Chirp Chirp Proclaim the Birds

“The Spirit is always hidden in the material.” Like the snow that covered the earth this week in Chicago in early spring, the birds were not fooled. They knew that even though it looks like winter; under that thick white blanket is the greening of the earth again. Chirp chirp they sang their gospel proclamation while pecking through the snow for seeds.

Jesus came to reveal that the Spirit of God, though hidden in each human being and in this world is actually alive, active, and real. His flesh and blood life in the first century experienced all there is to experience as a human. Through his teachings and miracles and healing the gospels reveal that Jesus allowed the life of God to live through him. Jesus gave his life because what was hidden had to be revealed; even death cannot destroy the Spirit.

The church around the world prepares for Holy Week. Our gift of faith will be dramatized and re-enacted. Churches will be filled with streams of people compelled to experience these ancient liturgies of darkness and light, death and new life. Something deep within us knows that we must die to live.

As you approach Holy Week again take a moment to invite God into your experience of this primordial story of our Spirit life. You and I are called to be proclaimers of this abundant life of the Spirit, the true Life within our life. Ask God to lead you to deepen in faith and trust of this Spirit life wanting to live more and more through you. Your soul is the seed shaped like God yearning to be fully expressed. Dying is part of living, what needs to die that the Spirit of love might be more and more proclaimed in you?

The Journey of 10,000 Returns

During Lent Christians are called to reflect on their lives for God. Many of us use the Litany of Penitence to help us reflect on how we are not living into the full potential of the life and love we have been made for. That litany names nearly every way we can sin and separate ourselves from God and hurt people.

Praying the litany is not a test. It is not a check up to see if we are doing better than last year. That litany prays us and it prays this world reminding us of our original separation from God.

The truth is we will never succeed or get an A+ at life. The best we can do is be a people who return again and again to God’s Presence of love in us and for the world.

I heard someone tell this story about Father Thomas Keating who has made his life’s work of love teaching Centering Prayer to anyone wanting a deeper life in God. This prayer method is silent, it is about stilling the mind and body so that the person can best allow God’s indwelling Presence minister to them.

As the story goes, a woman came up to Father Keating and said, “I am an utter failure at this prayer, in 20 minutes I had 10, 000 thoughts.” Without missing a beat and with a twinkle in his eye Father Keating responded, “How lovely, 10,000 opportunities to return to God.”

What if instead of trying to succeed at being a perfect person instead we practiced returning to God without judgment or shame? When we fail we would simply regard it as a lovely opportunity to return.

Would it not make us a more gentle and loving person! We would be so clear that God is with us, for us, and in us. We would be less likely to shame others when they fail because we ourselves would be on the journey of 10, 000 returns.

Litany of Penitence: http://www.allsaintsanglican.ca/images/File/Litany%20of%20Penitence.pdf

Centering Prayer

http://www.centeringprayer.com/

Sitting under a Mature Tree: the Gift of the Contemplative Life

Sitting under a mature tree on a warm fall day I realized that there was a vast depth within me. I was 19 years old, in college, studying biology. But I did not care about classes they were just the excuse so I could sit under that tree and explore the depth of my soul.

Contemplation is a gifted moment when time and necessity fade and the present opens like a rare and beautiful flower. Contemplatives are committed to the importance of these gifted moments to human wellness and the common good.

More than this, Christian contemplatives look to God to open these moments. Through intentional design we prayerfully create an environment to open fully to God’s presence who has created everything and holds all things together. Jesus is our wise teacher and spiritual guide who leads us toward sacrificial living in response to the grace and outpouring love of God. And the lively Spirit dwells in us and all creation providing the gifts needed to grow and mature in faith, hope and love.

To live the contemplative life is a full and rich adventure because in any given moment we believe the riches of heaven can be seen and experienced. Every person in front of us every moment at hand is pregnant with meaning and guidance toward the heart of God.

I have been drawn to deepen in my own contemplative practice since I was young, now I am committed to  lead others to the riches found in wellspring of life in God.

Below are two recent poems I wrote that express a Christian Contemplative view.

