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Category Archives: Sabbath

Gospel

The world gospel comes from the Greek and Latin meaning “a reward for bringing good news.” When we walk through life and notice what we experience we are rewarded. It requires a mindful and thoughtful approach noticing the old and the new sharing space with each other; dependent upon each other.

We are dependent on what is there. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested a garden’s weeds enable the growth of new plants. Farmers plow the previous year’s growth under avoiding erosion, adding nutrition to the soil, and helping keep moisture. We do not know whether the news is good until we pause and remember the context behind the news. What did that “bad” news really mean? When we listen more closely, we hear the music of the world singing a different refrain for us.

Philip Levine wrote this wonderful poem. I thought about what it means to receive news. Perhaps that letter in his pocket was not bad news, but, once he was over the pain, he found something new that he had not sensed before.

The new grass rising in the hills,

the cows loitering in the morning chill,

a dozen or more old browns hidden

in the shadows of the cottonwoods

beside the stream bed. I go higher

to where the road gives up and there’s

only a faint path strewn with lupine

between the mountain oaks. I don’t

ask myself what I’m looking for.

I didn’t come for answers

to a place like this, I came to walk

on the earth, still cold, still silent.

Still ungiving, I’ve said to myself,

although it greets me with last year’s

dead thistles and this year’s

hard spines, early blooming

wild onions, the curling remains

of spider’s cloth. What did I bring

to the dance? In my back pocket

a crushed letter from a woman

I’ve never met bearing bad news

I can do nothing about. So I wander

these woods half sightless while

a west wind picks up in the trees

clustered above. The pines make

a music like no other, rising and

falling like a distant surf at night

that calms the darkness before

first light. “Soughing” we call it, from

Old English, no less. How weightless

words are when nothing will do.

Love’s Exquisite Freedom

The Trappist Monk Thomas Merton wrote that we call it falling in love because it does bring painful moments and it is in overcoming the pain we experience that love means so much in our lives. Maya Angelou shared a similar view of love in this wonderful poem. When we look back on life and love, we remember the pain that come with both as strengthening our lives and love. Real love costs us all that we are, but it makes us more whole than who we are.

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient memories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Straight Talk From the Fox

Mary Oliver, one of my many favourite poets, speaks often of our relationship both to and in nature. We are not separate from nature, but a part of it and relate to all its elements, sentient and non-sentient. We relate to nature and all its elements as a participant and not an external, passive observer.

Our observations are not something we can full grasp and write down. The closest we come is expressing what we feel in writing poetry and sharing photography.

Quite often, we are dumb to what happens around us. Other moments, we awake and soak it in through all our senses, embodying what the fox tells us and feeling so close to what we experience in those moments.

Listen says fox it is music to run

over the hills to lick

dew from the leaves to nose along

the edges of the ponds to smell the fat

ducks in their bright feathers but

far out, safe in their rafts of

sleep. It is like

music to visit the orchard, to find

the vole sucking the sweet of the apple, or the

rabbit with his fast-beating heart. Death itself

is a music. Nobody has ever come close to

writing it down, awake or in a dream. It cannot

be told. It is flesh and bones

changing shape and with good cause, mercy

is a little child beside such an invention. It is

music to wander the black back roads

outside of town no one awake or wondering

if anything miraculous is ever going to

happen, totally dumb to the fact of every

moment’s miracle. Don’t think I haven’t

peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons

making love, arguing, talking about God

as if he were an idea instead of the grass,

instead of the stars, the rabbit caught

in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought

home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is

responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not

give my life for a thousand of yours.

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Today, is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birthday. He was an activist, mystic, artist, and poet, as well as a priest.

His poetry contains St. Francis of Assisi qualities. He wrote in psalm-like ways thanking God, praising all creation and seeing humans and nature as intertwined in their creation.

It is in our creation that we give praise for the creation. When we live the life we are meant for, we fulfill the essential work we are created for in life.

I was reminded of the biblical passage: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” When we live our lives simply, we find the most fullness.

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.

The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you.

The distant blue hills praise you,

together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light.

The bickering flycatchers praise you

with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there.

 I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers,

and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.

We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.

You have made us together,

you have made us one and many,

you have placed me here in the midst

as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

 Here I am.

In me the world is present,

and you are present.

I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.

You have made me a kind of center,

but a center that is nowhere.

And yet also I am “here.”

my cats

We don’t own a cat. We did once and she was special. I think Charles Bukowski gets it right that when we have a pet they are our teachers. I always tell people who cat really owned us. We have opportunities to learn from whatever appears in our world and space. When we stop and sense closely, deeply, it is a learning experience that sometimes only reveals itself much later.

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and
concerns.

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
much.

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.

when I am feeling
low
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns.

I study these
creatures.

they are my
teachers.

Pride

Noelle Kocot wrote about being contented as a human. I find my space not in the competition and busyness of living, but being human is in the never being done.

There is a sense of wonder in stepping back and accepting what the moment offers. It is about the awe that wandering with an open heart and mind allows me to have. I stay open to the world and to myself when I remember living is not competition. I cooperate with everything I meet and experience.

If I claim I was a terrible, horrible,

Evil no-good person,

It would be a lie, and it would be

Wanting always to be the best or the worst.

So now I’m destined to wander,

My bag full of pride a lot lighter,

And if I say I am done

With whatever ails me,

That would also be a lie.

I am not done, will never be done

Till the day I die,

But I am content to be human,

Naked and shaking with love

At the moment, and the next moment,

I just can’t say.

The Inner History of a Day

John O’Donohue wrote many of his poems as blessings and prayers to living. He included a deeply spiritual aspect in his writing reminding us to be mindful and attentive in living our lives.

Each day has a history that we cannot know in advance and only recall incompletely. Life becomes a mystery except when we are living each moment in its completeness. It is here, on the sacred ground of the present, that the past and future continuously mingle becoming one. It is here the eucharist of the ordinary happens and we join together living in community.

The word present reminds that each moment, each day, we should not take the gift for granted and lightly. Living it fully, responsibly, and richly is the gift we return.

No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

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