Sunday, March 28, 2010

Touching hearts

had a hard time in a traditional church when the white, male minister stood above the congregation with an engaging, animated delivery and prayer that did not speak my heart. It reminded me why I was away from organized religion so long. It was someone else's interpretation of what my spirituality, my relationship, with God ought to be.

And, not much rang true for me.

My body tensed and my attitude bristled. The rebel in me, well, rebelled. I sang "Goddess our mother, she" instead of the printed "God, our father, he."

Stand up, sit down, read this creed, say this standardized prayer, we were commanded. Not even a single moment of silence. I felt no room for spirit, except in two hymns.

I realize this kind of church does appeal to many and am grateful there are as many denominations and faiths as their are personalities and types of people. I believe we respond to God differently and what speaks to me may not necessarily connect someone else.

After my inner rebel settled down, I began to view the time and experience as a blessing. A blessing that I have discovered a way that deeply connects, feeds and sustains me. The wonderfully sacred silent, corporate and unmediated worship of Quakers. Strictly between me and God and the roomful of people prayerfully centered.

It's not always perfect. Occasionally, I can't center easily, but I usually link to God and the congregation in some way -- even if at the last second. Enough to hold me for the week.

I am beginning to realize the real value of worshiping in community. Even just being in a faith community and how those regular interactions, connections, seeking and providing prayer, nurture and comfort are how we ought to live our whole lives. Not just on Sundays or exclusively with the people we know on Sundays. But all of the time, with everyone we encounter. Not an easy task, but the tightly-knit safety net of my faith community helps me to venture out beyond and try it other places. It's creating that blessed community right here and now. It's making where were are at this moment and how we interact more important than where we think we may be headed. It's the journey, how we respond and treat others that counts – from what I know – far more than the destination.

Lily rattled off a story in the car on the way to meeting this morning about how some kid at school screams that if you're not Christian, you're not going to heaven. It bothered her. It bothers me. Can't really blame the kid, I'm sure he's parroting what he's heard at home. But that kind of unconscious* behavior is damaging. Possibly most to those who heed it.

When I was new to Quakerism, someone told me this practice is hard work. There are no creeds, sacraments or beliefs beyond knowing founder George Fox's continuing revelation that God is personally accessible, that Jesus is the inward teacher and there is that of God in everyone. [OK, that's a really simplified synopsis, but Quakers value simplicity]. The rest, I have found, I work out myself with Divine guidance, often in the sacredness of silence.

So, if my theory that because we respond dissimilarly, God calls us as we are able to listen is true, makes me wonder how many times God has tried to get my attention over the years and I failed to notice. However, I am grateful I do pay attention more than I used to [not as much as I hope to], for when I do, I feel more whole.


*accepting things on the surface, without any personal exploration, prayerful testing or Divine guidance ... not to say faith and trust are not important, but different than judging others

• What connects me to something outside myself?
• What have been my experiences with organized religion/spirituality?
• What spoke most deeply to me? What did not?
• Have I experienced a strong faith community and what is that like?
• If I know what connects me, can I respect that something else works better for another?

when those other words
hit my breast with a thud,
I let them slide off

and I didn't listen again
for a long time

I now know you
were always with me

and I rediscovered
that I did, indeed,
know how to connect

but it was not with
another's words,

not even with words
at all

but in the still,
rich silence

when your heart
touches mine

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Birthing from the heart

Wednesday, I felt more joyful in my work than I can remember. I took my computer out to my studio to begin compiling photos of my artwork on one file, so that I can then begin to match art to text. All for the book(s) I am working toward publishing.

I have been dreaming of being in this place for so long.

While none of the process has been drudgery so far, working with these images feels so much more joyful and sacred than writing and editing. I have found those tasks fulfilling and inspired.

But these images are like children, precious little beings with their own hearts and agendas. Not so precious in that I created them, but more that they even existed somewhere inside of me. They are an expression of something. Often something beneath the surface or wordless. That is why I feel it so important to accompany my words with them. They make the words come to life for me. Add element, dimension and luminosity well beyond the text.

They come from a deeper place. A place beyond words. A heart place.

While the seeds for the words and feelings emanate from my heart, they filter through my brain to form. The images, however, bypass my mind completely. They leap from my heart and emotions through my fingers and onto the page. They often surprise and delight me.

I am grateful the dream has become reality.

