“a shift of knowing…”

This poem by Lucille Clifton is from her book good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980:

the light that came to lucille clifton

came in a shift of knowing

when even her fondest sureties

faded away. it was the summer

she understood that she had not understood

and was not mistress even

of her own off eye. then

the man escaped throwing away his tie and

the children grew legs and started walking and

she could see the peril of an

unexamined life.

she closed her eyes, afraid to look for her

authenticity

but the light insists on itself in the world;

a voice from the nondead past started talking,

she closed her ears and it spelled out in her hand

“you might as well answer the door, my child,

the truth is furiously knocking.”

Sometimes things get so turned around. Sometimes they just feel inside out. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way is up. And sometimes, well, sometimes things feel so upended, that there’s nothing to do but pay attention.

These are the moments that matter so much. It’s in these moments that we no longer have a way of ignoring what needs to be heard.

Sometimes the answers can come like blinding light. Other times it’s a quieter impulse, a gentle leading out, one thought, then another, an inkling rooted in the bedrock of grace within us.

I remember one particularly dark time in my life, when all “my fondest sureties…” seemed beyond my reach. All I could do was stand there, offering up my heart in the wilderness. The answers came like spring air sweeping out the grief, urging me to see the presence of life, even where all seemed frozen.

And so we are, so often hurried, trying desperately to steer the course, control the details of our lives, prompted to let go,  to be carried, to recognize the providence of present grace, a certain sense of God’s presence emerging right from within.

Here, now, in this moment, even now. Truth is knocking, awakening, singing, assuring, comforting, illuming, revealing and healing–all things made new, all things restored, all things.

“It rejoices me that you are recognizing the proper course, unfurling your banner to the breeze of God, and sailing over rough seas with the helm in His hands. Steering thus, the waiting waves will weave for you their winning webs of life in looms of love that line the sacred shores. The right way wins the right of way, even the way of Truth and Love whereby all our debts are paid, mankind blessed, and God glorified.” Mary Baker Eddy

stand still

From Psalms 46…

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,

and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,

though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,

the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:

God shall help her, and that right early…

Be still, and know that I am God.”

Be still.

Know.

God.

In the midst.

Be still.

In times when we’re all so earnestly trying to find our way…

even as the world swirls and rushes around us,

as thoughts run headlong or hover uncertain…

right here, in the midst, beneath it all is a buoyant beckoning to

stand still.

stand.

still.

and though it seems the very thing we should not do, could not do, feel afraid to do…

it is the very thing to do.

and in this simple doing we begin to discern a present power,

a resonating strength

an irrepressible grace

that lifts us

heals us

guides us

comforts us

envelops us

equips us

engrounds us

and turns things right around.

Mary Baker Eddy says it like this in her Retrospection and Introspection: “The best spiritual type of Christly method for uplifting human thought and imparting divine Truth, is stationary power, stillness, and strength; and when this spiritual ideal is made our own, it becomes the model for human action.”

Trying times for many. Times likes these call forth the best in us, by turning us to something higher, holier. In this turning we find ourselves even as we discover the greatness and goodness of God. Here’s to answers we haven’t yet discovered; to lives made new, rising from the rubble; to a world so tenderly and unshakeably held in the palms of Love’s omnipotent hands.

Doves

by William Lynch

I want

the words to flutter

around you softly

on your shoulders in peace.

I want you to hear them

tell you of heaven.

Stand still

and they will gather.

deep sanity…

I have a wonderful friend whom I call every once in a while to say, “Just calling for a sanity check,” and that’s usually enough to get us both laughing.

Those chats are times to be reminded of what I know is really true—right where the stirrings, swirlings, and information hurtling from all directions seem to be.

They’re a reminder to hang in there, anchor deep from a spiritual vantage point, and listen patiently for that quiet, relentless voice of divine Truth, whispering, nudging, and assuring.

