September 14, Richard Rohr brought this paragraph from Cynthia Bourgeault's Wisdom Jesus: “Could it be that this earthly realm, not in spite of but because of its very density and jagged edges, offers precisely the conditions for the expression of certain aspects of divine love that could become real in no other way? This world does indeed show forth what love is like in a particularly intense and costly way. But when we look at this process more deeply, we can see that those sharp edges we experience as constriction at the same time call forth some of the most exquisite dimensions of love, which require the condition of finitude in order to make sense—qualities such as steadfastness, tenderness, commitment, forbearance, fidelity, and forgiveness.” Wisdom Jesus p. 99-100
,This week I had lots of time to myself. During some of these hours I listened for inner wisdom.
Out of the blue I thought, rather than wish for acknowledgement from others I have the power to acknowledge myself as a winner, a smart one, one who has survived against great odds--a pretty wonderful person.
When was I taught that believing oneself is worthy, is respectable, is step number one? Surely I have been distracted, have forgotten that I was taught this.
I know that hearing that God loves me is supposed to be powerful. But so many who have said they love me, have done me harm. So, I am not always moved by a statement of love.
I can accept my life, the roughness of it, all of it. No matter what comes.
The evening of my 70th birthday, 8 of us gather in our backyard to celebrate. The weather is mild. The shed doors freshly painted. I feel calm all day, not a calm of resignation but one of hope.
Jonathan and I arrange chairs in a half circle facing the shed that sits in one corner of the yard. The shed has double doors on two sides. One time this spring we had pretended it was a stage when our oldest grandson, was with us. So, we expand on that idea. I act as MC, welcoming those few present (this is not yet the full end of the pandemic) and introduce Dylan, our 6 year-old grandson. He opens the doors of the shed and steps out, violin in hand, to our applause.
Dylan plays two pieces: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Etude by Suzuki. More applause. More bites of cake, and now our son, Benno, with his guitar enters the shed to wait for his introduction. Benno reads a touching tribute to me and my 7 decades of living then sings Emmy Lou Harris' song, The Pearl.
Our daughter-in-law, Molly repeats that she and her mother have not planned to share in the program of the evening. I easily give them a pass--she has brought baby Abigail, and that is contribution enough!
I introduce the 3rd and what I believe will be the final act, Jonathan, my husband. He offers a deeply touching tribute as well! No song, no dance, but perfect!
To our surprise, the 2 1/2 year-old, Andrew, signals that he also wants to experience the magic of walking out of the shed door to applause. So he does, again and again!
We end this evening with a dance party, Benno/Molly family to Jazz Police.
A intimate birthday party in our own backyard. God be praised.
I am not worthy to unpack Psalm 25. This is one of the most beloved of
all psalms. Yet, psalms are for intended public and private devotion.
So, I will tell you what draws me in as I read, study and meditate on
You may know that this psalm is an alphabetic acrostic, according to
the Hebrew alphabet with the exception of 3 letters which Jewish
interpreters tell us reference the word hell. Psalm 25 is nearly 2500
years old. Its value is ancient and new. Along with fervent reading it
has been beautifully chanted and sung through the ages. It is
attributed to David, some of whose experiences we can recall as we
It begins, “To you, O God, I lift up my soul.” If I lift up my soul to
God, I am asking for a blessing, to be raised up, asking “Bless my
soul.” Throughout the entirety of the psalm, David maintains his
posture of humility. Then David, asserts his trust in God, petitions
for care, for mercy, for protection from shame by his enemies, and
begs God to not remember his sins, but to remember him only in tender
love. He recalls the ways of God, who is faithful to instruct sinners.
Friendship with God is real. Then, “turn to me for I am lonely and
afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and bring me out of my
distress.” David wills that he be aligned with God, the one who saves
him. David commits to wait, as a waiter waits upon the one he serves.
He waits for guidance, for instruction. Waiting requires patience and
In The Discerning Heart: Exploring the Christian Path by Wilkie and
Noreen Cannon Au, we read “Patience entails a commitment to be still
in the midst of a painful situation until we understand what is going
on. Awareness . . . can be the beginning of a way out of dead ends and
painful places because awareness leads to responsibility, that is, the
ability to respond.” (page 30) Wilkie and Noreen tell us that patience
is a virtue that allows us to not just endure an experience but to
actively go through it, to face it in order to search out its meaning.
If God will instruct the sinner and lead the humble then perhaps it is
in being patient that I will better understand what is happening and
what God wills I do or not do. What is my calling?
As I am working on this piece, I notice the final sentence: “For I
wait for you.” There is something incredibly touching in that initial
“for.” He is able to respond to the stressful moments in his life
because he has surrendered to God’s love. David trusts that he is
accompanied by his Beloved. For there is nowhere the Divine isn’t.
Let us wait for our merciful God, listen and see God at work in us and
in the world.
