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

“prayer out of wordless sighs”

one morning i was having a tough time getting my peace, finding that prayerful window of stillness–that feeling of oneness with God that stills and lightens and illumines every thought for the day. i was in a swamp of nowhere thoughts, so threw out a line for anchor, opened the Bible at random, prepared to seek til found, and read some verses i hadn’t read before, even though i knew i had, they go like this:

“The moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8: 26-28 from The Message by Eugene Peterson

this passage just took my breath away.

to think…

we are prayer
being prayed
right out of wordless sighs
wordless cries
we are some song in singing
being sung
supernal offering
Spirit etched
Soul fired
perpetual
eternal
steady
some
presence ever
of heaven
o who
would have thought
every detail of our lives
being worked into something good

and then as if out of nowhere, this hymn began to run through my thoughts. it’s not one i know that well, and crept up on me in a quiet kind of a way:

“Sometimes a light surprises

The Christian while he sings;

It is the Lord who rises

With healing in his wings.

When comfort seems declining,

There comes to us again

A season of clear shining,

To cheer us after rain.” (William Cowper adapted)

and so today, every day, i am endeavoring to live more gently. to feel the pulse pulsing me, prayer praying me, light surprising..life ever lightening…heaven springing everywhere out of earth. and in the words of a gospel hymn by Ken Whitely: “let my life be prayer.”

“To preserve a long course of years still and uniform, amid the uniform darkness of storm and cloud and tempest, requires strength from above, — deep draughts from the fount of divine Love. Truly may it be said: There is an old age of the heart, and a youth that never grows old; a Love that is a boy, and a Psyche who is ever a girl. The fleeting freshness of youth, however, is not the evergreen of Soul; the coloring glory of perpetual bloom; the spiritual glow and grandeur of a consecrated life wherein dwelleth peace, sacred and sincere in trial or in triumph.” Mary Baker Eddy Miscellaneous Writings

heaven whispers…

My good friend Joy has a gorgeous new photo project which she has dubbed “project sunrise.”  She includes the following poem by Max Lucado:

Next time

a sunrise steals

your breath

or a meadow of flowers

leave you speechless,

remain that way.

Say nothing,

and listen

as heaven whispers,

“Do you like it?

I did it just for you.”

flying into morning light…

it isn’t Saturday yet, but i couldn’t resist posting this poem now. it’s by Fonda Bell Miller published in The Christian Science Monitor

To Do List for Saturday

Do laundry
Vacuum the house
Go for a walk
Find a dragon’s tooth
Use it to write in river sand
Slay the demons of dailiness
Climb a magnolia tree
Wait for the stars to appear
Wash in moonlight
Choose a perfect blossom
Curl up in it and sleep
Wake with wings unfolding
Join a flock of passing birds
Fly into morning light

to “slay the demons of dailiness.” how fantastic is that? makes me think of a favorite quote by M.B. Eddy: “Today my soul can only sing and soar.” today, saturday, every day.

“a way in the wilderness…”

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah

a way in the wilderness…

a way.

there will always be a way.

one of my favorite definitions in Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health is of the word wilderness.

she starts it out with these words:  “Loneliness; doubt; darkness.”

anything but these…please, anything but the vacuous three…

flight ensues

frantic scattering

no way out but here

battle or be still

gnashing of teeth or surrender

silence.

an inkling takes root within

the definition continues:

“Spontaneity of thought and idea;

the vestibule

in which a material sense of things disappears,

and spiritual sense unfolds

the great facts of existence.”

what now waits within you to emerge

what light dawns

taking hold of heaven

this, not that, is what you’re borne for

this, not that, is what you are

suddenly darkness, doubt, loneliness

are on the run

scattered, dispelled,

running for cover

where none is,

for all here is sheltered in light

all here is the holy ground of home

all here includes the tender hands of omnipotence

pointing out the moment

showing us the way

showing us our way

a way of possibilities,

many mansions,

no shortages

no competition

excess of excellence

and multiplication of joy.

“As the children of Israel were guided triumphantly through the Red Sea, the dark ebbing and flowing tides of human fear, — as they were led through the wilderness, walking wearily through the great desert of human hopes, and anticipating the promised joy, — so shall the spiritual idea guide all right desires in their passage from sense to Soul…” Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy

embrace the wilderness.

take it up in your arms.

love the dawning it is prompting.

turn your back on darkness,

shine,

shine,

shine shine shine

out from the light of Love.

“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah

“enter into the heart of prayer…”

to be washed, to be clean, to be seen,

to be stripped free, unconstrained,

born new, born again, borne of no time

enter here

this heart of prayer

sanctuary: you and God

resplendent silence

drenched in light

a sea of stillness

you remember

belonging

unadulterated knowing

spaces of certain plenty

innocence

promises that will

never grow old

*”To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error.”  Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy

hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah

As I think of this new year before us, it’s really the moments that demand our attention: moments brimming with promise; moments asking to be lived, loved, owned, fulfilled; moments that both invite and impel a commitment to action, conviction; moments that resist the lull of slumber, apathy, fear, despair; moments that proceed from and include divine Love’s infinite giving.

There’s a passage from Isaiah that always fills me with hope. It says, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

Now in this moment, no matter where we’ve been, what we’ve struggled with, what we’re unsure of, there is a new birth–a  pure emergence of goodness waiting to happen. It’s rooted in a core of spiritual innocence that is out of reach of the world–it can’t be damaged; it can’t be violated, corrupted, darkened, or destroyed. It is our own pristine likeness and expression of God demanding to be seen, felt, lived, known; and it is here. As Mary Baker Eddy puts it: “…All the wicked endeavors of suppositional demons can never change the current of that life from steadfastly flowing on to God, its divine source.”

Here’s to renewal and the divine promises that cannot be broken. Here’s to renewal and the fact that we cannot escape God’s infinite love. Here’s to renewal and the unblemished promise of who we are. Here’s to heaven here and lives filled with the spirit of praise and grace–the unfettered joy and conviction of the word hallelujah.

As we were driving home from Toronto the other night we heard a program on CBC radio about this word. It’s a compilation of music and discussion about the transcendent and universal impact that it has had. Here’s a brief overview of some of my favorite moments in the program:

  • Tim Elliot, a retired Anglican priest and jazz pianist speaks of the deep, hopeful nature of the word, and how something about it makes you want to stand and salute the eternal source of Love.
  • Another speaker discusses how the word hallelujah includes no doubt, no gray area, it’s an unfettered acknowledgement, salute, praise, affirmation.
  • Reverend Marie Miller talks about how when she senses a heaviness, a need for uplift in a congregation, the word hallelujah naturally impels a spiritual lift, a sense of communication with the Divine.
  • Another speaker encourages us as humans to be hallelujah people–to be consciously, actively more full of praise. He says that this kind of praise comes from a place of love instead of fear.

Here’s the link, and here’s to a new year filled with moments, moments, moments of overflowing joy, peace, and praise:  http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/listen_stream.html. Once you click on the link scroll down to the Dec. 21, 2008 show to listen. It’s around 9 minutes into the program, and you should be able to fast forward to it. The program itself is about 20 minutes long.

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    

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.

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