Click here to read the rest of this post on JSH online

hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah

As I think of this new year before us, it’s really the moments that demand our attention: moments brimming with promise; moments asking to be lived, loved, owned, fulfilled; moments that both invite and impel a commitment to action, conviction; moments that resist the lull of slumber, apathy, fear, despair; moments that proceed from and include divine Love’s infinite giving.

There’s a passage from Isaiah that always fills me with hope. It says, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

Now in this moment, no matter where we’ve been, what we’ve struggled with, what we’re unsure of, there is a new birth–a  pure emergence of goodness waiting to happen. It’s rooted in a core of spiritual innocence that is out of reach of the world–it can’t be damaged; it can’t be violated, corrupted, darkened, or destroyed. It is our own pristine likeness and expression of God demanding to be seen, felt, lived, known; and it is here. As Mary Baker Eddy puts it: “…All the wicked endeavors of suppositional demons can never change the current of that life from steadfastly flowing on to God, its divine source.”

Here’s to renewal and the divine promises that cannot be broken. Here’s to renewal and the fact that we cannot escape God’s infinite love. Here’s to renewal and the unblemished promise of who we are. Here’s to heaven here and lives filled with the spirit of praise and grace–the unfettered joy and conviction of the word hallelujah.

As we were driving home from Toronto the other night we heard a program on CBC radio about this word. It’s a compilation of music and discussion about the transcendent and universal impact that it has had. Here’s a brief overview of some of my favorite moments in the program:

  • Tim Elliot, a retired Anglican priest and jazz pianist speaks of the deep, hopeful nature of the word, and how something about it makes you want to stand and salute the eternal source of Love.
  • Another speaker discusses how the word hallelujah includes no doubt, no gray area, it’s an unfettered acknowledgement, salute, praise, affirmation.
  • Reverend Marie Miller talks about how when she senses a heaviness, a need for uplift in a congregation, the word hallelujah naturally impels a spiritual lift, a sense of communication with the Divine.
  • Another speaker encourages us as humans to be hallelujah people–to be consciously, actively more full of praise. He says that this kind of praise comes from a place of love instead of fear.

Here’s the link, and here’s to a new year filled with moments, moments, moments of overflowing joy, peace, and praise:  http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/listen_stream.html. Once you click on the link scroll down to the Dec. 21, 2008 show to listen. It’s around 9 minutes into the program, and you should be able to fast forward to it. The program itself is about 20 minutes long.

entertaining angels unawares…

I’ve been thinking about what it might have been like for those shepherds that night, watching their flocks, cradled in darkness, the air pulsing with silence, the stars brilliant filling the sky.

The angel spoke to them in this way: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The night skies were filled with praise. At first they were afraid, but the angel said, “Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people.”

First inspiration, illumination, a message, then assurance, peace, and finally direction, a course of action. The shepherds listened and they followed.

How are the angels speaking to us? How many times have we been given a quiet message of clarity, truth, certainty, an impulse for action that felt so right–that to think of it brought immediate peace–something we know we couldn’t have come up with on our own? And yet sometimes we overlook, dismiss the radical simplicity and immediacy of it, and later recognize it for what it is–recognize the guidance, the tender presence, the shepherding..and perhaps groan within ourselves because we haven’t heeded it.

I had an experience like that a few years ago. I was driving on the highway and impulsively began to switch lanes. The thought came to wait, but I didn’t. As I moved into the next lane, a large rock hit my windshield. Though it didn’t shatter, and I was fine, I wept over the warning that I didn’t heed. But as I did so a quiet, quiet message came: “you cannot escape My grace.” I felt flooded with peace and relief.

At first we thought we’d have to replace that window. A small circle about 3 inches across had formed in the center of the windshield. We expected it to splinter all the way across with a change of weather. It never did, and somehow I couldn’t bring myself to change the windshield: it became a constant reminder to listen for God’s angels, and the promise that none of us can escape the infinite circle of His grace.

Mary Baker Eddy speaks of the significance of angels in her book Science and Health: “The footsteps of thought, rising above material standpoints, are slow, and portend a long night to the traveller; but the angels of His presence — the spiritual intuitions that tell us when “the night is far spent, the day is at hand” — are our guardians in the gloom.

