Sunday, February 28, 2010

Internal or External?

Pondering. Resting. Sleeping. Reading. Considering others. Caring for myself. All of these things seem to be the rhythm of my Lenten days. An internal air continues to hover around me and as I just responded to a lovely post at Barefoot Toward the Light, I realize this quiet space feels just right for now. Different for me, but somehow just right.

It has been a simple weekend filled with walks and lots of rest. I've taken care of the few "have to's" on my list and spent the rest of the time tending to relationship - sometimes with my family, often with God, always with me. It feels necessary and good.

In the midst of the internal space, I also received two very outward reminders of my presence in the world which were delightful indeed. Yesterday, I received my very own copy of Awakening the Creative Spirit - a fantastic new book by Christine Paintner and Betsey Beckman, two of my dear friends and colleagues. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the arts and becoming "fully awake" as today's Lenten verse* highlights. The exciting news for me is that I am the co-writer of Chapter 15 on "Arts-Centered Supervision". You can only imagine my delight to see my authorship officially acknowledged on page 197 (as well as a few other places throughout the book!)

The other 'outward reminder' can be found in visual form where you catch a glimpse of me as spiritual director in this PBS episode on religion. I show up around minute two with my most compassionate face and listening ears. Don't blink or you'll miss my adult TV debut! Seriously, it's a great video covering the topic of spiritual direction. I hope you'll go take a peak!!

OK, that's all I have to share for now. Time to huddle back up with hot tea and my Kindle!

P.S. I'd love to know how your Lenten season is progressing.

*Luke 9:28-36

Shilshole Sailboats - 2.20.10 © lucy

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Clean Heart

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned;
I have done such evil in your sight
That you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty, a sinner,
even as my mother conceived me.
Still, you insist on sincerity of heart;
in my inmost being teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my guilt.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.

-Psalm 51: 3-14

Well, I have to say this week’s Lent readings from Abbey of the Arts are tapping into my fury at a God of judgment and condemnation. My early personal story contains a history of God principally being defined by fear and rarely offering unconditional love. I also struggle with the notion of being “sinner(s) even as (our) mother(s) conceived (us).”

Today I wonder about the Psalmist and consider perhaps he wrote from his own inner voice of condemnation – passing the buck to God as the One who blames us for sin. For most human beings, it’s much easier to blame outside circumstances or other people rather than look inside and hold our own responsibility. Personally, I would prefer to “blame” myself rather than worship a vengeful God who creates sinners by design.

I’m much more inclined to start with Genesis 1:31 and hear the resounding, “it was very good” than “...born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.” Where does the latter fit with “it was very good”?

Lest you think I believe everything is sweet hearts and rosy flowers, I know it is true that we “sin.” We turn away from God. We turn away from ourselves. We turn away from others. The cloak of darkness shrouds us tighter and tighter, especially when we listen to those voices of condemnation and evil. We move toward hate – hating ourselves and thus hating others. I cannot reconcile the discrepancy (and ensuing theological debate) between Genesis and this Psalm other than to consider it as man’s influence in the writing. Perchance he writes from a mind riddled with guilt, thus momentarily forgetting the goodness and light I believe resides in each of us.

This Lenten season, my turning is toward God – toward my inner most self – the one who shows mercy and compassion. If I truly forgive myself knowing all that I have done wrong and felt and been, how can I not forgive others? How can I not find rest and have my joy restored?

By being more compassionate toward myself and thus others, I move toward God. We are all created with a Divine spark – perhaps it is hidden in the clean heart this Psalmist begs for.

I'ao Valley River © lucy
Maui graffiti © lucy

Monday, February 22, 2010

To Be

My thoughts wonder if it’s vacation? Lent? Something else? But, I have been experiencing a rather odd aversion to communing with my computer. My quiet time seems of utmost importance lately. I just want to be. Slow. Still. Present.

I returned home from vacation with a slight cold and it seems to slow me down even more. I find myself just wanting to close my eyes and be. No input. No output. A recent Lent reading* spoke of Jesus in the desert. I’d love to be in the desert for 40 days to just be, but what in the world does that even mean? Right now it feels like no details – no have to’s – just show up and be present to God. To be one with the world. Sit in the glow of the sun or feel raindrops on my face. Watch water trickle from the edge of the Creator’s fingers while matching the pace of gentle, falling rain. Pondering what it means to be.

"Be still and know I am God."
Be still and know I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

*Luke 4:1-13

shilshole gull © lucy 2.20.10

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord, your God.