• How and when do I let my heart take over?
• What emerges when I can shut my brain down and just be in that space?
• How can I consciously get there again or for the first time?
• How do I enter that creative space reserved just for me to just be myself?

Shimmering deep within,
my heart and the
creations it holds
call to me.

Whispers have
now become roars
of resurgent energy,
forcing me to
find the time and
space to give
them form.

When I can,
I am astounded
at all of the little
creatures that
trickle out,
one by one.

How does one place
in me contain so much?

I believe my call is
to regularly empty
that chamber.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Forgiveness: A gift of the heart

orgiveness. That topic comes up somewhat regularly for me. And I just had a really deep conversation about it. The kind that doesn't normally pop up until a certain circumstance forces it on us. I am so grateful for that depth of discussion.

It's the "give" part that sticks to me and yesterday that was lurking in my brain, as yet unarticulated. Forgiveness, really, has more to do with the person who feels the need to forgive. Maybe a change of heart, a transformation, a softening. For adults, I don't think it can be immediate, because in order for us to believe we need to forgive, something big or longstanding has usually transpired. And, I believe the act is a process. Transformation from hardness to softness, hurt to healing unfolds over time. Much of the work of forgiveness happens on the part of the injured one.

For give. To give. To give for[th]. The act of giving.*

I love Quaker Phil Gulley's book "If Grace is True" as, over time, he has reached the conclusion that God loves us all and that enveloping love forgives everything. There isn't a final judgment with two lines: the saved and the damned.

We are ALL children of God and, very often, need to be reminded to look at ourselves and each other in that mirror of love.

When I am having difficulty with a person, sometimes, I visualize them as a child and my heart more easily sees, understands that soul.

Many years ago, after a wonderful facilitator led a retreat on forgiveness, I hatched (as if it were MY idea) a plan to host an evening of forgiveness at our meeting house. I was most-generously accommodated by our then minister. It was a very small group, but I knew numbers didn't matter. The few who attended warmed my heart. Enough to see what I had been called to this particular evening: I needed to forgive myself. I still need a periodic shove to do that. Thankfully, God knows what I need.

And sometimes that is to forgive.

[I don't mean to dismiss restitution for wrong-doing, I am merely addressing one side of the forgiveness issue here, now]* I like to look a words and what they mean for myself, without Webster – to explore them more deeply and personally

• Is there anything holding me back that could be softened by forgiveness? Anything stuck in my craw?
• Do I remember that I need to do to that for myself?
• Is there anyone from whom I could/should seek forgiveness?
• Can I remember what a soft heart feels like?

a lump in the throat
once swallowed
works its way
directly to
the heart

hard and cold,
it grows there
left unattended,

that's not
the experience of
a child

a child
will grab onto
that stone,
examine it
with wonder
and curiosity

either casting
it aside
or offering it
to someone

as a gift

a gift of
the heart

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lonely, but not alone

lmost a year ago exactly, I took off for a week in Italy by myself.

And I haven’t really even begun to process it. It was rich and wonderful, lonely and painful all at the same time.

If you’ll indulge me, I think I may do some of that here because I know there are lessons to be uncovered.

I remember the last wave to my daughters and husband as I turned my back and headed for the airport tram. Bittersweet because I was leaving them, but exhilarating as I was accompanying myself on what I hoped would be an adventure of a lifetime.

This is my dream
This is the dream of many others unable to muster
whatever I mustered to be here
I’ll remind myself of that when I feel alone

Those were some of the first words in my journal.

Immediately I met my seatmate Marco and we talked nonstop through the flight, the night, the meals, Charles de Gaulle Airport and, finally from the same gate, where we parted. He, to Genoa and me, to Pisa. Such a gift, only to be ripped away. His English was impeccable, providing me with a grand illusion: that I would be understood.

Two plans, three shuttles, two trains a bus and a long, uphill walk before I entered my Florence home, a quiet convent – formerly a villa – on the outskirts. That sentence hardly conveys the journey. No one I encountered in Florence spoke English [to me], although I purchased a timed bus ticket, eventually climbed aboard (another long story) and, in desperation, held out my map to an Italian woman who anxiously shoved me off somewhere.

Somewhere on a deserted street corner. I entered the scooter shop to a frown when I spoke English after the customary “Buon giorno” greeting, but elicited a smile and pointing finger when I drew out my map. Outside, I discovered street names are embedded in the sides of buildings. Never mentioned in any of the travel tips I had poured over.

