Category Archives: Stillness

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.

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The Lenten Writings: the Mystery

Days pass when I forget the mystery.

Problems insoluble and problems offering

their own ignored solutions

jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber

along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing

their colored clothes; caps and bells.

And then

once more the quiet mystery

is present to me, the throng’s clamor

recedes: the mystery

that there is anything, anything at all,

let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,

rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,

Creator, Hallowed one, You still, hour by hour sustain it.

Source: “Primary Wonder” by Denise Levertov, from SANDS OF THE WELL, copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996 by Denise Levertov

The mystery.

So hard to find amidst the cacophony of noise. She pictures it here in metaphor, like courtiers, brightly colored clothes swirling in dance.

And it is through that crowd, in a quiet place beyond, that the mystery is found.

There are many things swirling for me right now. The voices clamor for my attention. Each one distinct, each need important.

Problems also line up for solutions, jostling for a better place. Perhaps some, as she points out, are insoluble. Others, if given a voice, present their own solutions.

They too can distract from the mystery.

Yet even those voices, strident in their need, recede as I come near to the Mystery.

The mystery, wisely, is not named. How could it be?

And yet, it is there, as my very being is sustained for another breath.

And all the noise recedes.

And it is enough.

The Lenten Writings:

Don’t run

when faced with

something or someone

that seems like an adversary

Stay with it

Try to hear it

Let the process unfold

Do not judge

Let it all be

Sooner or maybe later

what is constricted

will lift its head

and surprise you

with how simple the truth is

In the meantime

keep returning

to the center

surround your heart

with love

let the ugly thoughts

and harsh feelings

fade away

Don’t shove them out

And never

let them take over

Listen and learn

Source: “my soul feels lean” from my soul feels lean; poems of loss and restoration, Joyce Rupp, Sorin Books, Notre Dame, IN.,2013.

The Lenten Writings: exposed to God

“Somehow by day, no matter what, I patch myself together whole, But all my effort can’t offset–the nightly nakedness of soul– When Angels in a dark descent–strip off my integument.

I am a cornered rebel pinched–Between night’s armies and my lack, And when inside the bedclothes hunched- I feel the force of their attack, I hardly know what I can do, Exposed to God at half past two.

I once believed my being full, But night thoughts prove that it is not. Waking scared and miserable, I scrape the bottom of the pot. And then must bow down and confess–totality of emptiness.

Kings once ventured, it is said. To offer gold and frankincense But I send nothing from my bed–except a tattered penitence. So very little has accrued–From years of doubtful plenitude.

God who tear away my cover, Oh, pour your Spirit into me–until my emptiness runs over with golden superfluity, and so bow down and offer up–Yourself within my earthly cup.”

Night Thoughts by William F. Bell

For all of you who have wrestled with God at half past two….

Everything is more intense at night. Long ago times and spaces swirl with the present in a dance of cellular memory.

Perhaps in those spaces there is also a wrestling in the places unseen.

God who tear away my cover…

I love the poet William Bell’s honesty. Those Kings of old? Gold and frankincense were in their hands. Me? I send nothing from my bed. Even my prayers are tattered.

And then the paradox. Until my emptiness runs over…

And the cup is full. Of something other than me.

I see this again and again in the still spaces between Day and night. These are the spaces between, in which babies like to be born.

It is always when the woman is utterly at the end of herself that the baby births, right into the mama’s waiting hands.

That image feels appropriate here, reflecting on these haunting words. It is holy ground, the long waiting in the long night.

And I bow down and offer up, Yourself within my earthen cup.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

Bell, William F. “Night Thoughts” from America Magazine, Vol. 187, No. 18, 12/02/2002.

Mystic musings. 

My ego is like a fortress–I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God. 

But I have stayed here long enough. 

There is light–over the barriers.   Oh my God–

The darkness of my house forgive And overtake my soul. I relax the barriers.


I abandon all that I think I am, all that I hope to be, all that I believe I possess. 

I let go of the past, I withdraw my grasping hand from the future, and in the great silence of this moment,

 I alertly rest my soul.

As the seagull lays in the wind current, so I lay myself into the Spirit of God.

My dearest human relationships, my most precious dreams, I surrender to his care.

All that I have called my own I give back. All my favorite things which I would withhold in my storehouse from his fearful tyranny.

I let go. 

I give myself unto Thee, oh my God.

Amen. 

Howard Thurman 

Come and see 

I found myself saying this phrase today. It was couched in an afternoon so thick with redemption that you could smell Jesus.

He’s crazy like that, you know. 

Crazy enough to bring together a babysitter and  a little girl, now in grown up bodies, to share story. 

