What To Say?

Today Christians mark the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Having searched for something erudite but understandable to say about this feast that speaks of an incomprehensible truth, I will say only what I have found to be helpful in the description (not to say definition) of the Trinitarian God, *the Three-in-One, *the Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, *the First Cause who manifested this and every other universe, who became incarnate as a human being to teach us how to live and die, and who finally left but remains in Spirit to guide our walk through this world.

You see how voluminous it could become if I launched into theological constructs or philosophical treatises. Because that is all “above my pay grade” and would not serve here anyway, I prefer to consider this mystery of faith for its meaning in my own life and offer only the words of the Gospel Acclamation for today as homage on this feast.

Glory be to God who is, who was and who is to come! Alleluia! Alleluia! (RV 1:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Advice for Weekend Festivities

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amemorialdayI smiled as I read the psalm response in today’s lectionary readings. I thought it a good thing to remember on this weekend when many families and other groups gather from near and far to celebrate the unofficial start of summer – although the actual date is still nearly a month away. Here’s the line that stood out as good advice if the conversation gets at all contentious.

O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips. (PS 141:3)

Swimming in Mercy

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asunnyday.jpgToday is a day that calls for living in the moment…but is also prompting me to remember the consistent goodness of God: past, present and future. The grass couldn’t be greener, the sun is full up and drying the dew, the promise of the meteorologists is for a perfect late spring day. The psalmist sings: Each day I bless you, God of all; never will I forget the good that you have meant to me. (PS 103:2) I think of the graced conversations of yesterday – each one giving me something to think about or thank God for, so that the feelings and sensations of such a blessed day remain. While holding it all lightly, willing for the encounters to be like deposits in my spiritual bank account, I look toward today with a willingness to accept whatever befalls me. It is my hope to remember all day long that wonderful reality – also called to mind by Psalm 103 – that we swim in mercy as in an endless sea.

May all of us be awake to the divine presence in every moment of today!

 

 

 

 

 

Pruning

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aforsythiaI learned a long time ago the necessity of pruning: that even though it may seem cruel to cut off any part of a plant, cutting it back may cause the possibility of a stronger and healthier plant in the long run. It was the tomato section of our garden that taught me that hard lesson many years ago. I learned what “suckers” were that summer and the fact that the longer you left them, the more they drained the energy of the whole – without bearing fruit themselves.

We have thirty overgrown and tangled forsythia bushes lining the border of our property, planted in honor of our mother from whom we learned to love their freedom and beauty. It is always a disappointment for me to see a forsythia bush clipped into a perfectly manicured spherical shape rather than the energy of one that has been pruned from the bottom (the advice of my cousin) and left to fly free in the breeze.

I have been woefully inattentive to our bushes over many years now, noticing their plight but not having the time or the energy to tend to them. The result has been lots of greenery (so I know the life force is still there) but no flowering or colorful vibrancy.

Yesterday I was blessed with a companion – younger and stronger than I – with whom I began the task of freeing the forsythia to fly again. We not only freed seven of the original bushes from their tangles and dead branches but found in so doing that there was a second generation of bushes in the mix as well! By the end of the summer I hope to have completed what John helped me to begin that was as much an internal learning as an external work task.

What I know now is that the sooner I clip a bad habit or attitude, the less time and pain there is conquering it or in letting it go. The longer I let negativity of any kind take hold, because of laziness or inattention, the more obscured it becomes and the more difficult it is to correct my vision of what is happening.

Enough! The sun is shining already and it’s time to take up my clippers and get to work.

 

 

 

 

 

Life and Death

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aletgosoilPsalm 49 speaks loudly of the reality that “you can’t take it with you.” No matter our success or wealth, wise people die, the psalm says, “and likewise the senseless and the stupid pass away leaving to others their wealth.”

