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Category Archives: Sabbath

Merry Christmas Everyone

You already possess everything necessary to become great. source: Crow image: Eddie’s Image Collection editor’s note: this is a repost from ETH December 2015 “Happy Holiday Everyo…

Source: Merry Christmas Everyone

When I saw the picture and quote in this post, they reminded me how much we have in common with each other. Instead of a politics of fear and division, can we can live in peace and harmony as stewards who care for each other, the world, and the future generations we live that world to?

Merry Christmas

I grew up in Northern Alberta and Christmas was a special time of the year. I recall cold winter nights. I mean they were cold–almost minus 40 at night. Our windows upstairs were partly frosted over and on moonlit nights the light kept me awake or that is what I told others.

During Advent, my mom and older brothers walked across the street for evening Mass. The younger ones, including me, went to bed. I did not fall asleep right away and would watch out the window for them to come home. I thought no one saw me, but my Mom would come up and tell me to go to bed.

The other experience I recall is the Northern Lights and how you could hear them as they lit up the sky. We don’t see them very often in Edmonton with the urban light. When we spent time at the farm at Christmas, we heard and saw them there. Again, on cold nights we heard the train (about a mile away) and it sounded like it was coming right through the house.

I wrote this poem several years ago about the magic provided by the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and Christmas. What message was in those celestial colours and sounds? As a child, I thought the sky talked to me and told me a creation story.

Small children–

Breathlessly wait,

Peer through frosted window

Soak it in.

Heavens ripple–

Lights undulate;

A celebratory fury

An indisputable guide.

This old house speaks;

Nature answers–

The heavens crackle

Sweet symphonic sounds shimmer.

Earth’s floor–

Blanketed in white

Celestial colours speak to me

Captures young senses.

A vivid winter scene,

A sensual, sensory palette,

Reminds me–

Christ’s Mass is here.

pic_wonder_northern_lights_lg

Prayer of St. Francis

Kathy and I celebrate our 40th anniversary this weekend and we are on our way to Alaska. We used The Prayer of St. Francis (Peace Prayer) as a reading for our wedding mass. As well, we have an inexpensive plaque that sits on a dresser in our bedroom. My mother gave it to us many years ago. When we celebrated my mother’s funeral mass a year ago, we read the prayer, as well.

When I was in Spokane for extended periods, I posted a copy of the prayer on my bedroom wall. It serves as a daily reminder of what we are capable of as humans in relationship with one another. the world, and God in our moment-to-moment living.

The prayer is about the travails and their rewards that we undertake. When I think about love, I recall Thomas Merton‘s saying we call it falling in love for a reason. We open ourselves, risk being hurt, and the rewards are worthwhile. We mind, care, and attend to people and things.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

I am unsure what access to the Internet is like on a cruise ship. I heard it is not good. That means I might be off-line for a week or so.

Rivertalk

Wendell Berry wrote that “there is a great restfulness in the sounds small rivers make.” When we mindfully stand and listen and perhaps close our eyes, we hear the restful sounds more clearly. We discover being rooted to a particular place, at least for the moment.

Those small rivers invite us to jump in and paddle as a child might. What the child adds to those sounds and waves are sounds of pleasure. There is no enjoyment while standing on shore, unless we close our eyes and listen closely. Besides the child, we might hear nature speak to us as it hums gently and touches us unexpectedly.

Jeanne Lohmann counsels us to be less serious and not to look for problems to fix as we move through life. The river serves as a wonderful metaphor and life calls to us to be present in each moment and to be fully present.

is whatever comes along,
practice always here while we

keep on shore, all the time
saying we want to get wet.

But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples

and waves that tell us:
don’t be so serious, rumble in

where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

 

Traveling at Home

Wendell Berry advises we do not experience the same route twice even in a country we know by heart. I wonder if we can know a country by heart? The chances change and make a new way.

We used to whitewater raft when the boys were younger. The mountain-fed river changed by the minute in June with the heat of the day and increased flow with melting snow. The rocks revealed themselves differently at various times of the day. In the morning, the river was lower and we could see the rocks, but with more water they became submerged. With time and experience, we could sense the differences in the river. Our vision was no longer the only way to know the river.

Heraclitus‘ quote about never stepping in the same river twice because it is changing complements the part about the person changing. We experience the world, its inhabitants, and ourselves as continuously changing. This calls us to be mindful and attentive to the living and the relationships we experience, seen and unseen.

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.

Seeing, Up Close Again

When we are mindful, we experience the immense detail of the ordinary world. It is a sensuous and intoxicating affair. We take the world and all its detail in through each of our senses.

Joyce Sutphen reminds us that, when we experience the immense detail of the ordinary world, we are like Gulliver in a world we have not experienced before. We have, but living at a breakneck speed can deny us the full, embodied richness of the experience.

When we slow down, we see the world and its detail fully. Seeing is the default sense we experience, but I think as we slow down  we more fully experience the world and all its details through all of our senses.

The world and we become richer a richer tapestry textured with the fullness of previously undetectable tastes, fragrances, traces upon skin, and gentle murmurs. Similar to the small child, the world and all its detail are fresh and new. We see, again and nothing is too small for our notice.

Like Gulliver in Brobdingnag, I
swooned to see again the immense
detail of the ordinary world:

the rippling surface of a fingernail,
exactly the color of a horn erupting
through the swirled-hair head of a calf,

the flayed landscape of skin where
catgut, pressing into the finger’s
tip, made a ragged canyon,

the beaten sheen of a silver ring
around the pillared finger,
dark-tarnished runes

in its patterned crevices.
Nothing was too tiny for
my hungry eye,

nothing too finely etched.
I had grown weary of smooth
honed perfection, perceived from

a distance. Now, even the smallest
stroke of ink on paper was
deep enough to fold me in.

The Way of Art

There is a Taoist quality to this poem by Albert Huffstickler. The art of writing is not a given path, but that can only be seen in the moment, much like living.

We make plans, but they are tentative. Who knows what will happen in the very next instance? Or, who will appear at our door?

There is a need to be mindful, attentive, and sensitive as we each walk our path and create our art, including living. As well, there is a need to rest along the journey and take in the world as we sit quietly in our meditative moments. In those moments, we learn from the world and others as they teach and lead each of us.

It seems to me that
paralleling the paths of action, devotion, etc.,
there is a path called art
and that the sages of the East would recognize
Faulkner, Edward Hopper, Beethoven, William Carlos Williams
and address them as equals.
It’s a matter of attention and discipline, isn’t it?—
combined with a certain God-given ability.
It’s what you’re willing to go through, willing to give, isn’t it?
It’s the willingness to be a window
through which others can see
all the way out to infinity
and all the way back to themselves.

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