Doe, A Deer – A Female Deer

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As Advent flows into Christmas, I have had the sweet and moving companionship of a doe that rests in the woods just at the edge of my yard. I noticed her one morning and then again one afternoon; eventually, I came to look for her each day. She simply rests, peaceful yet alert seemingly, contemplating my home. Initially, it struck me as a lovely, serendipitous encounter with nature. Eventually, she began to feel much more like a kindred spirit who visits to both offer her spirit to me, and receive my spirit in return. As a spiritual director training in a Franciscan program, I am open to experiencing Spirit in all of creation. This sways me, nurturing the sense that Doe and I share a ‘sense of sorority’ with all of creation and the creator. ‘Praised be You, my Lord with all Your creatures’ – St. Francis of Assisi

It is not the first time on my spiritual journey that I have encountered the deer. On several retreats, deer and I have crossed paths. A quick search on the web reveals that the deer symbolizes: Gentleness; Ability to move through life and obstacles with grace; Being in touch with inner child, innocence; Being sensitive and intuitive; Vigilance, ability to change directions quickly; Magical ability to regenerate, being in touch with life’s mysteries. All in all, a nice assortment of life skills and spiritual literacy! Seeing her, feeling her presence emerges as a natural moment of grace for me. A tiny experience of unity and connection with all around me delivered to me by a doe.

With my new appreciation for the doe in heart, I am able to rest with her as she lingers near me. Perhaps we will welcome Christmas together. All I know is that her presence heightens my awareness – my reverence for nature – draws me into the moment here and now with the divine, and models the patience and perseverance that is Advent. So, as Christmas arrives, my spirit longs to resonate with belonging to the moment when everything fits … and all we hoped for is present – perhaps this is what it is to know the fullness of time“spreading the knowledge of God like a sweet smell everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

 

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.

 

Drawing Me Forward

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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

 

Listening to the Family of Nature

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  It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.                                   ~ Oliver Wendall Holmes

Nature presents herself as a charming cantor inviting all who have ears to listen and enter the sacred space of worship always present around us in creation. Recently, I listened to the Exeter river that runs behind my house for half an hour. I heard birds, cars in the distance and wind in the trees and the sudden movement of woodland critters. The longer I sat there, the more things I could hear. The river flowing as it traversed rocks or fallen trees; burbling water against the edges of the riverbed shore; and rushing of air as it passed me; the trees creaking as they moved with the wind. The experience was calming and refreshing. I felt renewed as I rested in the sacred rhythms of the river. I feel my spirit flowing en tandem with the water.

I began to notice that I felt more aware, more peaceful and present. I also noticed that the ability to connect with what I heard and experienced intensified as I closed my eyes to just listen and didn’t rely on sight at all. The inward sensation becomes a feeling of resonance with what I hear; a sense of communication between the river’s sounds and myself. The flow, burble, rush sound happy and content to me and convey a powerful sense of aliveness or ‘life’. Also with my eyes shut I felt together with what I heard whereas with my eyes open I felt more separate or a part.

One day a week my now eight-month old grandson joins me for the day. Together, we take walks, garden and otherwise enjoy being outside together. I take great delight in noticing how sensitively he expresses his awareness of creation. His stillness in the face of it all, his attraction to certain sounds or views, all generate a sense of our primordial/familial belonging to the natural world. I hope and pray that our days in nature will nurture his unique G*d seed and inspire him to care for his world as for himself.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting / over and over announcing your place in the family of things.   ~ Mary Oliver

 

Circles of Trust

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These past few weeks have been very busy ones. My training as a Spiritual Director has taken me to several extended weekend retreats. The past three weekends and the one ahead are steeped in working with others – mostly strangers- to create spiritual community. I am just beginning to internalize this precious work with silence and spirit, soulful conversation and community. These days have been rich; gathering in this way in the autumn – often considered fallow time- is inspiring. The weather, nature itself and the respectfully crafted rhythm of the days on retreat, work on my inner world like waves gently caressing the shore. They bring with them slow and significant evolution and change as well as, a natural softening and yielding to emerging energies.

I am in real awe of this work as I both engage in it as a participant, and ponder my own potential to fully give myself to it. It is in light of the beautiful way those who gather heartfully join the process that I connect with the hope nestled within and among us. Entering into community with intrepid sojourners able to willingly work through, with and in spirit moves me beyond words. We gather in acknowledgement of our own imperfection and encounter the mystery and mercy of Love. Spirit and Love are offered and received despite our faults and weaknesses. As a result, we emerge more open and better able to bring what we have tasted to an imperfect world.

And so I return to the ebb and flow of my own daily life with renewed energy and hope that by giving my gifts to this work, I may expand my capacity to love more of this imperfect world. Perhaps, it is imperfection that invites me to serve as a kind of mid-wife to an unconditional Love that is really needed in the world.

An Ordinary Autumn Day

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This is the time of year and the kind of day that invokes lectio natura- nature as a threshold into contemplation of the divine. Autumn is underway as leaves change color and pepper the ground, and yet the temperatures remain pleasant enough for a lengthy walk outside. The outdoors lure me to dwell in nature and to be aware of the outpouring of creation’s gifts everywhere. No place else is the miracle of be-ing so abundantly clear and present. Moment by moment in nature there are thresholds for entering creation as a present and unfolding moment. Awe and wonder abound as I collaborate in a miniscule moment of the evolutionary process. And it doesn’t take long at all to construe my human self or be-ing as part of that process. Perceptions of nature offer insight into divine relationship to the world, the self and others.

Quality time within nature allows for contemplation of my kinship and community with the natural world and the source of all that is. When such contemplative time is done with respect and reverence it is sacramental. It leads away from a self-centered sense of things to a bio-centric appreciation of all that is sensible. Poets and writers have long celebrated the numinous qualities of ordinary life in all its grandeur. Lectio natura is a true Godding experience when done with attention and intention.

Such moments in nature inspire important questions about the world and its influences on me; thoughts about creation and the divine; ideas about co-creation; imagination and service; as well as, wondering about the meaning of my place in a vast and unfolding universe. Reflecting on these questions is an important dynamic of my spiritual growth.

Omnipresent, are revealing mementos of my contemplation through nature. Every window of my home affords me a perspective, and draws me toward a life beyond this world. It is the random – often times messy – beauty of the ordinary life everywhere that invites me into compassionate relationship with all created things. And all of creation calls me into companionship with the origin of all that is.