“go easy…be filled with light…and shine”

I love this poem by Mary Oliver. She has such a way of condensing light, as if the writing itself is a baptism, where poet and reader emerge swept clean.

“When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Last week I looked out my window after a wind storm, and my two gorgeous, lyrical willow shrub trees were flat on the ground. I ran out there to find that they had not broken, but were bent at the bottom where the stakes ended. They were literally flat on the ground but not broken, split, or strained. I propped them up, got new stakes, secured them upright. There were no complaints. They moved willingly. They offer their blossoms with joy.

At the church service mentioned in my last post, a baby named Aislyn was being baptized. She was such a peaceful baby, and you could feel the community’s love surrounding her. The pledge to support her journey through life, brought to mind Jesus’ conversation with  Nicodemus, where he tells him that we must be born again: “Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.” John 3, The Message

I was moved by the love, commitment and vision for this child: baptizing, washing her in the light of Christly love; grounding her on the rock of faith. It’s something to see an entire church community stand up and together pledge  to watch over, guide,  and love this baby throughout her life.

It was a joy to share in this child’s baptism; it was a reminder of what a difference it can make to nurture, love, and stand up for the good in others. To see the community around us in God’s light, and to love it.

I’ve always loved how the teachings of Christian Science define baptism as a “Purification by Spirit; submergence in Spirit.” (Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy) It’s given me a sense of the  nearness of God, the ever-present availability of redemption, and the nurturing presence of Spirit to cleanse, purify, refresh, and restore my every moment.

Coupled with Ainslie’s baptism, I have a deepened sense of how much we are all continually immersed, cherished, watched over and held in the infinite love of God. Our awareness of this brings peace both for ourselves and the people we meet everywhere. Oliver puts it so perfectly:

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

next time…

I’ve long been a fan of  William Stafford’s poetry, so it was a delight to come across one that was new to me in an email from a friend.

Next Time

Next time what I’d do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I’d stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I’d watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I’d know more — the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

the words usher

me into

this next time

air expands

drops

rises

warms

opens

the space between around beyond

all moments

portals

of presence

right where

the hands of time

clutch

push

threaten

right there

the world breathes

with unhurried stillness

and calls your name

someone once said

“you have plenty of time

if you don’t hurry.”

plenty

of

time

stop counting

plumb

moments

proceed

from, into, with

not towards, past, by

this time

not next time

stand

lean

into

the deep arms

of here

and feel

everything

you seek

rise up to greet you

only this time

you see it

know it

feel it

no difference

between

being,seeing,giving

one

“I have a world of wisdom and Love to contemplate, that concerns me, and you, infinitely beyond all earthly expositions or exhibitions.  I earnestly invite you to its contemplation with me, and to preparation to behold it.” Mary Baker Eddy Miscellaneous Writings

“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2

“rock bottom riser”

I don’t get to see my brother often, but what I love is how space is no keeper of the life between us. It is a rich, growing, soulful giving that often speaks for long stretches in silence, and then out of some deep blue bliss comes words ringing through the air, putting names to thoughts felt but not rendered. He is a poet and song muse of the deeper runes, and I love his kindness. So this is an ode to my brother, little brother, always towering before me.

He sent me a mix of songs recently. This one by Bill Callahan was included:

“I love my mother
I love my father
I love my sisters, too.
I bought this guitar
To pledge my love
To pledge my love to you.

I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you
I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you

I saw a gold ring
At the bottom of the river
Glinting at my foolish heart
So my foolish heart
Had to go diving
Diving, diving, diving
Into the murk

And from the bottom of the river
I looked up for the sun
Which had shattered in the water
And pieces were rained down
Like gold rings
That passed through my hands
As I thrashed and I grabbed
I started rising, rising, rising

I left my mother
I left my father
I left my sisters, too
I left them standing on the banks
And they pulled me out
Of this mighty, mighty, mighty river

I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you
I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you

I love my mother
I love my father
I love my sisters, too.
I bought this guitar
To pledge my love
To pledge my love to you”

and so for all

rock bottom rising
rock bottom risers

fallen
falling

surprise landings

abrupt bedrock beneath

sudden stillness

hush

then

always

inevitable launching

unlikely propulsions of grace

rising rising

involuntary

rising

Love will not spare

boundless outpour

divine pledge

nudging us to

trace the dark passes

for dawn breaking light

spilling us upward

lives offered

up

cacophony of love

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

“These two words in Scripture suggest the sweetest similes to be found in any language — rock and feathers: “Upon this rock I will build my church;” “He shall cover thee with His feathers.” How blessed it is to think of you as “beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection. Always bear in mind that His presence, power, and peace meet all human needs and reflect all bliss.” Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings

“prayer out of wordless sighs”

one morning i was having a tough time getting my peace, finding that prayerful window of stillness–that feeling of oneness with God that stills and lightens and illumines every thought for the day. i was in a swamp of nowhere thoughts, so threw out a line for anchor, opened the Bible at random, prepared to seek til found, and read some verses i hadn’t read before, even though i knew i had, they go like this:

“The moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8: 26-28 from The Message by Eugene Peterson

this passage just took my breath away.

to think…

we are prayer
being prayed
right out of wordless sighs
wordless cries
we are some song in singing
being sung
supernal offering
Spirit etched
Soul fired
perpetual
eternal
steady
some
presence ever
of heaven
o who
would have thought
every detail of our lives
being worked into something good

and then as if out of nowhere, this hymn began to run through my thoughts. it’s not one i know that well, and crept up on me in a quiet kind of a way:

“Sometimes a light surprises

The Christian while he sings;

It is the Lord who rises

With healing in his wings.

