“rock bottom riser”

I don’t get to see my brother often, but what I love is how space is no keeper of the life between us. It is a rich, growing, soulful giving that often speaks for long stretches in silence, and then out of some deep blue bliss comes words ringing through the air, putting names to thoughts felt but not rendered. He is a poet and song muse of the deeper runes, and I love his kindness. So this is an ode to my brother, little brother, always towering before me.

He sent me a mix of songs recently. This one by Bill Callahan was included:

“I love my mother
I love my father
I love my sisters, too.
I bought this guitar
To pledge my love
To pledge my love to you.

I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you
I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you

I saw a gold ring
At the bottom of the river
Glinting at my foolish heart
So my foolish heart
Had to go diving
Diving, diving, diving
Into the murk

And from the bottom of the river
I looked up for the sun
Which had shattered in the water
And pieces were rained down
Like gold rings
That passed through my hands
As I thrashed and I grabbed
I started rising, rising, rising

I left my mother
I left my father
I left my sisters, too
I left them standing on the banks
And they pulled me out
Of this mighty, mighty, mighty river

I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you
I am a rock bottom riser
And I owe it all to you

I love my mother
I love my father
I love my sisters, too.
I bought this guitar
To pledge my love
To pledge my love to you”

and so for all

rock bottom rising
rock bottom risers

fallen
falling

surprise landings

abrupt bedrock beneath

sudden stillness

hush

then

always

inevitable launching

unlikely propulsions of grace

rising rising

involuntary

rising

Love will not spare

boundless outpour

divine pledge

nudging us to

trace the dark passes

for dawn breaking light

spilling us upward

lives offered

up

cacophony of love

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

“These two words in Scripture suggest the sweetest similes to be found in any language — rock and feathers: “Upon this rock I will build my church;” “He shall cover thee with His feathers.” How blessed it is to think of you as “beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection. Always bear in mind that His presence, power, and peace meet all human needs and reflect all bliss.” Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings

calling forth infinite care…

i received a mother’s day card the other day, and was surprised by how moved i was. it’s a gorgeous card that talks about a mother growing her garden with love and kindness, wearing beauty in her smile, carrying hope in every pocket, even as she teaches us to walk gently upon the earth, patiently planting seeds of love wherever she goes.

my path hasn’t included the literal versions of motherhood, and while it’s felt very right to me, there are times when i have been tempted to feel wistful. but even in those moments, there is a greater awareness of the vastness of what it means to mother and be mothered, and how each one of us has the opportunity and privilege to nurture, advocate, defend, watch over, love, appreciate, celebrate, cherish, embrace, give witness to the people in our lives, and even more broadly to do this with a great, loving, forbearing, and fierce heart for the world.

i have a good friend who has taught me a great deal about this kind of love, love that stands relentless and constant, even in the face of rejection; love that claims its own even while it sets them free; love that holds a light to shine out darkness; love that knows way past knowing that who we are will always be something profound, precious, unique, necessary.

i think about the song by John Legend, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child…a long way from home” and the primal yearning to feel mothered, cherished, held as the apple of someone’s eye, safe, secure, adored, delighted in, loved. there’s something about this longing that transcends human experience…something that can only be described as a hunger for heaven, for a confirmation of inherent relevance, belonging, an assured connection with all that matters, a deep and certain sense that no matter what our lives have been like, we are holy, sure, undamaged, complete. Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way: “The sharp experiences of belief in the supposititious life of matter, as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love.” She also talks about  the demand for spiritual, practical, Christian healing as “the babe that twines its loving arms about the
neck of omnipotence, and calls forth infinite care from His loving heart.”

i love this image..even the present possibility that each one of us can reach out, respond, wrap our arms around the imminent presence of an all-encompassing Mother Love; that even as we do, we call forth infinite care from a boundless loving heart–that knows us, calls us, and in turn shows us the unspeakable worth and significance of our lives. this turning, this hungering prompts awakening that dispels longing, a self-contained certainty of the sacredness of life, a love borne of the infinite, that cannot be contained, but shines its impartial, borderless presence everywhere.

Jesus gave us extraordinary glimpses of the power of the divine mother Love–the only real and revolutionary power–so simple and fundamental, earthshaking, transforming, inherent, at hand. and yet we chafe at its demands, feel unequal to its possibilities, even while Love compels our longing for it…prompting, insisting, demanding that we discover the true homeland that lies within us, the spiritual oasis of peace and freedom that pours forth unquenchable abundance. the longing is not a message of absence. it is simply a waymark pointing us toward home; tracing the design of Love’s hand within us–the surety that we are all made for glory, all of us awash in Love’s omnipresent light.

Mary Baker Eddy’s poem “Mother’s evening prayer” covers it all.

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.

Love is our refuge; only with mine eye
Can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall:
His habitation high is here, and nigh,
His arm encircles me, and mine, and all.

O make me glad for every scalding tear,
For hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain!
Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear
No ill, — since God is good, and loss is gain.

Beneath the shadow of His mighty wing;
In that sweet secret of the narrow way,
Seeking and finding, with the angels sing:
“Lo, I am with you alway,” — watch and pray.

No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;
No night drops down upon the troubled breast,
When heaven’s aftersmile earth’s tear-drops gain,
And mother finds her home and heav’nly rest.

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    

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.