Tag Archives: spirituality

Watching the horizon

Twelve seagulls sit along the cottage rooftop,

scanning the horizon,

like tiny white sentinels,

poised,

watchful,

alert.

Are they offering a lesson in mindfulness?

Teaching me to sit still,

to linger,

to pay attention

without agenda or need,

without expectation or hope.

Watch the horizon, they seem to say.

Be open to what appears.

Weaving

Keep moving forward, the sage advises,

but what if I missed something as I sped by?

Some bit of wisdom or insight that

blurred at the edges and

seemed inconsequential as

I careened through my days

like a meteor on a collision course,

zigzagging to avoid encounters that could blind or maim.

Slow down,

look up,

pause for a minute,

turn around,

pick up the threads that dangle along the border and

weave them into the tapestry.

Blue

I woke up this morning feeling the color blue.

Not a dark, foreboding shade like a stormy sky

nor a light, powdery color like the baby blue blanket

I am knitting for my niece,

but a lovely medium hue,

like the cornflower blue on the bedroom walls.

The color suffused me, filling me with

a sense of calm and optimism.

This was a new sensation, this feeling filled with a color, and

I wonder if it was a reaction to a dream that I do not remember or

if it is an indication of something to come.

Or could it be that now free from the responsibilities that once filled my life,

I have tapped into some new way of seeing, a different way of knowing.

Grief-hope-God

Waiting

“How is retirement so far?” my older brother recently asked.

“Every day feels like Saturday,” I replied.

“That’s retirement,” he said.

Saturdays have always been my “catch-up” days—grocery shopping, cleaning, running errands, etc. All those things I did not get to during the week were seen to on Saturdays.

With no work and no “mom duty,” my calendar is clear, and I have loads of time to spread out my shopping, housework and errands throughout the week.

Last weekend, I attended a (virtual) retreat for people in transition, and the question that snagged my attention comes from 1 Kings 19:13, when the Lord asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”

It took me back to when I worked for an adult literacy council and often spoke to community groups about our work. I usually asked an adult learner to accompany me and share how we had helped.

One of the adult learners spoke of the challenges of learning English. She would say that the two questions, “How are you?” and “How are you doing?” confused her because she thought she was being asked two different questions. The word “doing” threw her.

I thought the same as I listened to the question to Elijah. What was he doing there? He wasn’t doing anything, really, just standing outside waiting for God to come by.

It occurred to me that different questions might have been, “Why are you here?” or “What are you looking for?” or “What do you want?”

Now that I am no longer working and no longer caring for my mom—two things I used to do—I am asking myself, “What am I doing here?” and is it ok to do nothing, to just stand outside and wait for God to pass by?

God-mindfulness-vulnerability

On retreat–staying with the questions

Staying with the question

During the opening session of my week-long silent retreat, we were presented with the invitation to stay with the questions in our lives rather than rushing to find answers. Rainer Maria Rilke was quoted.

Retreat-prayer-spirituality

The next day I reflected on my questions, those unanswered mysteries that keep resurfacing and whirling around in my head.

Why me? is the question I have asked countless times over the course of my life. Why did God choose me at the age of eight? What did God expect from me? I was the least likely candidate to do anything great for God; I was a child in a working-class home with few resources and no influence. Why me?

In my twenties, I went on a Cursillo retreat and learned the slogan, God don’t make junk. I even got a button to wear with that quote. God may not make junk, I remember thinking, but God makes mistakes—and choosing me seemed to be one of them, because I could not see how I could serve God in any meaningful way.

On day two of my retreat, as I walked along a riverbank pondering my why question, my cousin Marlene came to mind. When she was being treated for pancreatic cancer, she told me that she had gotten to know some of the people who were on the same chemo schedule, and as they sat for hours getting infusions they would chat about cancer and how unfair it was. Why me? was the question people kept asking. My cousin said she had come to see that was the wrong question. Why not me? she asked.

Maybe that was true for my God question as well. Instead of asking why me? maybe the question I need to ask is why not me?

I started to think of other people God had called who might make me wonder about God’s decision-making abilities, people like Dorothy Day, who as a young adult led a somewhat non-conformist life. Or Frances Cabrini, who was considered by some people to be too frail to become a teaching sister. Or St. Augustine, who lived quite a hedonistic life until his conversion. Or scads of other people who seemed too inconsequential or too frail or who were on the highway to hell and then, bam, God called.

Lots of people who seemed unlikely vessels for God’s message turned out to be exactly what God needed.

Who knows, maybe I am one of them. Why not me?

At the edge of the wetlands

From my perch on the dock

at the edge of the wetlands,

I watched three hawks circle overhead,

gliding, then swooping,

then flapping their wings before another glide.

What could they see from so high above the treetops?

Did they notice even the slightest movement?

Were they somehow signaling to one another?

Mouse by the maple tree.

Chipmunk on the fallen branch.

They flew in unison,

as if they had rehearsed,

as if they were putting on a synchronized show.

Round and round they went,

gliding and flapping,

seeming to be in no hurry at all,

never coming to ground,

content to be aloft.