We take much of the value system of our society for granted, but we each have responsibility to participate in working to purify our part of the world. In Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas says, "We select from all the stimuli falling on our senses only those that interest us and our interests are governed by a pattern-making tendency, sometimes called a schema." Expected events fit easily into the pattern but each culture is responsible for providing a means to approach ambiguous or anomalous experiences or they will forfeit their confidence. We must have the health and vitality to name what does not fit and define a way to excise it or fold it back into itself. (Pages 45-48)
Two nights later, I watched Dear Comrades! a film about KGB violence against an uprising in a small town in Russia in 1962. As the state turns against the protagonist, she says, "If I can't believe in communism, what can I believe in?" Confidence in the goodness of the Russian state had to be left behind; it was entirely excised and she was left to reinvent her life.
Since self-publishing my book, Calling Mother Out of Darkness into Light, I have been sending copies to spiritual formation centers and a few individuals who might be interested.
Well, this past week, one person wrote back. He had read the book, was touched by it and thanked me for it.
I was honored to have heard from this reader. I wrote back saying, "Thank you for reading Calling Mother Out of Darkness . . . and for affirming the story. There is a lightness to processing life bit by bit, isn't there?
May we find solace as we await the reopening of the world."
Howard Wells edited my book. He tells me that process is all we have. I agree.
One Sunday morning in September I awoke early and wrote this reflection.
Today is like any other day, is it not?
For it has come to us and will leave entirely on its own.
We have not made the day nor the night; these days are out of our control.
And yet, they can be shaped, throttled, chopped or even blessed.
From our strange, dear, frightening or amazing moments
we can do much, see more, pursue truth, dignity, honor, respect,
love, purpose or calling as we fold our clean and dry clothes,
write our lists, do our jobs, and pay our way through these lives we live.
We can purpose to live beyond our egos’ demands and score-keeping
ways. Yes, we can. We can even love and be loved.
Later I came across these words written by Janice Edwards in her book Wild Dancing: Embraced by Untamed Love.
“You might recall a time when you were watching a sunset or holding your newborn child and something special came over you. Sometimes watching can become gazing, and holding can become beholding. Did you trust that experience and let seconds become minutes? If so, I say to you: trust these experiences and ask to become more alert to their frequency. Untamed Love is the most powerful force in the universe and much larger than our individual experiences of it. It is always the most tender embrace that holds each person’s heart, always and forever. So when we take the time to contemplate it, Love can bring a happiness and fulfillment that surpasses our wildest expectations.” (page 14)
She capitalizes the noun Love to remind herself and her readers that God is Love and Love is God.
Please pray with me for more profound experiences of God, of Love, so that we might be fully healed and whole.
Tonight I am looking at school work done nearly ten years ago. I came across this paragraph: "Vaclac Havel said, "Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out." His statement reminds me that Love contains every loss.
This week I am with my family in San Francisco.
Yesterday afternoon, walking back to my temporary dwelling, two young men behind a very small table asked for a donation to Teen Challenge. I have heard of Teen Challenge, so I stopped to listen. I guess I was also interested in more conversation with strangers before going inside.
As one delivered his pitch, he beamed a smile that was so beautiful I nearly felt taken advantage of. How does one say no to that?
Well, as the conversation progressed, I turned my attention to the second man who was easier for me to talk with. He was older and although respectful and warm, was not nearly as beautiful. So I spoke with him, asking him about his new direction in life. We talked for a while and as we did, I noticed the first young man close in more and more to himself. It was almost as if he wished he could disappear, he was being so left out of our conversation.
I took out $5.00 and put it in their locked box with the thin rectangle opening for cash. Then I said, "Your smile is so beautiful I could not talk to you." He gave me his full attention. So I went on. "Be careful, you can break hearts with it." His buddy agreed.
The young man came to life. It had finally been explained why he had been cut out, he had done nothing wrong, but I, as the one being approached for cash, had felt that he probably relied on that beautiful face of his, that winning smile, time and time again to get his way.
I was the jaded one, not he. As I left I felt so glad to have let him know that I was merely uncomfortable, he had done nothing wrong, nothing at all.
The other morning I sat with my tea on the deck and observed the day from my chair. I prayed for my neighbor and then I understood that I was afraid that I would not have enough significant relationships in that day, in my future, relationships where my personhood is invited, welcomed, appreciated, and then looking at the sky, the trees, feeling the breeze I understood that the day itself would companion me. The day does not know what will happen, neither do I and together we can step out with confidence that there is enough love for us both, enough opportunity, most likely more than enough.
This morning Job 12:1-6, 13-32, is among the selections of the daily readings in the Book of Common Prayer. In it Job is responding to the failing advice his friends give him in his inexplicable suffering.
I look at what is cut out of this chapter in our assignment. It is verses 7-12, this part of Job’s wisdom:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being. Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? Is wisdom with the aged, and understanding in the length of days?”
Most of this selection I would consider poetic mysticism. Why on earth would the editors leave behind these words that direct us to learn from God’s creation?
Because we live in a rational first culture, a prove it to me world. What cannot be measured with the weights and measures we have made, is judged to bear less weight, sometimes so much less, the light that mystics brings is regularly ignored altogether.
But that doesn’t matter. Those of us who are mystics can rely on God’s world to companion us every day and all through the night. We can trust that we will be given opportunities in which we feel deeply alive.