Sunday, December 31, 2006

Gone Sailing

The Drop and the Sea
I went looking for Him
And lost myself;
The drop merged with the Sea --
Who can find it now?

Looking and looking for Him
I lost myself;
The Sea merged with the drop --
Who can find it now?

by Kabir

I am off to explore the Sea and the drop while I join dear friends for a sailing excursion from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. I will be back with new photos, ponderings and possibilities around mid-January. Happy New Year!

photo by bill hughlett

Scorched Earth

“And the Lord will continually guide you. And satisfy your desire in a scorched place. And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters don’t fail.” Isaiah 58:11

Today I am saying good-bye to 2006—a year that has been difficult, painful and scorched. It has also been a year where the Lord has provided daily strength to my very frame and watered the depths of my soul.

Tomorrow, I fly to Mexico—a land of scorched earth. I covet rest and restoration as I travel from land into the immensity of the sea via sailboat—there to be watered like a garden and have my depleted springs filled. Nature calls to me. God beckons me to meet him in a new place filled with dust of the earth and water of the soul.

"coming back" photo by bill hughlett

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my childrens' lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, Collected Poems

This poem has been shared with me several times by intuitive friends. It has become one of my very favorites. May the peace of wild things be with each of us as we end one calendar year and begin another.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Spoken Words. Seen Words.

Unfolding. Seeing. Knowing. Hearing. Seeking. Seeking our story. Seeking the truth. Seeking connection to our very soul. Where does it start? How do we begin? I see Mt. Rainier outside my window and wonder, where did it begin? What is the depth of that great mountain? How high is the peak of its summit? Is it like my soul? Growing and expanding. Some days hiding behind the clouds. Other days white and beautiful for all to see?

In recent days I have been consistently drawn to the topic of knowing. Knowing God. Knowing ourselves. Knowing others. My first recent awareness of this came as I was reading an advent meditation entry by the father of a deaf child. He was quite concerned that his daughter would never “hear” the Christmas story, the story of Incarnation, in a language she could “understand.” Therefore, she could “never embrace the Light of the World.” While I think I understand his compassion and desire for his daughter and other deaf children, I somehow felt this statement to be so wrong. In my heart, I believe these children may hear and know God more deeply than this father who thinks that only man’s spoken words can adequately convey the gospel.

Since that reading, I have been ever aware of the many ways that God speaks to me and provides a deeper knowing than any spoken words can convey. “The Divine Voice is not always expressed in words. It is made known as a heart-consciousness.” (from God Calling). It is this “heart-consciousness” that seems to speak most loudly to me.

My ponderings did not end, however, with only the spoken word. I also have much considered the seen word. I am aware of how visually stimulated I am by God’s creation all around and how it is often in the seeing that I experience the knowing of which I write. Thus enters my new favorite saint, St. Lucy—the patron saint of blindness. Lucy means “light,” coming from the same Latin root as “lucid” which translates as “clear, radiant, understandable.” St. Lucy’s martyred life ended with her eyes being gouged out. Miraculously, however, she was still able to see even without her eyes.

While the stories say this was miraculous, I wonder, do we not all have this “miraculous” ability—to see without eyes, to hear without ears, to feel without touch? Is this not the handiwork of a miraculous God—the one who provides multiple pathways to unfolding, seeing, knowing, hearing and seeking truth?

I am certain this is a topic I will return to again and again. For now, however, I will end with a poem from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

"its makers praise" photo by bill hughlett

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


winter solstice, come & gone
advent in the past
christ was born in bethlehem
now what, the days alas?

speak to me, oh sovereign lord
i'm waiting in the dark
the days grow brighter on my watch
but time is not a lark

i call to you i cry to you
i sit and feel my tears
christmas come and christmas gone
what more the passing years?

time moves fast and passes by
i wonder what is next
you're with me, lord i know that now
your world, amazing text

another night i'll hold my breath
and sense the passing day
i hear you, see you, feel you, lord,
and marvel at your ways


About Me

Who am I? I awoke very early this morning pondering that loaded question.

In this crazy world of blogging, what do I want to say “About Me?” To address this seems both humbling and grandiose. It is impossibly difficult and incredibly simple. My first notion is, “I am no one,” quickly followed by the next thought, “I am an amazing, complex woman that words cannot begin to describe.” The truth is: I am both. This is the tension I live with these days. Faith is a huge part of my life and demonstrates this phenomenon well, because my faith is strong and it is weak. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” It seems that the more I learn about anything, the less I realize I actually know. The closer I come to knowing myself, the more I find there is to discover.

So, what about me? I am a mother, a wife, a sister, an orphan, a friend, a lover of God, a reforming Fundamentalist, a spiritual seeker, a lover of big yellow dogs and all kinds of nature, a fan of cozy beds and warm fires. I am a middle-aged woman with the heart of a child. I am a romantic and I am very practical. I love to cook and I hate to go to the grocery store. I want my house clean, but rarely enjoy the act of cleaning. I am a trained counselor and I regularly seek personal counseling. I want to experience God outside the box and I love old traditions. I grew up in the Bible Belt (Oklahoma) and now live in the "most un-churched city in the country" (Seattle).

I hate that we must suffer so much in the world AND I know that suffering has made me who I am today. I love music of all kinds. I do not have a great singing voice, but I have long dreamed of being a doo-wap girl. I’m not a talented dancer, but I love to move. I am not a natural athlete, but manage to stay in reasonable shape. I love new experiences (like my recent forays into backpacking, graduate school and skydiving). I love books (see sidebar of 2006 reads) and movies ranging from the romantic to the contemplative. I don't have regular/cable television, but am a closet viewer. I watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Gilmore Girls” and “24” when they come out on DVD and an occasional “Oprah” when I get the chance.

I am too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives. I am passionate and I am shy. I LOVE to laugh until tears stream down my face. Anne Lamott calls laughter “carbonated holiness” and I agree wholeheartedly. I love to play with friends and I adore my quiet time and solitude. I love to write but am not quite comfortable calling myself a writer. I am on a journey. If you look closely throughout this site, you will find glimpses of me, along with my friends, family and places I love. It is a scary venture to share what comes from the heart, nevertheless, I am called to take the leap and share my words. I hope you will join me!

"lovely, kind and FREE!" photo by bill hughlett

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Wall Between Two Gardens

“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.” Khalil Gibran

It is late Christmas day. It has been a good day, a quiet day, and in the stillness of the afternoon, l have spent much time pondering sadness. While sadness may seem like an unfit topic for this day of celebration, it is, nevertheless, a feeling that abounds during the season. Often juxtaposed against the expected emotions provoked by “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays,” sadness can be buried amidst the stack of holiday cheer.

Today is a day to be celebrated and for which to be thankful. So, what is this “wall between two gardens” of which Gibran speaks? For some reason, I am reminded of another quote (by Mother Teresa, I think) where she speaks of having her heart break wide open so that the whole world may fall in. I sense this breaking of heart in myself while at the same time there is a sense of peace and thankfulness. Must we break wide open to find peace?

How can the two co-exist? Is this the paradox of love? Of God? The garden of heartbreak and the garden of thankfulness. The wall of sadness between humanity and divinity. The human part of me wants to focus on the sadness and where I don’t feel like my desires are being met, but the holy will not let me rest there. The divine requires me to remember that ALL my needs are fulfilled and I am never alone even when I may feel lonely. God is with me and I hear the words, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So why the sadness? Why the wall between the gardens? Images are evoked of the joy of the birth of a new babe and the sadness of his death on a cross—before his resurrection. Ahh—maybe that is the wall of sadness; the sting of death before resurrection.

It seems that this is the place we live today—having not yet experienced our own resurrection to glory, but having tasted it; known the glory in brief moments—the birth of a child, the smile of a stranger, the gift of a song. These reminders start to fracture the wall of sadness and meld the gardens—the garden of birth and the garden of resurrection. This Christmas day, hope is tangible. It is a time to celebrate and experience the glory of God. And, it is a time to sit with the sadness between the two gardens and be thankful. Merry Christmas and Amen.

photo by bill hughlett

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mystery and Mastery

A question is mulling around in my mind. It is a question of movement and waiting—of mystery and mastery. I ponder; can there be movement in waiting? A sigh. A breath. A tear. The rise and fall of the chest. The twinkle in an eye. For I believe waiting does not mean ceasing to live. It is, in my reality, living more deeply and intentionally.

“Wait here,” a mother says to her child. The child can either hold his breath and try to remain perfectly still, living in fear. Or he can begin to examine the world around him--the ant on the ground, a bee tasting sweet nectar or the wind rustling through the trees. In this waiting, this examination of mystery, is he not living more fully and mastering life?