Weary, but not broken, I picked up my bag and began to climb the hill not really knowing where I was going, when something caught my attention. A sign written in English in the back window of a parked car: “I am with you.” I was too stunned to even think to take a photo.

I knew I would not be alone on this strip.

A half-mile later, I smiled as I spotted the big iron gates of the convent, entered and was received in Italian. They were waiting for me and the nun even taught me a couple of Italian words: giardino/garden (where I think she said I might want to unwind) and verde/green (the door I would enter after hours).

She led me down a long corridor to the very end and opened my door. It was perfect. Small, intimate, welcoming. Things I had not yet experienced in Italy. I dropped my bag, threw open the heavy shutters and teared up at the beautiful lawn and call of the birds. Even the bathroom overlooked a small city of terracotta tile roofs. Breathtaking: all of it.

I had arrived.

• What is a literal or metaphorical journey to which I have been called?
• How did I respond?
• Who accompanied me, even if I didn’t realize it in the present?
• What gifts/riches did I experience?
• What hardships?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The hole is a tunnel

I attended a retreat/worship last weekend focused on spiritual practices to which I had not given much thought during the week, except that I was going. And then, the weekend became complicated and I had to choose what to cut. The retreat, of course. That seemed extraneous and was not something someone was asking of me.

So I sat down to plan a first-day session (Sunday school) someone had asked me to teach last minute and I was so angry because I was missing the retreat. This is ridiculous, I told myself. You love those kids and should not feel anything but that when planning for their lesson. It’s usually a joyful, prayerful time.

With 45 minutes until opening worship, a shower, brown-bag lunch and 45-minute drive ahead of me, I decided to go. Late, but present. Along the scenic drive, I contemplated what I would say about my spiritual practice. That I had slacked off, couldn’t find daily time in my erratic life, bounced around because so many
possibilities interested me. Yes, maybe this retreat would help me sink back in, making me a better person.

That kind of thinking should have been my clue ... that the day would be anything but.

I discovered everyone else, whom I consider faithful, experienced and practiced Quakers (weighty in the denominational lingo), bearing pretty much the same struggle. What a profound relief. This was not a time for punishment, admonitions and recriminations from myself, others or God. It was affirmation that we are human and many of us with a creative bent live erratically, so why should a spiritual discipline be any different? After all, it’s a vehicle to reach God. The means, not the ends.

And, when I divulged I multi-tasked my swimming as prayer, there was great support, even amazement. I really do think of it as being in the living water. We almost exclusively expressed a sense of our lives as prayer, of letting God in most of the time, not just in worship or a set-aside period. That’s key, I believe.

Interestingly, this week, a fellow lap swimmer mentioned a peer says she gets too bored ticking off the laps. I blurted out that I use the time as prayer. She blushed, then confided she did the same, but didn’t mention it very often. When the bored swimmer spoke to me about it, I said I used it as a moving meditation (somehow I wasn’t sure she’d respond to the word prayer as warmly as the other had).

So, as I have been intentionally thinking about that spiritual-practice time, I also realized I have my own prayer box, one I can physically enter, metaphorically strip down and get, as I like to think, “naked-to-naked*” with God. My body feels no pain [which helps clear my mind] and I sit there warm and energized after the swim and in a receptive mood – all in this 6-by-6 wooden sauna tucked into the corner of the locker room of my gym.

No grandiose chapel. Just a simple wood bench in a warm box, barely out of the public fray. Heaven, I sometimes think.

* When my girls were little and we'd sometimes bathe together or when we were undressing for bed, we’d love to touch our naked bodies; naked-to-naked, we called it. I’m sure it started as they were nursing newborns. There’s really nothing like that feeling of security and love all rolled into one. That’s how I like to approach God: with nothing between us.

• What do I do when a spiritual practice doesn’t suit me?
• Where has that practice taken me?
• Do I get too hung up on the practice itself? Or can I focus on the where it aims to transport me?
• How often do I share those experiences?
• If I am finding time at a premium, how might I incorporate some prayer time in my regular activities?
• Is there a place or space where I can make my life a living prayer?

