“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.

when it comes to contentment…

when will it be

and what does it look like

and what is it made of

and how can we find it

and will we even know what it is

isn’t it like faith

an undergirding presence trying to make its way to the light

inner inklings that guide us like waymarks in the dark

isn’t it like hope

the fresh springing within us, the involuntary impulse to be

doors and windows inviting us to open

isn’t it love

the gentle breath of approval hovering ever beneath harsh, dark thoughts of despair

an embrace of air, of life, of stars, of trees that sing our place among them

here in this space, where loneliness, where longing, where hunger try to consume all light…

here in this very place, enough, presence, grace, abiding, to share. enough to drink and drink beyond our fill, with more left over than we can see, with more to give, with more to love, with more to live.

contentment has no strings, belongs to no body, no thing, but rises up, the essence we are within us to own this now, this here, and to spill its sweet presence all around us. no strings, no space, just the pressing presence of faith that nudges us, hope that encourages, and love that reminds and reminds and reminds us that we are loved, and of Love, and through Love, and in Love.

I love this poem by e.e. cummings:

     why
     do the
     fingers 

     of the lit
     tle once beau
     tiful la 

     dy(sitting sew
     ing at an o
     pen window this
     fine morning)fly 

     instead of dancing
     are they possibly
     afraid that life is
     running away from
     them(i wonder)or 

     isnt't she a
     ware that life(who
     never grows old)
     is always beau 

     tiful and
     that nobod
     y beauti 

     ful ev
     er hur 

     ries

dwelling in a secret place

i’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to feel safe. to be safe. to feel the deep peace that is equivalent to relief, release, and grace all at once. time drops away. and there is no place but here, pure, lucid, sweet, complete.

there’s nothing like peace that comes after a storm, when all that you’ve held dear has been swept clean. nothing remains but what must, what can’t be lost, life’s essence distilled, seen through deeper, inner sight.

storms that prompt fervent turning to the arms of divine Love…in the midst of terror, faith instinctively finds a foothold, a path unseen, steady ground beneath. alone turns into all one, and where uncertainty loomed…a presence of grace dawns.

i love this passage from Deuteronomy: “The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.”

Mary Baker Eddy writes that “the heaving surf of life’s troubled sea foams itself away, and underneath is a deep-settled calm. And how “in metaphysics we learn that the strength of peace and of suffering is sublime, a true, tried mental conviction that is neither tremulous nor relapsing. This strength 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.”

i’m grateful that wherever our journeys lead us, there is no moment when divine Love does not hover near us, ever holding, ever caring, ever ready to shower it’s conscious, loving recognition upon us; no moment when we are not one with this Love; no moment when we are not equal to discovering the generous, powerful, resurrecting ever-presence of assurance: Love’s kingdom within us  illumined.

“beauty is a thing of life”

We woke up to a light dusting of snow this morning, just enough to cover the world in its soft whiteness–without requiring a lot of shoveling! I love winter like this–hardly any snow…stark beauty all around us. Down by the river slabs of ice line its edges–after a freeze, then a thaw, and a rushing river that hurled its offering to the banks. Lake Ontario steams as its almost ice waters heave slowly towards shore; ice crystals crackle as they shift, collide, crumble. It’s a marvel to see.

Then there was the wolf moon–extraordinary, its orange, then white light emerging over the horizon. Truly breathtaking. The Christian Science Monitor had a gorgeous series of photos of the brightest and biggest full moon of the year.

Mary Baker Eddy writes that “Beauty is a thing of life, which dwells forever in the eternal Mind and reflects the charms of His goodness in expression, form, outline, and color. It is Love which paints the petal with myriad hues, glances in the warm sunbeam, arches the cloud with the bow of beauty, blazons the night with starry gems, and covers earth with loveliness.”

Beauty, true beauty, fierce, pure, searing, unpretentious: the color and essence of Love. The most beautiful people I’ve known haven’t necessarily been conventionally beautiful. And yet their beauty shines so brightly, generously, gloriously, tenderly, unselfishly from within, that it has the effect of making everyone in the radius of its presence and light feel beautiful, valued, uniquely complete.

I love the power of true beauty. It’s not a possession or physique; it’s not the clothes we put on. It’s the ideas, the qualities we exemplify, bathe ourselves in, share, reflect, celebrate, love. This is the beauty that grows newer, fresher, sweeter by the hour, as it radiates out from the fount of infinite grace, the essence and substance of Soul.

Beauty, true beauty is as present and impartial as sunlight. It shines on and through all of us. It is a silent music of joy. It is the orchestration and creation of infinite, all-encompassing, all-embracing, all-anointing, all-adoring Love.

“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

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.

“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.

letters from God…

On a recent trip, a friend sent me an email with the header: “Things to watch for…” with the following message:

“I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God’s name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go, Others will punctually come for ever and ever.” Walt Whitman

Makes me think of the 23rd Psalm…”surely goodness and mercy shall follow…” surround us, meet us, greet us, embrace us. Eyes open, hearts open, things to watch for: truth in the midst, goodness at the core, the still small voice, love from every direction, peace welling up within us, the power of gentleness, the strength of sweetness, the laser certainty of love, the unavoidable authenticity of being.

Whispers, messages, inklings, dawnings, nudgings, awakenings. Things to look for….here, here, everywhere here.