Wings,Broken and Given Flight

On Monday evening I gathered with three others in a basement room of our church. Our  task was to take broken pieces of pottery, glass and tile and create something more of it: a mosaic. We have collected these pieces over the days of Lent and held them in worship, infusing them with our prayers. The base of this collection of pieces was a cross with equal-distant arms, four feet by four feet. It is a sturdy, well designed form of strong wood built by one of our treasured members who is a master builder. He had given us a good form to work with and now our job was to figure out how the many pieces laying on the table before us might fit together into something that was more than the sum of its parts.

At first we grouped the pieces by color and design, separating out those pieces that had decorations….flowers, scenes from nature, faces, words. We looked at the bare cross. Where to begin? We started by putting a few pieces in the center trying to create a focal point of starburst-like form. We stood back and looked. No. That wasn’t it.

Then one person began to notice that several of the pieces of broken pottery had butterflies on them. Then we noticed that there were several other pieces with other insects. In another pile were two actual pieces of broken wings that had come off a figurine someone had added to the collection of broken pieces to eventually be used in this mosaic. Then we had it.

Wings! Wings would be the focus. Someone else began to place the wings so they flitted and flew up the cross from one corner to the opposite one creating a flight pattern for all these with wings. Surrounding these flying forms with white shards of pottery made the winged ones jump out from the center of this now evolving piece of art. From there we began to match colors and see the entire piece begin to take form. Questions were asked: “What do you think?” “What if we place this here?” “Does this feel right for this spot?” Answers were shared and the gluing began.

Before the night was over, something that had not existed before had been created. From the broken pieces of people’s kitchens, garages, and basements, something new had come into being. These pieces which had been formed from earth, fired into form and been used in a variety of ways now existed in a new way. Bowls that had held soup, cups that had held coffee, plates that once delivered cake and tiles that had been meant for walls or floors could now be found in this sturdy cross. Broken pieces of glass found on the beach or in a parking lot, some worn with water and wear, now filled an important spot in a color scheme.

This mosaic is yet to have its finishing touches. Grouting will now be added to surround the broken pieces and secure them in this new resting place. I am told there will be surprise in how this addition changes the look of what we have created, shading some pieces and providing the perfect ‘pop’ for others.  I love the unknown of it. Like so many creative acts, the creation itself holds its own surprise, its own life.

A favorite hymn of many is ‘Hymn of Promise’ by Natalie Sleeth. The words speak of the hidden promises nestled in Creation and indeed in all of life.
“In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” 

I was reminded of this hymn as we put together these broken pieces meant for utilitarian tasks rather than art. In our collective creative spirit, we took these shards and made something of them that we could only envision in our imagination. As others gaze upon this mosaic on Easter, they will see things through their own imagination that we had not put there. Hidden within broken pieces, wood and sand, is something more. It is true of all creative acts. Like gardens…and people.

My prayer is that the butterflies that guided us will give wing to the imaginations of all who stop to look at the tiny pieces that have found a new home. And in that looking, their own spirits will take flight.


Open Water,Out of Season

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:1

Last week as I drove west of the Cities, I was surprised to see the majority of the lakes now held open water. The ones that didn’t were now open in the middle with shards of ice floating near the shore in some of the more shaded parts of the lake. I imagined the ice pieces moving against one another as the wind moved across the water making a ‘clinking’ sound I have heard on Lake Superior in the deep of winter. It is a sound I remember hearing nowhere else. The magical sound of glass eternally breaking.

Observing this open water phenomenon, a phrase floated through my brain: open water, out of season. And so it was. The water I saw lapping in the warm wind had thawed much sooner in the year than normal. I wondered at its own experience of this out of season thawing. Was this a good thing or one that would change the nature of what was happening beneath the ice, the growth of water plants or fish for instance? Since I know little of such things, I settled on being content with my wondering. Remembering the adage that the Native people speak of knowing when to tap the maples for syruping when the frozen water turns black, I wondered at the relationship between the season of the trees and this early thaw. In just this one observation there is so much to contemplate.

