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

Extra-Special Meaning

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I return to sharing my reflections from a summer replete with great joy and much happiness. My own joy and happiness as I completed my training as a spiritual director (I prefer midwife to director a more apt description) and now approach the end of training as a Spiritual Care Chaplain. And my daughter’s amazing strides as a young (15) artist who participated in two art gallery shows while interning with a conservationist artist honing her scientific illustration skills. Plus, my son’s new baby boy who arrived two weeks early and in his splendor reminds us all of the eternal nature of the now. And, my husband’s gardening projects in our yard  while he and my daughter transformed the ‘art space’ they share. His gifts all inconspicuously and quietly unfolding as is his soul’s truest way.

I am overwhelmed by these gifts -all that has been born in and around me – and wrestle with how to open to truly receive it all…. Thus the time out from blogging. The expression that most accurately reflects my current state is that I have taken to kissing the ground in my prayer period. This is the gesture that conveys my very grateful heart.

Meister Eckhart says,“For God to be is to give being, and for us to be is to receive being.” Our true self is a received self. At each moment, we exist to the extent we receive existence from God who is existence. I resonate with this and perceive that at heart ,I am in a very real state of receiving. For me, there is a deep humility that accompanies this. In part, as I ponder my unworthiness owing to my well-known imperfections; and in part, as I feel so tiny in contrast to the greatness of the Creator – my Source. I notice that as I accept that I am unable to reconcile these aspects of my be-ing, I am widened and deepened by simply opening to hold these un-reconcilable pieces. I seek to ground myself in this ‘absolute love’ that seemingly sustains me in everything – the good and the not so good.

It seems the mystery of my faith enables me to ‘be’ and ‘let be’ in ever expanding ways. My faith asks me to honor both what I know and perhaps more, what is unknown to me. From this spot on the revelatory landscape, I am aware that I am growing in my capacity to hold these same paradoxes with others. Indeed, the depth of my simple contributions as a chaplain and spiritual midwife, quietly and gently give everything extra-special meaning.

 

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.

 

Now And Always

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January 12th is the anniversary of my mom’s passing. It is five years now since she died. I am struck still by what a huge shift it is to lose your mother. The first home sound we come to know after forming under her beating heart for nine months,

Henry Nouwen says, “Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.” Wise words. Perhaps this accounts for why I feel my mother’s spiritual presence always as I live forward without her physical presence.

My mom was a devotee of the rosary. I find myself meditating with a rosary and speaking from my heart as I hold the small circles of mystery that comprise a rosary. It has become my way of connecting with prayer beads more closely. I find rote prayers are repeated in ways that, for me, dispel the sense of presence in the meditation.

In celebration of my mom’s spirit, I share here the prayer that I whispered to Mary on the fifth anniversary of mom’s passing:

Mary full of love, faith, grace and hope;

Christ breathes in you, with you and through you – Be with me now

Blessed are you in your capacious heart and sacred are you to women through the divine spirit of your be-ing;

Holy Mary, pure of heart and spirit – Be with me;

Willing co-creatrix in the divine plan – Strengthen me;

Guide me beyond the brokenness that binds me;

Now and always until I enter into the fullness of time.

The Presence of the Magi

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This year, the Epiphany illuminated something new for me in how I consider the story of the Magi. So I didn’t dissect it piece by piece to ascertain exactly how it might have unfolded. I didn’t consider the issues around timing, or how exactly the star brought them precisely to the manger’s location. Instead, I experienced it as a metaphor; a metaphor about the power of an open heart and the accompanying willingness to seek for truth.

The Magi were in all ways outsiders. They were astrologers who studied what we might well view as magic these days. They were not grounded in the religious scriptures of the day, nor were they religiously prepared for the concept of a messiah. And yet, it is these three men who traveled from distant lands and followed a star to see what it had to reveal to them. Clearly, they represent all of the “them” we see as “us”. Certainly, this is what is most significant to ponder in heart and mind.

Herod heard the news and started figuring out how best he might preserve his power leading to the slaughter of innocents. And the religious leaders and institutions of the day, the learned ones, seemed to have closed hearts and minds. Closed by the idea that they held the absolute truth. Closed by years of holding authority and the habits of not listening to others. And perhaps most frightening, closed in ways that led to collusion with Herod’s self-serving preservation of the status quo.

The deep significance of this for me is the chilling reminder that preparation is no guarantee that I will be ready; in fact, preparation might blind me if I prepare too much according to my own ideas.  The ideas informed by my feelings, attitudes, biases, values, and assumptions. I must remain sensitive and aware that these ideas flow out of my strengths and my limitations. I must learn from the Magi who followed a star that there is no substitute for listening with an open heart.

“This is the leap of faith and trust that I and others must make in order to communicate even a bit of the Great Truth to which we each have our own limited access. Spirituality is whatever it takes to keep your heart space open.”  Rohr

 

Mary’s Fiat

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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.