These upward-soaring beings never lead towards self, sin, or materiality, but guide to the divine Principle of all good, whither every real individuality, image, or likeness of God, gathers. By giving earnest heed to these spiritual guides they tarry with us, and we entertain “angels unawares.”

Poet Lucille Clifton puts it this way:

friends

the ones who talk to me

their words thin as wire

their chorus fine as crystal

their truth direct as stone,

they are present as air.

they are there.

And my friend Shelley says it so beautifully like this:

Angels

Angels thrive

Between the lines

of our living…   

Understood

Through the subtitles

of coincidence

and longing.

Shelley Nickerson    

whispering yes.

One of my favorite Christmas albums is the The Rankins “Do you Hear What I hear.” They sing a gorgeous version of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. There’s something so sweet, joyful, hopeful about it.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared to Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Jesus’ life, his birth, and the people surrounding it–thinking about how many things in life happen in quiet and unexpected ways and yet come with the power, vision, and divine impetus to bring great change to our lives. And how often they come in such understated, silent impulses that we second guess or dismiss them. Whether in hindsight or right in that moment, ultimately we realize their significance–that intuition, insight, the deep knowing within us comes from a pure and holy place, the sanctuary of Truth, the still small voice of God right in the midst, reaching out, propelling, revealing, embracing, awakening.

This is what is so significant about the story of Jesus and all the individuals involved: they got a message, and though initially scared, stunned, uncertain, bemused; they listened, paid attention, responded, followed. And as a result, their lives took on a meaning and purpose they, and perhaps no one, could never have imagined or expected.

Mary Baker Eddy speaks of about Mary’s experience in this way: “The Holy Ghost, or divine Spirit, overshadowed the pure sense of the Virgin-mother with the full recognition that being is Spirit. The Christ dwelt forever an idea in the bosom of God, the divine Principle of the man Jesus, and woman perceived this spiritual idea, though at first faintly developed.”

This poem by Lucille Clifton is one of a number of poems she has written about Mary and Jesus.

mary’s dream

winged women was saying

“full of grace” and like.

was light beyond sun and words

of a name and a blessing.

winged women to only i.

i joined them, whispering

yes

So what of us in this perhaps uneventful moment of our lives? What divine impulse is whispering? What sweet purpose are we being nudged towards? What great goodness is waiting to dawn or emerge? What songs of angels are singing? What truth is calling? What deeper justice rising?

What happened in a stable so many years ago, holds its promise of truth for this hour: a promise of spiritual being, a Christly holy nature, an opportunity to discover innocence, redemption, restoration, joy and peace. This is a promise we can reach for right now, it is one with the quiet light and hope so deep within us–waiting to be cradled, nurtured, noticed, honored, trusted and lived.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see…and glorify…”

This is the light that radiates, warms, lightens and lifts. We can trust it. As we do so, it will change everything. It will change the world.

“no edges to my loving now…”

I was at a conference recently, and after a dinner session we had a hymn sing to round out the day. I was standing next to a good friend, one of those friends you don’t have to see or talk to often to feel close to, a friend who has always felt like a big brother. At one point, I looked up at my friend’s face. He was looking at me with such love, such big, blessing, unbounded love. For a moment I was caught off guard: wow–to be looked at with such love; to look at others with such love;  love with no strings; LOVE that radiates its presence and approval. I felt washed in it, swept away by it, seen, recognized, known–an unspeakable love that sweeps you, lifts you to a higher, grander sense of your place in life. Most clearly it is the direct and tangible love of God.

There’s a passage from the book of Jeremiah that says it this way: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” It’s from the King James translation, which I have to say I’m continually partial to because of its poetry.

To think about this love, an everlasting love, a very specific love, a divine Love that knows, draws, propells, cherishes, nurtures, embraces…a Love that LOVES you, that loves us all. I do believe it loves us all, and calls us, drives us to recognize our place in it, our oneness with it–right in the moments, and especially in the moments when we feel bereft of it, are yearning for it–there is Love, present, irresistible, irrepressible, not going anywhere, awaiting our recognition and identification with it, and then in this quiet, dawning, emerging place, we yield to it, surrender, feel its warmth, power, certainty, sweeping grace.

Yes, there are moments when perhaps we see it more clearly than others, but never ever a moment when the Love itself wanes…that’s why we are prompted to it…to see that it is not something that comes or goes, or that we need to seek outside ourselves, but that which pours forth from infinity, the infinite, all-loving love of Love.

There’s a Christmas poem by Christina Rosetti. Shawn Colvin does a beautiful rendition of it on her Holiday Songs and Lullabies album.

“Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token
Love shall be yours and love be mine
Love to God and to all men
Love for plea and gift and sign.”

As the poet Rumi so beautifully says it:  there are “no edges to my loving now…” No edges, no borders, no endings, no limits, no boundries, nothing that can possibly resist or destroy the impulses of pure, unadulterated love. This is what we long for at Christmas, this is what I think we instinctively know will bring peace:  peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, families, our towns, villages, cities, countries, the world. This peace is not something we impose, or even bring. It is the “peace of  that passes all understanding, ” spoken of in the book of Philippians, the spiritual peace that Mary Baker Eddy speaks of in her prose writings: a peace that is “…like the ocean, able to carry navies, yet yielding to the touch of a finger. This peace is spiritual; never selfish, stony, nor stormy, but generous, reliable, helpful, and always at hand.”

This peace, this love, this wash of certain blessing, is here, generous in its presence, urgent in its imminence, demanding to be felt, lived and given. O may we feel this peace today, truly feel it, feel known by it, and glimpse a bit more of the love that is loving us today. And may we in turn see each other through an ever growing, unconditional love.

Christmas ponderings and dawnings…

My dog Kosi and I were out walking in the crisp winter air last night. Though I’ll admit I have my struggles with winter sometimes, it was one of those nights when the sky is so clear, the air so fresh, everything speaks of the imminence, nowness, grandeur, joy of life. I found myself thinking, I love winter. I thought of my brother’s visit last year and his recent comment, “I do remember the joy of feeling the breath, and I mean the long deep breath of winter. The ponderous throw of time, huddled in.”

The breath, the life, the certainty, clarity, urgency of it all pressing in upon us, or perhaps embracing, sustaining, compelling, lifting, illumining.

This poem and carol by Phillips Brooks to me captures the pure power of Christmas–where in the deep, hidden, innermost places of our hearts we find our longings answered, hopes fulfilled, and the quiet, inevitable emergence of a spiritual peace, an undiminished innocence, a soaring exaltation of unfettered life.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meekness will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

In an article on Christmas MB Eddy says this, “The star that looked lovingly down on the manger of our Lord, lends its resplendent light to this hour: the light of Truth to cheer, guide, and bless man as he reaches forth for the infant idea of divine perfection dawning upon human imperfection,–that calms man’s fears, bears his burdens, beckons him on to Truth and Love and the sweet immunity these bring from sin, sickness, and death. ”

The light of that star in this very hour–the stars, the air, everything alive pulsing with the imminence of Truth–embracing, propelling, cheering, guiding, blessing, a showering of praise, a benediction of love,  a message of: you, each, each and every single one of you are beloved, My beloved.

In this intense season of hopes, yearnings, fears, and extravagant giving, may each one of us make room for the dawning of something simple, holy, shining, the light of the infinite whispering, comforting, nurturing, igniting the embers of our essential and magnificent lives.

..

no abstract fires or vague births…

We’ve had the first of many snow storms today–the snow almost too heavy to shovel. Thanks to WordPress for the added snow feature for blogs! It’s the time of year when I feel myself bearing up for the long haul of winter: time for deep and quiet underground growth, patient tending to internal gardens, and the need to draw more certainly on spiritual warmth and light. As my brother from California put it last January: “these such lovely flowers of winter.”