When comfort seems declining,

There comes to us again

A season of clear shining,

To cheer us after rain.” (William Cowper adapted)

and so today, every day, i am endeavoring to live more gently. to feel the pulse pulsing me, prayer praying me, light surprising..life ever lightening…heaven springing everywhere out of earth. and in the words of a gospel hymn by Ken Whitely: “let my life be prayer.”

“To preserve a long course of years still and uniform, amid the uniform darkness of storm and cloud and tempest, requires strength from above, — deep draughts from the fount of divine Love. Truly may it be said: There is an old age of the heart, and a youth that never grows old; a Love that is a boy, and a Psyche who is ever a girl. The fleeting freshness of youth, however, is not the evergreen of Soul; the coloring glory of perpetual bloom; the spiritual glow and grandeur of a consecrated life wherein dwelleth peace, sacred and sincere in trial or in triumph.” Mary Baker Eddy Miscellaneous Writings

give yourself to love…

A friend sent me this beautiful letter recently:

“I was swimming this afternoon—weeping and swimming, which is something I haven’t done for a while, and trying to get myself together.  I was struggling with my fears and my anger and my profound sadness, and then I started to focus just on the swimming.  The slow, steady passage through the water–as if I was shedding an outer skin as I dove down into the water with each new breath.  And then I had this feeling: “this is unconditional love” and I felt a completely impersonal calm.  I had a similar feeling last night as if the pain was slipping further away and an impersonal calm held me in the balance.”

I’ve been thinking so much about friends, family—people all over the world experiencing profound change, sometimes severe challenges, and hard won renewal that comes with seeking and yielding to deeper answers.

today i came across this passage from Psalms…it’s one i’ve read too many times to count. but today it spoke differently to me.

why art thou cast down o my soul?

and why art thou disquieted within me?

hope thou in God for i shall yet praise Him

who is the health of my countenance and my God.

too often i’ve gotten caught on the “cast down” and “disquieted” parts…as in yeah…so cast down…feeling so disquieted…ok…now hope in God…and the journey to do so can feel like a slow slippery slope out of the swamp and up a muddy bank.

but today i read it so differently. the words nearly jumped off the page at me. “WHY are you cast down? WHY disquieted? almost as if to say, how you can be? you know where your hope lies! you shall, will, cannot be deprived of praising the infinite goodness of God, the source and presence of all life and peace and health and joy right here.”

it made me think of Kate Wolf’s song “you must give yourself to love…”

and made me ask…what am I giving my thoughts, my moments to?

for me disquiet is really about mental neutrality–an absence of real thinking, conscious clarity, a lulling, a passive acceptance of whatever thought comes my way…a state of mind that invites disturbance, darkness, confusion. it marks a need for awakening, regrouping, as if to say, “okay so where am i at? and what’s really true here? am i just going along with the flow of whatever junk comes my way?”

this morning i opened the Bible to Ezekiel 13:22: “with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad…”

lies…that would blind us to the good at hand…get us to turn on ourselves…doubt the convictions we hold in our hearts…distrust the power, presence and impulse to act on what we know is true.

the next time you’re tempted to feel sad…or even if you feel like you’re already drowning in a sea of sadness…

take a look at where your thought, heart, soul is anchored…is it awash at sea? gather it…gather yourself…gather your goodness…your pure heart…your love for all that is right…rally there…bit by bit you’ll find your footing…bedrock in the midst of stormy seas…you’ll find yourself rising…walking over the waves of doubt and darkness, gathering strength as you go.

give yourself to love…

come on…

give yourself…

to love…

it will not render you vulnerable

it will steady your heart

strengthen your knees

help you remember your wings

and how they know how

to read the wind

and with the Psalmist from long ago

begin to feel that song of

exalting praise…

the light that faces down the dark

singing:

i do hope

in God

the health

of my countenance

is here.