The following morning I was gazing out the window at the lake where I was on retreat. Open water took up much of the lakes’ expanse but just near the shore was a beach shaded by shore and trees. In this stretch of water that same slick of ice chunks clinked against the sandy beach. As the morning sky was brightening, the sun was able to pierce through clouds creating a pink that lit the sky and reflected on the water. I kept my gaze on the small patch of ice crystals still visible. And while I was watching, the ice was somehow swallowed up by the open water and disappeared from sight. It had been a blessing of the morning for me to watch the ice go out of the lake. Literally.

Since that time I have reflected on this experience of open water, out of season. It has become metaphor for other of life’s experiences. There are several people I know who have found themselves in open water at a time when they thought the ground, the ice, underneath them was solid. For some it has been a surprise which was welcomed and they have flowed in the change with the comfort of a seasoned swimmer. For others, there is the sense of an unwelcomed feeling of having the rug pulled from beneath their feet. Slipping into the freezing, life-threatening water, they are struggling mightily.

As humans, we like to believe that we not only understand the seasons of the year but also those of our lives. And yet sometimes the seasons have a rhythm of their own, one that brings challenge or blessing or merely surprise. Perhaps we might learn something from the wisdom of the water as it flows and freezes,laps and thaws and teems with possibility. Seasons sometimes have changes that are unexpected but when we lean into those twists and turns, we might discover yet another way of walking the sacred path that is our life. Rather than fighting against what may be changing, too slowly or too quickly, perhaps the wisdom is to rest in the ebb and flow of what is.

It’s just a thought given to me by the open water, out of season.


Fellow Travelers

“Sing to God anew song.
Sing to God, all the earth.”
~Psalm 96:1

On Wednesday morning, I sat down to have a little time of reflection before I started what was going to be a full day. I was armed with the Lenten devotional I have been using and a new prayer book by John Philip Newell. Because it was such a beautiful, unseasonably warm morning, I opened the doors that lead out to the backyard deck. The smell of spring filled the room. Earthy, wet, scents of possibility.

The psalm meant to be prayed that morning was Psalm 96. The words above moved on my lips and in my head. But the sounds outside the open door were the ones that filled my soul. Instead of just reading these ancient words of the Bible’s songwriters, the birds  flying around our backyard were actually doing what the psalm implores. Singing at the tops of their little lungs!

Now I am not a birder by any stretch of the imagination so I cannot identify bird songs on cue. But I can recognize the sound of a cardinal, a chickadee and a robin. I heard them all on Wednesday morning plus some other songs I did not know. I sat as their melodic morning soundtrack welcomed the day. Just the day before I had been walking through the woods and heard a bird whose sound was piercing and unfamiliar.  I looked up to see an eagle soaring over the open marshy lake until it landed firmly in its large nest at the top of a tall but bare tree. I watched as it wiggled its lower body before finding a comfortable position with only its pure white head peaking out from the piles of pointy sticks.

These ones without words often put we more learned ones to shame with their ability to praise their Maker. I went to the scriptures to see the fullness of this psalm. “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it.Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before God.” Reading these words I was reminded of the drive earlier in the week through the farmlands west of the Twin Cities. The soil had emerged from under what snow and frozen matter we have had and was ripe with richness.The fields glistened.  The lakes, held captive in an icy state for months, now lapped with life as geese and swans bobbed along on the waves. Dark, brown earth gave way to brilliant green patches of grass coaxed into their color by the rains of the days before. Their greenness shocked my eyes accustomed to the dullness of winter. If I squinted my eyes just right, I could see the yellow-green buds on the trees opening their presence to the sun. They were ready to sing for joy.

All these seemed to be full of praise expressed without words. They were singing the song of Creation with their very being. When placed in the context of Psalm 96, this kind of adoration is humbling to this human. I was silenced by their shining forth in a way that  I can never attain. The song of those birds waking to the gift of another new day made my sad attempts at greeting the same day pale in comparison.

In the end I had to comfort myself with the notion that just as these acts of the Creator were full of praise in the ways they know to do and be, so I must use the gifts given to me. Thoughts and words. Eyes and ears. Nose and hands. Imagination and prayer.

