Thursday, December 22, 2011

Falling in Love With a Tree

To begin with: just what does it mean to fall in love? 
 From my point of view it is kind of like this:
Something turns over in your heart
and 'very suddenly' you know 
that you are a little bit healthier
than you were five minutes ago.
You also know that whatever 
you have fallen in love with 
is not yours to keep in an ownership way.
It has been loaned to you briefly.
It is a gift for others as well.
How you respond to it is totally up to you!
Some will pass by without seeing it.
Some will photograph it without really seeing it.
Some will open to its blessing.
Some will carry it in their heart's memory.
Some will experience a sweet healing.
Others will have wonder restored in their lives.
Some will feast on the vision with gratitude.

On my visit to New  Zealand and Australia
I absolutely fell in love with the trees.
The tree pictured below is on Red Beach in Auckland.
It is a Pohutukawa tree and I actually can pronounce it.
At Christmas time it has bright red blossoms 
so it becomes their Christmas Tree.
I was there in the season of spring and the blossoms had not yet arrived.
The tree below is one of my photographs
but the one directly below it is from Google images.
I am trying to imagine my tree now all bright 
with its red blossoms. 

When I visited Auckland we drove into
Cornwall Park and along Pohutukawa Drive
I was offered a glimpse of so many ancestral trees
that it took my breath away~~ of course these were
very short love affairs but they are now
 loving medicinal memories.

The tree below is an Algerian Oak.
It is a semi-evergreen and loses its foliage
 for short periods during winter.
I stood, in silence, simply mesmerized by its branches.

Below you will behold my beloved Jacaranda
 with its lush purple blossoms.
Sydney and its surrounding area is where I first
laid eyes on this tree.  It is not native to Australia
and I can probably find some in California 
but this was my first sighting of a Jacaranda
and I could hardly stop staring at them.  
It was here in Sydney that I first made my proclamation:

And now I offer you the gift of this beautiful coral blossom
from a Coral tree that I met 
at Jamberoo Abbey in New South Wales.

The tree below is another tree I fell in love with.
It, too, lives in Jamberoo at the Abbey.
I was there a week with the cloistered Benedictines
and spent many moments just beholding it
and saying, "Oh, my goodness!"
It is a fig tree but not the kind that bears fruit.
It bears beauty.  It sings in silence.
It was truly my goodness--tree!

There is one more little miracle to be shared.  This is a baby Jacaranda.  One of the Sisters at Jamberoo gifted me with it.  I told her I thought it doubtful I could get it through customs. Nevertheless,  I did set out on my journey to Melbourne with the little tree in tow.  In Melbourne we discerned that since it would, most likely, not make it back to the states safely, it should remain with the one who was ultimately responsible for planting the dream-seed of my trip to Australia.  It now lives with Jen and John in Victoria, near Melbourne.  It has been named, Jacqueline.  And believe it or not, Jacqueline, the Jacaranda, now writes letters to me reporting on her spiritual and physical growth.

Do you have a tree that you love?
Spend time with it soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Goodbye Fall ~~~ Hello Winter!

Enjoy This Last Evening of Fall.
Take a walk…

Winter Arrives Tomorrow.
{or, maybe it's today}

Well!  Not in quite so dramatic form perhaps,
but it does arrive for some of us.

Let the seasons, season you!
Enjoy the beauty of transformation
As you gaze at these two strikingly different photos
just think, for a minute, about your inner transformations.
They, too, deserve to be honored!
Thank you for changing with the seasons.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Be Not Afraid!

Here I am!  Gazing at the beautiful waters swallowing the sun the evening of November 20, 2011.  This is Port Phillips Bay (Melbourne, Australia).  Contemplating this lovely moment I recall how I kept putting off this trip to Australia because of my fear of flying over so much water, or for that matter, flying over all those hours.  Now that I have visited this land and returned to my own land, there are so many lovely moments that I carry in my treasure house of memories.  I sit on my soul's front porch and allow the memories to become icons that illuminate my prayer.  Much of my meditation these days has centered around the invitation to move through life without excessive fear.  The gospels are full of words encouraging us not to live in fear.  These words sound a bit like a commandment, at times.  Even in the Christmas gospel announcing the birth of Jesus, Luke has the angel saying to the shepherds,

"Do not be afraid: for behold I proclaim
to you news of great  joy
that will be for all the people."