Waiting for the birth of a child, the coming of a Savior, the easing of a pain. Waiting does not mean becoming frozen or comatose. It can be just the opposite. A heightening of awareness. Feeling the very structure of your being—the beams and concrete of your soul; the bare branches of your nakedness; the child inside the mother’s womb.

This living into the mystery is the mastery of life. It is appreciating each moment instead of worrying or analyzing what it will mean later, or like the compliant child, waiting and holding his breath until the very life goes out of him.

So breathe, feel your heart, listen to the rhythm of the earth. The axis has shifted slightly and the light will grow stronger day by day. Remember that without the dark of night, a star cannot shine. So wait. Wait intentionally; not for mastery but for the sake of mystery and all it has to offer.

We cannot see the wind except when it blows through the trees. From where does the rain begin? Was the earth created in seven 24-hour days or billions of years? Mystery. We can move toward mastery, but it is in the movement that life happens. It is the dash on our tombstone—what happens between the day we burst forth from the womb and our final earthly breath. It is movement as subtle as listening to your own heart beat or watching an ant crawl on the ground. And, it is movement as great as facing your deepest fears or having the courage to wait patiently in the darkness.

photo by bill hughlett

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Belly of the Whale

Inside the belly of the whale, it is dark. Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For a season, this season, I am being called to let the tears wash over me, to wail, to cry out and let the pain envelope and comfort me. Happiness will not suffice for now. Joy seems so distant, so far away. Sorrow—its mirror image—hangs closely round my heart and soul.

I must learn a new way to comfort myself, and the way does not involve putting on a smile and taking care of everyone around me. How can I suffer—exist—live in the dark night of the soul when all around me are hollow words of "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays"? “Cheer up,” well-meaning friends say. “Get over it,” I tell myself. Easy to say, but I don’t even know what “it” is. I see fear in the eyes of my loved ones. They worry that I am not happy. “You’re not yourself these days,” they say. “I hope you come back soon.” But, I have not gone anywhere. This is me—all I am able to offer—right here and right now. Maybe it is not all of me for it is more of the sorrowful side—some would say the dark side. And, just as I have been known to burst with joy, for now I am bursting with sorrow. I am learning that both are essential for the fullness I desire.

Give your burdens to the earth—the strength of the mountains—the vastness of the sea—God—only these can carry the weight of my burdens. I am called to lay face down on the ground as the Muslims do, connecting my head with the earth. Feeling the solidity beneath me. It is holy ground.

Belly of the whale. It is dark inside here and even as I release myself to the darkness, I begin to feel lighter. A twinkling light. There must be great darkness for the tiniest light to shine. Wait. Just wait. It is the reminder I have heard throughout this advent season. Wait.

“When you are in the belly of the whale, let go, detach yourself, let the pain carry you where it needs to take you, don’t resist, rather weep, wail, cry and put your mouth to the dust, and wait.” Ron Rolheiser

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Grace Abounds

sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing and yet possessing everything. II Corinthians 6:10

"life in chains" photo by maryjane hughlett

Born of earth
Seeds lie deep
Root reaching
Pushing through
Life in chains
Straining toward light
Toothless smile of poverty
Extended belly filled with love
Glittering eyes of weathered face
Hope and grace abound

Darkness hides
Darkness shields
Child in womb
Dormant field
Straining toward life
Flower of desert
Cement’s dandelion
Tiny ship in storm
Reaching shore against all odds
Sense made out of senseless
Hope and grace abound

In the darkness
Winter Solstice
Barren earth
Fallow womb
Soul turning
Hope and grace abound

Monday, December 18, 2006

10 Things I Love about "A"

This is a fun little game I discovered at Christine’s blog (one of my favorites) who originally found it at Cathy’s blog. (I don’t happen to know Cathy, however, we are now connected through this letter game and if I had the letter, C, I would add the word Connection, Christine and now Cathy.) Many who played the game said it was harder than you think. I imagined it would be hard to come up with 10, however, my brain switched into high gear and I had a list of about 45 “A’s” before I told myself to slow down and pick 10. So here goes.

1. Christine gave me the letter A for Awakening, so I shall start there. Awakening my creative spirit, awakening to each new day and experience, awakening to life around me. These are most definitely things I love!
2. Advent season has been an amazing time of waiting and discovery for me this year. Great expectation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus and anticipation of what new birth is happening in my life.
3. Aging. I wavered a bit on whether or not I truly love aging. It is one of those love/hate dilemmas, however, aging has provided me with a new perspective and a new zest for life that I did not have in my younger years. It provides a preciousness to each new day and each new year. I turned 50 on September 11 of this year, so hurray for Aging!!
4. Asking questions and seeking answers. I love this, particularly done in community or in my quiet time with the Lord. The beauty is that there are no pat answers and half the fun comes in the asking and seeking.
5. I love Angels! Doesn’t everyone?? I think one of the things I imagine and envy most about angels is their wings. I love the possibility that they can fly which leads me to #6 and….
6. Airplanes. Airplanes take me to far away places for adventure and reunion with friends. My favorite airplane was the tiny one that I jumped out of and flew through the air myself. The air was buoyant and felt like the hands of God gently holding me in my downward flight. It was…
7. Amazing! Life just gets more and more amazing to me. There are new adventures each day, new awakenings, new people, places and things to discover. Truly Amazing!!
8. I could not finish a list of things I love with out including at least one author, because books are one of my very favorite things. I choose Anne Lamott to grace this list. I love her irreverent reverence and her advice from Bird by Bird that if you want to be a writer, “Write!!” These are words that get me going when I often wonder where my writing will lead. Just write!
9. As with authors, the list would not be complete without mentioning a few places since I love adventure and travel. I love Asheville, NC. I have had dreams of moving there and becoming an artist full time. Arizona is wonderful with its beautiful deserts and warm dry climate. Alaska must be fabulous because it produced my dear friend, Maria, and Africa birthed my wonderful husband, Bill—both are places I hope to visit in this lifetime. (Australia is also on my very short list of places that I love before ever having been there.)
10. Since this list of gratitude and love could go on and on, I will end with Abundance and Amen!!

Thank you, Christine and Cathy. If anyone else would like to play, send me a note and I will send you a letter. Blessings and Abundance to you during this Amazing season of Advent. Amen.

photo by bill hughlett

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Soul Turning

"The really real is made up of both fact and human imagination.
If you can’t think, reflect and actively imagine your life into existence,
you are condemned to a half-life of unconsciousness.
Maybe your dark night is just the opposite of what it appears—not a dying, but a birthing." --Thomas Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul

Morning glow
Golden dog
Fiery breath of dragon
Sanity slipping
Soul turning
Amazing sensation
Tasting sweet fruit
Sounds of soft cello
God’s creation
The really real is made up of both fact and human imagination.

Which is which?
What can be held?
Painful reality?
Unexpected joy?
Brilliant new vision?
What makes sense?
How do we touch?
Soul turning
Present greets past tense
If you can’t think, reflect and actively imagine your life into existence,

(Stuck in the mire
Caught in the ordinary
Stagnant new day
Unreachable peaks
Wings never sprouting
Life inside hopelessness
Soul turning
Failure flagging
Witnessing faithlessness)
you are condemned to a half-life of unconsciousness.

Pushing through the pain
Reaching toward new heaven
Grabbing the golden ring
Soul united
Axis slowly shifting
Worthiness arising
Life giving into life
Creation’s gifts awakening
Maybe your dark night is just the opposite of what it appears—not a dying, but a birthing.

photo by bill hughlett

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Charlie Brown Christmas?

I can’t seem to “do” Christmas this year. As I sit here less than two weeks away from December 25, and time as well as the light of day grows short, I know that I have purchased 4 stocking stuffers. Period. No Christmas tree. No presents. No cards. Only the twinkling lights on my Ficus tree (a year round tribute to the dark Seattle nights) show any sign of festive spirit.

The odd thing is that I am excited about the holiday season and what it truly represents. I am not, however, excited about the commercial pressures and expectations of what the season “should” look like. Each year I have felt myself pull away a bit more from the hubbub and must do’s of the season. I find myself more enlivened by purchasing a simple unexpected gift rather than one given out of obligation, or taking a walk in the winter rain and seeing God’s splendor all around, and best of all, spending time with a friend I have not visited in awhile.