May the One who breathed us all into being accept these humble acts of presence offered by one without wings or roots or wave or leaf. May they be held as gently as are those of my fragile, fellow travelers.


Works of Art

The last two and half days I have been on retreat at St. John’s Abbey on the plains of Minnesota. This amazing campus of both a university and preparatory school is also the home to a Benedictine community of priests and monks. As the community offers hospitality,the buildings themselves are havens of sanctuary and art. It is the community who gave birth to what is known as The St. John’s Bible, a magnificent original, illuminated manuscript of the scriptures. Each page is handwritten in calligraphy that is distinctive to this particular book. I was with a group of fellow clergy who were given a wonderful introduction of the process of its creation which ended in seeing an exhibit of many of the pages. It was a glorious experience.

Our guide was a young woman who is a student at the neighboring College of St. Benedict. Later in the day we all remarked at how we had been caught up in her enthusiasm and love for this project, for these pages of ancient text illustrated with images portraying both traditional and sometimes quite unlikely pictures. We were all inspired by her mastery of the story of one man’s childhood dream of writing out the entire Bible one day. Donald Jackson, the Welshman who had this ambition, completed his dream with the Book of Revelation this past year. He had collected a team of other calligraphers and artists with various specialties and also a team of theologians who read the texts and made collective decisions on the final illuminations. While the dream had been his, he knew he needed many people to help take the project to its completion.

As I walked through the exhibit and allowed the images to wash over me, I was filled with such awe. When I walked closer and examined the precision of calligraphy and tiny details of ink and art woven throughout, it took my breath away. I tried to imagine what it was like in the studios of these individual artists as they painstakingly worked day after day on this immense undertaking. I wondered what it was like to have such gifts, to be able to give yourself over every day to creating such beauty.

One particular fact about the project that was so inspiring to me was how the artists, under Jackson’s direction, worked with the mistakes they made. They were, after all, humans who make mistakes! Instead of starting over on a page or throwing it away completely, they added little drawings in the margins that actually draw attention to the mistake. These expensive velum pages are adorned with butterflies or other insects holding a line of ink like a fishing line or other implement that inserts the forgotten or misspelled word or phrase. It made me smile and offered a lesson to us all about allowing our mistakes to become a visible part of our fabric.

Seeing this work made me think of all the artists I am blessed to know who spend their days painting, acting, writing, making music. Each day they get up and go about creating something that has never been before or practicing and reciting words or music that has been done countless times, giving it their own spin. While it is often not an easy life, or a particularly lucrative one, it is what they were called to do, gifted to do: Bring beauty to the world. Connect people with emotions that have been dormant. Tell stories that remind us who we are and why we are here. This is the work of the artists among us.

Each of us in an artist in our own right, if we choose to see it that way. Perhaps we don’t have the gifts or skills to illuminate a manuscript or write a sonnet. But if we choose to see the lasting impact we make in whatever work we do, we can do this work with the love and intention of an artist. The table we set or the soup we make can be a work of art we offer to family and friends. The way we answer the phone or greet those we meet can be poetry if spoken with presence and compassion. The floors we sweep, the beds we make, the dishes we wash can all be art if they are acts of love.

What art are you offering to the world this day? The world needs your particular gifts. I am sure of it. In their perfection and with their mistakes.


Fallen Asleep

On Saturday I headed to the Cathedral of St. Paul for the annual St. Patrick’s Day mass. It has become a tradition for me and I now have encouraged several close to me to come along. It is a worship experience of the highest pageantry. Processions of clergy in their full vestments, bagpipers in kilts, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in their black capes and feathery hats armed with swords, incense, a brass plated Bible held high. For this Protestant, it is a pure delight of things I rarely experience. This year, as in many others, former Archbishop Harry Flynn presided and he is always gracious and welcoming to all. The music is big and full of the heart-string-pulling tunes of the Irish and there is always a light heartedness to all those dressed in various shades of green, those descendants of Ireland and those who claim to be for the day.

