“go easy…be filled with light…and shine”

I love this poem by Mary Oliver. She has such a way of condensing light, as if the writing itself is a baptism, where poet and reader emerge swept clean.

“When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Last week I looked out my window after a wind storm, and my two gorgeous, lyrical willow shrub trees were flat on the ground. I ran out there to find that they had not broken, but were bent at the bottom where the stakes ended. They were literally flat on the ground but not broken, split, or strained. I propped them up, got new stakes, secured them upright. There were no complaints. They moved willingly. They offer their blossoms with joy.

At the church service mentioned in my last post, a baby named Aislyn was being baptized. She was such a peaceful baby, and you could feel the community’s love surrounding her. The pledge to support her journey through life, brought to mind Jesus’ conversation with  Nicodemus, where he tells him that we must be born again: “Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.” John 3, The Message

I was moved by the love, commitment and vision for this child: baptizing, washing her in the light of Christly love; grounding her on the rock of faith. It’s something to see an entire church community stand up and together pledge  to watch over, guide,  and love this baby throughout her life.

It was a joy to share in this child’s baptism; it was a reminder of what a difference it can make to nurture, love, and stand up for the good in others. To see the community around us in God’s light, and to love it.

I’ve always loved how the teachings of Christian Science define baptism as a “Purification by Spirit; submergence in Spirit.” (Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy) It’s given me a sense of the  nearness of God, the ever-present availability of redemption, and the nurturing presence of Spirit to cleanse, purify, refresh, and restore my every moment.

Coupled with Ainslie’s baptism, I have a deepened sense of how much we are all continually immersed, cherished, watched over and held in the infinite love of God. Our awareness of this brings peace both for ourselves and the people we meet everywhere. Oliver puts it so perfectly:

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

through God’s lens…

Today I went to hear my friend Stephen Vail preach at St. John’s Anglican church in Port Hope. He starts out casual, simple, direct, often funny, a matter of fact kind of humility, never judgmental, immersing you in a keen assessment of  day to day life. And then when you least expect it, just easily going along with the story he’s telling–weaving in and out of Scripture and how it so tangibly relates to our lives today–he cuts right to the heart of it, takes you to the place you weren’t expecting, but knew you needed to be.

Today it was a discussion of John the Baptist…and how the lives in so many of the stories in the Bible on the surface appear to be failures–if measured by a worldly standard of success–even while they continue to change the world from the inside out. And how those stories beckon us to look at our lives from different vantage points, to see more deeply, to look at ourselves and the world through the lens of God.

The sermon was short, but the message rang in the air, and held there with both its promise and challenge: if we were to examine our lives through God first…to see ourselves through God’s eyes, in the light of divine Love, how would our lives change…how would our world change…how we would all change the world.

It makes me think of these two Bible verses:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Cor. 13: 12

“I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.”  Genesis 33:10

O to see ourselves and each other in this way. To glimpse the light, grace, tender, unceasing look of divine Love, to feel its safe assurance, presence, and warmth, to feel completely at home and secure, and in turn to shine this light on everyone around us.

Mary Baker Eddy’s words give profound insight to the possibility of this kind of spiritual discernment:

“Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy.” from Science and Health with Key to the Scripture

“on wings of faith…”

the other day a friend said to me, “it’s like there’s someone new here. i don’t know her very well.”

i asked, “is it like being made new, washed clean?”

“no,” she said, “more like she’s untainted, untouched and not willing to take the garbage any more. it’s me.”

it made me think about images we carry around about ourselves, sometimes the things we try to hide, hidden corners of supposed shamefulness, losses or absences that we assume are ours.

the thought of a bird came to mind: a broken wing, cradled to its side, careful, a bird, longing for altitude of air, the need to stretch, be carried, to beat its wings against the singing wind.

and i began to think of this bird as faith…faith that singes the air with its yearning, a certainty of deeper seeing; birdlike, ever driving for higher altitudes, clamoring to fly, pressing onward, demanding flight.

we are not broken birds, broken hearts or lives, our faith, knowing, certainty hobbled by doubts, improbabilities, fears. these are decoys that try to sideline, ground us, make us believe that our wings don’t work, that there’s no where or reason to fly, no Spirit to prompt or catch us, no updrafts of air and light for wings to dance upon.

what are the things that stall our moments, that try to shroud and crowd and darken out all light, that whisper lies? how often have we heeded them, given up, right on the cusp of certain dawning?

it will not do.

flight is imminent.

the pristine fire of your life is standing witness.

it calls:

live!

live!

live your life;

you are not broken or wasted or left behind.

you, marvel of Spirit’s mastery,

timeless,

on wings of searing Love and Life.

sometimes the rising, the standing, the awakening can be like the whole world coming apart; but really it is an unwrapping, a revealing of here, here, here you are…as you have been so all along…all darkness and clutter burned away, singing: here, here…such a relief to just be here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Faith is higher and more spiritual than belief. It is a chrysalis state of human thought, in which spiritual evidence, contradicting the testimony of material sense, begins to appear, and Truth, the ever-present, is becoming understood.” Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy

“Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians 13

“And as on wings of faith we soar and worship,

Held by God’s love above the shadows dim

Hushed in the grandeur of a heart’s awakening,

Unfolds a joy unknown till found in Him.”  Susan F. Campbell Christian Science Hymnal

“it’s going to be alright…”

woke the other morning to the words from Sara Groves‘ song “It’s going to be alright.”

