Thursday, November 28, 2013

2013.11.28 Thanksgiving Blessing

May the God of your inner being
most lavishly bless, empower and keep you;
the face of Divinity shine upon you
and from within you today and all days,
and give you peace.

Then, let a spirit of gratitude find room in your heart
so that you will be able to find grace in all things and
a soul enriched..............................
     by the compassion you receive from the warm
faces of neighbors nearby and far away, dead and alive;
    by the hope you receive from
flowers that are buried and waiting
under their incubating white snow comforter;
     by the light you receive from the daily presence
of sun, the nightly presence of stars and moon, the drench of cleansing, quenching rain;
    by the inner strengthening you receive from Jesus Christ, flights of the Holy Spirit, all scriptural wisdom, and all prayers sent to and from you;
    by love— undeserved and deserved— you receive from family and friends
who tolerate your foolish fears and damn-fool actions, anyway;
    by rage enough to create justice, and boundary enough to let go;
    by the faith of God who believes in you, thanks you, and enfolds you in
a wider Love of unconditional acceptance;
    by the uplift of humor you receive whenever the gift of laughter
releases you from the constriction of too much dour solemnity;
    and most of all may by the grace of Godde Eternal
who knows the whole truth and loves you into Life.

If you receive and pass on even half of this gratitude recipe
you will be a blessing now and for ever. 

                Thanksgiving Blessings, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013.11.24 Christ in Majesty—Or Married

Officially, the church calendar designates this Sunday as Christ the King, a time for Christians to honor the ultimate reign of God in Christ, a way to remember that ours is a resurrection faith— bursting with hope, for now and for eternity.  (I'd change the masculine nomenclature  of course, but Christ the Queen is, well, maybe OK:0)

The Episcopal Sisters of St. Helena call this Sunday Christ in Majesty, mercifully avoiding exclusively gendered imagery for the risen Christ-Spirit who knows no gender. 

God/Godde is fully male and fully female, and everything in between. To be true to that truth, many things will have to die to clear the way for non-gendered Divinity. Many will be hurt yet many have already been hurt by exclusive language. That's what Christian life is all about: life/death/resurrected life. Death is in the equation.

Dick and I were married on Christ in Majesty Sunday in 1986, 27 years ago.  From the ashes of both of our painful divorces God,working deeply within each soul and all heart, raised up new life hope, another chance, and forgiveness.

We exchanged anniversary cards and messages and felt again how important married love can be.
His card said: "It's so wonderful to be growing and deepening together. Much love to my favorite author on our 27th anniversary." It came to me on line from the “Duke of Cambridge,” latest sobriquet Dick has chosen for himself. The card played jaunty music and showed a couple spatting, making up, sharing tears and lots of laughs as they deepened themselves. Did it make me a “Duchess?” No, but I felt like one.

My card to him congratulated us for winning the woodchuck tango, a flamboyant near-calisthenic dance that requires arithmetic grace we don’t have—nor do woodchucks. Nevertheless...on we go in clumsy majesty. I don't want it ever to die, but................

This Sunday is the last Sunday in the Church year, just before Advent begins and we await, once again, the birth of Jesus at Christmas, thank Godde with no biological pregnancy for me, too old. But we all will be pregnant with Christ. We know the story; we know the familiar cycle; we know the onset of the bleak midwinter darkness, yet each year we are expecting.

What will or must die? Out of what death will God bring new life? 

I’m getting older. I neither expect nor desire to die soon but my death seems more possible, closer.  At a spiritual writing course I recently taught at Grub Street in Boston, we experimented with writing beginnings, middles, and endings. I wrote this as an ending:

At the end of my life I will sit—no, I will probably lie—on a bed, maybe half of the king size bed I’ve shared with Dick. But I will be able to see, even if my eyes are morphine-dazed or cataract-dimmed. My breath will be minimal but present, the spaces between each breath growing shorter and shorter until I am breathed out.  I hope to see the faces of my four children and my grandchildren for a final viewing. I will not tell them not to cry for me. Such a silly commandment really. But I will behold them as I first did, their squished- up, blind-eyed little faces at birth. And maybe I will see Dick too if he is not already dead. I don’t know if I will see him in heaven, wherever that is—or isn’t. But I will end and I will silently sing the words of a hymn I rewrote to fit my lung disease—as a prayer.
    Breathe in me, breathe of God,
    for when my life is done
    and my sweet lungs lose all their power
    my last breath and yours are one.

(Oh, I know I could be struck down tomorrow by any means but this is my foolish little plan. It’s a hope and vision.)