And then they flew away.

I waited for them to return,

but after a while,

I gave up.

I don’t have the patience of a hawk.

Seeking justice

A large plastic bin has been sitting in my garage since I moved here eight years ago, and I finally got around to cleaning it out. At the bottom was a scrap of paper with a quote from Helen Keller.

God--justice-rape

I have been pondering where I might “soar” as I contemplate the next chapter of my life, or as one friend put it, my “last act.” Yes, I am in the third third of my life and it is time for me to consider my last act.

What shape this chapter will take is still a mystery; it is a mystery I want to explore.

One “scene” (to stay with the play metaphor) is speaking out about being a rape survivor, and particularly being someone who was raped by a man in law enforcement.

I want to reach out to others who have been sexually assaulted by law enforcement officials to let them know they are not alone—and that there is help, hope and healing. Prosecution may not be a realistic expectation or option but moving from victim to survivor is.

One of the presenters in my Internship in Ignatian Spirituality course said, “Justice is what love looks like in public,” which got me thinking more about justice.

Upon hearing my story of being a rape survivor, several people have asked me about justice—or rather the lack of justice because the man who raped me never faced prosecution.

I have to confess that when the #MeToo movement started, I felt that justice had finally come, because I imagined the man who raped me having to wonder if anyone would say his name. It is a bit perverse (and perhaps not very Christian), but I got a little thrill from thinking that his foundation may have been shaken by wondering if he would have to face his past actions.

Another law enforcement person put it this way to me: “He has to wonder if someone is gunning for him.”

But now I am thinking about justice a bit differently. I have come to a deeper understanding and acceptance of the fact that people do cruel things out of their own brokenness. I am not excusing cruelty; I am allowing for redemption.

Reflecting on my friendship with a woman who committed a heinous crime because of her mental illness has helped me deepen my understanding of justice.

I did not know this woman before the crime, but afterward, once she decided to take her prescribed medicine, she was a different person. Instead of hurting, she began helping and instead of ranting, she began listening. She developed compassion, and she became someone who used her abilities and talents in service of others.

Where once she was intent on destroying, she became committed to building up. Her transformation helped me see how someone can grow into the person God sees, how love can restore wholeness.

That looks like justice to me.

Nesting

I hadn’t noticed the robin

gathering leaves, twigs and bits of string,

building her nest in the eave of my garage.

Had she built it all in one day, I wondered,

the way it seemed to magically appear.

What I had noticed, though, for several days in a row,

was a robin sitting on the top of the fence,

and that drew my eye

to the place where she

(or was it other robins?)

had nested in years past,

that garage eave

just above the hydrangea plant that served as

a safety net to catch her babies

should their first attempts at flight not succeed,

a buffer between her home and the neighborhood cats

who would sense the presence of fledglings

learning to spread their wings.

I, too, am nesting,

gathering bits of this and that,

shaping them into something

that I hope will take flight one day.

Being healed

Do you want to be healed? Jesus asked the man sitting near the pool (John 5:5-15).

Reading that passage, I thought, “What kind of question is that?” Who doesn’t want to be healed?

Can you imagine someone asking you if you want to be healed and you would say, “Hmm, let me think about that.” Rather, I think most of us would answer without hesitation, “Yes, I want to be healed.”

So why does Jesus ask that question?

Perhaps because we may want to be healed in theory, but in reality, we get some benefit from being unhealed. Maybe it is sympathy for our suffering or a familiarity and comfort in our identity as one who suffers. Perhaps it is just that we don’t even know that we are holding onto something that needs healing, let alone how to let go and be healed.

The answer to Jesus’ question might often be a “Yes, but…”

Yes, I want to be healed, but I also want to hold onto some of the identity associated with what ails me, to stick with what feels comfortable.

Yes, I want to be healed, but I do not want let go of all of my anger, resentments and fears.

All kinds of things can cripple us or bind us—old hurts, low self-esteem, insecurity, grief—things we need to work on or through.

That work can be challenging, and the changes might not be evident for a long time. Not every healing happens the immediate way it did with Jesus.

God-forgiveness-healing

I have wounds that go way back to my childhood—and then additional wounds on top of those. Some are more traumatic than others, and some have been healed just as new hurts occurred. It seems to me that healing is the work of a lifetime.

Jesus desires that we be healed. He showed that many times throughout the Gospels, from healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38-41) to the paralyzed man lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-20) to the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 5:25-29). He healed people of all ages and from different backgrounds. He brought Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-42) and Lazarus (John 11:1-44) back from the dead.

He wants us to be healed and live full lives. He wants us to leap up like the man healed by Peter in Acts 3 so that we, too, are “jumping and praising God.”

Oh such joy! Who wouldn’t want that?

Maybe Jesus would ask follow-up questions like, What is stopping you from receiving healing love? What is blocking the path to living more joyfully? What is one thing you can let go of that will make you freer to give and receive forgiveness?

God-forgiveness-healing

I have been thinking a lot lately about seeing people as God sees them, and I believe God sees each of us as our best self, and God’s desire is that we grow into that image, to become the person that God created us to be.