Pondering Nothing Special

In 2010 I was reading Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck. As was my practice I would quote passages from the books I read and then write my reflections. Here is my journal entry June 29, 2010. Beck was writing on the practice of meditation:

“Being in the present is the point of sitting and of practice in general; it helps us to be wiser about life, more compassionate, more oriented to what needs to be done.”

“After all the struggles and avoidance and denying and going the other way, it is deeply satisfying for a second to be there with life as it is. The satisfaction is the very core of ourselves. Who we are is beyond words – just that open power of life, manifesting constantly in all sorts of interesting things, even in our own misery and struggles.”

“…prepare the ground. We don’t need to worry about the little moments or openings that pop up. If we have fertile ground, well-prepared soil, we can throw anything in there and it will grow.”

Today’s reading (above) is not easy to grasp. I think it is saying that we tend to view life as a series of experiences. I might tell someone that “yesterday I had lunch with a friend and grocery shopped and worked on a sewing project. Other than that, nothing.” In doing so I’m implying that the in-between times when I showered and ate and moved from room to room or stopped to shuffle through the mail…these were not really experiences. These were not really my life. I think Becker is saying that it is all my life. Each moment or activity…all changing…me living in this long space called my life on earth. Change is my life, too.

So as I sit here with an unexplained pain in the arch of my foot that yesterday was in the ankle…that is changing, too. It may move to my toes tomorrow or in a couple of hours. It may  just fade away. But I am living through it like a train passing through a tunnel or over a bridge. It is my life and my life is fuller than this one thing, this pain in my foot. My life is also the quiet morning with crow and other birds chattering and the light growing as the earth turns and Bernie snoring in the bedroom. It is good, it is me in life, it is comfort or discomfort, but it is my life.

Christmas and Incarnation

Christmas is about Incarnation, God coming into the world through or in the body of a particular baby born in a stable in the town of Bethlehem. My spirituality has gone to a place that is very difficult to explain to another person, but Richard Rohr wrote this morning using words and images that seem to work quite well for me. I will intersperse my own words with what Richard offers.

Rohr begins with the teachings of Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), a Byzantine Christian monk and mystic… Symeon believed that humans had the capacity to experience God’s presence directly. He visualized  this union happening within the “force field” of the Body of Christ.

I believe that this force field is available to any human person. It is not necessary to enter “in the name of Jesus.” Jesus himself knew the difference between someone proclaiming him to be Lord with their words and one whose heart was in the right place. No matter the path, it is into this relationship that God calls us.

Rohr shares with his readers a poem written by Symeon, his “Hymn 15”. He says that these lines say it all for him and move him to an embodied knowing, where one can know mystical union on even a cellular union. Here is the poem and I have the same reaction to the poem as Rohr:

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ. He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly whole,
seamless in His Godhood.)

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightening.
Do my words seem blasphemous? – Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

My belief is that Incarnation is about all of us. As the Quakers say, there is “that of God” in all. And that of God is one unique expression that dwells within us. It is both our own True Self and the “Force Field” of the whole Body of Christ. It is the very foundation of the Oneness that Jesus preached.

I am especially drawn to the second-to-the-last stanza of the poem. It gives special meaning to the changes I am experiencing as my body ages and deteriorates. Even suffering and ugly parts share in this amazing Presence. I don’t know the “why” of Incarnation, but being awake to it is an amazing thing.

Prayer of Presence

My mother used to say that prayer is more for the pray-er than those one prays for. I don’t know. I think prayer for others moves grace in some way, but I have no doubt in her premise that prayer helps the pray-er. It sure does me. I would like to share with you a prayer I wrote that is one I was in the practice of praying each morning as I would walk out into my field and greet the sun. I used body movements much like Native Americans do as they pray to the four directions. I appreciate it when I can pray alone and add movement to my prayer.

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PRAYER OF PRESENCE

You are my God, you alone are my Lord…
Below me, O God

I am grounded in this life, upon this earth. My life is what it is. I need to foster the capacity to accept life as it is for me, not as I wish it to be. For this is where I am meant to be right now, today, in this location, at this moment in time. In accepting this, I am safe.

