Gratitude

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Each morning when I wake up, before I get up, read scripture or drink coffee, I begin the new day by lighting a candle in the name of the Creator who is life; the Savior who loves life; and the Holy Spirit who is the fire of life in gratitude for the gift of the day. This has been my daily ritual for five years now as I have entered my spiritual journey more fully and opened myself to G*d’s presence in me, through me and around me.

Just this past week, I crossed another life threshold I graduated from my Spiritual Direction Training program after two years of study and practicum under supervision. Like so many huge moments, it arrived before I knew it and it passed quickly. Tempus fugit! I noticed the subtle shift in my experience at this threshold. While I deeply experienced processing and recessing with my peers in the program, the beauty of the mass, the music, the graduation ceremony, I did not cling to it – I entered into it fully for the moment and then, let it go. I notice that there is something about being fully present to the moment – the now of life- that graces letting go and living forward. There is a new depth to the here and now which seems to lessen the desire to hold onto what was or worry about what will be.

In gratitude and through an amazing gift of grace, I bring myself to all of my experiences. I see spirit working through me and dimly begin to perceive that it is G*d’s love for me, and not my love, that is the measure of love.  This guides me to the belief that G*d’s love is uniquely and distinctly personal – not love in some general diffuse way. Every single life is loved in a unique, personal, and distinct way. This is a living G*d who is always ahead of me, always surprising, always calling me to come ahead. G*d reaches me, through my experience—Spirit. I live the Spirit as always present in my human interactions, in the nature that surrounds me, in the depths of my own soul, at the end of my reaching out in love. It is this Spirit that enters me through my own brokenness to make me whole and empowers me and allows me to be a healing presence. How could I be anything less than wholly/holy-grateful?

         Messenger by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

 

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

 

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

 

The Purpose Of My Prayer

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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

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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

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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…