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.

 

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.

 

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…

 

 

 

A Generous Light

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There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it” Edith Wharton

Candlemas is the final celebration of the forty days of the Christmas Season. It is an occasion to recollect the presentation of the baby at the temple – the light entrusted to Mary and Joseph publically and generously enters the world. This is a ‘feast of mission’. Doubtless, a joyful time for the parents whose journey is only just beginning as the child’s life unfolds. And all are welcome to consider the beauty of this light and the transformational Love that is the heartbeat of this life story, this mystery of life.

It is a rich moment, ripe with meaning and profound foreshadowing. The image of Mary holding her son as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes calls forward a similar image of her holding him as a man when his body comes down from the cross. The light of Candlemas links the gifts of the womb to the gifts of the tomb. It connects the co-creative promise of birth to the human experience of loss and the hope of renewal. ‘…simple but not easy, this waiting without hunger in the near dark for what you may be about to receive.’ Esther Morgan

May you open your heart and move into the mystery of life through your encounters- your personal experiences with birth, loss and renewal. And, may you find an infilling of presence and inner life flowing in you, with you and through you.

I tell you,
this is how the stars get in your bones.

This is how the brightness
 makes a home in you, as you open to the hope that burnishes
 every fractured thing it finds
 and sets it shimmering,
a generous light that will not cease,
no matter how deep the darkness grows,
no matter how long the night becomes. 

Still, still, still
 the secret of secrets
 keeps turning in you,
becoming beautiful,
becoming blessed,
kindling the luminous way
 by which you will emerge,
carrying your shattered heart
 like a constellation within you,
singing to the day
 that will not fail to come. 

Jan Richardson

 

 

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.

Christmastide

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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

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)

 

 

Feelings Nothing More Than Feelings

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I am just learning to appreciate the role my emotions play in assisting me in discerning and listening to the wisdom of my soul. As I do, I see and touch once again the unimaginable depths of Divine Love. And once again, I meet my own closed areas, my own fear that I may not be truly worth of such Love. Then through some sacred Grace, I know that this Love is freely given to me if I will just freely open to it. This is the place where the ever-flowing energy of pouring myself out leads me to the place where that same energy fills me, reflecting the presence of Love in everything and every moment if I am open.

So, I am slowly learning to be with my emotions; to be present to my feelings. For these are divine gifts that help open me, soften me, lead me toward my authentic self, free of the protective layers that bind me. Still, I have much growing to do. I get caught up in feeling that I need to compensate for my imperfection. I feel that there is some better way to say it, do it, be it and that I don’t have it. Ironically, having the correct words empty of correct presence would serve nothing and no one. It is my openness to presence or perhaps, being in the ‘correct experience’, that conveys the important message – not perfect words.

Love is I feel, the meaning of existence and it is my heart’s desire to be present so that what I am is what I love. For, what I love breathes life into how I live, what I do and all of this energizes what I emerge to be. I wish to live more fully in the awareness of the outward and the inward movements of my life. As I welcome this ‘all inclusive attention’ I am better able to hold my emotions letting them flow and understanding the gift of feelings as nothing more than feelings. And in this way, I open more fully to Love and Love in turn flows through me informing and evolving me, and the world.

“Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps in our souls. Every act reveals G*d and expands G*d’s being.” Meister Eckhart