Quiet Monday

img_20190128_131738img_20190128_131701img_20190128_160757Well, hello! Long time no post! I had all kinds of things on my to-do list for today, including unpacking and organizing the disaster area that is supposed to be an art studio/guest room. But when I woke up this morning, I remembered that I’d promised myself to set aside Mondays for real rest. Not just to refrain from the work of pastoring and planning, but to stop erranding, organizing, fixing and doing of any kind — to just hold still long enough to catch up with myself. I can’t remember the last time I had a day like this, but I’m sure it’s been months. My first weeks in Oregon have been over-filled with unpacking and organizing the house, unpacking and organizing my office at church, assembling furniture, standing in line at the DMV, dashing to committee meetings…

So somehow, I managed to put away the list. Then I managed to hold mostly still all morning, amazed and nourished by the sudden silence. At 9 am, I was still sitting on the sofa, watching starlings poking around on the front lawn. A little boy across the street sat on the curb with his big brother, waiting for the school bus to arrive. Blue and I explored  the chilly backyard while a pot of soup simmered on the stove. I picked up my long-neglected quilt and spent a couple of quiet hours hand-tying with purple thread. I’ll confess that I did make a quick stop at church this afternoon, to take a phone call and rearrange some furniture. But I dashed back outside while the sun was still high, and spent a quiet hour walking through the silent woods. As the sun set, I chatted on the phone with a friend.  Then I made my way to REI, for a class on where to find the best snowshoe trails. It was a goofy kind of sabbath, for sure. But somewhere in the midst of it, I slipped into winter’s wide and spacious arms, and found myself at rest.

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Remembering

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I’m thinking today of my great-aunt Muriel. It feels strange to type her actual name, because everyone in the family always called her “TeeDee,” a nickname bestowed by my father when he was a toddler who couldn’t quite manage “Auntie.”  TeeDee was a world traveler who gave me my first globe. While I was still crawling around the garden, she taught me the name of every plant.

This morning, as I ran past the local cemetery and saw hundreds of red-white-and-blue flags fluttering in the morning breeze, I suddenly remembered a long-ago Memorial Day. I was 13 that year, and my stepsister, Adria, was eight. We were out early that morning, walking the dog and chatting as we went. All over the neighborhood, flags had appeared on porches and lawns.

A few blocks from home, Adria  grew quiet as she worked something out in her mind. When she spoke again, she had a question:

“Does everybody know TeeDee?”

“Well…not everybody,” I said.

“Then why do they all put out flags for her birthday?” Adria asked.

“Oh, it’s not TeeDee’s birthday yet,” I told her. “Her birthday isn’t until July.”

“Are you sure?” Adria asked. “Isn’t today Muriel Day?”

Muriel Day…Memorial Day. Whatever you’re celebrating, and whomever you’re remembering, may your day be sweet.

 

 

Grateful in May: Spring Peas

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For many weeks now, I’ve been leading a Sunday-morning meditation circle. It started as a way to help folks take up a practice of contemplative prayer for the 40 days of Lent. But it was such a joy to be together—and such a gift to have a group of friends supporting our individual spiritual practice—that we decided to keep meeting through this Easter season. On Sunday mornings, we’ve been practicing lectio divina with the week’s scripture readings. At home during the week, we have all kinds of contemplative practices we’ve committed to. Some folks are doing walking meditation. Some are practicing centering prayer. And one person is faithfully taking a few minutes every evening to write down, and give thanks for, the day’s blessings.

I took up a gratefulness practice here last November, posting every week about something I was thankful for. So I know how sweet this practice can be. I know that making a gratitude list in the evening can reverse-engineer your days, so that you begin to notice small and large blessings as they happen, all day long. Still, I’ve been finding myself too exhausted at the end of the day to do it. Every Sunday, when Pam reports to the group about the way this gratefulness list is delighting her heart, I think (and often say!): I really need to take up this practice again…

So. Right here in the month of May, with nary a turkey in sight, I’m making a pledge to write one blog post every week about something that has awakened my heart to joy.

This week, I’m giving thanks for these tiny seedlings I planted yesterday, and for the few minutes I found between meetings to put my hands in the dirt; for fertile soil, fresh compost from the bin (complete with eggshells – I’ve never been one to sift the compost), plenty of water, and the first warm days of spring…

Maybe you’re ready for a spring gratefulness practice, too? If so, I hope you’ll comment about whatever is making your heart sing!

May, Arriving…

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This is how to feel the sap rising

Walk as slowly as possible,
all the while imagining
yourself moving through
pools of honey and dancing with
snails, turtles, and caterpillars.

Turn your body in a clockwise direction
to inspire your dreams to flow upward.
Imagine the trees are your own
wise ancestors offering their emerald
leaves to you as a sacred text.

Lay yourself down across earth
and stones.  Feel the vibration of
dirt and moss, sparking a tiny
(or tremendous)
revolution in your heart
with their own great longing.

Close your eyes and forget this
border of skin. Imagine the
breeze blowing through your hair
is the breath of the forest and
your own breath joined, rising and
falling in ancient rhythms.