-Joel 2:12-13

Receiving the ashes from an Episcopal priest in the open-air church on the island of Maui is a far cry from my experience of last year’s Ash Wednesday. I find myself wondering is it time, distance, place, me or all of the above that rings differently? Last year’s celebration was in a more evangelical setting and I found that I was battling my own inner struggles with childhood and early adult notions of fire, brimstone and eternal hell.

This year’s rendering felt more attuned to my heart and state of mind. The here and now was more prescient than an out there view of penitence. My morning focus came from today’s verse (see above) in the Abbey of the Arts Lenten series where I landed on what it means to “rend my heart.”

“Rending” to me focuses on those tiny rips and tears that happen subtlely (and not so subtlely) throughout the day. Do I say a discourteous word to someone or think a prideful thought? While I in no means want to lean toward the do’s and don’ts of a faith by works theology, I am struck by the infinitesimal ways I can offend others and thus my own self (often without a word leaving my mouth or an overt action taking place.)

Today after the morning church service and breakfast, we took a drive to the Iao Valley, which is one of our personal guide’s favorite historical spots on the island. A great battle was fought in this valley and so many died there legend says the river ran red with blood for weeks after the engagement. There is also a lovely park with visual representations of the many immigrant populations of this island. My heart again turned to “rending” and the large tears and carnage that we as human beings inflict upon each other.

It has been another magical day in paradise. My heart has turned toward God again and I ponder what the rest of Lent will hold for me. What will the rending look like? Will there be healing too? Where will blood flow through the rivers of my life? What battles lie ahead?

This morning rending came defined as harsh and harrowing, and while the definition may not have changed, it feels like the turning (& tearing) of my heart continues on the path toward a God who heals and walks alongside through both peaceful times and tumultuous ones. It is a God worth turning toward.

Where is your heart turning this Lenten season? Can you feel the rending? Will you be open to God’s mending? Is paradise yours - here and now?

view inside Holy Innocents Church - Maui © h3images
Iao Valley © h3 images

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sea glass. Sea turtles. Sea breeze.

Amazing time away. The title of the post narrowly describes it.

The meditative time of sorting, sifting, digging and splashing for decades old pieces of tumbled glass is only describable to those who "get it." My sis and I... we do. The rest of the clan smiles and says "You look happy." (We are.)

Today's amazing glimpse of water enveloped a giant sea turtle who entertained us for what could have been hours. A massive head and enormous flippers bobbed up and down out of the water only feet away. The full portrait of the prehistoric shelled beast captured in the aquamarine wave back lit by the sun left us gasping for more.

Pink-tinted cumulus clouds wrapped the Valentine's evening as the sun set over the Pacific sea. How do you define paradise? Read between the lines if you must. All I have to say is, "I'm here."

Aloha, my friends.

The weather's beautiful. Wish you were here...

'surfer's on maui's north shore' © h3images

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guilt or Gratitude?

It’s a surreal experience, sitting in an aluminum tube looking out the window from 30,000+ feet to witness only vast expanses of water while knowing this morning I left my Seattle home where it was dark and rainy and by late afternoon, I will be feeling the warmth of the Hawaiian sun. My husband sits beside me listening to an i-pod and reading his Kindle. My daughter and her friend behind us with their manicured nails fiddling on assorted gadgetry to keep them busy. We indeed live a privileged life and at this very moment I am trying to feel gratitude instead of guilt.

My own reading topic of the moment is a book called Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky, and it is what prompted this post.

“I went shopping last week for a pair of shoes, and I thought to myself, “What kind of person would go shopping for a pair of shoes right now?” Community activist, New Orleans, nine months after Hurricane Katrina

As I read the above quote, I was filled with flashbacks of the last few weeks. As I mentioned in this post, I have spent lots of time working with individuals (myself included) who struggle with “good fortune” and “privilege” particularly in light of the recent devastation in Haiti. A few days ago, I had virtually the same thought: How can I be going to Maui when people are buried under rubble in Haiti? Never mind that the trip was planned months before the recent earthquake. Our thoughts don’t always make sense do they?

