“unforced rhythms of grace”

it’s been a summer of “unwinding one’s snarls”*…letting the blue sky shine…learning about “unforced rhythms of grace.”

Eugene Peterson puts it this way in his translation of Matthew 11:28-30: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

nothing heavy, nothing ill-fitting…how often do we find reasons for laboring under a sense of heaviness, insist on forcing ourselves into roles, relationships, work, dynamics that don’t really fit…stampede right past the stirring whispers of our hearts to lighten, lift, let go, emerge, rise higher…usually in the name of a voice that’s saddled in fear, accusation and distrust.

the stirrings keep stirring though, liberating, leavening, knocking at the door of our innermost thoughts, unlocking the shackles of impossibilities, urging us on, beckoning us to live with confident  joy, stripped free of pretension, drenched in the humility of unselfconscious grace.

child of light

wriggle out

shuck off

shed the tears

the ties

shake the dust

spill the beans

feet tripping

running

dancing

with the speed

of light

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” King James version: Matthew 11: 29, 30

“Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity. The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world.” Miscellaneous Writings by Mary Baker Eddy

*”In trying to undo the errors of sense one must pay fully and fairly the utmost farthing, until all error is finally brought into subjection to Truth. The divine method of paying sin’s wages involves unwinding one’s snarls, and learning from experience how to divide between sense and Soul.” Science and Health by MB Eddy

“consider the lilies…”

“Consider the lilies…

how they grow;

they toil not,

neither do they spin.” Matthew 6

consider

the lilies:

they grow.

they don’t toil.

they don’t spin.

they grow.

“in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)” e.e. cummings

there’s no rushing grace

no forcing the hand of Love’s flowers

no anxious intake of breath before the petals unfold

just a steady, certain opening of one’s hands

the offering was never in question

inevitable Giver

the whole world reciprocates with gladness

“The lilies grow without toiling or spinning. God clothes them. We can, we do grow from the same Source, and as unconsciously, and it should be as gently, from His dear hand who careth for us.” Mary Baker Eddy

“grace…bright shining as the sun…”

i never tire of the word grace. it is a bottomless heart of blessing. an infinite hand of anointing. holiness ushering in its presence, ushering it out in us. turning into, dawning out, emerging tendrils of a precious thing.

God’s grace. inescapable. undeniable. Love claims its own and does not let go. no surrender except for our own to it.

no matter how far, how hard, how strange, cluttered or consuming our paths have been…Love wakens and washes in the midst…to show us life untainted, unstained, unbroken…held in the heart of God’s omnipotent hands. In words from the book of Deuteronomy: “The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.”

there are no bounds for grace. it is an invitation to be awed by the infinity of goodness, the presence and power of God, the great heart of Christ illumining our way: showing  us who we are from the inside out. helping us to nurture that for ourselves and others. welcoming home, convinced only of the inevitibility of good. relentless light that cuts through any concrete of dark, rendering us incapable of being less than what we’re meant to be.

i love the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector in the book of Luke. Jesus saw him up in a tree, told him to come down, that he was going to stay with him. there were whispers…(why is he going to the house of someone like that?)  the next thing we know Zacchaeus is pledging half of all that he has to give to the poor, and promises to repay fourfold anyone he has wrongly accused.

the emergence of integrity right through the rubble of self-doubt, fear, uncertainty, greed…the discovery of peace and purity where selfishness and darkness hold sway. nothing can compete with grace.

here’s to grace and all the ways its calling out our names; here’s to standing in the light of praise; here’s to looking for it everywhere; here’s to delight and awe, but not surprise; here’s to an unending well of infinite good, dwelling here, here, here in the midst.

John Newton’s story and his song speak it all:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

“this is grace…an invitation to be beautiful”

i had some wonderful road time yesterday…highway, skyway time of thoughts glancing, glimpsing, glimmering, gleaning, singing, soaring. listened to some of Sara Groves‘ music…hence the title above…such a beautiful definition of grace..the gift ever given, beckoning  forth the beauty.. awakening it within us,  blooming, blossoming, blessing, embracing, showering, sheltering.

In her book Science and Health Mary Baker Eddy writes that “Man is the idea of Spirit; he reflects the beatific presence, illuming the universe with light.”

Here’s more of Sara Groves’ song mentioned above:

“We come with beautiful secrets
We come with purposes written on our hearts, written on our souls
We come to every new morning
With possibilities only we can hold, that only we can hold

Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are

And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside”

beauty…

piercing the darkness with radiance

lit from inside

illumed by Love

alight in Love

loved

written

sung

known

adored

we

Love’s

light

waiting…

waiting.

waiting.

waiting for?

the call to come,

things to change,

events to turn,

waiting…

there is a kind of waiting, a waiting not passive, not absent from engagement, mental movement, deep underground, foundational work, a waiting that has the spiritual poise and muscle of listening, pausing, waiting on the God, waiting for divine movement on the waters of our thoughts, waiting for the mental peace that comes with a right idea–regardless of the demands that may come with it. it is a waiting that includes complete willingness to act, to follow, to seek, to stand.

Psalms 27 ends with these words. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory.”

