important?
How would this change how you spend your precious time on this earth?
What if your contribution to the world and the fulfillment of your own happiness is not dependent upon discovering a better method of prayer or technique of meditation, not dependent upon reading the right book or attending the right seminar, but upon really seeing and deeply appreciating yourself and the world as they are right now?
How would this affect your search for spiritual development?
What if there is no need to change, no need to try to transform yourself into someone who is more compassionate, more present, more loving or wise?
How would this affect all the places in your life where you are endlessly trying to be better?
What if the task is simply to unfold, to become who you already are in your essential nature — gentle, compassionate, and capable of living fully and passionately present?
How would this affect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?
What if who you essentially are right now is all that you are ever going to be?
How would this affect how you feel about your future?
What if the essence of who you are and always have been is enough?
How would this affect how you see and feel about your past?
What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?
How would this change what you think you have to learn?
What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?
How would this shape the choices you make about how to spend today?
What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply pay attention and wait?
How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to follow this impulse, to just let go and dance?

 

 

 

 

 

Bless To Me My Belief And My Unbelief

Standard

There is a Celtic custom of prayer that acknowledges the embodied, primordial spiritual hunger that informs humanity. It provides that incarnational spirit that gives birth to divine light through the uniqueness of our be-ing.   And at the same time, it holds the full sense of the mystery of be-ing. It is a paradox.

Oh Blessed Creator who created my soul and its warp and my body. Oh You who gave me breath. Bless to me, My soul and my body; 
Bless to me, My life and my condition; 
Bless to me,
My heart and my speech, 
And bless to me, 
My belief and my unbelief.

This is the paradox of faith. It is something that we must have in order to come to divine presence and yet, it is also something we have to open our hearts to first; and then we find that divine presence that has been there within us all the while.

Our most authentic self sees the world with a sense of wonder and inherent trust in the creator and creation. Paradoxically, to be sincere of heart we must reconcile our doubts, our struggles and our cares in our prayer. In this way, we are able to cultivate sincerity, trust and gratitude for what is and dwell in the fullness of our humanity.

It is in the paradox of our belief and our unbelief that we encounter our faith, our hope and joy. These do not come from avoiding; on the contrary it is possible only when we have gone into the heart of belief and unbelief – and prayed from there…

 

 

 

Christmastide

Standard

As the New Year unfolds, I intend to greet each new day that comes to me with a rekindled awareness of life’s possibilities. Not an unrealistic desire to overhaul my whole world, but an embodied spirit of my creative potential drawing me forward in ways I have yet to imagine. The ongoing, unending divine invitation and inward impetus to allow my light to illuminate all it encounters.

The Christmas season – also known as Christmastide – actually lasts forty days. It begins on Christmas Eve, and ends on February 2nd,the feast of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, Candlemas. Quietly pondering and contemplating the true beauty of the season in my heart is an important piece of keeping Christmastide for me. I continue to light my Christmas candle each day as a beautiful, enlightened reminder of Grace and the incarnation of Divine Love. I light my candle in gratitude for the gift of the day ahead, and in the hope of uncovering a new, small, and mostly invisible way to mirror that light in the world.

As I contemplate and inwardly ponder, I discern an evolving sense of my deepest self as indelibly connected to human, worldly, and divine suffering through my small and ordinary life. I am drawn to protect the dignity of all beings and to serve as a reflection of divine compassion in my everyday and serendipitous encounters.

My daily prayer is that I may live each day with more of an open heart and become more fully who I am ~ making my life my prayer.

“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ breath moves through … listen to this music, listen to this music….”   Wisdom Chant

Mary’s Fiat

Standard

The winter season shifts – morning, day, dusk, and evening each reminds us of life as sacramental. Life extends toward us the gifts of this moment as we join the rhythm of the universe ebbing and flowing. This rhythm draws us to itself, reminding us that time is not linear- taking us from here to there-; time is a spiral, moving us in cycles of renewal, growth, release, and tranquility.