You are my God, you alone are my Lord…
Behind me, O God

All of life that I have experienced up to this moment is a gift to me. It is the life God has given to me to teach me, to awaken me. God has been with me all along. There is no point in my life where God was gone, even if I did not see. I trust that if there are parts of my story that I need to understand in order to live a full life, God will shine a light and I will be able to understand and forgive myself and others. I offer my past as a gift back to God to be used in service to others.

You are my God, you alone are my Lord…
Beside me, O God

God gives me all that I need today, right now, in this moment. I am grateful for friends who are part of my life today to help me on my journey. I pray for those who are suffering today……………………………………………….I thank God for the world around me, the animals, the trees, the birds. These, too, are here to support me. “The Lord is my shepherd,”  says the scriptures. I don’t have to search any longer. All I need is here, right now.

You are my God, you alone are my Lord…
Before me, O God

As I walk into this day, I give it to God. I think about my plans for the day………………………………….. I will aspire to be the most loving person I can be in any moment of the day. If my Creator has plans for me, different than mine, I pray to be open and willing. Only God knows where I can be of service. I offer God my whole week, my month and years. Only He knows what is in store for me. I need only do the best I can to love myself and others.

You are my God, you alone are my Lord…
Above me, O God

I look to the skies and know that God is there. My God is the God of the Universe. There is no place that God is not. Not even to the ends of space or the ends of time. I am just a drop in the ocean, a grain of sand on the desert floor, yet God is conscious of me. Of me, God says, “You are precious.” ” You are the apple of my eye.” As I lift my thoughts to the Universe, I know that all the wisdom and guidance I need is there for me. I am never alone.

You are my God, you alone are my Lord…
Inside me, O Lord

I am part of the universe. I am a cell in the Body of God. As such, God is as much in me as in all other creatures. I breathe in God as I breathe in air. As oxygen flows through my body, God is flowing through me, nourishing me, transforming me, strengthening me. I exhale God as I exhale air. My breath becomes nourishment for the earth. My kind words to others are God encouraging them. My helpful hands are God caring for the management of the earth. As I go about the earth, I am God everywhere, present in the unique way that I am unique.

Here is my God, below, behind, beside, above, inside me. Where God is, there I am I . Wherever I am, God is.

 

 

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I thought I would share with you the chapter on Mary in my book The Memorial of Jesus. The story takes place at a gathering of Jesus’ friends and family 30 days after his death to reminisce, to tell stories.

The memorial service is actually a Jewish custom, Sheloshim,  where the community assists family of the deceased to move on to a new stage, after 30 days, of their grieving. The leader or celebrant of the occasion is Yakov, James in the Bible, He is referred to there as the brother of Jesus and this is verified in other writings. He was a priest so it is fitting that he lead the ceremony. After some ritual and prayer, Yakov calls forth family members and close friend to share their memories of Jesus. Mary, Jesus’ mother, comes near the end of the ceremony. I am sharing her words here as I wrote them in the book. I won’t take the time to alert you to the people she refers to, but these are real characters, according to the Bible and other writings, and these have spoken earlier in the memorial service.

As Mary speaks, she uses the Hebrew name for Jesus, Yeshua:

Miriam tells me I have been buried with Yeshua in the tomb. It feels like that – dark and cold and alone. When Yakov wanted to go ahead with the day of memorial, I fought him. “I am not ready,” I pleaded.
“You will never be ready,” he told me, “but life is ready for your return.” My son is right. The light, though dim, is here once more. Thank you, Yakov, for not listening to your mother this one time.
I want to thank John for the hours he spent sitting with me, and attending to my needs this past month. Such a young man, yet he did not run from the rantings of a woman in distress. Suzanna says the evil spirits are finally growing weary of me. God knows I have grown weary of them. In these final days, sleep is finally coming.
I so want to feel joy again. I want to experience the warmth of the sun and the sweet fragrance of lilies of the valley. I want to weave with woolen thread and hold my precious grandchild, Simeon, and run my fingers through his silken hair. I want to feel the rhythm of the drum and the rain on the roof of my house. I want to sing praises once again to the God I believe has been suffering with me. When I am free, perhaps God will stop weeping as well.
In the weeks since Yeshua’s death, people have wanted to know about his birth and about this early years. Where does one begin?
God gave me a son, and what a fistful he was, always questioning. I will tell you a little story, and it is true. When my husband, Joseph, God rest his soul, took the boys to the synagogue as a good Jewish father should, Yeshua was ever restless. One day, during the recitation of the psalms, Joseph looked down and noticed Yeshua with a stick in hand, drawing in the sand on the floor. He said he felt he should stop him and insist he sit up like the older boys, “But he was quiet,” Joseph said, “and down there the rabbi could not see him.”
After prayers were completed, Joseph knelt to see Yeshua had drawn a picture of a house. He asked whose house it was, and Yeshua said, “It is God’s house.”
“Oh,” Joseph said, “you have drawn a picture of the temple in Jerusalem.”
“No,” Yeshua said. “God doesn’t live there anymore.” Joseph was startled and slightly amused. He told me he looked around to see if the rabbi was near. Then he asked Yeshua in a whisper, “Why did God move out of the Temple?” and Yeshua replied, “Because the people can’t see him there.” Do you see how smart he was even then?
I suspect, Thomas, you were much like Yeshua when you were small. If I could share tea with your mother, God rest her soul, I am sure she would tell me a mother’s stories of a curious little boy. In the early mornings I have seen you  go out to greet the sun as it comes up in the East. Yeshua used to do this, and when he left us, I wondered if it was the sun he was seeking. It is right that you go on your journey, Thomas. May the God of light who guided my son guide you as well.
James, I thank you for your insights about the work of the artist. As I listened to your words it occurred to me that when we share in the work of the Creator, we grow attached to the work. Yeshua was my work. All my children are my work, but Yeshua required more of me than the others. The words that came out of my mouth more often with him than any others were, “Listen to me!” It always seemed as if someone else was telling him what to do, and he had to consider my requests in this light. Joseph, God rest his soul, used to say to me, “Our children are not our own. Their father is the One in Heaven, and it is he whose will they must follow.”
I thought when Joseph was ill Yeshua would change his mind about leaving, but he did not. And my husband did not deter him. “He needs to be about his Heavenly Father’s work,” he told me. “He needs to go away to find out what his work is.”
Letting go is the task of the parent, and I fear I am not very good at it. I thought when Yeshua left to do his seeking I had let him go, but clearly I did not, for when he returned and did not remain in Nazareth my heart broke once again. At the cross, God asked me to let him go back to where he came from, back into the dark womb, back into the arms of his Creator. It was more than I could bear. I was clinging too hard, and my clinging was to the dreams I had for Yeshua – not God’s dreams, but my own.
There was a tension between Yeshua and me during the early days of his work. “I am a man who knows what to do,” he said to me. That was his truth. I told him, “You did not allow me the luxury of watching you change. You left as one person and came home another. Give me time to get accustomed to this new man.” That is my truth.
I remember he laughed when I said that. “I am not as crazy a man as I appear, Mother,” he said. “Behind every word and action there is a higher purpose. The Spirit of God has come to dwell in me.”
That is when he asked me to come along with him. “Clopas and Mara are coming. They can use your help watching Simeon. There will be other children as well.” That became my role, the tender of the lambs. And the little lambs, more than anything Yeshua said, awakened my soul to the Kingdom.
Miriam, when Yeshua left for the East, you were just a child, thin as a reed, a little girl who preferred to climb trees and chase rabbits rather than cook and weave. When we stayed at your family’s home in Bethany you used to follow him around like a puppy to get his attention. When we left he complained about how annoying you were. But after his travels he found you transformed into a woman, and he was not so annoyed. When he asked you to come along with us, it was an invitation to walk beside him – not to follow him like a puppy jumping for attention – as the support he knew he would need to do the Father’s work. He called you Mariameme, his tower of strength.
So you want to know the message of the mother? Much wisdom has been shared here today, and I don’t know what more I could add.
Life did not turn out as I thought when I was a young girl, but it is the life set before me. I have had to face many things I would rather not have put into the design of my life. Sadness is a new talis for me. I think I will have to wear it for as long as I live on this earth.
With age comes wisdom, the child of pain and joy. Wisdom sees cause and effect. Wisdom sees that darkness will return and light will return. It perceives the cycle of things. Wisdom sees that knowing the truth about oneself sets one free. This is what I gather from these testimonies of today. One cannot awaken without the truth, and the truth is hard. “The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all. This is the work of the Lord,” we sing, “what a wonderful sight it is!”
I feel Yeshua’s hand upon me.

My last word in the book: AWAKEN!

