Category Archives: Presence

The gift of presence

Leaving is like a slow grief. As we leave this place we have put roots down in together for thirty years, there is pain. Actually, counting childhood, I have been in the desert for forty years. Not sure about the wanderings….

And so we gather with groups of folks we have loved. These are people, young and old and in between, whom we have done life with in raw, bold ways. And in those places I have an invitation before me. Do I dare to remain present? Am I willing to listen with my heart?

Part of me wants to bolt! (And this from an “extrovert”)!

There is something I am startled by in this season. I have “done” many things; written curriculums, facilitated groups, midwifed women, taught classes. These are not the things I am hearing back.

From the teen moms, now grown, the take away is simple. I greeted their babies and drew on their bellies (belly mapping a baby). Greeting babies, so common to me, gives connection to that little human. And I asked permission (may I touch you?). This is life changing for those of us who have been violated.

Not the curriculum, the knowledge, the program. The things that stick are put into words: respect, dignity, permission, voice. And I offered my eyes.

This theme I also heard from my journey-mates. “You gave me your eyes.”

What is that, the offering of eyes, of presence? It is an invitation.

I also hear that I invited story, that we created places that flowed from our own stories. It seems small, really, the inviting of story. But this is radical, revolutionary stuff. When I engage my story deeply, and wrestle with its pain, only then do I have the right to dive into story-waters.

This desert landscape has been the place of my deep wrestling. Everything I thought was true about me, and my childhood, has been exposed in the light. Layers upon layers have been stripped away, until I stood figuratively naked in the arid landscape.

It is only from this place that I have the privilege to hold space for stories to emerge.

These are things that I am invited to notice. I am going to a place, in grad school, where other things matter. Titles, letters behind a name, publications, position….

And in this season of goodbyes none of those things have been spoken once.

Eyes, presence, respect, story.

This is the invitation, to my heart. Am I willing to enter a new place and offer my eyes? Am I willing to be present, in that green and rainy land, to another? Am I willing to offer my story, to create safe spaces for stories to emerge? In a more scripted, techy birth environment, will I continue to ask permission, to honor the yes and no of a woman young or old?

I am listening.

Thank you for gifting me with your words.

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Not the long goodbye yet…

I sat surrounded yet alone as a journeymate was honored. Her long goodbye came far too soon, it feels to me. She lived in a broken body, but her spirit was strong and vibrant. It pulsed and moved with life as multi-faceted as the flowers in her gardens.

Her life calls to a deep place in me.

I know something of broken bodies. Right now, mine is strong and almost supple. But always there is the awareness that it could change in a day.

I am reminded again tonight that all I have is this moment. This breath, this day…

I want to hold my kids, in their teenage push-pull, a little longer than is comfortable.

I want to speak truth. Not the truth/beauty/goodness kind but the real deal. The messy, cut the cliché, truth. The kind that cuts through to harsh realities with grace.

I want to co-create safe spaces; in my home, in my world. Spaces with food that reflects artistry. Spaces where conversation flows like water.

I want to be present. Today.

It’s not the long goodbye yet.

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: 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.

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: righteous indignation

Possible Answers to Prayer

“Your petitions—though they continue to bear

just the one signature—have been duly recorded.

Your anxieties—despite their constant,

relatively narrow scope and inadvertent

entertainment value—nonetheless serve

to bring your person vividly to mind.

Your repentance—all but obscured beneath

a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more

conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.

Your intermittent concern for the sick,

the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes

recognizable to me, if not to them.

Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly

righteous indignation toward the many

whose habits and sympathies offend you—

these must burn away before you’ll apprehend

how near I am, with what fervor I adore

precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.”

What rouses your passion? Or maybe more accurately, your judgments? Do you have a favorite sin that you like to rant about? Or maybe a lifestyle choice or sexual orientation that really gets you going? Is it immigration status that riles you up? Politics? Vaccines? Home birth?

This prayer is hauntingly disturbing. It raises more questions than answers. In a time of Lent, where the focus is on self reflection and prayer; it points the finger back.

Sometimes in group work we play with the idea of a mirror. Another person’s actions of words trigger my opinions or judgments. Often, it is because he or she is a mirror to me. It is my imperfect self that I see in the other that gives me a rise, or provokes a strong reaction.

Before breakfast, we had a rousing conversation at our house. (That’s not the norm, in case you are wondering). My husband was telling the story of the woman caught in adultery. She was in the very act of it. No question. And Jesus pointed back. “Let the one among you who has no sin cast the first stone.” And then He just sits and starts playing in the dirt with a stick. When Jesus looks up, the air is still, no one is left. And then the words, gentle, perhaps with tears. “Neither do I condemn you… ”

This is a good place for me to sit today. And the lyrical storytelling that I heard it in this in this morning, three teenagers interrupting themselves to add details, made the story come alive.

Sometimes, I have a really hard time with the church. Not surprising, I suppose, as my wounds occurred within that context. And so, as I wrestle, I am brought back again and again to the words of Jesus. Not the church lens, thick like my grandmother’s glasses, through which I often see people.

No judgment.

I want to show up that way. Heart first, ready to listen, led by love. It’s in that space that real conversation starts.

And maybe in that place, I will begin to apprehend how very near the Presence is…

Scott Cairns, “Possible Answers to Prayer” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Scott Cairns. Reprinted with the permission of Zoo Press.

Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

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

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 


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!