Feather on the Breath of God
pay attention, be astonished writes Mary Oliver.
be still and know says a Psalm poem
what will surprise me today?
am I ready to receive that gift?
Even in our most cherished moments, it’s there—this “something more,” a feeling that all life can offer is not enough. C. S. Lewis says of our best experiences, “They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Easter may be a noun defined by a day of family gathering, celebrations like egghunts and pastel dresses, and a special church service. But Easter is more – an action word. Like wonder and worship, it is also a verb.
“It is like a display of spiritual fireworks dazzling us with each burst: LIfe! Power! Love! Triumph! Transformation! Hope! Joy!” ~ Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year
the turning days begin
reaching into soul search
dark with unknowing
each step on this road
closer to liminal light,
distant dawn of Grace
A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the “bright sadness” of Lent, we see far, far, away – the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. ~ Alexander Schmemann
bare branches reach
waiting in a gray veil
to wear green again
On Christmas day, Nora and I rode in the back seat of our car to church, watching for trees. She said the leaves were all gone away and I agreed. I said they would come back in the Spring and be here for her birthday. This is an often repeated story recently as she widens her 2-year-old world to pay attention to things that go away. I thought of this the last few days in our early morning fog. Most mornings, I can see beyond our fence and across the lake to a house that is being built there. I see duck families and herons on the water. But the fog here obscures all but the most pronounced and closest objects. So it is with these days approaching year’s end. I know what recent days have looked like, but the new year coming holds no clear vision for me. I am called to trust, to practice discernment, to watch for markers that remind me I have been and will be guided.
“Spiritual discernment asks us to pay attention…on many levels: to sensus fidelium ( the collective ene of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience, to watch, to wait, to listen.”
~from “Passing Angels: The Arts of Spiritual Discernment” by Wendy M. Wright in Weavings, November 1995
If the saying “April showers bring May flowers” were born out next month, we would be covered in blooms. On Monday this week, rains came and camped out over many parts of Texas, creating historic event flooding in Houston and several surrounding counties. There have been tragic deaths, and thousands of people are displaced. Although the rain has stopped, flooding continues as rivers and bayous rage out of their banks flooding homes and pastureland.
Our garden welcomes us once more with cool breeze, shade, birdsong, and flowers blooming. Joe brought in a gardenia that I could smell when he opened the door. I am grateful for this peace and beauty but sad for loss for so many.
Prayer for Those Affected by the Floods
God of compassion,
You created a world for us
To know your love and peace
Yet amidst the beauty of creation
We encounter pain and hurt
And forces beyond our control.
At times like this our hearts are shaken and ache with sorrow
At the destruction of our lives, homes and livelihoods.
Hear our prayers for those affected by the floods
And for all those working
To bring relief and fresh hope.
from the Toowoomba Diocese in Queenslnd following a devastating flood in 2011
Anyone who has been around small children knows how often we hear the question “Why?” I have been asking that question about my fig harvest this year. We have a fine fig tree in the garden that typically has so many green figs it is hard to keep up with the harvest as they ripen. This year we had an unusually wet June and although there were hundreds of green figs and they began to ripen early, harvest slowed and stopped completely in the second week. Our brutal Texas heat came on suddenly. My research tells me the tree went into conservation mode and began aborting its fruit. Even though we watered heavily, nothing brought back the production so the hard little green figs began to drop to the ground, wasted and of no use to anyone. Not even the birds would eat them.
The problem is that figs are shallow rooted and easily stressed. That reminded me of my own need for being rooted deeply to be able to take the heat and avoid reacting in damaging ways to the stress of our uncertain times!
” May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love;” Ephesians 3: 17, The Living Bible
Words in these lines from William Henry Channing create a leit motif as we slow down into the pace and space of summer. The song of this tiny feathered friend perched on the back of our porch swing calls me to stop and look and listen. And sing.
listen to stars and birds and babies and wisdom
open my heart
let the holy grow up through the common
“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common — this is my symphony.”
William Henry Channing
Photography courtesy of Pert Roddy Garraway, who grows these beautiful plants.
In my observance of Lent this year, I worked with others in an online retreat reflecting on the question “What is mine to do?” The question comes from Jesus when he said” “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” When his own death was approaching, St. Francis told us, “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.”
For me, the answer to the posed question is simply that what is mine to do is to practice serving. I am not sure why, but my friend’s photo of her beautiful Cereus reminds me of serving. It may be because this exquisite blooming only happens at night, when it is unseen by many. It does not require the brilliance of sunlight to bloom on, offering its beauty and fragrance. for a brief time.
I have become aware of the difference in helping, in fixing, as opposed to serving. When I worked as a registered nurse, my connection to patients was best applied in service to them and to their families as opposed to a goal of repair. I am aware that in my community relationships, my parenting, and my grandparenting, my calling to serve may be played out in many different roles – in offering hospitality, in gardening and cooking and sharing the beauty of art and music. My joy in any of these is heightened as I realize that this, too, is serving.
“Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.
When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.
Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”
–Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen