The blessings of the four directions upon your soul. I annoint you with the four elements: soil, water, air, fire.
I went digging in the ocean, along the water, through the tide. In one belief system, my sign is water, and in another, air. The line between the two is often blurred, and more often, tenuous. Read the tension of that line between heaven and hell in the story of the great white whale. The sky heavenward; the mystery of cold dark hell below.
The evening was so still, and movement became stillness. Floating on glass, a little above, a little below. The air mingled with water and lifts mist into mystery. My paddle was a water shovel, and the blade slid right in as my shoulder engaged and moved forward. The stillness belied secret movement below, for nothing is without an undercurrent. No thought, no air, no water. There are only silent signals. The silence becomes loud, our breath predominates along drops of water. Flapping wings above, and voices carried over the glass, carried past the trees. The stillness can carry me forward or back, but does not remain still. The undercurrents remind me of breath – that movement is needed. Dip the paddle, sink the blade, pull forward, breathe deep.
Each stroke repeated feels strong,and soon I’m compelled to propel. Reach over, dip, pull, lift. It’s a strange satisfaction to pull through what was once air, and that air I breathe in to move forward, balancing side to side, gliding forward, sailing on.
Quiet nights of quiet stars quiet chords from my guitar
floating on the silence that surrounds us.
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams quiet walks by quiet streams
and a window that looks out on the mountains and the sea, oh how lovely
This is where I want to be here with you so close to me
until the final flicker of life's ember.
I who was lost and lonely believing life was only
a bitter tragic joke, have found with you,
the meaning of existence, oh my love
-Antonio Carlos Jobim
Beautiful songs. Beautiful summer night. We were enjoying a concert with Diana Krall at Ste Michele Winery in Woodinville, WA, with my wife and a couple of friends. As Diana sang this song, to the right side of the stage on the ground, was a couple silhouetted by the surrounding lights, dancing as if they were in a ballroom. Then I looked up at the stars. The major stars were visible, the lesser ones overpowered by the bright lights below. They were in a ballroom.
Looking up, my eyes closed, I smiled as the song flowed in the night air through my heart. I am in Love.
As one of my prayer practices, I listened to this song as either me or the Divine singing it to the other. Look at the last 3 lines of the song... that's a contemporary psalm of someone lost and now found, someone blind and now can see, someone dead and now brought back to life.
How about you? What song or poem bring you closer to experiencing the Divine who is always singing to you, serenading you with his love songs?
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hidden from its heat.
-from Psalm 19
Be not afraid,
I go before you always.
Come, and follow me.
And I will give you rest.
-John Michael Talbot
What an invitation. So that's how my walk to the grocery store started on this cloudless blue sky sunny day. I wanted the walk to be a prayer, a meditation. A search for the Divine Presence. My eyes were open. My ears listening. All my other senses equally softly alert.
Then there he was... crossing the street to my side of the street, wearing a black t-shirt with what seemed to be an image of crown of thorns with a small cross below it in silver, or white. This young man, holding a water bottle on his right hand, now walking ahead of me was talking on his cell phone. Once in a while he looked back, as if checking up on me.
I saw this young man as the Christ. The cell phone represented his constant communication with the One who sent him. His looking back making sure I'm still on the path, ready to help me get right back on if I strayed. Sometimes we walked in the shade, sometimes in full sun, symbolizing the darkness and the light, the sadness and joy that is the human experience.
How about you? Where have you seen the Sacred One lately? When was the last time you were aware of the Divine Presence outside in the world?
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
-Psalm 139 /nrsv
Now after they had left,
an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,
and remain there until I tell you;
for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’
-Matthew 2:13 (nrsv)
The story above is a perfect illustration of the definition for an emigre:
I know of an immigration attorney. Her clients mostly are ignorant of the ins and outs of immigration laws. Helping these individuals is her love and passion. And she's very good at it. She rarely loses her case. This attorney also has professional challenges that can make a lesser person drop it all and quit. Her faith and family and friends keep her grounded, strong, and determined to get through her difficulties.
I offered an image to her during one of our conversations: of her being an immigrant, and Reality (as she prefers to name the Nameless) as the True Immigration Attorney to help her enter and navigate this new and strange land. That her difficult experiences can be likened to what most of her clients (some are seeking asylum from political persecution in their native land) experience.
The services of an immigration attorney cost a lot of money and time. Seeing myself as that immigrant seeking asylum in God's Kingdom, I have to pay for His services, for the privilege to be in his care, with my life as I know it... I have to 'die in order to live.'
How about you? Jesus said: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. How would these words affect the way you live right now?
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
Many are saying, "There is no help for you in God."
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
May your blessings be on your people!
-from Psalm 3
Monica, a young co-worker, shared with me her story of how she found joy, Jarvis. She's so taken by him. His charm, his intellect, his depth, his authenticity, his honesty. She says when he said "us," she almost melted. He lives his beliefs. He walks his talk. He's real.
I asked her: how sure are you that he is for real, that he is not pulling your leg? She says she's not blinded by her feelings and emotions. She can think clearly and analytically about this relationship. She practices discernment.
I ask her what qualities they share, and where they part ways. They share honesty, a love of learning, a passion for service. And in situations where her anger surfaces, he is calm, and open.
They enjoy deep, meaningful conversations that can last for 2, 3 hours. And I mentioned that this is like being in deep prayer or meditation. Being in the Divine Presence. Being in Love.
How about you? When did you last feel 'being in Love?' When did you last feel deeply understood, totally accepted as you are, and so utterly empowered and protected?
Eat, friends, drink...
and be drunk with love!
-Song of Solomon 5
If the only prayer you say
in your entire life is
it will be enough.
This past week was especially rich. My cup overflowed. The dam of God's goodness, beauty, and truth broke!
Welcome to my banquet table:
- Annie: it was her birthday this week. And our 35th wedding anniversary. Anyone who can stay with me for 35 years and still smiles is an angel. And I said so in my dedication of my book. Thank you, Annie!
- Praying with the Body DVD: It's finally out and listed at amazon.com. Paraclete Press think so highly of the offering in the DVD that it's listed at $44.99! It contains 9 prayer sessions (3 for the morning, 3 for noon, and 3 for the evening). So help the economy recover and get a couple. Thanks, Paraclete Press!
- Memphis, Sybil, and Ellen: Paraclete Press is sponsoring workshops featuring the 3 books of their Active Prayer Series. Sybil MacBeth authored Praying with Color, and Ellen Prewitt Making Crosses. We have our first workshop in Memphis on December 5. Thanks, Jon Sweeney, and Sybil!
- Seattle U and Christine Valters Paintner: Last Friday, I led Christine's class in morning prayer using Alleluia 8 from my book, and gave a 45-minute sharing about how I try to live the Benedictine Oblate life. Thanks, Christine!
- Child Pose: Before I went to Christine's class, I visited the sanctuary of my favorite Ignatian Chapel, and went onto child pose in total surrender and receptivity. See image above. I stayed like that for about 5 minutes feeling the Divine Presence all over me. I recommend it. Thank you, God!
- Chants for Peace: I went with a couple of friends to Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon and participated in chanting for peace led by representatives from Buddhist, Hindu, Christian traditions: Kirtan, Universal Dance for Peace, Sutra chants, Gregorian Chant... "Kosi r'vaya" is Hebrew for "My cup overflows" which we chanted for about half an hour! Awesome place and people. True place of joyful peace. Thanks, GVZM!
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
-Psalm 23 (nrsv)