I have many fond memories of the service and the sheer warmth and beauty of the day. But one particular line of the prayers of the people has stuck with me. As the prayer leader offered prayers of intercession for our world leaders, for the church, for families, for Ireland, I got hung up on one phrase:”Bless those who have fallen asleep in hope of resurrection.” When these words were spoken, my bowed head lifted up to take in the fullness of what the reader had spoken. Suspended in the prayer,I numbly prayed along with others: “we pray to the Lord.”

What was prayed after that I have no idea. I was back at those who had fallen asleep. Countless questions were streaming through my brain. Who were these people? Was I one of them? I fumbled in my purse to write down the petition before it escaped my memory, caught up in the next Irish tune that would be sung. I promised myself to return to this prayer. “Bless those who have fallen asleep in hope of the resurrection.”

Of course, I recognize that is one of those sentences that has countless interpretations. It is a matter of who is speaking and who is listening. The very word ‘resurrection’ has so much baggage that some people would tune out at hearing this prayer. Truth be told, I also have wrestled with this word, have seen how it can create an ‘us and them’ even among those in the household who call themselves Christian.

But as I look outside my window right now, I am seeing resurrection all around. The earth which is dead is showing signs of new life….resurrection. In my comings and goings around the Twin Cities, I have seen lakes that just a few days ago were covered with ice, now move with the lapping of waves. What had been stalled in a frozen state is alive with movement. On Sunday, as we read a very familiar passage of scripture, so familiar it could have been chiseled in stone, only heard as a monument of words, I watched people’s faces come alive with new understanding of old words. Resurrection.

How often I have fallen asleep to the hope of resurrection! When I allow my mind and my heart to be held captive by “can’ts and ‘won’ts’ or even ‘shoulds’, I have fallen asleep to the hope of resurrection. When I am not open to the freedom of my imagination and that of others, I have fallen asleep to the hope of new life. In the midst of doing things the same way over and over again and wondering why I get the same results, results that are no longer helpful or bring light and life, I have fallen asleep to the hope of new birth.

Where have you fallen asleep to what is waiting to be in you? Where has the hope of change gone dead and is waiting to be resurrected? What in your life needs a blessing of creativity, of aliveness, of hope?

May you, may we all, be like the life outside in soil and water and plant, warming and slowly pushing its way toward what is yet to be. As we open ourselves to these days that lead us toward Easter, may we be awake to the hope and promise of New Life that is moving and becoming. May we not find ourselves asleep to the ever present hope of resurrection.


Sun On Our Faces

I am sure I will ever cease to be amazed at the power of sunlight to affect people’s moods. Over the last few days, Minnesota and all surrounding areas have been awash in sunlight and warm weather. Because we have had such a mild winter, it seems odd that we are now walking around with the same giddy looks on our faces that we normally have after a cold, snowy winter. But we are. Children are running around with boundless energy, shrieking as if they have found a new voice they never knew they had. Bicycles have been pulled from behind the little used snowblower and tires have been pumped with air. Cobwebs have been brushed from bicycle helmets fit for small and large heads alike. Adults are baring their dry, flaky winter skin to the warm breezes and turning their faces toward the light. Even the dogs I’ve passed on the sidewalk seem to be smiling.

Of course, I have heard the typical Minnesota pessimism seep through. ” We’re sure gonna pay for this in a few weeks.” ” Who knows what could happen ? It could snow yet.” “Can’t be thinkin’ about seeds and gardens yet. The safe date for a good freeze is early May.” And on and on. All these statements could be true but the way things have been, it seems unlikely.

In planning for our Easter services, I have already been dreaming about the real possibility of being able to open the large glass doors that ring the entrance where we hold our Sunrise service. How wonderful it would be if we were able to have our early morning worship overflow into the yard and onto our outdoor labyrinth! It would seem like a true celebration of the new life bursting forth in our world.

I am reminded how all important celebrations of the Christian household have their beginnings in observances of those pre-Christian folks who moved and gauged their lives by the movements of the earth. Those who shaped the early expressions of our faith tradition,wisely, folded many of the traditions and rituals of the people into an expression of this new understanding of the Holy One’s Presence in the world. Christmas is near to the celebration of Winter Solstice, another observance of Light overcoming the world’s darkness.