No matter how I tried to ignore talking about death at the beginning of the day, I kept coming back to it, remembering an often repeated concept of our wisdom work that recommends learning to “die before you die.” What might that mean exactly? For most of us there are events or circumstances in our lives that we would rather forget for our poor handling of the situation or the pain we have caused, but blotting them out without learning the lessons they teach merits us nothing. Owning up to our foibles, expressing our regret, making restitution if necessary and then letting go is a “death to self” that opens up the possibility of a deeper way of living. Not beating ourselves up for mistakes but having the humility to acknowledge that full and true humanity is a skill learned as much through failure as through success seems the only sensible way to live.

If we practice letting go each day of our faults and the perceived failings of others, we will be ready to let go of everything about this human realm to which we have been clinging, be it wealth or prestige or relationship or even the lovely simple things of life. The reward of this willingness, we trust, is a letting go into the divine life that awaits us where we fall effortlessly into God’s embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaction or Response?

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akilaueaThe psalmist is calling this morning for rest (PS 55) – not just because of fatigue but from all the evil in the world. What is most difficult for me to abide are the senseless killings in high schools that have increased exponentially this year. It’s so difficult to hear on the news about the lives of many good young people senselessly snuffed out for no reason except the revenge of a deranged shooter. Add to that all the disastrous weather conditions – the destructive storms and the monumental effects of the Hawaiian volcanic eruptions – and it’s no wonder that we might react to the cry of the psalmist.

And I say, “Had I but wings like a dove, I would fly away and be at rest…I would wait for the One who saves me from the violent storms and the tempest…Engulf them, O Lord; divide their counsels!”

The catch is in the last sentence of the quoted text which is not the end of the psalm. The psalmist continues, vehemently at times, desiring destruction by God of the evil perpetrators. In his commentary, Lynn Bauman writes the following thoughts that I believe are worth more than a passing glance.

The psalmist is at the stage in spiritual experience where he or she prays to be saved out of misery, but asks God to destroy the tormentors. This is certainly how we often feel. Is that the only prayer possible? What other forms of prayer are asked of us? (Ancient Songs Sung Anew)

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Story

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aburroandmonkHere’s a little story, seemingly perfect on this rather dreary-looking day that may yet be full of possibility. Consider it a gift From Meister Eckhart to raise spirits that may be struggling to move into the weekly routine. For others it may just be a smile and a “thank you!” See what you feel.

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries about things that bother only burros. And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting than physical labor. Once in a while a kind monk comes to her stable and brings a pear. but more than that, he looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears and for a few seconds the burro is free and even seems to laugh, because love does that. Love frees.

(Love Poems from God: Twelve Voices from the East and West, p.108)

 

 

 

 

 

Spirit Of All That Lives

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aholyspiritToday we celebrate the outpouring of the power that we call the Holy Spirit. Every inspiration that leads us deeper into the transformation of our hearts in love is understood as an impulse of this face of God. This Spirit is as elemental as our breath, unseen but known in myriad ways great and small – universal and individual. It is as simple as the intake of my breath at the beauty of the burgeoning flowers in spring or as miraculous as the moment a young woman first holds her newborn child. The Spirit brings many gifts, taught in Christianity (traditionally and then in modern parlance) as wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel (right judgment), fortitude (courage), piety (reverence) and fear of the Lord (Wonder and awe in God’s presence).

Let us be grateful in this celebration as we pray: Spirit of the Universe, Spirit of my heart, I welcome you into my life. Come visit the places within me where Love has yet to find a dwelling place. Breathe within all of my existence with the power of your transforming grace. I open my entire being to you and thank you for the gift of your presence. Amen. (Prayer Seeds, p. 172)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Era

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aroyalweddingI had no intention of watching the royal wedding this morning of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, primarily because television coverage began at 5:00 a.m. and secondarily because I was miffed at the extravagance of any dress, regardless of importance, that cost over $130,000. In addition, I was due at the start of a workshop day in our conference hall (across the yard from our house) before 9:00 and I was moving rather slowly, somewhat achy on this very rainy morning at 6:00. I was stopped in my attempt to manage a blog post, however, when I turned on my computer and found the ABC news team reporting the impending arrival of the bride. Seeing the huge, enthusiastic crowds lining the road, cheering, it was no contest; I was hooked.

