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!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


If you are wondering about this photo,
It is a deadline
or, maybe a dead line
since it doesn't seem to be breathing.
Oh Happy Day!

I just sent in a manuscript to Liturgical Press
for my latest book entitled,

ABIDE: keeping vigil with the Word

It is such a wonderful feeling to have the burden of a deadline lifted. Deadline! Now that is a funny word, I've intended to google it to search out its orgin but have not yet done so. What is a deadline anyway? Does it mean that you are dead when you arrive at the due-date because you have worked obsessively? Or, you will be dead if you don't make it on time. Or, perhaps the project will be dead because you are so sick of it or you have over-edited it.

I recently posted a question on my facebook asking, What's a deadline? One of my FB friends suggested it was a line that has stopped breathing. That answer provided me with much meditation material. A line that has stopped breathing is certainly dead. Of course I could call it a time-line or a due-date -- whatever you call it, a deadline has the ability to cause stress, obsession, irritability, panic and anxiety.

In praying about my deadline (and I do pray about such things) I decided that it can take the light out of my life only if I allow it to do this. It can cause me to live DEAD only if I give it permission to do this. At times like this I am always amazed at how I tend to give my power and my life away. I don't have to give my life away but sometimes I do.

Rethinking all this I have decided that a 'deadline' could be called a 'lifeline' -- Schedules are good for me and staying on task is important; however if I allow any project to take the joy out of my life or if it is detrimental to my peace and presence to other people, then it has stopped breathing. If I look at it as a lifeline, I can be aware of the life we are giving each other along the way. I give life to my work-project and it gives life to me. We bless each other!

Here is my Lifeline! Watch it blossom! I am taking a new vow! No longer will I write to publish! I will write for joy! If I publish, that is wonderful; if I don't, that's ok too.

No deadlines; Only lifelines.
I want to know the sweet joy of my work
becoming my 'love made visible'
as the poet, Kahlil Gibran
so beautifully puts it.