Lipsky says it is a common experience of caregivers to feel guilt over the disparity between our lives and the lives of those we serve. I felt a twinge of this same guilt yesterday as my co-facilitator and I finished up our weekly session of Deepening Spirituality through SoulCollage® at the Recovery CafĂ©. Our class represents a variety of participants, many who live on the margins of poverty. So when my friend prompted me to tell the participants that I would be absent next week, I felt a slight twinge of guilt. I announced my absence and they quickly replied with “Where are you going??!?!” I hesitated a beat, breathed in and exhaled, “Maui.” “Maui?!? Are you kidding? Lucky you! We hate you. No fair. Teachers aren’t supposed to play hooky!” The good-natured barrage continued until I finally laughed, “Hey, sorry guys, I’m going and I’ll see you when I get back.” They responded playfully and I realized we were having an authentic encounter that brought us closer than ever in our humanity. It turned into a magically sweet moment and my resolve to not downplay my trip, but to send them a postcard and let them know I really was thinking of them.

Lipsky goes onto say when we downplay our own good fortune, we distance ourselves from others by not being genuine, and ultimately begin “to experience our own life with less abundance and joy than we truly feel.”

All of these moments fit into my primary pondering category of self-care leading to good care of others. My husband and I both declared a night or two ago that we are really tired. It’s been a stressful few months and we need to recharge. Yes, we are fortunate and can afford a plane ticket and a week in a nice condo – but in my heart I take along those with whom I work and know that I will be a better caregiver for this respite.

So, I’m curious – do you ever find yourself downplaying your good fortune? What is the impact for you? Do you feel better or worse? Does it bring you closer to others or increase the distance? And what of ‘authentic encounter’? How has it expanded your view of humanity?

Well, this may be the deepest (or only) thought you get out of me for a few days. Who knows? I’m off to recharge and setting aside my guilt for the time being. ☺


rainbow over honolulu © lucy 2.11.10

first glimpse of maui © lucy 2.11.10

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love. Fear. Sorrow. Transformation. Coincidence?

Synchronicity? God? Once again I am awed by the great presence that surrounds us. Shortly after writing this post, I opened up my e-mail to read the following. Coincidence?

When have love or suffering transformed me?

"Two universal and prime paths of transformation have always been available to every human being God has created: great love and great suffering. Only love and suffering are strong enough to break down our usual ego defenses, crush our dualistic thinking, and open us up to Mystery. They, like nothing else, exude the mysterious chemistry that can transmute us from a fear-based life to a love-based life. No surprise that the Christian icon of redemption is a man offering love from a crucified position…. Love and suffering are the main portals that open up the mind space and the heart space, breaking us into breadth and depth and communion." --Richard Rohr

#2 - from Inspired

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~Jalal ad-Din Rumi

#3 - from Writing without Paper

"Here's the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you are not looking, or don't know what you're looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord."
~ Alice Walker

Ponder this with me... love. fear. suffering. transformation. synchronicity. coincidence.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Madrona means Mother

Oh my, do I have lots to share this morning?!??! So much to say. So little time! There is so much gloriousness floating around in the world, I can hardly stand it. Yesterday, I was greeted by this blogger for the first time. She mentioned how our blogs have much in common and when I read "What a beautiful mess this is", I thought she had borrowed something from me. I went searching to find some profound words about the madrona tree, thinking they were posted somewhere in this site. Alas, I had only penned them to my son back in December.

So, in a rush and without further adieu, I share with you these beautiful words about this amazing piece of nature.

“When a madrona branch withers and dies, it is not in the nature of the tree to allow it to rot or drop off. Its mother tree refuses to abandon it. Rather, as the young, healthy wood and bark grow, they creep up around the aged gray appendage like a bandage, a second skin, covering and protecting it, welcoming it back to tree-ness. No wonder the word “madrona” means “mother.” -- Luci Shaw

So, tell me... what do you think of the madrona? Nurturing? Co-dependent? Fabulous example? What images come to your mind?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Off the path or On?

“…it is the path off the path that brings us to God.” -- Mark Nepo

I could hear the fear in her voice – tangible, palpable, present. She was grasping for someone –in this case, a Christian counselor – who could bring her fractured family back together. Our conversation was brief since the role of mediator had already been filled. Still, her terror has stayed with me. I wholly connect with the panic for her family, but it is not this fear I ponder today.

To be clear, let me say this is someone I know and for who I have great respect. In this context, she’d visited my website and noticed the impact of Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way on my life. Unlike others who have watched my personal transformation over the last several years, she feared for my salvation. I had “opened myself up” to broader horizons and in her God-fearing mind that isn’t a good thing. Again, her fear was palpable and it is that I ponder. What follows are my morning pages (thanks, Julia):

Fear is a powerful weapon. Fear is evil. It may even be what the Bible speaks of. If God is love, it would make sense that fear is evil or Satan or the serpent or whatever you want to call it. Fear is the seducer. The one that keeps us from God. From love. Fear is power…Fear moves me away from God. Fear moves me away from love.