As I anticipate the divine light of advent and Christmas, I am in awe of Mary’s fiat – her self-emptying, egoless ‘yes’. I see her humility as a beautiful gift to the world and her act of faith as a young woman holding divine mystery – a manifestation of divine co-creation, and Love. Mary, truly full of grace, follows her heart’s way of knowing, at no small personal cost then, and of course, later. She wholly/holy surrenders to divine creation – a ‘wonderous act of faith’.

Did Mary know? Did she hold the quiet confidence that all would be well? Did she listen to her secret heart? Did motherhood deepen her sense of her own miraculous be-ing? I hope that her act of faith brought her these graces and more. Could she have possibly known that all that dwelled within her would blossom into a future graced with love -a love that would redeem the world?

That is what faith in advent evokes in me now. Nothing can truly prepare me for this act of Love so profound in its sacred simplicity – its egoless spaciousness – it fully opens the hearts of all who receive it; Mary’s stunning act of faith!

As a family, we honor this unfolding as we sit together each night and light the advent wreath candles, share a reading, and sit in easy silence together. Our hearts and minds open to the inner Divine which reminds us that hope is a very real force that can change our lives for the better and the world around us. Hope inspires us with notions of possibility. It opens us to wonder, and invites our desire to create. In Hope, we wonder, we seek answers, we risk to become whole … we dare to love!

“Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light” Jan Richardson

Blessed are you

who bear the light

in unbearable times,

who testify

to its endurance

amid the unendurable,

who bear witness

to its persistence

when everything seems

in shadow

and grief.

 

Blessed are you

in whom

the light lives,

in whom

the brightness blazes–

your heart

a chapel,

an altar where

in the deepest night

can be seen

the fire that

shines forth in you

in unaccountable faith

in stubborn hope

in love that illumines

every broken thing it finds.

 

Drawing Me Forward

Standard

What a great laudable exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life. We pray so as to discover what we already have—the incomparable treasure hidden in the field of the world and of the human heart.   St. Claire of Assisi

Autumn is a rich and textured season of nature’s colorful transitions often referred to as fallow time. I always visit my parents’ resting place and adorn their grave with autumn flowers and other symbols of fall’s harvest. It is a peaceful ritual of each season for me and especially poignant in the beauty of autumn. Now that both of my parents have passed, I truly appreciate the metaphorical gifts of fall as they present themselves to me. I now come to understand more closely the deep ways my parents entered the fall of their lives. The wisdom with which they met their physical diminishments and embraced each day as the gift of be-ing alive.

From this place where I stand, I experience the interior movement and wisdom of Love’s infinite energy drawing me forward. I am aware of my parents as an integral part of Divine Love  beckoning me onward and it is a profoundly hopeful experience. This inner way of knowing and feeling the eternal nature of Love lends a meaning and pleasure to adorning the heart stone that symbolizes their time here with each other and me. It becomes a sacred ritual for me – an affirmation of presence : what was, what is and what will be evermore.

And so it is that now in this moment in the silence of my heart I give thanks for the gift of this day and pray for the life of the world…

Bless to me my days as I seek new ways to know You dwelling in the map of my heart. Bless to me my belief, guiding me beyond the ways of the self toward the rich mystery of your Love. Bless me with wisdom as I attend to my journey and the seasons of my life as labyrinthine paths of daylight and darkness – yearning for my own unfolding, and eternally longing to be drawn forward to You.

“For as the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the whole, so are we, soul and body, clad in the Goodness of G*d, and enclosed.”   Julian of Norwich

 

Revelatory Landscape

Standard

Here I am, once again confronting the serendipity of life, the consequences of the unexpected turn of events and the process of patiently waiting in ‘deep time’ for things to be revealed. For me, deep time is an inward place that feels very present and equally liminal in nature. Art museums often define a revelatory landscape in this manner; “ Revelatory landscape designs expose and interpret what exists, rather than obscuring the real conditions of the land with imposed design.” A rather pertinent expression of what I am experiencing.

It is challenging to be in this place of unknowing. It is tempting to seek comfort in familiar,inherited religious and cultural systems. Instead, I endeavor to see/hold reality in a new light, a new way, breaking through traditional religious and cultural systems into new revelatory landscape that integrates and transforms the quality of my humanness and restores me to the heart of creation where I intuitively belong.

