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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

Soul’s Gift

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«Our soul cannot live without love, it always wants to love something, for our soul is made of love, as I made it because of love» (Saint Catherine of Siena)

There is a sweetly luminous space in my own heart that I do not see. Even when I am deeply self aware of my gifts and edges, my motivations and desires, much of my-‘self’ is hidden from my consciousness. Perhaps it is for the best that I am somewhat obscure to my- ‘self’. Maybe those around me, maybe especially, those who love me, see this luminous space within me better than I do.

In this way, to be loved is to be seen and understood in ways that are surprising to me – gifts of the soul. I always tease my husband that this explains why he is with me! He sees things in me that I do not – indeed, I often say, “I am glad that you say that – I don’t see it”. As a wife, mom, sister and friend I can never fully know the significance of my presence in the lives of those I touch. I am sure that this too is a gift – a gift of mystery.

I think there is a beautiful, humbling and quiet grace in this notion that others see my light in ways unfamiliar to me. And it invites me to trust that it is the light of my secret heart that draws me toward a deep belonging to those who love me. It is there, within my secret heart that the spirit of love and friendship gently glows. Love, as the deepest part of my soul’s connection to all that is, graces me with embers that catch and reflect light like prisms for others’ love to see.

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!