“you rise and meet the day…”

We saw the movie Invictus today. It’s a powerful example and illustration of how the quiet, generous, inclusive, relentless power of love and forgiveness can transform lives and nations. There’s a shocking simplicity to the impulse and exercise of love: it proceeds from something unfettered, divine. Nothing can temper it, nothing can kill it. Love that is love has no capacity but to love, illumine, embrace, nurture, unite, appreciate, honor, delight, respect, comfort, assure, affirm, acknowledge, celebrate…it is borderless, boundless, infinite. It multiplies when shared. It washes, redeems, restores, dissolves, dispells all that is unlike itself. It calls us to it. It calls us home. It sings our names. It breathes a fire from within the heart that bridges all divides, leaves no scars, awakens the grandeur, holiness, fullness of who we are.

Recently The Christian Science Monitor posted an article called Ten Martin Luther King Jr Quotes. Here are three:

  • Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
  • I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
  • Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Mighty, radical words that point to the spirit of true warfare, the internal and universally transformative dynamics of divine Love. Jesus taught it, lived it, showed us what we could do. Paul’s life illustrated this–he exchanged the politics of hate and misunderstanding for the living, healing power of love. He wrote: “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Nineteenth century spiritual pioneer, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: “I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power.”

The kind of empowerment that love brings doesn’t require money, power, connections: it is an unquellable, undeniable spiritual impulse born of our oneness with God, Love. When heeded, lived, expressed, exercised, it can change the dynamics of any situation, any moment. Always available, undepletable: it is the most profound equalizer–rising within us to sweep the world up in its generous, all-encompassing embrace.

This song by Dar Williams says it so well:

We could pretend that we’re walking on petals and light, golden light
Flaunting our love like a dance step mastered, turning from left to right
But after all the colored lights are gone
Time will leave the ashes and the dawn
You rise and meet the day

I’m watching you go, it’s like spying on hope ever onward with more to burn
Giving your hands and your heart to the wheel of the world, though it fights each turn
But you do not give up so easily
That’s how I know you won’t surrender me
You rise and meet the day
It’s all I need, it’s all I need to know, it’s all I need to know

And I love you all the time
I had always feared that some gloomy ingratitude would seize me
But you have held the dream like every morning finds
A way to hang the sun up in the sky
And now I think I have it too The greatest part I learned from you
You rise and meet the day

And I can see kids, maybe yours, maybe not, oh, I can hear what they’ll say
Laughing at pictures with the old-fashioned hats and the clothes that we’re wearing today
And they will know the true and humble power
Of love that made it through the darkest hour
You rise and meet the day
It’s all I need, it’s all I need to know, it’s all I need to know

“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.