I was born with
an open aperture
in my heart

but hurt, experience
and life taught me to
begin to close it,
leaving it only
ever so slightly

the practice of
regularly being
with you, dear Spirit
began to slowly open
that hole

it just gets wider and wider

... even as I have left
the formality of
prayer behind

I now see the
hole is a tunnel
and, once we both
consciously entered,
nothing is the same

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Forget MasterCard, affirmation is priceless

hy do we [I] seem to think we [I] must do everything ourselves [myself]?

I am getting the ask-God part better than I have, but I still need practice at enlisting the help of others.

Yesterday at a semi-regular retreat I expressed a need to unload myself of creative energy/ministry. I have written about that before. But in that conversation, someone gently reminded me that we're not supposed to do it alone ... that we
should ask.

I didn't know how soon that advice would take root. At the same retreat, I mentioned to another person a Quaker writing-as-ministry conference with blogging as a topic and how appropriate that seemed. She agreed and was encouraging.

This morning, I checked the writing retreat deadlines: THIS WEEK. Yikes, I thought.

And then a thought/voice/Spirit/leading – whatever you choose to call it – began working on me. Even though I have not yet had a clearness committee for ministry, and, normally financial questions are addressed after that, I needed to ask my faith community to send me.

Oh, wonderful, I thought. I have to stumble around and ask for money ... my least favorite thing to do. But it sure wouldn't leave me. I raced around and checked a few things, tossed my manuscripts and a few pieces of artwork in my canvas bag and headed out. First to teach first-day (Sunday) school, then to stand at the meeting for worship with attention to business and make my request.

I was prayerfully agitated, but knew it was my task. I did, however, refrain from letting my inner critic recite all of the reasons I am not worthy of asking. That's pretty big.

The time came and I rose and it just poured out. Maybe too much, maybe not enough. Maybe just the right amount. I knew I'd burst if I didn't, at least, make this attempt. I even shared a poem and accompanying art, thinking some people have no idea what I've been working on and it's only fair to share. So I stumbled through that and some thoughtful questions and concerns about why this conference was right, what I'd get from it and how the meeting could support me since I was outside of the new and carefully crafted ministry process.

And the answer came: "Use the emergency fund; this sounds like an emergency." I was gleefully flabbergasted and so grateful to the friend who made the suggestion.

It really was an emergency. I had felt such urgency and have for weeks. And that was recognized as well as my ministry, my need to spiritually and creatively connect and be nurtured.

I have such gratitude and hope and faith and renewed confidence and a bazillion other things from the group of 20 or so who now know me better, listened, cared and trusted. Now that's priceless.

• When was the last time I really asked for what I needed?
• What's it like when I don't shoulder things alone?
• What's it felt like when my community has supported me?
• How has that drawn me closer – to those people? To God?
• Does it enable me to listen more carefully to my neighbor's request?

a swirling energy
about to make me burst

I think it's mine alone
because I am unsure
that anyone else feels it,
is aware of it

it drives me
drives me crazy

to the point
I am forced to
share and ask
to be unburdened

and I am so
with such love

everyone needs
to know that
kind of community

Friday, March 12, 2010

The headless baby

It's not often I:
a) dream or
b) dream and remember it.

But, lately, I've had a few whoppers and my wonderful spiritual friend has taught me the value of dreams. I participated in a spiritual dream group for a year and learned so much. But, with some sleep issues, I was unable to be the dream-recording warrior and jot them down right after I had them. So I have to rely on the ones I can remember.

In the most recent, a coworker – with whom I actually did work once – entrusts his one-year-old gorgeous baby boy to my care. I don't even hesitate and enjoy this budding relationship. He follows me everywhere and seems content. The catch is these older women in white, kind of out of the frame of the dream, keep telling me how to care for the baby. And when I don't do what they suggest, they do it anyway. They remove his head (no gore or pain, this is a dream after all) and stand it neck up on the stairs. That little face is so vacant and the body doesn't know what to do, so I keep taking the head and putting it back and the kid stays almost glued to me.

There's something about this dream that relates to a provocative book I just read, PUSH, whose main character is beaten and sexually abused from age 3, constantly told she's nothing and floats through school making A minuses without knowing how to read. Her prayer is that someday, something WILL happen and those words will make sense. At 12 and 16 she delivers her father's babies. But something in this child, who is forced into a wretched adulthood too soon, knows she is better than her circumstance. It's confirmed when Precious starts an alternative school and the teacher acknowledges her, sees her for who she really is, not a thing to dominate. That's when Precious blossoms. Keeping her second child, then moving to a halfway house shows her love in addition to that from her teacher and classmates.

