The fly at the Window

 

This poem by Mark Nepo spent a long afternoon in my soul today. It spoke to me so profoundly; I was able to find my own soul’s story in each verse. Let’s see if it might find a home in you.  Read the poem slowly—pausing to find yourself in the words.

 

I was at the window

when a fly near the latch

was on its back spinning—

legs furious, going nowhere.

                                                                                   

    I thought to swat it                                                                                       

but something in its struggle

      was too much my own.

 It kept spinning and began to tire,   

without moving closer, I exhaled

steadily, my breath a sudden wind.

 and the fly found its legs,             

                                                                                           

 rubbed its face  and flew away.                                                                                                    

I continued to stare at the latch

Hoping that someday, the breath

of something incomprehensible

would right me and

enable me to fly.

                    -Poem by Mark Nepo

 taken from The Way Under the Way

How well I relate to the momentary desire to get rid of the little bothersome things that get in my way.                                                                                                                                                                    If only, with purposeful practice, I might become aware that the struggle of little things to endure is similar to my own efforts at survival.

Is it possible for me to awaken from my daily slumber long enough to reflect on the many ways my struggle is akin to the anguish of others?

And the best question of all:  Might I remember my breath in time to save others who are on the verge of losing hope?

And then, to stare at the latch REMEMBERING your experience is no small practice.

SO LET’S PRACTICE!

When SPRING comes to the woods

 

When SPRING comes to the woods it comes slowly.  It doesn’t hurry.  Bits of AUTUMN and WINTER linger in the forest even as tiny

fragments of SPRING begin to appear.  There is something to be said about slow growing.  Every piece of life,

every stage of growth has its NOW–that moment when it needs to be nothing but the way it is.

There are no deadlines for growth.  Tomorrow there will be a little more added or a little taken away.  Letting go is also part of growth.

 Earth waits for mulch like we wait for greening and blossoming.

Walking through the woods in SPRING is like going to an art show.  You walk slowly.  You don’t hurry.  You allow the abundance of forest life to bless you.  You stand before each growing and decaying icon and proclaim, “oh, I remember when I was at that stage.”  When SPRING comes to the forest it’s like a teacher arriving, teaching the beauty and wisdom of the seasons.

The challenge in all of this is learning to live mindfully so that we not miss the lessons hidden

in the seasons.  Each season can be a teacher for us. Hold each season up against your life and look into its

pages as you would look into a mirror. How do you see your face in the pages of the seasons?

The poet, John Moffitt says this so well in the poem below.

Pray this poem as you would pray a line of scripture.

To look at any thing,

If you would know that thing,

You must look at it long:

To look at this green and say,

I have seen spring in these

Woods will not do–you must

Be the thing you see:

You must be the dark snakes of

Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,

You must enter in

To the small silences between

The leaves,

You must take your time

And touch the very peace

They issue from.

~John Moffitt~

 

Broken and Beautiful

Not long ago, at a church dinner and bazaar, my love for pottery drew me to a display of earthenware bowls. “Ah,” I thought, “I can both satisfy my longing for a new piece of pottery and support this church function.”  Someone beside me looked at the bowl I was holding and said, “You don’t want that; it looks like it’s broken.”  Indeed it did; a jagged line ran through one side of the bowl.  I bought it anyway.  The seemingly flawed feature is exactly what attracted me.

And now, on many mornings, during my sunrise prayer I sit in reflection, the bowl in my hand. I am aware that the bowl is not really broken.  The crack through the dish is smooth and finished and adds to the beauty.  Whether the artist purposely made the dish in this fashion or whether it was a flaw repaired and covered up doesn’t really matter.

This beautiful vessel is becoming a metaphor for my life—for our lives.  Yes, I am broken in some way and the people I live and work with are also broken.  It is easy for me to look at myself and others and focus on the crack in our spirits, the brokenness.  This is what my earthenware prayer has been teaching me.  I am flawed. You are flawed.  We are flawed.  It might be helpful for each of us to sit down and ask ourselves: how am I flawed?  In the same breath, though, we need to remind ourselves that we are not only flawed.  That’s not all I am!  That’s not all you are!   That’s not all we are!  We are blessed and if we choose, we can be a blessing even with the flaw.  There is a depth in each of us that we have not yet discovered.  Some stars are so far away their light has not yet reached the earth; the same is true of you. Some of your light has not yet reached your family, your friends, your world.  There are pieces of compassion, forgiveness, courage, hope and love in you that you have not fully discovered.

AS YOU REFLECT ON THAT CRACK IN YOUR SPIRIT, PLEASE REMEMBER THE EVER-FLOWING, ONGOING PROCESS THAT YOU ARE.

 .  .

 

Take Off Your Mask

 

 Halloween (also call All Hallows Eve) seems to be a good season to contemplate MASKS.  We wear them all year long yet on this day we publicly claim them for what they are: masks!

Al Mortenson says it like this.