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The long walk home begins with a word.

“Talitha cum”.

The Lord awakens the sleeping soul with one word, one breath of heaven and darkness melts away.

Then comes stunned awareness, a new dawn breaks forth. The dance of morning fills the senses, open clear awareness.

Time elapses noonday comes, clarity falls prey to gravity and sinks down under necessity. What can I behold in so short a day? The butterfly alone could steal my life.

Who am I to love so much? I am slain by the heat of day. And at night I am lost to the limits of this mortal life.

Please speak your word afresh, do not leave me alone in this gentle morning light, whisper the word, “little girl get up”

Stunned, I am born again and again.
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When I find myself in a weightless universe

The day is a playground

every moment a dance.

 

Gone is the impatience of time

and the boundaries of language vanish.

 

The harsh corners of reality melt away into a

soft, gentle, warm embrace.
No division, no opinion

Truth is union, love is the light.

The Divine Gift in a Crappy Cup of Coffee

coffeeI am not a big “foody” and I don’t often fall prey to food snobbery but morning coffee has become important to me. That first cup in the morning awakens all of my senses to the day before me. I had not known how important it was for that coffee to be drinkable until my time at St. Gregory’s Abbey last week. The prayers of the monks were sincere and beautiful but the coffee was crap. Each morning I poured a cup full, raised it to my lips ready for the taste of a new day but instead its weak bitter flavor had to be forced down.

The spiritual life requires that we be aware of our longing for more, our weakness… the imperfection of it all has to be part of our awareness in order for space to open for God to come. This acceptance of reality awakens us to His merciful loving Presence.

This Sunday is the last in our Advent observance. The scripture readings of anticipation and hope for the coming of the Lord reach a summit in the story of the Annunciation. We receive a new view of God’s loving way with his creation in the story of the Angel who appeared to Mary declaring her favored status with the Almighty One and announcing that she a young vulnerable woman is going to carry in her womb the Son of God.

Mary had to be barren in order to conceive. Mary said, “how can this be?” As we all do in life. How can it be that God can overshadow this world and our very lives when so often it looks and feels barren of a holy Presence?

There is much to distract us in this life from paying attention to how we are in need. We can be so full we aren’t aware of the deep longings of our soul. That is until we have to force down a cup of weak bitter life.

When we are aware of our longings we find God. God saves us, God gives us purpose, God clears our lives of what is unimportant and bad for us, God gives us the power to open our hearts in love to every person in front of us and moment at hand. When God overshadows us new life is conceived.

On the final morning of my retreat I lovingly cupped in my hands that little porcelain mug of terrible coffee. I recalled all the people in my life that are suffering, lonely, grieving, that I miss and I gave thanks for the bitter cup of longing. I learned again the secret that God can be trusted to transform longing into love.

The Harvest of Experience

Harvest: to gather, to reap, to gain, to catch.

The end of a long busy growing season is the harvest. We bring in the final fruit of the land before winter.

T.S. Elliot wrote, “We had the experience but missed the meaning.”

Lots of experiences fill our days, weeks and years. Just imagine all the experiences in one day. Whether they be positive, traumatic, simple or complex it takes time to decipher the meaning of our experiences. It takes time for our souls to integrate all our experiences. The sweet fruit of wisdom only comes through reflecting on our experiences.

Celtic poet and writer and priest John O’Donohue writes about the importance of harvesting the meaning from our experiences.

O’Donohue explains that integration is such a vital part of our “coming home” to ourselves. Difficult experiences particularly need gentle consideration to fold them into our being. When we take time to reflect on our experiences we mature, we heal, and our fragmented lives are made whole.

Jesus invited his students to be fertile ground for the Word of God to grow. Jesus was teaching that the Children of God are the harvest of the Kingdom of God. When we meet frustration with hope, when we face discouraging situations with faith, when we make peace in the midst of conflict or show mercy when we could hold a grudge we are nourishing this world with the fruit of God’s love.

Our souls have this amazing capacity to make wholeness out of all of our disparate experiences. Seek God’s help in harvesting the fruit of your experiences today, and more and more you will become the fruit of God’s love.