I have been reading Tony Hillerman’s memoir, Seldom Disappointed and am quite moved by some of the things he shares about his mother teaching him not to be afraid.  Listen to these wise words:

“Mama’s life had taught her that youth must have its adventures, whatever the risk.   She passed that wisdom along, … and also somehow taught me that even day-dreaming has value. Her most important lesson was not be afraid of anything.   “Offer it up, Mama would say, hugging us while she said it.  When life seemed awful, cruel and unfair, Mama would remind us that it was just a brief trial we had to endure, a race we had to run, a test we had to pass as best we could.  We were born, we live a little while, then we’d die.  Then would come joy, the great adventure of Eternal Life.  So children never be afraid, never, never.  Not of spiders [avoid the black widow and she avoids you]  not of lightening [avoid standing under trees in storms] not of storm clouds [see the beauty in them, the majesty; but if you see tornado funnels, we’ll have a little picnic in the root cellar].  Not of drowning [God loves you but expects you to use common sense]  Not of snakes [they were  our allies in humanity’s war against rats and mice].

Sometimes we can’t hear the encouragement of “be not afraid.”  sometimes we have to fly over the big waters of our own life to find the joyful news that we really can take risks; we really can listen to advice and make choices.  We don’t have to do everything alone.  And we don’t have to do everything together.  We are always juggling solitude and community.  Each of these are angels of good news.

The flowers above are a gift from the sea.  They turned out to be a  symbol of great beauty for us on my last night in Melbourne.  Sister Aileen found them on the beach during her morning walk.  She didn't find them all together but at different intervals of time.  We wondered, as we enjoyed them on our last day and at our evening prayer, if we were being intrusive in someone else's life celebration.  Obviously these flowers held a story, a memory of love celebrated and shared, a beautiful mystery whose story we would never fully know.  We thanked and prayed for the original owners and brought them to our prayer.   

All this is to say that the fear in my heart has softened.  Of course it is necessary to be cautious but life is a gift to be lived.  And so, I encourage you, whoever you are, to sit on the front porch of your soul embracing your fears.  Who knows but in that embrace they may become angels of joy flying you to places you only day-dreamed about.  I, for one, am very happy about the angels who were responsible for flying me into this lovely mystical land.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'll be "down-under" for awhile.
Meanwhile if you would like
one of my 2012 YEAR OF GRACE calendars,
click on the calendar on the sidebar to see details.

And may God be in all the spaces
you and I must walk
until we meet again.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Prelude to Morning Praise on Oct. 6

Photo by Ronnie Udouj

A few days ago as I walked up the hill to our monastery chapel for Morning Praise, the sky was so awesome I found myself not wanting to go to chapel for prayer. I wanted to remain in my wonderful outdoor cathedral. When I arrived at the monastery door I looked up at the sky once more and said "OK, Lord, I'll leave this to go to Morning Prayer but it better be good!"

I arrived in chapel a little early which is not one of my common behaviors since I am prone to loitering, ambling, meandering and sauntering along the way, which I also find to be a form of prayer. I decided to open my daily prayer book from Liturgical Press, Give us This Day, ( and check out the daily scripture reading for Morning Prayer. I could hardly believe what I was reading. It was from Isaiah 60:19-21

“No longer shall the sun be your light by day, Nor shall the brightness of the moon give you light by night; Rather the Lord will be your light forever, your God will be your glory. No longer will your sun set, or your moon wane; For the Lord will be your light forever, and the days of your grieving will be over. …” The words fell into my soul like rain though I was not repentant of my earlier struggle. Each of these experiences was prayer. Everything in the whole wide world is the “back side of God.” (Exodus 33:18-23)

As I began to chant the psalms with my community I became aware that the sunrise was still with me. Each word, a sun beam:

From Psalm 84: Your temple is my joy, Lord of heaven’s might. I am eager for it, eager for the courts of God. My flesh, my flesh sings its joy to the living God. ...…God is our sun, our shield, the giver of honor and grace.

And from Psalm 32: You, my shelter, you save me from ruin; You encircle me with songs of freedom.

I will show you the way you should walk. As your teacher I watch out for you. Do not be a stubborn mule…

Well, I think I will stop on that one but it is true that the sunrise came into chapel with me and then all the saints in the stain glass windows started waking up and putting on their bright robes and haloes, raising their hands in praise, picking up their staffs and palm branches, their writing quills and lighted lamps, sacred books, crosses and chalices, (whatever the artist put in their hands) and I thought of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and their faith; and I looked at the faces of my Sisters with whom I was praying and I thought, “It really is good to be here!”

