Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Book Thief

Last night I finished reading The Book Thief for the 2nd time.  It is indescribable in its loveliness and loneliness.  It begins in my birth year (1939) Nazi Germany.  Death is the narrator and death is remarkably kindhearted as it tenderly carries souls from the bodies of those who have died.  Some of those souls, it was noted, were sitting up inside the person who died and I came to the conclusion that the souls sitting up belonged to someone who was unusually present during life.   I kept thinking, Ah! all this was happening the same year that Life carried my soul to Earth.   If you want a big thrill and just to be entertained, don't read this book.  But if you are willing to have your heart crushed and put back together in the same moment you might find this book therapeutic.  If you would like to live for a while with a fascinating little girl, Liesel Meminger on Himmel Street (which ironically means heaven) you might want to pick up this book and give it your attention.  Liesel: the child who loved words and stole books!  Liesel who embraces the ugliness and beauty of each moment!  Liesel, curious, passionate and fiercely present!  Liesel and Death will be your guides. Liesel's last written words were:

 I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right.

Death's last words were:
I am haunted by humans.

Liesel and Death have provided me with the 'word' I will try to live during the month of May.  Scroll down underneath the picture of the book to see the word.

And the word is, presence.  PRESENCE, which is so beautifully described in the words of Etty Hillesum, who died in Auschwitz in 1943.  These words from her diary portray the kind of presence I would like to offer my community and the larger world.

"I feel as if I were the guardian of a precious slice of life with all the responsibility that entails.  There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze."   This quote is taken from her diaries: An Interrupted Life.

So let's be present to one another during May (and beyond).  Let's do everything in our power to keep the spark of life inside us ablaze, so that when Death comes for us our souls will be sitting up inside us ready to keep on blazing.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Path of Life

[For those of you new to this blog I have been choosing a WORD each month of 2013
 ~~ a word that I attempt to live throughout the month~~
Although I have already chosen my new word for May, 
I am not quite finished with April's word, grief]

I love the picture above.  For me, it is a path of Holy Mystery~~a path of LIFE!  It is a kind of icon of joy and sorrow, light and darkness, hope and despair, love and grief.  Perhaps I am being too dualistic!  I don't really know if everything has an opposite. I thought a long time about grief.  I don't know what its opposite would be.  I believe all of these gifts (that don't always feel like gifts) will eventually be integrated into our lives.  Maybe it is all part of the Paschal Mystery which many Christians will relate to.  We don't exactly get rid of grief, sorrow, loneliness, despair, darkness.  They will always be part of the mystery of our lives.  And as I mentioned in my last post, they have every right to be a guest at our table.  Hopefully, some kind of integration will eventually take place in our lives and then we will become more at ease with this unwanted guest.  Remember, "Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house." 

Continued reflections from my book, A Tree Full of Angels, 
 "There's nothing like sorrow to get your attention.  It is almost as though sorrow pulls presence out of you. In the midst of sorrow there's nothing to do but be there and celebrate the hurt.  We celebrate the hurt through holy screams.  Holy screams come from the heart.  They are screams that people often, in their ignorance, try to smother.  Don't let them take your screams away too early.  Holy resignation comes only after holy screams.  Don't let them tell you it's God's will, unless they are saying that life is God's will and freedom is God's will, and you are God's will.  Much of the news you see on television each evening is not God's will.  It is the will of the human race.  It is too comfortable to blame it on God.  
Why blame the One who wills nothing for you except that you be divinized.

We are absent from life far too much.  Sorrow (and grief) make it impossible for us to be absent, and so, blesses us with real presence.  In the midst of our sorrows, distractions fall away, and we are there, raw and open, often confused, always vulnerable, little and great.  In sorrow we are nudged to our depths.  I do not claim to understand the mystery of suffering, but I often meet people who have walked through great sorrow; they seem to wear the face of God.  These are the people at whose feet I yearn to sit.

-taken from A TREE FULL OF ANGELS: seeing the holy in the ordinary - page 35

May you find comfort as you walk the Path of Life.