“it’s going to be…alright…

it’s…going to be… alright…

just when you cannot…

then I will hold out faith…for you”

swept, washed in comfort,

carried, companioned,

sheltered, sustained.

hope engendered,

conviction undeterred,

peace rendered,

repelling, dispelling, silencing

encroaching doubt, fear, uncertainty.

air alive with possibility.

hosts of angels

prodding,

singing,

urging,

whispers of Truth

searing, certain, relentless comfort of God

rending the dark

lighting up the inside.

“Thus founded upon the rock of Christ, when storm
and tempest beat against this sure foundation, you,
safely sheltered in the strong tower of hope, faith, and
Love, are God’s nestlings; and He will hide you in His
feathers till the storm has passed. Into His haven of
Soul there enters no element of earth to cast out angels,
to silence the right intuition which guides you safely
home.” Miscellaneous Writings by Mary Baker Eddy

where is Love’s voice not present?

where anywhere is Love’s hand not at work?

quiet, resistless fingers disentangle darkness.

roads to Damascus everywhere.

inevitable righting.

immaculate.

yes.

it’s going to be alright.

when it comes to contentment…

when will it be

and what does it look like

and what is it made of

and how can we find it

and will we even know what it is

isn’t it like faith

an undergirding presence trying to make its way to the light

inner inklings that guide us like waymarks in the dark

isn’t it like hope

the fresh springing within us, the involuntary impulse to be

doors and windows inviting us to open

isn’t it love

the gentle breath of approval hovering ever beneath harsh, dark thoughts of despair

an embrace of air, of life, of stars, of trees that sing our place among them

here in this space, where loneliness, where longing, where hunger try to consume all light…

here in this very place, enough, presence, grace, abiding, to share. enough to drink and drink beyond our fill, with more left over than we can see, with more to give, with more to love, with more to live.

contentment has no strings, belongs to no body, no thing, but rises up, the essence we are within us to own this now, this here, and to spill its sweet presence all around us. no strings, no space, just the pressing presence of faith that nudges us, hope that encourages, and love that reminds and reminds and reminds us that we are loved, and of Love, and through Love, and in Love.

I love this poem by e.e. cummings:

     why
     do the
     fingers 

     of the lit
     tle once beau
     tiful la 

     dy(sitting sew
     ing at an o
     pen window this
     fine morning)fly 

     instead of dancing
     are they possibly
     afraid that life is
     running away from
     them(i wonder)or 

     isnt't she a
     ware that life(who
     never grows old)
     is always beau 

     tiful and
     that nobod
     y beauti 

     ful ev
     er hur 

     ries

whispering yes.

One of my favorite Christmas albums is the The Rankins “Do you Hear What I hear.” They sing a gorgeous version of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. There’s something so sweet, joyful, hopeful about it.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared to Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Jesus’ life, his birth, and the people surrounding it–thinking about how many things in life happen in quiet and unexpected ways and yet come with the power, vision, and divine impetus to bring great change to our lives. And how often they come in such understated, silent impulses that we second guess or dismiss them. Whether in hindsight or right in that moment, ultimately we realize their significance–that intuition, insight, the deep knowing within us comes from a pure and holy place, the sanctuary of Truth, the still small voice of God right in the midst, reaching out, propelling, revealing, embracing, awakening.

This is what is so significant about the story of Jesus and all the individuals involved: they got a message, and though initially scared, stunned, uncertain, bemused; they listened, paid attention, responded, followed. And as a result, their lives took on a meaning and purpose they, and perhaps no one, could never have imagined or expected.

Mary Baker Eddy speaks of about Mary’s experience in this way: “The Holy Ghost, or divine Spirit, overshadowed the pure sense of the Virgin-mother with the full recognition that being is Spirit. The Christ dwelt forever an idea in the bosom of God, the divine Principle of the man Jesus, and woman perceived this spiritual idea, though at first faintly developed.”