What amazing gifts and guides we have to help us change our attitudes! Any place is a good place to be if you come with open hands, open ears, open hearts and with bright piercing eyes, ready to see and receive. I don’t always allow myself to be tamed so easily but on that particular morning: feast of St. Bruno, the Carthusian, I was so open to grace.

Top of Form

Thursday, September 22, 2011

a few barred gates

Lord, a dream of [You]
lies on my soul,

but I cannot reach [You]
for all my gates are barred.

--Gertrude von le Fort

I just love this quote. I used it for my 'Lectio' a few weeks ago and sort of gagged on the words. I can feel it in my bones. Yes, I have a few barred gates. I, who think I am so open, am sometimes aghast at my closed heart . However, I am working with even my barred gates. They, too, speak eloquently about who I am and who I am becoming. I am trying to look at the bars and the ‘why’ of them. The 'why' is very good reflection material. I try not to be over analytical in regard to my path of life but recently I have become so aware of how everything can be brought to prayer. Of course I would like to always bring an open heart, a joyful spirit, an unbarred gate to my prayer. I would like to bring a willingness to be transformed. But the truth of the matter is that I must bring what I have and sometimes what I have to bring is not all that attractive. So I say to myself, "Bring what you have even if it is a closed heart. Bring what needs transforming and just sit with it in faith. Your barred gate is compost for future growth." Coming before God with my closed heart opens me to humility. Humility, that beautiful word that I sometimes struggle with and yet it keeps me close to the earth: ground, humus, compost, soil conditioner....and just maybe this soil conditioner will turn into soul conditioner and from unexpected stony, rocky places some kind of miracle will blossom right through your barred gate. There is something within you so hallowed and consecrated it is bound to show its face eventually like a surprise in the desert. Life happens!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

hip-deep in tears

The world is knee deep in tears or maybe it is hip deep or even higher. Sometimes I have to find ways ritualize the grief I hold because of all the suffering in the world. These are not necessarily people I know but they live in someone's heart and that's what matters. So this morning, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, remembering the beautiful earth-labyrinth on our monastery grounds, I thought perhaps it was just waiting for a pilgrim . I decided to be that pilgrim. I went early when the sun was just thinking about rising and a small bit of the glow could be seen. I begin slowly walking the path carrying the suffering world down the trail. I thought of Jesus with his cross. I thought of so many people, animals and all of nature with their crosses also. At ever curve of the labyrinth I stopped and named places and people. Every step was a prayer and sometimes I called out names as I took another step. Of course I missed some whose names needed to be spoken. You can speak their names in a ritual of your own.

  • Japan: earthquake, typhoon, death, terror, hopelessness
  • Christchurch, New Zealand: more death and destruction,
  • Fires: Texas, California, Oklahoma (perhaps more) the firefighters—death and courage,
  • the cattle that died because fences couldn't be moved fast enough, the devastation of nature,
  • The lingering effects of Katrina. We who are far from it sometimes think it is over but the effects are still alive. For some it may never be over! Moving down the path I kept offering them to God
  • 9/11! What more need I say? Suffering washes over me like waves of the sea: the terror, the unspeakable loss, intense sorrow, anger, the courage and bravery and love of so many. I stand for a long time in silence. I try to hear the cries. Truly the world is knee-deep, hip-deep, shoulder-deep in tears.
  • I pause on the path: There is just too much pain to name. People uprooted from their homes because of floods.
  • The Joplin, Missouri tornado, a war zone of suffering.
  • [Please name your own great losses that I missed]

I arrived at the Center of the Labyrinth with all this pain, with all these beautiful people, with their courage and their life (which I wasn’t fortunate enough to know) Symbolically I lifted them to God, I raised them to the heavens, to the center, to the four directions and then I carefully placed all these events, these people these sufferings onto the earth. I knelt there for quite some time. Tears came and they were healing.

On my journey out of the center, back down the pathway, I heard the Holy One, the Source of all life, telling me to take joy with me on my return. I went back to my ministry with a joyful heart, It is not helpful to take back the pain and sorrow. It is not helpful to add my despair to an already hurting community of people. And so I breathed in their courage, hope, love and strength. I breathed in their beautiful lives. I walked down the return path with a lighter heart, somewhat healed. I asked for the grace of living aware. I would like to live in such a way that I am always mindful of the sufferings of the world just as I am also aware of the joy and peace that can mingle with the suffering. I want to live AWARE..

