Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On This and That



Recently my husband and I had the opportunity of having a meal with a group of regulars that we see about every quarter. When we are together I notice that, no matter how I may be feeling before we all arrive, I always go away from our together times with new energy and deep pleasure. Doubtless the togetherness we bring holds great comfort and familiarity…and we are by no means peas in a pod…but there is more than this taking place. Taking thought about it I believe I know at least some of what is happening. There is in this group the willingness to bring the diamonds and pearls, the stones and pebbles of our lives into the open so that we may all be a part of them. We do this unabashed and without worry that what we bring will be ill considered, so it is easy to go from here and there to this and that.

Nothing short of amazing...

It is nothing short of amazing to be part of the unfolding lives we are sharing, and all the thises and thats are not necessarily comfortable. Some bring illnesses that need healing…and they ask for our prayer work without embarrassment. Others bring losses that become a bit softened perhaps by being absorbed in the listening of interested friends. And, of course, there are accomplishments and pleasures which are made greater because they are received by all of us.

The open place that is theirs awaits...

We have created a history together, a collective consciousness that endures because we all are situated and invested in our changing lives. Even when some are not present each time, the open place that is theirs awaits them whenever they can come, and a gap created by their absences is closed around them.

Can friendships be this organic?

Can friendships be this organic? Can they arrive and grow without major entanglements or criticisms? Can they be this easily renewed by the simple act of being present? Apparently so. We seem to be readily available to one another, whether times are difficult, wondrous or simply giddy.

Doesn’t get better than this.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Turret at a Time



       

I am very fond of the use of metaphors, which are basically comparisons of similar ideas or subjects that may help in clarifying their meanings. One that I always enjoyed is this one: When you’re thinking of painting a castle, perhaps the best way to begin is by taking one turret at a time. In other words, if we find ourselves absolutely snowed by things in front of us to do, how about picking out just one place to begin? Hopefully the progression should be obvious. If we can find one small way to create an opening, the whole, imponderable pile in front of us starts to become more manageable.

Frantic never helps...

Frantic never helps. I discovered this years ago as I found myself overwhelmed by big picture concerns and had no idea where to start. There always is a starting place, but we often need to narrow our focus so that we can find an opening. Scattered searching won’t do it. There is no question that narrowed, contained thinking is difficult to do at a time when ideas, challenges, possibilities and demands are thrown at us every day, sometimes packaged so cleverly that our eyes bounce from idea to possibility to distraction without settling anywhere.

Dancing with interesting distractions...

All depends, of course, on how much we want to actually accomplish. Dancing with interesting distractions we can always do and never really resolve anything, which is ok if that’s what we want. But if we actually want to gather some arrows into our quiver (nice metaphor—yes?), we might keep our eye on one turret at a time.

Sometimes little really is big!



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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Surrender



Surrender is one of the best spiritual practices there is, no question about it, but it’s good to understand what surrender can do for us. When we hear the word, most of us probably go back in memory to early 20th Century American western films with good guys and bad guys trying to get the upper hand, usually with lots of guns blazing. If one group won the skirmish, the others had to raise their hands in submission and say, “I surrender.” Bad example of a good mental/spiritual practice.

Give over, not give up...

A fine metaphysical author and teacher, Ervin Seale, had a wonderful take on surrender when he said that it meant to “give over, not give up.” Give over the problem, the concern, the thing we have been wrestling with to the greater Mind of God, which has the big picture in hand at all times. In this act there is immediate relief. We have stopped fighting. As the mythical Atlas should have done, we have lifted a weight off our shoulders and entrusted it to the wiser, more expansive power than our own. For the believer, there is encouragement and better still, the openness to solutions which can be hard to find when we are caught in the coil of a dilemma.

Surrender a situation to a new mind set...

Spiritual practices are ours to use for help with clarifying our thinking. They help us to recognize the difference between effort, which is often necessary to move ahead, and struggle, which is never fruitful and can pull us back. To be spiritually wise is to know when to surrender a situation over to a new mind set rather than exhausting ourselves in mental lacerations.

Clear guidance...

Come to think of it, active surrender at the outset of a cycle of thought could definitely lead to clear guidance to a stronger, more creative outcome without the upset in between!




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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On Prayer




As a minister,I have prayer as a part of my toolkit, as it is for many who try to live a life anchored in spirituality, and anyone who turns to prayer in the course of their daily activities knows that it is not always seamless and flowing. Sometimes we find ourselves fighting for every step toward the peace prayer can hold.

Prayer is a staff...

People who are not inclined to a prayerful life sometimes scoff at the supposed sentimentality they say it suggests. They see it as a crutch, a means of propping ourselves up when moving through a dark place. They are wrong; prayer is a staff, a strong arm of support when we are making our way through an unknown field to an outcome we may have fear or concern about.  And sometimes it can part the red sea.  It can make a way where before there was no way.  I think of prayer as a conscious reminder that we connected to the all-encompassing Divine. True, the connection may always be present…this is what Oneness means…but sometimes it grows dim without the light of prayer.

Pray without ceasing...

     St. Paul said to pray without ceasing, and that is a lot easier than one might think.  To the person with a prayer habit, it is a comfortable matter to stand in quiet during the day, a moment here, a moment there, letting the mind ease its way Godward for small renewals.  Words aren't necessary.  The heart knows the path.