And as I wrote those words, I realize fear is also what ultimately moved me toward God. Broken, desperate, panicked – my family reached for something that could bring our fractured family back together. In our case, we ended up in a fishing village in Mexico – a boarding school as our hope. I sat alone by a pool, focusing on an assignment to meditate on the 11th step of AA. I "opened myself," and in “unorthodox” prayer, God met me on the page. I wrote like a fiend and a near-stranger heard my words and introduced me to the Artist’s Way. The rest they say is history. My world as I knew it was broken wide open and stepping through my fear I began to receive the world in new ways. I began to look fully into the face of both love and fear.

Big topics here, I know. I wonder where or if these words resonate for you. Is God love? And what of fear? Today, on this sacred Sunday, I offer gratitude for my God who is big enough to journey with me off the path and I humbly offer the following prayer:

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
where all manner of folk go by.
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
and be the friend I can. Sam Walter Foss from Celtic Daily Prayer

girl on beach© 2.6.10
point defiance© 9.09

Friday, February 05, 2010

February SoulCollage®

Please join me on Friday, February 19, 2010 from 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. to explore the rhythms of the heart by making your own SoulCollage® cards.

Beginners and experienced collagers are welcome at this three-hour studio. All supplies and instruction will be provided in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

Workshop held at Soma Yoga in Crown Hill, Seattle, WA. Pre-registration cost is $35. ($40 - night of the event.) Space is limited, so register today.

For questions or to sign up, leave me a comment. Please pass this information along to anyone who might be interested!

You can visit the official SoulCollage® website here.

SoulCollage® is the process, developed by Seena B. Frost, of creating a deck of collaged cards from found images for the primary purpose of self-exploration and self-acceptance.

What station are you tuned to?

“Prayer is actually setting out a tuning fork. All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always-present message. Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it has nothing to do with worthiness or the group you belong to, but only inner resonance and a capacity for mutuality. The Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station.” -- Richard Rohr

In my Celtic spirituality class this week, our assignment was to write a prayer in the way of the Celtic Christians and compose it out of the stuff of our own life. I knew the assignment was coming up, I didn’t feel particularly anxious about it, but when the time came to actually write, I froze. All I could think of were the examples we had been reading over the last two weeks. Vast experiences of the Trinitarian God in rhyme and rhythm; poetic use of meter and repetition. My mind went blank. My tuning fork shut down and my head filled with the pressure of performance.

Taking a few deep breaths (one of my favorite forms of self-care), I hit my reset button and began to simply journal. I drew myself back into the present – into the “stuff of my life” and Voila! there was the Sender – broadcasting loud and clear.

While the end result still feels a little clunky to me – not much rhyme or meter – I realize it is indeed a prayer of my own with hints of the Celtic Christians. It is also a wonderful reminder (as my days continue to rise and swell and dip and sink like the vast ocean) that the present moment is all I really have. If I can find myself there, I have hope to ride the crest of the wave and emerge outside the trough. Sensing the resonance and knowing there is One who rides the waves with me, lets me know I am tuned to a sustainable frequency.

Arising Presence

Breaking through the dreams of night,
slowly I awaken.
Rain falls softly on the lawn and
in my heart I hear the call,
Listen. Listen. Listen.

I stretch and feel my sinewy limbs
gently come alive.
Golden softness brushes my palm,
The breath of God caresses my face.
Listen. Listen. Listen.

Spirit prompts and says, Arise.
Come greet the day that lies before.
Listen. Listen. Listen.

Holy friend, you walk beside.
My feet caressed in lamb’s soft wool,
we step 'cross solid ground of oak.
I feel your touch and once again hear,
Listen. Listen. Listen.

Father God, Creator Soul you meet me
through breath & touch & sound.
Rain falling. Breath purring.
Wool caressing. Ground holding.
Speaking to the dreams of day,
Listen. Listen. Listen.

© Kayce S. Hughlett 2010

Monday, February 01, 2010

Feast Day of St. Brigid

Please join me today in celebrating St. Brigid - famous for her hospitality and celebrating the ordinary. I love this woman!!!

"Healing God, come to our hidden corners,
remove the stone and grit we cling to,
that prevent the water of life flowing free."
--Prayer from Solas Bhride, Kildare.

Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and detailed description of this incredible woman. I invite you to read more here. Thank you, Jan!

photo @ St. Brigid's well, Kildare, 10.09