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keeping Vigil with the Word of God

It is always exciting when a new book is born especially when the book is yours. My 8th book will have a September birthday. I like that because autumn begins in September and autumn is my favorite season. The portion I am quoting below from my book is from the 4th chapter which is entitled, Don't Look Back. This chapter is on commitment for I have perceived that commitment is difficult for many people. Yet it seems so essential for joyful daily living.

~~a quote and a prayer from ABIDE: Keeping vigil with the Word of God~~

A human person on fire with love for the 'way of Christ' and setting that fire ablaze with action and contemplation is one of my images of commitment.


Your invitation has not been forgotten. There was no RSVP so I have dilly-dallied in my response. I want to be your disciple but I struggle with the cost. All? The cost is all? There are moments when I find such extravagance attractive. My whole-heart leaps for joy at the very thought of this prodigal gift of self. But my half-heart cringes at the thought of having nothing left for it. Perhaps if I could get my half-heart to make friends with my whole-heart the result would be a harmonious friendship that would bless my burning desire to be your disciple. But my half-heart is so cautious and not too keen about the exquisite risk of giving all.

O Unfailing Love, please be patient while I work this out.

--taken from ABIDE: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God

(Macrina Wiederkehr, Liturgical Press--early September release)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Personal Altars

This morning at breakfast a few of us were discussing the value of personal altars in our rooms. Some of us found them important for our prayer; for others they seemed unnecessary. For me they are helpful although I have to guard myself from getting them too cluttered. I frequently change the symbols or icons on my altar to emphasize a new piece of growth that has happened in my life, some insight that has ocurred or something that is trying to get my attention. At this time in my life, God seems to be calling me away from a lot of words. Two of my favorite words are DWELL and ABIDE. These words help me remember my desire to just BE. The Holy One, Source of my Life, is always present and so nothing I place on my altar actually renders God more present. The altar space suggests a sacred presence that is always in my reach. God doesn't need my altar. My altar reminds me that even in the midst of my distractions I am in the presence of the Holy Mystery. This morning I picked up an old tattered copy of my book, Seasons of Your Heart and read a selection that fits with my desire to keep my altar more simple. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~"In our search for the holy, there are times when our restless preparations smother the very truth for which we are searching. We decorate our rooms and make elaborate preparations for prayer, when a single flower and a moment of waiting are all we need to meet the One Who Comes. In our restlessness, our futile search sometimes becomes the only god we ever meet."

A moment of waiting! A single flower!

Those words hold special meaning for me as I try to simplfy. Now I sometimes begin my personal prayer with an empty altar. After my time of reflecting on the Scriptures I ask this question, How did God visit me during my hour of prayer? What is Christ asking of me for this week? Then I place on the altar a symbol, word, or picture, --a reminder of what went on in my heart and mind during this time of prayer. I use that as a prompt for the next week. I recall, too, our biblical ancestors who would sometimes pile up stones and pour oil on the stones as a memorial of God's visitations. [Genesis 28:16-19]Call to mind events in your life where God seemed absent; it is never too late to discover presence in what seemed like absence. Perhaps even now you are being invited to cry out with Jacob, Truly, God was in this place all the while and I never knew. I didn't know you were there, until now! Until now! Sometimes a backward glance uncovers a grace we almost missed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Don't be sad!

I walked out to the Sycamore Tree this morning at dawn. After a few rains this week a bit of green was actually returning to the grass, but for the most part the dry and crumbling leaves on the tree and on the ground looked rather forlorn. I glanced at one of the fallen leaves and I whispered to the whole world, "Don't be sad!" Then I realized I was talking to myself. It happens often when I am trying to dwell in the Mystery! There is much in the world that is lovely. There is much in the world that is lonely! Lovely and Lonely! Right at my fingertips the Mystery lives, and breathes and has its being. I miss what is near because I am reaching for the stars. I reach for that which is not crumbled, and brown and dying. "But don't you see," I say to myself, "Stars are falling all around you." The Mystery wears your name and sees through your eyes, and hears with your ears. I turn again to the world and whisper, "Don't be sad."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Make a Wish

I just celebrated my birthday on July 28. For a long time now it has been my custom to make the 28th of every month a little birthday; when possible the 28th is my day apart--a day of prayer. And so, even my real birthday in July became a day of retreat. After Morning Praise, Eucharist and Breakfast with my community I bowed out for the day and reflected on how I need to be born again. I lit my birthday candle and made a wish. In fact I made lots of wishes. I make my wishes when I light the candle instead of when I blow it out. Throughout the day when I became aware of the burning candle I made another wish. Below is a list of a few of the wishes that I made. The first few wishes are for the whole world; the others are for me. Perhaps you also would like to make a list of birthday wishes. You don't have to wait for your birthday to make a wish.