“At Halloween young hobgoblins appear with their masked faces and the challenge, “Bethcha can’t guess who I am.”  Our intentional wrong guesses add to their fascination with themselves, and soon the masks are peeled off and everyone is left to enjoy each other.

Little do the small ones realize how we grown-ups play Halloween games the year round.  Individuality is threatening, so we cover ourselves up and dare each other to guess who we are.  Our homemade masks seem so hard, so unbending, yet all it takes to remove them are firm but gentle hands.  Then, face to face, we begin to discover the wonders underneath.”

Jesus says it like this:

…And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free!

C.S. Lewis says it like this:

We are to be re-made.  All the rabbit in us is to disappear: the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit… as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit….

We shall bleed and squeal as handfuls of fur come out; and then surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all, a thing we have never yet imagined:

A real person, a Child of God, Strong, Radiant, Wise, Beautiful and DRENCHED WITH JOY!

St Paul says it like this:

Be imitators of God as his very dear children.  Follow the way of love even as Christ has loved you.  Ephesians 5:1

And again St. Paul says,

colossians-3-8

 

(I gleaned these thoughts on masks from an old ALIVE NOW magazine and am not certain of the author)

“Sometimes without realizing it, we assume masks—ways of being and acting that don’t really express who we are.  We have taken on these modes of behavior or expressing ourselves perhaps as a way to please others, to win friends, to merit personal recognition.

Masks, however well we wear them, are incongruous with our true inner feelings and, thus, with who we really are.  They may look good for awhile, but in the long run, they become burdens; they cease to feel good because they do not fit us; they are not an authentic expression of who we truly are.” (author unknown)

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I also enjoy Halloween.  And I like to remember that Halloween means all All-Hallows-Eve.  It’s a holy evening because it is the evening before we celebrate the feast of All Saints and All Souls.  These are real people who laughed and cried and trusted and doubted as we do.  They were loving, compassionate, fearful, hopeful and courageous.  They too wore masks but one day they took them off and things were never the same in their lives again.  And now it is November 1, 2016 and once again we celebrate this feast.  I hope you can all find your place in the mosaic of saints.  This feast is not just for those in heaven.  It is for each of us.  It is for me and for you.  It is for all of us.  And all we need do is TAKE OFF OUR MASK and come to the table of daily life as we are.

communion-saints-table

 

 

A Slow Transformation

 

Paging through old notebooks is always a delight for me.  I never know what I will find.   A few weeks ago I found the poem below.  It was yellow and tattered yet through the aging pages it spoke to my heart.  I’m not sure where it came from, who gave it to me, or who wrote it.  These  words were scribbled on the bottom of the page,

With thanks and love,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Christmas ’73                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Cy Chiassion

I am reasonably certain that I do not know Cy and that the poem was shared with me by a friend.  Yet I am amazed in the connection of 1973 with 2016 and wherever Cy is I hope he or she is having a good life. I’ve decided to share it with you.   I love the slow transforming journey of this poetic reflection.  It happens in us year by year.  Let’s try to take note.  May you grow strong, loving and wise as you reflect on this powerful message.

 

THE AGES OF THE HUMAN BEING

THE FIRST AGE

Fight to kill!  Peace is impossible!  No one can be trusted!  I must win control over my kingdom!”  says human beings.

I believe in you, says God.

THE SECOND AGE

I have enemies on all sides.  I must remain on guard.  If I close one eye they will rob me of my life, says human beings.

I believe in you, says God.

THE THIRD AGE

Why should I care for the other person?  If I reach to pull him out of the water, he’ll pull me in with him.  I have to protect myself you know, says human beings.

I believe in you says God.

THE FOURTH AGE

I am tried of war.  My heart aches for peace.  But how can I be sure the other guy won’t stab me in the hand that I reach out to him?  Too risky!  says human beings.

I believe in you says God.

THE FIFTH AGE

Will we ever trust each other?  If I am to gain someone’s trust, I must become vulnerable , and I must believe he will respond to my openness, says human beings.

I believe in you says God.

THE SIXTH AGE

I believe that peace will come when human beings regard each other with total concern, a total trust, and genuine sacrifice.  That takes love.  Can’t we love one another? says human beings.

I love you, says God.

THE SEVENTH AGE

I believe in love.  I believe it is the strongest power in the cosmos, because it is tender.  I believe love gives life and that we can love each other to life, says human beings.

I love you, says God.

THE EIGHTH AGE  

How could you love someone like me?  I have cared for myself before you.  I have wounded you in your loving. Can you still love me? says human beings.

I love you, says God.

THE NINTH AGE

Because of your love, I can see.  Your love has set me free to give myself to you.  I love your love, says human beings.

I love you, says God.

THE TENTH AGE  

I love you, says human beings.