The celebration of Easter is a little more confusing. It is one of those ‘moveable’ feasts. Even those of us who make our life by knowing ‘churchy’ stuff, get tripped up on how its
date is decided. Since the 4th century Easter has been the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after the spring equinox. Whew! Throw that into some party conversation and watch brows furrow.

Personally, I love knowing that I am connected in some winding, circuitous way to these ancients who lived their lives by the Sun and Moon, by being attuned to the movement of the seasons and gifts of each. I have found it comforting to know that what has been of prime importance for longer than I can imagine was honored by the early shapers of a faith tradition in which I have found a home.

For some reason today, the song that has been streaming through my head comes from Paul Winter’s beautiful mass Missa Gaia:

For the mountains, hills and pastures, in the silent majesty,
For the earth forever turning, for the skies for ev’ry sea.
For all life, for all of Nature, sing we our joyful praise to Thee.
For the sun, for rain and thunder; for the land that makes us free;
For the stars, for all the heavens, sing we our joyful praise to Thee.
For the earth forever turning, for the skies of ev’ry sea.
To our Lord we sing returning to our blue-green hills of earth.”

Seems appropriate on such a magnificent day. It could just be the sound track playing through the heads of all those smiling faces……even those with four legs and wagging tails.

In the Presence of Primrose

On Saturday morning I went to House of Hope Presbyterian Church to hear one of my true mentors. John Philip Newell is an author, poet, and carrier of the wisdom of Celtic spirituality. He was the former warden of the Iona Community which continues to thrive on a tiny island off the coast of Scotland. This community is one that embraces the various traditions within the Christian church and also affirms and recognizes the faith traditions of others as yet another lens for our understanding of the Holy. He is a gentle, soft spoken man who always stuns me with his humility.

As I sat down at one of the round tables that filled the room, I noticed the small, purple primrose that sat at the center of the table. I looked across the room to see these little harbingers of spring on each of the tables. Most were shining their little petal faces toward the sky, but the one on the table I had chosen, sat wilted and quite sad looking. I walked over to the table with refreshments and filled a glass with water, bringing it back to the table to give the sweet flower a drink.

Speaking one of the many prayers he has written, Newell began our morning: “Light within all light, Soul behind all souls, at the breaking of the dawn, at the coming of the day, we wait and watch.” There were many people in the room. Some I knew. Others were strangers to me. We had all come for our own particular reasons. As I sat there I realized, perhaps, I was much like the primrose on our table. I was a little wilted and needed a good drink of water. Spiritual water.

The morning’s talk was much about ‘presence’. How are we present to one another in ways that reflect the presence of the God within? How are we Bearers of Blessing in the world? How can we be bearers of Presence? What is the treasure each faith tradition brings to this moment in time to offer to one another and the world? All these questions rolled around in the air of the room. Some people had looks of understanding on their faces. Others fidgeted. Still others looked a bit confused.
I was soaking the words of the morning in as the spiritual nourishment I needed.

And at some point of the morning, I realized I had become presence for the primrose on the table. By sitting still in this gathered group of people, I was able to watch the purple petals with their brilliant yellow centers revive their vitality. I was able to observe their ever-so slow rise to their full flowering. I am certain I have never really done this before. I have always watered plants on the fly only to be surprised later by how the gift of water revives a them, returning leaves and flowers to their true and beautiful self. But to sit, to be present, and watch it happen is another thing altogether.

The morning flowed on and I felt more and more filled with Newell’s lovely, hopeful words for how we can be bearers of blessing for the healing of the world. The longer I sat, the more I felt my own limbs and my own spirit fill with the nourishment they needed.It was pure gift. Like the primrose on our table, I felt I was sitting taller and had returned to full bloom, my true self.

In the dawning of this day
let us know fresh shinings in our soul.
In the growing colours of new beginning all around us
let us know the first lights of our heart.
Great Star of the morning
Inner Flame of the universe
let us be colour in this new dawning.”

So be it.