A waiting calm...

I do not always sit easily in prayer. Sometimes the roil in my mind will not allow it, so I must move my feet as I move my lips, hoping the two will coalesce into one. Sometimes the reach for prayer opens me to a waiting calm; sometimes I wrestle my way through to a resting place at least.

I have burnished the connection...

I would like all my prayer to result in a place of quiet release and trust, and many times it does. But at other times I have to be satisfied that I have dwelt in it and not found the sweet spot, but left my impression nonetheless. It is no matter, for I have burnished the connection. Even without full, inner harmony, I know I can trust enough to make the entry, knowing it will move me at least part way.



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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On My Birthday



   

Today, July 29, is my birthday, and I, for one, am obviously glad it came around. For those of you who sniff disdainfully, saying birthdays are no big deal, I ask you to consider how interesting they become when you are standing on the eve of one. Seriously…birthdays are great! Consider the alternative!

Nothing lasts forever...

Actually I think birthdays serve to give us a look-back at what the year held. Of course some years seem better than others if we have avoided experiences with loss, sickness and death. But as life proceeds, we cannot help knowing that nothing lasts forever, and no one escapes the Grim Reaper. We cannot deny the need to fold in the hard times with the good times, and we really cannot predict what we will find around the corner.

"God's wonderful surprises"....

With each passing year, I think that a bit of gratitude is in order. We made it through; we made it through tough hands that may have been dealt. We made it through disappointments that may have changed everything. We also hit some heights, and maybe some of what I like to call “God’s wonderful surprises” showed up to shine grace on us.

...Thinking of old friends...

Birthdays are good reasons for thinking of old friends, some with us more than half a lifetime, and they are reminders that new friends come through the door as well, hustling us out of comfort zones we have grown used to.

Portals to possibilities that lie in wait...

Maybe most of all, birthdays stand as portals to possibilities that lie in wait, maybe including people, events and things we might never have imagined. Maybe some newnesses stand a little frightening, and some things yet unfinished await our efforts. Whatever we may think of these milestones, they cannot fail to be an invitation to another portion of our lives. Wisdom would have us accept.



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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Being in the Moment




Some things just will not last forever, or even for very long. That is just as well for some, but a seeming shame for others, especially if they hold great meaning for us. Wouldn’t we like it if something lovely could grace our eyes a bit longer…if a pink dawn could hold its spot in the morning skies before losing ground to an urgent sunrise…or a delicate dew drop could tremble just a while longer before disappearing in the approaching warmth?

Open to the great Whole....

What we come to know over time is that, when dealing with something ephemeral, we give it all our attention so that we won’t miss a stroke of its gifts. I think that some contemplative times are like that. Some days we are in such a good place, such an invitational openness, that we seem wide open to the great Whole…at least for some moments. At other times, it feels like a slog just to get quiet, but that makes the vast silence so much more beautiful when it comes to us.

Keep our attention close at hand...

Perhaps we are meant to appreciate the good and the meaningful the moment it shows up. It may not last long. Perhaps we are meant to keep our attention close at hand so that we miss none of God’s wonderful surprises. We can often be so demanding of the conditions and people in our worlds that we are trying to bend them into the shapes we want them to be. Not only is this very difficult if not impossible, but think also of the time lost in manipulating rather than participating. Who by demanding can keep the sunrise from breaking?

This moment belongs to itself...

This time, this moment belongs to itself and to us if we will enter into it, leaving our pushing and shoving at the door. The luxurious, exotic and frothy bearded iris is emergent for one day, its heightened magnificence only for hours. Let’s watch…


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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Real Love



We like to talk about true love, how wonderful, how precious, how longed for it is, but true love can be like a vapor, something imagined or dreamed about. Talk to me about real love, which puts footprints on the ground, real love which is centered in the act of loving. Sometimes it isn’t pretty because it can be found in the trenches of life. When I think of real love, the old platitude, “blood, sweat and tears,” comes out of mental rubric and becomes alive in the world, for real love lives in the heart that sings and also bleeds.

Real love wakes me up...

The thought of true love makes me want to listen to the love song from the movie, Titanic, when I can get all misty eyed gazing into the horizon. Real love wakes me up to the sometimes gritty demands of the day when it may need to hit the ground running. There is nothing more real about love than when you are sitting by the bedside of a loved one, quietly holding hands, keeping watch through the hours that grind along in tantalizing slowness. Sometimes the battle for health and vigor is won, sometimes not, but the act of loving is not diminished either way.

Real love holds compassion...

There is no loss when really loving, for the exercise of it cannot fail to strengthen, whatever outcomes may come to pass. Real love may hold romance and sexuality, and it may be simply the extension of one heart’s silent messages to another. Real love holds compassion in its wings. Has not the Dalai Lama said that they must occur together? Both are necessary, I think, for elevated, human living.

Real love grows dearer...

I recall old marriage vows that once spoke of embracing both sickness and health, and we will have both, but real love grows dearer when engaging in either. Real love, shared between couples, lovers, family, friends or animals makes it possible to thrive and to endure, to stretch to the heights and to crawl up from the depths.

Whether we earn multiple degrees or strive for none, real love is, I think, the greatest teacher of all.


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