  1. I wish that racism and all forms of prejudice were a thing of the past.

  2. I wish each of us would make an effort to see the hidden goodness in all people.

  3. I wish we would truly believe that our world doesn't have to be so violent and make little changes in our personal lives to become people of peace.

  4. I wish we could eradicate greed from the face of this earth--of course, I have to begin with myself.

  5. I wish we would be very careful about judging others, remembering that we are a temple of God and not a courthouse.

  6. I wish everyone would see the movie, My name is Khan.

  7. I wish I could let go of my expectations of others [especially as to how they ought to perform] and search for ways to affirm them.

  8. I wish I was a bit more adept at surrendering my opinions.

  9. I wish I would let nothing (not even 2011 summers) prevent me from spending a little time outdoors in the heart of nature each day.

  10. I wish I would laugh more.

  11. I wish it would rain.

  12. And I wish I could be a rain of grace for those I live with and beyond...

  13. I wish I could be utterly authentic. (that has always been one of my deep wishes)

  14. I wish I had an overdose of poverty of spirit. (another of my deep wishes)
Wishes, in themselves, seem a bit empty. We have to put flesh on the wish through some kind of action. On the other hand, a wish is a seed of potential that I can water with intense desire. I can breathe on it each day and bring it to life. I can pray that the wish become so deeply rooted in me that it becomes a reality. I can call on the child in me and practice making my wishes come true

Finally I wish I could be a bridge

over the troubled waters of people's lives.

"People are lonely

because they build walls

instead of bridges."

Write a letter to one of your bridges,

don't send an e-mail~~write a Letter!

I really wish you would!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Needmore? Needless?

I can hardly believe it has been a month since I wrote on this blog. What do I need to be more faithful? Do I need more time? Do I need more inspiration? Do I need more commitment? Do I need more prayer or silence? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Or, maybe it is something I need less of. Do I need less clutter? Do I need less obssessing? Do I need less taking myself so seriously. Do I need less ADHD? I don't really have the answers to these questions, but a few months ago I had an experience that has drawn me into doing Lectio Divina with roadsigns. I continue to be amazed at how much food for thought shows up right on the path of our daily journys. The -- 'needmore' -- 'needless' -- theme emerged in my life one day when I was packing to go away for a week of writing. As I carried all my loot out to the car I suddenly stopped and began praying with the ordeal--and indeed, it had become an ordeal. I drove away from the monastery a bit frustrated with myself. I was definitely taking too much stuff with me.
Mulling over all this as I drove South on Highway 71 (somewhere between Waldron and Y City) a road-sign caught my attention: Needmore! Automatic laughter rose up in me as I said to God, "I don't needmore! I needless!" I added to my prayer, "O God, help me to want less." Needmore! Needless! Wantmore! Wantless! Definitely material for Lectio. I've been praying about this ever since I saw that roadsign.

Needmore is not a city, a villiage or even a town. It is too small for that yet sometimes small things speak to us. That little place along the way called Needmore has spoken to me. I am sure it has a history. It has become a symbol for my prayer.

A quote from a greeting card I received many years ago still lingers in my storehouse of treasures. I offer it to you for reflection as we all consider whether we need more or less. Perhaps that would be a good journal exercise. Make two columns:

1. Needmore ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. Needless

If you aren't happy with what you have, how could you be happier with more.

--Grandma Ros

Find yourself a Lectio Roadsign and tell us about it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Still Listening

You may remember a few posts ago I wrote about my listening tree, the tree with ears that I discovered on our monastery grounds. It became one of my sacred sites and when I could find the time I went there to listen. Sadly, two days after I shared 'my listening tree' with you the storms came with their raging winds and fierce lightning and split my dear tree wide open. I was away from home and one of our Sisters e-mailed me with this dreadful message.

