I am glad to announce that Calling Mother Out of Darkness into Light is published and for sale. It is published through Blurb, a self-publishing publishing company. Kathy Hettinga is the gifted designer and Howard Wells the empathic editor. I believe this small volume is useful for personal use and for retreat programs.
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.
Yesterday the spirit of our dear dog, Max, passed out of his physical form.
He was a fabulous dog -- I couldn't possibly have asked for more.
We hosted this good dog for 9 years. He lived to be 13 1/2 years old.
Here is a reflection I wrote earlier in the morning:
Goodbye dear dog, you fine, fine friend who came to live with us in June of 2005 -- a very special moment.
You are so fine a dog, a distinguished canine.
Pure Radiant Being.
How can we know we are loved? Experience it eagerly given by a dog.
Max greeted us with joyful enthusiasm, the way each person desires to be greeted. He made up for losses. He filled in gaps with Presence.
Now he knows the path to death: stop eating, stop drinking. Let the organs quit their labor. Just head toward the exit door. Face it and let it come to you. Be embraced by it. That's what he's doing. The exit door is love, too.
We breath in love.
We stop breathing in love.
It's love both ways.
My husband, Jonathan, and I have now entered the time when Max is living with us even more powerfully as a vibrant loving Spirit. Here is a story I wrote anticipating this time.
The Dog who lives forever
So far, my dog Max has lived forever. A sort of new friend, a transient friend, gave him to us, so I never saw him small, as a new being on the earth. He just was. And now he just is. He is 13 years old.
Last night I took Max to my favorite vet. It was a hour long drive but worth it. She praises Max. She beams. I think she beams even when no one is in her office. Nevertheless, we got to see her beaming light as she examined our dog.
Neither my husband nor I had had a dog before Max. He is our first, and who knows, maybe our last. So all of this doggie stuff is new and we are trying really hard to be good “parents” to Max. At first I wondered how often Max needed to out to pee and poop. We worked hard to make a nice bed for him. Now, after years and years of adaptations, we have a sort of doghouse in our bedroom that he seems to like pretty well. He likes things cozy or at least I think he likes to be cozy. I wrap a lap blanket around him when I see him sleeping on my bed during the day and the window is open. I think he is cold. He might be perfectly happy. But I love to show him how much I love him by the care I give him.
You know, if Max does not happen to live forever, I know he will live forever in my heart.
February 22, 2014, the women of St. Luke Episcopal Church in Mechanicsburg, PA gathered to be renewed.
The youngest participant is in her teens. The oldest perhaps in her 80's.
A dancer graciously helped us to dance. We spread out into the den and bedrooms, hallway, and kitchen to work in pairs sharing parts of our journaling.
The sun shone so brightly that day into the soft yellow of the living room where we sat.
At the close, we selected a seed packet and a bag of dirt and seed pots. We are invited to pray with those things and continue to ponder the question -- What has God given me to tend this winter?
Last night I reread Catherine of Siena's Use of Water Imagery in Selected Letters, paper I wrote nine years ago in graduate school. This morning I spoke with a friend who has been feeling very broken. I believe Catherine's spirit prepared me to encourage her.
Here is some of my reflection after studying those eight letters rich with water imagery:
When we look honestly at our utter poverty we see the outstretched arms of the Risen Lord who desires that we come to Him. We can trust the Lord Jesus with our broken lives in utter confidence that the Holy Spirit covers what is broken, what causes us shame, honoring every bit and has already begun the rebuilding process.
In Catherine of Siena's writing, as in all wisdom literature, there is an unrelenting call to be made whole, to experience the mercy and love of God embracing our utter poverty.
"New people are necessary. They see things to do that experienced people don't."
While my daughter is traveling around the world this year, I too, am traveling a solo journey. Yes, my husband and I share this experience in some ways, and yet my experience of my daughter's courageous year of exploration is largely my own.
This morning I feel some sadness. I miss her and she assured me yesterday that the only city she would consider living in upon her return is the city she has been living in for the previous 8 years: San Francisco. She is not considering living anywhere on the east coast. If she does not return to San Francisco, she will not be returning to the USA.
San Francisco is a very long way from Mechanicsburg, PA.
I miss her.