Maybe the change in focus has something to do with my children getting older. The 17 year old seems quite indifferent about the season and the younger one is caught between a mixture of “I don’t care” and wondering with anticipation when we are getting a Christmas tree and what we’re doing for the holiday. Gone are the school holiday pageants of days past. Our annual trip to see Santa faded out a couple of years ago and our celebratory relatives and friends seem to have gone their own ways. I have more time to think about what Christmas means to me.

I have made several attempts to get into the "normal" holiday spirit. I have perused Christmas cards for purchase and listened to a few carols. I considered shopping yesterday, but opted for a holiday movie instead. Today, I saw a little Charlie Brown tree and actually turned the car around to go see about bringing it home, but alas my cell phone rang and one of my teenagers was in need of immediate attention.

Maybe these interruptions are telling me something. Slow down. Take in the season. Enjoy the music. Smile at the neighbors’ lights. Do your own thing.
Or just maybe, I am already “doing” Christmas exactly as I want to do it—savoring the darkness and anticipating the “coming”.

For now I think I’ll just call things good, sip my tea from a holiday mug, put on a Christmas CD and enjoy waiting here in the dark. Waiting with anticipation for what may come next.

Dream Houses

When does God sleep? It is a wonderful childlike question with an equally simple answer: He doesn’t. Today my morning advent reading declared, “and he waits anxiously for us to wake up.” I believe in his excitement, playfulness and care that often God does not wait for us to wake from slumber, but instead whispers to us through our dreams.

Last night was a major dream night for me. I think most nights are, in fact, filled with dreams, but this morning I chose to lay still for a while and tend my dreams—to listen and ponder what they had to say. This particular dream world was filled with houses of all shapes, sizes and impressions. While the dreams did not seem remotely spiritual in the moment, I cannot get away from the holy images that fill my mind as I write in the light of day.

The first house was made of white brick. It had been stripped down to the bare bones, but was still standing after what looked like an internal bomb or blast of fire had exploded. The walls were charred with soot, but the house stood firmly on its solid foundation. It was truly a house built on rock.

Next came the house with many rooms. A feast was being prepared but the food I offered was not well received. I had the sense that what I brought was not my best. It seemed to be an afterthought as if I were just trying to get by with a minimal offering. Now, in the waking hours, I am reminded of the joy I experience when I do bring my best and don’t worry about how others will receive my gifts. I am warmed with the sense of my complexity as a woman with many rooms in my house. Some days I can fill the largest banquet hall and other days my best may more closely resemble a simple broom closet. There are always many rooms waiting to be explored.

Another house seemed very comfortable and it was a place I longed to linger. In the yard was a magnificent fruit tree bearing huge berries. This is an image that has become closely identified with me in my dreams, collage work and poetry. ‘I am the luscious berry, bursting with flavor.’ This is an image that delights me.

Still one more house spoke of large ugly beams and cold concrete floors that were not visually welcoming. There seemed to be an urgency to cover up what was not aesthetically pleasing. I am aware, however, that the beams and concrete are foundational to the strength of the structure. If they are taken away, the house will collapse into a heap.

In the final house, there was a choice to be made. I could enter the yard through the gate or I could go into the garage. There was a man leading the way who gave off the essence of good and evil simultaneously. The first time I pondered this dream I thought he was Jesus, but now it feels like he represents the holy and evil that reside in me.

Using the gate at first glance appeared to be a poor choice because it would cause me to be soaked by a sprinkler. The path through the garage was safe and dry but it was a dead end. There was no way out, so I would remain trapped and shut away from the world. A second look at the narrow gate revealed the sprinkler water to be holy and representative of baptism. Often I wake up from dreams before I feel like I am at the end. The delightful result of this dream is that I did not awaken before I made the choice to get wet and experience the water’s cleansing.

God is an amazing God of creativity and infinite possibility. He speaks to me in my dreaming hours and gives me the choice of whether or not I listen to him in the waking time. He offers many houses in which to live. The rooms are always there for me, but sometimes it takes a secret passageway to enter (like something discovered through a dream.) I am not always aware of the door that sits right before me. It reminds me of another Lucy stumbling through the wardrobe that led to Narnia—a magical other world. I am so glad that God does not sleep; that he is mindful of me all hours of the day and night. I hope I will choose to remain mindful of him.