This poem by Lucille Clifton is one of a number of poems she has written about Mary and Jesus.

mary’s dream

winged women was saying

“full of grace” and like.

was light beyond sun and words

of a name and a blessing.

winged women to only i.

i joined them, whispering

yes

So what of us in this perhaps uneventful moment of our lives? What divine impulse is whispering? What sweet purpose are we being nudged towards? What great goodness is waiting to dawn or emerge? What songs of angels are singing? What truth is calling? What deeper justice rising?

What happened in a stable so many years ago, holds its promise of truth for this hour: a promise of spiritual being, a Christly holy nature, an opportunity to discover innocence, redemption, restoration, joy and peace. This is a promise we can reach for right now, it is one with the quiet light and hope so deep within us–waiting to be cradled, nurtured, noticed, honored, trusted and lived.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see…and glorify…”

This is the light that radiates, warms, lightens and lifts. We can trust it. As we do so, it will change everything. It will change the world.

Christmas ponderings and dawnings…

My dog Kosi and I were out walking in the crisp winter air last night. Though I’ll admit I have my struggles with winter sometimes, it was one of those nights when the sky is so clear, the air so fresh, everything speaks of the imminence, nowness, grandeur, joy of life. I found myself thinking, I love winter. I thought of my brother’s visit last year and his recent comment, “I do remember the joy of feeling the breath, and I mean the long deep breath of winter. The ponderous throw of time, huddled in.”

The breath, the life, the certainty, clarity, urgency of it all pressing in upon us, or perhaps embracing, sustaining, compelling, lifting, illumining.

This poem and carol by Phillips Brooks to me captures the pure power of Christmas–where in the deep, hidden, innermost places of our hearts we find our longings answered, hopes fulfilled, and the quiet, inevitable emergence of a spiritual peace, an undiminished innocence, a soaring exaltation of unfettered life.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meekness will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

In an article on Christmas MB Eddy says this, “The star that looked lovingly down on the manger of our Lord, lends its resplendent light to this hour: the light of Truth to cheer, guide, and bless man as he reaches forth for the infant idea of divine perfection dawning upon human imperfection,–that calms man’s fears, bears his burdens, beckons him on to Truth and Love and the sweet immunity these bring from sin, sickness, and death. ”

The light of that star in this very hour–the stars, the air, everything alive pulsing with the imminence of Truth–embracing, propelling, cheering, guiding, blessing, a showering of praise, a benediction of love,  a message of: you, each, each and every single one of you are beloved, My beloved.

In this intense season of hopes, yearnings, fears, and extravagant giving, may each one of us make room for the dawning of something simple, holy, shining, the light of the infinite whispering, comforting, nurturing, igniting the embers of our essential and magnificent lives.

..

no abstract fires or vague births…

We’ve had the first of many snow storms today–the snow almost too heavy to shovel. Thanks to WordPress for the added snow feature for blogs! It’s the time of year when I feel myself bearing up for the long haul of winter: time for deep and quiet underground growth, patient tending to internal gardens, and the need to draw more certainly on spiritual warmth and light. As my brother from California put it last January: “these such lovely flowers of winter.”

I’ve been thinking about the simple, holy sanctuary of the space most deep within us–the space where we begin to grasp the things unseen, the substance of things hoped for as Paul puts in his letter to the Hebrews. The space where new dawnings take hold and transform us from the inside out, and give us bearings, footholds that do not crumble or shift.

There’s a poem by Conrad Hilberry called Wise Man. Dr. Hilberry was one of those professors who had a quiet instilling impact on my life. He was one of my advisors on a senior thesis during a time of great turbulence in my life. We didn’t talk much, and being the poet he is, his words were understated, piercing, succinct, and clear. He had a way of reigning me in when I was being reckless, giving quiet encouragement when I felt the work was hopeless, helping me refocus, go deeper and find my way. I love this poem in this season, and the gritty, tangible promise that it represents.

I

No one here is old enough. The father,

if that’s what he is, stands awkward as a stork.

The mother does not know whether to smile

or cry, her face beautiful but ill-defined

as faces of the young are. Aven the ass

is a yearling and the sheep mutter like children.

To whom shall I hand this myrrh that has trailed

a bitter breath after it over the desert?

I am tired of mothers and their milky ways,

of babies sticky as figs. I have left a kingdom

of them. There must be some truth beyond

this sucking and growing and wasting away.

A star should lead an old man, you would think,

to some geometry, some right triangle

whose legs never slip or warp or aspire

to become the hypotenuse. Instead, this star

wandering our of the ecliptic has led us

a dry straw, a stable, oil burning in

a lamp, a mother nursing another mouth.

II

Creation, then is the only axiom–

and it declines to spell itself across

the sky in Roman letters. Some events

are worth a journey, but there are no

abstract fires or vague births. Each fire

gnaws its own sticks; the welter of what is

conspires in this, a creation you can hold

in your hands, a child. A definite baby

squalls into life, skids out between the legs

of a definite woman, bedded in straw, on the longest

night of the year. And a certain star burns.