I love you, says God.

dove-stainglass

Truly Yahweh was in this place…

 

I have long been intrigued by a story in the book of Genesis.  It is thstone or a pillare story of Jacob, in obedience to his father, traveling toward Haran to obtain a wife from his mother’s people.  Jacob had a dream (Genesis 28:10-22) in which it was clearly revealed that God was with him.  It was a promise of blessing.  When Jacob awoke from his sleep he cried out, using words that have become a prayer for me:  Truly Yahweh is in this place and I did not know it.  Then he took the stone he had used for a pillow, poured oil over it and acknowledging the holiness of the place where God had visited him, marked that place as a memorial—a place of remembrance.

Jacob transforms his stone pillow into an altar.  Rituals such as these can be good for the soul.  I have no doubt that there are many places where God has visited you and you did not know it.

 stone in desert

I, for one,     

would rather have a stone

for an altar

than a pillow. 

 

 

Are their places in your life where God once seemed absent:  moments of fear, doubt, brokenness, sorrow, darkness, sin, misunderstandings, discouragement, anger, and guilt?  You, too, can wake up and after a period of reflection and prayer, cry out: Truly Yahweh was in this place and I did not know!

There are also  times when we fail to recognize moments of grace.  We are standing knee-deep in gifts from God and do not acknowledge these gifts are heaven-sent.  We fail to recognize the moment of God’s visitation.  There are moments of beauty, wonderful accomplishments, joyful celebrations, affirmations and inspirations.  We can also stand before these moments with the realization: Truly Yahweh was in this place and I did not know!

So why not build a memorial altar representing the moments of God’s visitation, the moments we almost missed. 

Pick up your stones one by one, each stone a prayer:

A hand holding up a heart of stone
ANOINT YOUR STONE

BUILD YOUR ALTAR 

AND PRAY:

stones, biblical days

TRULY YAHWEH WAS IN THIS PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW!

Wait until you are clothed with power

I am sitting with my first cup of coffee looking out into a green forest with lake waters wrapped around me.  This is the beginning of my morning prayer.  It is a lovely spot and yet I have discovered that no matter how beautiful the setting one has to wait for Spirit to show up.  In all prayer and especially in personal prayer, waiting is an essential part of the prayer.  I am remembering the readings for the Feast of Ascension, which is now long past.  The text from Luke 24: 49 refused to leave me this year.  I still hear the echo of the words in various translations and versions…

waiting, a girl by water

Stay here and wait until you are clothed with power from on high…

Remain here in the city until you are robed with power from on high…

Stay here in the city until you are armed with power from above…

You must tarry in the city until you are invested with power from on high…

As I reflect on these words it occurs to me that Jesus’ request for the disciples to remain waiting for the Holy Spirit could also apply to our personal prayer.  This is what I hear now when I sit down for my quiet prayer.  In various ways Jesus’ advice comes to me.  Remain here and wait!  Perhaps that is the invitation of every daily personal prayer.  Forget your pleading words about what God should do for you during this time of prayer.  Just remain here and wait for God to robe you in power from on high.  ‘From on high” need not necessarily mean from the skies.  The earth, too, is holy!  For me, ‘from on high’ means beyond your  little self.  Remain here.  Stay here.  Wait here.  Wait until you can see something beyond your self.

It always happens.  When I am willing to simply BE in the Presence of God without a lot of words, something lifts in my poor spirit and a great Spirit visits me.  Something falls away.  Sometimes it is a bit of anxiety, or maybe a piece of envy.  Sometimes despair moves over and lets a little hope in the door. Or perhaps, to my amazement, a love I thought had dried up starts flowing again.

BE STILL AND WAIT!

 

Layers of Loveliness and Loneliness

For my prayer this morning I have tried to unpack Jane Hirshfield’s poem about watermelons lying out in a field under the sun and stars, in the rain.  Under the weather we might say!  The poem is lavish with meaning.  Read and pray this poem remembering that the watermelon is you.

Green-Striped Melons

They lie

Under stars in a field.

They lie under rain in a field

Under sun.

Some people

Are like this as well –

Like a painting

Hidden beneath another

Painting.

An unexpected weight

The sign of their ripeness.

—Jane Hirshfield—

(Alaska Quarterly, Fall & Winter, 208)

 

watermelon art

 

I look in the mirror and see my face and I think: this is the face I show to the world and yet when I look deeper there is something more.  Something is hidden beneath  this face, something beautiful and unharvestable.

I walk through a field and see the watermelons growing there in all kinds of weather.  I walk through the food market and see bins of fascinating melons, beautiful in there green striped attire, waiting to be chosen.  I imagine the field they once lay in, the stars, sun and moon that shone upon them, the wind that caressed them.

And YES!  Jane Hirshfield is right.  Hidden beneath that first glimpse of the watermelon there is an exquisite world of scarlet delight—like a painting that hides beneath another painting.

The poet sees!  You are not a poet because of what you write but because of how you see.  Look in the mirror and wake up to layers of loveliness that you are.

Maybe this is what conversion is: connecting with the invisible face beneath the visible.

Today cherish the painting you are with its many layers of loveliness and loneliness.