Train a child in the way he should go, and when they are older they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Yesterday morning I stopped at one of my regular coffee haunts for a short respite before heading to the office. I had settled into my favorite chair that provides a particularly appealing view of two of the crossroads in our neighborhood. I enjoy watching the movement of the community from this view. Across the street, teenagers stood in sleepy clumps waiting for the school bus to arrive. They each carried their own brand of disengaged looks on their faces and their body language continued the theme. Cars zoomed past the window going east and west, north and south, some with more care and attention to driving than others. With a certain rhythm, the front door of the coffee shop opened and closed as people came and went. This door, which has been there since the early nineteen hundreds when the building was built, has known many comings and goings.

One such arrival was a couple accompanied by a little boy probably about five years old. As the door opened, he looked me square in the face and grinned. I melted. He was wearing a SpiderMan stocking cap pulled down to warm his young ears against the frigid morning. His adult companions followed and I began to piece together the picture of this threesome. It became clearer as the man walked up to the counter and began to order. He told the barista what he was having and, I’m assuming, gave his wife’s order as well. Then he said:”And Zach will have his regular. Hot chocolate, not too hot. And potato chips.”

First of all, I have always loved the idea of having ‘a regular’ order at any shop or restaurant. It says volumes about being known. It is one of the reasons I frequent this shop. They know my ‘regular’. But to think that Zach has a regular and that it is made up of hot chocolate(not too hot) and potato chips made me weak with joy. These were obviously Zach’s grandparents who brought him here frequently enough that he had a ‘regular’.

Now I am, I know, assuming much in this picture I have painted. But the observation of this young one in the company of these adults who would allow such a snack concoction said grandparents to me. And it said much about the kind of grandparent I hope to be. One that knows a child’s parents need to be about nutrition and what is ‘right’. But grandparents can have the role of bending the rules, of allowing a perfectly appropriate food experience made up of cocoa and chips. I thought of my own children who have always known that their Gee, their grandma,my mom, was always a bottomless source of peppermints and other candies, slipped secretly between them when I was not looking. Before dinner. After dinner. Even, I suspect, after teeth had been brushed.

I am not suggesting that children be given all manner of junk food on a whim. What I am recognizing is that children need a few adults in their lives who gently break the rules in places where little harm will be done. It provides them with the nests to which they can flee when they have broken more important rules, rules that may have the ability to do great harm. These can become the adults who are the safety nets of unconditional love that help those young ones make the slow slog back toward remembering who, and whose, they are.

As I left the coffee shop yesterday, Zach was perched on his knees on the end of his chair. On each side of him was an adult who had  brought him to a place where he is known and has a ‘regular’. On the table a board game was being spread out. In front of his fresh, happy face? A hot chocolate, not too hot, and an open bag of potato chips. He was looking up at his grown up companion smiling at the recklessness of it all.

For all the children who will break the rules this day, may they be surrounded by those who will hold them in care and listen well. And for all the grown ups who are building nests of safety, may they be blessed with hearts of compassion and love.


I told my son this morning that I knew the house we have lived in for over two decades was the right house for us because we had toured it, and purchased it, in March. I said this after looking outside at the dirty piles of snow, the dark, standing water, the basically desolate landscape that is our backyard at this point in time. Earlier in the morning, I had taken a long walk and was acutely aware of all the ugliness around me. Snow that had been lovely and white a few days ago was now streaked with a weird brownness. What was that seeping through? All along the streets there were abandoned pieces of debris….soda bottles, plastic bags with who knows what in them, an envelope here, a soggy mitten there. Yuck!

I went on to explain to our eldest that the reason his father and I had fallen in love with the house is that the owners, wisely, had put pictures on the dining room table of their home taken in different seasons. They were not trusting those without imagination to see their home has it could be in spring with the leaves just jumping out of their skin to make a gentle entrance. They wanted those who walked through their house to catch a glimpse of summer, trees in full green array, flowers blooming in colorful clumps along the sidewalk. They had a desire to show off how lovely their house looked in autumn with the maples flashing red and the birches white trunks making room for golden yellow leaves. They had even included a winter scene….their home nestled in soft, white mounds of snow, a Currier and Ives scene to be sure.