Stories of Harm, and stories of goodness, with silly stories of the every day mixed between. 

History, we call it; the stories of Long Ago. This was a space for “her-story”. Infinitely more sacred, and raw and it’s beauty and pain. 

These two crazy fishermen were talking one day. Probably the one was asking the other why in the world he had given up the business, when it had been in the family for generations. And all that, to follow a new guy in town that people said was crazy?! Definitely illegitimate at the very least. And in a place where bloodlines matter, that was unforgivable.

And what did the smelly fisherman say?

Come. And. See. 


Photo:  

aspen circle near snow bowl, Flagstaff, Arizona 


Women’s Knowing

I am starting a course in herbal medicine for women.

In typical recovering Baptist fashion, tonight I dove into the first assignment. I looked at the objectives, read the key words, and made sure I understood how to turn in the homework. I had signed up for this to add to my knowledge of herbs, after all. And it was a chunk of cash! I even set up a study group to hold myself accountable.

It was a curious thing to notice there were reflective assignments that went along with the lessons. I added "get a new sketchbook" to my list.

The first chapter started with history. I settled in, pens in hand. The author, Aviva Romm, had suggested we write in the book; she gave her permission, she said. (The good girl lives in me still, but since I had permission…)

As she began to explore women's ways of knowing, I could feel myself settle deeply into my chair, tea forgotten. Yes! My heart resonated with the words. This is what women long for, to have deep meaningful relationship with a provider; to be heard. The work of a provider includes to learn to trust intuition and internal wisdom.

When someone begins to speak about "trusting the gut" and "listening to the body" I pay attention. These are themes that are woven deeply into the tapestry of my journey of recovery and healing. Radical phrases, in the context of my black and white upbringing, nearly tantamount to heresy. And yet here I am, taking another step farther in: learning about herbs. Steeping in the herbs, it sounds like, is the path ahead for the next 18-36 months.

I have been drawn to plants these last few months. I always thought I had a brown thumb. My mom never let me touch her plants, except to rub mayonnaise (Miracle Whip I think, as it was the 70's) on the leaves to make them shiny. I think she read it in a women's magazine in a doctor's office. My dad kept the garden, but he had lived on a farm off and on growing up, so of course he knew these things. My roommate in college said I could buy the plants and she would take care of them. That sounded good to me. Even when I put a few plants in the dirt, my husband always dug the bed for me. I bought well established plants, and he watered them. That seemed wise, because I had a brown thumb.

This morning I was out with a lightweight shovel I bought especially for myself, digging in the dirt. It is still 104 here in the desert, but fall is in the air. You can feel it in the first cool of the morning, in the breeze late at night.

And now here I am, deeply still as the words unfold on the page, aware somehow that I am entering another layer of redemption.

Maybe I will even start some seeds this year.

And you know what? My thumb looks to be just the right color for this season of life.

Morning musings

I don’t like mornings. 

Never have. Never (?) will. 

But I have two kids who have run cross country. And babies who like to greet their mamas (and the midwife) as the sun comes up. 

I used to work nights, as a nurse. It wasn’t all bad. I would go to bed as other people got up. And on the off nights I could stay up as late as possible. 

It generally takes me an hour to reconcile myself to the inevitable reality that the day has begun. Once I am past that, I feel quite cheerful. 

Sone people like sunrises; I prefer sunsets. I would like sunrises, I think, if they showed up at a different time of day. 

Today I walked while the kids ran. I am up to more than half a mile! If you know the long story, that in itself is a miracle. 

I saw tiny purple flowers, unnoticed amidst the grass. Four raindrops hit me. (In the desert?!) And when I sat under a tree to rest, I saw this on the ground beneath my feet. 

And so for today, I am grateful. 
To be up. To be able to walk. To be alive. To see. 

Enjoy your morning!

The Advent Writings: the long goodbye

I said goodbye to a precious friend today. Not the long goodbye, as C.S. Lewis says; but a goodbye nonetheless. And goodbyes are full of grief. They hold the not knowing and the not yet together in equal measure. They weave longing and loneliness into a braid of beauty and pain.

I wonder what it was like for Mary, holding a baby that she knew would move beyond her. Was there an ache mixed with the joy of watching him play? And then he stayed around longer than expected perhaps… 30 years. He left home to go be with a bunch of friends, new friends really. They were going to go travel the country without a real plan. Rumors came back, bits and pieces of stories. They probably seemed much bigger than life. And in the middle of the wondering, always the ache. 

So much of the story is not told. Perhaps there is beauty in the mystery.

So for today, I choose to hold the not knowing. I will trust that the beauty will come as the story unfolds. And dare to hold the ache of goodbye. 

Photo Credit Kate Wilder