 

A Time For Remembering

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October 2nd is my father’s birthday. Perhaps I should say was as he died eight years ago. And yet, for me it is his birthday now and forever. It so happens that it has only been since his death that I have become aware that his birthday is in fact the Feast of the Guardian Angel. And along the way, I read that devotion to the angels is, at heart, an expression of faith in G*d’s enduring love and providential care extended to each of us day in and day out. This is of course a beautiful thought and movingly, the same love that anchors my father’s heart in his children.

My dad, like me, was fully human, and so, complex and imperfect. It is amazing to me that as I grow in my ability to welcome my own imperfection, I am able to see him more clearly and love him more dearly. Thus, as I perceive that the interplay of light and shadow is what gives us depth, I am able to see the divine at work in dad and in me. And so, I see that like dad, the light makes its way into the world through my many cracks. I also understand that in being fully human, I wrestle with my imperfections, my demons. Dad’s spirit is intertwined with mine always and the gift of his spirit thrives as everlasting love.

When I think of my dad’s soul light I see clearly what I will call his authentic spiritual literacy; Justness, kindness, love, devotion, nurturing, compassion, and imagination. These are among the qualities that offered meaning to his life and that shined through his life struggles and personal imperfections. In naming his spiritual gifts, I deepen my connection to his spirit as a force ever entwined with my own desire to attend to suffering in my ordinary lived experience. Seen in its purity, this desire asks that I protect the dignity of all beings and challenges me to authentically offer my being as a channel of divine compassion.

Thus, my father’s ordinary life experience full of light and dark; beauty and challenge; love and suffering; presence and distraction, continues to evolve in an eternal way. It mirrors the true, sincere and indissoluble intimacy of a heart seeking to connect and unite itself with the divine heart.

As is customary with feast days, there is a devotion to the Guardian Angel that resonates with my heart’s way of knowing my father. He is ever present in me in deep time – everlasting life. The Devotion reads: “O Angel of God, to whose holy care I am committed by the supernal clemency, enlighten, protect, defend, and govern me. Amen”

 

Revelatory Landscape

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road To Ephesus Part II

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Miriam walks out of her wounds after the violent death of her son and the awesome experience of encountering the empty tomb and begins her life anew. She is a woman in midlife who has endured the heartbreaking loss of her son dying violently before her. This must have so bereft her that she – like any of us – died with him and then labored to become someone who could sojourn on. This woman of dynamic faith entered through this moment into a process of suffering transformation. With sacred time, she eventually emerged from her heartward retreat with a fullness of being that graced her as a guardian of life and creation. Spiraling forward out of her deep connection to the ground of all being, she graced the world around her with spiritual values of love, serenity and service – wisdom’s gifts that keep on giving. These gifts would have evolved to create in Miriam the kind of mature woman who has the ability to tell the truth and the relational skills to be heard. As an apostle, her qualities would have been unsurpassed as powerful abilities to usher into being a new worldview.

So, Miriam withdrew to Mount Zion where she went inward and spent time with herself – doubtless weary of this world. In time, she propelled outward to connect – re-connect with the apostles through her return journey to Bethany. Firmly respected and honored for her faith and wisdom, she completed her life as gospel narrative by practicing resurrection in her heart and travelling onward to Ephesus. All the while continuing to serve as a role model of wonderment and an exemplar of Christ’s message of love and redemption. Her personal journey of spiritual growth grounded as it was in her courage, her steadfastness and her faith must have invited countless spiritual encounters and holy moments with the apostles who loved her and the community of women who companioned her. It is hard to imagine that anyone came to comprehend the notion of repentance (change of heart) as closely as Miriam. Nor anyone who lived more profoundly entering G*d’s quiet and telling out G*d’s stories of worlds within worlds.  And the world within her becomes a larger and larger spiraling space where G*d and all creation dwell.

And so it is not surprising that so many in the world pay homage to her or that Christianity sought to package her as a spiritual archetype for women – the heart of the feminine divine though less relevant than her son. Sadly, the more the idea of her expanded, the more distant the divine reality of her became. And so, the powerful, fierce, endlessly compassionate, enduring love and constancy of this humble Jewish woman of profound faith became bound by the initiatives of organized religion. Bound in an effort to fossilize her revolutionary love for the wild soul and her wisdom language of the sincere heart and soul.

This is how I hold Miriam in my heart, how I humanize her, how I untie, unbind her, and all women. I encounter her as a real woman who suffered, lost, and lost and lost – like so many women in this world. And then, she retreated into herself world-weary until such time as she was healed enough to emerge and live her life soul first as part of creation and the endless spiral of love. Her courage teaches me that our tears are the birthing waters of our souls and serve as mighty rivers that create new life and impel us somewhere, somewhere good, somewhere better…. These are the spiritual gifts and lessons beckoning to be learned through one woman’s life as gospel narrative, through one woman’s journey – the road to Ephesus.

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