By faith, God will bring some kind of majesty out of my death. I know God will make that new life beautiful, like my new sky-blue earrings—whirly/spinning and cosmic.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2013.11.20 Thank You Mr. Lincoln

The famed Gettysburg Address was delivered by America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln,   November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Lincoln’s words remain wise and true, a good example of spiritual writing, not just because he used religious vocabulary, like “consecrate” and “hallow” and "perish,"  but because he went right to the heart and soul of what mattered most to him, personally as the leader of a vast war-torn and bloodied country, but also to Americans whose identity and future depended on keeping alive its founding vision as written in the Declaration of Independence of 1776—87 (four score and seven) years earlier.  

Founding events are important, defining, like the Exodus for Jews, Jesus Christ for Christians, or Muhammed for Islam.  Even individuals have such spiritual touchstones. Mine, as many of you know, was meeting God under the table as a child and learning, unequivocally, that I mattered, no matter what.  What is yours?

Near miraculous to me as a writer is that Lincoln spoke the essence of what mattered in just 272 words!!!  (He'd have loved Twitter.) Oh, envy! I have not a brevity bone in my body, as you can see.  I plan to channel Lincoln as I attempt to get my memoir manuscript’s pages over the transom of a publishing house—in just 250 words. 

When asked in junior high who we thought was the greatest person in the world, I wrote Abraham Lincoln without hesitation.  Later, I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t written Jesus Christ, but I didn’t know him very well yet. Even later, I felt another twinge that I hadn’t written a woman’s name, but all I could think of was Jane Eyre. I suppose therein were planted some early feminist seeds: why were all the upfront famous figures men?  

Lincoln said all men were created equal, as was the linguistic habit of his day. But why couldn’t we just say what we meant? Even at 14 I knew we weren’t all equal. Who lives all the way up to their vision?  We try. Yet I knew from my childhood experience that women were included in the equality vision. Girls mattered to Godde. 

To travel to Gettysburg, Lincoln left a fevered son and a distraught wife. He was exhausted with war, politics and from writing personal letters to everyone who wrote to him in their bereavement.  Then he stayed up all night working on his speech, which he read to a crowd of 20,000 from a single handwritten page. When he finished there was a long silence, followed by thunderous applause. And on the way home he contracted small pox, from which he recovered.

Lincoln was right about the “people.” That day they were the voice; they were the government;  they knew the vision had to prevail And they were the ones, on all sides of the issue, who sacrificed the most for the vision.  The biblical Book of Proverbs proclaims: Without a vision the people perish—all the people.  Lincoln knew that. And Jesus knew that. Both men died for the vision but so far neither our nation not Christianity has perished. It’s close.

I leave you with the words of a great man, and a vision to remember. It’s a prayer. Do you think that if we pray it we will come closer to living it, to uniting under it?  Can we feel compassion—for all?

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013.11.17 The Spirituality of Compulsion and Denial —Unlikely Buddies for Good

Denial usually helps me stay blind to household duties like cleaning/dusting and the like. But compulsion kicks in to help me when my denial caves.  Usually serving different purposes, these two mental health culprits occasionally cooperate to create dazzlingly healthy results—near spiritual.
Recently I awoke in a bustley mood, full of energy, rarin’ to go—nowhere in particular.   My husband, Dick, hates my bustley moods because it means he will greet me cheerily in the morning and get no answer—not even a glance, because I’m on the move.

Usually a bustley mood has a compelling focus, almost like a call or an inner commandment.  This day my focus was thick layers of dust on every piece of furniture in sight, the blotches-from-“mars” shining in the sunlight on the bright blue bathroom tile floor, the large swinging cobwebs hanging from the cathedral ceiling, and the tight-woven web of dust swaying in suspension between the baseboard radiator and the neighboring bureau. And I noticed a smudge of blood on the sheet, his side, from a scratched cut of maybe weeks ago. It was, I decided, an infestation of filth— suddenly.

These spectres go ignored by both of us, often for months, except the bathroom crud. I may, from time to time,  pick up little gray hairs, which belong, I decide, to his shedding head not mine, but that’s all. Not today. Off came the sheets, then I dropped to my knees to attack the bathroom floor with a damp sponge. I am Cinderella without a tale of orphaned woe.  

Why are you doing this? he asked..... ( not as politely as I’ve phrased it. )

I don’t know, I said .....(even less politely.)

It’s because you’re nervous about the course you’re teaching tomorrow?  But of all days, Lyn, you don’t have time to clean and why now?? For God’s sake go pray. 

He’s always right about my compulsions, and I get angry at the psychoanalysis. Nevertheless I bustle on, hoping to get two floors done.  

I wasn’t nervous about the course. I was all prepared and confident. So why the Cinderella act? 

Over the vacuum I concluded thus: 1) My natural compulsive energy, sometimes irresistible and always irrational, was driving me; and 2) My denial had caved, unable to manage alone it called for help from a friend. Thus, in one sudden mysterious moment I stopped denying the condition of my surroundings and was given a charge of energy to fix the situation and reset the denial for its next tour of duty :0)   The results will last for a good while.