I’ve been thinking about the simple, holy sanctuary of the space most deep within us–the space where we begin to grasp the things unseen, the substance of things hoped for as Paul puts in his letter to the Hebrews. The space where new dawnings take hold and transform us from the inside out, and give us bearings, footholds that do not crumble or shift.

There’s a poem by Conrad Hilberry called Wise Man. Dr. Hilberry was one of those professors who had a quiet instilling impact on my life. He was one of my advisors on a senior thesis during a time of great turbulence in my life. We didn’t talk much, and being the poet he is, his words were understated, piercing, succinct, and clear. He had a way of reigning me in when I was being reckless, giving quiet encouragement when I felt the work was hopeless, helping me refocus, go deeper and find my way. I love this poem in this season, and the gritty, tangible promise that it represents.

I

No one here is old enough. The father,

if that’s what he is, stands awkward as a stork.

The mother does not know whether to smile

or cry, her face beautiful but ill-defined

as faces of the young are. Aven the ass

is a yearling and the sheep mutter like children.

To whom shall I hand this myrrh that has trailed

a bitter breath after it over the desert?

I am tired of mothers and their milky ways,

of babies sticky as figs. I have left a kingdom

of them. There must be some truth beyond

this sucking and growing and wasting away.

A star should lead an old man, you would think,

to some geometry, some right triangle

whose legs never slip or warp or aspire

to become the hypotenuse. Instead, this star

wandering our of the ecliptic has led us

a dry straw, a stable, oil burning in

a lamp, a mother nursing another mouth.

II

Creation, then is the only axiom–

and it declines to spell itself across

the sky in Roman letters. Some events

are worth a journey, but there are no

abstract fires or vague births. Each fire

gnaws its own sticks; the welter of what is

conspires in this, a creation you can hold

in your hands, a child. A definite baby

squalls into life, skids out between the legs

of a definite woman, bedded in straw, on the longest

night of the year. And a certain star burns.

“No abstract fires…no vague births…some events are worth a journey.”  Out of the grit and mess, the strivings and strugglings of our lives, meaning is called forth. Where else are we to find what we’re looking for if not here? Right here something is waiting to  emerge in us. The story of Jesus’ birth and life says it so clearly: don’t look out there, it’s not about where you’re staying, the trappings, what things appear to be. Sometimes the things you need come in ways you wouldn’t ask for. The stuff that truly holds in our lives proceeds from the light within, a spiritual well-spring of divine light, leading us to recognize the definite holiness, relevance, necessity of who we are.

Our lives are worth the journey to move past the rough edges, the things we want to discard, the things that don’t belong to us. It begins with a quiet awareness and acknowledgement of the sweet, pure, precious child within us. This is when we begin to glimpse the something more, a hint of tender approval, a certain sense of belonging, an unavoidable embrace. I love that in Christ Jesus’ teachings and journey his message was always one that pointed to both now and here. People didn’t jump through hoops to be healed; they got a glimpse of who they really were through the penetrating, spiritual discernment of Jesus’ Christliness. This is spiritual truth made practical: it’s not abstract or vague, but laser clear, cutting to the heart of things, uncovering what’s true.

I’ve loved the writings and teachings of  Mary Baker Eddy for this reason. She wrote of her own spiritual awakening in this way: “Into mortal mind’s material obliquity I gazed, and stood abashed. Blanched was the cheek of pride. My heart bent low before the omnipotence of Spirit, and a tint of humility, soft as the heart of a moonbeam, mantled the earth. Bethlehem and Bethany, Gethsemane and Calvary, spoke to my chastened sense as by the tearful lips of a babe. Frozen fountains were unsealed. Erudite systems of philosophy and religion melted, for Love unveiled the healing promise and potency of a present spiritual afflatus. It was the gospel of healing, on its divinely appointed human mission, bearing on its white wings, to my apprehension, “the beauty of holiness,” — even the possibilities of spiritual insight, knowledge, and being.”

Here’s to definite discoveries, simple logical dawnings, and lives made new in concrete and beautiful ways.