Precious is that baby struggling to become whole, keeping its head attached ... no matter what the chorus of women in white says.

For some, it's a literal journey. For me, I think the headless baby is one of my inner children also seeking acknowledgment and wholeness. And it's up to me – just as it was to Precious – to tend to that child.

• Is there something in my life I am not tending to?
• Am I paying attention to my dreams?
• Can I listen to myself above the noisy chorus of others that may not know the right path for me?
• Do I have some stillness in my life to pay attention at all?

chubby and curly-headed,
this cherubic baby asks so
little ... just for some attention

I am not sure just how
long she has been asking,
it's only now that I
am listening

can I give this
wee one what she

can I trust myself,
my inner voice
against that
of the outside?

if I don't, what
will happen?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cloud of unknowing: anything but boring

have difficulty with the "m" word – you know,

I never thought it applied to me until I wanted to attend something called School of the Spirit, a two-year Quaker program for spiritual-nurture
ministry. Training in ministry.

Ministers, for me, had always been above, more educated, more spiritual, more directly in tune with God, more sure of themselves, more certain in life. Maybe even a little boring. Something I was not. Even in my Quaker Meeting where I knew everyone was a minister, I still felt outside of the concept.

When I had my first clearness committee within my meeting for School of the Spirit, that word – in BIG, capital letters – stared me down. There was no escaping. I had to deal with it. I have reconciled that as I have accepted my gifts and know that I use them as ministry. I think the egalitarianism of Quakerism also helped me reach this place. Acknowledging it does not place me below or above anyone. It's just who I am and what I do. Honestly, it always has been.

I also think discovering Goddess and the Sacred Feminine within has changed my attitude. I have certainly reshaped my image of a minister to include myself.

The next piece of this journey is undertaking my real work, that which feeds all myselves, including the spiritual and creative. It is part of reaching wholeness and recognizing that my ministry can also be my work, from which I draw income.

Perhaps as I became a mother at a later age, I laid down too much. Or maybe, it's just that it's time to reclaim some of those pieces and establish boundaries and priorities, including that my gifts do have value. I am transforming my believe that
only in another world I would be paid to do what I love to finding how to earn a living doing what I love here and now ... because what I love is my passion. What I was meant to do.

A current piece of that is beginning my meeting's new encouraging-and-supporting-ministry process. I really have to share this call to ministry somewhere [beyond me and God]. Not just the ministry, but holding it. I feel it has grown bigger than I can or should handle. I have been trying to figure that out on my own, but I think group discernment is the answer right now.

I have to confess that I am also a little afraid ... afraid of showing off what I have been birthing for fear of criticism and rejection. Fear that some may say I misunderstood God's call.

This blog has been a step in that direction. A testing of the waters. And, although I wish I could say I was so certain that I needed no acknowledgment, I am very grateful for the feedback and support right here.

It reminds me of something I recently spoke in worship when several people struggling spiritually were on my heart: "Do we truly live in the Spirit and, if we do, how do we know?"

The answer that came back was: "We don't; we live in a cloud of unknowing."

Hey, if that doesn't confirm I have a ministry, I don't know what does!

• Have I ever thought about myself as a minister?
• What are my gifts?
• How have I viewed ministers and how could I sculpt a new vision that includes myself?
• Can I help others do the same? Maybe even in just doing it myself?

I appear to myself
as the little girl always
struggling, thinking she
gets it because she feels it
so strongly

but never quite sure

only sure that she
has to keep struggling,
recording that journey
and sharing it

maybe that's enough

Monday, March 8, 2010

Making our hearts sing

do this kinda funny thing when I swim. I guess you could call it my trademark – or maybe just quirkiness. I hum the number of the lap I'm completing. I think of it as a goddess hum that puts positive energy into the water. I like to give something back for all it gives me. Also for the next person in my lane.

I've been doing it so long, I almost forget that I do. It's nothing anyone else could hear. I think it becomes meditative, even prayerful.

Today I began to wonder if it affects my breathing while swimming, possibly making it harder or me less efficient, so I tried about 8 laps without humming. Then, the swimming was pure work -- no joy, just effort. I could hear my air bubbles, but that was isolating and lonely. So I started humming and my heart began to sing again. This tells me I have made swimming a spiritual practice.