I know not why this rhythm is mine.  What I do  know is that both of these internal energies can work well together, and neither deserves pathologizing, although both are designated mental health diagnoses.

The spirituality of compulsion and denial working together has nothing to do with cleanliness being next to godliness, however,  their unusual cooperation seemed a mystery worthy of wonder and awe. When I’d finished my one floor I felt uplifted, enlivened to the roots of my being—not because I did such a good job but because it gleamed and glowed as if smiling at me.

In fact, if God had voice Godde might say, It looks glorious Lyn, nice to reflect my glory, or your own, but remember:  The glory of God is the human person fully alive. 

P.S. Because I’m not insane I abandoned today's swerve into compulsive cleaning too long denied. I had somewhere to go and left it half done with resolve to finish tomorrow. It turned out I didn’t have to because when I returned home Dick had cleaned the other floor. Now that’s godly. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013.11.10 Cyberspirituality—Who Needs Connection?

People today, especially those in my mature generation, tend to say that young folks on their devices all the time aren’t connecting, that what they love to do is not embodied connectedness and therefore doesn’t count.  True— and yet I wonder. I communicate all the time with God and the only body present is mine! 

Here is a wise quote in a book called Radical Optimism—Practical Spirituality In an Uncertain World  by Beatrice Bruteau:

Meditation is a way of meeting God. It is not a matter of thinking about someone who is absent. It is engaging someone who is present, indeed supremely present. It is the realization of this presence that is the main point of meditation.

Well, I thought, is that not what we do when we punch and stroke and spread our fingers like wings over a tiny screen, when we tap keys, tick tick, when we go online and chat delightedly with someones we know and someones we never saw and don’t know, maybe on the other side of the world; when we share photos; when we read blog words and comment?  

Is cyber-communication a form of spiritual meditation, perhaps meditative? Godde know it’s intense,  and God knows it commands total attention and draws one into an almost mystical surround where no one is present and everyone is present at once. I watch device-faces. They light up with fascination, awe, not too unlike the way mystics describe the experience of engaging the presence of Divinity.  Is the internet a metaphor for supreme presence, a way Godde enlivens this digital age?  God knows our fingertips are all over this process, and you know what unique identifiers fingerprints are!

What is the deep longing that allows teens to sleep with their devices on their pillow? Is this the new Teddy Bear?  And yes, I know how violent cyber-bullying can be, using the same devices for isolating someone as for connecting with them. Using a device with love is a moral responsibility.  

The Internet is not God but I wonder if God’s life-giving presence is realized through the process of connection itself no matter how it is facilitated.  Godde works through whatever is engaging human spirit, no?  A housebound friend of mine once told me, “The Internet saved my life.”  She follows and she clicks and she feels accompanied and alive.

It would be easy to label all this device-intrigue the latest addiction. But that I believe would be cheap. It’s a phenomenon I can resonate with sometimes when I’ve writing or when I sink deep into prayer. I get so drawn into the flow of the words that we kind of merge. I’m me, and not. So who’s here?

The biblical God gave Moses some creds before he headed off to Egypt on a dangerous mission to confront the powers and demand freedom for the Israelites at God’s behest. Whom shall I say sent me?  Moses asked. Godde said:  I AM, Ehyeh..... (sounds like a Mainer ;0)  The elusive Hebrew language is, well, elusive!  But one translation I read has God saying: I AM I AM. 

When we choose life, no matter how difficult, it’s the mystery of pure BEING, I am I am, felt both from within and without, who summons us forth and gives us hope no matter what.

Have I gone too far? Oh, of course. But I wonder.  Is the spirituality of this digital age realizing a presence for its own sake and by its own means?   I don’t know but it surely has many people hooked and exhilarated and fully alive.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013.11.06 Ironies of Aging

I’ve taken serious notice...............

The more I need my adult children, the less they need me.

As I walk along the sidewalk I spot a flattened used condom and feel a quick charge, a spark of youthful vigor remembered, then, as quickly as it’s come, it goes, and I know I’m content with the spark I have now. 

I’ve always prayed for and wanted my children and theirs to love and connect with each other. Now that they are doing it, I’m happy—and lonely, no longer the center of their lives, which is a good thing.

If a married couple can make a bed together without suicide or homicide, you know the marriage will endure, or has endured.

The closer I get to the end of my life the more affection I have for beginnings, especially the great beginning when God fell upon the unformed but not inert substance of matter. Together they made something new and beautiful, just for the loving hell of it.

The only thing I dread more than getting older is getting younger. 

The more in love I fall with my spouse the less interested I am in sex. Warm presence is enough.