“He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who watches over you will not sleep.” Psalm 121:3

photos by bill hughlett

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Passel of Pups

a passel of puppies.
cozy and warm.
keeping each other close.
all arms and legs and snuggly warmth.
adolescent pups, warming each other with friendship & care.

one small pup will not enter the pile.
he sits cold and lonely to the side,
whimpering on his own.
another nudges him toward the heap, but
he is stubborn and weak all at the same time.
he cannot see the warmth and healing to be found in the pile.

a passel of puppies.
all adolescent arms and legs.
words neither needed nor wanted.
their warmth & care speaking volumes.
all snuggled up, piled upon, tumbling over each other.

five young pups. a perfect litter.
goofy, cozy. warm & caring.
nurturing their own.
eyes not yet open, instinctually looking out for each other.

a passel of puppies.
cozy and warm.
keeping each other close.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Memory demands so much

---by denise levertov

Memory demands so much,
it wants every fiber
told and retold.
It gives and gives
but for a price, making you
risk drudgery, lapse
into document, treacheries
of glaring noon and a slow march.
Leaf never before
seen or envisioned, flying spider
of rose-red autumn, playing
a lone current of undecided wind,
lift me with you, take me
off this ground of memory that clings
to my feet like thick clay,
exacting gratitude for gifts and gifts.
Take me flying before
you vanish, leaf, before
I have time to remember you,
intent instead on being
in the midst of that flight,
of those unforeseeable words.

photo by bill hughlett

Someone very close to me nearly died this weekend. “Memory demands so much” speaks volumes. Giving and giving can feel like drudgery (Is it ever enough?) Caught in the mire. A slow march. I have been here before. Stuck. Hurting. Sad and Angry. Seeking communication. Yearning. And I am ever reminded of the little girl who forged her way on her own. Alone.

Leaf, take me away. Let me soar high above the pain with you. The trails of a leaf are like the roads on a map. The paths of our journey. Slow march in the heat of the day—the heat of life’s battle. Or bundled, cold and shivering in the dark of night. Praying for comfort and sweet release in whatever form it might take. Death? Peace? Are they one in the same? Will we only find peace when we finally get to heaven? Or is heaven right here on earth and we are privileged to catch small glimpses of it throughout our earthly lives?

“Memory demands so much.” Fragile child on an emergency room table. Teen with eyes rolled back in head. Comatose? Dead? Witnessing the dance toward death—a slow painful march. Memory demands so much.

Can I remember my flight with God holding me in his arms? It demands so much. The hard times seem to flow easily through my brain—present and at the forefront. But can I remember the glory? Those brief moments when I have been known by another? Moments in community battling for the glory of God?

Evil wants us to be overtaken by the dark moments—the emergency room lights—the harsh sunlight of day—the agony of watching a child leave, again and again.

I want memory to turn to the good times. Riding with my daughter on a ferry. Laughing with my son in the car. I did not know how swiftly the time would fly. Memory demands so much. I have been here before—on the edge—on the verge of losing—being left—bereft of God. I feel the rhythm; the moving away, that has become so familiar.

Memory demands so much.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Desert & Darkness

photo by bill hughlett

Desert & Darkness. Is there a difference between being in the desert and living in the darkness? Both seem to include waiting. Waiting is something that is welcomed and revered during this season of Advent. Are desert and darkness the same states of being? Is the difference between darkness and light defined simply by the attitude with which they are received? Where is light found during desert times? And, for what were the desert fathers searching? Were they barren and bereft of God’s holy presence? Or were they closer to God because of the barrenness?

Two books come to mind: Alan Jones’ Soul Making and the devotional book, Streams in the Desert. Both of these are reminiscent of a moving toward something. It may be painful in the midst of the experience, but the message is hope for something less painful—something more solid on which to stand. Does having hope mean we want to leave the desert or need to leave in order to find solace?

What has prompted this line of questioning? It must go back to old fundamental roots that clash with my present aversion to a theology that insists if we are not “happy” then we are not walking “properly” with the Lord. This was kicked off by the question “Are you in a ‘desert place’ in your spiritual life right now? If so, what are some things you could do to re-kindle your excitement with the Lord?” I think the words “if so” and “re-kindle” tell me being in the desert or the darkness is not o.k. And thus I come back to the question, are darkness and desert the same space? I believe, the overriding question is: how will we choose to receive God in those places of difficulty in our lives?