Is it right, I thought, for me to be mourning a tree when people have lost lives and homes? Yes, when you've loved something and named it, it is yours in a special way. All mourning is to be honored.

A friend shared with me this poem by Charles Mungoshi. In a way it a ritual for mourning. A ritual for surrendering and receiving again. It tells me what to do--


Take out all your belongings--

Furniture, clothes, crockery--

All you have since held dear

Take them all out

And return them to the forest.

Now, bring in the sky

The mountains, distant views

Of anything, the rivers, trees,

Boulders; the animals, birds

And insects--

Set them loose in your room.


Kneel down anywhere

And give thanks.

-Charles Mungoshi

from The Milkman Doesn't Only Deliver Milk

Baobab Books, Harare, 1998

And so I kneel before the remains of my tree giving thanks for everything and I wonder: In spite of its very wounded state, is it still listening.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bringing in the kin

I am reflecting on the photo above as a metaphor for my family. All coming from the same root basically, yet little volunteers sprouting up in the midst -- Connected and at times disconnected. Kindred spirits, unique and beautiful. I just spent a weekend with many of these kindred spirits at our family reunion.

I readily admit that there are times when I dread family reunions. All that noise, everyone talking at the same time (and more) but this time I tried to look at it all as HAPPY NOISE and it was kind of like music. When we were praying together I looked out onto all those faces and thought: Who are these people? Is this really my family? Some of us are democrats, some republicans, some independents! Some conservative, some liberal! Some Catholic, some from other denominations! Some, not needing labels at all.

And then I thought, perhaps it doesn't matter. Hopefully we are connected in ways that are most important. There is a holy Source of Life that brought us into being. In some way, we all try to lean toward. that Source. Our lives are spiritual (whether we recognize it or not) and in our most vulnerable moments we know that. There is a love in our hearts that we can't always reach and we don't fully understand. But it is present and it makes itself known in surpising ways just when it is most needed. There is a depth in the recesses of our souls that we have not yet discovered. We are slowly growing into our best selves. We are here to renew the bond that binds us to one another.

The word reunion suggests a gathering of what has become scattered. It is a bringing in the kin. We have no choice in being related to one another; we do have a choice as to whether we want to remain or become kindred spirits. Our frenetic schedules often make abiding relationships difficult.

And so I look upon this family and I pray:

O Source of Life,

Loving Creator, Jesus, Saving One,

You have lifted us from the womb of the earth

You have blown your breath into us

Enable us to be faithful to this holy breath, your breath

the breath you loaned us on the day of our birth.

Thank you for the family gathered here

Enrich our lives; nurture and sustain us.

Bond us together as kinded spirts.

Keep our ancestors dreams alive in us.

Reveal to us your own dreams for our well-being.

Well-being! What a beautiful word!

That's the gift you can give to this family.

Awaken us to the deep well within our being

Let us be refreshing drinks for one another

and for the larger human family.

O God of our Ancestors, just as you

cherish us, teach us to cherish one another.

Amen! Yes! May it come to pass!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Too many words

Sometimes when I try to reach God, my words get in the way. They become road blocks in my life rather than pathways to the sacred

They become obstacles rather than blessings.

All those words that I gather up so carefully and rearrange with such devotion suddenly seem a bit empty. The meaning falls out of them and I am inclined to mark through them with a red pen and sit down at the table of silence.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Listening Tree

We have a listening tree on our monastery grounds. I discovered it in March when the spring leaves were returning and I've been holding regular visitations with it since then. If you look closely at the tree you will see an ear. This tree has an ear; actually it has a lot of ears. The ears of course are actually scars (places where it has been pruned to keep it alive) and that in itself has provided much reflection for me. Perhaps the same ordeal happens in our own lives and out of the places where we have been scarred we learn to listen. Maybe we are all Listening Trees. Rooted in the things that really matter! Maybe we need to learn to pay attention to our scars which may really be ears so that we can discover our deep listening qualities.

Recently I listened to someone read a poem by Rumi. Although I can't recall the exact words the poet was saying that he would like to sell his tongue and buy more ears. Me too!

I think I met a human Listening Tree the other day--well, not in person but I attended a panel discussion: The pathways to non-violence in Fayetteville AR. On the panel were the Dalai Lama, Sister Helen Prejean and Vincent Harding. The moderator asked how (after violent incidents such as when the children were killed by a bombing in Birmingham, AL in the 60's) one learns not to surrender to hate. Vincent answered with words I would like to tatoo on my arm (if I was into tatooing) He said something like this: You are so full of your dream there is no room for hate. You are full of 'the possibility of what could be.' That is what takes over your life.