“No abstract fires…no vague births…some events are worth a journey.”  Out of the grit and mess, the strivings and strugglings of our lives, meaning is called forth. Where else are we to find what we’re looking for if not here? Right here something is waiting to  emerge in us. The story of Jesus’ birth and life says it so clearly: don’t look out there, it’s not about where you’re staying, the trappings, what things appear to be. Sometimes the things you need come in ways you wouldn’t ask for. The stuff that truly holds in our lives proceeds from the light within, a spiritual well-spring of divine light, leading us to recognize the definite holiness, relevance, necessity of who we are.

Our lives are worth the journey to move past the rough edges, the things we want to discard, the things that don’t belong to us. It begins with a quiet awareness and acknowledgement of the sweet, pure, precious child within us. This is when we begin to glimpse the something more, a hint of tender approval, a certain sense of belonging, an unavoidable embrace. I love that in Christ Jesus’ teachings and journey his message was always one that pointed to both now and here. People didn’t jump through hoops to be healed; they got a glimpse of who they really were through the penetrating, spiritual discernment of Jesus’ Christliness. This is spiritual truth made practical: it’s not abstract or vague, but laser clear, cutting to the heart of things, uncovering what’s true.

I’ve loved the writings and teachings of  Mary Baker Eddy for this reason. She wrote of her own spiritual awakening in this way: “Into mortal mind’s material obliquity I gazed, and stood abashed. Blanched was the cheek of pride. My heart bent low before the omnipotence of Spirit, and a tint of humility, soft as the heart of a moonbeam, mantled the earth. Bethlehem and Bethany, Gethsemane and Calvary, spoke to my chastened sense as by the tearful lips of a babe. Frozen fountains were unsealed. Erudite systems of philosophy and religion melted, for Love unveiled the healing promise and potency of a present spiritual afflatus. It was the gospel of healing, on its divinely appointed human mission, bearing on its white wings, to my apprehension, “the beauty of holiness,” — even the possibilities of spiritual insight, knowledge, and being.”

Here’s to definite discoveries, simple logical dawnings, and lives made new in concrete and beautiful ways.

Come and see…

There’s a passage from Psalms 66 that’s been singing in my thoughts lately. It says, “Come and see the works of God.”

Come and see.

Come.

See.

The works of God are here to be seen.

But you have to come; show up; open your eyes; look; see; be mentally, consciously present; look and listen deeper: through that quiet, silent, inner sense.

As a student in university, I came across this poem by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, shortly after a good friend had died.

Dogwood

The dogwood hurts me as I run

beneath its load

This spring,

Those white stars cascading

Down the wood road,

Those white blossoms with the faces

Upturned to the sun.

The grace of their branches is compassionate,

In an uncompassionate world.

The whiteness of their blossoms is too pure

To be unfurled

In a world soiled by the feet of men;

And they are open–too open,

In their flat uplifted acceptance

Of the sky.

Besides,

They lie.

They say–

(And I do not believe!)

They say–

(Oh, they deceive–they deceive!)

They say–

And I shut my ears to their cry):

“Look, it is here, the answer,

It is here,

If you would only see,

If you would only listen,

If you would only open your heart.”

They say–

“Look it is here!”

Not long after discovering this poem, I found a card in a shop that made me think of my dear friend, and without thinking, I thought, “I want to get this for Sally;” and then remembered. But before I could begin the plunge towards grief again, a quiet thought came: “She already got your message.” I felt a peace about her,  a sense of hope about the bigness and grandeur of life that I hadn’t felt like that before. Never again have I felt a loss of this friend, more a presence, an assurance of her life, integrity and ongoing journey.

In a season so full of deep hope and yearning,  we can all heed that quiet invitation to come and see the works of God: to discover the peace that lies unkillably within; the joy waiting to spring forth; the kindness, goodness and purity of childlike wonder. With this deeper seeing and spiritual knowing, we’ll begin to glimpse our lives and each other in an ever clearer light, the light of holy light, and in turn find awakening, restoration, healing and peace.

letters from God…

On a recent trip, a friend sent me an email with the header: “Things to watch for…” with the following message:

“I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God’s name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go, Others will punctually come for ever and ever.” Walt Whitman

Makes me think of the 23rd Psalm…”surely goodness and mercy shall follow…” surround us, meet us, greet us, embrace us. Eyes open, hearts open, things to watch for: truth in the midst, goodness at the core, the still small voice, love from every direction, peace welling up within us, the power of gentleness, the strength of sweetness, the laser certainty of love, the unavoidable authenticity of being.

Whispers, messages, inklings, dawnings, nudgings, awakenings. Things to look for….here, here, everywhere here.