Trust Again

Can I speak for the universe and say I am sorry?

                   For the abuse

                    And neglect

                   For the sorrow of your soul

Would it make a difference?

 Could I press a divine kiss to your forehead?

                   For the tears

                   And shame

                   For the silence you keep in fear

Would it ease your pain?

Could the embrace of my arms heal your soul and set you free again?

                   To see the truth

                             It is not your shame

thistle farms

This poem is inspired by the Rev. Becca Stevens and the ministry at Thistle Farms. Learn more by going to thistlefarms.org

                             It is not your secret

                             You are beloved not ruined

 Listen, the formula for healing is sacrificial love and time.

Hear me, there is a love that will roll up its sleeves, and slowly infuse the cure drop by drop into your being. A healing unction that was created before time flows from one to another. Trust again the love of the universe and you will be healed.

Suburban Heroes

X-ray vision
Flight
Super- senses
Speed
Strength

A superhero uncovers evil plots

With

Magnetic forces
Fire
Water
Ice
Electricity
They restore order and defend innocent lives

But, there is another kind of superhero equally as noble

They live in comfortable well decorated homes on quiet streets

Possessing power to

Stay calm among many children
Patient among those who have no concept of timesuperdad
Able to balance work, family and community in a single day

Efficient
Committed
Moral and
Kind

They value health and safety of family, neighborhoods and self

Fighting the powers of darkness

Through advancing the work of
Non-profits
Schools
And religious institutions

They volunteer as
Treasurerssupermom
Serve on lunch duty
Usher on Sunday morning

They are rarely praised for
Doing the dishes, washing the laundry, serving healthy meals and changing the bed linens

They are sure to get the invitations out for a birthday party, a costume made for Halloween, review spelling lists, return library books, take a casserole to new neighbors, visit a friend in the hospital, keep up with the endless drop off pick up schedule, and maintain orderly care of the household.

Superdads and Supermoms often face stressful jobs after a morning run, shuffling the kids off to school with lunches, homework, and a kiss good-bye; then they commute hours and make it home for a little league game, and tuck their children in at night.

They work at their marriages, teach their children how important their lives are, care for the poor, consider the plight of the world, are informed voters, and each day appreciate the wonder and gift of life.

They are suburban heroes

Thank one today.

Living Waters

Emily (16), Anna (13), and Gabe (10) had requested/insited that they be baptized. The plans were made and day had come.

Some moments in life are just full, overfull.  This was one of them. I stood outside before close family and friends. Some people I had not seen for several years. The morning was warm with a cool breeze.  I could sense it, we were alive and awake to the moment we had planned for so long as we gathered around those three beautiful kids on a warm August morning in Manhattan Kansas. Sitting in the shade of a huge tree, nestled near a pond filled by a spring of water that gushed forth from deep in the rock below, we all felt the fullness of the moment.

The evening before,  Emily asked me what they needed to know before the baptism. So we sat down all four of us. We talked about Jesus. We talked about the symbols of water and oil. We discussed the meaning of baptism. And when my teaching was over I shut the prayer book and I said there is only one thing necessary for you to remember now and that is simply to be open.

God has so much to say, all we need is to be open. It is easier said than done. So much gets in the way of us being open and present to the voice of God. Fear, anxiety, and judgment are a few of our most common human challenges.

We are challenged but God is not; God has many ways to speak to us and uses the language we hear best. Gently and kindly and with perfect perception God uses the stunning beauty and power of nature, or the love and joys of friendship, marriage or parenting, sometimes it is through art or music or architecture that God talks to us, and sometimes it is through the Bible, in church or in our silent prayer upon our bed.

Baptism is the beginning point of a life of opening up to God. And it takes a lifetime to learn to listen and trust in His divine and unique way of speaking directly to each of us.

We know it is God because when we hear that distinct voice we are deeply reconnected within ourselves to what matters, our souls are reassembled and our hearts are made new again. Religion is about connection with God.

In the Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism a dove came, the sky opened and a voice mysteriously spoke from a void and said,“This is my beloved”.

