Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Lenten Writings: floating on my back

The Avowal

by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.

Source:   “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

I remember…

Trying to learn to do the back float.

Arch your back, they said. Look up at the sky. Don’t look down. Don’t tuck your chin. That was hard. Invariably, I would try to see where I was, tilting my head down. And I would sink.

I do that in my journey too. I stop floating. I want to see if I am making progress. Where is everyone else?

And I sink.

Recovery is hard work. The road back into my story has lots of twists and turns. If it were a river, there would definitely be whitewater and a waterfall.

I want to pause, to look around the bend ahead.

And I sink.

Today’s Lenten poem is about just that.

Just float.

The Lenten Writings: strong in the wind.

The Observer
by Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I can tell a storm by the way the trees are whipping, compared to when quiet, against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend or love without a sister close by.

There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age, changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm, so earnest, eternal, and strong.

How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things and acquiesced to the force of the storm, we, too, could be ageless and strong.

For what we can conquer is only the small, and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument and played their low-sounding chords.

Whoever submits to this angel, whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright, and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead, by the ever mightier one.

Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry, translated by Annemarie Kidder.   Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005. I am standing. I am feeling the movement of the wind of the spirit of God. I am standing. I am listening for the voice underneath. I am standing. I am speaking voiced truth.I am standing. I am keeping my eyes open, and asking for courage to see.I am standing.

The Lenten Writings: footprints

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream! —

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each tomorrow

Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our heats, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead

Act,- act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead.

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

a forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,

with a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.

The story beneath, the relentless pull to life. The hint that perhaps there a footprints of another.

These are the echoes that whisper in the dark corridors of my journey. And the voice speaks to my core lie and says “you are not alone.”

And that is enough. O to be accompanied.

Source: “A Psalm of Life” from The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1893.

The Lenten Writings: remember

God of peace,

God of justice,

God of freedom,

We give you thanks for your cadences of peace, justice, and freedom,

Cadences that have surged through the lives

Of Martin,

And Ralph

And Rosa,

And John,

And Fred,

And Hosea,

And Jesse,

And Andy,

And all that nameless mass of risk-takers who have been

Obedient to your promises

And susceptible to your dreams.

Deliver us from amnesia

Concerning their courage in the face of violence,

Their peace-making against hate,

And their hunger for you in a devouring economy

Deliver us from amnesia:

Turn our memory into hope,

Turn our gratitude into energy,

Turn our well-being into impatience.

That these same cadences of your will may pulse even among us.

Amen

Source: “Deliver us from amnesia”, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.

The Lenten Writings: hope unseen

What is hope?

It is a presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks.

It is a hunch

that the overwhelming brutality of facts

that oppress and repress is not the last word. It is a suspicion

that reality is more complex

than realism wants us to believe and that the frontiers of the possible

are not determined by the limits of the actual and that in a miraculous and unexpected way life is preparing the creative events

which will open the way to freedom and resurrection…. The two, suffering and hope, live from each other. Suffering without hope

produces resentment and despair, hope without suffering

creates illusions, naivete, and drunkenness…. Let us plant dates

even though those who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see. This is the secret discipline.

It is a refusal to let the creative act

be dissolved in immediate sense experience

and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren. Such disciplined love

is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints the courage to die for the future they envisaged.

They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.”

Source: “Tomorrow’s Children” by Ruben Aves. from Hijos de Maoana, by Rubem Alves. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Sigueme, 1976.

Hope is a single drop left in the center of the flowers after the rain. It is the courage that says I will speak in the face of oppression and violence. It is a flower striped by Creator. It is daring to step, putting one foot in front of the other into the swirling unknown. It is a cloud edged with purple and gilded with gold. It is finding a voice for those who have no voice. It is planting seeds, knowing that I will not see the outcome.

It is my reality. I live into hope unseen.

The Lenten Writings: a hidden poem

(from the healing of the man born blind: John 9:1-41)

First a path made of clay,

then a path made of grass,

then a path of forget-me-nots

that runs straight to the sea.

My heart of shells.

My heart of flesh and blood.

My heart – a bruised star torn from your sky –

This is the one I bring to you, my God,

As a humble offering.

Your name is Truth,

Your Word is love.

My Jesus, teach me the small truths like:

“I love you, mother!”

“I understand you, my son.”

“I pray for you all.”

When the small flower

Sends her small truth

Into the world

I don’t think of the fallen cardinal

Covered with a newspaper

Or the fists that knocked my hair down

As if into a tomb,

Or the hatred like a radioactive cloud

Invading my past.

When all these truths disappear,

I lift my eyes to the cross

From which forgiveness comes.

And

I learn to forgive,

I learn to help the blind

How to see again love.

I was moving through the dust of years

When on the Sunday of the Blind

I looked for my soul and could not see it.

I began to pray

And You cleaned all the mud

With which I have covered my body

And gave me back

My eyes

My prayer is hidden in this humble poem,

A tiny ladder toward You,

My Lord.

Source: by Liliana Ursu. Source: Matthew 4:8-11, by David Craig, A Praying the Gospels through Poetry: Lent to Easter, Peggy Rosenthal, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2001.

The Lenten Writings: a time to speak

“You can tell the people that if they proceed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully , they will realize that they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.

The church would betray its own love for Good and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being a defender of the rights of the poor, or a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society … that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history.

When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” (The Church is the people by Oscar Romero).

There comes a time when to be silent is to participate in the violence, the hiddenness.

The wise man of old said the now famous words, “there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

There is a movement taking place.

We watched the #MeToo campaign sweep our news feeds last fall. It gave voice to women, and men, who had experienced sexual abuse. It was a conversation starter, naming sexual harassment and sexual verbal abuse for what it is; sexual abuse.

Someone started a #ChurchToo hashtag; and slowly, the silence is beginning to break. What about the Church and sexual abuse? The Catholics led the way, perhaps not by choice. But the Protestants, known historically for protesting injustice from within, have largely been silent.

And so now we see a movement sweeping the country #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. It started with a statement. It is continuing with story. #LentenLament gives voice to the grief, which is right and good.

When girls are not safe in their homes, when boys are not safe in their churches, when women think workplace abuse is “the way it is”, when men perpetrate rape culture….

It is time to lament.

How are you breaking the silence?

How might you be invited to share your story?

What codes of silence are still being kept in your circles?

In your faith community?

It is time to speak.

This is my story. In my home. In my faith community.

I am speaking out.

How about you?

The Lenten Writings: just you

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

(By Teresa of Avila)

The Lenten Writings: Compassion

Compassionate God,

your generous presence

is always attuned to hurting ones. Your listening ear is bent

toward the cries of the wounded

Your heart of love

fills with tears for the suffering.

Turn my inward eye to see that I am not alone.

I am a part of all of life.

Each one’s joy and sorrow is my joy and sorrow,

and mine is theirs. May I draw strength

from this inner communion. May it daily recommit me

to be a compassionate presence for all who struggle with life’s pain.

Source: “The Heart of Compassion” from Your Sorrow is My Sorrow, by Joyce Rupp. New York: The Crossroads Publishing Co., 1999.

The Lenten Writings: presence

“Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world

but people capable of giving them their attention.

The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer

is a very rare and difficult thing;

it is almost a miracle;

it is a miracle.

Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it.

Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity are not enough…

The love of neighbor in all its fullness

simply means being able to say to him:

‘What are you going through.'”

Attention by Simone Weil, Lenten Poetry Companion, Neighborhood Ministries

The gift of presence.

It is enough.