My spiritual life moves through a time of un-learning of the ways I have been schooled. Here I linger, inwardly healing and trusting that I may emerge with a new self-understanding and vision of the sacred. I am unsettled and my equilibrium disturbed as I let go of previous patriarchal teachings and move toward a new way of being. A commitment to seek G*d is embedded in my heart, embodied in me in Love. I am invited to enter a dynamic dance of knowing and be-ing that is beyond thought and ordinary consciousness – a landscape of freedom and authenticity

Living Mystery ignites my soul, drawing me forward to a deeper experience of the sacred that is connected to but outside my church life. I wait as it reveals a new path of being religious. This is a profoundly serious faith experience compelling me to be a channel of presence; one that holds sacred, reveres, and protects the diversity and beauty of creation. I am inspired to honor the circle of belonging by living my life in harmony with mercy and justice. I am gently invited to touch my own soul’s capacity to heal the exclusion, cruelty and rejection of difference around otherness that I harbor in my own heart as the place where I begin.

And so I pray that I may move deeper into an understanding of peace as the essence of heart discovered through a unitive state of being. I pray that I may have faith and ‘trust in the enduring intimacy’ of what I will know as my heart becomes more intimately anchored in the divine heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesdays

Standard

I awaken everyday in gratitude for the gift of the new day. I light a candle on my bedside table and ‘take a moment’ to remember that all of creation, including me, dwells in You. I breathe in and I breathe out, and I pray that opening myself to what may be will be as natural as my in-breath, and that releasing myself to You will be as natural as my out-breath. It is a small miracle breathing, and it reminds me of how simply I truly ‘know’ surrender as the action that leads to something wonderful – my next in-breath! How can something so simple be so complex? How is it that I know this and still struggle with trusting in this?

Tuesdays I visit my hospice patients and in some cases, I provide Reiki. I find my morning still time helps prepare me and hold me as I enter my visits. Being present and aware helps me avoid entering these moments in a rote or routine way – always a temptation with anything that is done regularly. Compartmentalizing and managing are skills I have perfected from childhood through my career as an educator/administrator. In my case, they became ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed and alienated by the very system I participate in. The systems I worked in somehow seemed to strangle my authenticity.

Recently, one of my Reiki patients expressed concern that the peace she received in the Reiki treatment meant that I was absorbing her negative energy. I assured her it was not the case. However, her concern inspired me to look into that whole notion. Indeed, that led me to some personal strategies and practices that can ensure that I am attending to myself even as I offer Reiki to another. I shared this process with my patient. The interesting thing is that her expression of concern awakened me further. I recognized that without care, I might inadvertently bring routine to these visits. And now, I am awake to the ways in which I have internalized systematic living and how facily it can creep into whatever I am doing.

So, now like breathing in awareness, I approach my visits more fully present. I use two practices – one – a gesturing Reiki prayer(Barnett/Newton) and the other – a prayer for presence.(Rupp)

Cross your hands over your heart “I am the light”

Put one hand on top of the other just below the navel “ The light is within me.”

Make a spiral with your right arm down your body. .” The light moves throughout me.”

Spread arms and legs out “The light surrounds me.”

Starting with both hands together in front in the prayer position, reach up and around, forming a heart.   “ The light protects me.”

Cross your hands over your heart. “ I am the light.”

I renew my life’s purpose
 of being faithful to our co-creation.
I give you my openness 
trusting that you will lead me on paths meant to help me grow.
I re-commit my intention 
to listen to you in all of life. I promise you my presence and awareness that I may be an instrument of your love. I give you my loyal heart.
 May I do all in the circle of your wisdom 
and learn from your dance of compassion
 in every corner of this universe.

It is another small miracle, Tuesday. It reminds me that I am meant to be fully alive. It shows me that in my heart I ‘know’ this truth. I am here to be fully human, fully present in this wild life of mine. My deepest, most authentic self ‘knows’ this paradox – the more I surrender to the one I authentically am – the more I become one with all that is. The invisible is always present in the visible. I encounter this paradox each day I begin anew in You

 

The Community of Women

Standard

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.