One of my Heroes

In 2008, I was reading Caroline Myss’ book, Entering the Castle. She prompted her readers to journal on the various chambers of the Mansion which is meant to serve as a soul-finding mission. I cooperated. For two months, I wrote…and I wrote…and I wrote, searching for my soul. On August 5, Myss shared this story as she wrote about the 4th Mansion:

There was a man whose life embodies humility and divine awareness…(he) sells home entertainment centers…(as he comes in contact with people) he envisions these…as blessings that have come into life to help him and, in return, he visualizes grace moving through all the components that he sells to these people. He begins his day in prayer and ends his day that way and consciously but quietly works to bringing peacefulness into his environment. “This requires that I always maintain a devotion toward maintaining my interior peace, so I live with one foot in the world and one within my soul.” He lives in readiness to receive God.

This clearly describes the place I am at, though my living in it is fleeting, very fleeting. The last few months have been especially difficult. The “one foot in the soul”, for me is “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” And, Holy Moley! I find it hard! It’s like standing with one foot on the dock and the other in the water.

I have a friend (today in 2020). His name is Chuck and once in a while he pokes his head in and comments on one of my blog posts. Chuck to told me once that he had a job in a grocery store sharing samples of food. He said that when he handed to people a sampling of food in a little paper cup, he thought about serving communion in his church. He would pray inside himself, “This is the Body of Christ. Take and Receive.”

Chuck is, for me, a perfect example of a person who has one foot on the earth and the other in the kingdom of heaven. He is one of my heroes.

Fog-Walking

The Oxford dictionary defines serendipity as “the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. I am not sure this is how I have come to understand serendipity. I remember Carl Jung telling a story of coincidences of events and symbols that he began to notice. I can’t recall his examples but he suggested that they happen all the time but one needs to notice them. I person who is more intuitive is more likely to see, if you understand intuition as a kind of seeing from above or seeing with the heart. Some people will look for signs out and about in order to know how to make a decision. I am not inclined to do this simply because I don’t believe we can ever be completely sure whether a decision is perfectly right for us. For me, choosing is about stepping onto a different path and each path leads to a different set of outcomes that will be “right” for us. In other words, I believe that if your decision is made with good (loving)  motive (and perhaps with some information-seeking) you should be able to relax in it. My husband and I had a conversation recently about some of the decisions we made over the years. We realized that his decision to change jobs or our choice to move to a new location put us on a different path. The paths we did not choose may have been just as good for us. We will never know, of course.

An example of serendipity happened to me yesterday, though I don’t think it will effect any major decisions in my life right now. A poet friend of mine, Dianne, posted a short piece she wrote about moving through fog. It was a positive poem. She finds fog-walking to be comforting. I made a comment that I used to think about fog-walking as well and it helped me get through a difficult time.

This morning, I was reading an old journal. I wrote on July 30, 2008:

Oh, the motions I go through to try to grab hold of God. God, in a sense is like fog. I can walk in it – and it keeps me from seeing – but I breathe it in and breathe it out. I sense divine activity all about  but can only see a short way in front of me. So all that binds life together – the great connection – is a mystery to me. Nevertheless, I try to guess – I create a master plan in my head because I am afraid that the truth might be that there is none. Alas. Well, I keep grabbing. I cannot hold God in my hands. But breathing in and out seems to help – for as long as I am alive – I feel somehow connected to something greater than myself. Life itself – and I wonder, perhaps, that God is Life Itself – no face – just Life. 

Serendipity. It seems the only decision I need to make is to take the next step and have confidence that God is here.

 

Old Journal Reflection

From my journal, March 26, 2008:

Watching the sun rise this morning, I remembered a game we used to do in Youth Ministry called “knots”. Teens would be instructed to get in a huddle and grab 2 hands, any hands. Then they were to try to untangle themselves until they formed a circle. I was never the one who could figure it out. The thought I had this morning, as I stood in the field, is that, in order to be free of being part of the conglomeration, all one had to do is “let go”. Easier yet is if everyone let go – though that would be cheating. In fact, people get pretty mad if someone lets go before the game is over.

Yesterday I prayed to be free of the time trap – it feels like a knot. It feels like a box. I feel You saying this morning “just let go”. So I guess I should get back to “one day at a time”, even “one moment at a time,” or, as Myron says, “Just do the next right thing.”