There is spiritual power in patience, a poise that rises up within us, an exercise of present grace, a fine tuned ear that holds forth for the true sound, a heart so pure, that no amount of clutter or clatter can distract it from its clear intent. This is the ground of life that brings forth inevitable fruit, often rising forth in ways we cannot see, but always made of stuff that holds.

Whatever we’re waiting for is here, calling out our name, flowering up through the concrete of lost hopes, hidden dreams, a life meant, a life ordained, a life loved.

John Borroughs’ poem called Waiting captures this so completely:

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,

Nor care for wind nor tide nor sea;

I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,

For lo! My own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays—

For what avails this eager pace?

I stand amid the eternal ways

And what is mine shall know my face,

Asleep, awake, by night or day,

The friends I seek are seeking me,

No wind can drive my bark astray

Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?

I wait with joy the coming years;

My heart shall reap where it has sown,

And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own, and draw

The brook that springs in yonder height;

So flows the good with equal law

Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky,

The tidal wave unto the sea;

Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,

Can keep my own away from me.

“a shift of knowing…”

This poem by Lucille Clifton is from her book good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980:

the light that came to lucille clifton

came in a shift of knowing

when even her fondest sureties

faded away. it was the summer

she understood that she had not understood

and was not mistress even

of her own off eye. then

the man escaped throwing away his tie and

the children grew legs and started walking and

she could see the peril of an

unexamined life.

she closed her eyes, afraid to look for her

authenticity

but the light insists on itself in the world;

a voice from the nondead past started talking,

she closed her ears and it spelled out in her hand

“you might as well answer the door, my child,

the truth is furiously knocking.”

Sometimes things get so turned around. Sometimes they just feel inside out. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way is up. And sometimes, well, sometimes things feel so upended, that there’s nothing to do but pay attention.

These are the moments that matter so much. It’s in these moments that we no longer have a way of ignoring what needs to be heard.

Sometimes the answers can come like blinding light. Other times it’s a quieter impulse, a gentle leading out, one thought, then another, an inkling rooted in the bedrock of grace within us.

I remember one particularly dark time in my life, when all “my fondest sureties…” seemed beyond my reach. All I could do was stand there, offering up my heart in the wilderness. The answers came like spring air sweeping out the grief, urging me to see the presence of life, even where all seemed frozen.

And so we are, so often hurried, trying desperately to steer the course, control the details of our lives, prompted to let go,  to be carried, to recognize the providence of present grace, a certain sense of God’s presence emerging right from within.

Here, now, in this moment, even now. Truth is knocking, awakening, singing, assuring, comforting, illuming, revealing and healing–all things made new, all things restored, all things.

“It rejoices me that you are recognizing the proper course, unfurling your banner to the breeze of God, and sailing over rough seas with the helm in His hands. Steering thus, the waiting waves will weave for you their winning webs of life in looms of love that line the sacred shores. The right way wins the right of way, even the way of Truth and Love whereby all our debts are paid, mankind blessed, and God glorified.” Mary Baker Eddy

entertaining angels unawares…

I’ve been thinking about what it might have been like for those shepherds that night, watching their flocks, cradled in darkness, the air pulsing with silence, the stars brilliant filling the sky.

The angel spoke to them in this way: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The night skies were filled with praise. At first they were afraid, but the angel said, “Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people.”

First inspiration, illumination, a message, then assurance, peace, and finally direction, a course of action. The shepherds listened and they followed.

How are the angels speaking to us? How many times have we been given a quiet message of clarity, truth, certainty, an impulse for action that felt so right–that to think of it brought immediate peace–something we know we couldn’t have come up with on our own? And yet sometimes we overlook, dismiss the radical simplicity and immediacy of it, and later recognize it for what it is–recognize the guidance, the tender presence, the shepherding..and perhaps groan within ourselves because we haven’t heeded it.

I had an experience like that a few years ago. I was driving on the highway and impulsively began to switch lanes. The thought came to wait, but I didn’t. As I moved into the next lane, a large rock hit my windshield. Though it didn’t shatter, and I was fine, I wept over the warning that I didn’t heed. But as I did so a quiet, quiet message came: “you cannot escape My grace.” I felt flooded with peace and relief.

At first we thought we’d have to replace that window. A small circle about 3 inches across had formed in the center of the windshield. We expected it to splinter all the way across with a change of weather. It never did, and somehow I couldn’t bring myself to change the windshield: it became a constant reminder to listen for God’s angels, and the promise that none of us can escape the infinite circle of His grace.

Mary Baker Eddy speaks of the significance of angels in her book Science and Health: “The footsteps of thought, rising above material standpoints, are slow, and portend a long night to the traveller; but the angels of His presence — the spiritual intuitions that tell us when “the night is far spent, the day is at hand” — are our guardians in the gloom.

These upward-soaring beings never lead towards self, sin, or materiality, but guide to the divine Principle of all good, whither every real individuality, image, or likeness of God, gathers. By giving earnest heed to these spiritual guides they tarry with us, and we entertain “angels unawares.”

Poet Lucille Clifton puts it this way:

friends

the ones who talk to me

their words thin as wire

their chorus fine as crystal

their truth direct as stone,

they are present as air.

they are there.

And my friend Shelley says it so beautifully like this:

Angels

Angels thrive

Between the lines

of our living…   

Understood

Through the subtitles

of coincidence

and longing.

Shelley Nickerson