Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome, Spring...


just when it seemed...
just when it seemed
   winter was never-ending
just when it seemed
   that springtime was a myth
   and new life a far-off
        dream
just when my spirit had
   almost succumbed to
   barren despair
suddenly there were violets
   blooming in my yard
amidst the detritus left
   by ice storms and wind
lifting hopeful heads to
   feel the sun and
   fill my heart with
        purple joy

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beginning Again...

Spent the morning as part of a writing workshop at the Servant
Leadership School of Greensboro. Ten of us were part of this
"One City, One Prompt 2014" experience which is taking place
in communities all over the country. This year's theme is BEGIN
AGAIN, creatively addressing the questions of how do I begin
again- personally, professionally, relationally? How can my
community begin again? How does beginning again relate to
humanity's needs and to the needs of our planet? and How
shall we begin again to connect across faith, race, ethnicity, and
class?

Our gifted leader, a young woman by the name of Jacinta White,
led us into several creative writing exercises, using a variety of
"prompts" and it was a great joy to feel my creative juices
flowing again...to be in the company of others who, like me,
take pleasure in the creative expression of our thoughts and
feelings through the venue of words, painting word-pictures as
surely as my artist-friends use paints or clay or metal for their
medium.

Our first "prompt" was a visual one. Each of us was invited to
take a folded piece of paper from a bowl and then reflect and
write whatever came to mind and heart. My photo was two-
sided and I chose the side NOT intended for use but which
spoke to me anyway...a Cartier watch...and so I wrote-
 
watch-ful
Time...a relentless enemy,
it seems to me,
reminding me, challenging me,
to start anew
to relish and use each second,
aware that once it's past,
     it never comes again...
reminding me, challenging me,
to dare to risk
a new beginning even
as life's clock
ticks away the minutes
                       days
                       weeks
                       years of my life...
and even
a Cartier watch
cannot hold back its passage.

Then, we shared a poem, an incredibly beautiful poem written by
Louise Gallagher, entitled Always Begin Again, and we were
invited to use it or some of the other things we had been
discussing as another "prompt" for our writing. I was transfixed
by these lines of the poem:
           With the tenderness of a raindrop
           clinging to a leaf
          I hold onto life
          fearing the finality
          of the fall.

The last three lines especially would not let me go and so I wrote:

letting go?
How I cling to the branch,
longing to grasp it tightly,
to never, ever let go.
The fall is fearsome.
Where will I land?
In a welcoming, gently-absorbing puddle
or splat on the sidewalk,
breaking me into irretrievable pieces?
Can taking such a risk
really be a new beginning-
or will it simply mark the
end of all that is,
obliterating what will be
in the fool-hardy release
of the familiar?
              I don't know...
              I wonder...
                      which gives me hope.

Our final challenge was to answer some probing questions
for ourselves. If I were to begin something again it would be
_____________ because _____________, but I haven't yet
because________________ and __________________.
was the first of these, and I found myself answering in a way
which surprised me. If I were to begin something again,
I discovered, it would be the play on which I began working
some 5 years ago and which has lain dormant in my notebook
and computer for a long, long time, because I would really
like to see where it goes- and where it takes me. Why haven't
I done this before? Because I hate to fail- despite the fact that
I know, I know, I have consistently learned from my failures,
and because I have no idea what I will do with it if and when
I get it finished. But Jacinta challenged me: perhaps it is not
important to know at this point what will happen...perhaps
right now it is simply important for me to follow the promptings
of my heart to write...to dare...to risk...to see where this
strange road will take me, letting the future take care of
itself.

And finally, we were invited to create a small poster- just
for ourselves- on the theme: TODAY- I COMMIT TO BEGIN...
AGAIN.

So, here I sit, sated and stimulated at the same time, filled
to the brim with the desire, the determination to BEGIN
AGAIN...knowing that it is never too late to truly live, to truly
create, to truly be immersed in the wonder and beauty and
miracle of life. May I be daring...and BEGIN AGAIN.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Morning...


This is my life
here and now
at this place
at this time

This is my life
and i can
wish it away
daydreaming something else

Another place
another time
seeing greener grass
in pastures far away

Or i can live IN it
IN this place
IN this time
cherishing every moment

Relishing and savoring
the taste of today
and here and now
finding it delectable

And satisfying
this life i'm living
here and now
the choice is mine, always and ever mine
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Praying for our Enemies...

As Lent began a couple of weeks ago, I had the humbling privilege
of marking the foreheads of those attending the Ash Wednesday
service with ashes, both as a reminder of our shared mortality and
of God's unchanging, unlimited love and grace, speaking the ancient
words, "Remember you are dust, to dust you will return." Then I
preached about the call to love, that call which Jesus taught and
embodied as he cared for and welcomed all people, without
exception...seeing them all as children of God. And since I usually
find myself preaching what I most need to hear, I spoke honestly
about the need, the challenge in our world, in our daily lives, to
see ALL people, everyone we encounter, as a beloved child of God...
which means caring about them, praying for them, even those we
consider our enemies. So much easier to say than to do...