“To-day [may your] soul only sing and soar. [May] an [ever] increasing sense of God’s love, omnipresence, and omnipotence enfold [you.]” Mary Baker Eddy

“so live…”

how do we give our thanks

for all that is unspeakable

given without strings

or measure

Love that can’t be clocked

or logged

or counted

or contained

but flows

on

around

through

to.

exhaustless

unrelenting

offerings of grace

nudging tenderness

hovering

glancing

showering

blessing

asking nothing

grateful in its giving

paeans of praise

singing:

you are

you are

you are

so worthy.

worthy

of this grace

Love’s loving All

here sated

here secure

here able

loved

Love’s constant offering.

~~~~~~~

“Here, O my Lord, I’d see Thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen;
Here grasp with firmer hand th’ eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon Thee lean.” Horatius Bonar

“It has long been a question of earnest import, How shall mankind worship the most adorable, but most unadored, — and where shall begin that praise that shall never end? Beneath, above, beyond, methinks I hear the soft, sweet sigh of angels answering, “So live, that your lives attest your sincerity and resound His praise.” Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings

“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”  John 11

“on wings of faith…”

the other day a friend said to me, “it’s like there’s someone new here. i don’t know her very well.”

i asked, “is it like being made new, washed clean?”

“no,” she said, “more like she’s untainted, untouched and not willing to take the garbage any more. it’s me.”

it made me think about images we carry around about ourselves, sometimes the things we try to hide, hidden corners of supposed shamefulness, losses or absences that we assume are ours.

the thought of a bird came to mind: a broken wing, cradled to its side, careful, a bird, longing for altitude of air, the need to stretch, be carried, to beat its wings against the singing wind.

and i began to think of this bird as faith…faith that singes the air with its yearning, a certainty of deeper seeing; birdlike, ever driving for higher altitudes, clamoring to fly, pressing onward, demanding flight.

we are not broken birds, broken hearts or lives, our faith, knowing, certainty hobbled by doubts, improbabilities, fears. these are decoys that try to sideline, ground us, make us believe that our wings don’t work, that there’s no where or reason to fly, no Spirit to prompt or catch us, no updrafts of air and light for wings to dance upon.

what are the things that stall our moments, that try to shroud and crowd and darken out all light, that whisper lies? how often have we heeded them, given up, right on the cusp of certain dawning?

it will not do.

flight is imminent.

the pristine fire of your life is standing witness.

it calls:

live!

live!

live your life;

you are not broken or wasted or left behind.

you, marvel of Spirit’s mastery,

timeless,

on wings of searing Love and Life.

sometimes the rising, the standing, the awakening can be like the whole world coming apart; but really it is an unwrapping, a revealing of here, here, here you are…as you have been so all along…all darkness and clutter burned away, singing: here, here…such a relief to just be here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Faith is higher and more spiritual than belief. It is a chrysalis state of human thought, in which spiritual evidence, contradicting the testimony of material sense, begins to appear, and Truth, the ever-present, is becoming understood.” Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy

“Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians 13

“And as on wings of faith we soar and worship,

Held by God’s love above the shadows dim

Hushed in the grandeur of a heart’s awakening,

Unfolds a joy unknown till found in Him.”  Susan F. Campbell Christian Science Hymnal

lifting life…

this poem by e.e. cummings came tucked in an email from my mom this morning:

may i be gay

like every lark

who lifts his life

from all the dark

who wings his why

beyond because

and sings an if

of day to yes

the perfect poem for a perfect morning…the air clear and cool, the sky a drunken blue.

ahh…indeed,

to lift our lives from the dark…

to wing our whys…

beyond because…

to sing, to sing,

yes,

to sing,

right past the ifs,

to yes.

yes,

yes, yes, and

o yes.

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” Psalms 24

“Starting from a higher standpoint, one rises spontaneously, even as light emits light without effort; for “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy

“God has not given us vast learning to solve all the problems, or unfailing wisdom to direct all the wanderings of our brothers’ lives; but He has given to every one of us the power to be spiritual, and by our spirituality to lift and enlarge and enlighten the lives we touch.” Phillips Brooks

“consider the lilies…”

“Consider the lilies…

how they grow;

they toil not,

neither do they spin.” Matthew 6

consider

the lilies:

they grow.

they don’t toil.

they don’t spin.

they grow.

“in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)” e.e. cummings

there’s no rushing grace

no forcing the hand of Love’s flowers

no anxious intake of breath before the petals unfold

just a steady, certain opening of one’s hands

the offering was never in question

inevitable Giver

the whole world reciprocates with gladness

“The lilies grow without toiling or spinning. God clothes them. We can, we do grow from the same Source, and as unconsciously, and it should be as gently, from His dear hand who careth for us.” Mary Baker Eddy

“praise song for walking forward…”

there are no ways to count

footprints left in light

no true way to measure

seismic shift of thought

to hold

infinity of love

to contain

a single voice

to replicate shine

that never outshines

leaving traces of praise

in every wake.

each, all, breathtakingly, unsurpassably

themselves.

the gauge infinity

not others

not self.

Nineteenth century writer Phillips Brooks wrote: “God has not given us vast learning to solve all the problems, or unfailing wisdom to direct all the wanderings of our brothers’ lives; but He has given to every one of us the power to be spiritual, and by our spirituality, to lift and enlarge and enlighten the lives we touch.”

Here’s to unsung moments filled with song…lives etched with meaning, the world a chorus of voices finding their light.This excerpt is from Elizabeth Alexander’s poem for President Obama’s inauguration.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.