When that happens to us we become LISTENING TREES. We even learn to listen to love in the people who hate....the love they can't see, perhaps because they haven't learned to listen to their scars.

Have a good day out there wherever you are! Become Listening Trees. Be so full of your dream of a non-violent world that there is no room for hate.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dancing in the Dark

Just look at this! Easter Flowers dancing in the dark.

Dancing all night

Dancing us out of the tomb!

I've been keeping vigil

with these flowers!

Now I'm dancing too!

Happy Easter Everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reflection after cataract surgery

The daisy has only one eye and it is full of light. Its' flower ancestors have been lifting the light out of the dark earth ages upon ages. The light is ancient and the light keeps coming. We who gaze upon the bright presence of the daisy are also filled with light. The daisy blesses all who behold it. Find a daisy this week. Allow it to bless you.

We have two eyes; they, too, are full of light. Our ancestors have been lifting the light out of age old wombs forever and ever. No one can see that far back into time, still the light keeps coming out of the darkness. It is important for me to believe that the light will continue to come. There is a blessed light and a holy darkness that are age-old friends, kindred spirits. Someday all nations will discover ways to connect the darkness and the light. There are individuals who have already made this discovery. They are using this bright darkness for the healing of the world.

Perhaps God, the Source of Light and Darkness is all 'EYE' and seeing with love is God's religion.

Oh all you daisy spirits,

assist us in being faithful

to the light of our two eyes

as you are faithful

to the light of your one eye

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

..a small miracle!

How wonderful is light! How awesome is sight! The truth of this rests gently in my heart on this vigil of my cataract surgery. Everyone says that this particular surgery is a piece of cake but I like to think of it as a small miracle. I sat at my prayer altar this evening and remembered some of my favorite sights.

What will it be like to see more clearly (without glasses)

  • the way the shadows and the light celebrate the moments

  • the personality of the individual leaves in the community of leaves on the trees

  • those beautiful freckles on so many faces

  • and the dimples, remembering how when I was a child I used to punch my cheeks in, hoping to create some for myself

  • the gathering of storm clouds

  • the illuminating streaks of lightning

  • sunlight streaming throught the branches

  • bright faces of spring flowers

  • and oh, the return of the daisies.

Continuing my prayer I imagine my doctor's hands held in the hands of the Holy One. Using the prayer of St. Gertrude, I pray for my left and right eye:

"I preceived a gentle light

proceeding from Thy divine eyes

and passing through mine,

spreading itself

in every secret part of me,

and seeming to fill

all my members

with a wonderful power

and strength."

--St. Gertrude of Helfta

Tomorrow the daisies will bloom.

And Thursday I will see them clearly!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wood has Hope

I said to the almond tree, speak to me of God,
and the almond tree blossomed.
-Nikos Kazantzakis
It happens every Spring and I am always in awe. An old gnarled tree, twisted, and crooked stands like a sentinel on our monastery grounds. It looks as though nothing living could possibly emerge from its dead wood. And then suddenly there are blossoms! I am always a little fearful that this might be the year it will not blossom; yet it never disappoints. It is a flowering almond tree. Since the blossoms do not last long I try to spend as much time with it as possible in the blossoming season.
In this new spring season, while reflecting on the tree, I was given the insight that perhaps I need to also spend time with it, in its dormant season. "Wood hath hope" the Jesuits sing in one of their old songs. Then I remember the wonderful quote from Job 14:7 about the miraculous power of life in what seems to be dead wood.
There is hope for a felled tree, it can always start its life again.
The roots may have grown old, the stump may be rotting in the ground
but with the first scent of water hope can return;
it still has power to put forth green shoots. And sometimes it does!
Wood Hath Hope! Let's try to remember that on the gloomy days when we can't find spring in our bones; when it appears that life has dried up, that hope is gone. The return of blossoms is such a good metaphor for our spiritual lives. One of the things I 've noticed about our Flowering Almond is that many of the blossoms emerge right out of the trunk, not on the branches. it is as though the blossom can't wait to arrive. No time to grow a branch? Just come right on out of the wood! Sometimes life can't wait! Your life is waiting!