I may swim more efficiently, more easily without the humming, but what's the point if its joyless? Then I started to apply that concept to my whole person. I realized that even if life seems like more work to me at times, it's just who I am and what seems like more effort, may, indeed, be adding joy into my life and, possibly, the world.

And I hadn't even consciously understood that.

Maybe someday, I'll have the courage to hum or sing (a huge fear) out loud!

• What makes my heart sing?
• What happens if I stop?
• How conscious am I of how it affects me, the world?
• Have I been able to incorporate that into my life?


almost begins to ring like ohm
in my throat, mouth, ears
and head

it makes my throat dry,
but my swim drier,
dull and lifeless
if I don't

helps curb my
restless mind,
connects it
to my body

and takes me to the
place where God
can touch me

where I can
and do open

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bright spirit not even death can dim

How do you assess a death?

Well, the life, actually, of someone for whom you cared?

Perhaps since I received the news only 10 minutes ago, it’s unfair to make that assessment now, with such little time and preparation. It has been on my mind as this crusty older neighbor with a heart of gold has struggled with strokes, depression, loss of independence, a fall, postponed hip surgery, the surgery, another bout of pneumonia. His heart just gave out. That’s what I understand at this point.

He’d been my neighbor about a dozen years, but I really grew to know and love him when, without hesitation, he and his wife helped me plan and execute a neighborhood conversation on race after the 2001 riots. I headed the group for several years, but had to leave for health and child-rearing reasons. He ably took it over and kept it together. He was a quiet, cantankerous, behind-the-scenes mover and shaker from day one, active as long as he could be and the reason the group still exists.

He was a well-loved educator and scout leader, raised a family that extended well behind his biological children, partnered with an equal wife, could tell an awesome story at the drop of a hat, loved history, teaching and people.

A year ago, I had an interesting conversation with him. I happened to call for his wife, who wasn’t home. Luckily for me, we chatted quite a while. It was about this same time of year and he really felt dark and gloomy. He said he had regretted that he had not made more male friends at a younger age. That women get it right, surrounding themselves with friends and long-term associations. His wife had regular lunches, a semi-annual retreat, local book club and a plethora of healthy relationships so vital in any stage of life but, according to him, especially in this later stage.

A bright spirit that can’t be dimmed by illness or even death. Memory and love ensure that.

• What lessons have I learned from others not here anymore?
• Did I appreciate them in the present or with regret, later?
• How can I change that next time?
• What lesson do I want my life to impart?

A scraggy beard,
gruff voice and manner,
hiding the huge,
beating heart
that listened to God
and insisted on helping
no matter what

Eventual discord
body and soul,
finally reconciled,
but not after
a lifetime of
service and love

beneath a smile
that revealed
God within

Friday, March 5, 2010

The stumblings of self discovery

've been re-reading Henri Nouwen's Wounded Healer and remembering why I loved it all those years ago. I find it so affirming and believe it is speaking even more directly to my ministry this time 'round. The ministry of us all.

Basically, Nouwen says it's through our woundedness that we are able to see others as ourselves and feel compassion, a compassion to action.

What he says really resonates with who I believe Jesus is -- or, at least, my evolving view. Jesus was one of the early examples of the wounded healer, no matter how you view the resurrection. I am beginning to come to terms with the resurrection and, for a longtime, decided it did not matter to me whether it was a real historical event. I am somewhat of a mystic and know Jesus in that way. That's why I didn't have to square whether or not the event happened.

As I think about this now, I realize I tend to believe the resurrection. Otherwise, why would I have had a mystical relationship with Jesus since I was three if there had not been some transformation?

The next logical question for me to explore, I guess, is whether Jesus was the actual son of God. Again, I have never really felt compelled to answer that personally. I enjoy living in the mystery.

Being human and broken, Nouwen writes, and recognizing it is exactly why we can have compassion.

It is in internally traversing that woundedness that we can serve as guides to others. Not just guides in the been-there, done-that sense, but as an example for others to take on the exploration of the soul.

Nouwen reminds me that St. Teresa of Avilla and St. John of the Cross, who look so wise across the centuries, had their doubts and often asked for such guidance. I like knowing that I am not any different. That in our stumblings we are on a journey of self discovery. And the only thing scarier, I believe, is not undertaking that journey.

