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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.

Forget about Enlightenment.

Occasionally, I read articles about mindfulness in the workplace. I am OK with the good practice, but I find that it is not about letting go of old habits. Instead, it is often about gaining some advantage over others.

I find, perhaps as a product of getting older, the harder I chase something the harder it is to find it. When I sit and wait and do not chase, what I need most comes to me. It finds me when I let go of the idealized past and fantastic future. Rather than something I turn on and off at will, mindfulness letting go and appreciating who I am and what I have.

John Welwood counsels us to listen to the wind singing in our veins and the longing in our bones as we open our hearts to who we are in each moment. Certainly, the ensuing conversation and questions we ask in are a monumental task, but the love and patience we show ourselves makes us whole and holy.

Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be,
Not the saint you are striving to become,
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You are already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
Breathe out,
Touch in,
Let go.

This Being Human

Rumi and his poetry speak across the centuries and across culture. When we awake in the morning, we enter the world along with our emotions. We serve them as a host and they live within us as if our body were a guest house.

When we are mindful of how we experience emotions, we learn they unexpectedly move, replaced by another we attend to, as well. In this way, we invite them in and entertain them as grateful hosts, even when they catch us off guard. We receive each emotion honorably as we experience it and attend to it each moment as fully as humanly possible.

When we understand that emotions come and go and serve as guides in living, being human is a gift that we receive with gratitude and joy. We greet them at the door with a hearty laugh and question what meaning they bring to us in that moment.

This being human is like a quest house.

Every morning, a new arrival,

A joy, a depression, meanness . . .

Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all,

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows

Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door, laughing; and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

 

Love’s Exquisite Freedom

When we love others, things, and places, there is freedom that comes with the constraints that love places on us. Maya Angelou provides a rich, poetic description of how love arrives and frees us.

Love arrives with histories and memories of pleasure and pain. Thomas Merton advised that we call it falling in love, because there are times it can hurt. Despite the possibility of pain, love calls us in ways that give us courage to overcome the risk and we are free to choose love. There is something in that person, that thing, and that place that call and hold us in that relationship.

Wendell Berry writes about affection for people, places, and living. It takes courage to step out and say, “I love this person, this place, and this way of living.” In saying that, what if the other rejects me or their love or that love is taken from me?

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 histories 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.

 

This Is What Was Bequeathed Us

As I read this poem, I recalled: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Embedded in the quote is: How do we care for shared places and its inhabitants so that others who follow us can enjoy Creation?

Stewardship, in all its forms, calls on us to act in ethical and considerate ways. This does not mean we cease harvesting, but we do in ways that do so in responsible ways. We return as much as we take and show our gratitude for the harvest.

Gregory Orr reminds us the Earth is a gift the beloved left. Someone left it to us and our response would be to give it to those who follow us as a sacred gift. Here, we find meaning, we live together, and we discover ways to sustain our living together. We do so when we are mindful and attentive towards others who are with us and follow. We do so when we are mindful and attentive to the Earth. A beloved bequeathed this to us and it is now our turn.

This is what was bequeathed us:

This earth the beloved left

And, leaving,

Left to us.

No other world

But this one:

Willows and the river

And the factory

With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank

On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.

No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:

Turn me into song; sing me awake.

Still Point

Max Reif describes the rush of life and the calling of nature somehow overriding that rush. The poem reminded me of biblical passage from Matthew 6:28 describing lilies as just being.

What is my hurry? What roots me in this place and time? I overlook the depth of those questions. I enjoy reading Wendell Berry‘s essays about farming. He reminds me that farming is a love of place and time. The small farm is home for people and nature. There is no separation.

My mother said farmers do not need Daily Savings Time. Depending on the time of the year, they understand their work based on the time and space they are in at that moment. When I think of the world as unpatterned, I sense its majestic wholeness and not compartments, rendering them virtual.

Leaving home
for work
each day

I hear the trees
say “What’s your hurry?”

Rooted, they
don’t understand

how in my world
we have to rush
to keep in step.

I haven’t even time
to stop and tell them
how on weekends, too,
schedules wait
like nets.

It’s only on a sick day
when I have to venture out
to pick up medicine

that I understand the trees,
there in all their fullness
in a world unpatterned

full of moments,
full of spaces,
every space
a choice.

This day
has not
been turned yet
on the lathe

this day
lies open, light
and shadow. Breath
fills the body easily.
I step

into a world
waiting like
a quiet lover.

Walking in the Mountains in the Rain

Similar to our emotions, the weather moves through quickly like a cloudburst. When we pay attention and grow mindful, we sense changes around us and ones further away.

I sense Wang Wei proposes a there are benefits that occur in occasional changes in our immediate surroundings. Those changes mute distant sounds and other stimuli that intrude. Whether it is outside or inside us, the impending storm signals we need to find shelter and take stock of what is happening.

Perhaps through our questions and wonder we awaken and become aware of the world. What happens further downstream from us? What is happening out at sea? What do our emotions mean to the immediate world and the larger world we experience and share? What does it mean to lead, teach, and learn in this world?

In this quick cloudburst
air thickens, the sky comes down

dark mountains
flashes of lightning

out at sea new clouds
have just started to form
and this small brook I straddle
is a river in flood somewhere

rags and blankets of mist
hang on these slopes and cliffs

then the clouds open and vanish
rain patters off
and moonlight silvers
that whole reach of river
foothills to ocean

and even from this black mountain
I can hear boatmen singing.

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