Sometime later I read a line from the Washington Post that helped me to recognize the pettiness of my earlier reasoning. One of the authors, William Booth or Karla Adam, wrote mid-way through an excellent summary of the event: “Meghan Markle’s Givenchy wedding gown was beautiful. But the woman wearing it was unforgettable.” I couldn’t agree more. What the radiant bride and her equally unforgettable new husband achieved by the ceremony they brought to millions of people worldwide was truly momentous.

While stately and in many ways traditional, the ritual was punctuated with touches never before experienced in a British royal wedding. First, there was Meghan herself: an American actress, bi-racial and divorced, who passed muster to gain the permission of Queen Elizabeth to marry the beloved Harry. As a result, there were several American celebrities – many African American – and music selections that included modern American tunes as well as traditional High Church choir offerings. Two declamatory pieces stood out to me: the offering of petitionary prayers by the Queen’s own chaplain (an African American woman!) and the energetic – one might say “fiery” – sermon by the American Episcopal Presiding Bishop, delivered in the style of an old-fashioned Southern preacher. I smiled when he was at the peak of his bombastic point about the essence of love as the camera panned the crowd of proper Englishmen and women who were perhaps more than a bit challenged by this first African-American leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

In spite of all that, I had a feeling of quiet warmth and deep joy that seemed to permeate the event. Although a monumental celebration for the British people, it was surprisingly simple in many ways. It was only the children that processed in with the bride, joined at the halfway point by Prince Charles as escort and welcoming symbol of the royal family. There was no embellishment of the wedding ceremony itself, just the traditional vows, spoken meaningfully as always. And when the final blessing was given, no grand recessional ensued. The couple left by the side door with the bishops and Prince William. Only the congregation remained – silently – as a lovely cello solo gave pause for gratitude.

I am grateful as well to have had the opportunity for a lesson in what is important to recognize about judgments. The country of Great Britain has been changed by today’s event and so was I. I could easily have missed the opportunity to experience this wonderful example of unity in diversity founded in and fueled by love. And in addition I must admit that the dress and its 16-foot train was exquisite.

May God bless Meghan and Harry with a long and meaningful life together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bless You!

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ablessingPsalm 103 calls for blessing not only for us but from us and from all of creation. We are to bless the Lord as the Lord blesses us. In addition, we ought to be sending out blessings to all people not just in God’s name but in our own. “God bless you” has been a familiar phrase throughout my life but what has sounded like shorthand for that (“Bless you!”) has recently gained new significance for me.

John Newton (www.healthbeyondbelief.com), on his webcasts for ancestral clearing, ends his conversations with people who call in by saying, “Bless you” and many respond, sometimes in addition to “Thank you, John,” with “Bless you!” I thought perhaps that John was just being sensitive to all the ways callers might name their “higher power” rather than God – as is clearly true in his conversations. This morning, however, in a commentary on Psalm 103, I was suddenly brought to a fuller awareness of the power of that phrase of blessing, as parents who bless their children as they send them off to school have known for generations. I’m grateful for that inspirational moment (a gift of Pentecost, perhaps?) and offer two paragraphs in hopes that some of you may share in my experience.*

The word barakah is Hebrew for blessing. It means something more in Hebrew than it does in English, a power and grace that flows from one being and place to another through the universe from its divine Source. Interestingly it flows both ways, from the divine Source to ourselves and from ourselves back to the Source. Apparently we are catalysts in the flow of blessing.

The subject of blessing is much neglected in  modern theological and spiritual thought. It does, however, continue to have a strong role in both contemporary Jewish and Muslim thinking. In both traditions blessing is a power that flows and is available to human beings. The source of this energy is transcendent and is not subject to the normal laws of cause and effect. It can flow backwards in time, for example, or appear instantly across great distances in time and space. It is as though the universe is a body with barakah (blessing) flowing through its veins. Envision this if you can, and open yourself to its flow. (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.260)

*A visit to John Newton’s website may be in order for your further information and inspiration.

Bless you all today!