This advent season has brought many reminders that darkness is seasonal. (Seasonal in an ebb and flow sort of way in our lives, not just the physical moving toward darkness as we approach the winter solstice.) Darkness provides us with a time of rest and a time of waiting. Thomas Moore in Dark Nights of the Soul says darkness is often associated with or labeled as depression. It is something we want to get out of or away from. I, however, have found periodic solace this year in the darkness. Therefore, I was bothered when it was suggested to “re-kindle” my time with the Lord because that indicates I am not meeting God in the darkness (or desert). The opposite, however, has been true because in many ways I have been met more distinctly in the darkest places than I have in the shining light of day or good times.

So once again I return to the question: Are desert and darkness the same place? And, is it all about the attitude with which we view them? I do not believe either place to be void of God even though at times we may not feel His presence. Maybe it all is about the attitude. Maybe it is about our personal relationship with God. Maybe it’s about unearthing our own rhythm in the darkness and finding our oasis in the desert. Maybe, it’s something I will ponder awhile longer. What do you think?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Six Senses of God

No old man in flowing robes and long white beard for me. My God looks like the wind, the rain, the sun & moon. He is creation all around--both seen and imagined.

Rainstorm beating on a tin roof & brook gently babbling through the forest. The laughter of children and screams of childbirth. Tinkling bells and booming gongs. These are the voices of Majesty.

God smells like spring after the first rain. Roses, old and fragrant. Wet dog and fresh baked bread. Homemade cookies & pie.

Taste the sweet nectar dripping from fresh berries. Complexities of a gourmet meal. Chinese food and take out pizza. Communion wine. God pours flavor into life.

Experience God with the touch of a newborn’s bottom, a soft kitten or the bark of a gnarled tree. The suede of a child’s head and the crepe of a woman’s weathered hand.

A presence that embodies pain and sorrow, joy and laughter. A tugging of the heart and a whisper in the ear. The flutter of stomach and the pounding of heart. Our God is the feast of eyes and the fullness of soul.

In Praise of Sweet Darkness

The following poem by David Whyte was selected for inspiration to write and experiment with new kinds of poetry during a session of The Sacred Center’s Awakening the Creative Spirit program. In this exercise we used a modified and condensed version of the Glosa style to create "In Praise of Sweet Darkness."

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love…

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

Anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

-- David Whyte

"ancient" photo by lucy

In Praise of Sweet Darkness

The dank, moist smell of a cave.
The skin of a snake molting away.
The rich loam of life.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.

A mother’s womb.
One mustard seed of hope.
The blood of crucifixion.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love…

Holding & sustaining.
Nurturing & growing.
Rising from the dead.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn

Birth moving into new life.
The oak rising from an acorn.
Darkness giving way to light.
Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remembrance & Surprise

"offering" photo by bill hughlett

I don’t recall ever being so focused on or interested in the season or spirit of Advent as I have been this year. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” For me, it also feels like a time of remembrance. A remembering of story—the story of my personal life as well as remembrance of the greatest story ever told—the coming of Christ, the birth of a King in a manger and the resurrection of a man from the dead.

The advent season is also one filled with surprise. I cannot help but imagine the surprise (more likely shock) of a young Mary when the angel told her she would give birth to a Savior. Fast forward thirty or so years and witness the surprise of the women who found the tomb empty; their friend and king gone.

We live with a God of surprise. Advent is filled with both surprise and anticipation. These are the themes for me this year as I sit in the darkness and wait. Part of me knows exactly for what I am waiting. I am waiting expectantly for the coming of the Lord and the celebration of his birth. More present in my mind, however, is the anticipation for the coming surprise. What will happen next in my life? From where will the next surprise come? How and when will I leave this darkness?

It is important for me to remember I have been here before—in the darkness—in this time of waiting and in this season of Advent. I will do my best to wait patiently but I am also filled with an excited anticipation—like a child waiting to open the first gift on Christmas morning. While I know the greatest gift was given with the birth of a small child centuries ago, I am still called to remember that each day is a new gift waiting to be unwrapped. Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke because the layers of wrapping paper are so many that I feel it will take forever to get to the present. Still, I will wait and I will pray to see each layer as a gift in itself with something to offer.

Remembrance and the willingness to be surprised are two of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves each day. Advent is a time of waiting in the dark—waiting for the next surprise. My goal is to appreciate the darkness and remember it allows the light of surprise to shine even brighter.