The shorter my memory stretches, the further back it reaches. On the other hand, I don’t remember what I’ve forgotten nor do most of my contemporaries and my spouse. Hence repetitions aren’t annoying except to younger brains.

The more I laugh till tears squeeze out the less I cry myself to sleep.

The older I get the less seriously I take theology, and the more seriously I take Divinity, named God/Godde to me. Here’s a Tom Robbins( author of Still Life With a Woodpecker) quote: "Twenty candles on a cake. Twenty Camels in a pack. Twenty months in the federal pen. Twenty shots of tequila down a young girl's gullet. Twenty centuries since Our Lord's last pratfall, and after all that time we still don't know where passion goes when it goes."

And we still don't know who's coming to dinner?!  Every damn Sunday Jesus comes to dine and we still don’t know.

When your husband tells you he dreamt last night that he was trying to teach Jackie Gleason how to use a computer. And between gulps of laughter you ask, “So, how did it turn out?”  And he says,  “I don’t know, I woke up. The computer wouldn’t obey my commands.”  Thus you know you are old, out of control, and happy as hell.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2013.11.03 The College Essay—and Beyond

Well, I never thought I’d be saying such a thing but in the spirit of the blossoming teenagerhood of Gillian, a seventeen year old granddaughter, plus my own memories, I’d say poetry rocks—mostly because it's not in itself an achievement but rather an inspiration.

This summer I was excited when Gillian told me she was interested in poetry. Excited might be too mild a word. How lovingly narcissistic it is to see a grandchild take a direction that feels like yours.   Grampy and I introduced her to David Whyte. We sat together on the couch and watched a TED talk by Whyte. Later in the bookstore Gillian asked if I'd heard of "this guy." It was Pablo Neruda and she bought a small book of his love poems, which she read three time over during the rest of the vacation time. I asked her if she wrote poetry herself and she said yes, but not the public kind.

I remember the non-public poetry I wrote at 17—dramatic existential blasts and blurs when life felt big and bold and intriguing and terrifying and I wanted to swallow it all whole.

Gillian has her own drama of course but I was delighted when her proud mom sent me her college essay which begins with a poem of her own, and a good one. She felt relieved it was “over with now.” I’m near-70 years older and I know it's only the beginning of her unfurling as a beautiful young woman with a blossoming gift for using bold words to tell her heart. She gave me permission to publish her work on my blog and I do so with pride and a few sweet tears......................

Caught in the in between,
Can’t decide between you and me.
If I stay,
My world washes away,
If I go,
You’ll be the first to know.
We’re like fire and ice
You’re the fire
I’m the ice;
You melt me
To where I am almost nothing,
I never let anyone in before
But you,
You melt me to the core.
I let you in,
You burnt a hole through me.
They say opposites attract,
But mother says it’s never good
To play with fire.

My love for poetry started a long time ago.  The first time I remember thinking about poets was in elementary school when my teachers would read Doctor Suess; and in middle school Edgar Allen Poe. I had always loved the fact that words can be transformed to rhyme and make a rhythm so profound that you could fall in love with just a stanza in a single poem. It was only until recently that my own inner monologue started to talk to me in different rhymes and rhythms.

Ever since I was a young girl I have been drawn to and loved music as well. Whenever I listened to music the lyrics would pull in me in leading me to write all over my desk with song lyrics and little poems made up in my head.  Over time I switched to pen and paper and now have multiple notebooks with different poems and lyrics, and they get longer and better as written products.

I like to write about love. I have read Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems about 10 times and ever since then, it’s all I want to write about.  The fact that I have never been in love may add to the fact that I love the idea of being in love. That said, maybe I have found love in Neruda’s poems. In David Whyte and Robert Frost, I have fallen in love with places and people I have never met or seen. Maybe that’s why poems sometimes seem so clichĂ© - perhaps I need a better outlook on life than that which is written in black and white.

I wanted to share this poem because I believe it is one of the best I have ever written. It came to me in about ten minutes and I didn’t have to change a thing. I have never taken a poetry class before, but I would love to. This poem and the ease with which it came to me marks a time in my life when I just simply knew I was no longer a little girl.  I realized I’m growing up and am a young woman with deep thoughts, intelligence and a creativity I’d only once imagined I possessed.

Going to college is important to me for many reasons but mostly because I know it will open my mind and heart to new ways to write and think about life and my future. I am all about opening my mind to new experiences and new beginnings, and that’s what I’m really hoping college will give me - a chance to explore. I want to find out who I am, and I think leaving home and being on my own will help me do that.

             ©Gillian B. Colbath, 2013, printed with permission.

God bless you on your way, Gillian, my chica, with life abundant and the courage to believe in yourself and the wonders of poetry.  And bless Dr. Seuss whose creative imagination did away with the abysmally boring Dick and Jane reading primers I had to learn to read by.  As one of your uncles said, you "will do wonderful things."