But there were no photos that could have been taken in March on the table, March with its frayed sense of beauty. Make no mistake, I have nothing personally against this month. Some of my favorite people are born in March. But it can be a dreary month and can demand a certain amount of imagination to remember the beauty of winter and the anticipation of the spring that is within our reach.

As I was driving around today making my way from church to several visits I needed to make, I realized I was kind of hunched into my coat not looking at particularly anything. I just had the goal of getting from door to car, from car to door.Until something wonderful happened. Overhead I heard a sound that made me smile and look up toward the sky. A lone, wild goose was honking for all he was worth as he flew in a crisscrossed pattern in the gray and dreary sky. It felt like a wake up call to me. “Quit your gloomy mood!” it seemed to say. “Watch me flying and notice how beautiful I am!”

I was reminded of a song we sang not long ago at a memorial service for a dear one who passed from this life far too soon. It has a haunting melody that sticks with you:
“The lone, wild bird in lofty flight
is still with you,
nor leaves your sight.
And I am yours! I rest in you,
Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.”

Sometimes our imagination keeps us from seeing beyond the gray and gloomy times that can surround us. These can be the shades of March or other life events that have created shadows on our path. Unfortunately,no one has placed photos within our sight of what was, or what has the potential to be, images to nudge us into memory or hope.

In the Celtic tradition, the wild goose is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Today the Holy Spirit honked overhead and I was reminded once again, that even on the gloomiest of days, I am held in the Lap of All Seasons. It was a loud and wonderful reminder.




Beautiful Crying Forth

“So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,

one of which was you.”
~Mary Oliver

Sometimes it takes a very few words to say something stupendous. I must remember this. This morning I sat down with my devotional book to begin this third week of Lent. Before I headed to my chair, coffee cup in one hand and book in the other, I walked by a shelf that holds my collection of Mary Oliver poetry. I reached, rather absent mindedly really, toward a volume I had not dogeared and read and reread often. I decided to include it my morning ritual. This morning’s devotion didn’t really grab my attention as others have and so I shifted my attention to the poetry. Before long I was reveling in beautiful words about herons and chickadees and imagining the fullness of the landscape scenes Oliver is so gifted at describing.

Then my eyes moved to the page with just these 21 words and I was stopped in my tracks. Now here was something to carry with me into the day. “So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God…..” What truth! And how often I forget it! I tried to think of every sight my eyes had beheld since yesterday morning. Of course, I could remember only a few things. How I wished for a replay of the day so I could be appropriately and adequately grateful. But like a CSI agent, I began recreating the scenes I could remember:

The darkness around me as I rose early to prepare for church. The big black dog’s wiggly greeting at the bottom of the stairs. The dark blue sky and the dancing white lights of stars as I opened to door for his early morning constitutional. The smell of coffee in the warm glow of the kitchen. The tiny, yellow daffodils blooming in the bulb garden on the mantel.  Ice crystals that had formed on my car windows, sparkling their winter message. The smiles of faces as they arrived at church, happy to see friends, hopeful in their approach to the day. Warm hugs every where. Music that floated all around. Sweet simple songs sung with enthusiasm and intensity. Words shared in honesty, invitation and truth. Candlelight dancing behind pieces of broken, colored glass. Prayers offered in sorrow, humor and longing. One more song, sung in harmony, as smiling faces offered blessing upon blessing. All this in the first four hours of the day. So much beauty. So many ideas of God crying forth. And my only work was to be present, to receive and notice.

On Friday evening I had had one of those visceral experiences of how blessed I am. Having dinner with friends, I was suddenly aware of the gifts with which I travel this world. Sharing laughter and good food, celebrating birthdays and long friendships, taking in their lovely and loved faces, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I felt this warmth from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. And as I reflect on that evening and the next and on yesterday, I am reminded that this is a gift offered each and every day, if I but have the eyes and the heart to see.

What beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God are coming your way this day? Who are the beautiful ideas of God with whom you walk this equally beautiful earth? May you, may I, continue to be awakened to this amazing gift offered….. to those with eyes to see.