Fast forward to Sunday last, when I read on the Huffington Post
site about Rev. Fred Phelps being near death in a Kansas hospice...
and the rubber of my faith hit the road of reality. Here is a man
whom I have long abhorred for his out-spoken, judgmental, hate-
filled rhetoric against the LGBT community...against Jews...against
the military...against victims of natural disasters...against Catholics...
against the U.S. government. He and the members of his Westboro
Baptist Church have, for several decades, picketed the funerals
of gay or lesbian people, carrying signs shouting in bold capital
letters, "GOD HATES FAGS"...have picketed military funerals of
those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, shouting that these deaths
are God's punishment upon this nation...and on and on and on.
Fred Phelps has spewed hatred in the name of God for much of his
84 years- and now he is dying in a Kansas hospice- and what is
my response as a person of faith to be? A person called to love
and pray for my enemies? If I spew hatred of my own, am I not
falling into the trap of doing the same things I have so roundly
criticized and condemned in Phelps and his followers? And where
does it all end, such hatred?

Years ago, I was a hospice nurse, and I sat at the bedside of
many people who were dying, offering them companionship and
love, accompanying them as far as I could on this final earthly
journey. And I did this gladly, offering my prayers that it might be
a holy passage, and offering my blessing for the journey. And now
Fred Phelps is dying...and I am terribly conflicted. I want to pray
for him, to offer a blessing, to see him as a beloved child of God...
but, oh, how difficult that is for me. To surround someone who
has spent his life spewing hatred with the mantle of God's loving
grace seems almost too much to bear.

And yet- it's not up to me, is it? For the reality is that it is God's
loving grace that will surround Fred Phelps, with or without my
assent. It is God who will recognize him as a beloved child,
whether or not I can. And with this awareness firmly before me,
my prayer becomes simply that he may rest in God, who is both
merciful and loving, and that in the holiness of that love, Fred
Phelps' eyes and heart may be opened. May he have a holy
passage.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Another Day...


Multitudes of thanks
From an overflowing heart
Spill over onto my path
This holy day
This day of grace
This day of life
Multitudes of blessings
Flow- to those I love
To those I will meet
Making of every encounter
Holy Ground
Multitudes of wonder
Fill my eyes and mind and heart
As, wide-open, I enter
Into this day
This holy day
This day of grace
This day of life
         In the name of the Creator
          and the Redeemed
          and the Living Spirit. Amen

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weathering the Storms...


I've been watching the snow falling, the wind blowing, aware that
the temperature has been falling all day, and marveling that at this 
time yesterday, the thermometer outside the kitchen window read 
almost seventy degrees. Unbelievable...yet this is the oxymoronic
pattern our weather here in the Piedmont of North Carolina has
been following for the past several months. And my poor daffodils
which had bravely and brazenly begun to bloom are now bent in
seeming abject surrender to the assault of the elements today.

Just a few days ago, as I drove home from Charlotte, again on
a lovely, nearly balmy day, I was noticing the delicate green
which was creating a lovely aura around the previously-bare
and barren-looking trees which lined the highway...found
myself thinking that surely Spring was on its way, only to find
myself confronted by today's return to winter, as temporary
as it likely will be. 

All of which reminds me yet again of the strange and mostly
out-of-my-control nature of life in general. Oh, we like to
believe that we are the masters-or mistresses- off our fate...
that we can control the way our lives unfold. But like the
capricious Piedmont weather, life happens and we often have
little or nothing to do with the HOW or the WHY of it, finding
ourselves at the mercy of buffeting winds and threatening
storms which toss us here and there until we are bent over
like my precious, delicate daffodils. 

But I suspect that once the sun comes out tomorrow, as it is
supposed to do, those drooping blossoms will rally to stand
up again...perhaps not as straight or tall, but showing their
lovely yellow faces to all those passing by my yard. And that
is the choice we have...the choice of HOW we will respond to
what life sends our way...the choice of whether to stay bowed
and bent by life's buffeting or to lift our heads toward the warmth
and light and hope of the sun. 

Don't get me wrong...sometimes we just can't make it on our
own. Sometimes life's storms are just too fierce and we are
so damaged that recovery seems impossible, especially on
our own. But standing there in the sunlight are the people
who love us...the people who bring the light of Divine love and
hope to us in their very human flesh...God with skin on...
holding out a hand, enfolding us in a hug, wiping our tears, 
lifting us up until we can stand on our own. And for that...
for those who have been there for me, I can only say, 
Thanks be to God, and thank you, each and every one.