What we learn is that the waters of baptism are not only about washing away sin or repairing us; those waters are also calling us toward becoming more deeply the beloved we already are; some call it our true self.

I told Emily and Anna and Gabe that they will get confused in life, they will compare themselves to everyone else, they will fixate on their failurebaptism of E A and Gs, they will overly focus on their successes, they will try to make themselves more beloved or believe at times they are not loveable at all.

When the confusion comes the church and Jesus invite them to return to the day when they took off their shoes and stepped into that beautiful spring fed pool of water under the large shade tree.

God knows that only love can free us. When we are loved and known and still loved we humans open up. Our hearts widen our hands get to work because we respond best and most fully to love.

In God we say, “no secrets are hid”. The chambers of our soul are where God resides deep under the surface. And when we are open,  like a spring of water God’s grace and love gushes; eternally reminding us that we are divinely beloved.

Be open to the God’s love which is plentiful and refreshing as water, be open to receive God’s grace which is soft and luxurious as oil on the skin. Be open because God is always speaking to those he loves.

The Prairie

A golden sea without interruption stretching horizon to horizon

I do not know you

Stepping into your presence I find the

Switchgrass

Little Bluestem

white lacy Yarrow

Indian Grass

Prairie Sage

and Side Oates

Alive with variety

Teeming with life

Your roots run deep below the dry cracked earth

The heat of fire does not frighten you,

each spring your seed yields in the hot scorching tongues

Coneflowers

Goldenrod

purple and white Aster

Common Milkweed

Rise and open in the sun

Attracting the  Grasshopper

Butterfly

and  Bees

Your thick lively beauty is a perfect home

To nest

To rest

To rise and return

A golden sea horizon to horizon

A shy beauty

warm, hardy and welcomingphoto

Early morning or in the last rays of daylight,

when the sun kisses her she smiles,

“Come, stretch and yield in my warm Presence”.

Twenty Years of Love

Lisa and ChadThere are some memories that are so deeply etched into your soul. Twenty years ago Chad and I were married on July 30th at 10:30am at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City. It was a sunny, clear, hot day.   

I held my dad’s arm at the back of the church as Canon in D played and we waited for our cue. My dad often recalls that I had no hesitation that day; I “pulled him down the aisle,” as he tells it.

I recall with vivid feeling those steps. As we processed to the front my eyes found Chad. In those fleeting moments we were more than looking at each other; we were united. Everything faded to the background. All the strains of putting a wedding together, all the family commotion, the worries about the future, the people crowded in the pews and even the music faded. I was eager to get down the aisle because something deep within me woke up in his loving eyes and our union felt in tune with something larger then ourselves.

We were both eager in those early days. When I told him I felt called to be a priest he said, “You can be a Mac truck driver if you want. I still want to be with you.”

Eagerness of young love meets the reality of life: bills, moods, schedules, and personal challenges. In the midst of the stress of life, love can quickly change from freeing to grasping, from open to controlling, from easy to needy.

After twenty years of marriage I am learning more about the love that was awakened in Chad’s dark brown, soulful eyes. It was not as much about us that day as it was about God in and through us.

Marriage, I have learned, is taking on the divine task of telling each other we are loveable. Chad is such a prince because he has told me so often that I am worthy of love even when I am ugly, worn out, and crabby. And I get the privilege of supporting and loving Chad even when he is not at his best.

The secret to marriage is learning to creatively love each other through all of life, and to challenge each other to love life and God and all who are near us more deeply and more creatively each day.

The media lies to us all the time, telling us that long-term committed love is impossible, boring or not worth it. The media tells us that if our spouse is not meeting all our needs and wants we should simply give up.

God, who is the most faithful, the most creative at love, teaches us that committed love, whether it be toward a spouse or friend or family member, is what we are made for. Our souls stretch and yield within committed creative compassionate love.  

The gift of a long marriage is finding you are loveable again and again. The joy of long marriage is falling in love again and again. The blessings are too numerous to count.

Thank you Chad for loving me and giving me the chance to love you.