Open your eyes again and see it
is true, that there is no “me” and “tree”
but only One great pulsing of life,
one sap which nourishes and
enlivens all, one great nectar
bestowing trust and wonder.

Open your eyes and see that there
are no more words like beautiful,
and ugly, good and bad,
but only the shimmering presence of your
own attention to life.

Only one great miracle unfolding and
only one sacred word which is
yes.

—Christine Valters Paintner

Baptized in the name of the wind…

So grateful for the baptism we are receiving, “in the name of the wind, and the light, and the rain,” (and the snow!) May we remember, this day and always, to whom, and to what, we belong…

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TO LEARN FROM ANIMAL BEING 

 Nearer to the earth’s heart,

Deeper within its silence:

Animals know this world

In a way we never will.

We who are ever

Distanced and distracted

By the parade of bright

Windows thought opens:

Their seamless presence

Is not fractured thus.

Stranded between time

Gone and time emerging,

We manage seldom

To be where we are:

Whereas they are always

Looking out from

The here and now.

May we learn to return

And rest in the beauty

Of animal being,

Learn to lean low,

Leave our locked minds,

And with freed senses

Feel the earth

Breathing with us.

May we enter

Into lightness of spirit,

And slip frequently into

The feel of the wild.

Let the clear silence

Of our animal being

Cleanse our hearts

Of corrosive words.

May we learn to walk

Upon the earth

With all their confidence

And clear-eyed stillness

So that our minds

Might be baptized

In the name of the wind

And the light and the rain.

   -John O’Donohue

In a New Light

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Last year at this time, I was heading off for a silent retreat. It was a beautiful, rainy stretch of days, and it gave me the gift of spacious time – long, quiet hours; no meals to shop for or prepare; no agenda but to listen for Spirit and follow the leadings of my soul. I took along a journal and pen, and came away with page after page of sketches, musings, and joyful notes that surprised me with their clarity. In just a few days, the silence and beauty of that place swiftly helped me remember who I really am and what I’m here to do. That’s the great gift of a January retreat: it takes you away from your usual surroundings just long enough to see yourself, and the world, in the new light of a year just born.

This year, I didn’t plan a retreat. I thought it would be enough to stay at home in relative silence, letting my spirit recover from the difficult six months just past. So I cleared my schedule for January, and then made a quick two-day New Year’s trip to see my family in San Francisco. When it turned out that all my relatives had come down with winter colds, I decided to put myself up at a Holiday Inn for the night. It was nothing fancy, and certainly nothing I would have called a retreat: just a place to stay between family gatherings. But I had a clean hotel room to myself, a restaurant downstairs to cook dinner for me, a little journal, and a pen. And something surprising happened in the few hours I was there. The low winter light came through the windows at a different angle than it did at home. The wet leaves in the parking lot were different colors, sticking to the hood of my car like New Year’s confetti shining in the January rain. Outside my room, kids ran up and down the hallway—a sound you never hear at a retreat center. And yet there I was, once again effortlessly jotting down ideas for classes I want to teach, prints I want to make, new understandings about things that had been puzzling me for weeks.

Today marks the Feast of the Epiphany, the day when, according to legend, the Wise Ones arrived to see for themselves the Christ Child, the Light of the World, born new into a desperate, dangerous time. In that Light, they saw the hope their people had for so many centuries been longing to glimpse. Maybe it’s no coincidence that they found that Light, that great hope, after journeying a long way from home.

Okay, so at first glance, a night’s stay at a nondescript Holiday Inn, sandwiched between wonderful, noisy, chaotic visits with my family, bears almost zero resemblance to the long, silent, journey of the Magi. But I wonder if their journey might have something to tell us about the value of getting away, if only for a little while. Because while the Light of the World always lives in and among us, its radiant Presence is offering, moment by moment, to make us, and the world, new—the truth is that the Light regularly gets overshadowed by the length of our lists: things to do, things to fix, things we can’t fix but feel like we should worry about anyway. No matter how much we love our homes, it seems that the act of packing a camel’s saddle bag or an overnight satchel and simply walking away has power and magic in it: the power to help us see things in a new light; the magic of once again seeing clearly who we are, and who we are called to become.

As this new year begins, and as those ancient travelers arrive at their destination, I wonder if you’ll give yourself, and the world, the gift of a small retreat. It doesn’t have to be a long journey: no need to go last-minute gift shopping for frankincense and myrrh. Chapel bells and silent meals are not required. All you really need is permission to put away your to-do list, turn off your phone, and let yourself simply be. Perhaps, basking in an evening of silence and candlelight, you’ll remember what it is in all the world you love most, and what that great love is whispering in your ear.

If your soul is craving a bit of spacious silence this week, I pray that you find it with ease. And in the sweet hours of your own retreat, may you see yourself, and the world, in a newly born and gentle light—a light in which you see, once again, who you really are: loved from before always; blessed beyond imagining; and called to offer this beautiful, broken world the one gift that only you can bring.

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