• Have I explored my woundedness? How?
• How has that or can that help me relate to others?
• What gifts have arisen from those wounds?
• Is there ministry [substitute another word if this is too intimidating] for me there?

The path is rarely clear.
Typically no signs or directions.
Often murky and muddy.

But something calls
me on, calls me forward.

Knowing the experience
others have shared
makes it easier to
risk this arduous journey.

Knowing I may,
some day,
be able to share my
journey as
softens the sharp edges.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Room of my own

was fierce today. Like a mother protecting her cubs.

Only I was protecting my turf: my weekly time in my art studio that so often gets eaten up by something else. Today I stood firm and didn't let it. I just couldn't.

I give in too often, but not today. Why was today so important? I'm not sure, but I journaled about my reaction and discovered this is the place I feel most safe to be who I truly am. No one else's apprehensions, opinions, thoughts, attitudes. No one else's anything. Just mine.

I had not realized how easily I shed other people when I make the short walk from my back porch to my detached garage. It's the only place that seems possible. It is like entering another world. One full of color, vibrancy, creation, life and only the color, vibrancy, creation and life I choose to let in.

It's also the place I feel most at home with God/Spirit, where I can be who really am and who I am there often includes many inner children, not tended anywhere else. It is where I am truly fed.

It was sad to realize I don't get that in my faith community because there's always some obligation, one more person to see, one more thing to do. I do get fed there, but not as unconditionally as I do in my studio. Probably because that's where my direct connection to God is best nurtured. I have had those kinds of experiences in worship, but then I leave my sea of contemplation for the land of real people. People for whom I really care and, therein may lie the catch. I need down time to nurture myself. As a nurturer, I love that work, but I also can't starve myself. I stupidly try at times and get to experience the results. Usually not favorably.

I am always a different person, a better person, when I emerge from any time in my studio. Thank God I have a place like that!

• How do I nurture myself? • Do I do it regularly? • Is there somewhere I can totally escape? • If not, how can I make that happen? • When I don't, what are the consequences?

I pull the kitchen door shut
and it closes out so much.
My mind is focused on
opening the porch door,traversing the stone
steps across the lawn,

while balancing a teapot,
cup and too many
other things.
I am forced to put down
whatever is in
my hands
open the catproof latch
at the bottom

of the garage door.
Pick up my things,
close that door.
Set my things down
to turn on the lights
located outside my studio,
open the screen door,
it with my favorite
boulder from Vermont,
then turn the handle on
the purple wooden door,
which is hinged in

the opposite direction.
Regather my things and
FINALLY enter my space.
My heart always sings
when I get inside and
shut the world away
at least for awhile.
The short, but complicated
journey from back door
to studio has become a
relished meditation
readies me to
who I
really am.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ring around the rosy

This morning as I was meeting with a client, I happened to mentioned we’d had an office across the street years ago. He told me a family had purchased that house and intended to restore it. He mentioned a few more details and it became very clear that the family is one I know from an entirely different circle than the person with whom I was conversing. He was incredulous. I was not surprised.

I always love those connections, when the world seems small and friendly, not big and cold. They seem to happen with more frequency ... or am I just more aware?

Some people call it chance, serendipity or coincidence. But I think otherwise.

It reminds me of a concept postulated (more likely “inspired” wisdom) by the early monastic Abba Dorotheos of Gaza. He described the relationship between people and God and other people as a compass with God as the center point, the outside circle the world, and individual lives as the lines from the outside to the core. “The closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they became to God,” he said.

I find in my own life that as I have grown more intimate with God and developed deeper relationships with others, we all seem to touch and bump into each other more than when I was younger.

I relish those encounters and am grateful for some awareness when they happen.

• What shape is my world – the one full of relationships between me and others, me and God, all of us?
• Do I feel these chance encounters are something more? What, specifically?
• Have I ever said that out loud or discussed it with someone?
• What do others feel?
• Is this something I should share?

Ring around the rosy.
When we’re young,
we seemed at the center,
everyone gathered ‘round us.

Much like before Copernicus
dispelled the earth-is-the
center-of-the-universe theory.

As we mature, we experience
another rotation, out of
the center and to the
edge of the circle.
We’re no longer rosy.

However, as we gravitate
toward others at the fringe
and the Source at the
core, we move distinctly
closer to ALL.